Men in Green's Top 5 moments of 2019: Year in review
The return of top-drawer international cricket to the passionate sporting nation and a below-par ODI World Cup make 2019 a bittersweet year for Pakistan cricket.
Cricket comes knocking, again
A couple of editions of the Pakistan Super League and sporadic tours of international recognition meant that competitive cricket of some sort had returned to the nation. But, six LOIs and a two-match Test series against Sri Lanka - one of the leading cricketing nations and the one most affected by the terrorist attack in Lahore - marks the official return of international cricket to Pakistan.
It was the morning of March 3, 2009 when a dozen armed terrorists opened fire on the cavalcade which had the Sri Lankan team bus and the support staff van. Eight people, including two civilians and six policemen were killed in the attack. Another 20 were injured.
There are reports of uncertainty looming over the Bangladesh tour, but the Sri Lanka series has ensured that, sooner or later, regular international cricket will be restored in the country.
Captaincy changes hands
A below-par performance in the ODI World Cup meant that Pakistan cricket, at least the management, went through an overhaul. Chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq and head coach Mickey Arthur were done away with. Former captain Misbah-ul-Haq assumed the dual responsibility.
There was a change in captaincy as well with Azhar Ali being named the Test captain and Babar Azam taking over the reins from Sarfaraz Ahmed in white-ball cricket. The change was apparent, although he timing of it can be questioned. Babar Azam is certainly Pakistan's most talented batsman and it was almost inevitable for him to become the skipper at some point.
This is a change which will impact both his individual performances and Pakistan cricket over the coming decade and is a moment of note
Babar Azam comes of age in Test cricket
Babar Azam had been Pakistan's best limited-overs batsman for a couple of years now but he truly came of age in Test cricket this year. Babar impressed with a 104 and 97 against Australia in Brisbane and Adelaide respectively.
Nothing can beat the feeling of a test century at home turf. People of Rawalpindi are love. Couldn't ask for a better crowd for this historic test of Pakistan. Also, a lovely knock by Abid Ali bhai. Karachi, here we come. #RiseAndRise #PakistanZindabad pic.twitter.com/HV8eX2KDIh— Babar Azam (@babarazam258) December 15, 2019
Azam carried his form in the home Test series against Sri Lanka. The right-hand batsman scored two unbeaten centuries in back to back Test matches along with a brisk 60 to underline that he can be consistent in the longest format as well.
The arrival of Shaheen Shah Afridi
Shaheen Shah Afridi had been putting in notable performances but the world really took notice when he ran through Bangladesh's batting line-up in the ODI World Cup. The 19-year-old pacer made full use of the global spotlight to come up with a 6-wicket haul, the best figures in this year's ODI World Cup. Afridi showed his full repertoire including swing bowling, bouncers and yorkers. Pakistan may have not qualified for the semi-finals but they certainly returned with a diamond unearthed.
By the year end, Afridi impressed with the red ball against Australia. However, he did not have the numbers to show for it. A 5-wicket haul against Sri Lanka meant that he has established himself in Pakistan's Test team as well.
Quaid-e-Azam Trophy undergoes overhaul
Under the leadership of former Pakistan skipper and reigning Prime Minister, Imran Khan, Pakistan decided to overhaul their premier domestic red-ball competition, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. The number of teams in the tournament were brought down to six in order to make the tournament more compact and improve the quality of cricket.
Apart from an interesting no-toss rule, an option of having an additional sixth day in the Trophy final and provisions for incentivizing first inning performances were added. Penalty on slow over rate were also made a lot more stringent.
©Cricket World 2020