Year in Review: India's tour and appointment of Woolmer dominated Pakistani Cricket Scene in 2004
by Muhammad Ali, Sports Editor, Daily Times

Player:Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Javed Miandad

DateLine: 1st January 2005


The Indian cricket team's tour to Pakistan for a full series after a span of 14 years and appointment of Bob Woolmer as national coach in place of batting genius Javed Miandad dominated the Pakistan cricket scene in the year 2004.


Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman Shaharyar Muhammad Khan, who was appointed in place of Tauqir Zia, replaced chief selector Aamer Sohail with Wasim Bari in the beginning of the year. Bari, a former Pakistan captain, returned for the second time as chief selector. He was removed after the debacle suffered by Pakistan in the World Cup 2003. Shaharyar also dissolved provincial cricket associations, ended PCB's sponsorship deal with Pepsi for the Indian Series and endorsed the board's contract with a Dubai-based channel, Ten Sports, to televise Pakistan cricket for another five years.


India arrived in Pakistan in the first week of March for three Tests and five one-day internationals. The one-dayers were held in Karachi, Rawalpindi, Peshawar and Lahore while Tests were staged in Multan, Rawalpindi and Lahore. The tour, described on both sides of the borders as 'historic', was the most hyped since partition in 1947. The hype surrounding the tour was not out of place. India had not played a full tour on Pakistan soil for more than a decade as political agendas put the sport, regarded as a religion in the sub-continent, on the back burner.


India, who had never won a Test series in Pakistan in 52 years of cricketing relations between the two countries, claimed the glory by winning the ‘ 'Friendship Series' to the disappointment of Pakistani fans. There were great expectations from Inzamam-ul-Haq and his men but they failed to live up to the expectations of the people. India, who won the limited overs series 3-2 and Test series 2-1, thus completed their tour on a happy note. The victory also saw skipper Saurav Ganguly making his own piece of history as not only did he become the first captain to lead India to a series win on Pakistan soil but also became the most successful skipper ever with 15 Test wins, erasing Mohammad Azharuddin's record of 14 wins.


After the debacle against India, the PCB sacked Coach Javed Miandad and appointed former England Test player Bob Woolmer in his place. Perhaps it was one of the wisest decisions the PCB took in the year. By removing 'controversial' Miandad the board saved the Pakistan cricket team from further degeneration. Miandad, one of the finest and best batsmen of Pakistan, was something of a disaster as a coach as he could not transfer his genius to other players and lacked communication skills. There must be some very good reason why the world's best players have not become good coaches. In brief, he was not an ideal choice for the Pakistan team. He remained embroiled in different controversies – sharp differences with the senior players and money matters – even in his previous spells as coach in 1999 and 2001 was unceremoniously shown the door.


In July, defending champions Pakistan went to Sri Lanka to take part in Asia Cup. And despite performing well and comprehensively beating India, Inzamam and his boys could not qualify for the final due to the bonus point rule. The final was played between India and Sri Lanka with the hosts emerging winners.


In first week of August, PCB CEO Rameez Raja resigned from his post stating that due to his commitments as a TV commentator in the coming months he would be unable to do justice to his responsibilities as chief executive officer. Rameez was one of the PCB's longest serving officials.


Before proceeding to England for the ICC Champions Trophy also termed as mini World Cup, Pakistan participated in the Tri-nation Videocon Cup in Holland. Australia and India were the other contestants. Pakistan defeated India and qualified to play the final against Australia. But Inzamam and company lost the final by 17 runs due to some bad umpiring decisions.


Pakistan tipped as favourites for the ICC Champions Trophy title alongwith Australians, crushed Kenya and India before reaching the last four stage of the 12-nation event. But the lady luck was not on Pakistan's side as Inzamam and his charges were routed by West Indies by 7 wickets in the second semi final. Captain Brian Lara and his team-mates gave a rousing performance at the Oval, fighting off darkening clouds; the experience of England’s bowling attack and a roaring home crowd to grab the ICC Trophy with two wickets to spare. However, there was some consolation for Pakistan as skipper Inzamam, during the match against India, became the second person in one-day international history to accumulate 10,000 runs.


A triangular series was held in Pakistan after a quite a long time. Last time a triangular series was played in Pakistan was ten years ago in 1994 involving hosts, Australia and South Africa. The three-way involving Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe started on September 30 and concluded on October 16 with the day and night final at Gaddafi Stadium. Pakistan entered the tournament on a high but Sri Lanka captain Marvan Atapattu lifted the tri-series cup and the hosts were left contemplating how they lost it at the last hurdle.


After the limited overs series, Pakistan and Sri Lanka played a two–Test rubber in Faisalabad and Karachi. After being comprehensively beaten by 196 runs in the first Test, an under strength Pakistan came from behind to win the final Test in Karachi by 6 wickets to level the series.


Pakistan ended the year on a high note when they thrashed arch-rivals India in the one-off one-day international at Calcutta to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the Board of Cricket Control in India (BCCI). Yuvraj Singh slammed a blistering 78 to propel India to a huge total of 292 for the loss of six wickets. But unpredictable Pakistan, supported by Salman Butt, Inzamam and Shoaib Malik's fireworks, defeated India on Indian soil in more than five years. When India made 292 it seemed that the total was beyond Pakistan's scope to achieve, especially on Indian soil and all other conditions favouring the hosts, but Pakistan shattered all hopes and aspirations of their opponents to touch the apex.

(Article: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author only. This article is published courtesy of Daily Times
Copyright © 2004 Daily Times)