After a splendid victory over Sri Lanka in the Asia Cup that Pakistan won for the first time in many years, the team hops over to the pearl island of Sri Lanka for another five weeks of tough competitive cricket. The fact that the Pakistan cricket team clad in its cricket attire has been carrying the kit bags constantly for the last six months may look strange. But such a strenuous cricket activity has rejuvenated an almost staggering outfit, creating a formidable edifice capable of defeating the toughest opponent.
The engagements of the Pakistan team commenced with a tour of Australia in Nov-Dec 99, followed by a series of tests and One-Dayers against Sri Lanka at home, Coca-Cola Cup at Sharjah, Cable and Warless Limited Over Trophy 2000, and a three test series in the Caribbean and finally the Asia Cup at Dhaka. Except for the home series, Pakistan emerged victorious in the rest of them.
During the tour of Sri Lanka, the Pakistan team will play three test matches followed by a Triangular series between Pakistan, Sri Lanka and South Africa comprising of seven one day internationals. It will certainly be a tough tour but not beyond the capacity and prowess of the Pakistan team to cope with.
The six months of continues cricket at home and abroad has turned Pakistan team into a strong combination capable of enduring the toughest encounters. It is an excellent blend of youth and experience with the senior players having retrieved their lost form and the youngsters displaying their potential to perform wonders. Never before, the players had shown such a consistency in their performance. Skipper Moin Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Wasim Akram, Yousuf Youhana, and Imran Nazir have been superb.
Since the tour required a larger and a test oriented contingent, some changes in the Asia Cup squad were imminent. Discussing these changes one finds that the return of Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed was inevitable to strengthen the bowling department. A veteran of more than 300 wickets, Waqar Younis continues to remain one of the best fast bowlers in the game. The young bowlers like Mohammad Akram and Shabbir Ahmed how talented may be, are like schoolboys in front of him. Mushtaq Ahmed is the best leg spinner after Shane Warne and most suitable to counter the Muralitharn magic. The spin department remains incomplete without him. Both the bowlers were instrumental in achieving some vital triumphs in the West Indies.
Younis Khan is back in the team because he scored a century in his debut test against Sri Lanka at Rawalpindi, on the hope that he will effectively deal with the Sri Lankans even on their soil. Though fairly talented, he was an absolute flop on the West Indies tour scoring only 31 runs in five innings. Let us hope, atmosphere in the east suits him better. His place in the team will largely depend on his performance during this series.
A virtually unknown youngster Qaiser Abbas has been included in the squad for his good performance in domestic cricket. His inclusion at the cost of many other experienced players conforms with the PCB's current policy of brooding the chicks. Smart, energetic and impressive Shahid Afridi having been labeled as a player suitable for one-day matches only, has been left out to be recalled for the Triangular starting form July 5.
Comprising of some highly talented players, Sri Lanka is a bunch of tough fighters. Still, considering the form and fitness of Pakistani players and the team's exceptionally good performance in the recent tours and tournaments, it would not be difficult for the Pakistan team to brush them aside. Tough opposition is, however, likely to come forth from South Africa in the Triangular, which the Pakistan team will have to counter with determination and the display of good fighting spirit. Pakistan's batting an bowling having already created the impact, fielding will remain the decisive factor.