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2019: Pakistan’s bittersweet year in ODI cricket

Pakistan’s year was marred by inconsistent performances and controversies

PHOTO: AFP

Pakistan’s outings in One-day Internationals (ODIs), in 2019, were marred by inconsistent performances and controversies, which consequently meant that they did not have much to show for in terms of silverware.

Pakistan played 25 matches during the year with nine wins and 15 losses against their name.

The Men in Green began their year in the 50-over format with a five-match series away to South Africa. The visitors fought till the final match of the series but eventually surrendered the series after losing the series decider. 

Despite the competitive nature of the series, the biggest talking point was Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed’s four-match ban due to a racist comment after stump mic caught the wicketkeeper abusing South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo during the second ODI of the series.

Pakistan’s next assignment was series against Australia in UAE but they decided to field a depleted outfit, which was a tad bit surprising, by resting six, captain Sarfaraz Ahmed, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Shah Afridi, of their first choice players. The Shoaib Malik-led side suffered as a consequence with the visitors handing them an embarrassing five-nil series whitewash.

After the humbling at the hands of Australia, Pakistan departed for England for another five-match series but more importantly the World Cup.

Pakistan had a terrible initial few matches in England, which included a four-nil series defeat against England and a shambolic mega event opener versus West Indies. Thereafter, Pakistan got things back on track which resulted in four consecutive wins to cap off the group stage of the event. But this was not enough to qualify for the knockout stage as they were eliminated from the tournament due to inferior net run-rate, after being tied on points with eventual finalist New Zealand. 

Pakistan’s World Cup campaign also had an element of controversy as Sarfaraz had lashed out at some members of his team, after the team’s humiliating loss at the hands of India. The Pakistan captain, reportedly, had accused some of the players for underperforming and forming a group within the side.

Fortunately Pakistan’s year in ODI cricket culminated on a good note with a series win against Sri Lanka, on home soil, in September. 

Shortly after Sri Lanka’s tour of Pakistan ended, team’s Head coach-cum-chief selector Misbahul Haq communicated his reservations about Sarfaraz Ahmed’s captaincy to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chief Executive Wasim Khan which led to the wicketkeeper-batsman removal as captain in T20I and Test cricket.  Meanwhile decision on ODI captaincy will be finalised in due course as the national team’s next assignment is scheduled from July 4-9, 2020 against the Netherlands in Amstelveen but it is all but official that Sarfaraz will not continue in the role.

With regards to ODI cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC) has introduced a Cricket World Cup (CWC) Super League which will act as a qualification pathway for the 2023 ICC World Cup in India. The inaugural edition of the CWC Super League will begin from May 2020 and will run till March 2022. It goes without saying that next year will be an important one for Pakistan in terms of qualification, with series against scheduled against Netherlands, South Africa and Zimbabwe and Pakistan’s new management will have to get their act together if they are to put up a good show in the 50-over format.  

MOMENTS

Babar Azam’s prolific year

Babar Azam was Pakistan’s standout player in the ODI format with more than 1000 runs at an average of 60.7 and strike rate of 92.3.

The right-hander also became the fastest Pakistani batsman to score 1,000 ODI runs in a calendar year. The 24-year-old achieved the milestone during the second ODI against Sri Lanka in Karachi.

Babar also became the leading run-scorer for Pakistan in a single World Cup edition, breaking Javed Miandad's record of 437 runs from 1992. The 25-year-old accumulated 474 runs in eight innings during Pakistan’s campaign in the mega event.

Shaheen Afridi rises to the occasion  

Pakistan paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi enjoyed a breakthrough World Cup campaign, prompting Wasim Akram to hail the teenager as a future star.

The teenager recorded Pakistan’s best-ever World Cup bowling figures with a scintillating spell of 6-35 in his team’s win over Bangladesh at Lord’s.

He became the youngest player to take a five-wicket haul at the World Cup at 19 years and 90 days, finishing the tournament with 16 wickets in five games.

“Definitely, Shaheen is one for the future, a beacon of light for the next generation of fast bowlers,” Wasim told AFP.

NRR haunts Pakistan in World Cup

Pakistan were knocked out of the 2019 ICC World Cup in England and Wales due to an inferior net run-rate (NRR) as compared to New Zealand.

Pakistan drew level on 11 points with fourth-placed New Zealand, with both teams securing five wins each.

The tie-breaker, in this case, was NRR and New Zealand had a huge advantage at +0.175 compared with Pakistan's -0.792, which was in part a consequence of Pakistan's heavy defeat by the West Indies, when they were skittled out for just 105.

It was a bittersweet end to Pakistan’s World Cup run bearing in mind they had beaten New Zealand in the group stage match.