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Stats Analysis

Before and after Lahore 2009: Pakistan's cricket in numbers

A look at the decade before the team were forced into exile in the UAE, and the one since

Osman Samiuddin
Osman Samiuddin
Pakistan fans make their intentions loud and clear  •  Associated Press

Pakistan fans make their intentions loud and clear  •  Associated Press

Ten years. Ten long years, when you drift and start to log all that has gone down in this time: the PSL, the Misbah-ul-Haq era, Mohammad Amir banished, Mohammad Amir returned, not one but two ICC titles. Ten not-so-long years also, when you pause and consider, as two instances, that Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez are still here and probably going to the World Cup too.
Hands up if you thought, sometime around 10am Pakistan time on March 3, 2009, that Pakistan cricket could - would - soon be dead? So much had already happened - and Lord's was still to come - and now this? Younis Khan said it: kill cricket, create terrorists. Forget the consequence and causality of that equation - he did think that the attacks and ensuing exile could kill cricket in Pakistan. Likely he wasn't alone.
It's not dead, that's for sure. Has it been changed in some irretrievable way? Of course: how could it not be? But perhaps a decade is still not long enough to really know in what way - consider for one that the PCB's annual reports show the board making more money than before. Infrastructure has taken a hit. The quality of domestic cricket has been ever more diluted. 'A' tours have disappeared. Let's be real, though. Any or all of this could have happened without the game being in exile.
The one area it is possible to measure is where it matters the most: on the field. The domestic game requires a separate study, but what of the national side? Has not playing at home - or barely playing - for ten years had an impact on the side's results? On their players? The data below compares results, performances and leading performers in the decade since the attacks to the decade before the attack - which wasn't an especially stable era itself.
The simplest way to measure this decade is through results. The table below has Pakistan's Test results for the decade pre- and post-Lahore. (For the purposes of this article, the periods in question are: March 1, 1999 to March 1, 2009 and March 2, 2009 to the present day.)
There is a difference but not as significant as the doomsday predictions might have had it. Pakistan have won an imperceptibly higher percentage of Tests since 2009 and lost a perceptibly higher percentage. The difference is, they don't draw as many games. Granted, nobody does anymore, but over the last three years the inability to save a Test has been an especially acute Pakistani condition.
That could be because of the apocalyptic nature of their blowouts on the final days of Tests, or in the final innings: ten wickets gone in a session, a low chase fumbled. To be fair, they have also successfully chased 300-plus targets three times as frequently as before. But essentially, they are as - if not slightly more - capable of winning, but also more brittle. And just as poor in Australia and South Africa.
Comparatively, they are pretty much where they were. In terms of wins, they ranked sixth before Lahore and are still sixth now. In terms of a win-loss ratio, they were sixth before and are seventh now, but would have been sixth had it not been for Sri Lanka's two surprise wins in South Africa recently.
Another thing: they remain among the most infrequent players of Tests. In the decade before Lahore, they played more than only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe; once New Zealand complete their current three-Test series with Bangladesh, Pakistan will again have played more Tests than only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.
It's in the 50-over game that Pakistan have fallen. You could argue that the 1999 World Cup final - a decade before Lahore - marked an endpoint in Pakistan's ODI game. Until then they were unarguably one of the best sides in the format. Thereafter followed a gradual decline, until Lahore, since when it has accelerated.
Before Lahore, Pakistan were still third in terms of wins, behind Australia and India, and third in win-loss ratio, behind Australia and South Africa. Since then, they are sixth in terms of wins in a bigger field that includes Afghanistan, Nepal and Ireland, but as low as ninth overall in win-loss ratio.
The consolation has been their status as a leading T20 side since Lahore. Early in this era, they won a World T20; late in it, they are the No. 1-ranked side, having lost their first series just recently after 11 successive wins.
Post Lahore no side has won as many T20Is and only two have a better win-loss ratio among Full Members.
It's (always) the batting, silly
Without even looking at the numbers - and with more than a little nostalgia - most people might guess that Pakistan's Test batting post-Lahore has not been as good as it was pre-Lahore (nor, nostalgists will continue, was that as good as the decade before, and on and on).
Numbers bear this out to a degree. In Tests, Pakistan's collective batting average has fallen from 33.23 in the decade before Lahore to 30.26 now. They are not alone to suffer so. Of the teams that have played Tests in both eras, the collective batting average of six has dropped. Both Australia and Sri Lanka have had bigger drops than Pakistan. Comparatively, Pakistan ranked fifth before and are seventh now.
The most polarising debate this side of Lahore has centred around Pakistan's run rates. Pakistan are one of only three sides whose run rate has actually dropped. Australia have had a substantial decrease, though given the booster effect Adam Gilchrist's arrival in 1999 had (Australia scored at 3.61 per over in the pre-Lahore decade), you could argue that was the only way they could go. Sri Lanka's decrease is minimal (3.26 to 3.20). Pakistan have gone from 3.25 to 3.04, but a more dramatic framing is that they have gone from having the third-best run rate (behind Australia and Sri Lanka) to having a run rate better only than Zimbabwe.
