Karachi weather mars eagerly-awaited contest
The match set to mark the return of ODI cricket in Pakistan, following a decade-long drought, was marred by heavy rain in Karachi.To the huge disappointment of all concerned the first of the three-match series – all day-night fixtures - between Pakistan and Sri Lanka was called off at 4.30pm local time. The water logged outfield and more imminent wet weather in the city has also forced PCB to push forward the second ODI scheduled for Sunday by 24 hours to Monday.
The two teams, ironically, had also not been able to take the field in their 2019 World Cup fixture, few months ago in England. It is the first ever ODI to be abandoned due to rain at National Stadium, Karachi, that first hosted such fixture, in a 40-over contest between Pakistan and West Indies in 1980-81. Sarfraz Ahmed, a touch fortunate one feels, to have been retained as captain after a disappointing World Cup, is the only Pakistan player to have previously played at home. In Babar Azam he has a new deputy he will be working with.
This match was to be 45-year old Misbah-ul-Haq’s first match in charge of the Pakistan team with an unprecedented responsibilities of both head coach and chief of selectors. Even though Misbah has earned great respect all around by his determination and calm demeanour, whilst captain of Pakistan team till 2017, it is still hard to believe if one man can be expected to do justice to two heavily demanding roles.
The 15-man Pakistan squad named for the ODI series against Sri Lanka on September 21, does not include Shahid Shah Afridi (dengue fever) and Hasan Ali (back spasm). The inclusion of seasoned pacemen – Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz – who have both pulled out of red-ball cricket, indicates the fact that selectors are keen for them to be included in white-ball formats.
The beleaguered Sri Lankan squad is being led by Lahiru Thirimanne with ten players pulling out of the Pakistan tour due to their concerns over security. It is this very issue which has isolated Pakistan with no international team willing to tour. The rumour has it that Sri Lankan players were warned by Indian Premium League (IPL) franchises that if they went ahead with the tour of Pakistan, they might never be allowed to play in India. If true, Sri Lanka cricket Board and its players find itself in this unfortunate situation.