Tag Archives: Cricket

22 Memories from the ‘Kirmich’ ball era

Watching the Pakistan team bat against Australia this morning in the 1st test match somehow made me wish if every Pakistani batsman could get 2 chances to bat in each innings. The thought, although impractical, opened the doors to many of my own memories from the childhood days when I used to play tape ball or ‘kirmich’ ball (as we used to call it) cricket quite regularly. That would surely have been a format where if one team was a player short, one batsman from that team could’ve been allowed to bat twice. This, and so much more is so far from the real world of cricket but still, even today, many good hard ball cricketers give a lot of credit for their success to this type of cricket.

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In this piece, I am sharing 22 of the most interesting memories of ‘kirmich’ ball cricket that I have. Some of these are not only hilarious but also bizarre to a certain extent when compared with the actual rules of the game. Whichever way you look at it, it was and still is the golden period of many Pakistanis’ and specially Karachiite’s lives.

For me, time when we played ‘Kirmich’ ball cricket was the time:

  1. When it was considered a taboo for someone to open the batting and bowl the first over.
  2. When the most coveted fielding position was to keep wickets.
  3. When Keeping wickets would be called ‘Keepering.’
  4. When the last batsman could bat alone without a partner on the other end.
  5. When the last batsman needed to run 2 in order to be counted as a single.
  6. When walls were used for ‘Deewaar-Catch’ with the most amazing stipulation of using only one hand.
  7. When a one hand catch would also be considered legitimate if it was caught on a single bounce aka ‘One-Tip Out’.
  8. When ‘Heads or Tails’ was first ‘Chaand ya Chaap’ and then ‘Quaid-e-Azam ya Masjid’.
  9. When a Nitto Tape was the most desirable winning prize for the whole team.
  10. When there was a whole science associated with putting tape onto a ball.
  11. When it wasn’t necessary to have enough players to form two teams. ‘Numbering’ would then be the format of the game.
  12. When batting numbers would be decided by one person guessing the number of fingers another person would have opened behind his back over his shoulder.
  13. When stumps would be the distance between two pebbles with a hypothetical height.
  14. When umpires would be from the batting side and the umpire would be eager to get a bat himself.
  15. When regulations would be stricter than the ICC when it came to the bending of the arm for a bowler.
  16. When a batsman had the right to give a ‘Batta Call’ to the umpire when he could measure the arm bend of the bowler exceeding the allowed limit through his bare eyes.
  17. When the bowlers could object on the batsman covering all the stumps. ‘Wicket chor k khelo, bhai!
  18. When due the lack of fielders or unsuitable terrain, play could be limited to offside or onside only.
  19. When batsmen didn’t need to run when the ball hit the wall behind the wicket keeper as that would automatically add a single or double to the scorecard.
  20. When ‘Ghar mein jana’ could either deduct runs or result in the fall of a wicket.
  21. When a player could be substituted by another permanently on need basis.
  22. When the ball hitting the body of the batsman was as good as hitting the stumps (One Body Out).

Some of the above are not only memories but rules that still prevail in these times. Tape ball cricket is a sport and passion in its own right.  For all those guys out there playing Tape Ball cricket regularly, keep rocking and keep this game alive.

Hammad A. Mateen

 

King Misbah: The Crisis Man for Pakistan Cricket

He’s made Pakistan cricket boring. They’ve become predictably consistent with their performances under his leadership. The flamboyance that rode on erraticism is somehow missing from the test team now. They have started playing methodically and there seems to be a plan and a strategy being followed in each game and for each situation. Misbah-ul-Haq has changed the way test cricket is played by Pakistan.

The captain of the no.1 test team in the world did not always enjoy running on a smooth terrain though. It has continuously been a steep climb for Misbah with relentless hard work and thankless persistence.  The Misbah that we so conceitedly cheer for now was once the most ridiculed sportsman of this country. He is the hero of a story that only unfolded nearing its end revealing its protagonist. He’s that survivor on a sinking ship who not only makes it himself but also rescues hundreds of others only to be recognized after they’ve made it to the shore. His is a tale of someone standing up every single time after being repeatedly knocked down to the floor by the world. Misbah-ul-Haq is the unsung champion of Pakistan cricket. It is about time we look back at this great sportsman’s journey.

