Archive for May, 2010


Can Afridi Defend The World Cup Title?

Can Afridi Defend The World Cup Title?

Michael Clarke can he halt Pakistan's march into the final?

Michael Clarke can he halt Pakistan's march into the final?

I am inclined to write this new thread because of two people, Omer and newguy. Omer did some analysis on Pakistan team and wanted us to delve deeper in the subject on how momentum is built and shifted. And newguy threw some light on India’s exit from this T20 WC, based on that on how teams from the sub-continent performs against bouncers.

The team momentum builds up with the performance of individual players who get into rhythm at the right time and it is their individual momentum that creates ripple effects in the team and motivates and then, a few of the non-performers also start catching up with those who are building the momentum and that helps in gelling the team into a winning combination.

For India in 2007 T20 WC mainly it was Yuvraj Singh and, for Pakistan in 2009 it was Shahid Afridi who peaked up at the right time, starting just before the semifinal and then taking his form to the final to win the world cup for Pakistan.  Whereas, Dilshan in 2009 reached his peak performance and flopped when he was supposed to deliver, but now he is doing the opposite, he is coming back into form at the right time.  These individual performances are dangerous because, they can tilt the game either way.  Therefore, in T20 at least 2-3 players must perform well i.e., a couple of good partnerships and a good bowling performance of 3-4 wickets by one bowler earlier in the innings and the other bowlers contain runs, that  makes a big difference. Like Umer Gul did in the previous world cup.  And in the West Indies team, it’s the Gayle factor, which plays the major role, when he performs WI wins and when he doesn’t they fall like nine pins.

For Pakistan to have two consistent players on the top and a couple of unorthodox players like Afridi or Abdul Razzaq but definitely not Misbah ul Haq, if they can go berserk in the end, it changes the entire scenario. Saeed Ajmal has been very consistent with his bowling, even when he takes one or two wickets he doesn’t give more than 25-30 runs. Likewise, if Salman Butt can score in semifinal like he did in all other matches in this tournament except for the match against SA and then Kamran, Umar, Afridi, Razzaq if they can chip in 30-40 runs its more than enough to defend a total of 170-180 and the so-called mighty Australians will crumble.  Although Cameron White just got into form and looks dangerous plus, Mike Hussey is Australia’s Mr. Consistent, they might put resistance in the end but, the key for Pakistan is using the right kinda bowlers in the end and not to mention good fielding.

Pau- Collingwood's team has performed excellently can he keep the momentum going?

Pau- Collingwood's team has performed excellently can he keep the momentum going?

Sangakkara will be the key to win the T20 WC for Sri Lanka

Sangakkara will be the key to win the T20 WC for Sri Lanka

Australia looks dangerous because of only two fast bowlers i.e., Shaun Tait and Derek Nannes, the later is more accurate and a wicket taker whereas, Tait intimidates the batsmen, especially with his speed and rising deliveries if the Pakistani openers can respond to his bouncers with a few fours he would go into his shell just like Mitchel Johnson. The Pakistani batsmen have to deal cautiously with Nannes because, he moves the ball away with an angle and right hand batsmen find it very difficult, Butt should not have that problem at least with Nannes but, he might get scummed to Tait’s pace.

There was a time when Pakistani batsmen were considered as fearless against the mighty West Indies of the late ’60s and early ’70s. Young Mushtaq Mohammad responded to Wesley Hall’s bouncers with fours and later on Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbass, Javed Miandad et all were renowned to be experts in hooking the bouncers. Even young Afridi used to go after every single bouncer and at times got out. But, lately there is a trend in the sub-continent players to duck under the bouncers. I am not sure it is due to fear or is it the new rule of 2 bouncers per over where they expect to get a no ball? In doing so they have given away the moral victory to the bowler and themselves have lost the ability to score as well as dent the fast bowler’s aggression. In order to fight back they need to tackle aggression with aggression.

