Sunday, 19 June 2011

Saqlain Mushtaq & Azhar Mahmood:- A Pakistani's Salute

In the last few weeks, we have read and listened to alot about the saga of Shahid Afridi and the PCB. Most 'Lala' fanatics have been enraged with anger with the treatment of their hero. I've always put my point through that I ain't a member of 'Team Afridi', 'Team Misbah' or 'Team PCB', I'm in the side of Team Pakistan. As long as Pakistan is winning I couldn't care less who is in the team and who isn't. Saying that there is two names I'd like to talk about and their treatment by the Cricket Board and some fans.

Saqlain Mushtaq was a class player. The inventor of the 'Doosra'. He revolutionised the art of off-spin bowling. Saqi picked up over 200 in 49 Test Matches and was the quickest bowler in ODI history to get to 100, 150, 200, 250 wickets. He finished up on 288 Wickets in 169 games. But stats were not what Saqi was about, he bowled a attacking line, during Fielding restrictions and death overs. In Test Cricket where off-spin bowling was primarily used to contain at one end this man made it into a wicket taking option. The biggestest compliment a off-spinner can get is praise from Muttiah Muralitharan, whom regards Saqlain has a mentor and a hero.

Saqi was ousted from the ODI team soon after the 2003 World Cup, in preference of Shaoib Malik being the spinner. Malik is a very good batsman but to pick him ahead of a player of Saqi's calibre in regards of bowling was beyond imagination. The next year, at the age of 27 Saqlain made his last Test appearance for the National team in a Test match against India in Multan. He had figures of 1-204 but when Sehwag and Sachin are in the form that they were in that match it can be hard on a flat surface. He went on to play extremely well for Surrey, Sussex and the ICL for Lahore Badshahs.

The second person is all-rounder Azhar Mahmood. Azhar was a very talented right arm seamer. More than just usefull he made a impact on the world stage. I remember watching his test debut back in 1997,as he got a Hundred on debut with a brillaint 128 not out against a solid attack of South Africa that included Alan Donald, Shaun Pollock and Kallis. He also got a unbeaten 50in the second innings, as Pakistan batted out day 5 in a drawn game. Azhar was one of the key players in Pakistan's 1999 World Cup final reaching team. In him and Abdul Razzaq possessed the best all-rounders in World Cricket. Azhar had the knack of picking up crucial Wickets and finished up on 123 ODI scalps. In 2007, Pakistan were knocked out by minnows Ireland in a game where Pakistan were outplayed. As a result of the defeat Pakistan had to make changes and made Azhar the scapegoat, He didn't represent the National side again.

Azhar then made a successful return to County Cricket, where for Surrey he, along with Saqlain, is regarded as a legend. Only when you walk through the Oval, do you realise how highly regarded the duo are. He is now having a impact on the Kent team with great effect.

We have made a noise about Afridi, like we did when Younis Khan was axed but these two Legends were treated in a sickening way. Truly disgusting way to axe a player to have wore that Green blazer with such pride.

Saqi and Ajju bhai, you have gone but will be remembered in my heart forever!!!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Wahab Riaz - Pakistan's Next Big Superstar!

Wahab Riaz’s selection for the tour of England last summer was a controversial & questionable one. There were common lines like: he has connections, he hails from a rich background/family, he only took 14 scalps in the 2009/10 season and so forth. Generally there were eyebrows raised as he was not one of the most deserving or impressive performers within the domestic circuit. To further add to his woes & negative like reputation he was widely suspected for involvement in the spot fixing scandal with his jacket exchange outside a London restaurant captured by the News of the World. He was receiving overwhelming abuse from his own supporters contingent during the 2nd One Day International at Leeds in September where he was serving 12th man duties. A few hours before the 4th ODI at Lords he got caught up in a physical altercation with England’s Jonathan Trott. The level of dislike attached with him was staggering.

However, putting this aside Wahab has put all of these analogies behind him, overcome the speculations and negativity previously associated with his image, won many diehard supporters including myself, experts who sing his praises, people even going as far as saying he will be the “next big superstar” figure from Pakistan by simply letting his continuous heroic performances do the talking on the field to impress one and all. Full marks must be credited to Wahab for the manner in which he has fought, battled and responded to wet slap his doubters, haters & critics all within 1 full year of representing his country & that too at a relatively young age of 25. There were days in September where he was experiencing nothing but hell, but now he living the dreams of dreams by emerging as one of the best & most exciting finds in the international area with an extremely bright future ahead. The left arm sensation has surely done his fellow countrymen proud. I for one certainly know he has done me proud.

What a roller coaster journey he has gone through which includes:

1) First innings 5 for on Test debut at the Oval in a winning cause. This was Pakistan's first test match win on English territory in 9 years.

2) Leading wicket taker in the Faysal Bank Twenty20 tournament for Lahore Lions who won the tournament in October 2010 after Sialkot Stallions had won the competition for 5 years running previously.

