Pakistan in 2005

For the first time in Pakistani cricket history, the national side appears to have turned a crucial corner. The hire-and-fire policy of recent history, which blighted so many promising careers, has faded under Bob Woolmer’s disciplined and modern regime. And while the scales still tremble at the sight of Inzamam-ul-Haq, the opposition too succumb to jelly-legs as he walks to the crease.

Inzy was the main ingredient in the rejuvenated team, as Woolmer catalysed a cocktail of raw talent into a formidable force. 2005 began with a promising display in the VB Series, where valuable lessons were learnt and experimental changes tested. Shahid Afridi, for much of his career cast into a vacant opener’s slot, embedded himself into the lower order, providing the all-important acceleration towards the close of the innings. Although he would return to his old pastures at the top of the scorecard in India, he was reinstated at number six against England, this time in Test cricket.

Pakistan’s tour to India, their first for six years, offered further chance to demonstrate their growing maturity and prowess. The First Test proved their newly-found application, with Kamran Akmal and Abdur Razzaq batting out the match for a hard-fought draw. In the loss in Kolkata, Pakistan were left to rue a first-innings collapse, but a brilliant batting display from Younis Khan, who struck 267 in the first innings and 84* in the second, and Inzamam brought victory in Bangalore to tie the series one-all. Younis finished the series with 508 runs, finally fulfilling his potential. The ODIs belonged to Naved-ul-Hasan, a late developing, versatile pace bowler, who took 15 wickets in six games: Pakistan came out worthy winners.

The Caribbean tour was, on the whole, a little disappointing after the excitement of India. The Tests were tied at one game apiece, though the tourists took the ODIs at a canter, with Naved impressing again.

The home series against the Ashes holders, England, was the true test of Pakistani mettle. Despite being billed as the clear underdogs, the hosts took the Tests 2-0, with Inzamam capping a colossal year with 431 runs at an average of almost 108.

The selection committee did not fail to bemuse, however, with Hasan Raza, the in-form domestic batsman, being giving two bites at the ripening cherry. Somewhat expectedly, both opportunities were squandered. Now the most important aspect of the national set-up is to settle on a regular squad of players, particularly with regards to the ODIs, where the batting line-up may also require some tweaking. If these minor issues can be tackled and put to rest, the Pakistani horizon will continue to widen.

Test Player of the Year 2005: Inzamam-ul-Haq
ODI Player of the Year 2005: Naved-ul-Hasan
One to Watch in 2006: Salman Butt

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