Archive for February, 2009
YOUNUS KHAN is slowly but surely is in the making of a legend for Pakistan cricket team. He is on the right path of success and taken his captaincy challenge to prove a point that he is not a “dummy captain”, but a leader who leads from the front. Unlike Malik, the burden of captaincy did not affect his batting, in fact it played an opposite role on his psyche. He realized that in the absence of his former colleagues Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf the middle order is not so dependable and he has to play the anchor role which he did to perfection.
Having said that it does not mean the other batsmen should continue to play the role of a second fiddle and always look up to Younus Khan as a father figure to rescue them in the times of trouble. Players like Shoaib Malik and Misbah with ample experience should pull up their socks and get ready for a big score in Lahore. Malik should not consider himself as a “fifty-sixty” player. His test performance is poor but his 11 years of experience at the international level is enough to handle any kinda pressure under any given circumstances. Misbah too, must strive to prove his worth, just a solo century in test cricket is not something one would expect from him to cherish for the rest of his life. Kamran Akmal the fourth most experienced batsman and the so-called wicketkeeper must understand that a big hundred on a dead wicket may assure his place for another few matches, but not forever. He needs to do something with his butterfingers. They may have proved to be good and handy while he was dealing with the former skipper or while he is was spreading butter on Ijaz’s Butt and, not when he is keeping the wickets.
Doing analysis of a 5 day test match is always a difficult task, as one needs to rely too much on his memory or, jot down the notes. But, the postmortem of a dead test match is easy, one doesn’t need to delve deeper into the finer details of what went wrong and how those mistakes could have been rectified? The answer is simple, no more dead wickets. As Waqar Younus says, ” you need a grass on the wicket” and thats all.
At the end of the second day’s play when Sri Lanka posted a huge total of 644/7 declared, I said: “if Pakistan plays sensibly they can avoid defeat, if they play this match like a 50 over game or in twenty20 style they will end up scoring 250 odd runs.” Thanks God, Younus Khan played the anchor role just like Jayawardene the Sri Lankan captain did and partnerships evolved around his 313. Its a shame that he got out so cheaply on the 5th day after adding only 7 runs to his overnight total, because all Pakistanis were hoping to see him breaking, Inzamam and Hanif Mohammad’s record if not of Lara’s.
There is nothing much to write home about on this test match and now all focus is on Lahore. As expected the same squad has been retained but, the sources indicate that Sohail Khan will be replaced by Talha! Once again its a shame for the rookie fast bowler Sohail Khan if he is excluded in the second test. Because, it wasn’t his fault bowling a dead wicket, besides two catches of his bowling were dropped one by Malik and the other by Misbah. Getting wickets on a dead pitch is a rarity.
Among the batsmen I think Khurram Manzoor will go. I would like to see Fawad Alam in the team instead of the new batsman who scored a century in the two days warm up game against Sri Lanka. That kid is too young to be included in a crucial match because, Pakistan needs to win this match i.e., if they really want to prove a point to the rest of the world that staying away from the test arena for 14 months has not dampened their spirits. They fought bravely in the first test and were not intimidated by the huge total of 644 runs and neither by the deadly spin attack of Murali & Mendis. In fact they lofted them for sixes and fours.
If there is “a grass” on the Lahore pitch then Umar Gul & Co., should be able to extract some pace, bounce and swing but Vaas and Dilhara are also known to produce the same and Vaas especially is more experienced than Gul. So, the chances of winning for both sides are equal but, I still think Sri Lankan’s have an edge over Pakistan’s batting especially in players like, Jayawardene and Sangakara, both are capable of turning the tables and bring Sri Lanka on top. The chances of a draw in Lahore are very remote unless it rains or, the hooligans of Nawaz and Shahbaaz Sharif continue to march on the streets and burn tires or, damage properties to create chaos in the country and the teams decide to stay away from the trouble, then God bless Pakistan.
The PCB administration got changed and shortly after, Malik was sacked as captain. A new captain was appointed and all eyes were on how the relationship between the assertive captain Younis and Chief Selector Qadir would be.
Most people were quite curious about the point of having a warm up game between Afridi’s Patrons XI team and the Sri Lanka team. Some thought this was just a test to see if Afridi could contribute with the bat and make a place for himself in the test squad. Others, after watching the innings of Ahmed Shahzad and Azhar Ali, thought that this was an excuse to showcase the talent of these two players so that one of them could be included. Afridi played a decent knock with the bat that should have justified his inclusion in the Test squad, if his batting was the concern of the selectors. He did not get a wicket but only 3 of his regular bowlers did. If his batting was not a concern, then his place should have been guaranteed anyway, because he has been in form as regards his bowling. This is not to defend Afridi per se; it just boggles the mind why he was
even chosen to captain in the warm up match if the selectors were expecting him to score a century?
Ahmed Shahzad, after his knock of 146, was chosen from the warm up squad and it is over Shahzad’s selection that apparently Younis and Qadir had a disagreement. Shehzad’s inclusion is certainly controversial, not least because Nasir Jamshed, who is a more consistent batsman, has been left out by the selectors and also because Shahzad was not even in the list of 22 probables that were proposed by Qadir a week ago. Shahzad is known to be a confident and clean striker of the ball, however he lacks the consistency of other openers like Nasir Jamshed and Khurram Manzoor. Manzoor has been the best opener in domestic cricket for a number of years now whereas Nasir Jamshed has been a top batsman for over a year.
That leads to the question of whether Manzoor is likely to open along with Butt. Manzoor is an experienced opener at domestic level but so far in ODI’s he has appeared to be a mixed package. Whereas he has been gifted with the ability to stay at his crease, his shot selection appears very limited and he appears very restricted to his back foot. Today it was reported that Younis and Qadir might toy with the idea of opening with Malik and playing Asim Kamal and Faisal Iqbal in the middle order.
It is rumoured that Younis is not a great believer in young talent. On various TV shows
Younis has stressed the need to have more mature players in the side. That is the reason why there were reports that he might want to try out Faisal Iqbal or Asim Kamal instead of Fawad Alam, and why he might want to persist with Kamran Akmal
instead of Sarfraz Ahmed. It is unclear who has been behind the controversial selections of Faisal, Asim and Akmal, but they are certainly selections that should not have been. With all the respect in the world to Asim Kamal, his recent domestic performances have not been anything to write home about. Plus, Fawad Alam’s unbelievable run at domestic level should automatically disqualify Kamal from international selection. Faisal Iqbal is a strange case, he is different to Bazid Khan because unlike Khan, he always makes some good scores in tournaments and he shows some good technique at times, but he lacks consistency. It is very sad that more deserving players are being deprived because of Miandad’s nepotism.
On the bowling front, the situation is clearer. Akhtar is unfit so Gul was always the strike bowler. Tanvir, despite his brilliant performance in his last first class match, was overlooked to the benefit of Mohammad Talha. Talha has been the most devastating bowler in the Q&A Trophy and it would have been criminal to ignore him from this squad. Kaneria was always Pakistan’s first choice spinner and he now needs to hope that Akmal gives him some support behind the stumps.
My preferred XI for the 1st Test now that Nasir Jamshed is not in the team:
Butt, Manzoor, Malik, Younis, Misbah, Fawad, Akmal, Gul, S Khan, Talha, Kaneria