Pakistan’s recent performances under new skipper Misbah-ul-Haq have shown there is room for optimism despite the trauma of the spot-fixing scandal, says All Out Cricket columnist David Green.
It has been a bad week for cricket and a dreadful one for Pakistan’s devoted and fanatical supporters. Whether it was greed, naivety or coercion by dark forces, three of their best cricketers have now lost their liberty as well as their livelihoods. The evidence presented in court also suggests that this was not an isolated incident and that there were other bad eggs in the box.
However, at the same time that Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir were being sent to jail, Pakistan’s current team were in Sharjah, in the midst of day one of the third Test of their series with Sri Lanka. Somewhat surprisingly, the team has coped well and even prospered since that ill-fated match at Lord’s. Despite the loss of Butt (a talented if inconsistent opening batsman), Asif (one of only a handful of bowlers to reach 100 wickets before they had played 20 Tests) and Amir (arguably the most talented teenage fast bowler in the history of the game), Pakistan have rebuilt their reputation as a Test side.
Under the dogged and determined Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan have yet to lose a Test series since leaving England last summer: drawing series against South Africa in their adopted desert home and in the Caribbean, earning a creditable away win in New Zealand and a further victory in a one-off Test in Zimbabwe. They won’t lose to Sri Lanka either, given that they are deservedly 1-0 up and playing the final match of the series. If it hadn’t been for the magnificent Kumar Sangakkara, the series would already be in the bag.
Misbah appears to have forged cohesion from derision and diligence from flakiness – make no doubt; England will face a challenging proposition against Pakistan in the New Year. Younis Khan has been recalled and formed the bedrock of the batting order, Azhar Ali has delivered on the promise he showed in his debut series in England, Mohammad Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar have proved to be a solid opening partnership, whilst the tireless Umar Gul and late-bloomer Saeed Ajmal have spearheaded the bowling attack superbly.
The world’s number one Test side will no doubt be a step up for this burgeoning team – especially when facing England’s much-vaunted bowlers in comparison to the paucity of the current Sri Lankan attack – but in a week of ignominy and despair for Pakistan cricket, hope is on the horizon thanks to the redemption offered by Misbah and his troops.