A new Pakistani cricket team for the new captain

Posted on April 19, 2007. Filed under: Cricket |

Now that we have a new captain, we must set upon the task of selecting the rest of the team. I am hereby proposing a team on a selection criteria, different than has been used before. Beards are out, clean shaves and fauxhawks in. Arabic recitations on camera is out, speaking proper English is in. Flashing at every short pitched delivery outside the off-stump is out, compact stances and good orthodox technique in. Paindoo production out, blue blood in.

Not everyone in the eleven chosen below qualify on all criteria. But on the whole we will have a team that plays better.  And as a bonus, it looks and sounds better on and off the field.

Salman Butt

Yasir Hameed

Shoaib Malik

Mohammed Yousef

Hassan Raza – For the love of God, the guy is closing in on 10,000 runs in domestic cricket and still can’t get a place on the team. He is only 25. We can still get a world cup out of him.

Bazid Khan – Son of Majid Khan, nephew of Imran Khan, very talented with good technique to boot, winsome batsman for Pakistan As and in domestic cricket.

Abdul Razzak

Mohammed Sami – Now that Shoaib ‘drama’ Akhtar has rid the team of himself, we have to let Sami develop himself like we all know he can.

Umar Gul

Mohammed Asif

Danish Kaneria – Every team needs a genuine spinner and he is the best in Pakistan. Spinners are winning ODI games around the world. Please don’t make him have to convert to Islam to play for his country.

I know what you are thinking. Alibhae forgot to add a keeper. No, I didn’t. Yasir Hameed keeps. Did you know he has averaged 15 more runs than the chipmunk who keeps for us presently. Check the stats yourself.

Coach: Aaqib Javed

Connection to golden yesteryears courtesy of Bazid Khan and Faisal Iqbal. Give them a chance and they’ll show you good crickets runs in their blood. With a squad like this we can bat down to number 8. We have opening flair. A solid middle order. Big hitters at batting tail for the final slog. We have three genuine fast bowlers, and a specialist spinner in Kaneria.

We can field a different team for the tests that includes Inzamam, Younas, Yousaf, and Danish. Younas can captain that squad and Shoaib be his VC on the test side.

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All hail the new Captain

Posted on April 19, 2007. Filed under: Cricket |

So the PCB has finally decided upon a new captain in Shoaib Malik. For a while there it seemed as if the issue of the captaincy was going to be another big drama. People were throwing their hats in, others were retrieving their caps out of the ring. Mad house.

Shoaib is a good cricketer. Unlike most Pakistani batsmen, he hasn’t made any fuss of his position in the batting order. Instead, he has let the willow do the talking for him by playing well at any position he was inserted into. His contributions with the ball make him into a potent all-rounder. On top of that he is the best fielder in the team and that includes our wicket keeper. Those in the know have opined about his sharp cricketing mind and his team spirit. Pakistani cricket teams of our youth were admired as much for their fighting spirit in losing as for their flamboyant wins. That attitude came from the top down. Lately, it seemed top was lacking in passion. Lets hope this new direction in terms of leadership also signals a change in the way teams are selected and cricketers are developed.

As a cricketer he is a good fit for the job over the long term. Then there is the ‘it’ factor. Is he it? Has he got it? I think he is, and he does. He is a smart looker. He took care of his school boy hair a while ago all by himself. He has yet to be pictured in a beard or flip flops. And most importantly, he can speak English. I know I am going to get flak for this comment. But dammit we are not a nation of jahils. English is the international language of cricket. We can’t have someone up at the podium make us all look like idiot fundoos. Whatever happened to Pakistani cricketers being smart with dress and demeanor. Shoaib can bring that back.

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Is match fixing still a problem in Pakistan cricket team?

Posted on April 11, 2007. Filed under: Cricket |

 The question has recently been raised by a number of people. All of them from within Pakistan. All of them stakeholders in the health of our national passion. But who really knows. I for one, don’t know. But I think it is a very valid question, and I sure would like an answer.

Matchfixing in cricket is not a new problem, and Graham Stewart explored some history for TimesOnline. Neither is corruption in professional sports limited to Cricket. And it is not just us brownies who have tarnished the image of the gentleman’s game. Everone seems to have taken a tour of the crapper. DNA timelines some major headlines in this context.  

A number of Pakistan team members have struck back at the accusations, defending themselves on camera, and threatening legal action against the accusers. That much was to be expected. You wouldn’t think they’ll come out and say, yes we still do it. Still it is difficult to get away from the cloud of suspicion that follows the Pakistani cricketers.