After making his first class debut back in 1998-99, Misbah had to wait till 2001 to make his international test debut and till another year after that (2002) to feature in his first ODI match, both against New Zealand. His entry into international cricket wasn’t one that could guarantee him a permanent place in the side though and we kept on getting glimpses of Misbah every now and then in the team after that. He wasn’t a regular in the side until 2010. Interestingly, during that time Misbah was not selected to play a single international match in any format of the game for Pakistan between 2004 and 2007. Even in 2004, he was selected to play only one ODI.

It was the inaugural T20 cricket world cup back in 2007 however that made Misbah-ul-Haq a name known to everyone across the cricketing world. Only that it wasn’t the way Misbah would’ve liked himself to be made famous. That famous paddle scoop in the last over of the final against India ruined everything that had happened before that. Misbah averaged an outstanding 54.50 in the 7 matches that he featured in with 3 not outs and 2 fifties. All these runs came at a strike rate of nearly 140 runs per 100 balls. Even in the final match, Misbah walked in to bat with Pakistan 4 down for 65. It was from there till the 3rd ball of the 19th over that Misbah stood like a rock in front of the Indian bowling line and scored crucial 43 runs off 38 balls hitting 4 massive sixers. Sadly, none of that has frequently been recalled and the only thing Misbah had been made famous for was that last shot.

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As far as T20 Internationals are concerned, what many people do not know is that Misbah-ul-Haq till date ranks number 1 as far as batting average is concerned. Misbah averages 37.52 in the 39 T20Is he has played for Pakistan with a strike rate of 110.20. On the domestic front, he captains Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League which is also incidentally the current champion there.

When it comes to ODIs, Misbah is disreputably remembered for his slow batting in the Semi Final of the World Cup 2011 played against India which Pakistan lost. He was given the title of ‘Tuc Tuc’ following that innings and all blame was put on his shoulders for the team’s loss and exit from the mega event.  What critics tend to ignore though is the contribution this prolific batsman made for Pakistan towards reaching the Semi Final of the tournament in the first place. Misbah, with 3 fifties in the 6 innings that he played in the tournament was the highest run scorer for Pakistan averaging a marvelous 49.60 runs per innings.

He has also captained Pakistan in ODIs. His captaincy record in the 50 over format may not be as decorated as other successful captains of the world, but some of the notable accomplishments there include becoming the 1st (and till date only) captain from a South Asian touring side to lead his side to victory in an ODI series against South Africa in South Africa. This happened in 2013 just one year after Misbah lifted the Asia Cup for Pakistan (for the 2nd time after 12 years) at the Sher-e-Bangla Cricket Stadium at Mirpur, Bangladesh.

Coming back to 2010, when Pakistan cricket was arguably at its lowest after the spot fixing scandal, Misbah was given the responsibility to lead Pakistan in tests. Pakistan ranked 6th in the ICC Test rankings at that time. It was from there that Misbah-ul-Haq, in his own cerebral way started his journey as a leader to make Pakistan top the rankings for the first time this year. Misbah so far as led Pakistan in 46 test matches. Pakistan has won 22 out of these 46 test matches with a winning percentage of 47.82 and a losing percentage of only 28.26 making him the most successful test captain for Pakistan till date.

As a batsman he has proved to be a sportsman who blossoms with respect to his individual performances once given the additional responsibility of leading his side. In the 65 test matches that he has played so far for Pakistan, Misbah averages 33.60 as a batsman in games where he has played as a batsman only. The average however rises to an astounding 54.93 in the 46 games in which he has captained Pakistan.

He holds the record for the fastest test fifty (off 21 balls only) and is 2nd in the list for the fastest hundred in test cricket (off 56 balls only) sharing the spot with the great Sir Viv Richards only behind New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum who achieved this record in just 54 balls against the Aussies. Incidentally, Misbah also slaughtered the Aussies for both his fastest century and fifty.

