Thursday, May 31, 2012

Complacency Is Pakistan's Biggest Threat

Pakistan’s tour of Sri Lanka provides an opportunity for Pakistan to put the shambolic tour of 2009 behind them where they were defeated in both the test matches and one day internationals. Sri Lanka has been a bogey team for Pakistan in recent times as the Greens were victorious in all 3 formats when they met in the Emirates in the October & November of last year as well as defeating them during the World Cup & Asia Cup in the fifty over format. Hence, Pakistan go into the series as the more confident & favourites of the two sides. As always the test series is what will have the greatest impact & bearing. It provides an opportunity for Pakistan to create some history by winning their 5th consecutive test series, 6th consecutive test match & further strengthening their formidable undefeated streak in both test matches & test series. The series will be the first of Dav Whatmore in charge after getting his tenure off to a winning start by securing the Asia Cup in Dhaka on March 22nd during his first assignment as full time coach. The professor on the other hand will have the opportunity to make his mark as captain in these two twenty20 internationals which commence tomorrow, having been awarded the role. The Pakistani all-rounder is all set to make his captaincy debut with a young new looked side. The tour has been structured perfectly with the limited over affairs at the beginning leading up to the 5 day series with the length of the games increasing as the tour progresses. This was the complete opposite to how the tour in the Emirates was structured. It would be better if ICC had more of this in place, really trying to prioritise test matches as the main event with everything leading up to the contest which matters most.

Since the sides last met both teams have had a change of coach with Geoff Marsh & Mohsin Khan no longer in charge. Sri Lanka have had a change of leadership across all versions of the game whereas Pakistan have had a change of leadership in just the Twenty20 version of the game with Misbah ul Haq being retained following his successful run in both Test matches and one day internationals. Sri Lanka have won two of their last 4 tests & finally have won in the whites without their 800+ wicket taker. Rangana Herath with his wily left arm spin was the star performer in both of those monumental test victories. Pakistan on the other hand have beaten England by their highest ever margin in a test series & won their 2nd Asia Cup title in 28 years as their front line achievements since they last locked horns with the Islanders. They have consolidated on the comprehensive wins against Sri Lanka to ensure their resurgence was not an illusion, but a definite reality.


Pakistan have a 5-2 record vs Sri Lanka in 20/20 cricket, winning the last 3
Pakistan have won 6 of their last 7 ODIs against Sri Lanka
Pakistan have a 16-9 record against Sri Lanka in test matches
Pakistan have won 7 of their last 8 ODI series to go along with being semi finalists at the 2011 World Cup & winning the Asia Cup
Misbah ul Haq's last 3 scores vs SL in LOIs are 66,48*,72*. The solid middle order batsmen also has 2 unbeaten half centuries in his last 2 innings in Sri Lanka.
Aizaz Cheema has been MOM in the last 2 LOIs against Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka have lost their last 4 ODIs

Last Time They Toured Sri Lanka In 2009

Tests = Lost 2-0
ODIs = Lost 3-2
T20 = Won

Last Time They Played in the UAE

Tests = Won 1-0 MOTS was Saeed Ajmal
ODIs = 4-1 MOTS was Shahid Afridi
T20 = Won MOM was Aizaz Cheema


T20 = 1-1
ODI = 3-2 Pakistan
Test = 2-0 Pakistan

Preferred Line Up

T20s - Hafeez (C), Shehzad, Khalid, Umar(WK), Malik, Hammad, Afridi, Arafat, Gul, Ajmal, Raza

ODIs - (more or less the same as Asia Cup winning side) Hafeez, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq (C), Umar Akmal, Safraz Ahmed (WK), Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema

Tests (set in stone) - Hafeez, Taufeeq Umar, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq (C), Asad Shafiq, Adnan Akmal (WK), Abdur Rehman, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema

