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The Twins allowed an MLB-worst
In the fall of 1999, Pakistan went to Australia with what they believed was the most talented squad they had ever had. They were barely six months removed from having lost a World Cup they thought was their own, and the series was thus presented as a time for revenge. The Test team had been plagued by inconsistency over the previous five years, but they could always put that down to infighting and to being led by sub-par captains. Under Wasim Akram, by contrast, Pakistans record was exemplary. Since losing in Australia four years earlier, he had taken charge of five Test series - winning four and drawing one. Even the lone drawn series, away to India in 1999, could be classified as a success, with the third Test of that tour being a victory on course to winning the Asian Test championship. The confidence they had going to Australia wasnt misplaced.A decade earlier Pakistans greatest Test team had gone to Australia having not lost a single one of their previous ten Test series - including two against the uber dominant West Indies. They returned with a one-nil loss. Surely this time it would be different?It was. But not the way they imagined it would be. Pakistan lost nine of their first ten matches on the 1999-2000 tour. That streak, which included all three Tests, began with their inability to play a 50-year old Dennis Lillee and ended with them being blown away by Australias second-tier attack. For the first time in over a decade Pakistan realised that even their best might not be good enough against the best.That has been the story of Pakistans tours to Australia. They have only ever won four Tests there - the last two in dead rubbers. The last time they won a live Test in Australia, the top three music acts on the Billboard charts were Gloria Gaynor, the Bee Gees and Rod Stewart, and Margaret Thatcher was still the leader of the opposition in England. No team has held sway over Pakistan quite like Australia has done.For a country and a fraternity that prides itself on being different and innovative, Australia presents the biggest challenge. Pakistan, after all, is the place where, despite having taken nearly 500 international wickets, Saqlain Mushtaq is still defined as the inventor of the doosra: innovation trumps achievement. And yet, however different they might present themselves as, there is an ideal they wish to emulate. Think of everything that former Pakistan cricketers, pundits and the majority of fans consider to be components of the essential character of Pakistani cricket. Words like mercurial or unpredictable do not feature; those are used by foreigners when referring to Pakistan. When Pakistanis project their best selves it is by describing the team in vaguely masculine terms. The belief in sheer pace, in the importance of legspin; the unhealthy obsession with aggression; the belief that all that matters is confidence; the sense that every inkblot in a Rorschach test is bound to be a moustache - these are borrowed from Australia. The reverence for these qualities has only increased since that fateful winter over the turn of the century. Quite simply, Pakistanis want their team to be Australia, or rather to approximate to their own interpretation of Australianism.Pakistan have attempted to learn from Australia too. Pakistans solutions after that tour of Australia in 1999-2000 were predictable - they set up a national cricket academy. Tauqir Zia sent Colonel Shujauddin to Australia to compile a report on how Australia became what they were at the time, and his solution was that academy. Every time a former player decries the state of domestic cricket, the solution he offers involves following the Australian model - fewer teams, more club cricket, and varied pitches. Never mind that England and India have done pretty well with big first-class systems, nor that the population or sports culture of Pakistan is a complete inversion of Australias; the solution is always to follow Australia.It makes sense too. Every desi kid has that one relative or family friend - the phupho ki beti (aunts daughter), if you will - who is presented as the model of what they should aim for. Considering its a desi family, the taunts and lectures mostly have to do with academics. The phupho ki beti is presented as the contrast to you - if only you studied as much as her, if only you were as obedient and courteous as her, if only you were her. Pakistan cricket is that rebellious kid who wants to create his own world. Australia is the phupho ki beti who will always hover over him like the sword of Damocles.And thats why Pakistans upcoming tour of Australia is so fascinating. Australia, at least until one Test match ago, found themselves in an identity crisis, where they began to question their beliefs. For once, even they wondered aloud. Meanwhile Pakistan were - at least until three Tests ago - the most successful team the nation has had in over two decades, despite all the problems theyve had to face, and they became that team by rejecting the pursuit