As a captain, he was named as the ‘Best Test Captain of the Year 2015’ by The Daily Telegraph and no eyebrows were raised when this was announced. Misbah was called ‘One of the great captains- ever’ by the renowned British newspaper.

All that with not a single test match in which Misbah could have the opportunity to lead Pakistan on Pakistani soil. Pretty much sums up how increasingly difficult it would have been for him to take over a side that is under the microscope for all the wrong reasons and is not even blessed with the luxury of performing in front of its home crowd.

Misbah-ul-Haq is no Imran Khan, he’s neither Shahid Afridi nor Wasim Akram. He’s probably someone like Inzamam-ul-Haq if you must compare. But even in that comparison he’s not as naturally gifted as Inzamam was. Come to think of it, Misbah-ul-Haq is just Misbah-ul-Haq. His tenacity, strength of will, mental & physical fitness and extraordinary leadership skills make him stand out from the crowd.

This piece is not just my admiration for Misbah-ul-Haq’s prodigious services for this country but is also a humble effort to make amende honorable to the great man for all the disrespect this nation has shown towards him. He’s a legend and I most genuinely hope he gets one of the most respectful farewells this country has ever scene for a sportsman retiring from his game.

-Hammad A. Mateen

No, Misbah is not the solution

The pounding taken by the Pakistan team in last night’s ODI against England didn’t come as a surprise for me. I mean it was a team currently ranked 9 playing against a side that is no. 5 in the world. The difference was there to be seen on the field. England outclassed Pakistan like they have been doing throughout the ODI series so far in every department. They’ve been good in the field, exceptional with the bat and much better than us whenever they’ve come on to bowl. Apart from all the records that tumbled yesterday, truth be told, Pakistan has been playing ODI cricket in a pretty similar fashion over the last 2 years. In the last 24 months, Pakistan has played 41 ODIs winning only 15 out of them (a winning percentage of 36.5) out of which 8 victories came against sides like Ireland, UAE and Zimbabwe. These stats tell a sad but true story of how the men in green have gone about their business in the 50 over format of the game in recent times. Pakistan will probably end up playing the qualifying round for the 2019 world cup this time and by the look of things, they may have to pull up their socks there as well.

Having said that, I am not very pleased with the negative comments that the social media is being flooded with regarding the team. People have started questioning Mickey Arthur’s coaching and the PCB management for their decision making. This is the same PCB that manages the no. 1 test team in the world and the same Mickey Arthur is given charge of Misbah XI as their coach. What we need to understand here is the nature of both (or even 3) formats of the game. There’s been a lot of talk doing the rounds of asking Misbah to come back to the ODIs and turn around the team’s fortune. I disagree with this notion based on the difference in the nature of Test & ODI cricket. Even under Mishab’s leadership in ODIs over the last 2 years, Pakistan had won on 5 out of 13 ODIs (38% matches won). Compare that with Azhar’s captaincy and you’ll find that he has led Pakistan to victory in 8 out of the 23 ODIs in which he has captained the side (35% watches won). Not a lot of difference there, is it?

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The difference however can very clearly be seen when it comes to comparing individual performances of Misbah and Azhar in matches where they’ve captained the side and in those where they’ve played under other captains. Misbah has excelled with respect to his individual performances when leading the side while Azhar’s batting average has taken a dip since he’s taken over the captaincy. This is not a good sign for any international player and indicates (in a way) that the added responsibility of leadership is hampering the athlete’s individual performance. Even greats like Sachin Tendulkar have had performance issues when they also had to think about leading the whole pack on the field. Misbah is definitely as exception. However, it all comes down to match results and that is where he has been not too different from Azhar. Going back to Misbah would also mean repeating the history of sports in Pakistan where legends like Miandad, Jansher Khan and Shahbaz Ahmad (Sr.) have been recalled to rejuvenate their respective sports in the country ending up in only making a mockery out of these greats instead. I’d rather keep Misbah where he is and salute him for what he’s doing for Pakistan in the toughest and most original format of the game.

