Pakistan v Sri Lanka 2011 October 31, 2011

New Pakistan revive the old school

Is any cricketer bigger than Pakistan? Imran Khan, the man who came closest, held a political rally yesterday in front of Pakistan's monument to liberty in Lahore
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Is any cricketer bigger than Pakistan? Imran Khan, the man who came closest, held a political rally yesterday in front of Pakistan's monument to liberty, Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore. Up to 200,000 people came to listen to Imran urge his country to return to the ideals of its founders. Whether or not you agree with Imran's political views, you could never accuse him of believing himself to be bigger than his country.

At a time for noble deeds, some other Pakistan cricketers are awaiting the verdict of Southwark Crown Court in London. Their plight caricatures the ills of the cricketers who succeeded Imran as global ambassadors. If you could accuse any cricketers of considering themselves to be bigger than their country, it is the rogues who have tarnished the nation's image while on ambassadorial duty.

Against this conflicting backdrop Mohsin Khan, once known as the Eagle and now Pakistan's locum coach, reminded his troops that 'no matter how big a player you are, you aren't bigger than Pakistan.' Be honest, responsible, perform your duty, and deliver your best, urged the Eagle. To his delight, Pakistan's performance in the second Test against Sri Lanka was true to those sentiments. Misbah-ul Haq's team seized an early initiative in Dubai, built on it, and finished the job without undue drama; an old-fashioned Test victory unfamiliar to Pakistan's modern cricket fans.

Indeed, old-fashioned virtues were abundantly on display. Fast bowlers made crucial breakthroughs on the first day. Spinners expertly exploited helpful conditions in Sri Lanka's second innings. The batsmen applied themselves for a first innings lead gained at under three runs per over. Even catches were taken. This was a Test match to savour for anybody who has been making the case for a touch more tedium in Pakistan's cricket.

The lead comes from the captain. Misbah is a calm-sometimes-becalmed fellow, a stereotypical Test batsman whose personal performances have flourished with the responsibility of captaincy. For players who have captained more than twice, Misbah's batting average is currently second only to Donald Bradman's. Some solace for a man maligned for past high-profile defeats to India.

Pakistan's batting order is populated with similarly pragmatic spirits, of whom Azhar Ali's journey to a maiden Test century created the greatest thrills. Azhar is an unhurried batsman with a simple yet secure technique who picks the ball up early. His unstinting application at number three ensures one wicket doesn't quickly become two. Azhar is a fighter--a trait much appreciated by Pakistan supporters--and he is the batting find of the last 18 months.

Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez have also been prominent in Pakistan's resurgence since last year's England tour. These players have performed their duty and delivered their best even before the Eagle launched into his coaching assignment with the same gusto that he used to launch into a cover drive.

Ajmal is a world class bowler. Hafeez, by contrast, has defied expectations to help shake his image as a bits-and-pieces cricketer. Pakistan cricket's 'professor' has now begun to establish himself as a player of substance and maturity, best demonstrated by his aggressive approach to the second innings run chase.

Yes, Pakistan are a work in progress with legitimate questions about selection and strategy. This Sri Lanka team is less formidable than past opponents. However, consistent performances throughout this series suggest that Mohsin the Eagle has reasons to be cheerful.

But as expectant as an eagle might be, a professor would urge caution, for the plight of Pakistan cricket remains complex and precarious. In the same moment that the Test team celebrates a thumping Test victory in Dubai, six Pakistan cricketers lift a trophy in Hong Kong, two others face a jail sentence in London, and the country's greatest captain spells out an agenda to save his nation from destruction in Lahore. Is this an exhilarating watershed? Is this is a devastating climax? This is Pakistan cricket: marvellous, mad, and mind-boggling.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • fanedlive on December 23, 2011, 18:00 GMT

    We definitely need more smart people like you aonurd.

  • fanedlive on November 11, 2011, 19:42 GMT

    This is truly a pak side that everyone wanted to see.. no more glamorous and filmy pakistani team , but true cricketing team.. thank god no more so called star or i would say superstars ..no more shoaib akhtar's , no more m.asif, no more akmals, but talented crickets...may allah keep these guys head in shape so that they don't follow their seniors...misbah is the best captain so far after imran khan...all the very best of luck pakistan, our prayers and wishes are with you..always!!

  • fanedlive on November 2, 2011, 15:15 GMT

    Admittedly it was a SL team in transition, and very much out of form. That being said PAK bowlers bowled with commitment, and the batters were likewise. SL really have no chance of winning this series, with their bowling, but their batting class far outweighs that of PAKs, still the young Pakistani's showed that hard work can win matches. Good for Pakistan's future. Also about Misbah. He's neither a very good strategist, or a very instinctive captain, that being said he is very cool and calm, very much like Dhoni. which, at this point is exactly what PAK needs.

  • fanedlive on November 2, 2011, 13:30 GMT

    It was a great show of team work. Every player was playing a gentleman game.

  • fanedlive on November 2, 2011, 10:17 GMT

    I am from U.A.E.This is why pak means alot to World cricket and without it,it is impossible to imagine new talent.they keep on coming in these situations where there is no cricket played at their home,Spot fixing, and yet they win tests against ENG,AUSTRLIA,NZL,S.LANKA,W.INDIES and draw against S.Africa.Keep it up the goods work guys.

  • fanedlive on November 2, 2011, 7:56 GMT

    fawad alam has a very poor technique to match the requirement of in'l cricket it would be insane to give him another

  • fanedlive on November 2, 2011, 2:37 GMT

    pakistan is playing great cricket.........it is only possible when they play as a unit,it should be continued..........

  • fanedlive on November 1, 2011, 23:54 GMT

    Kamran, another excellent article. The performances so far against Sri Lanka have made me smile. This team is solid, unspectacular in the batting and exciting in the bowling. In time Umar Akmal will provide the excitement in the middle order but for now I think we should stick with Asad Shafiq. I also hope that Fawad Alam is given another opportunity in the test arena as he is a true test batsman. Junaid Khan has shown that all you have to do is shake a tree in Pakistan and fast bowlers fall out..... Despite the probelms of the Butt regime and the spot fixing trial this is still my Pakistan and It warms my heart when we win. Long may it continue.

  • fanedlive on November 1, 2011, 18:53 GMT

    Kamran, as always; stylish, thoughful, insightful...a delight to read

  • fanedlive on November 1, 2011, 11:49 GMT

    Nice article yes current Pakistani team is going well at the moment lets see how long they can go like that. But in my opinion the biggest enemy of Pakistan cricket during past 5 year was Kamran akmal, He is the man resp[onsible to demoralising the team by droping the catches on crucial moments of crucial batsmen, now you can see very clearly Adnan akmal is better wicket keeper than kamran and we can see the result, I remember before the series with england on 2006-7 Karman akmal was a good wicket keeper but right from that series on he droped more than 100 catches in tests and very easy one. So I think that when he went out from the team now our bowlers can take the breath that atleast from behind the wickets they are save. I read some people criticise the hafeez but he is a perfect choice for all formats now there is no place for imran farhat in team and in one day they should give a chance to Ramiz raja junior or ahmed shazad.

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