Because overall run rates have gone up - from 3.16 to 3.23 - Pakistan's dip has stood out. But the whole point of the extraordinary era of Misbah was that slower scoring was its bedrock. His sides turned the modern game on its head in the UAE, which became as impregnable as any pre-Lahore venue, unspooling the minds of successive opponents in the same way as dial-up internet connections might for kids born after 2000.
What people remember about the pre-Lahore decade, though, is the pre-eminence of Younis, Mohammad Yousuf and Inzamam-ul-Haq - as formidable a middle as Pakistan have had. The three all averaged 50-plus pre-Lahore.
By contrast, Younis is the only batsman to do so post-Lahore. But in the list of top ten run-scorers pre-Lahore, no other batsman averaged even 40, while post-Lahore the top ten has three batsmen averaging in the 40s and the rest in the 30s.
The other thing that will not surprise you is that overall conversion rates (of fifties to hundreds) is considerably down. Pre-Lahore, Pakistan converted 35.87% of their fifties into hundreds; since 2009, they are converting 27.52%.
White-ball fall
The one-day batting decline is far more difficult to couch behind caveats and qualifications. Batting in the format has leapt into a new age in the second half of the post-Lahore decade, but it has evolved right through it broadly. The only sides whose batting averages have not increased post-Lahore are Australia and West Indies - in the case of the former, it's almost as if they're regressing to the mean after an era of unparalleled greatness.
Pakistan's overall batting average has increased: 29.34 before Lahore versus 29.56 after. They were fourth (behind Australia, South Africa and India) but seventh now. But in the light of the huge strides made by India, England and New Zealand, it feels stagnant, more so if you throw in the run-rate increase. From 4.96 to 5.11 represents the lowest increase among the ten Full Members who played in both eras.
Much the same story is told by the numbers of individuals. Pakistan's four top-scoring batsmen pre-Lahore - Yousuf, Inzamam, Younis and Shoaib Malik - all struck at between 75 and 79 runs per 100 balls. Two averaged in the mid-40s, two in the mid-30s. For the era, that just about worked - the best batsmen in most countries averaged in the 40s and struck in the early-to-mid 80s per 100 balls.
After Lahore, Pakistan's top four ODI run-getters are Hafeez, Misbah, Umar Akmal and Malik. Hafeez strikes at 80, the latter two have mid-80s strike rates (perfect for pre-Lahore) and Misbah is at 70 (perfect for never). Misbah averages mid-40s, the rest mid-30s. You don't even need to see this or this or this to know how far off the pace Pakistan have been. Hafeez being Pakistan's top scorer in this era is, in many ways, the story of the era.
Also, always, the bowling
To many, it has never been the same since the two Ws. In the pre-Lahore decade, which is also the immediate post-Ws age (both Wasim and Waqar lingered into this but their time was gone) their absence felt most acute. No sustainable pace spearhead, a spinner who wasn't quite it, and more false dawns than actual wickets for fast bowling.
But post-Lahore there has been a clear improvement. Pakistan's collective average is down by 3.5 runs per wicket and they strike near enough three balls quicker per wicket. In terms of average, Pakistan were seventh-best pre-Lahore and are now fourth among Test-playing countries.
It is tempting to think, with Yasir Shah and Saeed Ajmal the top wicket-takers post-Lahore, that Pakistan turned to spin (even if Danish Kaneria took most of the wickets pre-Lahore) as strategy.
That's not, perhaps, as important a conclusion as simply that Pakistan found two bowlers durable enough to build two mini-eras around. In effect, they have had two distinct spearheads post-Lahore where they had none before.
With white ball in hand, the picture is less clear. Collective average, economy rate and strike rate have all gone up post-Lahore - one of three countries out of 13 (12 Full Members and the Netherlands) for whom this is true. Australia and Sri Lanka are the other two.
On the surface, that is a clear decline. But it's actually not that clear. Pre-Lahore, their average (29.71) placed them fourth, their economy (4.65) fourth and strike rate (38.3) third. Post-Lahore, their average (33.08) places them as low as seventh, and their strike rate tenth, but their economy (4.92) makes them third. Both the low economy and high strike rate are indicative of a side that has played nearly 30% of their games on pitches in the UAE, where neither runs nor wickets are easy to come by.
Both eras have had a healthy mix of pace and spin: there are three spinners among the top ten wicket-takers pre-Lahore and four after it. The real discovery - a reminder, really - of the pre-Lahore period is just what an ODI giant Abdul Razzaq was - he's the top wicket-taker and the fifth-highest run-getter.
Pakistan have used 86 players in Tests post-Lahore as opposed to 61 in the decade before. In ODIs those numbers are, respectively, 76 and 72.
Nine different men led them in Tests pre-Lahore and eight post. As many as 11 ODI captains pre-Lahore and eight post.
These numbers might seem counter-intuitive, given that the post-Lahore period has always represented a proper safe space for Pakistan cricket. But the captaincy numbers (and to a degree the number of Test players used) are wrecked by a period from the attacks to the spot-fixing in 2010, which gave way to the real period of stability.

Osman Samiuddin is a senior editor at ESPNcricinfo