Pakistan’s victory over New Zealand in the second test the other day made me start thinking about just how good their team currently is, and what it could achieve in the future. Recent political events in their home country must be worrying for the Pakistani team, and this of course has a direct effect on their cricket team, evidenced by the fact that no international teams seem to be willing to play in Pakistan. So, with the current series against New Zealand tied, and a (southern) summer appointment with the Aussies, let’s have a look at the current make up of the Pakistani team.
I guess that all sportspeople and teams will be inevitably compared to players of the past. Pakistan’s high point in cricket came in the early 1990’s, when they won the World Cup, and had a team made up of players that are some of the best the game has ever seen. Names such as Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Aamir Sohail, Waqar Younis and Saeed Anwar represent some the best practitioners ever to play our favourite game. However, recent political struggle in their country, and within the ranks of their cricketing body, have had an effect on the quality of Pakistan’s team.
It is a great shame that their best batsman, and former captain, Younis Khan, has been shifted out of the picture. 16 test centuries, and an average of over 50 makes it clear that he is a top-class player. The mantle of best player, and also captain has now passed to another standout player, Mohammed Yousuf. Yousuf is an extraordinary talent, averaging over 54 in test cricket, and with 24 test centuries, but he doesn’t seem to have the passion and fire that Khan holds in his belly. Supporting Yousuf in the current batting line-up is Shoaib Malik, who always seems a bit shaky to me, and a bunch of younger players, such as the talented Umar Akmal. But overall the batting line-up isn’t Pakistan’s strong point. Without a strong opener, and with too much emphasis falling on one or two players, the middle order looks like it could struggle against the Australian fast bowlers. That said, there is promise for the future in this line-up, and if they can resist the political struggles within the cricket board, they should prosper.
It really is the bowlers that show the most promise for the current team. Although it would be folly to say that they are, or will be, better than some of the names mentioned earlier, the bowling line-up is very strong. Perhaps the most important factor in this is the return of Mohammed Asif. 68 wickets in 13 tests at an average of 21 is just an extraordinary start to a test career, and if the 26 year old can stay healthy and out of trouble, then the sky is the limit. Talking of young and promising players, 17 year old Mohammed Aamer looks very good, and is strongly supported by the skillful accuracy of Umar Gul. Furthermore, Pakistan’s spin stocks look very good. Danish Kaneria is a fine leg spin bowler with over 200 test wickets in his bag, but it is Saeed Ajmal who is most promising. He is described as an off-spinner, but in reality he can bowl the off-break, the arm ball and the doosra with unbelievable accuracy and control; he is truly gifted.
So, if the political situation in their country, and subsequently in their team, improve, and Mohammed Yousuf is shown some support as captain, Pakistan could really build upon their victory in this years Twenty 20 world cup. They have the ingredients to build up to being a really strong test team. Along with the batsmen and bowlers mentioned, they also have a fine wicket keeper in Kamran Akmal, who can more than match it with past greats such as Moin Khan. A strong Pakistan team is important for the future of test cricket, and I think that this crop could well prove to be a force to be reckoned with.
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