Archive for January, 2009

A QUESTION OF LEADERSHIP

Finally the PCB did what was required, and it took a Presidential order for it to happen. Shoaib Malik is captain no more, and Younis Khan has taken over the role. The woes Pakistan faced during Malik’s tumultuous tenure cannot be forgotten, but it is hoped the PCB can learn from its mistakes and will not promote people like Malik in this way in the future.

Will Younis be able to stamp his authority?

Will Younis be able to "stamp his authority"?

So what can we expect from Younis? According to the man himself, we cannot expect miracles. Younis’s press conference shortly after his appointment was actually not very encouraging for the Pakistani fan. Younis called on his players to unite for one purpose and to raise their “magic wands”, and he did not suggest anything different he would do himself to transform the problems into the solutions. Yet, Malik’s reign of stupidity and had left such a bad taste in the mouth of cricket fans, that Younis’s appointment was celebrated with rapture.

Personality wise, Younis is known to be a happy-go-lucky individual.

The Smiling Assassin of the Pakistan cricket team

The Smiling Assassin of the Pakistan cricket team

He is a good motivator and a team man. His passion for the country and his commitment to the team has never been in doubt, but he has the propensity to appear cheerful and unagitated even in the direst of circumstances. However, somewhere behind the cheerful visage, there lies a temperamental individual who can sometimes behave unreasonably. Younis’s altercation with Shaharyar Khan led to the latter’s resignation as Chairman PCB, and Younis has also refused captaincy twice, much to the disappointment of his fans.  This time, Younis apparently sensed the team was in desperate need of a strong leader, and has accepted the position without any tough demands. There are many who will doubt it,  but this is what is being reported by the press.

What makes Younis different from Malik is that Younis has an automatic place in both the ODI and Test teams, and on the basis of seniority Younis commands more respect than Malik.

Arguably Youniss toughest challenge will be to make a divided team, a united team

Arguably Younis's toughest challenge will be to make a divided team, a united team

There are numerous challenges that lie before Younis. Firstly, he needs to make the team united, no matter what it takes. This in turn will improve the team morale and confidence. Malik’s reign as captain saw the flourishing of factions and divisions in the team, that often showed when the players were on the field. Younis can achieve these objectives by equal treatment of all players. He will have to initiate an “open door” policy with seniors and juniors alike, and he will have to treat his colleagues the same way he would like to be treated.

The second challenge before Younis

Younis needs to harness the capabilities of players like Nasir Jamshed who have shown bundles of talent

Younis needs to harness the capabilities of players like Nasir Jamshed who have shown bundles of talent

will be to identify the match winners in his team and encourage them by any means necessary. Pakistan needs consistent match winners but for that a confident and proactive captain is needed, someone who is not always worried about his own performances, but plays a part in making other players more consistent and better at what they do. This is particularly important in relation to the opening slot. Younis must offer chances to players like Nasir Jamshed and encourage them endlessly.

Finally, Younis needs to instill aggression into the minds of his players, but that aggression must also be complemented by proactive field placing and body language. He must instill the culture that Dhoni has instilled in his men: to enjoy the game and not be afraid of losing, but being afraid of not trying your best.

The man who has been destroying Pakistan cricket for the past 2 years- perhaps inept and destined to fail, but we wish him well

The man who has been destroying Pakistan cricket for the past 2 years- perhaps inept and destined to fail, but we wish him well

Towards the end, I want to say a few words for Shoaib Malik. Malik may have tried his best, but he was not captaincy material. In my opinion his limited overs batting performance is satisfactory, although he has many critics who also disapprove of his batting technique in ODI’s and T20. I wish Malik all the best in his career, and for his sake I hope he can improve his performances in ODI’s and Tests both. I would also take this opportunity to apologise to Malik and Malik’s fans if this blog offended them, but as journalists we were doing what we thought is best for the team. Much of what we said about Malik has now come true and we do deserve some credit for that. Younis has admitted today that Malik will remain a senior player in the side and he will not be dropped, so here’s wishing Malik all the best.

Younis the chamption. Will he make a difference?

Younis the champion. Will he make a difference?

In the end, congratulations to Younis Khan. For the reasons outlined above, Younis will do a better job than Malik. After years of disappointment and overall decline in the team’s performance, Younis’s appointment has given us some reason to cheer about. This is a rarity in Pakistan cricket, so let us cherish it while it lasts.  BETTER TIMES ARE MOST CERTAINLY AHEAD.

