Posts Tagged mohammad yousuf

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

Pakistan suffered one of its worst tour defeats at the hands of Australia. Pakistanis were completely outplayed in Tests and ODI’s and the tragedy was that they could not even win the lone T20. Chaos ensued during and after this forgettable, yet unforgettable series and grievous flaws were identified right from the top of PCB’s management to the Pakistan team’s on-field behaviour.

Butt is the laughing stock of the cricket world and under his leadership Pakistan cricket has gone from bad to worse

There are reports of turmoil within the PCB as Ijaz Butt has failed to change the culture of the PCB and in fact internal strife, mismanagement and incompetence levels have increased. Butt is under immense pressure to resign as it is alleged he is too old, incompetent and more concerned about running his private business than managing the cricket situation in the country. Since Butt has appeared on the cricket scene, the team has gone from bad to worse. There is no vision, no planning, and like his appointor, Asif Zardari, Butt is spending more time facing flak and responding (unconvincingly) to criticism than actually doing something positive to remedy the affliction the Pakistan team is experiencing.

On one hand Butt said that Yousuf was the wrong choice as captain of

Pathetic Yousuf thinks he captained well in Australia

the team for the Australia tour, but on the other hand he said there was no alternative. What kind of decision-making is this? Why was a younger player not appointed as a temporary captain? Yousuf proved to be a worse captain than anyone thought. Not only was he completely negative in everything that he did- batting, field placement, bowling changes, managing team morale etc, he also failed to win the respect of his team-mates, unlike Inzamam who was at least senior enough to obtain some respect from the juniors. It was also disheartening to see Yousuf openly condemning Butt’s running between the wickets and Manzoor’s technique. Interestingly, Butt proved to be Pakistan’s best batsmen in Tests and Manzoor probably played the best knock by a Pakistani in the Test series.

According to many news reports, Malik is the reason behind dirty regional politics in the team

At the same time as Butt’s inept management and Yousuf’s maladroit captaincy, there were reports of team disunity. Some reports went as far as suggesting that two camps were created in the team- the Karachi camp (thought to be led by Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi) and the Sialkot/Punjab camp led by Shoaib Malik. In fact some news suggested that the team manager had created a report on Shoaib Malik using politics to advance his camp’s interests. Whether any action is taken against Malik for this remains to be seen. Indeed, Malik captained Pakistan’s T20 match and although it was known Pakistan would provide a tough challenge to Australia in any circumstance, Malik’s captaincy has been hailed as “inspirational” and “attacking” by his misled supporters. The truth is that a club T20 team from Pakistan can provide a tough challenge to Australia in T20, yet somehow Malik’s supporters have forgotten this.

In such dire times, Pakistan needs a completely new and revolutionary strategy. As far as team

Umar Akmal is a gifted batsman and has a very good cricketing mind

Fawad has some technical batting problems, but he still impresses. He is the best fielder in the side and his batting and fielding impressed the Australians

performance is concerned, in Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan found their best 2 ODI batsmen. This firstly proves that the much maligned Pakistani domestic structure can still produce good players. Secondly, this proves that for some reason or the other, the team’s main batsmen- Younis, Yousuf and Malik, are not up to the mark and must make way for juniors. When your best ODI batsmen are not your 4 or 5 most experienced batsmen, you know something is wrong with your team.

The horror seen in Butt’s time shows that a former cricketer is not necessarily a good administrator. Pakistan should appoint a management expert with good cricket acumen to lead the Board. In fact, the best way forward is probably to fire all former cricketers who are involved in running the show as all of these cricketers seem to have shady motives and personal grudges against each other, and an organisation cannot run successfully in this way.

Inti, it is no laughing matter that under your term as coach, Pakistan has become a very weak team, especially when chasing targets

A younger, fitter coach should be appointed. Pakistan should look beyond people like Intikhab Alam and should opt for a relatively low profile coach, perhaps from some regional academy. Pakistan has suffered too much and too long under Intikhab- his failure reflects in the fact that no improvements have been seen in the players. All the technical weaknesses remain, the standard of fielding is still poor, the bowlers are still getting injured relatively easily. The worst aspect is that mentally the Pakistan team has worsened under Intikhab, whereas when Inti was appointed he said mental strength would be one of his main areas of focus. Pakistan is losing Test matches from winning positions and it is looking increasingly vulnerable when chasing even modest targets.

