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July 12, 2012

Pakistan in Sri Lanka 2012

A defeat tinged with optimism

Kamran Abbasi
Asad Shafiq and Adnan Akmal added an unbeaten 81, Sri Lanka v Pakistan, 3rd Test, Pallekele, 5th day, July 12, 2012
Asad Shafiq and Adnan Akmal: Lots of spunk  © AFP
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Any match is merely a stepping stone on the long and winding road to the summit of international cricket. Several teams attempt the climb; some ascend, others stumble, but only one can raise its flag at the pinnacle. A genuine team effort is no guarantee of success although it is essential. There is scope for individual heroics but weak links must be few or non-existent; the journey must offer avenues for development of inexperienced team members and smooth over inevitable variations in performance.

When an inexperienced player beginning his personal journey at international level nears a milestone that might help him more than his country, what do you do? Is it tough love, or will a little love now make him tougher later? These were the questions circling Asad Shafiq's approach to a second Test century. Was it right to allow him to reach a personal landmark that would narrow Pakistan's chances of drawing a low-key Test series?

In truth, the odds were stacked in Shafiq's favour. Pakistan were ahead but not by enough. They were a spin bowler light on a wicket too placid for Pakistan's pacers. Only weight of runs would exert enough pressure on Sri Lanka's batsmen to crack under the interrogation of the best spin bowler to play in Sri Lanka since Murali's retirement. Even if the arguments for a declaration had been more powerful, it would still have been right to enable another hundred in Test cricket for Pakistan's promising middle-order batsman.

Misbah-ul Haq, as often is the way in Test cricket, called that one correctly. His return, after missing the first Test in Galle, had already refocused Pakistan's efforts in the series, and underlined the captain's importance to his team's competitiveness.

But it was youth that triumphed here for Pakistan. Azhar Ali and Shafiq topped the batting averages, a healthy development for Pakistan's middle order. Junaid Khan did the same with the bowling, excelling despite Umar Gul's drop in form. Even Adnan Akmal showed rare spunk for a modern Pakistan wicketkeeper.

As disappointing as a Test defeat is, especially with the level of performance in the first Test, Pakistan's recovery is a good omen. Sri Lanka will be happy but doubtful of their superiority over this Pakistan side, which is testament enough.

Above all, any series that sees several young players make a strong case to help the team on the next stage of the climb is at least a mini triumph. Better still that these seem to be players with the temperament for Test cricket's challenges.

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

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Posted by Valinda on (September 8, 2012, 1:16 GMT)

Great insight. Reilveed I'm on the same side as you.

Posted by Faridoon on (August 22, 2012, 5:31 GMT)

Dear Mr. Abbasi,

Hope you are well. I can only assume that you've taken ill since we've not heard from you in over a month.

It is highly unlikely that there's nothing happening in Pak Cricket worth blogging about, for that is never the case.

Take care and get well soon.

Posted by SN Qazi on (August 18, 2012, 5:57 GMT)

In Pakistan cricket the Selectors play a game of musical chairs. Once the players have not performed for long they are dropped for a game or two . A youngster may be given a chance but he has to perform in every innings from the first chance given . If there is even one lapse of performance out they have to go andthe not having performed so called senior p Ayers are brought back again .thisis whathasbeenhaening with continuing fallbacks for players such adImranNazir.ShoaibMa IkandKamran Akmal . Pakistanis not groomingnewtalentat all .

Posted by Shamshad Ali Khan on (August 15, 2012, 15:33 GMT)

Shoaib Malik is a really bad choice for the ODIs Team . However , I would rate Kamran Akmal,s selection as being even worse . He would easily qualify for the title of the world,s worst wicket keeper . Why he keeps on being selected is an unsolved mystery of Pakistan cricket . Y

Posted by Javed Hasan on (August 13, 2012, 16:47 GMT)

Pakistan has announced its ODIs Team to play Australia in UAE . The very surprising inclusion Is Shoaib Malik who hasn't performed in the last three years . However , strangely enough he always manages to retain his place.

Posted by zafar Abbasi on (August 5, 2012, 9:21 GMT)

No doubt team Pakistan has talent,as usual,what about captaincy as Misbah has limited time to play?

Posted by arh on (July 27, 2012, 8:56 GMT)

Laxman, Dravid,Ganguly gone.Tendulkar,Veero playing off & on.Probably Indian cricket is reverting to 1 or 2 super stars in a team era. No body matched the charisma of super stardom in their time.Its left to Kohli/Gambir. Indian cricket was very rich in the presence of above super stars.All of them averaged over or just below 50 in both the formats.Even Dhoni is not much behind them. The coming lot doesn,t seem to be matching the talent of their predecessors,courtesy T20 cricket. Revival of Pak/India cricket is eagerly awaited because of its competitiveness & will surely improve the quality of cricket on both the sides.

Posted by khalil on (July 27, 2012, 3:32 GMT)

Sure ! Amla has all the ingredients of a great batsman.He has performed on seaming as well as turning wickets but Mohummad Yousaf was more stylish & a better stroke player than Amla. Yousaf deserved an innings of his life like the 1 Amla played.

Posted by akb on (July 25, 2012, 13:25 GMT)

311* against the top team in the world. Where is Dean Jones ? What does he say about this innings ?

Posted by Javed Hasan on (July 25, 2012, 6:35 GMT)

In the Newspapers there were some comments a few days back by Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younus that Sami should not have been selected because his form has not been consistent . At least Shoaib Akhtar was honest enough to also add that when he was playing with Sami he could see how often the wicket keeper would drop catches on Sami's bowling . Now, that same wicket keeper , is being selected again . Another thing , former players like Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younuas do not speak about the very poor performance in recent years of players such as Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik . The real problem is that the PCB does not regularly publish the statistics at the end of each series and for each year so that there should be spotlight on who is performing and who is not .

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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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