Why Shahid Afridi must bat up the order?


Shahid Afridi

(Photo credit: R@VITH)

If one looks back and does even a very high level analysis of Pakistan’s batting performance over the last decade or so, they would know that how miserable it has been all this while and how it has gone from bad to worse.

Another trend that one could easily notice is that the aggression quotient has gone down substantially when it comes to how they have been batting in the recent past. And it is not natural for them we all know. From a side that the world knew as the most unpredictable, it has turned into one which the world knows with a good degree of certainty for their batting would fail.

While the history tells you all that, what it would also tells you, and there is a correlation going one here by the way is, that this change from aggressive mind set to a defensive circumspect one started happening about the same time when Shahid Afridi aka ‘Lala’ started coming down the order for Pakistan. It was considered as a damage control move but the reality is, that it turned out to be of huge damage to their cricket. Oppositions didn’t react of course, but they were quietly celebrating it all this while.

We must believe data and the data is shouting on our faces. On top of it’s voice it says ‘Afridi must bat top of the order’, because that’s where he is at his destructive best. Down the order he is a total waste. He isn’t someone who will revive a crumbling batting line up coming down the order. He is someone who best knows how to launch it at the top. And even if he fails then, their side has nothing to lose because anyhow he is not able to ‘boom boom’ at 7.

With the ICC World Cup in Australia just a few months away, the team management must take that call. Afridi more than anything is a mindset issue, and he should be allowed to set the mental tone upfront. Else ladies and gentlemen, keep watching the not so predictable Pakistan side, no harm, but then it’s no fun too, unfortunately!

For the Aussies, is it ‘Better luck next time’ yet again?


Glenn MaxwellAfter yesterday’s thriller against the West Indies, the big question is that what on earth would it take for the Australian side to win this particular ICC trophy? which essentially is the only ICC trophy that they haven’t been able to lay hands upon. Last night’s loss to the Windies means it is going to be very unlikely for them to turn the odds even time around.

Now let me put things into perspective and take a step or two back to reflect upon their overall preparation for this particular edition. Ask anyone, and i feel the same, that when the tournament started, they looked one of the strongest sides on paper, probably alongside India and Sri Lanka. They looked like winning it or at least advancing to the knock out stages of the tournament.

They were coming from a mix of good well fought and comprehensive wins, some of their players were in tremendous form, they still are, and the ability of their strikers looked unmatched. I mean how good is this for your top 5: Warner, Watson, Finch, Maxwell and Bailey, and then Faulkner, Haddin in the lower middle order. Crazy isn’t it. Seems they’ll just murder any opposition. And not that they haven’t.

In both their games till now, they have batted well with some folks doing extraordinarily well. What would you call Maxwell’s innings against Pakistan? I call it carnage. But you can choose your synonyms.

However, somehow they haven’t been able to cross the line on both the occasions. Against Pakistan, they’d hit Umar Akmal playing best innings of his life, and later Pakistan holding their nerve after the Maxwell onslaught, with Umar Gul also getting into some sort of rhythm. And against the West Indies, the free flowing Gayle upfront and in the death overs the typical West Indian muscle power of Bravo and the skipper Darren Sammy. Ah! When a batsman is in that kind of mood, you can just sit back and admire. Cant do much about it Aussies!

Although mathematical combinations and all those net run rate sciences still tells you that they still aren’t completely out of it, but it’s very less likely that all that maths and science would work in their favour the way they’d like. Let’s wait n watch.

Because otherwise, well, better luck next time!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

ICC World T20 2014, Back with a bang!


Cricket Exclusive

ICC World T20 2014Alright folks! So it was day one of the ICC World T20 2014 and it was all excitement and buzz. Something that’s much expected from all ICC Tournaments. It started with Bangladesh taking on the effervescent Afghanistan, and later in the evening Nepal up against Hong Kong. One could argue that the actual competition is yet to begin and this phase of the tournament is essentially minnows fighting it out against each other, but because these teams are playing to qualify for the bigger phase, in both the matches the teams were all charged up and raring to go.

