KARACHI: The Steve Waugh led Australia was arguably the greatest team of all time. With a record- breaking sequence of Test wins and three World Cup trophies, Waugh and then later Ricky Ponting enjoyed unprecedented success and razed to the ground every opposing team.
Pakistan, like the rest of the leading Test nations, bore the brunt of the Australian power regularly throughout the late nineties and the turn of the century.
While most of the other teams have somewhat recovered and have either won or drawn Test and ODI series against the Aussies, Pakistan continue to be psyched out and outpaced even in their own conditions.
Earlier in the month, an under-strength Australia – missing out on the services of Shane Watson, Mitchell Marsh and Michael Clarke – met an under-strength Pakistan in the limited-over series during which, the men in green capitulated meekly, handing out their opponents wins in all four games (one T20 and three ODIs).
One ODI and the lone T20 were staged in Dubai, while Sharjah and Abu Dhabi hosted the other two 50-over matches. The pitches at the three venues were tailor-made for Pakistan; the slow and low nature of the tracks with sufficient turn for the spinners provided the perfect recipe for a win.
But the Australians, known for their meticulous planning and strategy, floored their hosts with consummate ease in the T20 and the first two ODIs before pulling out the proverbial rabbit out of the hat in their astonishing one-run win in the dead rubber at Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Stadium.
At the same time, one can’t say that Pakistan lacked in preparation or skillset. The incumbent team management is perhaps their strongest in recent years. Head coach Waqar Younis, chief selector Moin Khan, spin-bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed and batting coach Grant Flower are all established names, revered around the world for their on-field performances in the 90s.
The quartet, with the aid of the rest of the support staff, did put in the hard yards, but somehow their efforts and endeavour failed to ignite the spark that the team needed against some thoroughbred professionals.
Pakistan cricket is not known for its structure or setting short and long-term goals. The team management, one feels, didn’t look up the requisite statistics to figure out that the national team tends to freeze against the Aussies — a trait afflicting them for two decades now.
The last Test series win recorded by Pakistan against the Australians was during the 1994 home series; afterwards, the span of 13 Tests starting from the 1999 Brisbane Test to the one at Lords in 2010 ended in wins for Australia.
Meanwhile, in bilateral ODIs, the Australians have won 10 out of the last 11 games, including the 5-0 whitewash in 2010 and the recent 3-0 whitewash in UAE.
These statistics, coupled with the fact that the last 11 games have been played during Australia’s rebuilding phase, must send shock waves among Pakistan cricket followers.
Pakistan’s record in both Test and ODI formats against Australia is comparable with the record of the likes of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe — two teams ranked at the bottom of the table.
This week, the two sides will lock horns in the Tess format and realistically, the spate of injuries and some mind-numbing selection choices, have diminished the hopes of a Pakistan turnaround.
In-form players Muhammad Sami, Faisal Iqbal and Aizaz Cheema made solid starts in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy tournament, but failed to impress the selectors who opted to invest in youth for the two matches.
Left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman, who has since forever remained Saeed Ajmal’s understudy, was also left out after one poor performance in the Sri Lankan Tests.
Previously too, the lambs were led to slaughter when a highly inexperienced team, under the captaincy of Waqar, crashed to ignominious scores of 59 and 53 in the 2002 Sharjah Test against Waugh’s invincibles.
Now 12 years down the line, Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson and Co smell blood again.
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