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THIS TEAM NEEDS A REVAMP

Pakistan’s humiliating loss to Sri Lanka displayed everything that we on LS have spoken about numerous times; pathetic captaincy, favouritism towards certain players, lack of unity and lack of planning. Javed A Khan in his preview of the series predicted a 2-1 victory for Sri Lanka and how true did that come! 2-1 on paper does not appear that humiliating, but one needs to analyse how Sri Lanka came back at Pakistan and the margins of defeat in the 2nd and 3rd ODI. In the 2nd ODI Pakistan lost by 129 runs and in the 3rd it was an unbearable margin of 234 runs.

Malik was pathetic as captain as usual

Malik was pathetic as captain as usual

Malik in the post-match ceremoy again tried to blame other factors for the defeat instead of his captaincy, citing that it is difficult if the team has not played much cricket, but if that was the case why did the team even bother practising before the commencement of this series? And what was the point playing in the Q&A Trophy if it would have been difficult beating Sri Lanka? Malik might as well have stayed at home flying kites in Sialkot, or spent time with Sayali Bhagat in India.

Why is it that only inside Pakistan Malik gets bundles of support,

Pathetic Akmal needs to go- should have been sacked 3 years ago

Pathetic Akmal needs to go- should have been sacked 3 years ago

but outside Pakistan people consider him to be an idiot? Malik commands no respect from any cricketer outside Pakistan, whether that is Dhoni, Jayawardene or Greame Smith. Further, all foreign commentators have been extremely critical of Malik and just cannot understand why Malik keeps making ridiculous decisions. Dominic Cork is the latest addition to Malik’s critics, asking why Malik is so defensive and why he keeps making silly mistakes like not using Gul for his total quota of 10 overs and sending Akmal to bat at no 4? Malik’s captaincy was laughable in this series; in particular, he made some very basic errors in field placing to the benefit of the likes of Dilshan, Kandamby and Sangakkara.

Sarfraz is batting like a proper batsman in domestic cricket and he averages more than Akmal in first class

Sarfraz is batting like a proper batsman in domestic cricket and he averages more than Akmal in first class

Akmal was again a major disappointment. He dropped about 4-5 catches and missed a very crucial stumping chance off Malik today. What is it about Akmal that Malik finds so attractive? For 3 years Akmal has been a major liability in the keeping department. He has played a major part in ruining careers of Kaneria and Sami, and now he is playing a major part in destroying Afridi’s career. He dropped 3 catches off Afridi this series. Again, most international commentators, from Robin Jackman, to Tony Creig to Dominic Cork have been highly critical of Akmal’s keeping and puzzled as to why Sarfraz Ahmed is not being encouraged, yet we keep seeing Akmal again and again. I remember how Jackman and Ian Bishop in some series kept asking  Waqar Younis and Ramiz Raja, “Why is Sarfraz not being played?” and “What is he doing sitting on the bench?” but

Ramiz- along with Waqar, very biased in commentary

Ramiz- along with Waqar, very biased in commentary

Ramiz and Waqar provided no answers.

Speaking of Ramiz and Waqar, what is their problem anyway? They have been silent on criticising Malik and giving Akmal his due. Isn’t the job of a commentator to be neutral and call a spade, a spade? Ramiz Raja on his TV show frequently supports Malik and Akmal when discussing cricket with his friends. Ramiz is usually Pakistan’s only saving grace in the commentary box with his suave appearance, reasonably good command of English and wit, yet observing his bias is an unpleasant experience.

Any reason left now to offer any more support to Akhtar?

Any reason left now to offer any more support to Akhtar?

It will be unfair to square the blame only on Malik and Akmal, but these two players have definitely tried their best to demoralise the team owing to their constant failures in their respective roles. Shahid Afridi risks being dropped permanently after failing to shine with both ball and bat, although Akmal’s lack of support behind the stumps has dented Afridi’s confidence completely. Yet, most fans expected better from Afridi this series. Shoaib Akhtar was thought to make a difference in this series, but he was the worst bowler and let the team down completely. For over a year Javed A Khan and myself have asked for Shoaib to be sacked from the team, yet Shoaib has many admirers who have lived in denial and accused myself and Javed A Khan for making these statements for controversial reasons. Yet, Javed A Khan and myself have always been on the dot with Shoaib’s performance and attitude. He is history.

The team needs someone like Fawad Alam, who is mature, left

Seriously, what more does he have to do to get into the team?

Seriously, what more does he have to do to get into the team?

handed and can provide some stability in the middle order. Ever since the ABN AMRO T20 Cup in 2006, Fawad has been imperious in domestic cricket.  He is unique in the sense that apart from Misbah he is the only player averaging more than 40 in all forms of domestic cricket in Pakistan. Nothing is guaranteed in life except death and taxes, and there is no guarantee Fawad will become the next Brian Lara. But, as far as deserving chances to perform goes, no player deserves it more than Fawad Alam.