We can’t hide from the fact that in the not too distant past, Pakistani cricketers have been found guilty of various instances of match fixing by a Pakistani court. The report of the Justice Qayuum inquest into match fixing by Pakistani cricketers named names. It is now well known that all major players in our teams of the last 15 years had been involved in match fixing. Salim Malik, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Ijaz Ahmed, Saeed Anwar, Mushtaq Ahmed, Inzamam-ul-Haq, and Akram Raza, Ata-ur-Rehman all were found guilty then and handed varyious bans and fines. Basit Ali, Moin Khan, Shahid Afridi, and Azhar Mehmood, all were cast in a suspicious light, but let off for lack of enough evidence against them.

Off all those who played for Pakistan in those years only a handfull, namely Rameez Raja, Aaqib Javed, Aamir Sohail, Rashid Latif have come out of the fiasco clean. Rashid Latif even resigned his captaincy protesting the corruption of fellow players. And most believe it was his pointing out the issue that earned him the ire of the PCB and the team and his premature axing from the squad. And he has recently aired his suspicions about match fixing still going on.

2000 was an eventful year for cricket with regards to match fixing. An inquiry in India followed the one in Pakistan. Cricketers from Australia, South Africa, India , Pakistan, West Indies, and Sri Lanka all turned out to have been involved to various degrees and many were punished. After all that, in a september 2000 article, Rafi Naseem sounded hopeful that the problem had been taken care of. Those deemed the worst offenders had been sidelined. Others had sought forgiveness and gone about restoring their tarnished images. There have been suggestions from those in the know that the present bearded state of Islamization of the Pakistani team occured after they started repenting their sins and sought peace of mind in religion.

The driving force behind corruption in sports is gambling. BBC showed it clearly exists illegaly in Pakistan even today. But in term of money in the market, The Lahori bookies are likely dwarfed by the rackets run by organized crime in Bombay and Dubai. Legal sports betting adds to the stakes.

So here is what we know: Sports betting and Gambling on cricket is still going on strong. Many cricketers who were involved in the rackets are still involved with the sport as team members and management. Bookies are still persuing cricketers. The last link in the chain is yet undiscovered. All it takes to complete the chain again is bookie-cricketer contact. And that requires an investigation.

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Ikhtitam ul Haq

Posted on March 20, 2007. Filed under: Cricket |

The sad end of Inzamam’s cricket career

The picture says it all. Head bowed in embarrassment, visibly shaken and looking like a man who has just lost the most important battle of his life. The cricketing career of Inzamam-ul-Haq comes to an end. The saga that began with a young man full of raw talent and devil may care attitude on the cricketing pitch ends with a grown man struggling to find the will to fight. A sad end to the career of yet another Sub- Continental cricketing giant.The match that hurried Inzi into retirement will forever be recorded as the biggest upset in the world cup history. A make shift team of part time players, playing without central contracts or huge endorsement checks humbled a team considered the most talented team on paper.

Lets talk about the two Inzis we have come to love and hate over the last 15 years. Inzi the batsman and Inzi the captain. As a batsman he had his shortcomings but one thing is undisputed. He was a very talented batsman. Making over 20,000 runs in International cricket is no small feat. As of today there are only three batsmen in the history of the game who have scored over 20,000 international runs, Tendulkar, Lara and Inzi; with Dravid and Ponting very close to the target. An elite group of players that everyone who ever dreams of wielding the willow professionally tries to emulate. A large number of his test centuries have come in a winning cause for Pakistan. His ratio of centuries in wins is only second to the god of cricket, Don Bradman. No one can steal away his place as one of the greatest batsmen Pakistan ever produced.

Now comes Inzi the captain. Elevated to the post of captaincy based on seniority, an old Pakistani tradition. His captaincy can only be summarized as a mixture of mediocre successes and embarrassing failures. As a captain his lack of vision and absence of motivation was evident for the whole cricketing world to see. His look in the field told the spectators and viewers that he didn’t want to be there. No words of encouragement for the bowlers and fielders. No tips and tricks to pressurize the batsmen. No show of anger for poor performance. Hard to believe that a person who had played under the captaincy of Imran Khan would not pick some morsels of wisdom from the most successful captain in Pakistan’s history. With all his shortcomings, he did in fact had one thing common with Imran. His strong likes and dislikes for certain players but for very different reasons. Imran went to extremes to keep the players he supported, Qadir, Wasim and Inzi himself. Inzamam kept the players he liked based on personal preference first and talent second. It was made clear in the news that Mushtaq’s appointment as the bowling coach for the World Cup was made on Inzamam’s insistence. A bowling team with one full time and one part time leg spinner who were both far from automatic selection in the playing eleven was coached by a former leggie. The whole world saw it as a stupid move but Pakistani team stuck with the plan and paid dearly in South Africa and the Caribbean.

