Reviews, Opinions, Analyses, Stats and Numbers

Australia tour to Pakistan, the significance and highlights

published on 5 April 2022, in THE PLAYFIELD (magazine published from India)

International Cricket is truly back in Pakistan. Pakistan versus Australia Test Series, the first leg of the tour, might have painted a dull picture on the scorecards, but it fully served its purpose. The much bigger purpose, of bringing back an Australian side on Pakistani soil after almost two and a half decades. 

Not that Pakistan did not see any International Cricket on her soil in the last few years but the tour of Australia holds its own significance.

Back in 2002, Australia’s tour became the first instance of Pakistan hosting a home series outside Pakistan. While all other ICC full members continued to tour Pakistan – till that fateful attack on Sri Lankan team in March 2009 that culminated in suspension of International Cricket in Pakistan – Australia remained reluctant to visit Pakistan. The arrival of Australia – the first team to refuse a visit to Pakistan on security grounds – in Pakistan, makes it a significant milestone on the long and bumpy road of return of International Cricket to Pakistan.

It was 24 years since Australia had last toured Pakistan. In between, Pakistan breathed a decade without home Cricket, of much significance. The impact goes beyond just the revenue sheets or cricket records. While Pakistan Cricket survived in exile, in the empty stands in UAE, a generation of future stars and fans grew up without getting the feel of International Cricket. The deprivation did not remain confined to the fans, it had its effect on the media as well. While select seniors continued to cover Cricket from the UAE, the junior and upcoming journalists and reporters remained deprived of direct access to International Players, Support Staff and – most importantly – interaction with media from around the world.

Nothing had a greater impact of no International Cricket in Pakistan than the grooming of future reporters, journalists, commentators, writers and talk-shows panelists; all those people without whom the spectacle of Cricket can never be complete. Subsequently, this impact reflected on the crop of new players and their media handling prowess as well. From a team that used to be filled with characters that reporters used to love for the quotes and interactions, to a team that sometimes fail to convey their reasons and thought patterns even in the native language. The impact of no International Cricket at home goes way beyond from what a person outside Pakistan can fully grasp, from a few scoresheets or news pieces.

It is over. The International Cricket is back in Pakistan. Pakistan has not hosted a home series outside Pakistan for the last 3 years. Coincidentally, Pakistan’s last ‘home series’ outside Pakistan was also against Australia in 2019 and 2022 is marked as the year that is scheduled to see other full members – England and New Zealand – visiting Pakistan for the first time in nearly two decades.

It is only appropriate that the start of year 2022 is punctuated with a full tour of an Aussie contingent.

Quite appropriately, the series began in front of the biggest and the liveliest crowd of the series, at Rawalpindi. Nothing could have summed up that Rawalpindi surface than that one demerit point from ICC. From inside the ropes, it looked nothing but a long, listless, dull draw. But right outside the ropes, the Test got witnessed by a passionate crowd that never lost the buzz and vibe at any point during those 5 days. The Test ended in a draw but not without the memorable and delightful scenes of Warner enacting his dance moves to respond to audience or Labuschagne answering fans about how to pronounce his name.

Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan, hosted the second Test of the Series; probably the most memorable part of the series. Set up with Khawaja’s patient ton, ignited by the spirited spell of reverse swing on Day 3 by Cummins and Starc, and finished as a suspense thriller when Abdullah, Babar, Rizwan and co. batted out last 2 days to defeat the certain defeat. Karachi Test had everything except a result. That also raised the stakes for the Final Test of the series in Lahore.

Lahore provided probably the most responsive of the series and looked to produce a result from day one. Eventually, it was the mastery, determination and hunger of the tourists that made the hosts tap out on the final day of the final Test. Apart from a couple of sessions, Pakistan failed to push the Australians to the limits. The sporting declaration followed by a perfect start to the chaseable chase, on day 4, made the final day of the series all to play for. Pakistan looked to run away with the game but ended up getting shackled by none other than the Australian captain himself. Pat Cummins, not only on that final day, remained the best bowler in the series. Burden of captaincy couldn’t restrict him from producing exceptional spells in Karachi and Lahore. In the batting department, Usman Khawaja stood out for Australia with 496 runs in 5 innings with 2 hundreds and 2 fifties.

For Pakistan, the two youngsters made the most prominent mark: Abdullah Shafique with the bat and Naseem Shah with the ball. Abdullah showcased his much talked about technical finesse while Naseem, although missed the second Test, bowled some of the finest spells in the series.

Besides the results, the individual numbers and records, the biggest highlight of the series is the true return of International Cricket in Pakistan. Australia are here. England and New Zealand are coming. Its going to be a feast for the fans of Cricket in Pakistan. Hope they also get to see their Cricketing stars from India, soon on Pakistani soil. 


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