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’.

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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

Top four raring to go in the ICC World T20 Semis


ICC World T20 Semi-Finals

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Eight out of twelve have boarded a flight back home. Few expected and few not as much have made an exit at the super eight stage. And so, as we enter the final leg of the tournament we let ourself free fall, because anyways, anticipating what shall happen from here on is just not possible…let’s sit back and enjoy it.

Aahh, the knockouts, the sudden death and a hell lot of excitement that they promise. We did see some twists and turns all through the tournaments but one can argue that the best four sides have reached the semi-finals. So here is what we looking at – hosts Sri Lanka play a very unpredictable Pakistan in the first semi-final on Thursday and on Friday flamboyant West Indies take on a little shaken Australia. Sri Lankans look the best of these four, better balanced, carrying good momentum and they look like winning this one more than the others; of course they are playing at home so that would be added advantage, make no mistake – crowd will be behind them, absolutely, and do watch out for the numerous brass bands.

Their opponent in the semis, Pakistan, is the only team to make it to the last four in all the editions of ICC World T20 and that to an extent tells that their game is well suited for this format. Last time in St. Lucia, at the same stage in the tournament, they were shocked by a flurry from Mr. Cricket – Mike Hussey. This time they would want to turn it around.

West Indies seem to be going great and are in with a very strong chance. They face the Aussies for the second time in this tournament and would want to finish this one with the beautiful Gangnam dance. They have some big match winners in that side who are quite capable of destroying any attack on their day.

Lastly, let’s talk about the Australians. Well, this is the only championship that they are yet to champion and they would so want to win it. In fact, this time around they look like winning it too, a side that is quite balanced with a good mix of some very big hitter and T20 specialists. They were on a roll with the two Ws, Watson and Warner, blazing all guns but that Pakistan match has disturbed their rhythm a bit. That said, Australia is a very professional side and should be able to put that defeat out of their system when they take field against the Windies on Friday.

Fasten your seat belts folks, because from here, its gonna really launch!!!

Pakistan at their anxious best


Pakistan vs. India Super Eight

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What promised to be an intense romantic tale turned out to be a sorry one-sided affair. Of all the times that India and Pakistan have clashed in the recent past, this one stands out as the most lacklustre display by Pakistan. Nerves got better of them yet again and they were spooked enough to throw it away without showing any real resistance. Pakistan were at their “anxious best” and that pretty much describes the day for them. More than anyone else it was the skipper Mohd. Hafeez who went into his shell and never really came out till there were no more Indians left at the Premadasa.

Virat played a beautiful and commanding innings yet again and it is hard to find a better batsman around. All due credit to him for his performance but for Pakistan the match was lost even before Virat took guard. The way Pakistan batsmen batted is hard to explain. They made part-timers look like genuine bowlers who could do no wrong, Yuvraj in particular. Yuvraj bowled a good spell but in between he bowled numerous half-trackers which were punched to extra-cover or third-man for singles. On another day these were six hitting deliveries, right over mid-wicket, at least 85 meters; ask Shane Watson and he would know.

Afridi’s promotion didn’t make sense at all given the fact that he is seriously out of form and has turned into a bowler who can (read may), bat a bit. Also, with him coming at 3, the overall batting order gets skewed and someone like an Umar Akmal then has to walk in at 7, well, you don’t want your class A batsman bat that low, do you. In T20 you cannot have people who chew up deliveries at the top; that puts tremendous pressure on the middle and lower order.

Another strategic error that Pakistan management has made in this tournament is leaving out a match winner of the class of Abdur Razzaq. He, in matter of few overs can turn a match on its head. Also, with his experience he can bring some calm to this highly effervescent Pakistan side that can so easily fall apart in crunch matches. They are one side who really need someone to ease out the things a little. Razzaq can be the man for this job.

India held their nerves and thus emerged winner. There is something special about this Indian side; with skills they have the temperament to conquer big matches. Both India and Pakistan have one game each to go in the Super-eights and these are must win games for them. India seems to be on a roll after this win and looks like beating South Africa. Pakistan however have to be back with their A game to be able to fight a tough Australian side on the Super-Tuesday.

10 Years On, Pakistan aim for a series win against the Aussies


English: Saeed Ajmal in the field during a 50-...

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It has been 10 years since Pakistan won an ODI series against the Australians. Yes, it was the year 2002 when they last beat the Aussies to win a series. They have a good chance to change these stats when they play at their second home on dry pitches where their spinners can be really dangerous.

