Catching up on Cricket

We’ve been MIA for a very long time. Part of the reason for this is our abysmal performance in the Champions Trophy (which by the way doesn’t deserve a post) and our top order’s love for the pavilion.

To be honest, nothing worth talking about is happening really. Nothing except …..SHAHID AFRIDI. His dip in form since the end of 2011 was beginning to test the faith of even his most loyal fans (us). No wickets since late August 2012 and hardly a notable score for the past one and a half year or so was worrying not only the lovers but also the critics. Shahid Afridi probably adds the un- to the unpredictability in the Pakistan team.

His performance on Sunday, 76 off 55 balls with the bat and 7 for 12 with the ball, set and broke numerous records for both Afridi and cricket. The critics (we know a few of them) that wanted Afridi dropped either silenced or quietly changed sides. I, for one, do not have the vocabulary or the ability to pen down what I feel about Afridi as a cricketer, as a team member, as a Pakistani and as a human. 

Besides his unplanned, unpredicted launch at the West Indians, there wasn’t much to look at in the match. The rest of our batsmen were way below average, bowlers were their usual and the match was fairly one-sided.

The second ODI, on the other hand, was a little more competitive (followed by a serious drag toward the end), but the result was kind of unpleasant. Anyway, the good thing is that there are five and not three ODIs. And honestly we know better than winning the first three and making the last two dead rubbers. 

So yeah, that’s about all the cricket that is happening for us at the moment. There is obviously the Ashes but we’d rather watch and enjoy than cover it on the blog. After all, this blog is biased and it’s impossible to cover a series when you dislike both the sides equally (I joke).

As for the West Indies tour, all we ask for is our top order to do something more than scoring in single digits.

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The Final Battle

In exactly 1 day and 6 hours, the last ICC Champions Trophy tournament shall commence. The last time the top eight teams of the world battle against each other to be the best of the best. Whichever team wins the title this time, gets to keep it forever.

Pakistan go into this all-important tournament as the hot favorites to win the title. Their incredibly fierce and diverse bowling attack has the ability to crumble through the most resilient batting line-up there may be. And with batsmen like Nasir Jamshed, Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq, who on their good days have the ability to rattle any opposition, there’s no knowing when this team will turn tables on the opposition and snatch a victory where there was none. Their unpredictability can match no other’s and no matter how much you manage to strategize against them, you can never anticipate the surprising knock a mediocre batsman may pull off or a sudden wicket they might manage to sneak in. They can go from being the best to the worst and the worst to the best all in a matter of minutes – and they’re the only team that can do that.

Going into this tournament, that’s exactly how we want our team to play again. We don’t want consistency. We don’t want strategies and tactics. We just want our players to go out there, fight like never before, and be their usual unpredictable self – because that’s exactly how we love them and that’s exactly how, 15 years later, we can finally manage to get our hands on this title. Our unpredictability has, and always will be, our greatest weapon.

Good luck Team Pakistan!

Praying that this time we won’t have to console ourselves with the usual tum jeeto ya haaro, hamein tumse pyaar hai!

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The Group Stages

What is the first thing we all notice when the groups are decided for any tournament? Whether India or Pakistan have been put up in the same group or not. And yet again, both teams did manage ending up in the same group. I’m starting to think this is some sort of ploy by the ICC to create more drama in the otherwise dull group stages.

So anyway, Pakistan is to face India, South Africa and West Indies in the group stages, and only 2 of these 4 teams get to go ahead to the semis, which means that we absolutely NEED to win at least two of our three matches to guarantee a place in the semis (no more reliance on net run rates please!). Judging from their performance in the past year, West Indies have managed to establish themselves as strong opponents again. However, I still believe that despite having astonished the whole cricketing world with their World T20 win, they’re still not THAT strong an ODI team and our bowlers can easily manage to silence their explosive batsmen. Okay, so that’s one match we SHOULD make sure we win. Next, Pakistan vs South Africa. AGAIN. As good as a team South Africa is, we’ve always managed to beat them in every ICC tournament somehow, and hopefully we’ll be doing the same this time around too. And then by the time we come to the much-anticipated-yet-much-dreaded India-Pakistan clash, we’d have already secured a place in the semis and will only be playing for pride, so that even a loss won’t matter so much this time. Pretty idealistic situation we’ve created there. If only predicting the performance of our team was as simple as this.

