Rawalpindi Test resulted in a tame draw, inviting a lot of criticism about the pitch and, especially, Pakistan’s intent.
That ultimately resulted in a video message to the fans and the cricketing world from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Ramiz Raja, describing their strategy. The strategy apparently preferred that kind of surface and that kind of result.
Why would Pakistan be content with such a result – a draw? Unavailability of Pakistan’s frontline pace choices aside, the result is not that bad in another context – the World Test Championship (WTC).
WTC: Pakistan earned more PCT than Australia for playing a Draw
By playing a draw in Pindi, Pakistan earned 2.38 PCT (the percentage of points won out of the total number of points contested by each team) as compared to 1.75 PCT earned by Australia. To put into context, that is half the PCT that India is earning for every win in this WTC cycle.
This disparity of PCT earning is due to the disparity in the number of Tests each team is scheduled to play in WTC 2021-23.
The Green Caps are scheduled to play 14 Tests in WTC 2021-23 and hence they are going to earn 7.14 PCT from each win and 2.38 PCT for a draw.
Australia, on the other hand, are scheduled to play 19 Tests during the same cycle, where each win will earn them 5.26 PCT while a draw will result in 1.75 PCT.
WTC Points Table – Current and Expected
England are holding 9.26 PCT after playing 41% of their WTC games. They had a horrendous start to the current championship cycle – losing to India at home and the Ashes in Australia – and they are virtually out of the race for the Final.
They are scheduled to host New Zealand and South Africa for three Tests each, and tour Pakistan to play as many Tests, after the ongoing three-match series in West Indies.
The reigning champions New Zealand are holding 38.89 PCT after playing 46% of their WTC games. They had a bad start to the campaign, losing the away series in India 1-0 and then losing a Test each in two-match home series against Bangladesh and South Africa.
They are scheduled to host Australia for four Tests and tour England for three Tests and Pakistan for two Tests.
For Bangladesh, West Indies or Sri Lanka, the chances of qualifying for the WTC final do not look much promising, as of now; either because of their current PCT total or scheduled series. None of these five teams are mathematically out of WTC Final’s race but the chances of their qualification are grim.
India are currently ranked fifth in the WTC Points Table with 49.24 PCT after 61% of their WTC games. Among all teams, the WTC runner-ups have played the highest percentage of the scheduled encounters till now.
They drew a Test at home against New Zealand, they have one Test to play against Sri Lanka at home and will host Australia for four Tests.
They lost 2-1 to South Africa, will tour Bangladesh for two Tests and play a pending contest in England (currently noted as No-Result in PCT calculation). They are expected to win three Tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Meanwhile, winning two of their five games against Australia and England will raise their PCT to around 66, placing them with a fair chance to qualify for the WTC final.
South Africa are currently ranked 4th in the WTC points table with 60 PCT after 33% of WTC games. They are to host Bangladesh and West Indies for two-match series apiece. They are also slated to tour Australia and England for three-match Test series, which will effectively decide their destiny in this WTC.
Australia are at the top of the WTC points table with 77.78 PCT after playing 32% of their WTC contests. At home, they are scheduled to host South Africa for three Tests and West Indies for two games – that they would be favourites to win.
Their real challenge, however, lies in their away series. Besides the ongoing Test series in Pakistan, which has three bouts, they are due to tour Sri Lanka to play three Tests and India for four.
Their WTC final qualification will depend hugely on how they perform in Asia, starting from Pakistan.
WTC: Pakistan’s prospects to qualify for Final
Unlike the last WTC cycle, Pakistan have bright chances to qualify for the WTC final this time. They are currently ranked 2nd in the WTC points table with 66.67 PCT after playing 36% (five out of 14) of their WTC fixtures.
They are scheduled to take on Sri Lanka in two Tests in their backyard and host England and New Zealand for three and two tests in their home ground, respectively.
Considering the current form of the players and resources available at their disposal for the upcoming assignments, the Men-in-Green might enter as favourites in all those three Series.
Their current campaign against Australia at home might be the toughest among the assignments left in their WTC schedule.
In the context of staying in the series against Australia and maintaining the momentum and strong position in WTC, it was probably a clever call from the Pakistan team think-tank to play safe.
Yes, it wasn’t spectacular – may have looked ugly – but it was definitely a wise strategy in the long-term context.
Though it is not ideal to give away a few points (in the shape of a draw), losing Pindi Test right upfront – maybe with a couple of batting collapses or big partnerships from the Australians only – would have dented the momentum and confidence of Pakistan team.
It would have put them in a desperate-to-win situation with ruptured self-belief. It might even have a snowball effect on England and New Zealand series.
Pakistan might have lost a few PCT by settling for a draw in Pindi but by avoiding a possible defeat – in the absence of the first choice batting and bowling openers – they must have managed to raise the self-belief in the camp that is bound to have an impact going forward.
With Hasan Ali and Haris Rauf returning to the squad, Nauman Ali with a six-wicket haul and a top-order with loads of runs and bat-time under their belt, Pakistan are bound to go much calmer and confident in the Karachi Test.
That calmness and self-confidence may not just help in winning this series but also maintain the momentum needed to qualify for the WTC final.
Courtesy: Kamran Muzaffer