Not a series review: Of Ismailing assassins and mixed Baig of tricks
© Women's CricZone/Mohan Nag
For a while it looked like South Africa and Pakistan would be stuck in an endless loop of training camps with no international fixtures in sight before Pakistan’s tour to South Africa was announced. Once the wheels were set in motion everything went smoothly; the only hiccup being both teams missed their regular skippers (well, in the case of South Africa, vice-captain too).
Pakistan, led by Javeria Khan landed in the Rainbow Nation and the hosts led by Sune Luus stayed there. Both squads travelled to Durban to play three ODIs and Javeria was surprised at having the opportunity to play a series that wasn’t part of the ICC Women’s ODI Championship, that too in the times of global pandemic. Only six ODIs were played in 2020, thanks to COVID-19. Going by the fixtures announced, 2021 is already looking brighter with at least six more ODIs scheduled to be played in the next two months.
The last time Pakistan toured South Africa, in 2019, nobody gave them a chance. Yet, they somehow managed to get out of the series with a 1-1 result. Women's CricZone looks at what the tourists did differently this time to get a more expected result of 3-0, and how South Africa tried in vain to make the series unpredictable.
Strong leaders and reluctant captains
One of the talking points ahead of the series was how both the teams were going to miss their regular captains. Dane van Niekerk and Bismah Maroof are influential figures within their respective sides. We could even go on to state both are terrific cricketers, but we are not going to since that will be an obvious thing to do. What we are going to talk about is how the leaders for the series, Luus and Javeria, are perceived as reluctant captains and unassertive.
Javeria didn’t have the greatest of series - both as batter and as captain. Would Pakistan have fared better had she been a more assertive captain, or was it the case of the other team being the better side? We would never know unless we play the same series in the same circumstances with Maroof in charge. So, what about Luus? She also had a moderate series, her returns with the bat were nothing to write home about and whether she is a reluctant leader or not, she was a reluctant bowler in the first two matches. But we think some stats guy reached out to her and knocked some sense into her and she immediately returned with the wickets needed to reach the 100-mark in ODIs.
As we found out in the recently concluded men’s India versus Australia Test series, outcomes have way of altering these perceptions. Once you are on the right side of the results, we will find adjectives that fit the narrative and/or your droopy shoulders. Luus’ calm demeanour helped South Africa overcome the challenges posed by Pakistan who were, in turn, let down by their skipper’s inability to stamp her authority.
Luus three, Javeria nil.
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Marizanne Kapp’s decade
People were surprised when Marizanne Kapp missed out on the ICC Player of the Decade nominations for she was the leading wicket-taker during the stipulated period. But what constitutes a decade debate drowned out the talks of Kapp’s omission.
By all accounts, we have no evidence to say Kapp isn’t a nice person. But on the cricket field, her feisty exterior and perceived grumpy nature mean she is seen as someone from the ‘not so nice’ category. She clearly doesn’t care about the niceties that will allow for the women’s game to earn the tag of being the nicer sport.
Not getting nominated for the ICC awards seem to have made her even more determined and grumpy – if it didn’t, it should – considering how good her numbers are. She seems to have decided that this is going to be her decade not just with the ball, but also with the bat. She scored runs in the first two matches and took wickets in the second, if the authorities were to announce a Player of the Decade this month, which they totally can, then Kapp would be the frontrunner for it. With only a few more days left in the month, it will be a bridge too far even for Ellyse Perry to stage a few matches and steal Kapp’s thunder.
Lady Diana’s ‘Baig’ full of tricks and puns
One of the biggest positives for Pakistan in the series was Diana Baig. She wasn’t willing to give up even during the closing stages of the series, even as her teammates were willing to give up catches throughout the series. She produced her career-best with both the bat and the ball. She was everywhere - took wickets, was electrifying in the field, and even scored runs. She was so good that our panel of experts picked her as the Player of the Series. But her excellent showing posed us another problem, we had to reach to the depths of our reservoirs to find new adjectives and puns to describe her performances.
We had to be content with giving Lizelle some Lee-way despite her failure in the first match as she and Marizanne helped South Africa Kapp the series off with a win in the second match. Ismailing assassin Shabnim was the star of the…wait, we will have to draw the line somewhere.
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Comic running leads to longer life
Pakistan were so consistent in the series that Aliya Riaz was having her own Groundhog Day every time she came into bat with her side stuttering in the seventies in all three matches. It was almost as if some glitch in the post-pandemic world was forcing Pakistan to re-live the same day(innings) again and again.
But the most interesting part of Pakistan's innings in the first two matches was the comic running between Riaz and Nida Dar. Usually, mix-ups lead to run-outs, but somehow this pair managed to put on Pakistan’s record sixth wicket partnership in between all the ‘Tu, tu, main, main’ calling. They set off, refused, ran back, were left stranded mid-way, and still managed to stay at the crease providing themselves a longer life and also extending the lifespan of those who were watching with all the laughs their running provided.
By the time the third ODI arrived, Dar had enough of the comic running though. She preferred having an ugly swipe across the line against a harmless Luus delivery to having to bat with Riaz yet again.
Let’s hope we see more of the same, if the reluctant captains are willing, especially the comic running bits. Even if they aren’t ready to display their ‘Baig’ full of tricks, we are going to give them some Lee-way. After all, it’s about playing the game in the right spirit.