2010: Summer of Pakistan July 12, 2010

No limit on spirit

After an appetising pair of Twenty20 matches, a sterner challenge awaits Shahid Afridi's team

The spirit of cricket is open to interpretation. Idris Baig, the Pakistani umpire, debagged and doused with water by a touring MCC team, might not appreciate the term. The history of Pakistan cricket in England is a catalogue of conflict, right up to the last tour and the abandoned Hair-Inzamam Test match at The Oval. Australia against Pakistan is similarly loaded, with Lillee-Miandad and Malik-Warne evoking painful memories.

Yet the spirit of cricket strikes the right note for this series. The ECB has turned over part of its summer schedule to the irritants from Pakistan. Cricket Australia has crammed another series into a tight international calendar, already saturated with victories over Pakistan. Lord's and the MCC are welcoming Pakistan cricket in its time of crisis. A fresh wind blows optimism into the hearts of Pakistan supporters.

After an appetising pair of Twenty20 matches, a sterner challenge awaits Shahid Afridi's team. Australia will be unforgiving opponents in Test cricket. Ricky Ponting will return to reassert his team's authority, and the trivial matter of consecutive Twenty20 defeats will be enough incentive to prove a point. The spirit of cricket will be put on hold when the Lord's bell tolls on Tuesday morning.

This might not be the formidable Australian team that strutted the international stage for over a decade, and how could it be, without Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath. But it has punished Pakistan on home turf. Incredibly, Pakistan were on the brink of victory and levelling the series in Sydney but calamitous captaincy and worse batting destroyed Pakistan's ambitions.

A new mood, however, grips this Pakistan team. Afridi is an energetic and enthusiastic captain, a diametric opposite to the stand-in Mohammad Yousuf, whose method was ill-suited to Pakistan's firebrand play. The coaching combination of Waqar Younis and Ejaz Ahmed, while lacking experience, looks comfortable with its young charges. Two victories against Australia have added legitimacy to the new management team, and it matters little for Pakistan's psyche that those wins came in Twenty20 internationals.

But Australia are capable of extinguishing every hint of optimism. Michael Hussey was merely stating the obvious when he identified Pakistan's inexperienced batting order as a weakness. To embark on perhaps your most important summer of cricket with a novice middle order smacks of stupidity. Salman Butt and Umar Akmal are the leading lights, a scenario that sends shivers down my spine.

Pakistan needed Younis Khan and Mohammad Yousuf for this dual challenge. Experience in Test cricket and English conditions are essential requirements for tackling two of the strongest teams in world cricket. While Yousuf looks to have cut himself adrift, Younis's exclusion has now become vindictive. Has a player ever been punished more for putting honour first?

Their replacements will need to become instant heroes. Yasir Hameed is one of many Pakistan batsmen whose careers have been mishandled. A free scoring right-hander, too free in that he is usually the master of his own dismissal, Yasir might have grown into a regular international cricketer. Will his fate be better second time around? Of the rest, Umar Amin is the brightest prospect but Australia know how to ruin fledgling careers.

In short, Pakistan's batting order is deep-filled with inexperience and inability at Test level. Shoaib Malik and Afridi, the two most senior players, have huge question marks against them in this format. Little wonder the selection of this touring side attracted outrage when it was announced. Afridi and Waqar have since done little to hide their concerns about the selection. A learning experience, is how Waqar has chosen to describe it. But so much hinges on the cricketing and commercial success of this summer that Pakistan's batsmen will have to learn fast.

As ever, Pakistan's salvation is in bowling. Mohammad Aamer is a revelation. Mohammad Asif, the last revelation, is back in a favourable environment for his seam bowling. Umar Gul, Twenty20 hero, needs to discover a method that achieves consistent success at Test level. And Danish Kaneria will be the premier spinner on display in the series, but with many points still to prove.

While Australia will respect Pakistan's bowling, they will be far from overawed by it. Indeed, the bowling also boasts a superficiality that will not tolerate poor form or injury.

