Karachi braces for its first taste of ODI cricket in a decade today

first_imgIT has been ten years since Karachi saw its last ODI. In that time, three World Cups have been staged, a generation has grown up, and the one-day game has been through a revolution. Sure, this is only a tender sapling of a tour, containing only limited-overs fixtures, with 10 Sri Lanka players having refused to travel. But we are at the start of the longest trip an international side has made to Pakistan since 2009, and PCB hopes that top-flight cricket will really set about putting its roots down in the country this time. Could a home Test series be on the horizon?It is difficult to put into words how much the resumption of a regular schedule could mean to Pakistan. Whole cities coming alive for matches, packed stadiums gasping at withering spells of fast bowling and spin-bowling wizardry, while tense battles play out in storeyed venues.Forget Pakistan; cricket needs this. It would also be fitting, of course, if Misbah-ul-Haq, who shepherded Pakistan so masterfully through their nomad years, gets this chance to shape the team’s long-ached-for return home.But perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves. Sri Lanka have sent a substantially weakened team, owing to 10 players’ continued doubts over the security situation.Against a side missing the likes of Kusal Perera, Angelo Mathews and designated captain Dimuth Karunaratne, the hosts start as strong favourites. What’s more important than the runs or wickets, though, is that the tour is on. And that it goes well.The old coach is gone, as are selectors and support staff, but Sarfaraz Ahmed is still around as captain, despite Pakistan’s failure to make it to the World Cup semi-finals. But will it be the same old Sarfaraz? Will he still bat in the lower middle order? Will he employ the same tactics? How much will Misbah, in his powerful new avatar, change the way Sarfaraz approaches his job? And after a modest World Cup personally, can Sarfaraz lift himself into good form again?Sri Lanka’s top order is among the most brittle in ODIs at the best of times, and it is the batting that has been most weakened by the withdrawals.Their captain for this series, Lahiru Thirimanne, struggles to make the first-choice XI, for example. Nevertheless, Thirimanne is the most experienced batsman on tour, and if Sri Lanka are to make competitive totals here, he will probably be required to play the sorts of long, measured innings he specialises in at his best. (ESPN Cricinfo)last_img read more