Well played team Pakistan!
With Misbah's leadership, we have a cause to celebrate a very well-played one year from our beloved men in green
Last night, Pakistan cricket scaled uncharted heights. A 4-1 drubbing was handed out to a team that was recently rated second best on the ICC ODI rankings list. Umar Akmal batted with the kind of maturity his immense talent deserves. Misbah too played resolutely and finished a highly successful series.
This victory was crucial in assuring Pakistan fifth place in the ICC ODI rankings. Even though the series itself was already sealed with Pakistan leading 3-1, the match was exhilarating to watch. Personally, the lasting memories from this series will always be the culminating moments of the fourth ODI at Sharjah.
As Thisara Perera bludgeoned the ball into Umar Akmal’s waiting hands, Shahid Afridi had settled into a familiar pose. He stood still with his arms and legs stretched, the flamboyant all-rounder had delivered an emphatic knock-out punch. A fairy tale return from another hastily announced retirement was complete.
That win had an uncanny reminiscence to the many famous Pakistani victory charges of the 80s and the 90s. More remarkably though, it also meant that Pakistan cricket's nose diving fortune, courtesy the spot-fixing fiasco continues to be cushioned by solid on the field performances.
Does adversity give birth to resilience?
Researchers might not all agree - but Pakistan cricket certainly does. The team has had a turbulent year but continues to strive through.
This adversity has given birth to a steely resolve. Team leadership has been calm and composed instead of being flamboyant and aggressive. And the on field results have been consistently good.
Many in Pakistan lament Misbahul-Haq’s safety first approach to leadership. There were instances in the recently concluded test matches against Sri Lanka where a proactive demeanor could have sealed the series by a greater margin. This would have also helped in improving Pakistan’s ratings on the ICC test ranking table and guaranteed a coveted fifth place.
These passive passages of play must not be repeated if a number one Test status is Pakistan cricket’s long term priority. However, a Test series win over a better ranked opponent is a great achievement in itself, given the fact that the last such instance occurred almost five years ago. In fact since that damned England tour last summer, Pakistan has not lost a single Test match series. Even the ODI results in the last one year have been really impressive. A few statistics will magnify the significance of these performances.
Match fixing and corruption in cricket is deeper, and has historic roots beyond Pakistan, as suggested by the recent ‘allegations’ made by Vinod Kambli and Paul Condon, who stated that corruption is rife in other countries too. Admittedly, our cricketers were caught in the act. So, scapegoats or not, their crime was unforgivable and perhaps deserved a harsher sentence.
The statistics of winning
Analyzing the win-loss ratios and the winning percentages of all cricketing nations is a good starting point. Statistically speaking, Pakistan is the third best test match team of all time with a win-loss ratio of 1.10. Only Australia and England have done better. In ODI cricket, Pakistan's winning percentage is an impressive 55.4%. Amongst the teams that have played at least 100 one day internationals, this is the third highest winning percentage. Hence it can be argued that in statistical terms Pakistan is among the top three cricket playing nations of all time.
Narrowing down these winning percentages to the last few years will give us a clearer picture. Between January 2001 and December 31, 2010, Pakistan's win-loss ratio in Test match cricket dropped to 0.87 and in the last one year has been an even 4.00. In the same one year period Pakistan's win-loss ratio in ODI cricket was an impressive 3.00. Only the number one ranked one day team, Australia, had an equivalent winning percentage. Even the World Champion Indian side had a lower win-loss ratio of 2.44.
Some critics might argue that despite the exceptional nature of the above mentioned statistics, three of the four Test match victories came against New Zealand, West Indies and Zimbabwe. A fair point, but there were also hard fought and seriously competitive series’ against South Africa and Sri Lanka. Pakistani teams in the last few years would often crumble against quality teams even on benign pitches. Hence, the new found determination and resolve displayed by our players was a joy to behold.
The upcoming Test and ODI series’ against England will provide a stern test of the progress made in the last year. Mistakes, however little must not be repeated against a tremendously professional, well-oiled opponent. For now though, we have just cause to celebrate a very well-played one year from our beloved men in green.