of Australianism.Thus, this series becomes a fight for the soul of cricket - if Australia prevail, as they always do, the doubts of November will give way to a return to la-la land, where everything is rosy and the world doesnt change. But if the unthinkable happens, well, we might have to question everything weve ever been told. The most likely outcome, though, is that neither of those things will happen - something far worse, something we cant even imagine right now is going to take place. After all, its 2016. Adidas NMD Clearance Sale . Pence singled in the winning run with no outs in the ninth inning to give the Giants a 7-6 victory over the San Diego Padres on Sunday. Air Max 270 Cheap . Luis Suarezs double powered Liverpool to a 4-0 victory over Fulham, and Southampton easily overcame Hull 4-1 to continue the south coast clubs impressive start to the season. Liverpool and Southampton sent Chelsea down to fourth place as the west London club was held to 2-2 at home. . -- Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson asked his players a simple question during Fridays morning shootaround: How many of them had ever been on a team 14 games over . Yeezy Boost 350 v2 Wholesale . -- If this was Aaron Gordons final home game at Arizona, and it almost certainly was, then he went out in style. Adidas NMD Wholesale . Artturi Lehkonen, Joni Nikko and Ville Leskinen had the other goals for Finland (1-0) while Juuse Saros stopped 28 shots. Tim Robin Johnsgard had the lone goal for Norway (0-2). This story is part of ESPN The Magazines Oct. 12 Owners Issue. Subscribe today!Minnesota TwinsOverall: 87 Title track: 68 Ownership: 91 Coaching: 90 Players: 110 Fan relations: 91 Affordability: 52 Stadium experience: 28 Bang for the buck: 108 Change from last year: -40So ... yeah. The Twins had a surprisingly exciting 2015 season in which the team won 83 games and remained relevant well into September. Optimism abounded. Target Field never looked greener. Young talent! New coach! Prospects! What would follow a mere seven months later was a new low even for a team that, over the past five seasons, had win totals of 63, 66, 66 and 70. A 1-9 start this season would lead to a 7-18 April, and the Twins were 10.5 games back -- and entirely irrelevant -- in the AL Central by May 1, well on their way to what would ultimately become the worst season in the history of the franchise. Fifty. Nine. Wins.Whats goodThe Twins fell precipitously in each of our eight categories this year, but there are still few places more enjoyable to catch a game than at Target Field, which opened in 2010. The teams No. 28 rank in stadium experience is by far its highest rating, and the 10th-highest in baseball. And though the Twins roster is rated a dismal 110th (and no, guys, Joe Mauer is not to blame for this mess -- hes, like, the 11th-biggest problem), Minnesota undeniably has terrific young talent in Miguel Sano, who amassed a .462 slugging percentage this past season, and 22-year-old Byron Buxton, who after his Sept. 1 call-up justified his longstanding reputation as the best prospect in baseball, batting .287, with a .357 on-base and .653 slugging percentage in the seasons final 29 games. And, of course, second baseman Brian Dozier became Babe Ruth for the seasons final 60 games (1.019 OPS!). That was fun.Whats badSo, so muuch.dddddddddddd Before the season, most experts predicted the Twins would sport an average offense and staggeringly poor pitching. And, boy, were they right! It was wretched. The Twins allowed an MLB-worst 5.49 runs per game, an AL-worst WHIP of 1.45, and struck out the third-fewest players per nine innings of any team in baseball. Minnesota fell 40 spots overall in our rankings, driven by a 74-spot drop in players, a 56-spot drop in coaching, and a 28-spot drop in ownership. The twist? Compared with 2015, the players are largely the same; the coach, Paul Molitor, is light years ahead of his predecessor in terms of on-the-field strategy and an openness to analytics; and the Pohlads are ... the Pohlads. The problems are the same. The team just won 24 fewer games.Whats newIn a very un-Twins-like move, the team fired longtime GM Terry Ryan in July after two stints (1994-2007 and 2011-2016) running the organization. After an exhaustive search with the help of third-party firm Korn Ferry, which helped the Timberwolves land Tom Thibodeau, the franchise hired 33-year-old Derek Falvey away from the Cleveland Indians to serve as the general manager and president of baseball operations. With a new voice, one that has experience with a winning organization and one who has worked to bridge the gap between folks who lean toward analytics in player evaluation and those who might favor scouting, the Twins are once again asking their fan base to believe. And however unwarranted that request might seem, with the young talent already on this roster and with Falvey now in the fold, its perhaps more palatable to do so now than at any time since 2011.Next: Philadelphia Phillies?| Full rankings ' ' '

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