Best of Luck, Pakistan
By Zaheer Abbas

As the VB Triangular series drew to a close, the Pakistani team appears to have regained some of its lost confidence. The victory against Australia and two against West Indies have injected the boys with renewed vigor and strength.

Credit must be given where credit is due. The encounters against Australia as well as against the West Indies, especially the convincing win against them reflects the overall vertical trend in performance. While Abdul Razzaq was the main destructive force and did the most against the Aussies, taking four wickets and then batting fervently and responsibly, Yousuf Youhanna was the main architect of the Pakistan innings against the West Indies, scoring 105 runs off 100 balls and leading Pakistan into the finals.

A confident looking Inzamam went on to make 74 runs, giving the much required boost to the final total of 307. Pakistan has tried twenty-two opening players during the last four years. That's a record in itself. However, trials and experiments seem to have paid off. Looking at his performance in the recently concluded Australian tour, Salman Butt seems to be the right choice to fill the void and open the innings along with Yasir Hameed or Kamran Akmal. In the recent past there has been substantial criticism about the performance of the players - both due and undue.

Cricket fans, critics, writers and columnists, including myself, have been much hard and uncharitable. In retrospect such emotional outbursts and the volley of missiles seem to be a little unjustified. The Pakistani squad is mostly comprised of young players who have yet to undergo the rigors of the same. From domestic cricket to international arena is a long jump. They need more exposure to test cricket and regular coaching. In this perspective, the request made by Pakistani cricket officials to the English side to play four Tests instead of three is not only timely, but reflects the keen observation of the PCB Chairman, Shaheryar Khan. His comment that the team needs to play more Test matches is very much in line with his technical approach and assessment of the problems - mainly inconsistency - faced by the younger players.

Soon after the conclusion of the VB Series in Australia, the Pakistani contingent will be flying off to India to play a series of three Tests and five ODIs. Traditionally it has always been far more exciting to play against India than any other nation. But the team should not be made a victim of sentiments and emotions. It's going to be an important tour in as much as it would render considerable exposure to the team and help its grooming. On the bowling side, we have some good players. There are doubts about Shoaib Akhtar's fitness but I hope he'll be fully fit in order to participate in the Indian tour. Indian pitches are more or less like Pakistani wickets. If Shoaib is able to control his line, length and his impulsiveness to bowl faster, he is bound to produce some very fruitful, if not dramatic, results.

Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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