Let’s talk about Sarfaraz now. Sarfaraz has only led Pakistan once in ODI matches and that too was against Zimbabwe back in October last year. A low scoring match which Pakistan won by 7 wickets. Other than that, we have only seen him captain the Quetta Gladiators in the inaugural edition of the PSL early this year where he did pretty well as a captain but with a team that was loaded with talented superstars like Kevin Pietersen, Luke Wright & the great Kumar Sangakkara. For me, Sarfaraz may be the right choice to captain Pakistan in the ODIs but that is more out of my admiration for his talent and passion than any of his proven leadership skills.

Wherever the on-going series against England (which is already lost) goes from here, one thing is for sure, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) will have to take serious steps and start working towards lifting this side up again. The inversely proportional performances and ratings of the Test and ODI sides do not reflect well on the overall condition of the game that is being played and managed in the country today. Experimenting with fresh blood is always something that sides do in order to build bench strength. However that need to be done in a controlled manner and not in a way such as where Nawaz and Hassan Ali are brought into the side and are straight away thrown to the dogs. This will only hamper their confidence and ruin their game for the rest of their careers.

Small but concrete steps need to be taken to lift up the side. The nation needs to stand behind the team when the side is sailing through rough waters. These are difficult times but with the talent and potential this country has, we will inshaALLAH emerge as champions again just like we’ve come to the top as the best test team in the world.

Here’s a little trivia for you all as I conclude this piece: On the same social media, ‘King Misbah’ was once ‘Tuk Tuk’ and the most ridiculed sportsman of the country.

Hammad A. Mateen

Are we wasting Shehz-fie?

He’s also called the Pakistani Virat Kohli (minus a little talent and Anushka Sharma by the side of course). He’s young, stylish and confident, to the extent of even being cocky at times. He’s a selfie addict and also considered as Boom Boom Afridi’s best buddy in the side.

Apart from all that is said, Ahmed Shehzad is Pakistan’s 216th international test and 172nd one-day player. In terms of ODIs specifically, Shehzad is the 3rd highest run-scorer for Pakistan in the last 12 months after Muhammad Hafeez and Azhar Ali. In T20’s he’s been the highest run-scorer in the last 12 months for Pakistan making 200 runs in 8 innings with 1 out of the only 4 fifties scored by Pakistani players during that time. Combining all 3 formats of the game in international cricket, Ahmed Shehzad is the 5th highest run getter for Pakistan over the last 12 months. His ODI career average is better than Muhammad Hafeez, Asad Shafiq, Sohaib Maqsood, Sarfaraz Ahmed and even the freshly retired Younis Khan. In ODIs in the UAE, he averages better than Misbah, Azhar, Sarfaraz, Shoaib, Umar Akmal and Younis Khan. By the way, Shehzad’s average in ODIs over the last 12 months is just 2 runs less than Virat Kohli over the same period.

Having said all that, the selfie king from Lahore still could not be able to make it to the final eleven in 3 out of the 4 ODIs against England in UAE in the recently concluded series which Pakistan lost. One couldn’t understand the reason why Shehzad wasn’t featured in any of the first 3 games and why such a bizarre team combination was persisted with. The Team management was happy opening the innings with Azhar Ali (who made a total of 82 runs in 4 innings) along with Bilal Asif and Babar Azam over the first 3 games, they were happy playing 2 wicket keepers in the playing eleven. What they were not happy somehow with was Ahmed Shehzad playing in the side.

“Ahmed was dropped from the ODIs as he wasn’t needed in the playing eleven,” said Haroon Rasheed. Why wasn’t he needed? Were they happy with their mediocre performance especially in the 2nd and 3rd ODI? Or was Pakistan’s track record of winning ODI series in the UAE so great that they could risk experimenting as much as they could.

I am in no way advocating the fact that Ahmed Shehzad could’ve surely won Pakistan the ODI series against England single-handedly had he played in all the games but the fact of the matter is that having a player in the pool with talent as much as Shehzad has and not giving him consistent chances to play is only going to hurt Pakistan in the long run. Ahmed Shehzad is no A.B. De Villiers or even Virat Kohli for that matter but neither A.B. De Villiers nor Virat Kohli became what they are today without getting consistent chances to play for their side and support from the team management.

