Being an Indian cricket fan can be such a conundrum at times. It pretty much betrays the mercurial cricket team from across the Western border. You can’t really cheer for them whenever you want, obviously. So it is indeed important to cherish these somewhat opportune moments - when an Indian pretty much wishes that Pakistan register a Test series win in Australia. For this merry season, there is more than one firm reason to believe so.
Let’s face it beating West Indies 2-0 isn’t exactly a thumbs-up for the Aussies. Any one, not hailing from Down Under that is, who cared to watch the three match rubber intently would agree that the result could easily have been 2-1 against the home side. No, one hasn’t gone bonkers; Chris Gayle and company gave the hosts more than a run for their money after the hiding they received in the first Test. They were one bowler short in Adelaide, where Australia just about managed to save the game. And probably one batsman short at Perth, where again, Ricky Ponting and his men could have been made to cry their hearts out.
However, the reason why the series went in favor of the Aussies is that cricket allows only eleven players on the field at a time and the teams pretty much have to make do with what they have got. You cannot rue the batsmen, bowlers or fielders who weren’t part of the game. West Indies continue to suffer just because they cannot get their selection process right. Wasn’t any one watching the Trinidad & Tobago team that played in Champions League T20? Then why didn’t they select Dave Mohammad as the second spinner in the side. Bowling in tandem with Suleimann Benn, they could have had the Aussies hopping for cover, more than the tall china-man could manage alone. Rest assured there were others from that T&T team whose talent covers the gap that was between Windies and Australia in the Tests.
What West Indies couldn’t do, Pakistan can. They may be as inflammable as gasoline, but if their past cricketing history is anything to go by, that’s the spark that makes them as much as it breaks them. The Pakistanis are a side as gifted as any, hence not short of quality players like in the Caribbean in recent years. This in turn means that the eleven players on the field will only be too eager to be counted. Yes they are as much liable to go missing - and that too all of them on the same day - but isn’t it just poetic when that doesn’t happen?
That poetry, right there, is quite a threat to the Aussies. The shots that scream from the blades of Mohammad Yousuf, Misbah ul Haq, Shoaib Malik, Salman Butt and Imran Farhat can light up any dark day the average Pakistani cricket fan might be having, staring at the political situation back home. And then there is Umar Akmal. Along with India’s - rather Bangalore Royal Challenger’s - upcoming Manish Pandey, he is the most natural young talent to come through the ranks and while Pandey is yet to play on the international stage, both his and Akmal’s stroke play just swell the heart.
And if any one thought that is where their strength lies, clearly read more about Pakistan and the legends of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Aqib Javed and Shoaib Akhtar. Their current pace attack may not be as big in reputation but that fact is only restricted to their names. When it comes to the ability to swing the ball - regular or reverse - Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami went to the same school as the Imrans, Wasims and Waqars. They don’t hunt in pairs anymore but in quartets, just ask Daniel Vettori. Plus, they have two world class spinners in Danish Kaneria and Saeed Ajmal to boot. Suddenly Australia’s record of having collapsed for less than 200 twice in their last four Tests sticks out like a sore thumb.
Only Simon Katich and Shane Watson appear to have carried over their form from England back home. But then if you get these two openers out, then Ponting’s elbow is as sore as the aforementioned thumb, Michael Clarke has gone missing since the Ashes loss, Michael Hussey is (still) dueling the doubts in his detractors’ minds and Brad Haddin bats every time trying to break Adam Gilchrist’s records, all in one innings. They only need to collapse twice more in the next three games to send the neutrals into a New Year tizzy.
Raise your hands all who want to see Pakistan win in Australia!
(The columnist is a sports writer and Mobile ESPN cricket commentator based in NewDelhi, India.)