Key Performers

Key Players T20


Mohammad Hafeez - 3 MOMs in this format last year
Ahmed Shehzad - naturally aggressive player suited for the format
Saeed Ajmal - 4 wickets in his last game

Sri Lanka

Dilshan - 2009 T20 WC player of the tournament
Malinga - CL T20 2011 leading wicket taker
MJ - Has scored 100s in this format too

Key Players ODIs


Misbah ul Haq - Scored 4 of his 19 ODI 50s against SL
Shahid Afridi - MOTS when Pakistan won 4-1 last year
Saeed Ajmal - 31 wickets during the previous tour vs Sri Lanka, including 12 in the 5 ODIs

Sri Lanka

MJ - leads from the front as captain
Upal Tharanga - changed role in the middle order since MJ took over & is impressing
Thisara Perera - developing bowling all rounder who can add priceless runs

Key Players Tests


Azhar Ali - most 50+ scores during the test series in the UAE & highest average during the series
Taufeeq Umar - career best vs Sri Lanka and leading run scorer when they last met in the series in UAE
Abdur Rehman - 30 wickets in his last 5 tests

Sri Lanka

Rangana Herath - Sri Lanka's 3rd leading test wicket taker
Thilan Samaraweera - highly underrated batsmen averaging 50+, did not play against Pakistan in the UAE
Kumar Sangakkara - MOTS with a century, double century in the UAE for the visitors

What This Series Means

The series might not sound the most attractive tussle on paper considering how frequently these two sides have been meeting in the last 3 years or so & how one sided the contests have been in recent times, but one cannot take Sri Lanka for granted or take them lightly at home especially. They are one of the top 7 test oppositions Pakistan can be facing, have some legendary batsmen in their line up & are not a cakewalk, particularly at home by any stretch of the imagination. They will be familiar & experienced with playing the Pakistan side so you will expect them to negotiate with the likes of Saeed Ajmal better this time around. Hence, complacency is Pakistan’s biggest threat & as long as they ensure this keeps as far as away from their cricket as possible, they should in effect take the series honours. The series will be overshadowed by the England V South Africa test series which is probably the series of the year as two top class, settled and balanced sides go head to head in lively conditions & even the West Indies V New Zealand tour which starts in July which will be an even battle with two sides who will be determined not to lose to each other knowing that this is their best chance of beating a decent side. Pakistan played 11 Test or ODI series in 2011, winning or drawing every single one of them. I'll go as far as saying that the Test & ODI series wins against Sri Lanka would be in the top 3 if one was to a ranking of the significance of those series wins. Hence, beating the Lankans is special & we regard them highly, even though historically Pakistan have had the edge over them. Of course if Pakistan do win the series in Sri Lanka it will be of more meaningfulness as they are a different preposition on their home patch as established. Plus, Sri Lanka did have their own financial problems when they last played Pakistan so they were in a bit of turmoil away from the field of play. Those issue seem to been resolved now which should put them in better stead. The T20 leg of the tour is more significant in this context with the T20 WC 3 & half months away which will be held in Sri Lanka so adapting to the conditions will be a factor, although conditions do not play a huge part in this format, but will play somewhat of a part still.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Azhar Ali & Asad Shafiq ODI Futures

Azhar Ali & Asad Shafiq in ODIs

My arguments are:

-A test cricketer is a complete product who should be more than good enough to adapt to the shorter easier versions. Once a player is doing well in test matches he deserves all the respect, backing & plaudits they can get because it simply does not come harder, tougher or more challenging than that.

-With 2 new white balls at each end you need solidity and steadiness at the top. The change in playing regulations has brought the classical batsmen & technicians back into the game even more.

-You cannot pack a team with attacking one day specialists, you can self destruct easily. The balance has to be there of calmness and flair. You need balance, variation & stability when selecting a side.

-The batsmen should at least be given an extended opportunity to show their worth. Azhar Ali averages 40 + in list A cricket with 5 centuries so has an impressive record. Meanwhile, Shafiq has not even played a full ODI series without being dropped.