Sharjah and Abu Dhabi are scorching hot during this time of the year with temperatures soaring to around 45’C and this can test the fitness of both the sides, especially, Australians’ who aren’t much used to such conditions. More than the heat, its the humidity that really saps a lot out of the players. It is like a sauna in the middle, where the players sweat profusely and with dew cover in the outfield it a two prong battle — outplay the opposition and at the same time fight the dew.

Both sides have won a match each with the decider to be played at Sharjah on Monday-Tuesday night. Australian pacemen ran through the Pakistan batting in the first ODI and after few hiccups in the middle of Aussies innings, the new guns Bailey and Maxwell held their nerve to make sure Australians cross over the line safely. Pakistan’s spinners bowled really well but as the batting again failed to deliver it was little too much of an ask for them.

Pakistan however bounced back in the second ODI, with their spinners, especially the magical off spinner Saeed Ajmal again bowling tremendously well to confine Australians to a modest total of 249. It was followed by a superb almost run-a-ball innings of 97 from Nasir Jamshed who dominated the Aussie attack and Pakistan surpassed the total with more than six overs to spare to set up a comprehensive and convincing victory. For a long time now Pakistan is in search of a genuine opening batsman and it seems with the arrival of Jamshed this wait is over. He just needs to watch out his injuries.

The decider promises to be an exciting contest with both sides looking to end on a high which would give them a psychological advantage ahead of the T20 series. Australia may make a change or two in their line-up by considering playing an additional spinner. For Pakistan, if Afridi recovers from his strain he may come back in place of Rehman whose figures were not too impressive in the last game. Also, with Afridi you have a potential chance of dominating the game if he fires with the bat. Though on that, I rest my case :) !!!WW6PXY4QQTKV

Kamran Akmal in Pakistan’s ICC Twenty20 World Cup Squad – PCB’s Condonation


English: Kamran Akmal keeping wicket for Pakis...

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Kamran Akmal is back in the Pakistan’s squad for the ICC World Twenty20, 2012. The tournament begins on September 18th, 2012. Kamran hasn’t played for Pakistan for over an year now, his last international appearance was in the ICC world cup 2011.

His inclusion would definitely strengthen Pakistan’s batting that is going through a bad phase. This return however has surprised a few because there wasn’t much clarity on his position with International Cricket Council (ICC). Akmal was sent a notice by ICC’s anti-corruption unit and he also got summoned by the integrity committee. He however claims that ICC has cleared him of all the charges.

Pakistan is in Group D with New Zealand and Bangladesh and they look strongest in their group. Two other players who have made a comeback are Abdur Razzaq and Imran Nazir. Nazir being an aggressive opening batsman would look to provide the innings with flying start and Razzaq who has always been a fine all-rounder, very dependable, on his comeback would want to make a point.

Other than India, England and Sri Lanka the team that looks like making an impact is Pakistan given their world class bowling and handy bits and pieces players who are relatively dangerous in the shorter format of the game.

It promises to be an exciting 20-day affair with some quick-fire batting, toe crushing Yorkers and acrobatic fielding displays. And lets not forget the colour and glamour around the ground :D !!!

Pakistan squad for the World Twenty20 2012 in Sri Lanka:

Mohammad Hafeez (Captain), Shoaib Malik, Nasir Jamshed, Umar Akmal, Kamran Akmal (WK), Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Imran Nazir, Asad Shafiq, Raza Hasan, Yasir Arafat, Mohammad Sami, Sohail Tanveer, Umar Gul and Dave Whatmore (Coach)WW6PXY4QQTKV

Pakistan needs a genuine all-rounder!!!


Shahid Afridi

(Photo credit: R@VITH)

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Against all odds, in the last two ODI’s against the Sri Lankans, Pakistan somehow managed to make their way through winning moments and achieved – Loss. After their success in the Asia Cup, fans expected them to put up a decent show against Sri Lanka given the fact that most top Lankan players have been playing back to back cricket series including a long IPL which saps a lot of energy, as opposed to the Pakistanis who were relatively fresh. However, that was not to be.

Till the last game of the series Pakistan were searching for that ‘Right’ combination, imagine they played three quicks in the last game. Three quicks, really, on a Premadassa pitch, huh, you’re kidding me. But that’s how they operated for last 15 days or so. They looked like winning in patches but never commanded the opposition. Nothing to take away from the Lankans, but, Pakistan played in their own hands.

Biggest of all, they missed a genuine all-rounder. Someone who is more of a batting all-rounder. At times they played an extra bowler, and they felt they are a batsman short. Then they played an extra batsman and their fifth bowler was taken for plenty. They clearly need someone like an Abdur Razzaq to balance it all. Shoaib Malik won’t be a bad choice either; neither would be a Hammad Azam. But for that to happen, the management, coach and captain must understand the value that a genuine all-rounder brings. At this point, not sure they do.

