We, the Pakistanis love cricket, more than we love anything else. Even when we know that the team is likely to lose, or that they have committed errors that are stupid, costly and unbelievable. The T20 series against Sri Lanka turned out to be an eye opener for those who thought that the matches would be an easy ride for ‘Professor’ Mohammad Hafeez, because the matches were anything, but that!
The Good that came out of the matches for the green shirts was not their new kit neither it was the way they played. It was the resurgence of Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Sami who finally managed to win a match for Pakistan. Yasir Arafat, who scored nearly a fifty and took 5 wickets on his Test debut handful of years back has been in and out of the side, despite being a Twenty20 specialist. The way he bowled showed that he has grown as an all-rounder and will be the ideal replacement for the aging Abdur Razzaq who is out of favour and out of the side. Sohail Tanvir bowled well in the first match and would have been the Man of the Match had the batsmen not squandered the advantage, whereas Mohammad Sami took time to settle at the international level, but when he did, he brought the Sri Lankans back to the ground!
The Bad that we experienced was the batting from the so-called batsman. When Shahid Afridi scores, it means that the team was desperate for him to score as was the case in the second match. Although the visitors won the match, the batting remains a headache for Dav Whatmore. Khalid Latif needs to grow up or make way for Asad Shafiq who was impressive at the practice match before the series. Same goes for Ahmed Shahzad and Umar Akmal who seem to be interested in only cementing their places in the team. Shoaib Malik’s performance was neither good nor bad but he needs to get his act together, and bowl as well if he is to play as an all-rounder (he certainly is NOT a specialist batsman!!!).
For the Ugly, there was a tie between the most expensive and reckless T20 bowler in the world and the most pathetic fielding unit, and the award was shared by both. Umar Gul was rightly axed for the second match because it was he alone whose wayward deliveries cost Pakistan the first match. Same can be said of the fielding for the fielders never hit the wicket directly, the bowler never backs up when the ball is thrown back, and the catches are hardly taken easily. The 33-year-old wicket keeper Shakil Ansar failed to impress and it seems that the glove duties would be shared by either Adnan Akmal or Sarfaraz Ahmed, whoever does well in Tests or ODIs respectively.
Time is running out for the Pakistan cricket team that doesn’t have many matches ahead of the World T20 in September. Judging the way they played against Sri Lanka, they need to improve a lot if they are to do well against the best sides in the world.