Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed and coach Mickey Arthur have reflected on 2018 with satisfaction but hope for better results in the coming year. "It has been a long year in which there have been some exceptional and some ordinary performances. Overall, I think we have done well, but I accept we could have had better results had we shown a little more consistency," said Sarfraz.
Arthur concurred, when he remarked: "The Lord's victory over England, a 1-0 series win over Australia and world record 17 T20 victories were obviously the highlights of the year. But we could have also won the series against New Zealand and the Centurion Test, and it hurts to end up on the losing side". "This is a side in transition and has shown considerable improvement in the past 12 months. I am convinced that the best from this outstanding young group of players is yet to come," he said.
In 2018, Pakistan played nine Tests, winning four and losing four, while they won eight of the 18 ODIs, with the series decider against New Zealand being washed-out after they had set the Kiwis a 280-run victory target.
In the shortest format, Pakistan won a world record 17 out of 19 matches, including victories in the Zimbabwe tri-series and series wins over Australia and the New Zealand both at the Black Caps home and the UAE.
In the ICC rankings, Pakistan remained in seventh position in the Test table but gained four points to rise to 92 points, while they moved up one place to fifth in the ODI rankings.
In the T20 table, Pakistan seized the top spot from New Zealand and finished in number one position on 138 points after collecting 14 points during the year.
"This was the first calendar year in which Pakistan was playing without stalwarts like Younus Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq in the Test match format" said Sarfraz.
"They have been an integral part of the dressing room for many years and without their presence, it was sort of a strange feeling. It's neither easy to replace such talent nor does it happen overnight. We have to go through the process and I think the middle-order has done a good job against tough oppositions and in not very easy conditions. This has been a massive learning year for our middle-order and I am sure they'll learn from their mistakes and get better in matches to come," he said.
Arthur praised the efforts of the entire team, saying: "I say with a lot of satisfaction that the boys have worked extremely hard.
It has been a backbreaking year of cricket for the boys, but they have tried to make optimum use of the opportunities and given their best every time they stepped onto the field.
Sarfraz said the year has seen the emergence of some outstanding talent, which the world has recognised and acknowledged. "Mohammad Abbas is one such player. Abbas caught everyone by surprise with the way he bowled in the UAE. The world has already billed him as the future No.1 bowler and we are so fortunate to have someone like him in the side, someone we can always rely on any surface and in any match situation. Yasir Shah is another talented player and probably the best wrist-spinner in the world today. In 2018, he only got better and better, and I am confident he has plenty of more match-winning performances in him. And how can one forget Babar Azam, one of the most elegant and graceful batsmen in the world, one who is blossoming into an international star?"
"I have no doubts that the future of Pakistan cricket is promising and in safe and capable hands. We just need to look after this talent and back and support them so that they can continue to thrive."
Looking ahead to international cricket in 2019, Sarfraz said the first half of the year would be a tough and challenging one for his side. "First things first. We have an ongoing series against South Africa in which we want to do well. As such, the focus of the players and player support personnel is on the upcoming matches. Then, we have an ODI series against Australia followed by the tour of England for ODIs and the World Cup," Sarfraz said, adding: "Our objective in 2019 will be to win as many matches as possible. Positive and strong results will only take us closer to our targets. We have the talent and potential, all we need to do is to continue to believe in ourselves, back and support each other, train hard and cash in on the opportunities that come our way."