Archive for March, 2011
The semi final has just ended and the result is depressing for the Pakistan supporter. This blog congratulates India for this huge victory and wishes them well for the final. However this is my personal review of the match and the blog visitors may or may not agree with my views. You are all free to comment as you wish. Javed A Khan might do a thread in the very near future reviewing this match and Pakistan’s campaign and his views might differ to mine.
Pakistan was taunted as an “auto rickshaw” by an Indian commentator and this was ridiculed and lamented by Pakistanis. Yet after their performance perhaps it was justified for the Indian to comment that Pakistan is an auto rickshaw and India is a BMW.
The whole nation was backing Pakistan for various reasons. Firstly Pakistan is undergoing a social and political crisis. The Pakistani citizen is a demoralised and frustrated individual. Secondly Pakistan as a nation was perturbed by the India-Pakistan relations of the past few years most significantly those in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks. A lot of Pakistanis considered that beating India on its own turf would be some kind of retribution for the way Indian media and politicians reacted against Pakistan following the Mumbai attacks. Above everything else this was a semi final and the passionate Pakistani fans wanted this controversy-ridden team to be victorious.
The way I see analyse Pakistan’s position is that whatever positives were garnered from their campaign, the negatives from this match completely neutralised them. I am not disregarding the team topping the group and beating Australia. But the usual suspects of the Pakistan team- poor fielding, Misbah’s performance, inconsistent Gul- these deficiencies played their part in Pakistan’s defeat and this is not something that has only developed in this tournament, these calamities have plagued Pakistan for years.
What hurts is that they have not been remedied. It is all well to laud the team for reaching the semi final but if selection
standards for PCB were merit-based then this loss would have never occasioned. By not criticising this team are we not encouraging these standards to remain in the team? If serious action is not taken pursuant to a loss in a World Cup, it can never be taken.
Apart from the above mentioned causes of this loss, Younis Khan’s performance was puzzling. This is a complete one-off for Younis who is generally a positive player. The criticism is not that he was slow- the criticism is that he failed to rotate the strike and could not anchor the innings. Misbah ul Haq was the same. Misbah deserves more criticism than Younis because Misbah batted lower down the order and showed he has potential to hit. The question every one is asking is why Misbah could not accelerate any earlier if he could accelerate later? The answer is that Misbah was playing to reach 30 come what may and only then would he attempt to hit. This is because he wanted to ensure a 30+ score next to his name so that he can be selected for the next assignment which is against West Indies. Basit Ali has commented today that Misbah was playing to get his 50. Not only this, Misbah’s fielding throughout the tournament has been suspect. He is considered to be a fit cricketer despite his age. However there seemed to be zero intent from Misbah to dive to collect the ball. His
pick up and throws were slow too. I am not alleging match fixing here but this is something that needs to be considered. Why did Misbah field so poorly in this Cup when he is generally considered to be a decent fielder (Ramiz Raja would say he has “bucket like” hands).
Finally Umar Gul erred in line and length to the delight of Sehwag. With Sehwag the margin of error is zero. Gul was under pressure, no doubt. He seemed to be a different player today. This performance has proved that Gul cannot manage as Pakistan’s lead bowler in a high voltage contest. Pakistan must recruit another lead strike bowler.
This World Cup campaign has raised some salient questions which, if don’t get addressed now, will never get addressed. Why was Kamran Akmal selected when he has single handedly lost Pakistan so many matches? Why were an out of form Younis and Misbah selected? Why has the PCB not realised that Misbah plays selfishly? Why does Pakistan’s fielding still lose them matches? How do players get selected at international level if their fielding is poor? These questions have been asked millions of time before, but this defeat is the biggest showcase of them all for these questions to receive the attention and prominence that they deserve.
Pakistan must take strict action and Younis, Misbah and K Akmal must either retire or be dropped permanently. Ijaz Butt must go. Pakistan lost this match after a good WC campaign but the PCB’s incompetence is also responsible for this defeat because of the constant unjustified selection of K Akmal and Misbah.
I do not take pride in sulking after this defeat, but I know for a fact that if the PCB is let off now for selecting K Akmal and Misbah for this WC squad, then we can see these two players losing matches for Pakistan for a long time to come. The Pakistani media and fans must strike while the iron is hot and PCB must be held accountable for this defeat.
So far 46 matches have been played in this World Cup but, there is one match for which over a billion people are anxious to see, still there are 4 more days to go and it seems like the time has halted and each day is the longest day of the year. Everyone is impatiently waiting for this Mega Event at Mohali. Predictions, forecasts, betting, emotional statements, angry statements, taunting, sarcastic comments, sane and insane suggestions all are flying like kites on a Basant Day. The days are longer than ever, it seems there is no dusk, kids are women are asking when is the India Pakistan match starting? Four more days, ‘oh gosh why so long?’ Such is the anxiety, enthusiasm and excitement that some people are getting insomniac and spending sleepless nights already. Questions are being raised like, will this be a bigger match than the final itself? Of course it is, and this is not just one voice of an individual but, it is one voice of a few hundreds of millions of people echoing together.
