Category Archives: Pakistan

Insulting The South African Cricket Team Properly

Just so we are all clear:

In order to use the current Champions Trophy as evidence that South Africans are (and forever will be) “chokers” at ICC events, they will have to lose a game after being in a seemingly commanding position. Mere losses do not count. We should be especially swayed by moments of utterly inexplicable irrationality, preferably while running between wickets. And if South African players turn daft after being called ‘choker’ on field by opposing players, we will have a prize exhibit on our hands (I’m referring here to the excellent tactic used by the Kiwis against Faf Du Plessis during the 2011 World Cup).

It could be argued that South Africa has preempted the ‘choker’ line by losing its most formidable players to injury. To take this point of view would be charitable and reasonable, especially given that the South Africans have some of the best players in the world right now and generally deserve more praise than scorn. However, as I have yet to decide how I feel about Du Plessis, I am not sure what point of view I shall take. Time will tell.

And for the record, I’d like to see either Pakistan or South Africa come through on this one. Pakistan, because they are now (and usually are) the most interesting team, and South Africa, because, well, they’re due.

 

 

The Poetry Of Waqar Younis

From this (and inspired by this):

Sometimes it is good not to know

Too many things.

When you see a fast bowler trying too many things

It is not good for his future.

I was lucky that I knew only one thing:

To bowl fast.

——-

Big bananas come out of his hand.

——-

Yes, the pitches are flat,

They are slow,

But you have to learn.

We learned it too.

——-

Remember this:

It is not swinging the ball,

It is about dipping the ball.

And when you have a side-on action,

The ball dips more.

——-

What is tampering?

Is applying Vaseline or creams on the ball tampering?

Is scratching the ball tampering?

Is picking the seam tampering?

All these are ways of tampering.

——-

By the time you take that final leap,

You know what you are doing.

 

Why Don’t The Maidan Kids Want To Be Bowlers?

There’s a lot of wisdom in this Cricinfo chat with Sanjay Manjrekar (e.g., keep Tendulkar and Zaheer for South Africa; drop Sehwag down the order now). I particularly liked this observation:

SM: It’s the culture we have in India. If you hold an open trial at a maidan, 90% of the people would want to bat, it’s the opposite in Pakistan.

I’m wary of cultural explanations, but I’ve seen the same anecdotal data in my personal experience. Play any pick-up game with a bunch of Indian kids, and chances are they’ll all want to bat first. Possible explanations: 1) Bowling is physically more draining than batting and getting fit isn’t why we play cricket; 2) Your chances of success bowling — a wicket — are much smaller than your chances if you’re batting (getting a single or more = success); 3) Batting is more accessible. Have you ever tried to teach a non-cricket fan how to bowl? It’s really difficult — they want to straighten that elbow, and if they don’t, they can’t bowl accurately. I suspect it’s the same with most cricket fans: intuitively, we all think we know how to bat. Like Sehwag said: See ball, hit ball. But do we know how to bowl leg spin? Can we bowl both fast and accurately? The truth is, we’re all medium pacers on the maidan — and no one wants to be Manoj Prabhakar.

The above doesn’t explain why the reverse may be the case in Pakistan. It might just be that they have more bowling heroes than batting ones — if I were Pakistani, I’d rather be Imran, Wasim and Aamer than Inzamam or Anwar. (Hell, I want to be Ajmal right about now.)

I Still Like England

My Spidey-senses may be off, but I detected a notable whiff of Anglophobia on Twitter as the South Africans were finishing them off at the Oval. I think I know why: a) England humiliated India, so a bunch of unhinged fans are panting for revenge; b) the English press, buoyed by an impressive at-home record, have lost any sense of humility, and c) some folk genuinely like South Africa and want to see them do well. (Why aren’t there more rabid South Africa fans, by the way?)

But I think a lot of people dislike England because they suspect it’s the new Australia. That is, they may be the latest team that will dominate cricket in a ruthless fashion and with meticulous detail. I think we’re all worried because, as I wrote, we now live in a polarized cricket world, wherein S.A., England and Australia (and, on a good day, India)  can all claim the No. 1 spot. And by and large, I’m OK with that, because each team on that list has suffered embarrassing humiliation in the last few years (think whitewash for England and India; think Ashes losses for Australia, and think “choker” for South Africa).

