Cricket finally returned to Pakistan, after the finals of the PSL was played at Lahore. A World XI team coached by Andy Flower, boasting of some of the best players from the world participated in a 3 match T20I series.
More than the cricket, the fact that cricket boards across the globe are slowly willing to send players to play in Pakistan is a huge step in the right direction for Pakistan cricket. Amidst tight security, bearing the treacherous heat, over 60,000 fans turned up at the Gadafi Stadium at Lahore to witness this series.
The return of cricket to Pakistan, with hope of more cricket there soon is a promising sign for world cricket. There were other positives as well for Pakistan from this series, here’s looking at them:
Cricket returns to Pakistan, with the hope to return full-time
A lot has been said about cricket returning to Pakistan again for this series against World X1. The fact that cricketing boards across the globe felt assured of the security measures put in place is promising signs for world cricket.
Heightened security measures were put in place to make sure this tournament went out smoothly. Over 16,000 security personnel were placed at the Gadaffi Stadium. And many of the players from the World X1 team were happy with the security and they urged more teams to come and play in Pakistan.
After the terrorist attack in 2009, post which Pakistan played their home games in the UAE, the successful completion of a hard fought T20I series is very good news indeed. Sarfraz Ahmed, the skipper of the host nation thanked the boards for allowing top quality players to participate in this tournament.
One of the biggest positive was to see mostly world class, and players who are still actively playing the game take part in the tournament. This encouraged more crowds to come in to the stadiums thereby making this series even more memorable.
With no security lapses or glitches, and with Pakistan expected to host Sri Lanka and West Indies soon, it looks like there won’t be too many hassles in making that happen. Once more teams come and play in Pakistan, it would rejuvenate cricket in the country.
The massive support from fans is a huge boost for Pakistan
There was a certain amount of doubt whether the return of cricket would witness a good reception from their fans. With all their home games being played in the UAE, the PCB were justified in having that apprehension.
But all the doubts were put to rest once the tournament kicked off. A huge turnout was seen which heartening signs for the sport of cricket. As these fans for no fault of theirs had to miss out on watching their favourite stars in the stadium for the last 7-8 years.
Former cricketers like Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis spoke about how the return of cricket to their country would send out the right message to all cricketing boards, and more importantly it would inspire new generation of cricketers.
They stressed on the fact that cricketers of their generation used to watch games across Pakistan, watch some of their idols play and get inspired. That was missing when Pakistan played in the UAE but they were hopeful that this series would bring back cricket to their nation again.
Not fearing for their life’s, amidst tight security measures which were put in place for the three T20s and not to forget the heat which would dissuade fans to come to the stadium, the support they showed was commendable. They showed that nothing can deter their love for the sport and their team.
Babar Azam’s fine batting display allowed Pakistan to win the series
On the cricketing front, the biggest positive to come out of this short yet successful T20I series was the batting of Babar Azam. Azam was the highest run-getter in the series with 179 runs at an average of 57.89 from 3 T20s.
He was really impressive right from the start of the series. Having played most of his international career outside Pakistan, he lit up Gadaffi Stadium when he got the chance to play in front of home crowds.
His exemplary timing and amazing shot selection were a treat to watch. And it was not the big-hitting shots that got him the runs, but it was well timed, proper cricketing shots. That made his batting look even better.
He was equally against the pace of Morne Morkel or the spin of Imran Tahir. And in the last T201, while he was not in full flow, he was able to run the quick singles and two’s and more importantly complimenting Ahmad Shahzad and Shoaib Malik later on in the innings.
It was a complete series for Babar Azam, where he was able to live up to the high expectations from him and his fielding and catching was also good in all the games.
Ahmad Shahzad’s poise and control was pleasing to watch
A lot has been said about Shahzad’s batting skills. He is rated very highly by the Pakistani media and some former players even compared him to Virat Kohli.
But Shahzad hasn’t delivered on such big expectation from him. After a lull period where he was out of reckoning in the national side, his performances made him an automatic selection at the top of the order at the expense of Mohammed Hafeez.
To his credit, although he looked a bit tensed and scratchy, he rode out that sketchy phase and was able to shine in this series. His poise, control and elegance was pleasing to see. Along with Fakar Zaman, they make for an attacking opening partnership for Pakistan.
With 171 runs from 3 games at an impressive average of 57, Shahzad impressed with the bat. With the Sri Lanka series coming up he would be looking at gaining entry into the ODI and test teams as well and cementing his place.
This series is a good re-launch for Shahzad as the opener for Pakistan.
Rumman Raees, the star with the ball
A left-arm fast medium bowler, Rumman Raees could ‘not play in the Asia Cup and World T20 in 2016 owing to an injury to his hamstring. The PSL took place before the mentioned big events and Rumman Raees got a chance to play alongside some of the biggest names in cricket.
His performances, although not spectacular, were noticed by the selectors. A very impressive economy rate of 6.89 in that tournament stood out as he proved that he could control the run-flow.
With Mohammed Amir out of this series due to personal reasons, Raees, along with Hasan Ali had to take responsibility of the bowling. Hasan had a slightly disappointing series but Raees was the star with the ball.
His skiddy action mixed with good control of his variations made him really useful. Sarfraz Ahmed used him really wisely as well, bowling him at crucial times. His economical spells in each game were a big positive for Pakistan to carry forward.
He bowled the only maiden over of the series. And once Aamir and Wahab Riaz return, this Pakistan bowling attack which looks pretty good even now, will become formidable.