3) Magical spell at Hamilton in a test played in January this year where Pakistan bowled out New Zealand in a single session, won a match in 3 day and went on to have a margin of victory of 10 wickets.

4) 30* in international T20 game on 26/12/10 at Eden Park which was Pakistan's highest score in that particular match.

5) Leading ODI wicket taker with 8 scalps in 3 matches against New Zealand in early 2011 which gave Pakistan their first ODI series win in New Zealand for 17 years.

6) 9 wickets in 5 LOI matches against West Indies which was the most by any Pakistan player from the touring party as they won the ODI series 3-2.

7) Arguably taking the catch of the CWC tournament against Canada on 03/03/11. Also, the game changing catch of Eoin Morgan he took at the Oval in the 3rd ODI at deep square leg last September.

8) 5/46 in Mohali semi final when his place in the team ahead of Shoaib Akhtar was questioned from all corners but he ended up going on to be the star of the show against a potent World Cup champion batting line up in one of the biggest sporting spectacles ever seen as far as media hype, revnues and excitement is concerned.

9) First two performances for Kent CCC now. In the first match he smashed an unbeaten 32* from 15 ball batting at number 6 in a spectacular match winning assault on the Glamorgan bowlers. Then he followed it up by taking 5/17 in just 3 overs including a hattrick against Gloucestershire in a stump cart wheeling exhibition of left arm destruction.

Simply admirable! You will run out of superlatives to describe what he has gone through & achieved. Personally, I believe he is Pakistan’s best pacer of the current generation & held this thought before the World Cup too. He has potential to overtake many other fast bowlers who have been relatively successful for Pak since the retirements of the 2 Ws. We are with you and behind you Wahab! May our milkshake loving tweeter experience all the success & happiness he is capable of ahead. An iconic and talismanic personality in the making.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

T20:- A Team For The Format

With all due respect, I rate T20 Cricket as exactly what it is, the third child of Cricket. I prefer Test Cricket any day and even rate 50 over Cricket higher in regard. One thing that has bugged me is that nearly every side haven't made a side that is specific for the shortest version of the game. A good Test or ODI player will not necessarily become a a hit in T20 and most definitely the other way round, a class T20 player might be a disaster in Test Cricket. As a Pakistani supporter, I will now choose my T20 team, that I would like to see playing in the Fourth edition of the World Cup in June next year.

Imran Nazir:-
Imran is a explosive batsman that is tailor made for 20 over Cricket, He opens the batting at a brisk pace and has a good track record in the format. He averages at 32 runs with a strike rate of above 160.

Mohammad Hafeez
Well what a turnaround he has in his return to International Cricket over the last couple of years. Not just a opening batsman that can bat through 20 Overs, his also a quality off spinner.

Shoaib Malik
Former captain Shoaib Malik has been out of the team recently, for non Cricketing reasons. Malik is one of very few players that can bat 20 overs at a very good strike rate. A Match winner full stop.

Umar Akmal
Umar is a raw talent and the ace in the pack. Once Umar gets going there ain't bowlers good enough to stop him. The sort of man that will win you matches from the jaws of defeat.

Hammad Azam
Hammad is a former U-19 all-rounder. He comes with youth full energy and the ability to become a World beater. Would pick him for raw ability and potential alone.

Abdul Razzaq
Do I need to say much about the Razzler? He can open the bowling and as a batsman in full flow can bat at over the strike rate of 200. A must!!!

Sarfraz Ahmed
Sarfraz is a specialist Wicket-Keeper and as a batsman has come leaps and bounds. Most Pakistani's will understand how costly a keeper can be for the team, after all we are long sufferers of this problem.

Rana Naved
One of the best T20 bowlers in World Cricket at Domestic level. He also has a good record at International level but has been out of the reckoning for some time, again due to non-cricketing reasons. As he has never been charged, can't see why he should miss out.

Wahab Riaz
The new 'Darling' of Pakistan Cricket. Naturally a very quick left arm bowler. Has the ability to swing it away from the right hander and reverse the old ball. In my opinion, if he learns to swing it back in to the right hander, he will become the best bowler in the world. Also he has shown glimpses of good aggressive batting, not least in yesterdays game against Glamorgan, where he got 32 not out from 15 balls to steer Kent to a great win.

Umar Gul
Gul has not performed to his best for some time. But saying that this is his format. He can bowl the yorker at will and is key for any Pakistan team.

Saeed Ajmal
Ajmal is again, like Gul and Wahab, a match winning bowler. The offspinner, bowls a excellent doosra and is one of the best bowlers in the game today.

If you add the likes of Babar Azam, Navid Yasin, Abdur-Rehman and Junaid Khan to this squad then Pakistan have a team of World beaters. In this line up, they have eleven match-winners that can win a game single handingly. Potential winners, in my opinion.

Ive left Shahid Afridi out purposely, as a result of the 'retirement issue'.