First match of the day saw an inspired Afghanistan, coming from some good Asia Cup matches, against the home side Bangladesh. The atmosphere in the ground was electric and what’s fascinating to see in this country is the love for their home team. After an ordinary Asia Cup, the kind of response Bangladesh team saw was amazing, the most resilient crowds that we’ll ever come across. The painted lions were all roaring.

Bangladesh didn’t disappoint their fans this time and riding on their spin power, easily triumphed the Afghans who got the t20 theory rub on them a bit too much. They played too many big shots too early. ‘Everything has to go out of the park boys’ looked like the theme of their team. I am sure they’ll realise it as they play more games at this level that it ‘s not all bang bang and 20 overs are still to be played.

The second match which promised to be a better contest, turned out to be rather one sided. Again the side with good spin options came out victorious. Nepal’s spinners with the kind of bite their deliveries offered were too sharp to handle for the Hong Kong batsmen. Nepal looks a very promising side, with some really handy players.

Very early in this tournament, with the kind of turn and bounce we saw from the pitch, it looks like spinners are going to play a huge role in shaping big games. It may not be the batsman’s game all the way.

Watch out for the Ajmals, Naraines, Ashwins and Tahirs of the world!

Afridi’s 59 off 25 against Bangladesh, Asia Cup 2014


Cricket Exclusive

When he came into bat, Pakistan were struggling with 102 to get off 52 deliveries. But that’s what Shahid Afridi cherishes. And on that night it was bad luck if you were a Bangladesh fan.

Here is what he did to the bowlers. Devastating…7 sixes and 2 fours in that innings.

Lets watch!

#asiacup2014

This game is getting crazy!


Cricket Exclusive

There are different versions of the game today, the long, the short and the not too short. We have these very athletic people playing it, something never seen few decades ago; and we also have these people (read cricketers) playing some incredibly hard to believe shots that take very weird angles on their way to the boundary rope.

All in all, this game is getting crazy, really crazy…and very exciting too.

Watch this to know for yourself…

Video Credit:IntrestingChannel U

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India play Pakistan in a high intensity dead rubber


Cricket Exclusive

CT13 India vs. PakistanHow is this for a dead rubber, India vs. Pakistan in an ICC tournament. Dead rubber? You kidding me! Whatever be the stage or situation, this is mother of all clashes.

It really doesn’t matter if one team has qualified for the semis and the other is already out of the tournament. This one is not about qualification or otherwise, they play for pride and all is at stake.

For starters, India has been at their best throughout till now and Pakistan’s batting has failed miserably. Clearly the odds favour Indians but you never know which Pakistan side turns up on Saturday and then odds suddenly look so lame. Primarily it’s going to be Indian batting against the Pakistan bowling and whichever triumphs will emerge match winner.

The most exiting part of any India-Pakistan game is the energy that is on display from each of the 22 players. Everyone brings on their A-game and the atmosphere is all charged up. And trust me it would be full team this time around as well, no team will test their bench strength, not at least in a ‘dead rubber’ :)

Shikhar Dhawan and Dinesh Karthik have done particularly well in this tournament and so have some of the other guys. The Pakistan bowlers, both fast and spin also have bowled pretty well, just that their batsmen have let them down and thus it is going to be a good contest.

Also probably for the first time in this tournament there would be a balance in the crowd in terms of fans cheering for their sides. Till now whenever India or Pakistan played against other teams their fans have always outnumbered the others. So much so that in the Pakistan’s game against South Africa at Oval, London 95% of the spectators were Pakistan fans. Also at Edgbaston particularly, Pakistan always have had a huge no. of fans come in to support their team and that’s unlikely to change.

So let’s set ourselves for a high intensity ODI where one of the best sporting rivalry would be on showcase. Its going to be a treat. Its no dead rubber. But let’s just pray to the rain gods that it doesn’t come down on the ‘Super Saturday’.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Pakistan batsmen living with the fear of ‘Unknown’


CT13 Pakistan vs. South AfricaPakistan batsmen for a while now are living with some fear which is so deep rooted in their hearts and minds that it would take a huge psychological counseling effort from someone for this fear to be conquered. Nobody really knows what is this fear of theirs and thus we are calling it the fear of ‘unknown’.

