Archive for May, 2009
The warm up matches for the T20 WC start next week. Pakistan will be playing its preliminary matches against England and the Netherlands. The last few years have been disappointing for Pakistan for various reasons. Pakistan’s openers remain as clueless and brittle as ever since the departure of Saeed Anwar and Aamir Sohail. The middle order has not managed to remain consistent with critcism being levied on Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Misbah. Pakistan’s best batsman Yousuf has been largely unavailable and so have been three of Pakistan’s key T20 players, Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir and Rana Naved. Further, although Pakistan’s fielding standards have improved slightly, they are improving slowly compared to other international sides.
Pakistan’s pace battery is almost totally ineffective, with Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif ruining their careers themselves and Umar Gul being the only fit and world class pacer. If all this isn’t enough, the Pakistan team management seems obsessed with not providing any meaningful chances to promising youngsters such as Fawad Alam.
T20 is not real cricket, because it seems to go against everything cricket is meant to be. Cricket is meant to provide equal footing to both batsmen and bowlers. Test cricket, which is considered as real cricket, is all about patience, intelligence, stamina and mental toughness. T20 is more about luck and excitement, although the qualities needed to play Test cricket can be useful in playing T20, too. Yet, if one attempts to envisage what the founders of cricket must have had in mind, T20 must be a polar opposite.
Pakistan has a golden chance to provide some hope to fans, as the Pakistan team is balanced and consists of experienced T20 players. It is crucial to stress that half of these players have played cricket in English conditions, so they know what to expect and also, Pakistani cricketers probably play more domestic T20
than anyone else. So, there should be no excuse for poor performance and claiming lack of familiarisation with English conditions will be unacceptable.
Younis Khan is leading the side although his T20 credentials are doubted. Younis performed commendably in the ongoing RBS T20 Cup where he played 2 aggressive knocks for Peshawar. There were reports after the ODI series against Australia that Younis has decided to relinquish captaincy in favour of Afridi. These reports were obviously untrue, but it does prove that there is a considerable body of opinion that doubts Younis Khan as a T20 player.
Younis has to show more aggression than what we have seen from him. If Pakistani batsmen play defensively in this Cup, Pakistan will lose. Pakistan should also be mindful that other teams like New Zealand and South Africa have improved their T20 standards and they are capable of beating Pakistan this time round.
In particular the two openers Shahzad and Butt need to play lofted shots if they can’t drive the ball between the gaps. This is particularly important for Shahzad, who has struggled to place the ball in the gaps so far in international cricket. Neither Butt nor Shahzad have been in great form recently and it must be questioned why they have been picked for T20 when they do not appear to be T20 batsmen.
The new kid on the block, Shahzaib Hasan is inexperienced and it is rumoured Younis Khan opted for him over Khalid Latif. It would perhaps be wiser to give Hasan a chance in place of Shahzad, although it seems unlikely. Hasan was impressive in the recent mini series between Chairman’s XI and Patrons’ XI, where he was amongst the top scorers. Nasir Jamshed is returning to form in domestic cricket but his form was mediocre before this RBS Cup, so his exclusion is justified.
Ideally Younis should go with no more than 3 pacers. Spinners are usually more effective in T20 because the focus is
also to restrict the runs from the bat. My guess is that whoever is responsible for selection will once again not give a meaningful chance to Fawad Alam, but playing Fawad is undoubtedly an advantage because of his batting and fielding. He can also bowl a couple of overs if need be, although bowling is not his forte. The team management is likely to go with, 1.Butt 2.Shahzad 3.Younis 4. Malik 5. Misbah 6. Afridi 7.Akmal 8. Tanvir 9. Gul 10. Rao 11. Ajmal.
My preferred line-up would be: 1. Hasan 2. Afridi 3. Akmal 4. Younis 5. Malik 6. Misbah 7. Fawad 8. Tanvir 9. Gul 10. Rao 11. Ajmal
Aggression, good team spirit and fair selection can make Pakistan win this World Cup. Bowling wise Pakistan is adequately equipped with Gul, Afridi and Ajmal being world class bowlers. If Younis, Malik and Misbah once again do not show commitment and consistency, it will be a new low for Pakistan cricket and a slap on the PCB’s face.
