Wednesday, 13 February 2008

The rare tour

As huge doubts are cast over next month's tour of Pakistan by Australia it is worth considering the history of this, one of the rarest of all cricket tours.

Australia first toured Pakistan in 1956, playing just one Test against the then fledgling Test nation. Surprisingly the tourists lost heavily, being bowled out for just 80 in the first innings, and eventually losing by 9 wickets.

On the next tour, just 3 years later, Australia restored the balance, winning the 3 match series 2-0. But it would be nearly 40 years before they would taste victory again on a ground in Pakistan. In fact their next win, at Rawalpindi in 1998, was their third and last win in Pakistan. It was also the last time an Australian team toured Pakistan.

In the nearly ten years since that tour Pakistan have played at least one Test series against every other Test playing nation. Sri Lanka have visited Pakistan 3 times, while Bangladesh, England, South Africa and India have each toured twice. It is very odd then that Australia should not have toured at all in this time.

Security fears, which are the reason cited for the doubts over next month's tour, are not to be treated lightly. Yet, every other nation has sent their security teams and then made their tours. To my knowledge no player has been injured as a result of violence off the field on any of these tours. So why are the Australians so reluctant?

It is a question with no easy answer. There is no problem between the teams or their respective boards, as Pakistan have toured Australia twice since 1998. Both teams also played a Test series on neutral grounds when Australia refused to tour Pakistan in 2002, again citing fears over their security.

The issue is not a new one. After their successful tour of Pakistan in 1959, Australia toured again in 1964, though they only played one match. They did not tour again until 1980, 16 years later. Again all the Test playing nations of the time toured Pakistan in that 16 year span, and Pakistan toured Australia several times.

It truly is an enigma. In the entire history of Tests between the two countries, spanning over 50 years, Australia has only played 20 Tests in Pakistan. This was, perhaps, understandable in the early days of Test cricket, but in the modern era with the so-called Test championship, it is an unacceptable anomaly that one country should tour another so infrequently.

It is easy to understand why Pakistan's players, fans and board are unhappy about the prospect of another cancelled tour by Australia. The Australians are, after all, a hugely talented team, rated the best side in the world, and a massive draw for all Test fans.

Cricket watchers in Pakistan might also reflect that in those 20 Tests Australia have played in Pakistan the tourists have only won 3, while Pakistan have won 7. This trend may not have continued if Australia had toured Pakistan more often, but home advantage is huge in cricket, so one suspects Pakistan would have done well on home soil.

It is surely time that the best team in the world shows its class by making the tour that it has struggled with the most. Such a rare event would be a treat for all cricket fans, as well as showing that the Test cricket championship is a fair contest for all, with matches both home and away.


Tim said...

Good piece Nick, and it is absurb that, even if they do tour, it will be Australia's first visit in 10 years.

People may say that Australia are already playing too much; that might be true, but hard-fought Test series could replace some needless ODI series in the schedule.

Naked Cricket said...

third umpire,
Good spin on Aus-Pak test history -which if anything appears like a lack of history!

Chrispy said...

It will be awful if the tour is called off and the aussies reap the rewards of the ICL instead.