Teams can often grow on long tours. And, this is quite true of Pakistan. They arrived in Sri Lanka as underdogs, but are returning having won all three versions they participated in, beginning with the Tests, followed by the one-dayers and now the T20s. The Test win was significant since Pakistan hadn’t beaten Sri Lanka away from home in nearly in a decade, but they found a way to overcome the Lankan challenge. Consistency and comeback are two things you never come to associate with a Pakistan side. But, both these virtues were seen in abundance during the Lanka series.
What has stood out about Pakistan in Sri Lanka is the fact that they managed to find players to rise to the occasion or tricky situations. It began with Younis Khan in the Tests and ended with Shahid Afridi and Anwar Ali in the T20s. The performance of Pakistan in the series was a clear indication of how confident they were as a side throughout the tour. If ever there has been a coming of age tour of Pakistan, this was definitely it. The exhibition Pakistan put up was very unlike the kind of maturity expected from them.
As with any victory, there were a number of positives for Pakistan from the series. The biggest of them all in the Tests was the effort of Younis Khan. Following a disastrous World Cup campaign, many thought the veteran batsman’s career was over. But, Younis answered his critics with a superb batting effort in the Test series, particularly in the third Test, when he stood tall, and played the pivotal role in Pakistan coming back and chasing down a rather improbable target. Younis performance in the series earned a lot of praise, with some going on to term him one of greatest Pakistani batsmen.
Another player who stood out in the Tests was leggie Yasir Shah. The spinner had been impressive earlier as well, but in the series against Lanka he was in a different league of his own. The hosts are known to be great players of spin, but Yasir did an Ajantha Mendis to them, bamboozling them right throughout the series. He was well supported by the other bowlers as well. It was a complete team effort from the Pakistanis as the likes of Ahmed Shehzad and Azhar Ali also rose to the occasion.
In the one-dayers, Pakistan rediscovered a hero in Shoaib Malik. The talented batsmen had been ignored in the last few years, but he found his groove against the Lankans, and was consistent scoring quick runs in the middle order. Mohammad Hafeez also played his part, although he was banned from bowling midway through the series. To his credit, he did not let his bowling woes affect him, and came up with some crucial knocks. Every time Pakistan needed a player to stand up, they found one. It will be too early to say that a new era has begun in Pakistan cricket. But, a change has been evident, and for good.
--By A Cricket Analyst