There are a few specific battles that we’re particularly looking forward to in the group stages:

  1. Mohammad Hafeez vs. Dale Steyn – How many times have we seen these two battle it out this year and how many times have we seen Hafeez eventually lose his wicket to him? This time, however, we want Hafeez to end this battle by smacking Steyn for boundaries all over the world. Okay, fine. Maybe not boundaries, but ONE six at least?
  2.  Junaid Khan vs. Virat Kohli –We’d like to watch Junaid Khan break Kohli’s stumps ONE more time and then we can live in peace for the rest of our lives.
  3. Saeed Ajmal vs. Chris Gayle – The best spinner in the world against one of the most explosive batsmen there is, now that’ll be a battle to watch.

Any specific battles you’re looking forward to? Add them in in the comments section! 

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Pakistan vs South Africa – Hanged to death

Hello all. We’re back with another sad post about our team’s loss. This time in the ODI series (Yes we realize we’re a week late, but we’ve been busy. And we needed time to get over the loss and actually be able to write about it). I’ve honestly forgotten what it feels like to write a nice, happy, jubilant post. Anyway, I’m not going to go on with a review about the whole series, because that would be way too depressing. Instead, I’ll just go over the top 3 reasons for our loss in my opinion:

  • Our inability to ever manipulate our batting line-up according to the situation. WHY was Hafeez opening in all those matches when he’s clearly having trouble playing Steyn? Why not get Kamran Akmal to open the batting with Jamshed/Farhat, and let Hafeez come at number 3? I don’t know whose decision that was, Misbah or Hafeez, but it was clearly stupid because they were only giving South Africa the opportunity to continue taking that early wicket of ours.
  • Playing with 7 bowlers in every freaking match! 3 fast bowlers, 3 spinners and a part-timer? What are we doing playing with so many bowlers when we know how extremely fragile our batting is? Playing with 5 or 7 bowlers wasn’t going to change the fact that we’d only be able to bowl  50 overs, but replacing one of them with a batsman could have however ensured that we don’t get bowled out all the time. Lesson for next time, hopefully. 
  • Our incredibly annoying defensive tactics. I’d like to do a brain operation on Misbah and instill in his head that YOU CAN’T ALWAYS BE DEFENSIVE! With a team like South Africa, you HAVE to attack because they aren’t the kind of team you can defend a target against. Especially when it’s a measly target at that. Someone PLEASE teach our team some attacking tactics already.

I’m desperately hoping that our team takes some lessons from these matches and does better in the ICC Champions Trophy because they SHOULD be able to reach the semis at least and maintain our qualifying-for-the-semis-in-every-ICC-tournament streak. Meanwhile, we can celebrate that we’ve gotten over this torturous tour and try and move on.

 

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Pakistan vs South Africa – The format that matters

Proponents of the Test format (me) and proponents of the T20 format (the other admin) have mutual feelings for the ODI format because it’s a mix of the two. And now we’re at the doorstep of a 5-match ODI series, which is likely to satisfy both the lovers of Test cricket and the lovers of T20 cricket.

I have long argued that Pakistan has always been a confused side during ODIs. It is like they can’t decide whether to attack or defend.

With Misbah as the Test captain, Pakistan has been defending a lot lately. However, thank God for our attacking bowlers, the game gets fairly balanced. In T20, as someone who I don’t remember said, “Pakistan is the best, because they don’t have the time to self-destruct.” Rightly so. But ODI is a different game altogether – a mixture of the temperament to stay at the crease along with the ability to hit every ball out of the park. With the new rule of having at least 5 fielders in the circle all the time, Misbah is forced to attack, which has made the life of millions of Pakistani fans worth living. At least now we can’t complain that Misbah tuk tuk-ed his way through the game.

South Africa – they may not be the number one team in this format, but they’re definitely as difficult as it can get for Pakistan. With Amla, Smith and Steyn returning to the squad, Pakistan’s happy days seem to be over. Even though Steyn is not as deadly with the white ball as he is with the red ball, he can do a fair bit of damage in the 10 overs he will get to bowl. The rest of the South African team doesn’t scare me much. It’s only Amla and Smith, led by Steyn. If they succeed against Pakistan, I expect the series to go down 3-2 or maybe even 4-1 in favor of South Africa. Otherwise, we have a damn good team to beat them, provided we don’t drop catches and Kamran Akmal doesn’t enter the field with greased hands. Gul needs to carry forward his form from the T20 and so does Hafeez. Afridi will have to do equally  good if not better than the T20. Misbah … well things need to go our way in order to stop him from making unnecessary defensive changes. Basically, the dangerous Pakistan needs to turn up. At least for three out of the five matches anyway. If that happens, it is safe to predict the series is ours 3-2.

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