Fawad Alam’s stats compared with other batsmen:

Name                    Format                               Average

Shoaib Malik      First Class (4 day)             29

Shoaib Malik        List A    (one day)            39

Shoaib Malik         T20                                      42

Younis Khan        First class                           51

Younis Khan        List A                                   35

Younis Khan        T20                                       25

Misbah ul Haq     First class                           51

Misbah ul Haq      List A                                  46

Misbah ul Haq       T20                                     43

Mohd Yousuf         first class                           51

Mohd Yousuf        List A                                   41

Mohd Yousuf         T20                                      17

Fawad Alam First class                         57

Fawad Alam List A                                 44

Fawad Alam T20                                  41

Hence, you can see Fawad Alam generally has better stats than everyone except Misbah ul Haq,

Future captain of Pakistan

Future captain of Pakistan?

and compared to Misbah he has a higher first class average.

In conlusion, enough is enough and a revamp is definitely needed. PCB needs to stop destroying cricket and use the right players. Akmal needs to be replaced by Sarfraz Ahmed, Malik needs to be replaced by Fawad Alam and Shahid Afridi needs to be kept on his toes. The PCB will not make Afridi the captain, so perhaps it is in Afridi’s best interests to resign from international cricket rather than face the humiliation of being sacked permanently. With Younis still confused about captaincy and Misbah suffering from finding his role in the team and inconsistency, Umar Gul is perhaps the best option for captaincy, as he is the only player with a defined role, proven track record and required aggression and commitment. So, my vote for Pakistan’s future captain is Umar Gul. He should hope, however, that Akmal doesn’t start dropping catches off his bowling too!

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PAK – LANKA

DESPERATE Pakistan in need of international cricket and this is a pruned series between Pakistan and Sri Lanka and that too arranged in haste. The expression in this case: “Two thirds of an apple is better than no apple,” is very apt.

The cool, calm and composed captain

The cool, calm and composed captain

Mendis The Magician

Mendis The Magician

The reluctance of international teams visiting Pakistan, mainly Australia’s refusal followed by India’s withdrawal after the Mumbai attack left Pakistan in a situation where they can only hope of playing domestic tournaments or inviting Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.

Arjuna Ranatunga was bold, loud and clear in making a decision that Sri Lanka will play 3 tests, 5 ODI’s and a T20.  But, India came in like a dog in the manger and steal a test match and a couple of ODI’s from the schedule by inviting Sri Lanka to visit India. Much worst was Ranatunga was sacked and the new administration is sold out to India for 10 years for a price tag of 45 million US dollars.

This is the first time in the history of cricket that a cricket board has been sold to another cricket board, this is not the institutionalization of the game but, “prostitutionalization” of cricket at its highest form. In any case the PCB not only wants to make some money from this hasty deal, but they also want to show to the people of Pakistan that the Butt Administration is gyrating and making some moves. The height of desperation can be measured from the way the PCB chief Ijaz Butt went to Karachi Airport to receive the Sri Lankan Cricket Team upon arrival. There is nothing wrong in it, but as a matter of protocol it was not needed.

The back to back ODI’s in Karachi has not created much interest among the general public as they have been very slow in purchasing tickets; either it is due to working days or lack of interest in team selection. It could be both as some of the local boys are not even in the squad of 15 selected. Fawad Alam is the man who is not selected for whatever reasons, although his track record against Sri Lanka is good and he was instrumental in winning one of the ODI’s in which he slammed 3 sixes in a row and made the target look so easy and Malik by virtue of being there like an observer then finally hit the winning shot to get the MoM award.

The Pathani Circus

The Pathani Circus

Sri Lanka are favourites to win this series 3-0 and they have been playing international cricket more than Pakistan and some of their not so famous players have been scoring runs which is a good and ominous sign for them. Their spin bowling deadly duo of Murali and Mendis would be hard for the Pakistanis to play against and not to mention Chaminda Vaas who always plays well against Pakistan. Apart from the Captain and the wicketkeeper, i.e., Jayawardene and Sangakara, the legendary Jayasuriya along with Uppal Tharanga is in the team and their confidence is sky high.

Pakistan included Shoaib Aktar only to create a drama and he may not be able to play because he is and he was never fit to play cricket for the last so many years. The Rawalpindi Express is now being called as the Raw-Bhindi Express because of his fitnress problems and his attitude. If Pakistan can rely on any player at the moment to score runs for them, there is none other than Younis Khan. But, one person alone cannot win 3 matches. Afridi, Malik and Saeed Ajmal are not wicket takers like Murali and Mendis on a consistent basis. Therefore, my prediction is 2-1 in favour of Sri Lanka.

The Karachi pitch is dry and can produce a lot of runs, so whoever wins toss must bat first.

The Winner is on the LEFT

The Winner is on the LEFT

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