Boxing Day Test’s punch concludes Green Team’s year 2016

When the year 2016 started, entire Pakistani nation was frenzied as they were about to witness the first ever Pakistan Super League (PSL). Expectations and excitements were high. It was Pakistan’s chance to prove their mettle around the globe by showing some quality cricket at domestic level.

It was February 4 when the first match of PSL was played. It was the beginning of a new era. We were about to witness our raw talent playing with the giants of international cricket like Kevin Pietersen, Kumara Sangakara, Chris Gayle and Shane Watson. It was the first time in Pakistan’s history when our local domestic circuit players were playing along with the foreigners. It was a great time for learning for these young lads. Just like India made players through IPL and Bangladesh made players through BPL, it was our opportunity to gain something from our very own league too.

PSL was important for us; not because it was the first league of Pakistan but because Asia Cup and World Cup were also going to follow it. We needed complete preparations before the two mega international events. However, on Feb 23, PSL concluded and Islamabad United was crowned the inaugural champions.

We were hoping for things to get better after PSL but they started to fall apart instead.

Shahid Afridi and controversies

It all started right after PSL, when Pakistani players were packing their bags for Asia Cup and a reporter asked a question from Shahid Afridi during a press conference. Lala did not like the question and showed his aggression towards the reporter by terming his question as ‘Ghatya Sawal’ but he never knew what was coming towards him. After that day, Afridi became the foremost target of media.

After the incident with the reporter, Afridi sparked another controversy by his controversial statement in India. During the press conference, Afridi said, “We have received more love in India than Pakistan”. Now imagine, you are living in a country whose media is desperate for rating and you say something like this. I don’t think there is any need to mention how much criticism Afridi faced after this.

Pakistan had a humiliating Asia Cup and World T20 afterwards but Afridi was not giving up in causing a stir by his controversial statements. While addressing a press conference he said, “People from Kashmir are supporting Pakistan in the tournament”.

Yes. He was talking about Kashmir. Kashmir is the reason behind Indo-Pak disputes and statement like this from Pakistani skipper in India was enough for the Indians to lose their minds. Now Boom Boom drew criticism from India as well.

Shahid Afridi’s retirement became an issue after the World T20. He was supposed to retire after World T20 2016 but he refused to do so later on. However, he left the captaincy and decided to remain with the team until his replacement came (lol).

Lala knows how to be in the headlines. His dispute with Javed Miandad became a top story for the media channels. It would be right if we say that Afridi was the most prominent person of Pakistan cricket in 2016.

Apart from the controversies, West Indies were crowned with the World T20 championship and Champion Dance became the top trend.

England tour and push-ups:

England tour proved out to be the best memory for Pakistan in the year 2016. Pakistan had to play 4 Tests, 5 ODIs and a T20 on the tour. Pakistan drew the Test series 2-2, lost the One Day series 4-1 and finished the tour on a winning note by defeating the home team in the only T20 match.

Test series was the most important one for Pakistan. It was Pakistan’s chance to be the World No 1 team for the first time in history. Green Team started the tour very well after standing triumphant in Lord’s Test. Unfortunately Pakistan lost next two matches but they fought back brilliantly in the last Test courtesy veteran batsman Younis Khan’s brilliance, finishing the Test series after defeating opposition on 14th August.

In order to be the number one Test side, Pakistan needed India to draw or lose the Port Of Spain Test that was being played in West Indies. They say hard work always pays off and Pakistan got what they deserved as Port Of Spain Test ended result-less as rain wiped off entire game and Pakistan became World’s best Test side for the first time in the history.

We have seen Gangnam dance, Champion dance as the celebrations in cricket but Pakistan had set the new trend after doing pushups as winning celebration during the England tour.

However PML-N lawmaker Rana Muhammad Afzal came up with a new logic and opened a new Pandora’s Box regarding the celebrations of Pakistani team. While attending National Assembly committee meeting he said “Cricket players should offer prayers instead of doing push-ups”.

I mean, seriously? You are living in a country where numbers of issues are more than Sachin Tendulkar’s centuries and that man had the time to criticise cricket team’s celebration.

Dominance of Asian Giants:

Pakistan hosted West Indies for 3 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20s in the UAE. The series with the Windies was the most successful series of the year for Pakistan. First, Pakistan beat visitors 3-0 in T20 series, then whitewashed them in ODIs and finished the tour by remaining victorious in Test series as well.

A day-night Test match was also scheduled in the tour. In year 2016, Pakistan played their first ever Test with Pink ball. Pakistan’s ODI skipper Azhar Ali scored a triple-ton in that game and became the first ever cricketer to score a ton, double-ton and a triple-century in a day-night Test match.

Apart from winning, there were some positives for Pakistan cricket i.e. Muhammad Nawaz (who showed his potential during the tour) and Imad Wasim (who emerged as the complete all-round cricketer for Pakistan in all three formats of the game).

New Zealand tour:

New Zealand tour was the nightmare for Pakistan team. The world No 1 Test team players failed to play the seaming deliveries of New Zealanders. Pakistan lost both the Test matches which affected the team’s rank and as a penalty of the defeats Pakistan lost the crown of being World’s best Test side too.

Team Green on Australian soil:

Pakistan tour to Australia was the most awaited event of cricket in the calendar year. Pakistan was playing 3-Test series on Australian soil under captaincy of Pakistan’s most successful captain Misbah ul-Haq. Misbah’s captaincy record was exceptional in Tests as cricket pundits were of the belief that Pakistan can change the history in Australia after defeating them on their home soil. It was also the chance for veteran batsman Younis Khan to score a century in Australia and become the player with centuries against every Test playing opposition at their home ground. Younis has a Test ton against every Test playing nation except Australia.

First Test between Pakistan and Australia was termed as the best Test match of the year as both teams fought hard to win the game. After restricting Pakistan to fewer than 150 in the first innings, Kangaroos were the favourites to win the game but Pakistan being Pakistan showed again that they were the most unpredictable side of the world. While chasing the target of 490 runs, Pakistan ended the 4th day needing 108 with two wickets remaining courtesy Asad Shafiq’s magnificent ton.

Unluckily, Pakistan failed to win the Brisbane Test after falling short of just 39 runs. But the cricket that Pakistan showed was simply amazing. Asad Shafiq earned praise from entire cricket community as well as cricket fans.

After a marvelous fight back in the first Test, quality cricket was expected from Pakistan in Boxing Day Test. After winning the toss, Pakistan opted to bat first. That decision was proved right as the visitors piled up 443 runs in the first innings. It started to seem like Pakistan was going to break their losing streak against Aussies after drawing the match at MCG as rain interfered in the game greatly. Everything was going in Pakistan’s way. Azhar Ali scored his double ton and became only the seventh player to score a triple hundred and a double ton in the same year.

But again, you never know what is going to happen next when Pakistan is playing. Same thing happened in the Boxing Day Test when Pakistan allowed Australian batsmen to attack them heavily. Would you believe that Mitchell Starc hammered 84 runs off just 91 balls on the same pitch where Younis and Misbah had failed to score the same number of runs in two innings combined? But it happened. And we lost to Aussies again. We had to survive 68 overs on the last day but we failed. After declaring first innings on 443/9, unpredictable Pakistan lost the match by an innings and 18 runs.

This is our 5th defeat in a row, second time in history of Pakistan cricket. This is obviously not a good end of the year. Misbah is ‘thinking’ about retirement and unsure about next Test. Younis has to face more criticism than he ever faced in his career.

We can only hope that the next year would be happier for Pakistan.

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