These teams aren’t Australia, 1990s edition — they are more human and flawed and occasionally brilliant. And that’s why England don’t bother me all that much. Even after that 4-0 India drubbing, I could cling to at least one thing — in 2007, I watched this team succumb 5-0. I saw them at their worst. That’s something I couldn’t think of Steve Waugh’s lot.

The Next Victim to Coach Pakistan

The search for the next Pakistani coach is like some sick reality television contest, but only in reverse: the fun only begins once the winner is actually crowned. Only then do you get to see the full range of machinations and conspiracies that are a specialty of South Asian cricket. Your administrators will stab you behind the back; your players may physically attack you; your heart may give out in a Caribbean hotel…But tune in next week!

Cricinfo reports the candidates to succeed Waqar Younis is nearly over; people think Dav Whatmore is the leading contender. As sorry jobs go, Whatmore knows how to do them well, as shown in stints to coach Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and, er, the Kolkata Knight Riders. His name did come up to succeed Greg Chappell in India, but — if I remember the rumors right — some Bangladeshi players warned their Indian colleagues that Whatmore can be a hard driver, never a wise decision when handling egos in this region.

So, what advice would you have for ol’ Whatmore? I think coaches make the mistake of thinking Pakistan can be a great cricket team. They have the right idea, given the quality of talent on display, but it’s not a realistic goal, given sheer craziness of the regime. Stay in the backroom, talk to the players, help them out with their techniques and be a calming presence. If it is so divined, then, the right Pakistani squad will emerge, hopefully at the right moments. When you’re dealing with a team that saw two of its best bowlers (ever?) and a former captain sent to prison, you have to start at a relatively low bar, sort of like those cheesy trust games that corporate retreats force on employees. There’s nothing more you can do, I imagine — the waste of potential is forever maddening, but forcing the issue may not work.

Your weekly assignment: What should the next Pakistani coach do, and who was the most successful Pakistani coach?

Free Shahid Afridi

I don’t like or care much for Shahid Afridi, but I think every person has the right to freely practice his trade. For those not following this latest dispute between the Pakistan Cricket Board and its players, here’s the skinny: the PCB removed Afridi as Pakistan’s ODI captain. Afridi retired in protest. He then criticized the PCB on television. The PCB then canceled Afridi’s central contract and revoked his No-Objection-Certificate (NOC).

Until that last step, I confess I did not care much about this story. But the NOC — a curious subcontinental legal term — determines if Afridi will be able to play for Hampshire or not, making the PCB’s move especially cruel and vindictive. Afridi now has some lawyers on the case, who are arguing for a hearing on the NOC. They say it’s a simple case of natural justice, and I agree — every agency’s decision should be open to appeal or a hearing.

So, here are some questions: 1) How pervasive is the use/revocation of the NOC? It seems like such a bureaucratic hassle, but I could not find definitive information from Google. 2) What is to stop a cricket board from simply revoking the NOC every time it is angry with a particular player? (See here for an excerpt of the ICC’s NOC rules.)

The Best Cricket Board Website

I’m doing some web design work in my current job (don’t ask), and the task nudged me to do some Internet ‘research.’ Like, which cricket board has the best website? Surprisingly, the results weren’t bad on average (except the Pakistani one, which looks like it was developed in the 1990s).

But I give my award to the ECB, which seizes the future and a) offers to sell English cricket kits and gear and jersey online; b) includes interactive links to encourage fan participation (like, podcasts and other Internet thingies). But too many of these websites advertise the wrong things — the latest game fixtures and results, or news from the national team. I doubt many fans go to cricket board websites for this sort of stuff. And why not include information on where to learn cricket, and where to play the game, and where to hire a coach, and how to get tickets at venues if you don’t have a personal connection to a VIP? The good ol’ Kiwis have some of the answers.

Anyway, you decide: England, India, South Africa, Australia, West Indies, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, New Zealand

Bowlers Or Batsmen: Who Are More Intelligent?