The beginning of this historic series fills me with anticipation but also some concern. Australia will start strong favourites, and any success for Pakistan will be unexpected. If Afridi's Army do succeed in either match against Australia they will do so by playing with aggression and pride. Pakistan's supporters are aware of the limitations of their team but they are also aware that the only limits on spirit on a cricket field are self imposed.

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 18:15 GMT

    i am a big supporter of pakistan... i think it is time that old guns, yousuf and younis, should give way to young guns to fire... i think the series would be very entertaining with pakistan's pace attack australian batsman will be tested... Good Luck Pakistan

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 15:32 GMT

    aamir and Umer Akmal they are great just pakistan team need this kind of player's then really pakistan will come no.1 anyhow my best wishese with my great team pakistan love u all guy

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 14:00 GMT

    Another test match starts today.. sorry to say, same result coming up after 4 days, an Aussie win.. What is wrong with the pakistani selectors with their choice of top order batsman, One assumes Afridi and the coach decided that, Imran Farhat?? Should he be there? i hope for his teams sakes he does perform. the guy who should be opening or batting at number 3..is in the squad but still not playing, yes, Yasir Hamid, at a time when Pakistan are desperately short of experienced players and they are playing Australia no less.. the fact that Hamid has played them before in Australia, and looked at least semi decent in his performances.. why isnt he playing?? Makes you wonder? Still the losers in the top order who are expected to fail, will fail and this guy won't get a chance even in the second test as the captain has said even failures will get an extended run beforehand. Sorry Pakistan, 2 - 0 to Australia while dodgy players continue to get picked over deserving ones..Just hope im wrong

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 13:40 GMT

    I wish we (pak) will win this match

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 12:20 GMT

    Pakistan record in england against england is good enough pak bowling is outstanding having quality seam of asif reverse swing of gul share pace of ammir and magical leggies of Kaneria but my real concern is Pak weak batting order which always led down them and against Ausies especially absence of Younas and yousaf its realy tough task for Pak to beat AUS if their batsmen manage to score around 300 in each innings then they can give hard time to ausies and series wil be compoetitive

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 11:47 GMT

    You are correct, and today looking to the structure of the Pakistani team it seems that it is now capable as Shoaib Malik which is bone of contention is out of the team which is good for the two youngsters Azhar and Amin. They have a chance to permanantly make their place in team. I am with these youngsters.

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 10:46 GMT

    Our team is in re-building process therefore some players will be un-experienced. But this is a fact that all world great players were also new & un-experienced when they started their test cricket. Umer Akmal is also un-experiencd but now he is one of the talented player of our team. InshaAllah, some of them will also flursh in their effort. Therefore we should be positive about these players. In addition, we should not expect too much at this stage. Each member of the team should give his 100% during these matches. Good Luck TEAM PAKISTAN!

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 10:46 GMT

    "Learning experience". Apparently, the Pakistani cricket is always undergoing spme kind of learning experience. However, eventually the only ones who get to benefit from such "learning experiences" are the opposing sides:)

    Goodluck Afridi and team, however, i am afraid that this "learning experience" would again be followed by hap hazard decisions of the PCB and resultantly we would not be able to solidly build upon any kind of learnings.

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 9:21 GMT

    Goodluck Pakistan, again selction of 11 will play a vital role in the tests after afridi's captancy. Untill now he has proved himself a wonderful leader. He produced a quality cricket in both formats t20 and in odi's, a fighting spirit... Pakistan's about last 7 games were the most enternaining and were played untill last over...real fight. It's very tough competition but I beleive we will see some quality cricket from Pakistan as well because Australia is very experienced... Gudluck agian Afridi and Team.

  • testli5504537 on July 13, 2010, 8:56 GMT

    Pakistani Teem Will be

    Salmat Butt Imran Farhat Azhar Amin Umer Akmal Kamran Akmal Shahid Afrid M. Amir Gul Asif Kaneria

    I think Shahid is leg spinner so saeed is a good choice rahter than the kaneria. Saeed has the experience agsainst Australia not in the test but in the T20 so Saeed is the good and decent choice. Pakistan is a new teem so the expectations are not very high. My best wishes are with Pakistanis. Good Luck Amir and all other teem mates.

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