2017 – A year of turnaround for Pakistan cricket
The year 2017 was productive for the country in terms of sports as this year marked the revival of International Cricket in Pakistan after almost eight years.
In 2009 after terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket team, the international teams turned their back from sports events in the country. Six Sri Lankan players sustained bullet injuries in the incident and the country was pushed in isolation.
For the next eight years cricket enthusiasts were deprived from witnessing international matches on Pakistani grounds. However, a major breakthrough was achieved in bringing international players in the country on March 5, 2017 after final of Pakistan Super League (PSL) second edition was successfully held in Lahore.
The final of Professional Twenty20 cricket league – PSL – restored the lost reputation that Pakistan’s shambling security is still an obstacle to host international stars at home. The match boosted motivation of other foreign players to play cricket on Pakistani grounds.
The PSL final between Peshawar Zalmi and Quetta Gladiators in Lahore initiated the subtle yet inevitable much-awaited return of international cricket in the country.
The year also saw farewells of two legendary Test players Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, besides winning of the ICC champions Trophy.
2017 begins on sour note
The year began on a sour note after a humiliating defeat against Australia. The national cricket team lost the ODI series in Australia by 4-1, putting the team on the verge of missing direct qualification for the World Cup 2019.
However, the team remained optimistic under the resilient leadership of Sarfraz Ahmed.
The team fought back against the West Indies and won the Test series by 2-1. However, two legendary Test cricketers Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan announced retirements together from international careers as Pakistan ended their 59-year drought in the Caribbean with a Test series victory over the West Indies.
News of the year for cricket fans: Pakistan outclass India to clinch ICC Champions Trophy
And then came the most memorable occasion when Pakistan clinched ICC Champions Trophy 2017. The team’s start was distressing with a heavy humiliating defeat by India at Birmingham.
The team did not lose hopes and made a remarkable comeback after defeating South Africa and Sri Lanka to qualify for the semi-final of the Champions Trophy.
The Green Shirts then defeated hosting team England to qualify for the final.
In the historic final, it was once again a match between two arch-rivals – Pakistan and India. Pakistan defied all odds to beat India in the final to clinch the ICC Champions Trophy for the first time.
The event helped Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman and Rumman Raees – the youngsters – to prove their potentials, besides it sealed Mohammad Amir’s status as the spearhead of Pakistan bowling once again.
Green Shirts then continued their winning streak in ODIs after the Champions Trophy as it whitewashed Sri Lanka in the five-match series with nine consecutive ODI wins.
Besides ODIs, Pakistan also displayed the victorious streak in the shortest format of the game. The team won a T20I series against West Indies by 3-1.
Arrival of star-studded World XI in Pakistan
Eventually, the nation witnessed the long-awaited return of high-profile international cricket in Pakistan after World XI – a team comprising top foreign players led by South Africa’s Faf du Plessis – arrived in the country for three-match Twenty20 (T20) series, Independence Cup.
Following the Independence Cup, the international cricket was officially revived with visit of Sri Lankan cricket team to Pakistan for T20I series.
It was the same team which came under a terror attack at the very same venue in March 2009, besides the first major team to visit the country since the incident to play the final of three-match T20I series.
Sri Lankan players – Asanka Gurusinha and Hashan Tillakaratne – who came under gunfire in 2009 and are now Sri Lanka’s team manager and batting coach opted to visit the country after some players voiced concern about security.
“It’s nice to be in Pakistan again,” said Sri Lankan skipper Thisara Perera, who was part of the World XI. “We are thankful for a warm welcome and will do our best to entertain the crowd with some good cricket.”
However, Pakistan won the three-match T20I series by 3-0 against Sri Lanka. The whitewash moved the team to the top slot of International Cricket Council’s (ICC) T20I rankings with 124 points.
West Indies to tour Pakistan in 2018 for T20 series
The West Indian cricket team are expected to land in Lahore coming March for a three-match Twenty20 (T20) series after Cricket West Indies (CWI) “committed” to tour Pakistan in 2018.
The tour was scheduled in November, 2017 but logistical challenges pushed the tour to be postponed.
In November, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Najam Sethi confirmed the schedule for West Indies’ tour with the three matches to be played on March 29, 31 and April 1.
Sethi also stated that both PCB and CWI agreed to play a series of Twenty20 matches annually over the next five years both in Pakistan and the USA subject to availability of dates.
2017 statistics of ODIs
This was youngsters’ year to prove their mettle. Young Babar Azam remained Pakistan’s leading scorer in the year by scoring 872 runs in 17 innings with four centuries and two fifties, followed by Mohammad Hafeez with 555 runs, while Shoaib Malik stood third in the row with 516 runs in 15 innings.
Pakistan played 18 ODIs in 2017 and won 12 of them.
On the bowling side, Hasan Ali remained the most wicket-taking bowler in ODIs. He took 45 wickets in the year with three five-wicket hauls.
2017 statistics of Test matches
The year wasn’t too good for Pakistan in Test cricket. The team suffered a humiliating defeat in third Test of the series against Australia in Sydney by 220 runs.
Yasir Shah remained Pakistan’s most wicket-taking bowler in Test cricket in 2017 with 43 wickets in six matches. He was followed by Mohammad Abbas who took 23 wickets in five Tests.
Azhar Ali was Pakistan’s leading scorer with 504 runs in six Tests. Sarfraz Ahmed stood second with 350 runs in six Test matches.
Younis Khan completed his 10,000 Test runs to become first Pakistani batsman to reach 10K runs club.
However, the Test series against West Indies was memorable as it was last Test series of two legendary Test cricketers Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan.