Wednesday, 31 August 2011

An Excited PCT Fan

Pakistan’s 2011/12 international season kicks off tomorrow. Junaid Khan expected to debut in the whites. An 18 day tour of Zimbabwe followed up by a 19 match home itinerary across all formats of the game against Sri Lanka and England in the United Arab Emirates and finally the 11th Asia Cup tournament scheduled for March in Bangladesh to round things off.

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka 2011 fixtures released. Cricket returns to Sharjah after several years.


Pakistan vs Zimbabwe

Test: Pakistan wins comprehensively
ODIs: 3-0 Pakistan
T20s: 1-1

Pakistan vs Sri Lanka

Tests: 1-0 Pakistan
ODIs: 3-2 Sri Lanka
T20: Sri Lanka

Pakistan vs England

Tests: 1-1
ODIs: 3-1 Pakistan
T20s: 2-1 Pakistan

Asia Cup 2012: Pakistan winners

T20 WC 2012: Finalists

U19 WC 2012: Semi Finalists

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Super Over Exhibitions on Finals Day Decides the Course of the Day at Edgbaston 2011

The amount of major 20/20 games which are going down to the wire i.e. super over nowadays is getting unbelievably crazy. I can name at least 4 domestic SFs or finals this year which have been determined by a 1 over slog fest just at the top of my head. Personally, I prefer to see a super over ahead of a bowl out and feel the idea works well to settle a tie, but as we saw yesterday in rain affected shortened duck worth Lewis games sides are usually neck or neck right to the end and therefore a tie is always a chance. Should duckworth lewis be applied in such a short version of the game?

Remember the England/WI pool game incident during the 2010 WT20 where WI won chasing not much inside a 6 over slot having been outplayed for the first half and even the opposition captain acknowledged England were hard done by. Perhaps duck worth lewis is too much of unfair interference in 20/20, especially in pressure games when so much hard work and dedication goes into reaching the latter stages of the tournament. You’d expect something fairer and squarer surely? I don’t buy into the fact that there is no better alternative, the game requires flexibility.

Nevertheless, congratulations to Leicestershire.

2006= Leicestershire
2011= Leicestershire

Abdul Razzaq = Best T20 Player in the World

1) T20 WC win with Pakistan 2009

2) ICL win with underdogs Hyderabad Heroes 2008

3) Domestic T20 with Sialkot Stallions 2010

4) Domestic T20 with Lahore Lions 2010 (straight after he transferred)

5) T20 win Hampshire 2010

6) T20 win Leicestershire 2011 (straight after he transferred)

What a player!

Spot Fixing Scandal - A Year On

It’s been exactly a year since the NOTW publications regarding the spot fixing scandal were revealed. It was this weekend last year. A gloomy day at Lords in more ways than one as Michael Atherton mentioned on commentary on the final day of the test series when the players made their way out to the middle on the back of high suspiciousness.

Pakistan didn’t even bother going out to train that morning, the situation got so bad. An unforgettable history which damaged the game and country’s integrity. An all time low for the cricket mad nation.

Since that date the former captain has been providing punditry on television which undoubtedly was shameful and sickening enough considering here was a guy who sold out his country’s name and is able to attract attention and air his views publicly, despite the hot water he was standing in and the damage he has done.

Since then Mohammad Amir has appeared for Addington CC in the Surrey league and faced the chance of having his suspension extended as this was against the boundaries of his ban, however recently he has escaped further punishment, despite the breach. Nonetheless he has been warned severely.

Since that date the trio obviously have never appeared for their country again, received minimum 5 year bans all around which was the outcome of the hearing in Doha in February, been banned from playing domestic and club cricket associated with respective country boards and face an ongoing criminal trial in court which they have been busy preparing for. Could Pakistan cricket get any lower?