The one thing that I personally have an issue with is the shot of religion that was given to every member of the team in large quantity. Rumors were common that the team is pressurized to pray together since it was considered the sure shot method of gluing the team. The motto “ if you want to play together , pray together” became a butt of jokes everywhere. Every time Inzi appeared before the camera or a microphone, we were given a heavy dose of religion. Apparently it was supposed to make Pakistani team the best in the world. No bright bulb in the “tablighi ijtamah” also known as net practice pointed out the absence of religion in other teams who were a lot more successful in the cricket ground without having God to take credit for their success and blame for their failure. No genius ever pointed out to them that religion has nothing to do with cricket. The Pakistani team that won the cup in 92 was made up of drinkers, gamblers, pot smokers and playboys.

Pakistan cricket is at the bottom right now. As a matter of fact we had hit the bottom some time ago and then started digging. It is time to shed the tradition of appointing the captain on seniority alone. Captaincy should only be given based on merit. The team should be given a strict message as far as physical appearance is concerned. We can do without the models of “best of Taliban” calendar playing for our national team and representing our country as ambassadors in the whole world. PCB should spend some money on getting the team members a little help in spoken English and in management. Lets make sure that we don’t have another great player again bowing out from the world of cricket with his head pointed at the ground.

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A Killer Match

Posted on March 19, 2007. Filed under: Cricket |

Obituary: Bob Woolmer

Yesterday, millions of Pakistani cricket fans saw Bob Woolmer put his head on the table after Shoaib Malik was caught. You could see the agony of watching the Pakistani team falling apart on his face. While watching the game with my friends I made a comment that he is probably taking a mental inventory of all his possessions in Pakistan that need to be shipped out before he reaches back. This morning (U.S.A Pacific time) when I read the sad news of his demise I could not help but re run that clip in my head.

I was preparing to write something else today but changed my mind. I want to take some time and thank Bob for his service to Pakistani cricket.

“As fanatic fans of cricket we welcomed the news when you were appointed the head coach of Pakistani cricket team. In the next few months we saw improvement in the performance and fighting spirit of the team. The zenith came when a team heavy on young talent drew the test series in India and won the ODI series. We beat India and England at home and won against Sri Lanka and drew against West Indies aboard. Things were looking good for the world cup. Then came the away tours of England and South Africa. We saw the team crumble and started asking for your head to roll. It was a natural response of a volatile fan base and being good Pakistanis that we are, we were fast to reach the conclusion that if everything else is great then the only thing that is stopping us from reaching the top must be the coach. Lets face it , we had the best bunch of individual performers and as everyone says the best team on paper. They were becoming religious and even praying together. By God’s grace they were even starting to look alike. Instead of one Inzi, we were going to get to the field with 11 Inzis. Most of the team even performed Umra and started dropping Allah’s name in every sentence that came out of their mouths. We even left everything on Allah. Our team’s fitness, bowling, batting and even fielding. Well that didn’t go very well.

Today we realize that you did all you could to make champions out of this sorry bunch of wannabes. You could only teach them the skills to overcome their shortcomings. The final application was their job. You could teach them the virtues of teamwork but it was their job to become a cohesive and fighting unit. You could tell them what they meant to the Pakistani citizens but you could not teach them the basics of responsibility. You Sir, did your job admirably. They on the other hand screwed it up for you and the public that had elevated them to the thrones of celebrity.

You gave your life with dignity and honor before being put through the hell that was sure to come in the next few days. Pakistani citizens and cricket fans were sharpening their swords, myself included. Unfortunately it took your death to make us realize that it was never your fault. The rot of the team had started long before you took reign of it. You were just the watchman on duty when that grown tree fell. You could not bear the pain of watching your team humiliated by a bunch of amateur cricketers.

May you enjoy your days playing with Bradman, Grace, Laker, Nawab Pataudi Sr., Abdul H. Kardar and Fazal Mehmood. Enjoy talking about the great game with the great players. You didn’t deserve to be dragged in the cesspool of politics and corruption that is the Pakistani cricket. We hope that your untimely departure from this world will make a few higher ups in PCB shake with embarrassment. Ah! What silly bunch of hopefuls we are.

Bon Voyage my friend. May all your cover drives be effortless and all you straight drives pure.”

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