Attitude issues are with a lot of players, but it is the management’s responsibility to either fix the issues through counseling or taking concrete action against the individual and accepting the very fact that there are issues to start off with. Shoaib Akhtar is a prime example of a super talent wasted due to the fact that he wasn’t ‘handled with care’. The Rawalpindi express could’ve done much more for Pakistan had he been managed properly by the team managements and boards at that times. Andrew Symonds on the other hand is another example where Cricket Australia took concrete action against him once and for all for violating their code of conduct.

Waqar Younus is a great ambassador of cricket and a true legend for Pakistan, however he needs to understand that he is a coach now and not a player and players do demand and deserve to be treated in a certain manner by the team management. It’s high time that the board looks in the matter seriously why only Waqar Younus has issues with several players in the side, be it Ahmed Shehzad, Shahid Afridi, Sarfaraz Ahmed or Younis Khan. It’s ok not to succumb to player power and pressure, but ‘coach power’ isn’t something that should also be encouraged in a side.

Hammad A. Mateen

An Open Letter to The Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB)

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to request your attention towards an issue that affects me in the capacity of a regular cricket spectator and a fan. As you know that Pakistan has been deprived of competitive international cricket for over 6 years now, the wait for cricket fans like myself is becoming increasingly painful to see international action in our grounds. Even though your efforts did result in making the Zimbabwean cricket team tour Pakistan for a couple of T20s and 3 ODIs earlier this year, consistency needs to be ensured and the success of that tour needs to be promoted much more until other cricketing nations are persuaded by the ICC or willingly agree to visit Pakistan.

In the same regard, your efforts to organize the Pakistan Super League (PSL) are highly appreciable, however what’s disappointing as a Pakistani is to watch this mega tournament also being organized outside Pakistan. Countries like India are churning out such good talent from their domestic system primarily because of the exposure these youngsters get from playing alongside international players in the Indian Premiere League (IPL) which is staged largely in India. I understand that the Middle East has served us wonderfully well in terms of letting us call their venues our home grounds but the reality of the matter is that home is where the home crowd is and that means home soil.

I remember watching the first day and night ODI at the National Stadium Karachi held between Pakistan and England from the Nasim ul Ghani Enclosure. It was Tuesday, 24th October 2000 and we took special permission from our school to leave early as we wanted to reach the ground as early as possible. I clearly remember having to travel on foot from Hassan Square till the stadium gate as there was no space on the road for traffic to move. It was an absolute sea of people flooding the road and all that we were worried about was sticking together as a group and not getting lost in the crowd. The passion of the crowd was as intense as the sun beating down that afternoon. Even though we had reached the stadium before the start of the game but the journey from the entrance gate to the enclosure was around 15 overs long and by the time we could see our first LIVE ball from the stand, Pakistan had already lost 2 wickets (Saeed Anwar and Saleem Elahi).

I have mentioned the above experience only to highlight the passion and appetite for competitive cricket this nation has and how starved we are to see international stars perform on our grounds. And it’s not just the about the local spectators, just imagine how great it would’ve felt for both the fans and Younus Khan himself had he become the highest test run-scorer for Pakistan by hitting a six off Moeen Ali at Rawalpindi instead of Abu Dhabi.

Over the last 6 years, so many young cricketers have made their debuts without having their home crowd cheer their first run or them having pointed towards a loved one in the crowd after taking the first international wicket. It is sad. International cricket isn’t only limited to the ODIs, International T20s and Test Matches, it also has a lot to do with the side matches the foreign teams play when they arrive on tour to a country. These 3 or 4 day matches give opportunity to a country to build reinforcement in terms of their bench-strength and also provide a chance for non-playing talents like umpires etc. to get developed.