Pakistan’s biggest problem is not just the opening stand but, it is the fielding
, they keep dropping catches, miss run outs and give away extra runs through poor fielding. Also, they need to convert singles into twos and twos into threes. Salman Butt needs to improve his running between the wickets, he looks very lazy and was labeled as a lethargic and a selfish player. The truth may not be that but, once you are labeled you are in focus and everyone keeps watching you. So, he needs to run like a hare and play like a sher.  In any case they should not be playing the unorthodox scoop shots and reverse sweeps, there is no need to play those fancy shots in such important matches and get out or take a big risk and score one run or nothing. Like Shahid Afridi cannot control his emotions and tries to hit every ball out of the ground for a six, Misbah ul Haq also cannot control himself and go for silly scoops which had cost his wicket and the match on a few occasions. So, why bother playing such shots when there is no need for it?

I have noted this before besides getting this gut feeling based on my observation that when Pakistan plays two T20 matches against Australia, they lose one and win one. The same they have done against England.  Since they have lost one, it is time for them to win the second. The first hurdle is Australia and they must take them as any other team and not just big names. My other gut feeling is Sri Lanka will win against England and it will be a repeat final that we saw in England last year. However, even if England beats Sri Lanka, they cannot beat Pakistan the second time in one tournament. Therefore, Pakistan despite being underdogs have more chances of defending the cup than other teams. And this feeling is not based on emotions but, on observation and facts that Pakistan team are late bloomers and they play good in big matches. Winning and losing is a part of every game but, we all need a good performance from Pakistan and we want Pakistan to win.



Pakistan's promising bowler Mohammad Aamir

GOOD FIELDING lifts the team morale and bad fielding does exactly the opposite. Catches win matches is the old expression it exists since the inception of the game and still holds good because, that is the truth. By taking wickets you slow down the run rate, by taking wickets the bowler’s tails are up. Good fielding is contagious, if one player takes an extraordinary catch the other tries to do better than his colleague and that is the spirit of the game.  We have seen so many matches where a big partnership is ended by an extraordinary effort such as a brilliant catch or, a superb run-out and the momentum is shifted in favour of the fielding team. In case of Pakistan cricket team the fielding is the weakest department and catches are dropped like bird droppings from a fruit tree, easy run outs are missed as if it is a routine business.

The current team is playing without any strategy or even a proper planning. In a proper planning you have backup plans or, plan B.  The T20 is such a short game that the situation changes in no time, if the plan A backfires you need to go for plan B or even plan C. That is not just the job of one man, the man on the spot is the captain but, the coach and manager are there to draft and forge that plan and keep reminding or sending messages to the captain to stick to the plan or to shift to the next plan. All the teams do this, they even send D/L update sheets to their batsmen on ground to keep them aware of how many runs are needed in this over or the next few overs to stay ahead of the target. But, in case of Pakistan you never see anyone carrying messages on to the field.  The coach & co. are often shown sitting in the dugout with long, glum faces. Their body language is so negative that even the spectators and TV viewers get bad vibes.  So, how can the players pull up themselves from a losing situation to a winning situation?

To add more pressure on the players, the PCB Chairman imposes himself almost everywhere at official expense and not only him there is a minister and a few of his chamchas and a few family members also arrive at official expense to have a party at the Caribbean. What is the need for Mr. Ijaz Butt to come and witness the tournament? How many Chairmen of other country cricket boards do we see in these tournaments or wherever their team is playing? I don’t reckon a single one. But, this is the curse that the country has to face that Ijaz Butt pokes his nose everywhere and the irony is no one can stop him. So far Ijaz Butt is the worst and yet the most powerful dictator chairman of the PCB under his reign Pakistan has gone from bad to worst. And, all because of his stubborn attitude combined with his uncouth, uncivilized and unprofessional approach.

We have seen that whenever the team loses a series or a tournament there are changes in the team, the first to go is the captain, lately a new trend has been established by the PCB to impose heavy fines on the players, such huge amounts that they cannot pay and then these fines, penalties and bans are waived and lifted to make a mockery of the nation. In other countries when there is a disaster or a failure happens the ministers or the top officials take the responsibility and resign immediately, but in Pakistan the minister of sports or the chairman of the PCB open their big mouth and butts against the captain, coach, manager and the players and penalize them.  They consider themselves above the law. It is such a shame that the so called powerful media of Pakistan could do nothing to ouster Ijaz Butt.