-Traditionally Pakistan’s one day batting philosophy has always been based on being cautiously watchful at the top, steady consolidation in the middle through preserving wickets & building partnerships & then the carnage at the end. This is how they did it back in 1992. Raja, Sohail, Imran & Miandad would be looking to price tag their wicket, work the gaps, bat time, setting it up for an onslaught by Inzamam, Moin or Wasim.

-With the next World Cup happening in Australasia where Pakistan incidentally won the World Cup & the following one in England as well as next year’s Champions trophy scheduled in late September, the wickets will be more favorable for seam bowlers so batting will not be as straightforward as having the license or freedom to express yourself on placid tracks or hit cleanly through the line. Wickets will inevitably be falling early & the teams who can get through P1 without losing wickets will be better positioned. Here players such as Azhar Ali & Asad Shafiq with a more complete all round technique which they have demonstrated in the 5 day game will come in handy. Let me stress the September part in next year’s Champions trophy because at this time of the season the ball does plenty for both seamers & spinners.

-With the strength & quality of Pakistan's bowling attack they do not need too worry about posting 280+ totals or chasing 300+ targets. Here being able to hold back, not over estimate targets & just get the job done to a clinical & professional standard is all that is going to be required as opposed to innovative fancy one day batting which other teams are doing & have to do knowing their bowling is not as strong.

I accept that all 4 including Younis & Misbah cannot play in the same line up, but people even have problems of 2 of them playing in the same line up let it be Younis/Misbah, Shafiq/Ali or Shafiq/Misbah. In my opinion 3 obdurate batsmen is sufficient/needed.

Hafeez Is the Right Choice, But Timing Was Ill-Logical

The key news for the Greens tour of Sri Lanka is Mohammad Hafeez’s promotion to captaincy in the shortest version of the game. Hafeez who was awarded 3 man-of-the-match awards in this format last year takes over from his domestic teammate Misbah ul Haq who is still hopeful of making it to the team as a player. Misbah led his side to 6 victories in this version of the game in 8 encounters & was the leading run getter for his side in this format with the best part of 800 runs at an average of 38 which is the 5th highest in the world. That is some consistency for a format which encourages inconsistency. The dependable & versatile middle order batsman has struck 26 maximums in this version of the game, just a few short of Afridi who has got 30 in more matches. Misbah also holds the record for the highest individual score in this version of the game by a Pakistan batsmen & also has been one of the better outfielders in the side. It was only as recent as the T20 international in Abu Dhabi on 25th November where he scored 48 unbeaten from 38 deliveries to guide his side across the line to a 5 wicket win. Additionally, Misbah has captained Faisalabad Wolves to 2 domestic Twenty20 finals & has developed a healthy habit of being there at the end to see his side home with 4 unbeaten knocks in the 7 successful run chases his country have been part of when he has been in the side. He was also MOM in the only game his country have chased more than 150, their first game in this format against the Baggy Greens. He has the most aggregate runs by a batter from his country during a single Twenty20 world tournament. One of the first Twenty20 players at any major level to get a 3 figure score as well. If you study the statistics or have a lasting memory there is absolutely no doubt that Misbah has a reputation to pride on in the shortest version of the game, is no stranger to the format & has had many cherishing moments. Considering, all of this was there a need to take away the leadership from him just 4 months before an ICC tournament which every captain dreams of leading their side in? It wouldn’t be wrong to say Misbah has been hard done by here. Deep down surely he is feeling it.

Nevertheless, Hafeez is a deserving, experienced, logical candidate if they were to replace Misbah so there are no real queries about Misbah’s successor, but realistically speaking the change was untimely & unnecessary. To replace Misbah in the shortest version of the game should have been done & could have been done, but surely after the World T20? However, it was not to be.

