Archive for March, 2008

Ind. vs SA – A battle for title

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India’s successful tour to Australia, albeit loosing the test series but, earned some respect by winning a test and finally winning the CB series must have raised their confidence sky high. They will not hesitate to challenge South Africa on their own home ground and in front of their own home crowd with all the heat and humidity that will be against the South Africans.

The most successful among all the Indian bowlers in Australia was Ishant Sharma, unfortunately he is unfit and hopes to join the squad in the remainder of the matches. It is definitely a setback for India that he is not in action. Also, there is no Zaheer Khan but, RP Singh and Shanta Kumara is back. RP has just recovered from injuries. But to get back into full rhythm is not an easy task, especially for fast bowlers.

Although Indian pitches are tailor-made for spin bowling and one of their spinners Murali Karthik is also injured and he is ruled out too, a lot depends on the old duo of Harbhajan and Kumble. The former is expected to trouble the South Africans more than anyone. Especially Graeme Smith in particular is very vulnerable to spin and he plays a very dominant role in setting up big scores for his side. Therefore getting him early should be the aim for India.

It is not the batting sides of both teams that are any weak, in fact both teams have got very good batsmen. It is the bowlers on both sides who needs to play an important role. Smith believes that his team is very formidable and his bowlers are good enough to bowl out Indian batsmen twice.

Dale Steyn the ‘Phalaborwa Express’ has already created fear in the minds of the famed Indian batting line-up and he is in great form and he is very lethal with the new ball. Therefore, Andre Nel or Charles Langeveldt’s absence may not be felt much. Because, Steyn would be ably supported by MornĂ© Morkel, Makhaya Ntini and Monde Zondeki.

Although, Makhya has not been very successful in the sub-continent but, there are two spinners Paul Harris and Robin Peterson. Indians and Pakistanis both cannot forget Harris he troubled the Indians last year in Cape Town. According to Zaheer Abbass he has “Harrised” the Pakistanis a lot in their own back yard and even got the prized wicket of Inzamam on his last appearance and defied him from breaking Javed Miandad’s record.

Chennai test is not too far away its just a matter of two days and the battle is on. Historically it is a batsmen paradise and a lot of runs have been scored at Chennai. The city was earlier known as, Madras and now it is called Chennai. The stadium was known as Chepauk and now it is called Chidambaram.

India has a good record at Chennai beating England twice in 1951-52 and again in 1983-84 and ending up a historic tie against Australia. Also, India’s leg spinner Narender Hirwani has a test match of his life when he took 16 wickets for 136 runs in Chennai. But, at the same time India also has lost against Pakistan, once during the Independence Cup series in 1997 when Saeed Anwar scored a record 194 in ODI. And they also lost a test match against Pakistan in 1999 when Shahid Afridi scored a century.

The interesting thing emerging from this series is the winner of the India-South Africa series will take the second spot in the ICC official Test rankings, behind Australia. And South Africa have already notched up the first spot in the ODI rankings and must thank India for helping them. Because SA mauling Bangladesh was expect, but India winning the CB series in Australia wasn’t expected by many and that let the downfall of Australia.

Therefore, India have to stop SA from climbing up the rankings by allowing them to use their shoulders. I am sure neither of the two teams will take this 3 test series lightly, it is not just about winning and losing a test it is also a matter of titles now. Hence it is a battle for title.

Now, it is up to the bloggers to discuss and debate the strengths and weakness of the players of both sides and make their own assessment and predictions as to how the series will end.

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Should the PCB stick to it, and get – A Stick?

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(Article has been composed by CJ Manager Javed A Khan)

Right now there is nothing much going on in terms of cricket, except for England trying to revive their pride against New Zealand or, a few so-called Badshah’s and Wazeer’s struggling in vain. After the Pentagular Tournament in Pakistan, which was the biggest domestic event, it is about time for the PCB to re-think their strategy in sticking with Shoaib Malik to lead the team.

So many sports critics, journalists, former players and not to mention bloggers, readers and cricket fans throughout Pakistan and abroad have expressed the need to remove Shoaib Malik from the leading role and appoint Shahid Afridi as the captain of the team. Whether the PCB officials and selectors would pay any heed towards this view is another story. In Pakistan it is not easy to accept a Captain who is not from Lahore. Mushtaq Mohammad and Asif Iqbal may have lead the team for a while but, not for a long sustainable period of time and Miandad was twice pulled down, humiliated and ridiculed for his captaincy and twice he got the same treatment when he was the coach of the national side.

Malik has proved that he is a very weak leader, in fact, he does not possess the qualities of a leader, he has shown panic and distress when the chips were down. A true leader lifts the morale of his team when the chips are down, whereas, Malik is the first one who cannot hide his feelings and expressions and goes defensive even at the slightest aggression shown by the opposition. He should know that the best defense is aggression. But, his body language on the field demoralizes the whole team and he does not have the ability to lift the morale from an adverse situation and make it into a winning situation.

His recent injuries and reasoning not to play in the crucial matches at international and domestic level has created doubts in the minds of so many people that he loves to escape from his responsibilities and come back later to defend himself with some silly excuses. Like, every time when he lost a match, at the post match comments he tried to cover up his feelings with some silly comments like, “we are professionals and we are in a learning process and we are learning each time.”

