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NZ v PAK 2020: Pakistan cricket team enters promised new land in its inimitable style

Mohammad Rizwan seems primed to throw down the obstacles in the Pakistan cricket team
Mohammad Rizwan seems primed to throw down the obstacles in the Pakistan cricket team's path
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Modified 23 Dec 2020, 21:49 IST
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Back in August, 2020, the Pakistan cricket team rocked up on English shores, becoming the second overseas team to adapt to the new normal in the COVID-19 world. The Asian outfit’s opening international assignment saw them lock horns with the Three Lions at Old Trafford, with that encounter highlighting the chinks that existed in their armour.

The Pakistan cricket team began the game like a runaway freight train, immediately establishing themselves in the ascendancy. In fact, such was their dominance that they fashioned a 107-run first-innings lead, courtesy a stellar bowling display.

However, mere hours later, the Pakistan cricket team conspired to surrender the initiative, with them first getting shot out for 169 before England mounted a remarkable comeback to hunt down 277 on a wearing Old Trafford track. To put things into perspective, the highest fourth-innings run chase at that venue remains 294, which was achieved by the Three Lions against New Zealand, in 2008.

Rather intriguingly though, through England’s pursuit of a seemingly gargantuan mountain, the Pakistan cricket team seemed guilty of letting the game drift. They allowed the hosts to recover after a string of body blows and the latter eventually landed the knock-out punch, even as the Pakistan cricket team looked bewildered at what had transpired.

The Pakistan cricket team looked bereft of ideas against England at Old Trafford
The Pakistan cricket team looked bereft of ideas against England at Old Trafford

More importantly, the Pakistan cricket team looked a pale shadow of themselves. The characteristics that have often governed the side - the intuitive ability to keep attacking, the inherent understanding of not letting the foot off the pedal and of course, the famous alternation between their Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde traits, seemed to go awry, just when they craved it the most.

To that end, the Pakistan cricket team was even criticized for being too gentle and for being too predictable; ironic, considering the Pakistan cricket team has often been panned for being the exact opposite.

Yet, that defeat just personified the Asian outfit in a nutshell and unsurprisingly, they failed to take that reverse on the chin, meaning that another promising tour went pear-shaped even before the Pakistan cricket team started harboring hopes of moulding it to their liking.

And, as is the Pakistan way, there were repercussions. Azhar Ali, who had endured a wretched batting run himself, was disposed as Test skipper, with Babar Azam being handed over the reins.

Mohammd Rizwan will lead the Pakistan cricket team in Babar Azam's absence

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However, on the eve of their promised sojourn into a new dawn, the Pakistan cricket team fret over the absence of Babar Azam, with Mohammad Rizwan taking over, owing to the former’s injury. Can happen only with the Pakistan cricket team, eh? 

Having said that though, the appointment of Mohammad Rizwan might not be the worst thing to happen to the Pakistan cricket team, considering that they were frequently culpable of approaching games tentatively under Azhar Ali.

While Mohammad Rizwan doesn’t have a burgeoning captaincy CV to fall back on, he certainly is a feisty cricketer wanting to leave his imprint on the cricketing landscape – something that the Pakistan cricket team has been crying out for, lately.

Against England, there were times when the Pakistan cricket team and Azhar Ali looked clueless. Matches passed them by and they were rarely able to get them back under control. Inevitably, the Three Lions ran riot and completely ground the Pakistan cricket team into submission.

However, with Mohammad Rizwan at the helm, at least for the first Test, the Pakistan cricket team might not be worried about that aspect. In his brief captaincy career, the wicket-keeper has portrayed the attributes to be a counter-attacking skipper. In fact, that seems in sync to his batting tendencies.

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Mohammad Rizwan will look to keep New Zealand guessing
Mohammad Rizwan will look to keep New Zealand guessing

Though Babar Azam’s injury has left a gaping hole, there are enough quality players in the Pakistan cricket team ranks, to offset it. Abid Ali and Shan Masood continue to look solid at the top of the order, while Azhar Ali, after enduring a significantly elongated barren run, seems to have regained his touch, albeit slightly.

Furthermore, there is palpable hype around a certain Imran Butt and if the excitement translates into anything tangible, the Pakistan cricket team might have a serious cricketer on their hands.

The bowling attack, as always, would possess a puncher’s chance, considering the damage it can inflict when gliding over crests. Additionally, there seems to a general consensus that Mohammad Rizwan might handle his assets better. With Azhar Ali not really covering himself in glory prior to it, one wouldn’t really argue. 

Moreover, Mohammad Rizwan has, at least so far, showcased a proclivity to lead from the front. And, for those that had endured Azhar Ali’s uninspiring reign, that could be a good start, until Babar Azam takes over.

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Mohammad Rizwan will lead Pakistan in the 1st Test against New Zealand
Mohammad Rizwan will lead Pakistan in the 1st Test against New Zealand

Most tellingly though, the Pakistan cricket team, with Mohammad Rizwan as captain, might just start rediscovering the features that had made the world fear them, while also making their own fans tear their hair out. To be blunt, that spells the same as unpredictability. 

To be fair to the Pakistan cricket team, they’ve often tried to become an outfit that people can decipher. In plainer terms, become a side whose possible ebbs and flows can be projected. To an extent, even become a team that might let their fans just breathe a little.

However, that is not what the Pakistan cricket team has been about, over the years. Even during their purple patch in the 20th century, they always seemed a bunch of individuals capable of conjuring magic from the drabbest of circumstances, while also retaining the ability to shoot themselves in the foot spectacularly.

In fact, the cricketing world seems a better place with the Pakistan cricket team staying true to those roots, doesn’t it? Especially considering they can’t be dwarfed, with regards to those yardsticks.   

Thus, with a Boxing Day fixture against an indomitable New Zealand side looming, the Pakistan cricket team and its fans are unsure of which version would turn up. On the flip side though, that fills the Black Caps with trepidation as well, for they aren’t certain of the number of obstacles they might have to navigate.   

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Yet, the cricketing fraternity wouldn’t have had it any other way. After all, the prospective twists and turns, the topsy-turvy ride, the sheer unpredictability of it all, is what has become the Pakistan cricket team’s USP.

And, if they are to indeed venture into that promised new dawn under Messrs. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, it would make sense to do it in their own inimitable style, wouldn’t it? 

Also Read: IND v AUS 2020: Uncertain Mayank Agarwal returns to where it all started

Published 23 Dec 2020, 21:49 IST
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