As a regular cricket fan, I envy every international cricket fan who has the liberty to go to a cricket ground in their country and watch:

  • A. B. De Villiers completely destroy a bowling attack
  • A Lasith Malinga in swinging yorker
  • A Mitchell Johnson express spell of bowling
  • A Brendon McCullum stunner behind the stumps
  • Imran Tahir confuse a batsman out

International cricket on home soil not only provides entertainment to the local crowds but also attracts revenue and opportunity for business and employment to the local communities. It is literally a gala around the stadium where an international match is being hosted. Families come in, have fun and enjoy their time for reasons other than cricket also as the atmosphere is so amusing. The samosa wala roaming around in the stands, the biryani stall outside the enclosure, the face painter ‘painting the town green’, the placard and poster sellers at the entrance of the ground, all of them are linked with international cricket coming to Pakistan.

I would humbly request you to take as much interest in resuming international cricket in Pakistan as you had shown in trying to convince India to play cricket against us. It is most definitely far more worth than that.

Sincerely,

Hammad A. Mateen

Pakistan and the World Cup

From Australia and New Zealand hosting the event till the early losses in the pool matches, from the age and home district of the team’s captain till the era of the same Prime Minister, we did everything we could to convince ourselves through similarities between 1992 and 2015 that the Pakistan Cricket team will win the ICC World cup this year. I guess the Pakistan cricket team was also banking on history to repeat itself more than focusing on the field.

Here’s what they could’ve done better:

  • Not consider at least one ‘Akmal’ in the team auspicious and make Umar sit outside till he learns the maths that making lesser runs in batting than allowing batsmen to make more runs by dropping catches while fielding loses matches for the team.
  • Give Sadqa for the whole team instead of wasting such a huge amount of money which they spent on tickets and accommodation for Nasir Jamshed.
  • Provide Ahmed Shehzad with a selfie stick instead of a bat; he performs well with the former in his hand.
  • Play Younis Khan in all the matches and try him in all batting positions from one to eleven hoping he will be consistent at all numbers till either the positions run out or the number of matches. He would still be a better choice.
  • Give Yasir Shah actual matches to play rather than considering him as the kid in the neighborhood who is only used for fielding.

Since, the ICC CWC 2015 is now part of history, here’s what we should do for the 2019 World cup:

  • Not start planning for the next world cup until the last series before it. It is only at that time when we are somewhat sure which players might stay fit and healthy and whose bowling actions are barely legal.
  • Forget about batting and bowling and only practice catching.
  • Have some faith in Sarfaraz, please

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If logic and hard work is not the preferred way forward, consider having Intikhab Alam appointed as coach. He’s been there both times (ODI and T20) Pakistan has lifted the cup. Waqar Younus just doesn’t have that magic.

Talking a little more about not having to work hard for success and depending more on circumstances, similarities of eras and repeat of events, if nothing works, we can consider the following:

  • In an order of sequence, after India and Australia, it is Pakistan’s turn to win the world cup. Remember, India won in 1983, Australia lifted the cup in 1987 and then it was Pakistan’s turn in 1992. Now, India won in 2011, Australia has done it in 2015 and so we should expect Pakistan to do it in 2019.
  • The last time Pakistan played a world cup in England (T20 world cup, 2009), Pakistan won. So, the English grounds are somewhat lucky for us (no offense to Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Aamir).
  • The last time Pakistan won the world cup:
    • It was played with 11 players on each side with 2 umpires on the field and a third umpire sitting upstairs.
    • They played with colored kits with Pakistan wearing green.
    • Batsmen were allowed to use wooden bats to hit a ball made with cork covered with leather.
    • Bowlers were allowed to bowl only 6 balls in an over.

Hope all of the above mentioned facts help Pakistan win the next time.

In short, PCB should do whatever it wants to do but just don’t label anything as a preparation for the next world cup.

To the whole nation, the next time, please don’t break your TVs; changing channels also works, trust me it does.

Hammad A. Mateen

The end of an era

Fast Bowling died for me the day Wasim Akram retired from Cricket; batting has just recently passed away along with the retirement of Sachin Tendulkar. Cricket obviously moves on but for people belonging to my generation, Sachin was the last of an era of classical cricket. An era that saw some of the greats of the game compete at a level of competence and technique which may never be equaled by modern day players.