What is at stake, money? Definitely not, it is the pride and vanity of two nations that is at stake, these two nations are not just neighbours but, they are friends and foes, they are rivals as well as associates of peace and friendship. The rivalry on the cricket ground may be harsh and fierce yet it brings the people closer to each other. They love to hate each other and hate to love each other, it is a kind of relationship which is hard to find in the political arena or even in the diplomatic channels. It is cricket that bring the people of these two nations together.
The stage is set on Wednesday March 30, 2011 at Mohali and the two teams are already there practicing hard, planning and making strategies on how to tackle each others weaknesses and how to utilize the strengths they have. India has advantage of playing in front of home crowd at their home ground and on paper their batting supremacy is undoubtedly better than Pakistan. Yet, matches are not won on the basis of paper it is the mental strength of the teams that differentiates between a winning team and a losing team. This Pakistan team does not have heroes like Tendulkar the all time cricket legend from India, or even their own past heroes such as Javed Miandad the Pakistan batting legend, yet the team has players who can turn the tables in their favour on their day and it could be their day on March 30th. In terms of bowling Pakistan team has an edge over Indian bowlers in all departments. Besides both teams have good wins under their belt and are confident of beating each other.
Shahid Afridi the Pakistan team captain has so far silenced all his critics by leading from the front and he is the leading wicket taker in this tournament also by far the best captain who is aggressive and positive. The team he is leading does not have any known heroes also Pakistan were underrated before the commencement of the tournament and they have surprised almost everyone by reaching to the semifinals and they are only two steps away from lifting the cup.
What Shahid Afridi needs to do now is to focus on his own batting as well as his own decision making, he should not worry about what Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Ramiz Raja are saying? They will not be accountable if Pakistan loses the semifinal against India, the people, media and even the officials will blame him for anything that went wrong. They are all pressurizing him to include Shoaib Akhtar in the team by saying he should be given ONE LAST CHANCE. This is not a charity organization it is a national team and the selection is based on performance and fitness.
It is very clear to everyone that Shoaib is a spent force, he cannot bowl his allotted quota of 10 overs, he is neither mentally nor physically fit. Therefore Shahid Afridi should not pay heed to their blabbering and big mouthing. They had their day when they were captain and they never bothered to pay any attention to anyone’s advise, especially Imran Khan who was a dictator captain. Wasim Akram was and still is morally corrupt and dishonest so why should anyone listen to him now? Ramiz Raja was a mediocre player and on top of that he has become very biased and his suggestions, comments and statements are always jingoists, hence Afridi should not even care to listen to this sinister old man.
He should play Wahab Riaz, rather he should play the same team that beat West Indies in the quarterfinals and Waqar should talk to Riaz about his line and length and sort out the anomalies that he has and 3-4 days should be enough to work out these small niggles that he has, otherwise he is a young strong man and he bowls at a very good speed and has the ability to take wickets. Secondly, against India he would be a new weapon and Tendulkar has the tendency to get out at the bowling of new bowlers, so Riaz has a chance and if he gets Tendulkar’s wicket his morale would be sky high.
Afridi must also think out of the box and must be brave enough to come out and open the innings at Mohali where the wicket is flat and bouncy, it is the right kind of wicket for him to play shots during the first mandatory overs where there is field restrictions and even his miscued shots will go over the top of the infield fielders. Historically, Afridi has scored more runs as an opener and he can do that. Besides, Indian fast bowling is not like the express pace of Shaun Tait and Brett Lee, he also faced the spin bowlers in the earlier stage and Kanpur innings is an example of that. He scored 22 runs of Balaji’s over followed by 23 of Kumble and another 23 of Dinesh Mongia and a couple of sixes and a few fours to frustrate Zaheer Khan who is the most dependable and reliable Indian bowler. Therefore, Afridi should keep this in mind and must not hesitate in opening the innings.
I know that the traditionalists and conservatives will hate this idea and if it backfires they will murder him through the media but, realistically speaking his utility as number 7 or 8 is zero, considering him as an opener is like playing a wild card, yes it is a big gamble but, that should be the plan that they can sacrifice his wicket without taking any pressure if he gets out. If he stays for 15 overs then the match is over. He demoralizes the opposition so much that it becomes impossible for them to lift the game after that carnage. Once again the same slogan is being used here GO AFRIDI GO. And, remember don’t listen to these so-called ex-greats.
