Can Pakistan sustain its ODI resurgence?

Fifty-over cricket remains the most prestigious yet challenging format of the game ever since its inception in the 1970s. It requires as much patience as does traditional test cricket and warrants same aggression as demanded by the post-modern T20 scheme. It is also the cradle of the World Cup, the cricket’s equivalent to the football’s FIFA World Cup. Moreover, the one day internationals grab the lion’s share of the fixture-mix in every bilateral cricket series. Thus, whoever team dominates this format is often regarded as the epicentre of the cricketing world.

It is for these reasons that team Pakistan’s resurgence in ODI cricket is proving to be highly reverberating and loquacious. The International Cricket Council is ever more interested in listening to what Pakistan Cricket Board’s official have to say and the world class players are finally nodding their heads into visiting the erstwhile terror struck Pakistan. ICC team inspecting the Karachi’s National Stadium for security clearance for the PSL fixtures and a nice-looking World-XI touring Pakistan in September to play the Independence Cup is concrete manifestation of the trust Pakistan has started to enjoy among the comity of cricketing nations after the July’s ICC Champions Trophy triumph.

The latest 5-0 routing of Sri Lanka in the UAE is a pleasant sign that Pakistan’s much trumpeted resurrection in one day cricket is indeed going to be sustainable. The discovery in this series of yet more talented and cool-headed players gives credence to such an auspicious future prediction. The Champions Trophy was the first consignment Sarfraz was handed over which he successfully unloaded on the terminals of glory and pride. He had at his disposal a bunch of inexperienced young guns such as Hassan Ali, Rumman Raees, Fahim Ashraf, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan. All rose to become stars carrying the unprecedented Champions Trophy winning legacy.

The new-born stars hadn’t yet landed from the flying carpet when Imam-ul-Haq and Usman Sinwari joined them on that fairy ride. Both Imam and Sinwari were off to remarkable and record-breaking beginnings in their ODI careers. The former scored century on a debut to become only the second Pakistani to do so; and the latter became the third quickest ever to complete the five-for, that too on his only second appearance. These performances have added to the travails – in a rather pleasant way – of the team management, in the matter of selection. For, every member of the 15-member squad seems to deserve a place in the final eleven.

Leaving discussion on test cricket future aside, ways must be fond as to how this formidable ODI side of Pakistan could remain as such in the times to come. As there is no more one-day cricket ahead in 2017, Pakistan will be heading to New Zealand immediately after the New Year revels will have been over. It would be the second daunting challenge for Sarfraz’s men after the first one in England, from where they returned with pride. Winning away is one thing, and winning on bouncy pitches of Australia and New Zealand is another. If calamity is the touchstone of bravery, winning in Australia and New Zealand is the touchstone of global dominance for the sub-continent teams.

Sarfraz must not let this opportunity of becoming an ODI superpower go. To succeed there, all Pakistan have to do is perform with the bat, as their bowling unit is already being termed the best in the world. While fast bowling department is brimming with talent and pace, spin bowling options range from leggies to right-arm and left-arm off spinners. Batting needs being studied. Hitting prowess has been the Achilles’s heel of Pakistan’s batting since long now. It must be sorted out in the upcoming Twenty-20s, first against Sri Lanka and then against the West Indies. In current dispensation, only Fakhar Zaman and Muhammad Hafeez can be called as genuine hitters of the ball. But they come to bat on top order. To fill up this vacuum in the lower order, Fahim Ashraf and Aamer Yamin are excellent options. Both should be given maximum playing time in the impending T20s. “Fahim Ashraf has the potential to become No.1 all rounder in the world”, says Azhar Mehmood.

Moreover, the opening pair is still anything but settled. It remains to be seen howthe Inzy’s nephew performs in swinging and bouncy Kiwi conditions, as off-stump clearly seems to be his weakest point. Fakhar Zaman, on the other hand, needs to work on his temperament, a lot. With middle order being stable with Babar, Malik and Hafeez at the helm, Sarfraz need to catch up with his own old form; the skipper seems so immersed in the quagmire of captaincy that he has probably forgotten the fact that he was a good batsman once upon a time. Should Pakistan overcome these batting weaknesses, “there will be no power on earth that could undo Pakistan”, albeit only its cricket team.

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