Sri Lanka Or West Indies, whose Super Sunday shall it be?


ICC World T20 finalLast but not by any stretch of imagination the least. We so eagerly waited for this day all through the last three weeks and really, what better we could have asked for; it was all worth the wait and here it is – the ICC World Twenty20 final, so beautifully setup.

Yes we can go by the old cliché that the best two teams of the tournament have qualified and in fact that wouldn’t be incorrect to say. But this time we can make one other statement too, that the two most distinct teams have made it to the finals. Look closely and you will see how distinct these two sides are in nature, their approach to the game, body language, stroke-making and attitude. While the Sri Lankans would nudge and slice, West Indies would seek to impose their power on the bowling, while Sri Lankans would be restrained, West Indians would be as flamboyant as it gets and while for celebrations Sri Lankans prefer cheers, high-fives and hugs the West Indians would go the ‘Gangnam’ style.

At the beginning of the tournament Sri Lankans to an extent were favourites to make it to the finals, given the nature of the pitches and overall home advantage. But Windies have definitely surprised some, and what a pleasant surprise; one that goes by as ‘one of the best’ cricket surprises of recent times. One wonders sometimes that if you take sides like West Indies out of the game or for that matter when sides like West Indies aren’t performing, how much charm the game loses. Yes, there still will be cricket but not as good-looking as with the West Indies performing. Of course, professional sports requires professional sportsmen playing in a professional mode, but make no mistake, end of the day these ‘sportsmen’ are humans and the spectators who come out to watch their sport are humans too and that is why the sport requires human element – the one with lot of emotions and little less out rightly ‘professional’.  And this make us think, with this particular qualification West Indies has given a major face-lift to the modern day cricket and international cricket for its own sake requires, if fact really requires, West Indies to do well.

Well, if we talk about the contest tonight, it is going to be an excellent one. Both sides have their strengths and shades of weaknesses and its all about rising to the occasion. Chris Gayle we all know would be a big-big factor and he can make or break it. At post match presentation in the Australia game he made a very clear statement, where he said – we love Sri Lanka a lot, but we are sorry, the cup is oursJ. So Sri Lankans – get this man early if you want the crowds at Premadasa to dance tonight, else he and the other big boys around him are going to dance the ‘Gangnam’ style all through the night!

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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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!!!

Super Eights – Everything is super about them!


ICC World twenty20 Super Eights
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Day 1 of the Super Eights at ICC World Twenty20, and all of a sudden one feels how beautifully and fittingly written are these lines from Urdu poetry – “Aghaz aisa hai to Anjaam kaisa hoga” (if such is the inception, well, what to expect in the end). ICC World Twenty20 2012 has started to come into its own; super eights on day 1 itself has announced a cricket bonanza, which is ready to unwrap in the next two weeks – big time.

Game 1 of the Super eights between Sri Lanka and New Zealand went to super over after the scores ended in a tie. At one stage when Sri Lanka was chasing, around the 17th over, they were looking like chasing the target easily but some really good seam bowling by the Kiwis lead by Tim Southee made a match of it. Eventually however, a brilliant catch from Dilshan turned the fortunes in Sri Lanka’s favour and made sure they got the first two points.

In game 2, the West Indies showed why they are a big contender to win this edition. All through the 40 overs, what stood out was the West Indian spirit. There was no pressure on them whatsoever. They are one side who truly enjoy their game; the dance moves and the run out warnings from the very special Chris Gayle were titillating enough to make you dance along as well.

England looked a bit out of sorts. Though a late burst from Eoin Morgan who went at a strike rate of almost 200 did bring some hope to the Englishmen but his lone effort wasn’t enough. The surprising thing about the English chase was that they only lost four wickets, which means that they had set batsmen at the crease during their chase, and this to an extent raises some doubts on Alex Hales’s ability to pace his innings. Hales scored 68 from 51 balls and that, for an opener, as per the modern standards is somewhat on the slower side, given the fact that he stayed at the crease for almost the whole course of English innings and that too on the Pallekele batting paradise.

Overall, day 1 was full of excitement with two sides who did their basics better than the other two ending up on the winning side. Day 2 brings us two other very big and important group 2 games from Premadasa, Colombo. South Africa takes on Pakistan in the first of these, so be ready for the all greens battle and the battle of South African pace and Pakistan’s spin. Then late evening, India plays Australia which is a big-big game; the war of words have already begun and the sides are raring to go. The coming week promises a lot and it can only get better from here.

ICC World Twenty20, there aren’t any underdogs anymore!


As I am writing this, the very exciting T20 tournament is barely 23hrs and some minutes away from being underway in this very scenic and beautiful island country located in the Indian Ocean. Folks, get ready for some high voltage cricket, the ICC World Twenty20 is here. If some of you have happened to watch the warm-up games you very well know what exactly are we looking at. The warm-up games, where nothing much was at stake, didn’t really look like warm-ups; we saw some very close games, with teams operating at high intensities, wanting to win to gain early momentum…and let me tell you, this tournament is setup quite nicely.

Twenty20: Lockyear Goes Long
(Photo Credit:pj_in_oz)

Few years ago when T20 Cricket hit the scene, fans and experts around the world wouldn’t have envisioned it to grow to its current stature. As it stands today, it is no less. The 4thedition of ICC World Twenty20 promises to be gem of a tournament and at the inception it looks so very balanced.

Over the years we have grown up watching sides play each other and invariably, before a particular match, we kind of know the stronger of two sides. With T20s, that has changed enormously. There are NO underdogs now. In the modern day T20s the side that plays better on the day has a huge chance of winning. The format is such, that few overs, a little cameo or an individual brilliance can change the course of a match.

No, we are not writing off the good sides, neither are we challenging the conventional wisdom that if one has to choose between two sides he can; of the two sides, one would have an edge over the other. We however are certainly telling this – ‘this format is not just for the elite’.

The reality is, when you have lesser time on hand, or let us say when you are in a format that requires a team to spend relatively smaller amount of time in the middle, which are basically fewer overs, the skills that really matter to win a game are so much different. Not to disparage good batting and bowling, but a lot of ‘other’ elements come into play and thus, its a totally different ball game.

A ‘Dilshan Scoop’, a ‘Warner’s swich-hit’ or an ‘Ajmal’s teesra’ are some of these ‘other’ elements. And these are the elements that make this format so awesomely fascinating to watch. Run-a-ball is a thing of past. If you are not going at a strike rate of over 130-135 you stand a decent chance of getting dropped the next game. Fast good length balls are not good enough; they are ‘meat and wine’. A T20 bowler must have multiple variations. A slower off-cutter, a regular bouncer, a slow bouncer and a reverse swinging yorker makes a decent portfolio and that is why guys who possess them are extremely successful in this format, someone like an Umar Gul or Lasitha Malinga.

This is different folks and for sure it is immensely thrilling; you never know what to expect. It is this format where a 30-ball hundred isn’t really surprising.

The ICC World Twenty20 2012 announces – There aren’t any underdogs anymore!

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


English: Kamran Akmal keeping wicket for Pakis...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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
(Photo credit: paddynapper)

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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.