Mediocrity is prevalent across the squad. Being mediocre is in some

Too many mediocre performers spoil the broth

ways worse than being pathetic, because a mediocre player makes 30 runs with some consistency to cement his position in the team, but is always focusing to remain in the team because he finds it so hard to make sizable scores, especially when the situation demands some character from a batsman. Similarly, bowlers like Rana and Rao survive on picking up 1 or 2 wickets here and there, or keeping the economy rate to under 4.5. Whereas, a pathetic or substandard player gets booted straightaway from the team. Shoaib Malik must not be tolerated anymore in the lineup. Similarly, Rana and Rao must be permanently banned from playing international cricket.

He can be very stupid sometimes, but his "outside the box" gameplay may well be what Pakistan cricket needs to survive

Afridi’s ball tampering incident was regrettable. However, whereas it has caused anger for many, many also see Afridi as someone who would be willing to think outside the box and who would be desperate to win matches for Pakistan. Although Afridi is not the brightest cricketer in the squad, he is very unlikely to tamper with the ball again. Afridi has received his penalty from the ICC and he must now be forgiven by the PCB and Pakistani public. Pakistan needs Afridi’s passionate captaincy and fighting spirit, and the fans should persuade the PCB to experiment with Afridi in all formats. Otherwise, Malik or Akmal will be appointed captain and Pakistan should not reward their consistently poor performances any longer.

Now the PCB must use their initiative and build a Test team with Younis, Yousuf, Afridi, U Akmal and Fawad Alam in the middle order. In ODI’s, Afridi, U Akmal and Alam must be the main batsmen and perhaps Butt will also improve his ODI form and become a significant cog in the wheel. In Umer Akmal and Fawad Alam Pakistan has found two exciting and talented players and now the PCB must look for more players like them.

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SLEDGING IS NOT PAKISTAN’S MAIN WORRY

Pakistan take on Australia in a few hours which will commence a series of paramount significance to the Pakistanis. Firstly, Pakistan has barely played any Test cricket in the past 3 years and this series will provide a change of culture, although it is arguable that Pakistan ought to be well prepared having just played a Test series in New Zealand. Secondly, Australia is still a tough team to beat despite not being invincible anymore. Thirdly, this is a high profile series as Pakistan is playing Australia in Australia. So, let there be no doubts about how crucial this series is from Pakistan’s perspective.

The Australians do use sledging to their advantage and many critics are claiming their main weapon against Pakistan will be sledging. However, is it really Pakistan’s major worry? Batting, as always, seems to be the main worry for Pakistan and the batsmen barely performed up to mark against New Zealand. In fact, had it not been for Mohammad Asif, Pakistan could have been beaten comprehensively in all the Tests.

Make no mistake about it- Pakistan's bowling is their only saving grace

Mitchell Johnson and Sidde both feature in the top 25

Australia has a strong pace attack which can rattle the Pakistan top order easily

 Test bowlers in the world, and although this statement is perhaps not as impressive as one might consider it to be, Australia also have Bollinger who has 15 wickets in 3 Tests so far. He is a left armer which means the change of angle might unnerve Pakistan to some degree. Even though Australia does not have Clark and Lee to complement Johnson, Siddle and Bollinger can take Pakistani wickets. Yousuf has commented that Pakistanis will need to show patience, and he cannot be more right. It seems futile stating the obvious given that Pakistani openers never learn from their mistakes, but both Butt and Farhat will have to wait until the new ball stops swinging before going for their shots.

Malik and Misbah are indispensable for some reason

Due to politics Faisal Iqbal, Malik and Misbah will definitely get more chances to play than Fawad Alam, but Pakistan must not persist with these players if they make mistakes in the first Test. It is thought Malik will not play in the first Test since he is out of form and since Faisal Iqbal made a 50 in his last Test, but Yousuf has commented recently that he has high hopes with Malik and Misbah. In fact, if any of Butt, Farhat, Iqbal, Malik or Misbah make their usual mistakes, Alam must replace that player in the second Test. It goes without saying that neither Malik nor Misbah deserve to be playing for Pakistan. One can say the same for Faisal Iqbal, but he has been in and out for many years unlike Malik and Misbah who have been selected in pretty much all Test, ODI and T20 squads despite being mediocre players.

Pakistan is counting on the batting form of the Akmal brothers and Yousuf to counter the Australian bowling attack. If Umer Akmal can score runs in this series, it will be another feather in his cap and he will probably be promoted to a Category A contract. The youngster has shown he can handle pressure and he must not falter at this stage, otherwise critics will start questioning his calibre.

