It’s not your classic which-neighbor-is-better keyboard war. Neither is this piece a feeble attempt to settle every feud between both the Asian countries and bring peace once and for all. It’s more of a cheat code for Pakistan to memorize by heart. A manual that needs not to be thrown in the bin before even turning its pages. India in Tests is a force to reckon with. Pakistan, on the other hand, as things stand, can hardly be called a force.
It would sound far-fetched. After all, India sits just above Pakistan in the WTC 2023-25 points table as I type this. Also, did they not just recently become the latest victims of Bazball? There are a slew of records and figures that can make the title seem like a harmless joke or a line chronicled by someone oozing with patriotism. It’s neither, I assure you. It’s a disorder of only observing the things in others you lack. At the risk of sounding like a brown parent, I must confess that Pakistan can do well to take a few leaves out of India’s book to tackle its red-ball woes.
Will the PCB free us of this FOMO?
First things first. Pakistan played its last match in Sydney earlier this month. It will stay Pakistan’s last until the men in green meet Bangladesh in whites in August. During the same period, India would have played 4 Test matches. The previous year, Pakistan played half the number of Test matches India featured in. What will it take for the PCB to realize that the fans find one thing better than just chanting ‘long live test cricket’ and it is watching their own team play this pure format while it sips the elixir of life?
The last time Pakistan played a 5-match Test series was in 1992. While all the financial difficulties of hosting a 2 to 3-month-long red ball series are justified, an attempt to slowly and constantly add a 4 or 5-match series after a year or two can make the games more interesting to follow. India has been playing the same number of games against England in a series since 2014 after every few years. Pakistan, too, can aim to play against one of the more actively Test-playing nations which can potentially fade the related financial apprehensions as well.
India in Tests is invincible in their own backyard
Playing against India in India is a suicide mission. Starting from 2018, the most any country has won against men in blue in their backyard is England’s 2 matches victory. One of which came just a few days ago. Since the same time, India has had the joint best win-to-loss ratio in home matches among all teams. Pakistan does not enjoy the same privilege on their home turf – one of the many reasons behind their below-par performance in the last WTC cycle. Since 2019, the year when Test cricket returned to the country, men in green have played 13 matches at their home and have won only four of them.
This record takes the edge away from Pakistan, especially when there is a championship to be won. Without a haven at their home, away Test series become more ruthless in dealing with the team.
Bowlers who know how to fire with the bat down the order
Five wickets down in front of India’s name is not a very happy picture for anyone involved in the game, be it the team or the opposition. It implies the coming of India’s late-order saviours – Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, and Ravichandran Ashwin. They are always there. India is batting, you turn on the TV to find them all padded up and batting on the opposition’s nerves. Turn off the TV in frustration but beware to find them throwing balls spinning miles in the next innings.
It’s a 2-in-1 for India in Tests. Just what every team in the world would fancy having. Axar Patel has averaged 65 with the bat since last year. Although his bowling average has surged significantly to transform into an ugly figure, in the presence of Ashwin and Jadeja, it is not too big of an issue. Moreover, as of now, Patel is preferred for the home matches. It’s the duo of Jadeja and Ashwin which stomps over the opposition with their brilliance with bat as well as ball.
With the presence of Salman Ali Agha in the past year and Aamer Jamal recently, Pakistan’s late order has been pretty decent. Consistency in this all-round approach, just like the duo next door, is what Pakistan is in dire need of gaining.