Never before the Pakistan cricket team was in such a commanding position as it is now. After making the short work of Sri Lanka in the HNB Test series with a dynamic performance, it is fully geared up to face Sri Lanka and South Africa in the Singer Triangular one day tournament starting July 5.
Apart from the inherent potential, form and fitness of the players the quality of leadership and coaching, strategic planning and management of the team played a major role in its victories. Fortunately all these factors worked wonders during the last four months, bringing honours for the country one after the other. After losing to Sri Lanka at home in the month of March, the team has been continuously on a winning spree. To the envy of the cricket world, Pakistan's exceedingly impressive performance brought our team the rewards of Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah, the Triangular in the Caribbeans, and the Asia Cup at Dhaka. Out of the two test series that our team played during this period, it trounced Sri Lanka 2-0 while the sub standard-cum-unfavourable umpiring deprived us from clinching the test series in the Caribbeans. Losing on their own soil being a big prestige point for the West Indies it is quite likely that the results of test matches were worked out and stamped before start of the series. Showing the excellent sporting spirit, Pakistan made no bones about the injustice.
Defeating South Africa, Zimbabwe, West Indies India and Sri Lanka in a row was an incredible achievement. It indicates, how in such a short span of time the Pakistan team has transformed into a fearsome outfit. Out of the three left over cricket powers of the world, England, despite getting the Windies out for 54 runs at Lords and clinching a victory in the 2nd Test have yet to go a long way to rehabilitate their dwindling international image. While New Zealand does not pose much of a threat, Australia remains the only side to reckon with.
The factors responsible for Pakistan team's sudden upsurge are numerous: One, The Management induced in the team the feelings of dignity, sense of pride, cooperation, unity, and raised their morale thereby bringing in the badly needed harmony and fighting spirit. Two, the Selection Committee displayed impeccable courage and wisdom in re-calling some discarded stalwarts to strengthen the team. For example, the top class bowlers like Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed were put on the fence without any tangible reasons. I do not mind claiming a little credit for pleading their case repeatedly in my articles.
Three, the Javed Miandad factor has brought the major revolution. Apart from his guidance to the players about their individual technique, faults and follies and planning the team's match strategy, his sheer presence at the scene is a big source of inspiration for the whole team and a psychological threat to the opponents. Again let me inform the readers that as Media Advisor of the Board, I was his biggest supporter in the PCB Council meeting that initially approved his appointment. Four, Moin Khan's appointment as Captain has paid the dividends. Apart from his good relationship with players, his handling of the team has been superb. Five, the combined effect of all these factors revived the form of players who were constantly failing to perform. While Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Inzamam-ul-Haq recovered miraculously Arshad Khan emerged as an instant discovery. Six, the induction of youngsters in the side has considerably improved the fielding of our team, which is a vital factor for achieving victories.
Coming on to the pre-tournament scenario, most of the experts and observers, including the top players turned commentators and even some Sri Lankan officials consider Pakistan as the hot favourites to win the trophy. The absence of Wasim Akram who was the match winner on many occasions lately will reduce the team's firepower to some extent. Pakistan's bowling, however, has enough depth to compensate for his absence, though Waqar Younis and Abdur Razzaq will have to lift a much bigger load. As for the thrill produced by his hurricane hitting, Shahid Afridi will perform the role with equal ferocity.
With the loss of Asia Cup at Dhaka and the test series in its own back yard, Sri Lanka must be in a state of deep depression. To rise up all of a sudden may not be easy. They have axed the seasoned campaigner Aravinda de Silva from the squad, the new entrants being seamer Eric Upashantha, Kumar Dharmasena and reserve wicket keeper Kumar Sangakarra. Sri Lanka is surely a fighting outfit, but they reached the climax rather too late in the test series against Pakistan when they build up a massive score of 467 for 5 in the washed out test at Kandy.
As for South Africa, the third participant of the Singer Triangular Championship, the team shall have to come out of the trauma of Hansie Cronje's match fixing scandal. The team has a new Captain in Shaun Pollock. Although he is a player of great merit his captaincy experience is severely limited. Apart from leading some schoolboy sides, he has never been a captain on provincial level or led any side in first class cricket. The team is also without its legendary fast bowler Allan Donald, engaged in county cricket in England. Herchelle Gibbs who also became the victim of match fixing along with his skipper Hansie Cronje has been replaced by Boeta Dippenaar as an opener. South Africa defeated by Pakistan at Sharjah will have to put in a Herculean effort to humble them.
The championship commences with a match between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Galle on Wednesday. Highly motivated with a boost up provided by the spate of victories, high morale, remarkable fighting spirit and an undaunting match winning combination, the Pakistan team will fight to the hilt to maintain the winning spree.
Singer Triangular Series