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Today, when the game has become increasingly easy for all that are related to it, be it the UDRS (Umpire Decision Review System), enhanced coaching & training facilities or the computerized research and analysis facilities used to better techniques of cricketers, the level of the game has somewhat come down.

To set a target of above 300 runs and then witness it being chased down with overs and wickets to spare has become a norm that is testament of my statement above. Of course it can very well be perceived the other way round as well but in my opinion, there should always be an equal contest between bat and ball which is something that is missing in modern day cricket.

Rules have changed a lot over the last 10 years and so have the opportunities to make more runs and take more wickets. Cricket is being played in more countries and in more formats than ever before. Careers have been shortened and quality compromised due to the excess amount of games going around at all times.

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I remember the time when we used to argue about who is better, Rashid Latif or Moin Khan. A single collection not made well behind the stumps by either of them was criticized very heavily and considered a justification for the dropped one to be part of the side again. Wicket keepers like Adam Gilchrist and Mark Boucher were literal examples of the idiom ‘safe as a house’ behind the stumps. Today unfortunately, I do not even find a single wicket keeper who I can call a ‘natural’ in the art. Most of the ones operating today are either part timers, selected in the side because of their batting skills more than wicket keeping or holding on to the position just because there’s nobody else waiting in the wings to challenge them for the designation.

Sachiing Tendulkar, inarguably the best batsman to have ever graced the cricketing field was criticized throughout his career for not being able to finish/ win matches for his side in crunch times. Batsmen like Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Inzamam ul Haq, Ricky Ponting, Saeed Anwar, Mathew Hayden, Saurav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Muhammad Yousuf, Gary Kirsten, Stephen Fleming and many more ruled the pitches and that too in the presence of quality bowling against them. Each batsman knew his role specifically in each format of the game and was considered a specialist at that. All of the mentioned batsmen have had both good and bad days but each one of them had evolved for the better through his experiences and came out as a champion.

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As far as bowling is concerned, fast bowling was actually ‘fast’ when bowlers like Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar, Alan Donald, Shane Bond and Brett Lee literally steamed in to bowl with speeds constantly around the 100 mph mark. No matter how good a batsman you were, you had to face chin music one day or the other with a roaring short pitch ball coming straight at you. Sadly, there are no steam boats in the ocean of fast bowling operating these days.

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Then there was another league of pace bowlers who were literally artists and masters of their trade. Bowlers like Wasim Akram, Glenn Mc Grath, Courteny Walsh, Curtly Ambrose, Chaminda Vaas, and Shaun Pollock etc. could do almost anything at all with a cricket ball in their hands. It was not only entertainment watching these legends bowl, it was also education.

Similarly, magicians, AKA spinners cast their spells in an amazing fashion on all cricketing spectators. The school of spin bowling was blessed with teachers like Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed etc. Creativity was at its peak and unlike today, there were instances where a spinner could win matches for his side single handedly. The above mentioned bowlers share a total of 4146 wickets between them in all forms of the game. Apart from Saeed Ajmal in modern day cricket, there are no more spinners worthy of being called ‘magicians’.

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Modern day cricket has its own set of stars like the Dhonis, Kohlis, Steyns and KPs and some of them may even be considered role models for the youth of the present generation. However, for me at least, the classic era of the game of gentlemen is over now.

Hammad A. Mateen

Pakistan Vs. South Africa- 4th ODI in UAE (2013)

Pakistan Vs. South Africa- 4th ODI in UAE (2013)

When the opening stand of ‘Professor’ and A. Shahzad broke due to a Run-out.

Hot Favorites in Hot Waters

For a team that self-proclaimed to be one of the hot favorites to win the last edition of the ICC Champions Trophy, Team Pakistan did not surprise me a lot when it was kicked out of the tournament without even registering a single win. Comments, reviews, reflections and analysis related to the team’s embarrassing performance in the UK are still underway. Some most popular points being discussed in this regard and my take on them are as follows:

Get rid of the over-aged players:

A very popular notion is to get rid of the players who have reached ages of 30 and above as they aren’t considered young enough to compete at the highest level with the energy and fitness levels required.

