Posts Tagged shoaib malik
Danish Kaneria is the most recent addition to the ever-growing and ever-prominent list of Pakistani players whose names have been mentioned in any sort of wrongdoing. It has been alleged that Kaneria and one more Essex player were involved in match fixing in a county match
Are Pakistani players really involved in these shady dealings or is this just some kind of scheme contrived by haters to demean and demoralise Pakistani cricketers and fans? Will we ever know the truth?
Kaneria has had ups and downs in his career and invites a range of opinion about his value to the team. Statistically he is amongst the best bowlers Pakistan has produced, yet there have been innumerable occasions where his control and accuracy have been substandard and calls have been made to drop him from the team. Kaneria’s golden period came under Inzamam’s time when not only was Kaneria the team’s “trump card”, Inzamam also fed off Kaneria’s successes and Kaneria made Inzamam appear a better batsman than Inzamam actually was, as Kaneria kept taking 4 and 5 wicket hauls in those matches in which Inzamam scored heavily. However, after Inzamam’s departure Kaneria has seemed unable to control his bowling and frequently releases pressure off the batsmen after bowling a few good deliveries.
This shocking news comes against the backdrop of PCB penalising Shoaib Malik and Rana Naved for alleged match fixing (although no official reports have emerged as to why these players were actually banned). Previously, almost all of the players who played under Wasim Akram (Inzamam, Malik, Ijaz, Saqlain, Waqar, Ata-ur-Rehman)- all of these names were mentioned in the Qayyum Report which was the first judicial enquiry into sport of its kind in the world. In fact Qayyum in his interview said that, normally boards that run sport have to conduct an internal enquiry but it was considered that the PCB was itself involved in match fixing at the highest level, which is why a judge was asked to conduct an independent enquiry.
This raises many questions, about the integrity of Pakistani cricketers and the people of Pakistan in general. Strangely enough, Sohaib Alvi of Dawn wrote an article yesterday citing that character has disappeared from modern cricket and the cricketers are uneducated and arrogant with no regard for the country or pride. Yet, how far are we, the observers of this unique drama, expected to take this statement? Is match fixing so prevalent that we have to assume it is just a part of Pakistan cricket which cannot be eradicated? What ramifications does this have on the morale of the Pakistani people, and the future of sport in the country?
Although match fixing is associated mainly with Pakistani players, it is considered that its origins lie within the Mumbai underworld. Although we hear of Lahore bookies and Karachi bookies, the roots of modern-day match fixing are in India. Yet, it is surprising how Indian players are generally not suspected of this evil, but almost every Pakistani player has been associated with it. Why is it that the bookies find it so easy to approach Pakistani players? Why does the PCB not do anything about this? And why is it considered that senior officials like Shafqat Rana, Yawar Saeed and Ijaz Butt themselves are involved in corruption?
This thread raises more questions than answers, because the concept of match fixing is something that remains clouded in mystery. There is no smoke without fire and the players and Board officials will have to be more forthright about this. The Pakistani public deserves to know about what actually happens behind closed doors and why the links between Pakistani players and bookies are so inextricable that we keep hearing the words “match fixing” with the word, “Pakistan”.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Mitchell Johnson and Sidde both feature in the top 25
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.
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
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.