Why Pakistan must bounce back

2013-02-05 11:49

David Moseley

There's a reason why soccer (or football, if you prefer) is labelled the "global game". It's not because FIFA has some 207 national teams listed in its global rankings (though that does help) but rather, because on any day, any nation in the top 30 could give the top-ranked Spain a run for their money. Compared to rugby and Test cricket, soccer results are not always as cut-and-dried as they are before teams even take to the field.

Take the current top eight soccer teams in the FIFA rankings - if Spain were to take on either of Germany (ranked 2), Argentina (3), the Netherlands (8), even the 18th-ranked Brazil, no soccer fan would dream of saying, "ah, should be a doddle for the World Champs, then". Brazil play sixth-placed England this week in fact. Who's your money on - easy, Brazil, even though their 12 spots adrift of top 10 England.

Now look at Test cricket. South Africa holds the number one position, England sit at two and Australia nest at three. Pakistan, just demolished by the Proteas, are in fourth spot, India are at five, then comes Sri Lanka, then the West Indies, with New Zealand and Bangladesh bringing up the rear.

At present, you would expect only England and Australia (both recently beaten in their own backyards by South Africa) to give the Proteas a hard time on South African soil. If the just-completed Test against Pakistan at the Wanderers is anything to go by, then South Africa should enjoy another Test series win by day four of the Newlands Test (and I only say that because I’m hoping my day three tickets remain relevant).

Pakistan's Test record is so poor in South Africa (played 10, lost 7, won 2 - including the most recent Test) that no one really expected the world class Proteas to struggle and, despite a first innings batting wobble, they duly obliged the Wanderers crowd with a thumping win.

India, seemingly on such an upward curve in all formats of the game under Gary Kirsten, appear to be in a shocking Test slump (they were walloped away by England 4-0 in 2011 and lost the "return" series in India last year 2-1 - also four Tests).  From an outsider’s perspective it also feels like they’re concerned only with the shorter versions of the game.

You sense that the West Indies are slowly getting their act together, but they've never won a Test series in South Africa, and you wouldn't expect them to do so in the next five years. Based on current evidence, New Zealand will probably never win a Test match in South again, and if we lose to Bangladesh in the next 10 years it will because the world is a post-apocalyptic wasteland, overrun by the walking dead and insurance salesmen.

The death of Test cricket has long been predicted. But now it looks more like ODIs will suffer thanks to the proliferation of T20 cricket. However, to keep things interesting the Test-playing nations outside of the top three need to pull up their socks. There's no question that the Proteas are the dominant force in Test cricket right now, something all South African cricket fans are lapping up. But three and four day Tests stop being fun after a while. After all, we go to watch a contest, don't we?

While it was great sitting at Newlands on January 2nd watching Vernon Philander destroying New Zealand in the first 45 minutes, at the back of your mind you were still saying "but it's only New Zealand". We expected that kind of result as much as we expected a comfortable Proteas win at the Wanderers this past weekend.

What really needs to happen, for the sake of Test cricket, is for Pakistan to bounce back and make a fight of this series. Despite their incredible thumping of England last year, Pakistan need to show that they can play that kind of cricket away from their away-home of the UAE.

The Proteas next Test series is against Pakistan away followed by India away (this after South Africa's tour to Sri Lanka* this year was postponed until 2015). Both are demanding tours (on paper) that the home sides need to win to keep Test cricket intriguing.

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  • TheThirdWors - 2013-02-05 12:37

    But David, sometimes a generation of players come along that just makes your team unbeatable. We've got 3 bowlers in the top 10, several batsmen in the top 20 (world rankings) . . . the world's, #1 All rounder in Jacquesd Kallis . . . whatcha expect mate? Australia had that years ago, now it's us. Some day it will be someone else (unless we keep developing the best talent). It's just how it is.

      ThandoGqabaza - 2013-02-05 13:50

      I also don't want a 3 horse race , but let them beat England and Australia. Proteas must win 3-0 and dominate !!

  • paul.hemming.39 - 2013-02-05 12:55

    I reckon we should just bask in the glory of having the best Test cricket team in the world for while it lasts. I mean we've been on the receiving end of enough defeats to the Aussies over the past 2 decades. Let's celebrate and enjoy it while it lasts.

  • NigelJamesTurner - 2013-02-05 18:58

    No doubt that SA are the best team in the world. It'll last for as long as your government keeps its hands off. Zimbabwe was developing a semi-respectable test cricket team until cricket came under the control of ZANU-PF and was almost destroyed in the process. No comparison between the quality of the teams, but plenty of similarities in the desire of government to control everything.

  • sakkie.dekok.5 - 2013-02-05 19:17

    Who cares?

  • philip.kemp.10 - 2013-02-05 19:23

    As far as I am aware, the Sri Lankans have postponed the Test matches, so we only play the short formats when we go there later this year.

      david.a.moseley - 2013-02-06 15:09

      Quite right. Thanks for spotting.

  • hiddy.sonday - 2013-02-05 19:26

    Hi David. Cricket is really a poor world sport. There are only a handful of countries playing cricket and as you said only three are of a good standard. Why was cricket never developed in other european countries such as Germany, Spain , Italy etc just to mention a few. - 2013-02-06 22:12

      an odd comment to make, as cricket is played and represented in more than a hundred countries, but only that many are skilled enough to make the top level of the game. Have a look at how many Euro nations play and support cricket.Your comment is very, how can I say, unfounded, immature, or at the ire of, I do not care, stupid. Sorry if I may have insulted you, but sport is a great unifier, is that a word? (apparently not, used spell checker, lol)

      matthew.ferrey - 2013-02-06 22:26

      Dude have you seen the crappy weather in those places? Even the luckless Poms de-colonised them...

  • will.oosthuizen - 2013-02-05 21:52

    One big yawn! It is so predictable! The Proteas play brilliantly until they get to the World Cup, when they choke and end up with the egg on their faces!

      harvey.dent.16547008 - 2013-02-06 11:50

      Actually, we were quite shocking in the recent ODI series against the Kiwis. This conversation is about test cricket, not one day cricket. So nice to be surrounded by so many positive people.

  • Ben - 2013-02-06 14:11

    Who cares about winning a world cup. ODI's is like rugby 7's. 10 years later nobody will even remember who won it. And T20 is like a lame McDonald happy meal with a sparkler, probably soon to be replaced by a shorter version consisting just out of a coin toss for those poor people that's missing Gladiators on TV. The true prize in cricket is to have extended success in test cricket. For example...everybody remembers the legendary West Indies from the 70's and 80's not loosing a series in 15 years. Everybody remember those guys. Lloyd, Viv, Marshall, Robert, Holding and later Ambrose and Lara. And before them the Australian... (and a bit after) The legends in the cricket annuals didn't get there playing the shortened version. They got there playing real cricket. The cricket the real fans and the player loves. The Test. And it's called that for a reason. Test dying?... I think not.

      Ben - 2013-02-06 14:11

      Credit for the "coin toss" bit goes to the Gatsby...cause it's funny...

  • niall.wilkins - 2013-02-08 03:53

    Interesting read but I don't think it's fair to compare test cricket to a 90minute football match, perhaps the shortened version is a better comparison. As we have seen countless times over the shortened version (50 &20) of the match results are often much tighter (NZ victory most recently) despite our destroying them in the tests. Why should we want Pakistan to bounce back? Rather let's just appreciate the brilliance that is our Test Team at the moment. It won't last forever.

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