Afridi and Hafeez are the ones in current squad who qualify as all-rounder’s on paper but none of them kept up to the reputation. Hafeez failed with the bat repeatedly and Afridi, well, however big a match-winner he is, his consistency would always remain an area of concern and he has fired rarely of late.

Pakistan also needs to address their batting otherwise. Yonouis Khan as an ODI choice doesn’t seem too good, he has consistently failed to pace his innings. Top-order has no spine and is a very defensive lot. Umar Akmal is unnecessarily aggressive and overall there is no balance. The way to go – bring back Kamran Akmal, he may be an average wicket keeper but a fine batsmen, get Imran Nazir if he gets out fine, but if it’s his day, he wins the match for you, bring Abdur Razzaq, he is a must play man, I cannot fathom the reasons that he isn’t and if possible Hammad Azam too, he requires grooming but this is the phase when that should be done.

They are a bunch of talented cricketers but they need more order and some able guidance.

Dave – Are you listening!!!

A Sri Lankan white-wash on a day when rain threatened to wash out


English: Mohammad Hafeez bowling during a 50-o...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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In Pallekele, it was overcast since morning and when such is the weather, despite a true batting surface to play on, all cricketing captains around the world are faced with the ‘Toss Dilemma’. And on one of these days, its always good to lose the toss. Misbah-ul-Haq was the lucky one on this occasion as Mahela won the toss and elected to bat first.

There were multiple interruptions due to rain, and on more than one occasion it threatened to wash out the game. But it was not to be, though it did result in a curtailed game; 42
overs each side.

It wasn’t Sri Lanka’s day and they never got going. Most of their batsmen got out attempting shots which were too ambitious given the conditions and class of Pakistan’s bowling. Gul, Tanvir, Sami, all three pacemen bowled fast and in right areas and made life really difficult for the Lankans. They were well supported by the spin trio of Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez. A steady innings from Thirrimanne and a late cameo from Kulasakera took them past 100 but 135 was never going to be enough in a one day game. Other than the early loss of Azhar Ali there were not many hiccups in the Pakistan’s innings (Misbah’s run out was unnecessary though). It was a chase well executed.

As I mentioned in my last post too, its usually Pakistan’s batting that fails them and if their batsmen can manage even the ‘just about right’ batting performance, they are a very tough side to beat.

For second ODI on Saturday, at the same venue, both teams would want to apply themselves more, (even more in terms of batting) as conditions remain testing. Pakistan has all the momentum at the moment but we very well know how quickly it shifts between these two sides !!!

Pakistan must fix their batting order


INZAMAM UL HAQ

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Asia Cup win in Bangladesh was a high for Pakistan cricket in the limited overs’ format and they would have loved to continue from there. But coming from a break of over two months from international cricket they really looked short on match practice. This is also where the impact of non inclusion of their players in IPL can be felt. With players from all other countries, including Sri Lanka, got more than decent exposure to T20 cricket, Pakistan players looked rusty. Despite restricting Sri Lanka for a moderate total, it turned out to be a one sided affair…Pakistan’s batting failed yet again.

We talk, read, hear and discuss this all the time; and it goes on, Pakistan’s batting remains an ideal example of “inconsistency”. Their batting order looks skewed as ever, it’s hard to recall when was the last time, for two consecutive series, they played with the same top four. May be late 90s!!! Anwar, Sohail, Ijaz, Inzamam.

Hafeez’s captaincy should bring positive changes to the side because he has a good cricketing head. They obviously call him ‘Professor’ for some reasons. Whatmore is a proven mentor too and his methods showed effective results during his stint with two of the subcontinents’ sides. But, given their experience and class, the first thing they should look into, which is highly apparent is – batting order. Yes it is right to nurture young talent and they should be given their share of opportunities, however, at cost of team’s performance, it doesn’t seem to be a good idea.

Afridi and Umar Akmal, especially in a T20 game, must bat higher in the order. You have Ahmed Shehzad the ‘dasher’ alright but there is a definite need to add more fire power up there. There is another dasher in their ranks, who has been out of the side for quite a while now – Imran Nazir. One can argue he is too reckless as times but on his day he is a match winner. In T20 games, match winners of his ability must play, even more because, Pakistan batting anyways operates in the repair mode. Their top order invariably fails and lower-middle order comes to their rescue. So even if Nazir fails, their modus operandi remains.

Sunday evening they play their second T20 of the series and they must sort out their batting before going into it. Over the years, Pakistan’s bowlers have taken too much pressure, and kept them in the fray, its time their batsmen arrive.