This fear has been haunting them for a good no. of years now. It roughly started around the time when Inzamam-ul-Haq retired from International cricket and since then has gone on to scare almost all the Pakistan batsmen of the current generation. And in the past few years it has become hugely grave.

More that anything else, what this fear has done is that it is killing their bowlers. Pakistan bowlers try their level best each time they take field, they are hard to face, they get good sides out for modest totals and they are a highly respected attack. But invariably Pakistan’s batsmen have failed theirs bowlers and if this continues any longer it shouldn’t be surprising if we see these bowlers burn out and not perform as well. The reality is, there is only as much one can do to keep the morale going and for Pakistan bowlers its been a little too much.

Pakistan side is loved by their fans around the world for their signature attitude. An attitude which is about natural raw talent expressing itself and that is the very reason that all these batting mishaps are so much more disheartening. Pakistan batsmen aren’t expressing themselves. There is a mental block, there is fear of failure and there is a burden of not looking casual while batting. If Pakistan has to do well, all that has to go away. There has to be an expression of that famous attitude and there has to be an acknowledgment that bowlers cannot do it all.

235 is all they were chasing against the South Africans last night and with all the caution in the world, they could only accumulate 167. There was no reason for the way they approached this modest South African target but its not the first time they took this approach, they have done it in the past as well.

Without Steyn and Morkel, the South African attack was not as sharp, but right from the word go Pakistan batsmen went into their shell and were overly defensive. There was no intent to keep the score ticking over and thus a lot was left to be done towards the end. Misbah cannot do it all, always.

The Pakistan batsmen must learn that it is time they change the way they approach batting. They must let go this fear, whatever it is. Pakistan cricket otherwise, isn’t heading anywhere.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

At CT13, Australians yet to show intent, intensity and hunger


CT13 Ian BellIt was supposed to be a ‘Super Saturday‘, but didn’t turn out one.

England and Australia were playing their first Group A round-robin league match against each other and given their rivalry (Ashes and otherwise) it promised to be one cracker of a game. But for some reason, the Aussie side that turned up for this clash was far from what we are accustomed to see for last so many years. They simply lacked fire.

England sporting their new red jerseys, looking fresh in new colors batted first and posted 269/6 with Ian Bell playing a superb innings of 91. This was a decent score on that track but nothing of the size that can seemingly intimidate the Australians. But it did.

When the Aussies came out to chase, there was no intent to go about it. Batting included, during the whole match, one just didn’t find the glimpse of aggression that is so native to Australian. They went about their business in a manner that is so unlike them. The zeal, the hunger to win was somewhat missing. Yes, the Haydens, the Gilchrists, the McGrawths and the Warnes don’t play the game anymore but the Australian body language has to have successors who can keep the attitude of these champion cricketers alive.

More than the loss, it was disappointing to see the manner in which they lost. They sure can fight better than this.

Australia play New Zealand next in Edgbaston on Wednesday and this is a good opportunity for them to come in their own. More so because these are two sides who have always been fighting it out against each other and thus aggression naturally makes its way into the contest. This may well be the catalyst that Australia need to get going.

They are a strong side, with multiple match winners. It’s only the famous Aussie attitude that they need to rediscover and there on they’ll be a side to watch out for.

Photo Credit: Nick Boalch

Pakistan missing Afridi at CT13, already


Shahid Afridi Match WinnerTwo highly unpredictable sides clashed in a low scoring but high intensity Group B thriller last night at Oval, London, the first of their matches in the round-robin league. The West Indies got over the line with two wickets in the bag but not before Pakistan’s pace and spin combination made them experience a good 40 overs of restlessness.

On a wicket that offered some assistance to the quicks early on, Pakistan were sent into bat by the new West Indian ODI captain Dwayne Bravo. On the West Indies playing XI, there was no Darren Sammy and that meant only Gangnam style was on offer and so London was going to miss the baby dance. Pakistan went in with four specialist bowlers and Hafeez the all rounder filled in for the fifth bowler, which meant that the idea was to strengthen their batting with an additional batsmen which they know is probably their weakest link for some years now.