Before the tournament there was almost a 5 week camp at Lahore, reportedly the team was going through rigorous physical training and fielding practice.  The result of that excessive and strenuous training turned out to be negative for the team. It resulted in injuries to about 5 players and the T20 ace bowler Umar Gul was injured so badly during the training that he could not make it to the WC. There was absolutely no need for a burnout for players who have never done such rigorous training stretched over for such a long period of time. Five weeks is not a long time but, the timing of the program was wrong i.e., just before the big event you are taking such big risks for players who are lazy and lethargic and whose eating habits are way out of this world. If you look at Misbah ul Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Saeed Ajmal, Salman Butt and a few others in the past like Mohammad Yousuf, Inzamam, Danish Kaneria etc., used to walk, it gives the impression that there is no energy, no spark and no desire to move fast.  So, can you turn such people into Jonty Rhodes in 5 weeks?

Among the good fielders like, Fawad Alam, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik the youngster who seems to have a lot of energy and desire to excel is Mohammad Aamir. His body language is very positive and he seems to be very enthusiastic and is self motivated. He has taken some very good wickets right from the beginning of his short career, and his last over against Australia where he created a world record of 5 wickets in  his maiden over. I wish if it was Australia batting second and they had a target to achieve and these 5 wickets in his over would have made a world of difference. However, it is still a great achievement. In yesterday’s match against England he bowled a great bouncer at Kevin Pietersen on the penultimate ball of his last over. It was such a good bouncer that shook KP completely because, at that stage only 2 runs were needed in 8 balls and the commentator (David Lloyd) said, start your car engines…… but, Aamir had not given up hope he bowled a fearsome bouncer at a well set batsman who was at 69* after the bouncer KP looked at the square leg umpire Billy Bowden, who is unique and a class character, generally doesn’t smile but makes others smile, he couldn’t  help laughing at KP who was asking for mercy.

Tomorrow’s (Saturday)match between Pakistan and New Zealand is very crucial for both teams and Pakistan if they want to prove that they are late bloomers this is the last chance to fight back and defeat NZ convincingly so that they move ahead, if they lose then the match against South Africa would be like climbing the K-2 from the rear side, if they fail they have to face the wrath of Ijaz Butt.

The important question:
Will Pakistan play the same team against New Zealand? Asif’s form is a big question mark.  Sami bowled one bad over and there is a reason to it whereas, Asif bowled all his balls very badly. Jesse Ryder, McCullum, Guptil and Taylor will be pleased to see Asif bowling at them, it will be a suicide for Pakistan to play Asif with this kinda form especially on these tracks where there is no swing and no movement.  Misbah cannot justify his place in the team with his gimmicks, antics and his sloppy fielding.

In my opinion Hammad Azam should replace Misbah and Sami to replace Asif. What is your opinion?



Miracle man? Good player? Useless player?

The title of this thread must be the story of Fawad Alam’s career.

In the T20 match against Australia, Fawad Alam took 2 catches quite safely which was a complete contrast to how Salman Butt and Misbah fielded. Then, he came into bat when 71 runs were needed off 30 balls and managed 16 runs from 11 balls including one sixer. He came into bat at no 8, just before the tailenders, Sami, Aamer and Ajmal.

Generally some regional-minded/biased people accuse Fawad Alam of being a usless batsman because of his so-called inability to hit boundaries and inability to “win matches”. Yet, all logic, reason, fairness is swept under the carpet in his criticism. Whereas I ignore the biased representations of these people who want to see more of Malik, Misbah and Butt and less of Alam, Afridi and Younis etc, it is quite concerning that some fairer and more educated people have started losing patience with Fawad Alam. This thread is aimed at them.

