Archive for the ‘cricket’ Category

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Self Destruction – Pakistan at the Cricket World Cup 2015

February 21, 2015

CRICKET-WC-2015-PAK-WIS

I’m crestfallen, but not surprised by team Pakistan’s performance today against the West Indies in the World Cup. By showing up to International Crickets biggest tournament with apparently very little preparation, one shouldn’t have expected anything different than what’s happening.

Truth is, the teams they have lost to so far are not playing spectacular cricket, rather, Pakistan lacks the basic components of a world class team:

1. No Specialist Wicket Keeper. Pakistan is essentially playing without a wicket keeper and I wonder if that has ever happened in the history of the World Cup. Also, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a specialist wicket keeper must also be a spectacular bat as a requisite in one day international cricket in the past 20 years: think Australia’s Adam Gilchrist, Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara and India’s M.S. Dhoni. Yet, selectors (PCB), commentators (Ramiz Raja) coaching (Waqar Yunus) refuse to address why specialist wicket keeper and in form batsman Sarfaraz Ahmed is not on the team now. And with every Akmal butterfingers drop, Sarfaraz’s absence is sorely missed. Yahoo Sports puts it well:

Surprisingly, regular wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed, who had scored prolifically against Australia and New Zealand in last year’s test and ODI series in the UAE, is yet to get his first Cricket World Cup match.

2. Zero Team Leadership: Starting from the top with mind boggling selections of the PCB, to Waqar Younus as a clueless coach and Misbah ul Haq as a most lackluster, demoralizing captain. Waqar consistently baffles everyone with his selection of bowlers and his misplacing batsman in the order (i.e. consistently selecting or opening with Younus Khan or putting him at the most valuable #3 spot, or not playing spin bowler Yasir Shah against the Windies who have trouble with spinners, but playing him against India who traditionally does okay with spinners). Then, Misbah who is the only captain out of every team i’ve seen, including the minnows who seems incapable of competitive, encouraging positive athletic leadership– which is a requisite of a captain for any sport! Battling legend Javed Miandad summarizes Misbah’s leadserhip succinctly

Cricket World Cup: Misbah-ul-Haq’s ‘weak’ leadership is not helping Pakistan, says Javed Miandad

This is aside from the fact that Misbah’s field placements CONSISTENTLY cost us matches (i.e. putting one of our least mobile fielders, Mohammad Irfan at mid wicket and long on), one is left scratching their head — what on earth is Misbah’s strategy, let alone rationale for winning?

Shoaib Akhtar agrees, he scathingly commented today “We are heading for disaster. I have never seen a more selfish and coward captain like Misbah,”

Remember Shahid Afridi as captain of Pakistan’s 2011 world cup team? THAT was world class leadership: Afridi led an inexperienced side that was underestimated by all, from the front, and launched them to exceeding all expectations. He was positive, motivational, competitive and strategic — Misbah doesn’t compare, and his captaincy is costing Pakistan win after win 😦

Shahid Afridi's Pretty Chiseled

Shahid Afridi’s Pretty Chiseled

3. No Batsmen Groomed for the World Cup: Shame on the PCB: Pakistan it seems is the only team who squandered the past 4 years without grooming enough batsmen for this tournament.

Inventor of the deadly “doosra” delivery, former master spinner Saqlain Mushtaq explains  “The whole nation feels let down and is understandably angry. You don’t expect such unprofessional decisions from a professional management,” he said.

Constantly yanking batsman with in form, winning performances like Fawad Alam, refusing to play Mohammad Hafeez when he insists he is ready, and wasting world class batsman like Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi as lowest order players and instead playing non performing batsmen who consistently cost us key matches, like Younus Khan, Pakistan has yet to have a reliable opening duo, let alone stable batsmen to follow. And with Waqar Younus as coach admitting he’s still “experimenting” with the order (with dire results), Pakistan is painfully unprepared for the World Cup 2015.

Don’t expect major wins from a team that lacks the most basic components for crickets biggest tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrows South Africa vs. India game. A.B. de Villiers, Hashim Amla and company — now that’s a team to be excited about.