Misbah was heavily criticised for scoring 28 from 32 deliveries in the 5 run defeat in the decider of the Twenty20 leg of the tour. However, the wicket was ill suited for this format. It was not encouraging stroke making & getting value for your shots. It was a low scoring game. Even KP with his flamboyance was struggling to score with fluency & had to hold back, settling for a half century by carrying the bat through & doing it the ugly way at times. They lost narrowly & spookily as it seemed they had things under control to reach the target & consequently take the series honours, but still with wickets in hand & established batsmen at the crease they were unable to get through. In all 3 matches of this leg of the tour, the side which batted second lost, let it be England or Pakistan with the targets all being 150 or under. Therefore, if we put the emotions aside, there are plenty of reasons one could put forward in defence of Misbah’s unsuccessful effort that evening in Abu Dhabi. In despite of this knock, during the 1st game of this leg of the tour, Misbah did play a crucial rebuilding job, putting on 72 in the final 9 overs with Shoaib Malik for the 6th wicket to get the team to a defendable 140+ score, considering the mouth watering bowling resources they have up their sleeves, this got them back in the game & was a game changing partnership stand.

Advantages of the decision

- Gives an opportunity for grooming a long term future leader, at least in the limited over formats. Gives an opportunity to name a vice captain across all versions of the game.
- Reduces the burden on Misbah of captaining in all versions of the game which in all honesty he did well to cope with, winning all 3 formats in a tour on 3 occasions.
- Hafeez has domestic experience in the job. I distinctly remember him winning the 20/20 event which was arranged on 23rd March 2010 where he led the “A” side to the title, overcoming the national & junior side. Also, Hafeez captained in a 50 over side match on the tour of the West Indies last year where he scored a century in a winning cause.
- In an ideal world you don’t want Misbah in the T20 team because of the age factor more than anything else.

Disadvantages of the decision

- Factions, politics & groupings have occurred in the past when they have named different captains for different formats.
- Hafeez has plenty on his plate when it comes to the 3 disciplines alone, that he will do extremely well to cope with the added burden of handling the media, fathering the camp, planning the strategies, assessing the wickets & ensuring he extracts the best from others members of the team.
- World 20/20 is around the corner, however I want to ensure I am not making a contradiction here because previously I have said on other platforms that I wanted Misbah to lead the team in the 2011 World Cup & thereby changing the captain just before the major spectacle. However, Misbah was already captaining the test team at the time with overwhelming success & had captained his team to the one day title in the previous domestic season, scoring centuries in both the semi final & final. He also had previous outings as Pakistan captain in the limited over format & was regularly a formal vice captain. Therefore, the circumstances are vastly different in comparison to Hafeez who is leading for the first time in any format & hasn’t been vice captain formally in the past or has not captained in the domestic circuit for a while either.
- Nothing is an ideal world in Pakistan cricket where stability makes a world of a difference. Once the team is free from internal problems, the results tend to take care of themselves.

In short, we wish Hafeez well, but if things do not go according to plan one cannot help to think that the PCB have made an untimely blunder to replace Pakistan’s statistically most successful captain across all 3 versions of the game, the first one who really proved it with any degree of sustenance, when they didn’t really need to make the change. Considering how highly they regard Misbah as a captain, ambassador & player it came as a surprise. Former coach Mohsin Khan & former PCB chairman Ijaz Butt have also raised their concerns over the move.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Our 10 Best Spinners

While pace bowling has been the traditional strength that Pakistan is renowned for worldwide, just like their sub continental rivals they have produced some high class slower bowlers as well. They have been trend-starters at it too, just like they once were for reverse swing. Here we look back at some of Pakistan’s finest, including modern day players & where they stand with figures of the past.

