Pakistan back where they belong to welcome a new dawn
Pakistan have travelled. They have won. They have lost. They have unearthed potentially one of their best-ever ODI batsmen in Babar Azam. They have enjoyed a Champions Trophy winning regime under Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur. They have endured a World Cup floundering regime under Sarfaraz Ahmed and Mickey Arthur. Now they have a new coach, who's also the new chief selector, who's also Misbah-ul-Haq. Nothing is the same from the last time they played an ODI here. It never is with Pakistan. And yet, they're back home. Cricket's greatest nomads needn't be nomads at all - at least this once.
This new dawn for Pakistan cricket begins with a reinforcement of faith in Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was retained as captain based on the recommendations of Misbah and the PCB Cricket Committee, despite the failure to qualify for the World Cup semifinals. It also begins without their pace sensation Shaheen Afridi - out with a bout of dengue. Shoaib Malik had bowed out during the previous sunset, while Mohammad Nawaz, Iftikhar Ahmed and Mohammad Rizwan are making their returns. Pakistan would've been favourites to start with anyway. They didn't need the rain check from Sri Lanka's most prominent players. Now, they're overwhelming favourites against a 'B' team of an international team that's not very good to begin with.
Sri Lanka were poor at the World Cup. They were poor the year before the World Cup. They were poor the year before that year. And so on. They did start better after the World Cup, blanking Bangladesh 3-0 at home. But without the players who did most of that work, can they sustain not being very poor very often?