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January 13, 2011

Pakistan cricket

Test cricket, a wiser priority

Kamran Abbasi
Misbah-ul-Haq drives one during his half-century, New Zealand v Pakistan, 1st Test, Hamilton, 2nd day, January 8, 2011
Misbah-ul-Haq is yet to lose a Test since taking over the Pakistan Test captaincy  © AFP
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Test wins for Pakistan are rare pleasures. The last time they enjoyed two in succession was in 2005, and the wins were five months apart. The last time Pakistan won back to back Tests in a series was against Bangladesh in 2003. Four wins in the last twenty Tests speaks for itself.

Pakistan fans are long-suffering but never patient. Each twist and turn is dissected in microscopic detail. But despite innumerable setbacks, the only event to diminish their passion for cricket has been the demoralising spot-fixing drama of this last year.

Now, out of the wreckage of the scandal, Pakistan's current team has emerged with surprising resilience. A seemingly decimated and dishevelled national squad has produced a creditworthy drawn series against South Africa followed by a rapid destruction of New Zealand in the first Test in Hamilton. Win or lose the final Test, Pakistan will only have lost one of their last four Test series -- and that loss was possibly in the most traumatic series in Pakistan's history.

In these difficult times, Pakistan's Test statistics are worth pondering. For all the focus on limited-over internationals, and everybody's assumption that the shorter form is Pakistan's natural game, perhaps Test cricket offers a better route to salvation. Shahid Afridi's preference for the shorter formats is understandable but is that best for Pakistan cricket?

A strong Test team offers a much firmer foundation for success in all formats, while players who excel at Twenty20 cricket often offer little in Test cricket. When Pakistan won the 1992 World Cup it was with attacking Test-style bowling. When Pakistan were a strong Test team in the 1980s and 1990s, they were also strong challengers for each World Cup.

The benefit of one-day cricket for Pakistan, in recent years in particular, is that it has helped gloss over the deficiencies in technique and temperament that can be exposed at Test level. As such T20 and ODI cricket have become the measures of success; Test cricket a neglected form.

Yet the preference for one-day cricket is damaging the resurrection of Pakistan cricket and a strong Test team should be the Pakistan Cricket Board's top priority, above winning the next World Cup or T20 World Championship. Yes, we should want success in those tournaments but as a by-product of a strong Test team, not at the expense of it.

With the third best win/loss ratio in Test cricket, Pakistan have a record to be proud of, defend, and build upon -- and that despite the calamity of the last decade. This statistic alone places Pakistan above India and South Africa in the all-time list, although some way behind Australia and England.

The recent consolidation in Test cricket -- consolidation is all it is as wins have been few -- might be brief but it suddenly exists. Pakistan aren't a great side, they aren't even yet a good side, but they have shown some resilience and a splash of potential. Whether this attitude has emerged in response to the adversity of last summer or thanks to the absence of bad influences, will only emerge in time. Still, it should remind Pakistan's administrators and cricketers where their priorities should lie.

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

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Posted by Cricket_fan on (January 23, 2011, 22:22 GMT)

My comments are related to recent one-dayer and therfore out of the context of this article. Speculations of giving worldcup captaincy to Misbah may seem to be a better choice since Afridi has not shown any extra ordinary captaincy skills let alone his performance, while Misbah goes in contract in both. However, the temprament and cricket sense that Miandad had displayed is lacking and none of the current batsmen comes even close. Misbah while playing sound let the tail under expose and after taking power play showed no patience for playing till 50 overs. While trying to make most out of power play he showed his limited stroke play capability, mostly on side and favourably midwicket. Exposing all 3 stumps to play a leg glance, while plenty of overs were left, was kind of unasked for. We need to have strong self confidence that we severly lack in our team. Yusuf Pathan's century against SA is a classic example, taking the team from 8/119 to 9/219. Can not we display that positivity?