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Pakistan’s Silent Superstar

November 1, 2010

It’s said that Chuck Norris has no fear. Fear has Chuck Norris”. Funny, but that’s mythical. Real fear comes from Pakistan’s all rounder Abdul Razzaq, a silent Cricketing stalwart whose rightly deemed the “Danger Man’. Without Shahid Afridi’s brazenness, Shoaib Ahktar’s offensive aggression, or Inzamam’s star power, Razzaq has quietly, and consistently wrecked havoc on world class teams. Suffice to say his dangerousness runs deep, but it could only have been concealed for so long. Trending on Twitter since yesterday, he stunned the cricket world in what a BBC Sports Blogger tweeted: 109 not out off 72 balls with 10 sixes, Razzaq pulls off one of the great heists in ODI history” J

Heist is right. Because Razzaq robbed South Africa blind in yesterday’s ODI. Just as South Africa’s victory seemed inevitable with Pakistan 5 wickets down for 136 in the 30th over chasing a massive total, the Danger Man serenely stepped to the pitch. Without flinching at only 20 over’s with which to make 250 runs requiring a massive 7.5 run rate, Danger Man began his attack.

Devising not a slogging onslaught, but a strategic, carefully developed batting ambush only Razzaq could execute,

he began with the support of rookie batsman Fawaad Alam. They maintained a steady run rate of 6.5 bringing them to a respectable partnership of 88. But in comes rookie middle order batsman/wicketkeeper Zulqarnain Haider. There’s gotta be better players to choose from in Pakistan than this guy who gets run out for a score of 6. Nonetheless, Razzaq calmly takes the setback in stride and with only tail enders left, he remains the last batsman standing to chase 60 runs in 6 overs. But he anticipated that.

With a half century under his belt, he picks up the pace: smashing 26 runs in the next 3 overs. But just before he tries to get the strike back at the end of the 46th over, bowler Wahaab Riaz is run out, and 3 balls later, another man falls. Nine wickets down, one more out and the game is over. South Africa’s crushing triumph over Pakistan in this series seems inevitable. Razzaq is the only man standing with 2.3 over’s remaining and 29 required for victory.

Classic Pakistan. And Razzaq knows it. He anticipated it the moment he began to bat, thus taking the match into his own hands, and becoming Danger Man.

Well aware that Shoaib Akhtar is the Worlds Fastest bowler,  not the greatest batsman, Razzaq undertakes full responsibility. In the last 2 overs, he safely but skillfully hits 4-5 balls into the gap when Akhtar reasonably began to run for the single’s & doubles. But Razzaq confidently instructed otherwise. Now that’s scary. If I was South Africa, I’d fear a man needing near 30 runs to save any face in a series with less than 3 overs left yet still tells his partner not to run. That’s intrepid. Razzaq was sending a message to everyone: “Stay. I got this”

Pakistan's Danger Man - Abdul Razzaq Conquers South Africa in Abu Dhabi 2010

Pakistan's Danger Man - Abdul Razzaq Conquers South Africa in Abu Dhabi 2010

Talk about presence. Fearing why he’s NOT scrambling to make these last runs, South Africa had to wonder what the heck this guy had up his sleeve and tremble at his audacity.

In preventing Akhtar from risking a wicket to take seemingly critical runs, Razzaq upped his own responsibility, demonstrating tremendous leadership, strategic thinking, confidence and damn powerful cricket. For me this command and control was the highlight of the game. He took the colossal task of rescuing Pakistan from humiliation in the series solely upon his own shoulders.

He maintained confidence, composure and leadership in seeing the ball well, skillfully directing the ball, and meticulously assessing the match at each interval. Knowing how to make everything go off the middle of the bat, he was conquering South Africa despite their weighty total and floundering Pakistani batting.

In fact, come the last three overs Akhtar only sees 1 of those 12 balls, because Razzaq just didn’t let him take strike. Taking complete responsibility upon himself rather than risk loss, he allowed Akhtar to run once for a single just before the last over. Shoaib dot balled it, returning strike to Razzaq.

Decisive final over. Pakistan needs 14 runs off 6 balls.

After smashing another six, Danger Man is at 99 runs and doesn’t flinch. Just smashes another one one for 6. Catapulting him to 105. There’s no celebration: he simply raises his bat, promptly brings it back and focuses on his strategy and the larger task at hand.

Then there’s a dot ball. 2 runs needed off the last 3 balls. And that’s when the South African skipper worries. The fact that Danger Man didn’t celebrate 105 off of 70 balls again had to leave them wondering who the heck this guy is and what he’s going to pull next. South Africa unsuccesfully appeals on a caught behind for Razzaq. But Danger Man unfazed with just two runs required won’t even need to run: he hits the next ball for a boundary and jumps up and tosses his bat in the air.

With two sixes to seal a win in the last over, it marked his his 10th six in the game. Danger Man scored 63 of the whole teams last 65 runs to overcome the weighty chase. It was all Abdul Razzaq. Not even a wide or no ball to help him, South Africa cut him no slack and he single handedly achieved the Pakistan victory in this series.

