Champions Trophy: The road ahead for India & Pakistan
With its victory in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy final, Pakistan men's cricket team not only managed to prove their detractors wrong but also signalled a revival of the nation's once glorious cricketing past.
Pakistan is renowned for an abundant resource of quality fast bowlers. Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Wahab Riaz are among some of the talents pacers that our neighbours have produced over the years. This year's Champions Trophy in England proved that Pakistan will not fall short of talented seamers anytime soon, with youngsters like Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Junaid Khan proving their mettle in the tournament.
Another surprise package for Pakistan turned out to be young leg-spinner, Shadab Khan. At 18, Khan displayed skills and maturity beyond his years and took two crucial wickets in the Champions Trophy final against India to set up his team's mammoth 180-run win.
Batting has not always been a matter of pride for Pakistan in the past few years. But this year around, it was the youth who put in valuable performances for their team and saved crucial games for Pakistan. Most notably, Fakhar Zaman and 22-year-old Babar Azam performed consistently for the Men in Green, especially in the final against India.
The steady growth in Pakistan's national cricket team can be attributed to their coach as well. After taking over in May 2016, Mickey Arthur made some much-needed changes to the team, most notably bringing the once stigmatised Mohammad Amir back into the side, and giving younger and fitter players more game time. Pakistan cricket could be on the road to redemption with several young guns coming to the forefront if they remain focused on their objective.
The runner-ups India, however, are going through a churn it seems. India has been a dominant force in all three formats and the statistics prove their case. In the 17 Test matches played throughout the 2016-17 season, India lost just one game against a more than resilient Australia and won 12. In ODIs, with the exception of the 4-1 drubbing at the hands of the Australian side in January, all other games in 2016 – which were played under Virat Kohli's captaincy – were mostly fruitful for India. In the 16 ODIs played since the series in Australia, India has won 11 games so far.
India's performance in T20 internationals has not been one to complain about either. They have won 15 of the 21 games in 2016 and two of the three games played in 2017, and are deservedly on the top of the ICC T20I Teams rankings.
Despite boasting of impressive numbers, the loss in the Champions Trophy final has come as a shocker to many people. Though there is nothing earth shattering about the loss, the circumstances leading to it are what has caused many fans to worry. The loss led to coach Anil Kumble announcing his resignation after reports of discord between him and the team came to light. It is believed that clashes between him and Kohli were primarily responsible for the sudden decision. What actually led to Kumble's resignation won't be revealed any soon, but to speculate on the reasons would be unfair to both Kumble and Kohli.
What can be said for sure is the Board of Control for Cricket in India's lack of professional intervention in the issue, which could and should have been nipped in the bud. All eyes are now on the tour to West Indies, which could be an important series not for the players but for the administrators. After a protracted battle with the West Indies Cricket Board, the players finally resolved the issue of their wages with the authorities and took to the pitch in 2016. But the drama in the Indian cricket administration, though less intense than what happened in West Indies, is yet to end.