The story of David and Goliath poses much relevance to what happened on 24/03/2011 when Australia was ousted from the World Cup 2011 by India. Goliath, a fearsome and giant warrior, was defeated in battle by David who then paraded Goliath’s head through Israel.
It was understood even by Australia’s keenest supporters that the slow and low, spin producing pitches of the subcontinent would trouble their team. However, cast your minds to three or four years ago and the thoughts of teams like India and Pakistan defeating Australia anywhere in the world would not even surface. In this World Cup, Australia did enter as a vulnerable team, but they were actually ranked no 1 in the ICC ODI rankings.
The World Cup has produced some unpredictable results. England tied with India, Pakistan and India comfortably beat Australia, NZ ended South Africa’s World Cup campaign etc. Yet, no one could imagine Australia being booted out in the QF stage. Who could imagine that Australia would not even finish in the top 4?
So what are the reasons that has led to Australia’s downfall? It all obviously started with the composed and shrewd captaincy of Steve Waugh. A stage for future domination was being set when the likes of Mark Taylor, David Boon, Craig Mcdermott were leaving the team and the very talented and mentally strong Shane Warne, Waugh brothers, McGrath, Gilchrist were either starting their careers or peaking. In Steve Waugh they found a leader who was composed yet passionate, methodical yet dynamic and most importantly of all, inspirational.
Steve Waugh left the Australian team with an aggressive and destructive Ricky Ponting, a rock solid run machine Matthew Hayden, a consistent Test opener Langer, a tenacious match winner Michael Bevan, an unplayable legspinner Warne, a wicketkeeper who deserved selection solely because of his batting- Adam Gilchrist, a bowler with an unabatable hunger for wickets- Glenn McGrath and the quick and wicket taking machine Brett Lee. In fact these players are just the cream. There were others such as Damien Martyn, Greg Blewett, Damien Fleming, Jason Gillespie, Symonds etc who were all good cricketers in their own right and helped Australia maintain their no 1 ranking for years.
Ricky Ponting is hailed by many to be a very good captain, but in his case he benefited from Waugh’s legacy. A captain who leads a team which practises a
culture of not just being loyal to the skipper, but a captain who has on board players like Hayden, Warne and McGrath at their peak, is the luckiest captain in the world. What glorified Ponting’s captaincy was his outstanding batting. Ponting, apart from Lara, was the player who could come close to Tendulkar in terms of sheer skill. For most of Ponting’s career cricket pundits acknowledged him along with Tendulkar to be the best batsman.
But then Hayden, Gilchrist, Warne and McGrath retired. Symonds started facing continuous discipline problems. Martyn left, Bevan left, and all of a sudden
Australia was experiencing a descent. Those who planned Australia’s rise in the 1990s did not envisage the fall that would ensue after the exit of Australia’s match winners. Twenty20 cricket came and initially Australia appeared to struggle globally but then improved its team. However, as with every team, Twenty20 will be blamed for Australia’s relatively poor recent Test performance.
It is a mystery to many why Australia is not producing a Warne, Hayden or McGrath. Perhaps it is just due to the fact that trends have changed as the BCCI has risen as a hugely influential cricket body. The focus of the world has shifted so much to Indian cricket and BCCI that perhaps ECB or Australian Cricket Board are not very interested in ensuring that good Test cricketers are produced. It is indeed strange that a sizable number of England’s recent cricketers have either come from Ireland or South Africa, or are originally Indian or Pakistani with cricket running through their veins. An Australian-Pakistani, Usman Khwaja, was reportedly included in an international squad so perhaps Australian cricket will also go in the same direction.
The story of Australian dominance and then its downfall is a fascinating read. Other teams have cashed in on Australia’s recent decline. The rules of the game have changed and cricket has become more competitive. Whereas three years ago you could confidently say Australia had a 90%+ chance of winning an ODI or Test, now teams like India, South Africa, England and Sri Lanka are treated with more respect. Further, teams like Pakistan and New Zealand are as unpredictable and occasionally brilliant, as ever. From the interest and competition perspective, this can only be good for world cricket.
The teams that thwarted Australia’s hunt for another piece of world domination are a stark contrast to one another. A raw, mercurial and passionate team defeated them ending their WC reign of 30+ consecutive victories. And perhaps it was fitting that a giant trounced another giant on 24/03/2011; India, the modern day centre of world cricket with legendary batsmen and a match winning strike bowler.
To conclude, this is well and truly the end of an era. After three consecutive WC victories (which is a record) Australia has been destroyed at the QF stage. For Australians this will take months to sink in, this blunt realisation that they are champions no more. Kings are overthrown, legends are written, myths are created. Every tenure comes to an end, life throws up many reminders that everything that was ever made or formed has to come to an end. This is part and parcel of the circle of life.