With rumours of rifts within the team and a captain ready to bring in new blood, Pakistan are a team in disarray going into their One-Day International series with Sri Lanka.
After the high of the ICC World Twenty20 win, Pakistan came crashing back down to earth losing the Test series 2-0 to Sri Lanka having put themselves into winning positions in a number of instances throughout the series. Younus Khan then criticized his senior players for not performing after they had hit out at his captaincy. All these disruptions will certainly not do Pakistan any good if they have these problems on their mind on the field.
Sri Lanka on the other hand have thrived under the leadership of Kumar Sangakkara. In the absence of Muttiah Muralitharan and Lasith Malinga, both players who would normally make the starting eleven, it could have been difficult for them to fill those gaps. However, young and up and coming stars such as Nuwan Kulasekara and Rangana Herath have taken up the mantle and performed admirably. With the more established players such as Malinga and Murali coming back for the ODI’s, it will beinteresting to see the team selection for the first match on Thursday.
The one area of concern for the hosts was the form of their middle order and the loss of Tillakeratne Dilshan to a fractured finger. With this in mind they have called up Thilan Samaraweera to the ODI squad for the first time since 2004 to bolster their batting. Samaraweera has been one of the form batsmen in the world in Test match cricket in the last 18 months and Sri Lanka believe that the experienced batsmen can sure up the slightly fragile looking middle order.
Pakistan will have to make changes if they are to perform better in the shorter format. The return of Shahid Afridi will no doubt boost them as he was one of the stars of the World Twenty20, but decided to sit out of the Test matches to concentrate on limited overs matches. They will also be boosted by the return to international cricket of rebel ICL players Rana Naved Ul Hasan and Imran Nazir who have recently severed all ties with the ICL. They will be hoping to have the same kind of impact that Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq had when they came back into international cricket. The ODI squad also sees the first call up for Umar Akmal, brother of current wicket keeper Kamran Akmal. His performances for the Pakistan second string against Australia have meant that he has received a deserved call up.
The first match is on Thursday, and Sri Lanka must go into the series as strong favourites with home advantage and the recent demoralizing defeat of Pakistan. However, the tourists will have to make changes to the team that lost and maybe the new faces will galvanise a waning team.
© Cricket World 2009