Saqlain – inventive off spinner

The leading wicket taker for the Greens when they were finalists in the 1999 World Cup in England during the 12 team tournament. Saqlain also claimed a hat-trick during the competition. Saqlain also has a test match hat-trick against Australia. The quickest bowler to 100 & 200 ODI wickets. Saqlain claimed 20 scalps during a 2 match series in India in 1999 & it’s well documented how well they play spin. Saqlain was the inventor of the ‘doosra’ & his kink & pivot in bowling action has been imitated by many off spinners in Pakistan who have followed & tried to emulate his craft such as Saeed Ajmal, Mohammad Hafeez & Shoaib Malik. Saqlain made off spin an attacking art. The inventor of the ‘other one’ spent many happy years at Surrey where he is well known & respected. Saqlain last played for Pakistan in a test match against India in Multan where he plundered against a Sehwag assault & last played a first class match in 2008. Saqlain was part of the Lahore Badshahs team which won the ICL in 2008 & in more recent years has been a regular member of the Lashings World XI side which is a charity touring team based in Kent. Saqlain was also picked up by New Zealand as a spin consultant in 2009.

Abdul Qadir – right arm leg spinner

Qadir revolutionised the art of leg spin during a fast bowling dominant era & acted as a mentor & figure of inspiration for Shane Warne who came for Qadir for tips early in his career. Qadir was unique, rejuvenating a dying art of the game. With 236 test scalps under his belt Qadir was a prominent figure in Pakistan’s great test outfit of the 80s & led the spin department as a strike bowler which Imran Khan turned to. Qadir’s main weapon was his googly & he had different varieties of it which was mastered & executed with skill & intelligence. Qadir also possessed a lethal flipper in his repertoire which trapped many batsmen in front & knocked over their furniture, keeping low and skidding through. His action was some viewing, full of arms, legs & bouncy movements as he approached the crease to unravel his craftiness. His career defining moment was taking 13 wickets during a test match including 9/56 on day 1 of a test match in 1987 in the only result of the series against England in his home town. His seniority earned him a brief stint as Pakistan captain later in his career.

Qadir later on served as a selector in 2009 & takes credit for selecting the side which won the Twenty20 world cup in England, although resigned before the tournament due to differences with the board. Qadir has 3 sons all of which have gone on to play junior cricket for Pakistan with success, but are yet to play at the highest level. Qadir also works with various spinners at the NCA from time to time.

Saeed Ajmal – inventive off spinner

Saeed was player of the match in the first domestic 20/20 final in Pakistan & later that year starred for Faisalabad Wolves during the club 20/20 championship in England which they won as well. Pakistan saw the beginning of a fine talent here. Saeed debuted in 2008 Asia Cup against India in an ODI & the following year made his test debut against Sri Lanka. In Pakistan’s record breaking 2011 in tests & ODIs Saeed claimed 89 international wickets, the most & 24 more than the next best. Ajmal was the joint quickest Pakistan spinner to 50 test wickets & the quickest to 100 test wickets by a Pakistan bowler, reaching the milestone in just 19 test matches.

In 2011, Saeed was the only bowler in the world to have 50 test scalps, some achievement considering he missed 20% of Pakistan’s test matches that year & was struggling to break into the side at the beginning of the year. Saeed claimed 12 wickets at an average of 14 in the 2009 World T20 championship in England which Pakistan won. The following T20 World Cup, Ajmal was Pakistan’s leading wicket taker in the West Indies where they were semi finalists. During the 2009 Champions Trophy in South Africa Saeed claimed 8 wickets in the 4 encounters with 2 in each game. The following summer in England, Saeed bagged his maiden 5 wicket haul in a test match at Edgbaston after coming in for Danish Kaneria & in the same match scored a half century to avoid losing by an innings. Ajmal played only 3 one day internationals in the 2011 World Cup, but in each of them showed his class & spun webs around the batsmen as the unorthodox off spinner claimed 2 wickets at an economical rate in the knock out games against the West Indies & India.

Saeed has been MOTS in the last 3 major test series Pakistan have contested against West Indies, Sri Lanka & England & concluded each of the test series as the leading wicket taker by an uncatchable margin. Ajmal is one of the most feared opponents in world cricket nowadays & if he keeps performing as exceptionally as he has been doing there is little reason why he cannot end up as Pakistan’s best ever spinner in all seriousness.