However, in perspective there is of course the argument that this was a minor victory for the game in the sense that awareness was raised, realisation began to kick in & serious measures could be adopted to prevent these things from occurring in the future. It was a wakeup call for governing bodies, fellow players, fans in denial and authorities. Hopefully things can only get better from here on in and the the lowest times have past for this beloved game we all so passionately follow.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Mohammad Amir:- One Year On... A fans Journey

27th August 2010, sitting in the stands at Lords was a dream. I had just turned 28 years old that day, and was at the ground to watch my hero's play the game I love more than myself. What i witnessed that day, I wrote in my article, ( ). The next few months were trying to say the least.

I've supported Amir throughout his ordeal. Petitions, that were posted to the PCB, in person to the High Commission of Pakistan in London to fight for a boy that I believed had not received the support he should have received from the authorities that could have advised a kid better. A kid that came from a poor background had been left in a big world without any real support.

In the past year we have seen the players banned for five years, minimum, and charged by the Met Police for corruption. I have read the entire transcript and there is little doubt that the spot-fixing happened for real. The idea that it was a fabricated story and stitch up doesn't work anymore. Amir was always looked by me as a kid that had got stuck in a big world... until now

They say tough times make people grow up, but has Amir learnt from his mistake? When it comes to your career, you forget loyalties and do whatever possible to help your OWN career, has Amir done so? NO! Amir has had ample chances to come clean to the ICC but has not done so. His shown his loyalty to Salman Butt, but not to his own career and Pakistan Cricket. For that alone, in my opinion, Amir has not done his duty, as a human, as a Pakistani. Pakistan Cricket deserves better than a kid that has not grown a touch in a year. Pakistan Cricket, and its fans deserve better than Mohammad Amir and his ego....

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Shoaib Malik:- What Could Have Been‏

Fast rewind 30th March 2011, Pakistan V India 2nd Cricket World Cup Semi Final and after India were restricted to a mere 260, Pakistan had begun their run chase. After a good start from the openers, both openers perished leaving Pakistan 70-2 in the 16th. Young, but talented Asad Shafiq at the crease with nerves jangling and enters a guy oozing class, a guy who is big game player. A man for such occasions.

Enter Shoaib Malik, a man averaging over 50 (4 hundreds) against India in ODI Cricket. A guy who has been there and worn that Tee-Shirt, so to speak. A guy that has the charisma to stride out, punch the gloves of Shafiq and let him know there is no pressure as his here. A man that even when Asad Shafiq gets out that can dictate the game. A man that Misbah can play around and take the team over the line.

Now nothing is for certain but can you imagine how the chances of Pakistan of winning that game would have increased had Malik been available? A guy dropped because he wasn't cleared by the PCB's integrity committee for his overseas assets.

Now fast forward to today and Malik has been cleared. My question is why has it taken the best part of a year? Why have Malik and his family had to go through this for so long looking like some dodgy fraudulent people? Why has the Pakistan public been made to suffer in his loss? And last but not least if its hard for us fans to look at something like Mohali and think of what could have been, then how must a Malik think whilst watching when he knows he should be out there in the middle?

I remember 2009 and the T20 final at Lords, I was in a stand watching and always knew with him there we will win. His return makes me feel happy but still can't let go of what could have been.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Future of Pakistan’s Batting

In order of rating:
1) Azhar Ali: He has only really played 1 format, but test cricket has priority and Azhar has been most effective & successful there out of the under 30 batsmen in the last 10 months or so so he clearly tops the list for me. He has been a true revelation, excellent find and a general breath of fresh air because Pakistan have finally found a genuine test class batsmen who has the capabilities to dig in hard, grind it out, occupy the crease for lengthy amounts of time & close one end up in an age where there have been way too many inconsistent flashy stroke makers flourishing through the ranks from Pakistan. His application, patience, temperament, mental toughness & solid and sound defence is immense. He knows his game plan well & operates within his limits which will inevitably maximise his effectiveness. He has found success from a classical and slightly traditional style of batting. He comes across as a mature, responsible & focussed youngster. He is not fussed about taking his time & getting bogged down and therefore is confidently able to put a price on his wicket & see out patches of play. He is totally at the ease at the crease and unfazed by what is going on around him so rarely gets distracted. He has played 12 consecutive tests without being injured or dropped which is rare by Pakistani tendencies that are known for their inconsistent selection policy. This is a reflection of how well he has performed, impressed and settled.