Posted by Saiful Ansari. Leesburg, USA on (January 23, 2011, 22:09 GMT)

Afridi should step down as Captain as his personal performance while Captaining the side has been at best 2nd rated. Misbah should replace Afridi as the new ODI Captain. Captaincy is about taking pressure and playing well when the rest of the team wobbles. It is also about playing with a plan according to the situation. Afridi lacks both. Pakistan is certainly not among the favorites for WC, but a good leader might just give the team an outside chance of getting to the round of last four. After the 9 wicket loss in their first ODI game against NZ, it will be hard for the boys to clinch a ODI series win in NZ, unless the team can come back hard... a feat not beyond the reach of team Pakistan. Many of us also know that our boys bloom late. Wake up tigers. It is time to pounce and grab glory.

Posted by ARSHAD KHAN on (January 23, 2011, 11:17 GMT)

i enjoy reading your article,i would add further that we have never lacked talent our problem has been poltics in team and we need to create better mental toughness,too many times we have lost tight games when pressure has been on to go win games,we need coaches right from first class cricket to develop this its not going to happen overnight but if we start to build tough mind at young age then in test cricket they will able to handle better when there tight situation games,i agree with you if you make test cricket as priority then naturally these players will be alright in one day cricket.

Posted by aftab on (January 22, 2011, 18:19 GMT)

Keeping my fingers crossed about Waqar Younis' response to PCB's demonic enquiry. Hoping he will simply neglect the woeful board and respond nicely to it. That is, to PCB out of the way to Cup.

Posted by Saiful Ansari, Leesburg VA USA on (January 22, 2011, 5:36 GMT)

1st ODI something Pakistan must forget about. It was clearly a one sided affair. NZ will win by a mile. There goes the hopes of many rooting for Pak for a good showing in WC.

Posted by fahad abbasi on (January 21, 2011, 22:50 GMT)

i agree with kamran abbasi this team always keep on coming back and has the potential of rising from the ashes.

Posted by Hammad Qadir on (January 21, 2011, 17:42 GMT)

I completely agree with Kamran's analysis here. We have shown resilliance but we are not nearly as good a side as the fans would like us to be. The loss of Amir and Asif has been davastating. I could see, in these two, the most devastating pair in world cricket, especially in the test arena. But, as the story goes, it was too good to be true.

This only means that we have room for more young players to come in and claim a stop. Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali and Wahab Riaz have done that pretty well uptill now.

But the bottom line is, as Kamran rightly pointed, test cricket is the actual test of a cricketer's ability. Test is where a batsmen's technique is found out, where a fast bowler is challenged to innovate. If we can build a solid tets foundation, we can do every so well in the shorter versions.

My only complain with the current selection is the absence of Fawad Alam from the test side. I think, and he has shown against Sri lanka, that he can be a solid middle order bastman.

Posted by tanvir on (January 21, 2011, 0:28 GMT)

There are still much work,effort and job to do to become a good temporament test team which we can see only when Pak team win or draw seires with Aus,Eng,SA at their home ground. that will be real exam and perfect judgement of players.anyway best of luck but there are so many holes are still there to fill them.i hope coaches know all these mistakes made by players during match.for example selection of short by younis in last inning before tea and same style of many other Pak batsmans.

Posted by Ahmad Yusuf on (January 20, 2011, 21:06 GMT)

Does anyone know how to find that test win/loss ratio? i am not fully convinced that Pak has a better all time record than India and South Africa. @hitesh joshi Good comment. i agree with u. Well said mr Nadim Khan.

Posted by S Basu on (January 20, 2011, 13:58 GMT)

Dear Dr Abbasi

I've read many an article written by you & usually found myself nodding in agreement. Never written in though - usually too busy. Have you ever considered chucking the day-job & taking this up full time? Perhaps even enter Pak cricket administration - you guys could use some sensible people at the top. So could India for that matter. I'll never forget your hilarious pseudo-scientific statistical analysis of Indo-Pak cricket published in the BMJ years ago. I even downloaded a copy to show to my disbelieving friends. Do you remember the supposition you floated - that Tendulkars World cup six off Akhtar may again change the balance of power? Right again.

cheers & keep up the good work.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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