Bowling wise, Pakistan has some fascinating options to ponder. The pace attack consists of

It is difficult considering Ajmal as an attacking option, but he will get a chance to play if Kaneria is injured

 Aamer, Asif, Gul, Rauf and (now) Sami. There are rumours the Pakistani management might play both Kaneria and Ajmal, and there are also rumours that Kaneria has injured his finger which means he might not play. In the first Test I believe Pakistan should go for the attacking option and play Asif, Aamer and Gul. Kaneria should be the spin option. It is always best to go in the first Test using the best XI on paper. If there is need for a 5th bowling option, Yousuf can opt for Butt, Farhat or Alam- depending on who is playing.

The rest of the line up should be as follows: Butt, Farhat, Yousuf, Iqbal/Alam, Umer Akmal, Misbah/Alam, Kamran Akmal…

The toss of course plays a major part; if the pitch shows some life and Ponting decides to bowl first, then Pakistan will probably lose this Boxing Day test. If Yousuf wins however, he should bowl first- simply because Pakistanis are inexperienced in Australia and he is the only world class batsman in the team. In any event, Asif, Aamer and Gul in full slow can do damage to the Australians if the pitch is offering seam and swing. Once the ball stops swining, Kaneria can attack the middle or lower order batsmen. This is of course wishful thinking- it all depends on how the pitch is like and how the players perform on the day itself. Rest assured, though, that sledging is not Pakistan’s main worry and the batsmen need to support the bowlers and play intelligently. Otherwise, this series will end as yet another nightmare for Pakistan cricket fans, and Pakistan will see the frightening possibility of being compared with Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in Tests.

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RETURN OF THE KING

King Yousuf

King Yousuf

Michael Jackson’s tour of the UK scheduled for this year was being hailed as the “Return of the King”. Jackson was the King of Pop and unfortunately, his fans will not see his much-awaited return. But there is another King, and his fans did see his fantastic return where he silenced all critics and cemented his status as a legendary batsman.

If consistency is the criterion, then no Pakistani batsman can match Yousuf. Since 2000, Yousuf has never averaged under 40 in a given year in Tests.  What makes Yousuf different to Inzamam and Younis is that Yousuf has somehow garnered 24 Test centuries without being noticed. That very fact makes Yousuf seem less significant to the team at the same time; indeed, Inzamam and Younis generally made/make centuries to save or win matches for Pakistan.
Yet, that should not make one think less of Yousuf. Tendulkar, probably the greatest batsman of all time also does not have a reputation of being a match winner for India. But he has scored plenty of runs at amazing consistency, something he shares with Mohammad Yousuf.

The century Yousuf made in his comeback Test is more than just an addition to his glorious statistics. It has demonstrated a side of Yousuf we don’t see regularly- or perhaps we don’t notice when we ought to. Such is Yousuf’s meek and introverted personality that as an individual, he often fails to get himself noticed. Yet, his bat has done the talking, and his statistics don’t lie. In this comeback Test we have seen Yousuf’s mental strength, we have seen his “revenge” on certain team mates or PCB officials who thought he was redundant, and most important of all, Yousuf has made us realise how much the team needs him and how much the Pakistan cricket fans need him.

Yousuf fought to get this century. He survived many close LBW appeals. He ran hard and he persisted in humid conditions. The determination was visible on his face and his body language. Only a great player can arrive on the crease with such contrivance, and have the guts, skill and tenacity to see it through. Every run he obtained was through careful, workman-like execution. His trademark lazy and effortless drives were barely seen. However, there is a certain charm and a certain elegance to the way Yousuf makes his many runs, whatever the circumstances and however the execution thereof. So much so that even an innings that features only a handful of boundaries seems like a spectacle.

Pakistans most consistent batsman

Pakistan's most consistent batsman

Consistency has not been the strength of Pakistan’s batsmen. Inzamam was a great player, but he was inconsistent. Similarly, Younis is also very talented, but batting at no 3 has affected his consistency. Yousuf is an anomaly in this regard. It is difficult to recall the last time when Yousuf did not perform in a few consecutive series. That has probably never happened in his career. We give Inzamam the credit for being a matchwinner. We give Younis the credit for making huge centuries and being a fighter. Perhaps we ought to appreciate Mohammad Yousuf for his consistency, which has been a rare trait in Pakistani batsmen. Consistency may not win you many matches, but it makes you a very skilled and professional player. The return of the King has been phenomenal, and now fans hope the King will rule the world once again with aplomb and make plenty of runs for Pakistan.

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