Technically he looks to get behind the line and cover the movement of the ball, play the ball late, defends comfortably from the back foot against the slower bowlers and typically like many sub continental batsmen uses his wrists to good effect when looking to find the gaps, but ultimately it’s his concentration and sheer determination which gets him through and can frustrate fielders and bowlers to high degrees. He strives/fights hard and works out of his skin. Once he’s in he’s a tough cookie to dislodge and it usually takes a quality delivery to dismiss him. He can hold the innings together and give himself a firm platform to capitalise from. He is controlled, methodical & with an abundance of steadiness. He has been tipped to be groomed as Pakistan’s vice captain as he has cemented his place at the all important number 3 position, but also done it in an admirable fashion. He has captaincy experience from league cricket in Scotland where he has been representing Huntly CC as the overseas professional. He is a good fielder with sharp reflexes which adds to the overall package he brings in the team. He is a bowler turned batsmen as he used to be a front line leg spinner in his younger days and for the record has 2 List A 5fors next to his name. This is a reflection of a quick learner on top of everything else. His style may not be the most appealing or attractive, but nonetheless proper test cricket appreciators cannot speak highly enough of the man who has scored 8 half centuries in his first 23 test innings (all which have contributed to a positive team result). He has been an integral member of Misbah’s test team which has reformed & rejuvenated the respect & fortunes of Pakistan’s test outfit in challenging circumstances and seems to be learning well under his leadership & guidance. However, he is vulnerable against outswingers in the corridor of uncertainty which is an area he can brush up on and improve his judgement. He doesn’t mind doing the hard yards by standing at short leg and getting stuck under people’s noses and taking a few blows for the team which speaks volumes about his attitude, willingness and bravery.

He is the Hanif Mohammad equivalent of this generation. He is a Dravid, Chanderpaul, Kallis, Trott, Michael Atherton style player in how he goes about his approach and business. This is how he should be looked at. Limited in ability or natural talent you can say but he makes up for it by strengthening his technique, temperament, hard work, fighting resilience, game sense & maturity. A lot of Westerners and non-Pakistan journalists and followers of cricket love watching him bat. One of them told he was the one thing which has been instrumental in bringing back their interest for following Pakistan Cricket. He is good to watch in how he applies himself at the wicket & demonstrates the spirit and guts he does. Plays straight and is hungry to stay at the crease for extended periods of time. He has a commanding structure about him with his stance and sturdy approach. A proper student of the game.

2) Asad Shafiq: 4 consecutive boundaries against Tim Bresnan when he was coming into bat at a difficult time and stage on his 2nd ODI , half century in his 3rd ODI, half century on test debut against a top class attack, half century in his 2nd test innings in alien conditions, half century on WC debut, a crucial 46 in a high pressure game against Australia in a low scoring winning cause- we have seen enough of this guy to know he can play and has a bright future ahead! Mohammad Yousuf himself has praised him as one of the finest technically correct young batsmen he has seen in a long time. A very elegant and classy young chap. One that is bound to go far. Nevertheless he has a weakness of playing down the wrong line outside his off stump where he been dismissed a few times too many. Plays the ball late, times the ball sweetly, strong of his legs & superb in the field.

3) Umar Akmal: What immediately comes to mind is amazing hand eye coordination, top notch foot work, quick bat speed, fantastic athleticism, brain farts, ill discipline and temperamental deficiencies, but he is an exceptionally gifted talent and when you say this for Umar Akmal you really mean it with both heart and mind. He is one of a rare kind. He is a dominating cricketer who operates with a fearless and aggressive mindset. He is an extremely efficient and cool headed ground fielder and catcher. He started his international career sensationally well with a century on test debut & one within his first few ODIs against Sri Lanka. He shone in the 2010 ICC T20 WC scoring 50s against South Africa & Australia. He followed it up by a spectacular 31 ball 64 in Edgbaston against Australia in the MCC Spirit of cricket series. He had a quite 2010/11 winter which found himself lose his test spot to Asad Shafiq before regaining his popularity and confidence with 2 MOM awards during the qualifying stages of the 2011 CWC in Sri Lanka. With his elder brother away from the international scene it should be interesting to see how Umar responds and acts in the future. He had a decent tour of the West Indies recently when newcomer Salman was behind the stumps. Maybe county cricket experience will come in handy for him. Bottom line, an adorable talent and one that you try to back to accomplish his potential.

