By Obaid ur Rehman.
After whitewash defeat in T20 series, men in green have also won the ODI series with the Caribbean whitewash of 3-0. In T20 series, it was Imad Wasim who, through his bowling, crushed the hopes of West Indies by taking 9 wickets in three matches. He was all over the Caribbean batting lineup and didn’t allow them to stay on crease for longer period of time and Pakistan won all those 3 T20 matches in one-sided contests. After winning the T20 series, Pakistan continued their momentum in ODI series as well and got successful in putting impressive totals by batting first in all three matches.
The star of ODI shows was none other than the youngster Babar Azam. He became the third Pakistan player and eighth overall to score three consecutive ODI centuries. His magnificent knocks in all three ODIs made it sure for Pakistan to put decent totals on board for West Indies to chase and later then it became easier for our bowlers to defend the total successfully. Babar Azam scored 120 (131) in first ODI, including 8 fours and 3 sixes, he then scored 123 (126) in second ODI in which he smashed 9 fours and a six. In the third and final ODI, Babar Azam played yet another knock of 106-ball 117 including 8 fours and a six, becoming an only player to score most number of runs in a 3-match bilateral series. Babar Azam with 3 centuries in a row scored 360 runs at an average of 120 in this series that earned him a perfectly deserved Man of the Series award.
Azhar Ali who was struggling in first two ODIs finally regained his form, scored 101 runs and helped Pakistan along with Babar Azam to put 308 on board. Centuries from both Azhar Ali and Babar Azam in third ODI led Pakistan to commanding 136-run victory over West Indies in Abu Dhabi. With that win, Pakistan completed 3-0 sweep of the series and ensured 8th spot in ICC ODI Rankings by displacing West Indies.
Babar Azam hits 3 Centuries in a row, becoming an only batsman to score most number of runs (360) in a 3-Match Bilateral Series.
There have been some brilliant performances in these T20 and ODI series from Pakistan players. Imad Wasim initiated it first to light up the show through his magnificent 5-wicket haul in first T20. Innings from Sherjeel Khan and Khalid Latif also gave us hope that Pakistan has got the players who have the ability to open up the innings aggressively and hit the ball hard. Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmad, being the experienced players remained throughout dedicated and played sensible innings whenever needed, which actually helped Pakistan to dominate the opponents thoroughly.
Talking about Babar Azam, he has shown the cricketing world that a world class player in making and he can be a superstar without a doubt, if he gets proper coaching and well deserved opportunities. In bowling department, Pakistan has also shown stability and maturity. Pace attack being led by Muhammad Amir and Wahab Riaz kept the West Indians on low and didn’t allow them to build up the momentum to score more runs. The spinners, Imad Wasim along and Muhammad Nawaz have also been exceptional throughout the T20 and ODI series. Combination of energetic youngsters and dedicated seniors has brought a new power within the team. Under the coaching of newly appointed coach Mickey Arthur and new Team Manager Wasim Bari, Pakistan Cricket Team is looking perfectly disciplined and focused towards its prior goals. It a very positive sign that players are giving their best and are enthusiastic to maximum level.
But one thing I must quote here is that Umar Akmal should have been a part of playing eleven in ODI series. Selectors had chosen him for West Indies series for his brilliant performances in domestic tournament, National T20 Cup but tour selection committee didn’t bother to utilize him. In T20 series, Umar Akmal was being given the priority over Muhammad Rizwan then it wasn’t justified to keep him out of playing eleven in ODI series and pick Muhammad Rizwan who didn’t look in good touch to score some hard hitting runs. In the last ODI, Pakistan could only manage 68 runs in last 10 overs which should definitely not be on a good note with the perfect opening platform already being laid in the form of 2 big centuries. If Umar Akmal had been given a chance, keeping his form and experience in account, he definitely would have taken Pakistan to touch 350-run line. This is something that team management needs to look into.
Pakistan on overall grounds is looking pretty much a good side. In test, we are already champions, but in white ball formats, we are struggling and yet inspite of this clean sweep against West Indies, green shirts still need to win a lot of matches to improve rankings in both the formats and to particularly qualify for World Cup 2019 directly to be held in England. With this whitewash, Pakistan has climbed up in the rankings-table and moved to 8th position from 9th spot and needs to maintain atleast 8th spot by the 30th Sept. 2017 to qualify for World Cup. Men in green have some big targets ahead to be achieved and players have to perform really well in upcoming series against Australia in Australia and West Indies in West Indies to keep the nation’s hopes alive for playing World Cup 2019 with direct qualification.
The writer is Islamabad based Journalist / Research Analyst and writes on Politics, Current Affairs, Social Issues and Sports. He can be reached at;