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Pakistan Handed An Early Christmas Gift

By Orin Davidson

Christmas seems to be coming early for the few Christians who love cricket in Pakistan.

In getting West Indies as their first opponent in the aftermath of the worst period of their cricket existence, Pakistan landed an appropriate gift.

West Indies’ contrast in ability between Test cricket and Limited Overs contests these days, are akin to Shaquille O’Neal’s liability and strength in free throwing and post-up prowess in the NBA.

The Caribbean team can be superb in the shorter form of the game but woeful in the more established longer version.

Their batting capitulation in both the first and second innings in Lahore was the core of the gift and their loose bowling provided the wrapping.

Pakistan accepted gleefully to take a commanding 1-0 lead in the three-Test series and the entire country wiped its tears dry after the recent drugs and ball tampering scandals almost brought it to its knees.

West Indies have not won a Test match of consequence overseas in more than six years and although they are a force to reckon with in the One-Dayers, Test competition is their Achilles heel.

Their capitulation by nine wickets inside four days on Tuesday was the medicine Pakistan needed to exhale after their two best bowlers were banned for illegal drug use after Umpire Darryl Hair humiliated the nation by charging the team for ball tampering and defaulted them the third Test against England this summer.

And it seems the man who replaced the now sacked Hair was intent on providing additional therapy for Pakistan’s wounds with another disgraceful display of officiating.

On his return to the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) elite panel from a sacking a few years back, Asoka Da Silva proved to the world ruling body he deserves no better than to languish in Sri Lanka’s backwater leagues.

Not taking anything away from Pakistan’s workmanlike effort led by the man previously known as Yousuf Yohanna, now Mohammed Yousuf and Umar Gul, Da Silva aided and abetted their victory in Lahore with perverse decision- making that saw all except one of the mistakes going against the tourists.

Among Da Silva’s gaffs was a flawed LBW decision in favor of Brian Lara to which the Sri Lanka seeming intent on making up unendingly in return for the home team.

Da Silva wrongly sent packing Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dinesh Ramdin while shockingly ruling centurion Yousuf not out when every other umpire would’ve sought the third official’s help for a stumping decision that clearly would’ve cut the Pakistani’s 192-run innings in half.

Yousuf went on to accumulate 90-odd more runs to his innings which was the foundation that yielded the home team’s match winning 279-run first innings lead.

Da Silva is someone clearly incapable of handling the pressure of Test competition and his promotion back at the top left the ICC’s face splattered with egg.

It is astounding no better umpire throughout the world cricket fraternity could’ve been found instead of the ICC trying to recycle a proven failure.

Minus DaSilva’s mess-up, West Indies could not expect themselves to win with such poor batting. Rather the match would’ve been extended into the fifth day because Pakistan was superior in all departments except fielding.

Beginning with captain Lara’s flawed decision to bat first on a juicy wicket which backfired amidst his fears of having to face Pakistan’s spinners last on a broken pitch, that proved a myth.

Lara did not profit much on his Da Silva let-off at zero, going on to make 61 in West Indies pathetic first innings effort of 206.

It was obvious he made a serious attempt to lead by example in the second knock when notching his 33rd century, but he threw it all away by attempting to sweep, instead of playing straight on the fourth day when survival was paramount. Likewise Chanderpaul literally surrendered a fine 81 with a wild shot when runs were immaterial, shortly after.

Sarwan obviously is experiencing a rough patch which began in the Champions Trophy, but Da Silva killed any chance of him starting a rehabilitation in the batsman’s second innings.

Dwyane Bravo was a mess in the entire game and it will be interesting to observe coach Bennett King’s effort to re-build his shattered confidence.

Disappointing is an apt description for Darren Ganga’s return to the team as he obviously has not strengthened his mental toughness which contrasts starkly with that of the ousted Runako Morton.

The way this team went down in the final minutes on Day Four was indicative of a side scarred by the surrender syndrome.

Lara and Chanderpaul fought magnificently for almost half the day Thursday but soon after the former substituted discretion for valor, the others thought it best to throw in the towel.

Apart from Chanderpaul, Dave Mohamed who is obviously a talented all-round player also never considered the honor of batting out the innings. He seemed to prefer a free day Wednesday instead by continuing the recklessness that suddenly overcame the team at a crucial time.

Pakistan seemed hungrier for victory with their focused reply to West Indies first innings.

Even when their talisman batsman Inzamam Ul-Haq failed the others like Kamran Akhmal, Mohamed Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, never for once packed it in.

They were brave enough to reap the good fortune they got in the end.

West Indies have a lot to learn in that regard.
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