He’s always been my favorite. It’s this Danger Man that should forever instill fear in anyone who plays against Pakistan with him in the lineup. No win is certain so long as Abdul Razzaq’s around 😉

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The Plight of a Pakistani Bowler

August 8, 2010

By Zain & Zainab Jeewanjee

Consoling the Pakistan Side

Consoling the Pakistan Side

On the second day of a five-day test match between England and Pakistan, picture yourself as a young bowler, just out of your teens and already being anticipated as the next Wasim Akram. You represent a country that’s flooded by pain and suffering of natural disaster, plus the torment of an unnatural flood of arms, and terrorism. To top it off your home turf is off limits because of lacking security and you’re playing cricket on a foreign ground; in a country who ruled you in colonial grip for over 200 years, a tinge that might linger 63 years later.

The stage is set. The batting lineup has already let you down, and your bowling is expected to carry the team to a respectable outcome. But the angels above have arranged for ideal weather conditions and a pitch perfect for your deadly pace. The Gods are giving Pakistan an opportunity for redemption.

You take to the pitch and imagine sending a fierce, fast, reverse swinging bowling onslaught on the opponent. They’ve already overtaken your score yesterday, so you’re aiming to contain them, preserving the scant runs your side managed, and bowl the opposition out as soon as possible. You take a run up. Jogging 20 yards toward the batsman; you release the ball and he is confounded. You feel a rush of excitement. Batsman nicks it, sending the ball aloft for the simplest of catches. Your excitement steadily intensifies and you think to yourself; the Gods are on my side. You watch the ball elevate into the sky, higher, and higher and slowly descend. The Gods have arranged for it fall directly in front of first slip, and you eye your teammate’s hand intently. The ball falls directly into his palms and you feel relieved; this is the one job you can count on first slip to do. He also happens to be a top order batsman who should be longing to save face and take this crucial wicket to make up for his less than sufficient run rate. You take into account the team has already let three catches go, optimism pervades and you think, “we definitely have this one”.

Pakistan another Drop Catch in Cricket vs England - August 2010

Pakistan another Drop Catch in Cricket vs England - August 2010

Every millisecond feels like miles as the ball falls into first slips hands. Fielders jump in victory and the crowd cheers but simultaneously, first slip drops the ball as it falls dead into the still green grass.

For a second maybe no body saw it, but the bowler is crestfallen. Excitement deflated. With a tear that never fell, he looks at the young man at slip. Slip stares back at him and with words he can’t muster, the bowler bravely smiles. His heart is racing with a million emotions but zero time to reflect on any of them, the bowler desperately focuses. His brain wants to let something out to his teammate, on his team who didn’t score enough runs, and dropping no less than 4 catches squandering opportunities the Gods laid out in this match.

As he turns and looks around at the crowd, he attempts to recuperate energy but his mind can’t help but settle in on the millions of Pakistanis suffering from floods, the war on terror, political volatility and economic insecurity and he knows that Cricket is what Pakistanis look to for hope.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I got up and made myself tea. Even thousands of miles away from England, even farther away from Pakistan, I didn’t want to face the complexities of what that bowler might have felt. So I raise my hands in prayer to whoever controls the world around us and say please, give Pakistan a break.

It reminds me of Earnest Borgnine in the Poseidon Adventure when he looks up to God in the middle of disaster and cries: “What more do you want of us? We’ve come all this way on our own no help from you. We did ask you to fight for us but damn it, don’t fight against us!”

Give Pakistan a break. I urge everyone who reads this article that as the brave bowler took strength to smile, recuperate and move forward, if you do nothing else, donate to the flood victims. Pakistan needs hope right now, and every contribution, big or small, will go a long way for those in need.

OPPORTUNITIES TO GIVE  ::::

Oxfam America

Relief International

Unicef

Edhi Foundation

Hashoo Foundation

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India & Pakistan – Going At it Again

June 19, 2010
Pakistan Warms up for the Asia Cup India Match - June 2010

Pakistan Warms up for the Asia Cup India Match - June 2010

Well, it’s that time again. An India vs. Pakistan ODI match will be underway in a few moments. And there’s nothing like India-Pakistan cricket. For better or worse, it’s THE epic rivalry; it get’s catty, intense, fans are insanely polarized. It’s basically crickets equivalent to the NHL’s Crosby / Ovechkin rivalry. For my non-sports readers, it’s akin to team Aniston vs team Angelina. (for the record: I’m team Ovechkin and Angelina respectively)

But whether you’re a Pakistan or India fan, both teams are somewhat evenly matched at this time with Pakistan having more depth and raw talent, and India with firm composure, more consistent experience and better record in recent history. So it’s likely going to be a nail biter, winding down to the final over to determine a winner.