During Day 2 of the West Indies-Pakistan Test, Rameez Raja and Ian Bishop began an interesting discussion about Wahab Riaz’s action. The specific discovery that triggered the topic — Riaz’s angled wrist position — wasn’t what caught my attention. It was more Raja’s tone. He asked Bishop, his voice conveying genuine bemusement, why it was so hard for a bowler to slightly change the delivery angle of his hand. Surely, this was something relatively easy, no? So why hadn’t it been done? To be fair, Raja later qualified his remarks, but his undercurrent was clear: Are bowlers dumb? Why can’t they do a simple thing like change their action? 

When we say cricket is a batsman’s game, we not only mean the rules give them the upper hand, but also that they are the main attraction — the elite of society. By contrast, bowlers are generally depicted as creatures of habit. Like the underclass, they are unappreciated and expected to toil under a hot sun while the batsman lounges in his crease and decides a ball’s fate. (This bias may be encouraged by modern commentary. I haven’t studied this closely enough, but I’ll bet the ratio of batsmen to bowlers in the media box clearly tips to the former.)

Think of the language we use to discuss batsmen — their technique, especially. Raja’s question about Riaz’s wrist implied that, compared to fixing a batsman’s technique, bowlers face relatively easy puzzles. A batsman has to work on his defensive game by learning proper footwork and a level head, but a bowler just needs to make minor adjustments to his action, which they then can repeat endlessly on a loop, for God’s sake.  (Ian Bishop gave a meandering reply, but he noted that for many coaches, the toughest thing is to decide what to leave in a player’s arsenal, and what to change. Imagine trying to shift or reform a golfer’s swing — the danger is that if you insist on changing one thing, some other problem will emerge as the athlete adjusts.)

This reminds me of something Wasim Akram once said about batsman-captains. He noted that, during a bad bowling spell, they would often run up to him and offer useless bromides like, “Good line and length, Wasim.” And he would wonder, “Yes, but why am I not hitting a good line and length right now?” A related problem is that we have words and vocabulary to describe a batsman’s failure — he’s out of form, say, or his stance makes him liable to particular balls (short, yorkers, in-swingers, whatever). But for bowlers, we still rely on vague — almost mystical — notions like “rhythm.” Why a bowler does well on one day and badly the next is still largely a mystery to me. Why a bowler suddenly finds swing, and otherwise not (a la Irfan Pathan) — let’s just say I suspect it has more to do than the position of his wrist.

Saeed Ajmal’s Arm Looks Funny

Sorry to link once more to an item from Cric-Sis, but the blogger supremo posted an intriguing photo of Saeed Ajma’s delivery action:

It’s troubling, but I don’t exactly understand the science behind these measurements. Which isn’t to say I don’t believe in the science and think the ICC is peddling a giant conspiracy to defraud the public. (This seems to be the Australian/English position on chucking.) And as bad as Ajmal’s arm may seem, it doesn’t compare to sheer strangeness of Shoaib Akhtar’s arm:

Was The India-Pakistan Semifinal A Let Down?

Some in the cricket blogosphere have said the semifinal didn’t live up to expectations. If by “expectations” they meant a full-scale nuclear apocalypse, with Manmohan Singh frantically trying to reach Sonia Gandhi on the phone, then yes — it wasn’t that great.

But I didn’t think it was a boring match at all. Sure, it didn’t go down to the wire, but even with three overs until the end, there was still some tension and concern among the crowd that Misbah ul-Haq would pull a rabbit out of the hat and save the game. On Twitter, and in the commentary, it seemed each Pakistani wicket augured the final end — until new fears arose that Razzak, or Afridi, or Misbah would do something.

Actually, the game had all the markings of a great match: an initial Indian blitz, a Pakistani comeback, a despondent Indian crowd upset at the seemingly paltry score of 260, an initial Pakistani blitz, an Indian comeback, a brief Pakistani resurgence…you get the picture. Add to this some impressive individual performances (Tendulkar, Wahab, some peach deliveries, some dramatic near run-outs and catches, a couple of controversial UDRS calls) and I’m not sure what more you could have wanted.

Though a nuclear apocalypse would have made for good television…