But the extra batsman strategy didn’t work and Pakistan’s batting failed yet again. They couldn’t bat the complete quota of 50 overs and despite Misbah’s fighting 96*, they were bowled out for mere 170 in 48 overs. Kemar Roach ran through the top order and Sunil Naraine did the rest.

Pakistan’s bowlers were superb once again with Mohd. Irfan, Junaid Khan and Wahab Riaz bowling fast and in the right areas, getting a good bounce and carry from the Oval pitch. Saeed Ajmal bowled beautifully as always and West Indians had a hard time reading his doosra. At one stage West Indies were reduced to less than a 100 for the loss of 5 wickets but Pakistan’s attempt of going for the kill wasn’t strong enough and they probably had a weapon less. Somewhere they missed that fifth specialist bowler and one would agree that to an extent Afridi absence was felt.

The Pakistan selectors have missed a trick by not including Shahid Afridi in the squad. And the reason we think that’s the case is because however bad Afridi performs with the bat, he still is a top class leg-spinner and there aren’t many spinners in the world who can match him for his deceptive variations.

Over the last few years or so, Afridi has been more of a bowler who can bat and not really a batting all-rounder and thus the expectations from him should be set per se. The team, the selectors and his fans at large should do a reality check and understand that now he is someone who is more likely to win Pakistan matches with the ball and not with the bat. Yes, on his day, if he comes off with the bat that’s a huge bonus but overall that shouldn’t be the expectation upfront.

Pakistan missed him last night as a bowler and also for the attitude that he brings with him which is very capable of lifting the whole side. And he may be missed all tournament.

Afridi is a match-winner and there isn’t any doubt about that. How Pakistan plans to leverage him in this later part of his career is a question that they need to find an answer for. He still has some cricket left in him, and you never know what he may win Pakistan before he bids adieu!

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

Champions Trophy 2013 Tickets – Selling like ‘Hot Cakes’


Champions Trophy TicketsIt’s 3 more days to go before the ICC Champions Trophy 2013 commences in England & Wales and the stage looks set just right for a super exciting tournament. The warm-up games plus the ongoing NatWest Series between England and New Zealand are those little teasers that make one sigh and think – ah! what an atmosphere for good three weeks of ODI cricket. It suddenly brings back memories of those nail biting finishes that we all have witnessed sometime, from the greatest matches played on the world stage.

Yes, now we have all these fast paced T20 games, both domestic and international, that bring so much in terms of thrill, but we all know how beautiful is a nicely poised, well fought 50 over game. Such delight!

TV networks are also doing a great job reviving ODI cricket and are pre-selling the tournament splendidly. In case you have seen the new ‘Champions Trophy on HD’ promo on ESPN-Star, you know what I mean. Take a bow creative team for this promo, and particularly for that last shot which shows the cricket ball with dust particles around it…in HD. You guys have taken the visual experience of sports telecast on television to an entirely new level and I must tell you, its just great for the game.

And if this gets you thinking that all the cricket lovers are glued to their television sets and stadiums aren’t attracting as many spectators. Well, think again. Its crazy out there and tickets for ICC Champions Trophy 2013 are selling like hot cakes.

Champions Trophy is being played in England for the second time, and the interest it is drawing is more than ever. The Oval, Edgbaston and The Cardiff Wales Stadium, three venues for this tournament are expecting full-house for most of the matches. For records, as it would happen anywhere in the world, the June 15 India vs. Pakistan encounter at Edgbaston is already ‘SOLD OUT’.

Multiple vendors and various ticketing partners like TicketMaster, LiveNation Entertainment and others are offering tickets both online and over the counter. Ticket prices are ranging from £20 for group games (family stand) to £60 (Gold) for the big final at Edgbaston. Whatever row, whichever stand you get, go grab your tickets and don’t miss out upon a chance to cheer your favorite team right from the buzzing stadium. Some tournaments are special, and being the last Champions trophy edition this one is special for sure.

I have my ticket for the finals. And if you happen to get yours, then see you in Edgbaston. I’ll be there with my face painted in my team’s color, dancing and jumping in hope that some cameraman notices me and I show up on the big screen :) !

Photo Credit: Wikipedia