Thursday, May 31, 2012

Complacency Is Pakistan's Biggest Threat

Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for Pakistan to put the shambolic tour of 2009 behind them where they were defeated in both the test matches and one day internationals. Sri Lanka has been a bogey team for Pakistan in recent times as the Greens were victorious in all 3 formats when they met in the Emirates in the October & November of last year as well as defeating them during the World Cup & Asia Cup in the fifty over format. Hence, Pakistan go into the series as the more confident & favourites of the two sides. As always the test series is what will have the greatest impact & bearing. It provides an opportunity for Pakistan to create some history by winning their 5th consecutive test series, 6th consecutive test match & further strengthening their formidable undefeated streak in both test matches & test series. The series will be the first of Dav Whatmore in charge after getting his tenure off to a winning start by securing the Asia Cup in Dhaka on March 22nd during his first assignment as full time coach. The professor on the other hand will have the opportunity to make his mark as captain in these two twenty20 internationals which commence tomorrow, having been awarded the role. The Pakistani all-rounder is all set to make his captaincy debut with a young new looked side. The tour has been structured perfectly with the limited over affairs at the beginning leading up to the 5 day series with the length of the games increasing as the tour progresses. This was the complete opposite to how the tour in the Emirates was structured. It would be better if ICC had more of this in place, really trying to prioritise test matches as the main event with everything leading up to the contest which matters most.

Since the sides last met both teams have had a change of coach with Geoff Marsh & Mohsin Khan no longer in charge. Sri Lanka have had a change of leadership across all versions of the game whereas Pakistan have had a change of leadership in just the Twenty20 version of the game with Misbah ul Haq being retained following his successful run in both Test matches and one day internationals. Sri Lanka have won two of their last 4 tests & finally have won in the whites without their 800+ wicket taker. Rangana Herath with his wily left arm spin was the star performer in both of those monumental test victories. Pakistan on the other hand have beaten England by their highest ever margin in a test series & won their 2nd Asia Cup title in 28 years as their front line achievements since they last locked horns with the Islanders. They have consolidated on the comprehensive wins against Sri Lanka to ensure their resurgence was not an illusion, but a definite reality.


Pakistan have a 5-2 record vs Sri Lanka in 20/20 cricket, winning the last 3
Pakistan have won 6 of their last 7 ODIs against Sri Lanka
Pakistan have a 16-9 record against Sri Lanka in test matches
Pakistan have won 7 of their last 8 ODI series to go along with being semi finalists at the 2011 World Cup & winning the Asia Cup
Misbah ul Haq's last 3 scores vs SL in LOIs are 66,48*,72*. The solid middle order batsmen also has 2 unbeaten half centuries in his last 2 innings in Sri Lanka.
Aizaz Cheema has been MOM in the last 2 LOIs against Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have lost their last 4 ODIs

Last Time They Toured Sri Lanka In 2009

Tests = Lost 2-0
ODIs = Lost 3-2
T20 = Won

Last Time They Played in the UAE

Tests = Won 1-0 MOTS was Saeed Ajmal
ODIs = 4-1 MOTS was Shahid Afridi
T20 = Won MOM was Aizaz Cheema


T20 = 1-1
ODI = 3-2 Pakistan
Test = 2-0 Pakistan

Preferred Line Up

T20s - Hafeez (C), Shehzad, Khalid, Umar(WK), Malik, Hammad, Afridi, Arafat, Gul, Ajmal, Raza

ODIs - (more or less the same as Asia Cup winning side) Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq (C), Umar Akmal, Safraz Ahmed (WK), Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema

Tests (set in stone) - Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq (C), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (WK), Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema

Key Performers

Key Players T20


Mohammad Hafeez - 3 MOMs in this format last year
Ahmed Shehzad - naturally aggressive player suited for the format
Saeed Ajmal - 4 wickets in his last game

Sri Lanka

Dilshan - 2009 T20 WC player of the tournament
Malinga - CL T20 2011 leading wicket taker
MJ - Has scored 100s in this format too

Key Players ODIs


Misbah ul Haq - Scored 4 of his 19 ODI 50s against SL
Shahid Afridi - MOTS when Pakistan won 4-1 last year
Saeed Ajmal - 31 wickets during the previous tour vs Sri Lanka, including 12 in the 5 ODIs

Sri Lanka

MJ - leads from the front as captain
Upal Tharanga - changed role in the middle order since MJ took over & is impressing
Thisara Perera - developing bowling all rounder who can add priceless runs

Key Players Tests


Azhar Ali - most 50+ scores during the test series in the UAE & highest average during the series
Taufeeq Umar - career best vs Sri Lanka and leading run scorer when they last met in the series in UAE
Abdur Rehman - 30 wickets in his last 5 tests

Sri Lanka

Rangana Herath - Sri Lanka's 3rd leading test wicket taker
Thilan Samaraweera - highly underrated batsmen averaging 50+, did not play against Pakistan in the UAE
Kumar Sangakkara - MOTS with a century, double century in the UAE for the visitors

What This Series Means

The series might not sound the most attractive tussle on paper considering how frequently these two sides have been meeting in the last 3 years or so & how one sided the contests have been in recent times, but one cannot take Sri Lanka for granted or take them lightly at home especially. They are one of the top 7 test oppositions Pakistan can be facing, have some legendary batsmen in their line up & are not a cakewalk, particularly at home by any stretch of the imagination. They will be familiar & experienced with playing the Pakistan side so you will expect them to negotiate with the likes of Saeed Ajmal better this time around. Hence, complacency is Pakistan’s biggest threat & as long as they ensure this keeps as far as away from their cricket as possible, they should in effect take the series honours. The series will be overshadowed by the England V South Africa test series which is probably the series of the year as two top class, settled and balanced sides go head to head in lively conditions & even the West Indies V New Zealand tour which starts in July which will be an even battle with two sides who will be determined not to lose to each other knowing that this is their best chance of beating a decent side. Pakistan played 11 Test or ODI series in 2011, winning or drawing every single one of them. I'll go as far as saying that the Test & ODI series wins against Sri Lanka would be in the top 3 if one was to a ranking of the significance of those series wins. Hence, beating the Lankans is special & we regard them highly, even though historically Pakistan have had the edge over them. Of course if Pakistan do win the series in Sri Lanka it will be of more meaningfulness as they are a different preposition on their home patch as established. Plus, Sri Lanka did have their own financial problems when they last played Pakistan so they were in a bit of turmoil away from the field of play. Those issue seem to been resolved now which should put them in better stead. The T20 leg of the tour is more significant in this context with the T20 WC 3 & half months away which will be held in Sri Lanka so adapting to the conditions will be a factor, although conditions do not play a huge part in this format, but will play somewhat of a part still.

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