Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Australian Summer

Pakistan recently returned home fresh from a tour of Australia that could only be described as an unmitigated disaster. In all, they were whitewashed 0-3 in the tests, 0-5 in the one-day internationals and lost the one-off T20 game by a solitary run. In short, they lost every international fixture they played in the course of the tour. Shahid Afridi's ball biting antics only added to their embarrasment.

To Indian fans like me who grew up in the late 90s, Pakistan's near farcical tour brings back memories of India's even more disastrous tour to Australia exactly ten seasons ago. For the record: India were whitewashed 0-3 in the tests and lost 9 out of 10 one day internationals on that tour. Indian fans old enough to remember that tour would surely agree that India's turn of the century tour was an even bigger disaster than Pakistan's recent tour. Whereas Pakistan actually competed well through most of that tour (and with a little more confidence would surely have won a few games), not once did India even remotely look like winning a game on that tour.

That tour marked a new low even for fans of a side that was expected to get flogged the moment they set foot abroad. So despriting was that tour, that the demoralised Indians surrendred their first home series in 13 years to the touring South Africans within a month of their return. Let's not forget that the very same Australia tour was also the one in which Mohammed Azharuddin and Ajay Jadeja got a raw deal- just months before their names would figure in the match-fixing controversy would rock Indian cricket. By mid 2000, it seemed that there could be no redeeming Indian cricket.

And what happened thereafter? Within 15 months of that humiliation down under, India came back from behind to beat Australia 2-1 in an epic series. Anyone who has followed Indian cricket closely over the last fifteen years or more would agree that the 2000-01 series against Australia was the turning point in the history of Indian cricket. That path-breaking win started India's rise as a cricketing power, culminating in the rise to the summit at the end of the decade.

What it goes to show is that sometimes the beginning of bigger things might be just after the worst is just over. As the saying goes (in Hindi) "sehar se pehle raat sabsi lambi hoti hai" (the night is longest before the dawn). Pakistan could surely take heart from what India managed a decade ago. If anything, they are better set with a talented side that competes much better than its Indian counterpart a decade ago. What it needs is a visionary leader and some visionary administration.

Whether Pakistan can find such a leader and bunch of administrators remains to be seen. But surely, Pakistani cricket is far from dead. If anything, this could be the opportunity to make a new start.

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