Perfect security and hospitality, but imperfect pitch

Australia’s first Test in Pakistan in 24 years saw only 14 wickets fall, 1187 runs being scored on dead Pindi wicket

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KARACHI: The build-up to the Pakistan-Australia series, kicking-off with three Tests and following into three ODIs and one-off T20I was nothing less than perfect.

The Baggy Greens landed in Pakistan expecting foolproof security and they got it. They wanted a warm welcome as promised and they received just that as the crowd in the first Test at Rawalpindi wore both their wits and hearts on its sleeves. But when it came to what Australia were really in Pakistan for, cricketing duties, they were at the least disappointed by the dead pitch prepared for the first Test.

Making use of the home advantage is an art which the big cricket nations have perfected. Australia, England and South Africa trounce the visitors with bounce, swing and seam, while Asian teams prepare spinning tracks to bamboozle their opponents. It is a norm which, to be honest, adds beauty to the idea of playing at home and away.

However, Pakistan, after failing to host any matches for less than a decade after the 2009 attack on the Sri Lanka team bus, may have just forgotten how to use home advantage to their actual advantage.

The idea behind such a “dead, benign” turf in Rawalpindi would have been that Pakistan can exploit the day three onwards spin in the track to surprise Australia. The curators would have been given the action plan that was used by Pakistan in the UAE: we bat first, we post a big total and get the opposition out twice, or we bat second but put up a big lead and get the opposition out for an innings defeat. The plan had worked miraculously for Pakistan in the UAE under the able leadership of MisbahulHaq for a few years. However, Pakistan is no UAE when it comes to weather and pitches.

Winning and losing is a part of cricket, but the curators may have taken losing to Australia, who are visiting after 24 long years, too seriously and prepared a dead wicket, which even on day four and five showed little signs of life as only 14 wickets fell during the five-day long match.

Meanwhile, there is also a possibility that Pakistan had ordered such a flat track after losing out their premium pacers to injuries and Covid. Hasan Ali, Faheem Ashraf and HarisRauf were asked to sit out of the historic Test and with that a little fear may have crawled in the mind of Babar Azam and co that they might not be able put up a great resistance against the Australian premium pacers.

Australia captain Pat Cummins also noted this, saying Pakistan ‘made an effort to nullify our pace attack’ by producing such a drab pitch, which resulted in 1,187 runs made on it, with only three innings played till day five.

Pakistan may get away with criticism over the pitch under the cloak of happy and safe Australians. But if the other two Tests, in Karachi and then in Lahore, produce the same results due to an unhelpful pitch, then questions will surely be raised on PCB’s intentions.

The second Test in Karachi will start from March 12 at the National Stadium of Karachi. Cricket fans and even the visiting Australia side would be expecting to see a better match-up between bat and ball there. However, if Pakistan come up with yet another dead surface rather than one which produces a healthy contest, it would become obvious that Pakistan want everything perfect from this tour – perfect security, perfect hospitality and sadly a perfect no-loss result in Tests.

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