I wouldn’t blindly support the notion just on the basis of age. If someone is good enough to perform and maintain good fitness levels, he should play. It’s as simple as that for me. Mike Hussey and Younus Khan are good examples of players that age well above 30 but are more agile than many 22 year olds.

A new, young team:

Moving forward with the thought of eliminating over-aged players from the team, the notion of replacing them with fresh faces is catching up amongst the masses.

I, for some reason, don’t find that working out either for the team. This is mainly because of the fact that good teams have to have a good mix of youth and experience. For starters, we may just presently have the right mix as far as the ratio of youth and experience is concerned. It is simply a matter of filling the slots with the right guys.

Do we really need Dav Watmore?

The concept of having a foreign coach has always been a controversial one as far as Pakistan cricket is concerned. Things heat up even more after humiliating defeats such as the ones just experienced at the ICC Champion’s Trophy and questions start being asked if we really need coaches like Dav Watmore.

In my opinion, Dav Watmore is the right guy, but he’s not being used for the right job. The National Cricket Academy (NCA) is the right place for Dav Watmore, as far as I’m concerned. This is just how India utilized Dav Watmore when he was appointed Director of a Cricket Academy in India where his job was to prepare cricketers for the highest level and not to coach them at it.

You don’t need professors to travel with engineers in the industry. You needs them at colleges to prepare engineers for the industry.

The PCB needs to be re-structured:

There’s a lot of talk to turn PCB upside down and to make drastic changes in its management in order to make the Pakistan team deliver more.

To the extent of introducing merit into the system, I agree to this thought. The PCB does not be re-structured in a sense that merit needs to prevail from top to bottom, and I do mean from ‘top’ to bottom. The selection committee needs to be selected on merit itself and team selection would then follow the same path.

To sum it all up, we need to have a balanced team in all manners having the right mix of youth and experience along with the implementation of having the right staff and players for the right jobs.

Hammad A. Mateen

A spell they couldn’t cast

Misbah-ul-Haq eventually lifted the Asia Cup 2012 last night but not without a sigh of relief. It was a nail-biting encounter and the post-match celebrations all over the country gave proof of the release of tension which the whole of Pakistan had experienced. Many were jubilant over Pakistan winning the Asia cup for the 2nd time, many just joining the party for no obvious reasons and some like me wondering what all these people are so excited about; We beat Bangladesh, and for the 29th time in 30 games.

What I did realize though was that this was not the same Bangladesh we were used to beating up every time. This side had tasted victory and that too over difficult opponents. They didn’t go out onto the field without a plan anymore. They had method to their game and a little flare to go with it. They gave Pakistan a tough time and made sure the match was evenly poised till the very last delivery.

They were all tears which told the world how much it meant for this side to come so close to glory and yet remain so far. I was touched, and so were a few more of my friends who promptly texted me inquiring if we really did deserve to win. Deep down somewhere, we do enjoy an underdog beat the heck out of top sides in the world. Also deep down somewhere, we didn’t like the way Misbah was martialling the troops. We don’t like tears anyway, at least if Bangladesh would’ve won, we wouldn’t have seen the Pakistan team crying.

On the other hand, what we would’ve seen shouldn’t also be discounted so early. Remember the 1999 world cup? Oh we remember all right! The arrogance and the conceit displayed by the Bangladesh side and specially their Prime Minister with her remarks regarding the 1971 war. I spotted her last night on television also sitting and watching the match in the stadium but she wasn’t to be seen anywhere after the last ball was bowled.

I was just reading today in the newspaper about Mushfiq-ur-Raheem claiming prior to the match that this would just be a formality to be completed, Bangladesh will win for sure. If the news is true, no wonder he was crying; anyone in his shoes would’ve done that after being reminded about the old saying: “Pride hath a fall.”

As a neutral, it is definitely heartening to see a side finally come of age 12 years after attaining the test status (which by the way is still questionable). They played outstanding cricket and announced their presence in great style. What will be interesting though would be to see if they can be consistent with their performance and prove themselves in different conditions and against different oppositions.

As far as Pakistan and Tuc Tuc are concerned, well… never mind!

Hammad A. Mateen