So, what’s it going to take for the men in green? Here’s what’s swimming around my head before the game:

Afridi: Stay the same. Awesome performance in the last game as skipper. In typical Afridi character he lived up to the “boom boom” title and strong character we expect from him. With 110 off of 75 it was his natural game catapulted to great heights with leadership and consistency. Good news is he has a tendency to excel against India. Let’s hope that form is maintained.

Salman Butt: Hold your wicket yo. He usually does, but it’s not always certain, yet crucial that he does so today. The Indian bowling attack looks mediocre, but don’t underestimate their pace bowling. Zaheer Khan is in the attack and Nehra could do harm too.

Abdur Razzaq: My favorite All rounder must be the Danger Man today. What does that mean? It means if we need it, you make 14 runs an over. No questions asked. Oh, and when we need those key maiden overs in the last hour of their lineup, keep up the bowling defense.

Kamran Akmal: Please no butterfingers. This is a world class game and an epic rivalry, no room for drop catches. Also, be quicker on the stumpings. Be a solid bat; a clutch hitter picking up the run rate consistently as a lower order batsman and even more so if you’re pushed up the order.

Mohammad Aamer: Come in strong and shut down Sehwag. Perhaps cut him some slack early on, get him into a slogging mindset then throw on pressure with an ultra slow ball. Sehwag’s bat is so fast that this is bound to be confusing to his game.

Shahzaib Hasan: Damn rookie stop playing like it’s a test match.

Shoaib Akhtar: Watch the extras, nuff said. If The Rawalpindi express does this, there’s no stopping him.

Shoaib Malik: Be at the top of your game, back form a honeymoon we need to see classic Malik in your best form. Picking off Harbhajan smashing off a couple sixes, fielding like a beast, and with accurate off spin.

Umar Akmal: Run with raw talent. You’ve got the youth, energy and can hold your wicket with a solid strike rate. Pick up the occasional boundary and stay consistent.

Prediction :::: the game changer will be either Shoaib  Malik or Shoab Akhtar. They’re comback kids and can steal matches for Pakistan. They’ve done it in classic form in the past, and i want to see them do it again tonight.

Let the games begin !

🙂

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My Unhealthy Relationship with Pakistani Cricket : 1996-2010

March 11, 2010
The PCB has Ruined Pakistani Cricket

You constantly let me down, embarrass me in front of my friends, and lately I’m told you cheat on me. From ball tampering, to match fixing (that’s the cheating part), to winning zero games in recent series’, and slipping in the world standings, I should probably move on. I’ve been loyal, passionate, and relentlessly defended you, but you keep breaking my heart.

And I’m not going to lie. After your loss to the Aussies last month, I was tempted to leave you, perhaps for the Kiwi’s, maybe even see Sri Lanka for awhile. But I didn’t stray; I was a good girlfriend. Then came today’s PCB decision, reminding me that you are subject to an absurdly inefficient authority so seeped in politics that I can’t deal with your baggage anymore. The drama has been progressively agonizing.

It’s like dating a teenager. Which is why it was so easy to love you when I was one. But I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m in my 20’s now and am seriously thinking about settling down. I need a cricket team who can reciprocate my love, show consistency and keep me amused. After a long day of work, yoga and blogging, I stay up till midnight and beyond (California time) to watch your ODI’s, even Tests and you leave me dissatisfied, night after night. It’s been 14 years, of ups and downs, which have been a sad series of “downs” in the past few years. When Shahid Afridi first joined the team and scored the Worlds Fastest Century in the nineties, I was captivated; you had me at hello. So I put up with the 1999 World Cup Debacle, the next world Cup Debacle, and have no idea what you’re going to pull in this next one.

So why do I still love you? I suppose because deep down I still believe in you. It’s irrational, impractical and against my immediate interests to stay, but I won’t leave. And after all you’ve put me through: if I still don’t walk away…..that’s gotta be love.

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Indian Premier League Bowls an Underarm Delivery to Pakistan

January 21, 2010

To my knowledge, Cricket is not an official tool of diplomacy in international relations. Cricket is however, traditionally a sophisticated, gentleman’s game.

But the Indian Premier League (IPL) foolishly overlooked this and soured the name of cricket on Tuesday by adhering to tacit government calls to exclude Pakistani cricketers from this years IPL tournament.

