Sports News Update: A narrative tapestry of the kind this series presents doesn’t come about every day. Test cricket in Pakistan certainly doesn’t come about every day. So it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. Not just for the fans, but for Pakistan’s players too. The successful conduct of the limited-overs rubber against Sri Lanka in Karachi – a couple of months back – paved the way for their return, this time in whites, more than 10 years after a Sri Lankan team was attacked.
But as much as this occasion is about all of that, it’s also about what Pakistan do on the day. It’s about their onfield performance, which was absolutely woeful in Australia. Not only did it sour the start of Azhar Ali’s captaincy reign, but it also got their WTC campaign off on the wrong foot. Which is why, first and foremost, the two-match series starting tomorrow in Rawalpindi is a chance to set that right.
More than anything, it’s Pakistan’s bowling that’ll need to recover from the assault at the hands of some ruthless Australian batsmen at home. But that can happen – not least to young seamers starting their careers. While it may have diminished the hype around them, there’s no denying the potential. And they might find some joy from the pitch if Rawalpindi carries forward its tradition of being one of the most seamer-friendly venues in the country.
In retrospect, the goodwill around the occasion will only help to flush out some of the negativity, which – make no mistake – was in abundance, right from team selections to performances Down Under.
Talking of negativity, there’s Sri Lanka who’ve had a fair share of that in their cricketing setup recently. Anyway, the visitors bring with them a lot of unpredictability. They’ve gone from losing abjectly in New Zealand and Australia, to beating South Africa in South Africa, and then to holding New Zealand to a draw at home – all within a year’s time.
What Sri Lanka also bring with them is a full-strength squad, unlike the limited-overs tour earlier, as well as Pakistan’s former coach Mickey Arthur who was sacked after a disappointing World Cup. That’s definitely a score to settle there.
With all the things going around it, what happens on the cricket field is anybody’s guess. But whether it adds to the many, many memorable performances in the venue’s highlights reel – Damien Fleming’s hat-trick on debut, Mohammad Zahid’s 11-wicket haul, Rahul Dravid’s 270 to name a few – or not, it’ll have been worth it.