New bowlers' game is made for Pakistan
India's Eden Gardens is becoming a Pakistani paradise. A motorised parade of great heroes of India's past, including Wasim Akram, failed to inspire heroes of India's present and future to overcome Pakistan's competitive, albeit faltering, total of 250 runs. As much as Pakistan backed themselves in the one-day series, the ease of victory, culminating in MS Dhoni's futile rehearsal of a Test innings, was a surprise. The new regulations have wrenched one-day cricket from the grip of batsmen, and Pakistan's bowlers seized the moment in Calcutta.
Junaid Khan and Mohammad Irfan sparkled in Pakistan's opening overs in a manner unseen since the dread days of 2010. Junaid did little more in this series than perform to the standard expected; a routine top-class performance that leaves you baffled how easily he has been overlooked by Pakistan's selectors. Irfan, by contrast, was a revelation compared with his uncertain debut. He remains ungainly, the roughest of diamonds, but added pace and control produced frightening bounce even on these Indian wickets.
India's strength is in batting, their players some of the best in the world and rajas in home conditions, but even such genuine talents struggled to find a composed response to Irfan's mighty deliveries. His figures were nothing extraordinary but the psychology of putting India's batsmen on the back foot was worth every wide, full toss, and four overthrows. Meanwhile, Nasir Jamshed was faced with the tamer challenge of India's opening bowlers, establishing himself as the rarest of commodities, a Pakistani batsman with a temperament to match his skill.
But the difference in this series is in the bowling, aided by ICC's new rules. Fewer boundary riders allow better bowlers to prosper. Two bouncers per over restore the value of high-quality fast bowling. In combination, these changes reward superior bowling attacks and will lead to a readjustment in achievable one-day totals. The gulf between Pakistan's and India's bowling is no secret but it was horribly exposed here. India face a worrying challenge to assemble a threatening pace attack, a prerequisite for future success in one-day cricket.
These rule changes help the game, not just Pakistan. Cricket has to be an even contest between bat and ball. The supremacy of batsmen has been dull and tedious, even mediocre international cricketers have plundered great bowlers. It is rare that the ICC earns credit but it should for these tweaks to the one-day format. One day cricket might just have been rescued.
Dav Whatmore and his backroom staff are helping with an even more hazardous mission - the preservation and revival of Pakistan cricket. Success is important to win people over to your ideas and buy time, especially when that success is supported by improved performance. Pakistan's fielding on this tour has begun, perhaps for the first time, to resemble international class. Fielding is the finest indicator of the commitment of players and coaching staff to preparing for a contest. Maturity and good sense in executing cricket's other disciplines have been evident too. Professionalism is traditionally in short supply in Pakistan cricket but Dav Whatmore, in consort with Misbah-ul-Haq and Mohammad Hafeez, has begun to show how a touch of discipline might transform results.
In the end though it is the players who are the harbingers of hope. Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, and Nasir Jamshed have added fresh fascination to Pakistan's cricket story. And for the bowlers, at least, the new one-day game is made for them and Pakistan.
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here