The recently concluded ODI series between Pakistan and Australia left fans with mixed reactions. Some of us thought that Pakistan did well to manage 2 victories, whilst others thought that Pakistan had the ability to perform better against a tired and inexperienced Australian side. Whatever the case may be, no strict action was taken against any of the senior players who failed to perform in that series. The main culprits were captain Younis Khan, vice captain Misbah, former captain Shoaib Malik and the most experienced pacer Shoaib Akhtar.
When will the PCB realise that tolerating average performances will destroy Pakistan’s status in international cricket? When will the cricket administrators realise that Pakistan is treading down the path of the West Indies, a team which ruled the cricket scene for two decades but is now considered almost a minnow team? Corruption, politics and negligent management has destroyed cricket in the West Indies and Pakistan is certainly heading down that path.
There is no denying that an indication of a weak cricket board is that player power is rampant and players consider themselves above the board and the country. In the Pakistan team groupings are formed and certain players back other players and create a situation where, “I scratch your back and you scratch mine”. The board could not convince Younis Khan to accept captaincy and as a result a weak and inept captain was selected in Shoaib Malik. The board cannot persuade Malik and Misbah to raise their level of performance against good sides in pressure situations despite both these players being on the top tier of central contracts, earning a sizable amount every month from the PCB. No administration has ever been able to control Shoaib Akhtar and he continues to fool the board, the team and the fans in broad daylight but he is above every being it seems. He is barely capable of bowling 5 overs in a match and yet he is an automatic selection in the team. This is a joke and this can only happen in Pakistan. Nasim Ashraf’s administration tried to put Akhtar in his place but Ashraf became very unpopular with the masses when he tried to curb player power.
A lot of the PCB’s incompetencies result from the social and political problems in Pakistan. There is corruption, ethnic bias, nepotism, dishonesty, mismanagement in the police force, in the armed forces, in the civil service, in government offices, so why should be cricket board be bereft of such evils? The cricket board, after all, is a public organisation and it works in tandem with the sports ministry. How to resolve these types of problems, becomes a political discussion, not a discussion about cricket and we have spoken about these issues many times on this blog.
There is an absence of professionalism in the PCB which filters down to the players on the field when they are playing. On his day Kamran Akmal can score a century against Australia, but in the same series he is very capable of dropping easy catches and playing stupid shots. Consistency has been Pakistan’s biggest problem for over a decade now and the PCB is absolutely clueless. Consistency does not come from the player itself; when a player performs and does something spectacular, that is a sign that this player is capable of doing something amazing and it is up to the team management and the board to ensure the player reaches his potential and performs more often. However, the PCB has not been able to answer the question, “How to nurture a player’s talent so that he becomes consistent?”
Since the PCB is incapable of producing consistency from the players, it should rotate players more often so that seniors are kept on their toes. Pakistan cricket has to come out of this tried and tested mentality that a senior player should not be dropped because it will weaken the team. Why do senior players in Pakistan have so much power and why are they untouchable? Recently I saw a programme where it was revealed that Shoaib Akhtar has sources in the Punjab government, which is why he is never dropped on accounts of unfitness or bad behaviour. So again we come to the point about corruption and favouritism in the Pakistan and how that affects everything, including sport.
Fawad Alam has become a victim of team politics and most people now consider him to be exceptionally tenacious to still have a big heart and still hope for playing for Pakistan. Fawad has been amongst the top domestic batsmen in Pakistan for about 3 years. He has performed in all formats- 4 day, 1 day and T20 and he is amongst the few players in the world who average above 40 in all 3 formats domestically. Whatever limited chances he has benefited from playing at the highest level, he has made a mark but he is still being ignored. He single handedly won a T20 for Pakistan when he hit 3 sixes in 5 balls. He has been involved in brief partnerships with seniors like Malik, Misbah and Yousuf and he has outperformed them, yet he has been ignored. Recently in a practice match against the international Pakistan side he was the best batsman against the bowling of Akhtar, Gul and Tanvir and he was the best bowler too. He is also one of the best fielders in the country.
So in real terms it seems no improvement was detected with Pakistan cricket. There is widespread incompetence, player power and politics that is ruining the sport in the nation. People in Pakistan are becoming fed up of the team’s substandard performances and are turning to other sports like football, baseball and basketball. In the time of Imran Khan and Miandad, players played with more fire and patriotism but now these current players only play for themselves and for money. As cricket has become more “glamourised” and “commercialised”, perhaps that is not entirely the fault of the players themselves. However, politics and nepotism are definitely evils that should have nothing to do with sport.
