In retrospect #4: From Test number 1 to number 7

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Source: Indian Express

As clichéd as it sounds, Pakistan Cricket team is indeed the most unpredictable side in the world of cricket. For a long time, test cricket was considered to be Pakistan team’s strongest suite. Back in the year 2016, Pakistan Cricket team became the top-ranked side in the world of test cricket. Last time the team had achieved this feat was back in the year 1988. The team had been undefeated in six consecutive series from the year 2014 till 2016.

Due to this outstanding performance, the ICC awarded  Misbah Ul Haq was awarded the ICC mace in September of 2016.  The players were on top of the world. However, the jubilation was short-lived.

Series against West Indies

Source: Cricket Country

The team’s fortunes took a turn for worst during the third test in the series against West Indies. Despite dominating the Windies in the first two matches and leading the series 2-0, the cracks had started appearing. It was evident that the team needed to re-evaluate its strategy after a defeat against a weak West Indian side in Sharjah, a place where the men in green have historically dominated oppositions.

Series against New Zealand and Australia

In retrospect
Source: Indian Express

The team had an opportunity to make up for the poor performance against West Indies and prepare for the Mighty Aussies in a two-match series against the Kiwis. However, the team got completely decimated instead.  Only three batsmen- Babar Azam, Azhar Ali and Sami Aslam managed to score more than hundred runs in four innings .

The embarrassment continued in the series against Australia. Australia made short work of the Pakistan team. Pakistan did not manage to win a single test match in the series and the rankings took a plunge. Aside from the first game, where the men in green almost claimed a miraculous win, the series proved to be a one sided affair. The Pakistani bowlers were dominated by the Australian batsmen. At the same time, the batsmen were unable to deliver in crunch situations.

Retirement of Younus and Misbah

Source: Espncricinfo

Younus Khan and Misbah ul Haq had been two constants in the side for the past five years. Khan was one of the best batsmen the team had while Misbah was the leader who had managed to turn around the team’s fortunes after the spot-fixing debacle in 2010.

However, both of these players were reaching an age where it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep up with the rigorous demands of the sport. The two announced their retirement from the game after the test series against West Indies.

Analysts had predicted an easy victory for the team in the series, however, Roston Chase had other ideas and if it wasn’t for Yasir Shah then Misbah and Younis would not have ended their careers on a high note. The void left behind by Misbah and Younis was not easy to fill and the team’s performance further declined as a result in the next series against Sri Lanka.

Series against Sri Lanka

In retrospect
Source: Indian Express

On paper Pakistan were the favorites in the series against Sri Lanka. However, the Lankans surprised everyone. Dimuth Karunaratne and Dinesh Chandimal were the leading run scorers in the test series with 196 and 155 runs respectively. On the bowling front, Rangana Herath managed to capture 16 wickets in two tests while conceding 277 runs.

The loss against Sri Lanka resulted in the team dropping to number seven in the test rankings. In just a span of 13 months the team had gone from top of the hill to the bottom. 2017 also marked the first time that the team suffered a white wash since the series against Australia in 2003.

While the trend is certainly disappointing, however, the team has shown remarkable improvement in the other formats of the game and things are looking up as far as 2018 is concerned. The team will face Ireland in their first test match which will be followed by a two test tour of England. The team will also be facing South Africa and Zimbabwe towards the end of the year.

Here’s hoping that the New Year will also mark a change in the fortunes of Pakistan test squad.

#1 In retrospect: Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis; the two W’s of Pakistan cricket

#2 In retrospect: The mutiny against Younis Khan

#3 In retrospect: The 1999 World Cup Final

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