4) Zain Abbas: Uncapped player. In his teens. Multan based lad. Left handed opening batsmen and therefore unsurprisingly with the role model of Saeed Anwar. Has had an outstanding start to his domestic career where he completely caught the eye and took everyone by storm with his consistent performances in both the longer and shorter versions of the game.

5) Babar Azam: Uncapped player. In his teens. Cousin of the Akmals. Inspired by AB from South Africa. Represented Pakistan at the U19 WC in New Zealand at the age of just 15 where they reached the final. He scored a century in Pakisan’s opening match of the tournament against the West Indies. Has a good cover drive. He is serious and passionate about his cricket. Occasional off break bowler to go along with a safe pair of hands in the field. Definitely one for the future.

6) Ahmed Shehzad: 2 centuries at the age of 19 and a T20 international half century against New Zealand which came in Pakistan’s highest ever run margin victory last December. Has brilliant hand eye coordination, reasonably good foot work & makes full use of a strong bottom hand to generate power in his strokes. He is stylish & naturally aggressive. An excellent outfielder too. A confident and slightly cocky character. There is no shortage of ability for sure. He has recently been dropped from the tour of Zimbabwe on disciplinary grounds.

7) Azeem Ghumman: Skipper of the 2010 U19 WC team. A cricketer from the Hyderabad region with the role model of the legendary Sachin Tendulkar. Has captained Hyderabad in domestic competitions. A batsmen who is bound to play for Pakistan at some stage. He possesses a healthy FC average. He is a strong cutter and puller & extremely ambitious which always helps the cause. Technically and temperamentally pretty sound. Relies on timing and placement. Short chap in stature. Communicates well in English.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

County Quarter Finals This Weekend

Joke of a performance from world number 1. They were beaten comprehensively yet again. They are in danger of losing their number 1 ranking very soon. Stuart Broad is on fire and the top of his game with both ball and bat. What a revelation he has been considering he was a doubtful starter at Lords after his unimpressive performances during the first half of the summer where he struggled for form and rhythm. What a spell with the 2nd new ball from Broad to get England back in the game. Top day of test cricket at Trent Bridge. Highly eventful action packed drama. Swann took an absolute battering. The no1 spinner was taken to the cleaners. Dravid was steady and solid as ever to get his 2nd century of the tour. Adjusted well to opening the batting and demonstrated immense concentration & technique. In 37 tests as captain Strauss has had 19 victories and 13 draws. Michael Vaughan is England's most successful test captain with 26 victories in 51 tests. Strauss at the age of 34 is on track to over take him in terms of the most wins registered. His record as captain includes back to back Ashes triumphs in 2009 and 2010-11.
There is a bit of a break between now and the 3rd test. In between this time there will be the County 20/20 quarter finals this weekend. Pakistan Players participating include Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Rana Naved, Umar Gul, Azhar Mahmood, Imran Tahir, Naved Arif. Personally I reckon Kent will go the distance. They have a well balanced unit. I think there is a very good chance 4 south based teams will make the Edgbaston finals day on the 27th of this month. The standard in this division is of a high quality.

Pakistan bowler’s performances in the County T20 Cup 2011. Group stages finished.

1) Wahab Riaz–19 wickets-average: 19, economy: 8
2) Saeed Ajmal-16 wickets-average: 11, economy: 6
3) Abdul Razzaq-16 wickets-average: 22, economy: 7
4) Rana Naved-15 wickets-average: 14, economy: 7
5) Shahid Afridi-14 wickets-average: 12, economy: 6
6) Azhar Mahmood-13 wickets-average: 28, economy: 7
7) Umar Gul-12 wickets-average: 21, economy: 9
8) Junaid Khan-10 wickets-average: 15, economy: 6