Ajmal has blossomed late in his career after a long wait in the domestic circuit & in a short career up to now has been all over the best in the business like a rash. Saeed is known for his ‘doosra’ which he executes more dangerously than any bowler I have seen, getting bounce, turn, skid, dip, drop, revs, bite & batsmen are left guessing with a completely scrambled mindset. Saeed gets them to turn with control at pace & in different directions, all well disguised; it doesn’t come more threatening than that. In early 2012 Saeed also was ranked in the top 3 of the world bowling rankings in all 3 formats & was the only player in both test & ODI side for Wisden’s World XI in 2011.

His breakthrough really came in 2011 during the Caribbean tour where he claimed 25 wickets including 17 in the 2 match test series which was shared before going to Ireland and taking 7 wickets in 2 ODIs with a cheap 3 for and a 4 for in Belfast during the bank holiday weekend that year. Saeed was a nominee for ICC ODI player of the year in 2011 & surely will be at least a short listed nominee for the Sir Garfield Sobers trophy at the annual ICC awards dinner this year. Ajmal was discovered & introduced into the team by Pakistan’s current captain Misbah ul Haq & ever since has never looked back, going from strength to strength.

With already 47 international scalps in 2012 including 8 in 4 encounters during the 2012 Asia Cup to give his side their 2nd Asia Cup title in 3 decades, 24 in the all important 3 tests against the Poms & his maiden 5 wicket haul during the 1st ODI in Abu Dhabi in the same tour, the off spinner is clearly leading the way in 2012 in terms of most wickets. Ajmal also featured for the Dhaka Gladiators who won the inaugural BPL in the same year & went for a pricey amount in the auction, giving clear indications of his class, rating, and skilfulness.

What stands out about Ajmal is the fact that he is equally as capable to bowling to both right and left handers from over and around the wicket to challenge batsmen with different angles & lines of attack confidently. He is a genuine specialist when it comes to bowling in powerplays. He is a banker who can be relied on as he is a difficult bowler to target. Additionally, he can bowl an off spinner & doosra or the straighter variations by pitching the ball in the exact same spot. This makes him even harder to pick or read. Unlike Murali who would spin his off break a mile, he does not need to land his variations in different places to work, giving the batsmen even less clues to work with. Truly masterful at playing the ‘mind games’ to disrupt the psyche of the opposition as many would know with the unveiling of the ‘teesra’ prior to the 1st test in Dubai against England.

The manner in which Ajmal has responded and bounced back after the over against Mr Cricket in St Lucia on 14th May 2010 where he was picked off for 22 from 4 deliveries, bowling the final over is a testimony to his mental toughness, self belief & self determination. His confidence must have been shattered, but he’s come back even a better, tougher & stronger character all together.

Mushtaq Ahmed – right arm leg break/googly bowler

The greatest ever county overseas player? Mushtaq gave the country’s image and name plenty of recognition with his phenomenal performances for Sussex who signed him up in 2003. Mushtaq won 2 country championships for the south east country in 2003 & 2006, concluding each of them as the leading wicket taker in division 1 of the county championship with over 100 scalps in the season in the 4 day format alone, the only bowler to do so. Ahmed was the 2nd leading wicket taker for Team Pakistan in their 1992 World Cup campaign, including taking 3 in the grand final, famously bamboozling Hick in front. Known to be a character on & off the field, Mushtaq was signed by the ECB as their spin bowling coach in 2008/09 & has been part of the camp which won the Ashes twice successively, reached the top of the test rankings & won their first ever ICC tournament in one day cricket. Mushtaq did serve as an assistant coach & bowling coach for the Pakistan national side during the Woolmer era, even though there many calls for him to be included in the side as a player because of his performances with Sussex where he was deadly with those googlies, top spinners courtesy of the high arm action that got him countless wickets. Mushtaq ensured the leg spin tradition kept running within Pakistan after Abdul Qadir.