A very childish move because on a micro level, it wastes World Class cricketers’ time and on a macro scale, excludes the World Champions in 20Twenty from this tournament.

It’s bad enough that Pakistani visa’s were issued at the last moment, and IPL franchises were not given any guarantee that official clearance would ultimately be given at game time. Plus there are domestic extremist threats in India such as the Shiv Sena who even the Aussie team are worried about.

But the IPL has given no official reason for the snub, and realistically, bidding on Pakistani cricketers posed no serious security threat. And because the snub comes after implicit government instructions that Pakistani’s would not be “welcome in places like Mumbai”, a deep short sightedness is revealed on the Indian side, whether it be on the part of the BCCI, IPL, or government.

Were decision makers naïve enough to think that not bidding on Pakistani players would send a tough message to the Pakistani government so that they might soften up on Kashmir or divert troops from the Indian, to the Afghan border? I highly doubt it. Which renders the decision to exclude Pakistani players just juvenile.

It’s the kind of thing a teenager does which accomplishes little else than a momentary, base satisfaction that he or she later realizes wasn’t worth it as they get older. Because this is not going to improve relations, and it certainly doesn’t help the game of cricket to exclude the World Champs. It sends a symbolic slap across the border to millions of fans. Mind you, it slaps the fans, not the government, the fans. So, even though cricket is not an official tool of diplomacy, it can have a periphery effect of separating peoples. This snub can only stall rather than alleviate already chilling relations in South Asia.

But mostly, this comes at the cost of cricket in general. It’s reminiscent of  Greg and Trevor Chappel bowling the now infamous underarm ball to New Zealand in 1981. Shame on IPL for such a foolish misstep that accomplishes nothing positive.

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Oh The Convenient Thought of Match Fixing in Cricket

January 7, 2010

Zainab Jeewanjee Says Don't Waste Time Thinking About Match Fixing

Zainab Jeewanjee Says Don't Wonder About Match Fixing, Worry About Fixing the Team!

We’ve all thought about it. Some of us think it’s true, some of us think it’s rubbish. But we’ve definitely heard it before: does match fixing in cricket drive world class teams to consistently choke in the most unbelievable ways?

I’m not going to lie: it’s appealing to think match fixing is the reason Kamran Akmal drops not one, not two, not three, but four catches off a single batsman in one match, or Younis Khan for years underperforms, making similar mishaps leaving no apparent merit based reason for his captaincy. And let’s not forget Pakistan’s 2007 World Cup debacle where they managed to somehow lose to Ireland. Yes, Ireland: an ICC Charter team. And mind you this is the second time in World Cup history that Pakistan shocked the world with incomprehensible play. In 1999, being the top team when reaching the world cup, renowned cricketers including the likes of Wasim Akram, Soaib Akhtar, Inzamam-ul-Haq just up and choked in the final against Australia. The string of under-performances are just astounding and fan a notion that match fixing takes place.

But the idea of match fixing is only appealing because in a vicarious way, it absolves us fans of any liability for failure. It’s a convenient defense mechanism that assures very loyal, often nationalistic fans that their team, or nation if you will, simply can’t fail: talent is so exceptionally immense that only bookies could be the cause of such horrendous cricket.

And that’s irrational. Without proof of match fixing, it’s futile to even speculate. The fact is, Pakistani cricket is in shambles. Yes it’s frustrating because there is exceptional talent and an illustrious history of amazing cricketers. But a wicket keeper who drops 4 catches in a single match and performs at mediocre level the remainder of the season is not a world class cricketer. Kamran Akmal, is not, and could never be Pakistan’s best wicket keeper or batsman. Similarly, Younis Khan has proven he isn’t a good captain. He sends out pace bowlers when the ball is swinging, places fielders so opposition is almost assured to find gaps during power plays and rarely puts up a match winning total or leads the team with genuine passion.

The point is, Pakistan’s current lineup are playing like a mediocre bunch. When viewed within the context of the rest of the world, they’re just not hacking it. It’s not about match fixing, it’s about fixing the cricket.

Granted Pakistan increasingly looks like a war zone and in such an environment, one can’t expect the team be run at optimal levels by National Cricket board. But still one shouldn’t waste time on match fixing allegations. Cricket isn’t immune to bookies (Hans Cronje, Mohammad Azharuddin, Shane Warne & Mark Waugh), however, until proven guilty, let’s assume innocence and focus on the real issue at hand: rooting out poor performers and bringing in better cricketers.

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