Younus Khan refused to captain the Pakistan side twice by saying: “I don’t want to be a dummy captain.” On paper and in theory it sounded very impressive that this man has the guts to say that he does not like to be under someone’s thumb.
Now, what made him change from refusing to be a dummy and acting like a dummy? It is very obvious from his statements to the media, pre and post match comments that he wants to keep the whole world happy. He has clearly mentioned that he cannot drop Misbah and Malik despite the fact they are not performing well, especially Misbah simply because one is a former captain and the other is a vice captain and if he does that, the media will be after him. It means he is scared of the media and not doing justice with team selection.
By now even a school kid who plays cricket can say with authority that the UAE pitches are favouring spin bowling. Australia’s weakness is spin bowling, Pakistan’s weakness is its batting. Pakistan has the advantage of strengthening its batting and spin bowling department by including Fawad Alam in the team. He has been in the squad only to sit on the bench or we saw him as a 12th man in the 4th ODI.
Australian batsmen are used to playing fast bowlers, as they have one of the best fast bowling battery in their team and they are not afraid of fast bowling. But, they are finding it extremely difficult to handle Afridi and Ajmal, even Malik bowled well in the 3rd ODI. So, any dummy captain would notice this weakness and take advantage of the situation. But, Younus Khan in his pursuit to keep the whole world happy is blinded by his goody, goody nature.
He has become a laughing stock among the commentators and cricket fans that you ask Younus Khan, ‘how are you?’ He would reply. ” I am happy, I am always happy, no matter what I am happy.” It is good that you are a happy go lucky (rather unlucky so far) person, but on the ground you have to be firm and tolerate no nonsense from any player who under performs or play below par.
Just because Shoaib Akhtar is a senior player and carries a lot of clout behind him and in the 4th ODI he took two wickets in his first two overs, he got a free hand after that, he was clearly out of breath and couldn’t maintain his line and length and in the fielding department he was making a mess of the situation and Younus Khan was seen laughing at his pathetic fielding. This is not what you expect from a good captain. If you can’t admonish him on the field, take action against him later and drop him from the playing XI.
Mishab is totally out of form like he was for the rest of his life prior to the T20 WC stint. In the 4th ODI, he was out first ball, but umpire Aleem Dar said, he couldn’t hear the nick and did not give him out. Despite a life Misbah continued his poor form, played a very slow innings and scored 30 odd runs.
Younus Khan’s own batting form is simply pathetic he has not been able to score in any match during this series and yet he has the audacity and the cheek to say, ‘we are learning.’ Learning how to loose? This is pathetic. Malik was heavily criticized for saying the same thing after loosing a match, ‘we are learning’ and the irony is they also call themselves as professionals.
Professionals don’t learn at this level, the deliver and the Pakistani captains consider these international matches as a learning place? It is indeed very pathetic.
During this series Shahid Afridi not only performed well with ball and bat, but he was seen encouraging, cheering, bucking up every single player. In fact he took the lead role which Younus Khan and Misbah are supposed to do. He was going with the bowlers before their run up and talking to them. He was seen congratulating Ajmal, Malik, Akhtar and even Akmal whenever they took a wicket or a catch. He was also seen very upset at Shoaib Akhtar’s lazy running in fetching the ball and clearly gave him the message that he is not happy with his fielding.
This is how a captain must be leading from the front and not just laughing, smiling and saying I am happy. May be you are trying to cover your embarrassment or may be you are really happy but the Pakistani public and fans are not happy upon loosing 3 matches in a row. The second ODI was given away to the Australians in a platter. After a 95 run opening partnership the team collapsed like a house of cards. Its a shame that none of the batsmen played well.
The question is, is Pakistan going to look for another captain? Or, are they will keep Younus Khan who says he is not a dummy captain, but certainly acting like one. Or, if they decide to replace him, who would be the new captain? There is no one better than Shahid Afridi not just because of his seniority but because of his temperament and his ability to lead from the front and his proven domestic record speaks in volumes. Therefore, it is about time for Pakistan to give Shahid Afridi a chance to lead the team Pakistan in the forth coming T20 World Cup. And Younus Khan is definitely a misfit for T20 and so is Salman Butt. May be Younus Khan should lead the test side but, if that is going to effect his batting then he should better not lead the test team as well.
What are your views on Younus Khan’s Captaincy, please go ahead and speak your heart out. For sure, my vote is for Afridi.