ISLAMABAD: Whenever a debate over the dismal condition of Pakistan cricket breaks out, improving the standard of our domestic circuit is usually among the first recommendations made.
Veterans of the game have often pointed out that low strike rates and dated thought processes prevalent in our domestic batsmen is where the problem lies.
However, the recently concluded Pakistan Cup not only answered a lot of critics but also served as a beacon of hope that the tide has finally turned.
During the 11-match tournament, tons and half-tons were regular occurrences in every match. The leading batsmen of the spectacle boasted triple-figure strike rates and piled up runs as if their lives depended on it.
Naysayers would argue that it was all possible due to the blessings of batsmen-friendly pitches, but one cannot deny the courage the young participants showed when it came to shot-making.
Pakistan's national selection committee, headed by former captain Inzamamul Haq, has time and again pointed to a dearth of all-rounders in the domestic circuit but they must have gone home happy after what regularly transpired during the two-week long event at the Pindi Cricket Stadium.
“The youngsters performed really well,” said Tauseef Ahmed, a member of the national selection committee. “I’ve never seen such a final on the domestic circuit,” he said referring to the epic last-ball victory for Imad Wasim-led Federal Areas over Balochistan, captained by Fakhar Zaman.
“It is not easy to chase a 300-plus target in the final of any match but Federal played well,” he added. “Overall, the tournament was great. Everything was well managed and we did not see any problem throughout the event.”
Like the Pakistan Super League, the Pakistan Cup has also paid instant dividends in the form of new talent.
If the discussion is about the best batsman of the tournament, one cannot look beyond Balochistan's 21-year-old Sahibzada Farhan. Four fifties in group matches followed by an almost match-winning ton separate him from the rest of the crowd.
His teammate and all-rounder Aamer Yamin also built a strong argument for inclusion in the national side by bagging nine wickets two go with his two unbeaten half-centuries in just five matches.
Apart from these two, a few veterans also impressed all and sundry, with the most prominent of them being all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez — the top-scorer of the competition with 362 runs at an average of 74.2 runs per innings.
Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur has time and again said that the national team needs to play aggressive cricket in order to thrive rather than just survive.
Mammoth team totals and successful chasing down in Pakistan Cup are a glimmer of hope that our domestic cricket is, slowly but surely, conforming to the fast-paced nature of international cricket.
A few years down the road, the 2017 Pakistan Cup could be seen as the tournament that ushered the start of an era where Pakistani cricketers finally started playing ODIs as an extended version of the T20 format rather than a shortened form of Test cricket.