A very important lesson was rammed home to me with the speed of a Shoaib Akhtar lightning bolt at the Gabba last Monday as Pakistan threatened to complete one of the greatest fight backs in the history of Test cricket.
The lesson is you never, ever write off a team . . . especially one with the obvious heart and fight of Misbah-Ul-Haq’s men.
When Pakistan was bundled out for 142 in the first innings of the Day/Night Test, I bought into all the talk that swirled around Brisbane suggesting the match could be over in three days.
I based my belief purely on Pakistan’s performances on their previous tours to Australia, where they’ve struggled to compete on our bouncy wickets.
After the game . . . one which history notes the Aussies held on to win by a nailbiting 39 runs after setting 490 runs for victory . . . I was asked what I’d learnt from the Test.
The answer was “plenty” but my first reaction was to say we should never take anything for granted about a cricket team, especially one that represents the hopes and dreams of their nation and one that won the last series against Australia quite convincingly.
If we’re being honest, I think we all expected Pakistan to chuck in the towel because their situation seemed, well, hopeless.
However, I couldn’t help but to admire how they whittled down the runs to such an extent the Aussies seemed to be the team that was on the rack in the dying stages.
It was special, and from my perch in the TripleM commentary box, I thought Pakistan’s young guns who played with determination, self belief and confidence, deserved plenty of praise.
They have a will to succeed and while he’s not exactly a pup, I’ll long remember Asad Shafiq’s century in the second innings as that of a genuine fighter.
The fight came from within Pakistan’s players, but I have no doubt one person who is helping to fuel their desire is their assistant coach, the former Australian wicket keeper, Steve ‘Stumper’ Rixon.
I had the good fortune of playing under Steve at NSW and he’s an absolute genius of a coach and man manager!
His influence on the tourists will go unnoticed by those outside of Pakistan’s inner sanctum, but among Steve’s numerous strengths and qualities is he knows how to speak to men.
He knows how to motivate them to fight when others would wave the white flag and his knowledge of all things cricket is staggering.
His record notes that apart from guiding NSW to Sheffield Shield titles, he took the reins of what was described as a “fractured” New Zealand team from 1996-99 and turned them into a respected force.
While Steve isn’t scoring runs or taking wickets for Pakistan, don’t for a moment underestimate the power of the positivity Stumper would be providing the tourists.
It’s very special, and I have no doubt his renowned mantra to ‘never give up’ would’ve been the chatter in Pakistan’s change room as they prepared to chase down 112 runs for victory on the final day’s play.
I can picture him – from my experience at NSW – taking the batsmen aside and urging them to believe in themselves and to believe victory could – and would – happen.
Pakistan can take a lot of positives from their Gabba Test performance even though they lost.
If Australia learns anything from such a close call I suppose it needs to be they might’ve been guilty of taking their foot off the pedal after setting what seemed an imposing total.
I have no doubt after their first innings – they scored 429 – Australia took to the field with the belief victory would “just happen” . . . that they’d need only to put the ball in a certain area and the tourists would oblige by promptly nicking it to the slips cordon.
As we saw, things didn’t go according to THAT plan – but I have no doubt they’ll never adopt such a mindset again.
While there was talk of Jackson Bird being “lucky” to play in Brisbane, I thought he did very well.
He hit a good length, he complemented Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood and if anything, Australia’s acknowledged spearheads were able to do their jobs because Bird held up one end.
I was pleased to see Nathan Lyon do well, and it was as equally great to see the Gabba crowd show him some love . . . he deserves it after a tough summer.
While Peter Handscomb and Matt Renshaw are justifying their positions in Steve Smith’s squad with runs, I hope the selectors retain Nic Maddinson after what has been a bumpy initiation in the Baggy Green cap until (at least) after the SCG Test.
I’d hate to see Nic suffer the same fate as Callum Ferguson who was dumped after one Test . . . it’s important for the selectors to instil a sense of confidence in the team.
As for Nic, I have played enough cricket alongside him to know what he’s capable of and I believe it is in Australia’s best interests that his talent is nurtured.
On that point, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and may 2017 please be the year when humanity finally realises we’re all in this game called ‘life’ together.
Brett Lee, exclusively for Sportsta.