People have talked about this in the past and criticized Malik by saying: International level cricket does not mean you are learning, it is not about learning, it is about delivering. You have to perform and deliver, you cannot say, we are learning, then you go back to the school and learn basics. The purpose of this thread is not to ridicule Malik personally, but it is meant to pin point the drawbacks in his personality and that is costing the team too much. If the PCB wants to stick to their decision with the notion that its been scribed in a stone and cannot be changed, or if they change people will laugh at them, is even more silly than not changing the captain when the whole world is demanding for a change.

But, change does not mean you bring in Misbah ul Haq or Salman Butt, because neither of them can justify it better than Shahid Afridi. Because, Misbah, by age may be older than Afridi, but Afridi has more international experience and he has delivered well on so many occasions. Also, as a captain of Karachi, Sindh, HBL and in so many other domestic tournaments Afridi has performed very well. Therefore, he deserves to be given that chance to lead the team. And Salman Butt, we all know has proved that he couldn’t bear the responsibilities of a vice captain, making him a full-fledged captain would be a blunder and a big disaster.

Younus Khan should not mind who the captain of the team is because, twice he has rejected the offer and must put up or shut up and gladly accept the decision of playing under any captain. And Mohammad Yousuf, should be more happy to concentrate on his batting because at his age, he only needs to worry about his batting performance and he should thank his stars for not getting that additional responsibility.

Now, lets see what the CJ bloggers have to say about this thread? The CJ management thinks that this is the hot topic at the moment and it will draw a lot of attention, and may be other blogs will copy this subject or the theme and follow us like a herd of sheep. So, there you go, please feel free to comment and express your views.

(Article has been composed by Javed A Khan)

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AN EXERCISE IN FUTILITY?



The current ABN AMRO Pentangular Cup being played in Pakistan is generating significant interest in the country and beyond. For the first time a domestic competition is being broadcast live on television. The aim of the Cup is for the national selectors to identify the topmost talent in the country.

However, therein lies the problem. The selectors have utilised these types of tournaments recently to pick players for the national team but the plan has not worked for most of the time. Salman Butt is a classic example of this assertion. Butt averages 42 in first class cricket and 41 in LIST A. Yet his performance in international cricket has been pathetic, averaging 29 in Tests and 32 in ODI’s. Of the 32 he averages in ODI’s, his average in the Subcontinent is 37, which indicates a dismal record playing on greener, bouncier and livelier pitches. Butt’s dominance is domestic cricket can be exemplified by his average in the Pentangular Cup, which is 160.

Another such specimen is Mohammad Hafeez, who averages 33 in LIST A cricket, but only 19 in ODI’s. It would be hard to imagine a domestic game where Hafeez is fit and not playing- such is his significance to domestic cricket. In international cricket, however, he is almost a forgotten entity. Many names can be added to this neverending list of under achievers in international cricket, most notably Faisal Iqbal, Hasan Raza, Yasir Hameed, Rana Naved, Mohammad Sami etc

This begs the question as to why the same strategy is applied. Pakistan cricket has faced countless failures since 2003, yet the PCB cannot manage to fathom a pattern, find the source/sources and remedy the crisis?

A simple yet potent argument has been sidelined. The pitches in Pakistan are amongst the driest in the cricketing world. There is a common ground amongst most of Pakistan’s failed openers- too much impulsiveness, either over confidence or under confidence, short attention span and absence of mental strength. Yet the PCB seems obsessed with recruiting the same type of individual! This type of individual is incompatible with playing on foreign pitches.

Anyhow, the problem or problems cannot be remedied by staging a litany of these so called talent hunting contests, which result in the same players emerging victorious. Rather, this time and money can be better spent at school level or U-19 level, or actually improving facilities at first class level so players at first class level can be competent enough to have a realistic likelihood of succeeding at international level. What Pakistan cricket fans do not need, is for another opener to be gambled with, with the eternal excuse, “Let him play international cricket against top teams and in foreign conditions- he will learn how to bat only through those means”. This formula has not worked with Butt, Nazir, Hameed, Umar, Farhat or Hafeez. It is a botched formula that is the bane of Pakistan’s continued failures since 2003.

Hence, this “Pentangular Cup” can reasonably be termed “an exercise in futility”. It will not change anything as Cups like these only exist to reinforce the status quo. It might unearth useful middle order batsmen or lethal fast bowlers- but Pakistan over the years has managed to produce some anyway and there are already hopefuls lined up in those respective departments, such as Misbah who has taken Inzamam’s place (and players like Fawad Alam who can replace any specialist batsman if need be), and any of Sohail Khan , Anwar Ali, Wahab Riaz, Kamran Hussain etc can become greats for Pakistan, fitness and discipline permitting.

Today was a historic day in Pakistan’s political landscape, with the Murree Declaration being signed by Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari. This might trigger a political and social revolution in Pakistan. Pakistani cricket fans will hope that the future is brighter for Pakistan cricket, too. Lately the PCB has identified certain problems and has promised it will endeavour to remedy them, such as the abysmal state of first class cricket and the lack of lively pitches in Pakistan. However, if history is anything to go by, Pakistanis may as well stop hoping, as the PCB has still not produced many results it promised years ago.

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