In ODI’s, Alam has played 459 deliveries in 15 innings. That is an average of under 31 balls per match. It must be noted that Alam does not play as a pinch hitter, but as a run accumulator and facilitator. If we compare the balls Alam has faced to the balls other batsmen have faced per match, this is what we get:

Butt- 46 balls/match, Umer Akmal- 40 balls/match, Misbah- 38 balls/match, Malik-38 balls/match, Younis-39 balls/match, Yousuf- 48 balls/match…

In T20’s, the comparison is thus:

Butt- 23 balls, U Akmal- 24 balls, Misbah- 22, Younis- 17, Malik- 18, F Alam- 10

So, we have now established that Alam plays less balls per match than all of Pakistan’s main batsmen.

In 15 ODI innings, Alam has played at the batting position no 6 or below, 12 times. In T20’s he has played 13 innings and has batted at no 6 or below, 11 times. So it is established that Alam is usually sent to bat lower down the order and does not get the opportunity to face many balls, yet why is so much expected of him? Why is he expected to create miracles when no one is bothered to respect his abilities first? This applies not only to the team management, but also to commentators and bloggers.

In terms of what Fawad Alam has done in his very short career:

1) He hit 3 sixes in 5 balls and played a match winning knock against Sri Lanka in Canada

2) He hit 168 in a debut knock on a seaming track, the next highest score in the match from Pakistan was 82 by Younis and then barely anyone else could reach 25 on that pitch. He hit a six when he was on 92, he played that knock with a strike rate of 66.

3) He played valuable T20 and ODI knocks against Sri Lanka and India, assisting players like Malik, Misbah and Akmal on at least 1 occasion each in finishing matches

4) He played a determined knock against England, complementing Razzaq very well. Those who saw the match knew Pakistan could not have won without his contribution.

5) He took an excellent catch off Umer Gul, and then effected a brilliant run out in a recent match which changed momentum for Pakistan in that game (I forget who the opposition was). After his spirited effort Pakistani bowlers and fielders looked rejuvenated and performed well.

The above is not a comprehensive list by any means. The point is that in his relatively short career he has already shone on a few occasions, but why don’t people recognise this? I can’t remember 5 occasions when Butt, Malik or Misbah did something amazing in their long careers. Not only have these 3 failed miserably as batsmen most of the times, they have also let the team down by virtue of their fielding. Somehow critics expect Alam to achieve feats even Tendulkar and Lara and incapable of achieving, but at the same time find Butt, Misbah and Malik’s constant selection (Malik’s, until very recently) understandable?

It was clear that Pakistan lost this match against Australia because of Misbah’s and Butt’s fielding, yet why did people have to question Fawad’s handling of this period when 70+ runs were needed of 30 balls and no other recognised batsman was there to support him?

Fawad Alam is an asset for the team because of a number of reasons:

1) He can play under pressure

2) He keeps the strike rotating

3) He is an excellent fielder

4) He plays with determination, he appears modest and does not have a big mouth or ego

Every player in international limited overs cricket must be assessed on a “net utility” basis. The player’s all round capabilities must be observed simply because international cricket has become a high stakes and competitive game. If a player makes 35 runs regularly, but then gives away 10 runs because of his poor fielding, then that player’s worth to the team is really only 25 runs. In my mind given the chance Alam is capable of batting better than players like Misbah and Malik. That coupled with his fielding, makes his net utility very high, and as such a very valuable player for the team.

Amidst the pinch hitters (Afridi, Hafeez, Imran Nazir, Akmal, Razzaq) , slow players (Butt) and selfish players (Misbah, Malik) you need to have someone who can rotate the strike and occasionally put the bad ball away for a boundary, someone who can take pressure off by taking quick singles and doubles etc. If Alam is properly utilised he can become a great player- the problem is that due to policies of bias and favouritism he is not getting chances to perform.

The travesty is that, we expect Alam to do something which is his weakest point- hit 4s and 6s regularly and convert losing causes into winning results. It is this travesty that is destroying the career of a potentially great cricketer for Pakistan.

A viictim not just of politics and favouritism, but also of ill judgement and lack of logic

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