Abdur Rehman - SLA

A wily left arm spinner who bowls accurately & economically with nagging control, perseverance to keep plugging away on a line & length knowing the rewards will eventually pay off & the containment to keep the batsmen under pressure, controlling the flow of runs & keeping proceedings as tight as possible. Rehman’s bowling philosophy is built around bowling dot deliveries & maiden overs. There is a degree of repetitiveness about his bowling, comes in through the stumps, fires it in flat and straight, batsmen defends and it happens all over again. He will just keep on doing this in the hope & backing that batsmen will succumb to the pressure, resulting in a lapse of concentration. Rehman was the joint quickest Pakistan spinner to 50 test wickets, getting to the feat in 11 test matches. The Sialkot Stallion has claimed 2 MOM awards in test cricket during the Hamilton test in New Zealand in 2011 and almost a year later he did against England with his 4th innings heroics of 6/25 defending just fewer than 150 as the world number 1s capitulated to spin bowling of the highest order in the Middle East dessert. Often, described as an 'unsung hero' who will tie an end down reliably, but does not possess that WOW factor about his bowling to astonish the batsmen or viewers. Lastly, no mug in the batting or fielding department for that matter either, with a test match 50 under his belt against the South Africans. Not an easy bowler to score against or get away, but as his test record suggests he takes wickets while he’s at it with that canniness.

Iqbal Qasim - SLA

Now known too many as the current chief selector, but back in the day Qasim was a reliable slow left arm bowler who concluded with 999 first class wickets. Currently, the leading wicket taker by a Pakistani left arm spinner. Qasim’s control & reliability enabled other more naturally gifted spinners, namely Qadir to bowl with a more attacking mentality. The most impressive element about his bowling was the economy rate, barely going at above 2 an over. This enabled Qasim to bowl longer spells, bowl unchanged. The persistent accuracy just kept batsmen cautious, respectful & muted in their approach. Qasim was a workhorse, an underrated bowler. At some point during his career alongside Abdul, Qasim was ranked in the world’s top 10. May not have set the pitch of fire, but played a supporting role & an important one too.

Danish Kaneria – right arm leg spinner

Statistically, Pakistan’s leading test wicket taker by a spinner & the 4th in the country after Wasim, Waqar & Imran. However, statistics can be misleading in context. Here is a prime example if there ever was one. Kaneria was Inzamam’s strike bowler, his go to bowler. Since then his career fell away, struggling to make a constructive impact. There have also been serious question marks raised over his integrity with regards to spot fixing in a pro 40 match for Essex vs. Durham in the 2009 season. There is a frequent overriding criticism for bowling too many different deliveries in the same over & taking a marathon bowling effort to take his wickets, often during meaningless contexts. Last featured for Pakistan at Trent Bridge in the shameful tour of England where he only took a solitary wicket in the match. However, there is an element of sympathy given to him for having to cope with an undeserving wicket keeper behind the stumps, regularly spilling regulation chances. Kaneria reached 1000 first class wickets in the 2011/12 Pakistan domestic season. Over at Essex, Kaneria helped them win the one day league title in 2005, 2006, promotion to division 1 of the county championship during his time there & winning the 50 over Lords final in 2008, all while he was serving as an overseas player down at Chelmsford.

Tauseef Ahmed – orthodox off spinner

The Lionel Richie look-alike. Taufeef was a right arm old fashioned off spinner, falling short of 100 test wickets in reasonably quick time which is his only regret looking back now as a retired player.

Arshad Khan – orthodox off spinner

His heritage, being a Pathan & his giant height made many think of why on Earth he would want to bowl finger spin? Nevertheless this was the trade which Arshad Khan adopted. He was not a regular in the side, but a useful container in the coloured clothing with some magical moments in the whites. His career highlight was the 5 wicket haul in the 2000 Asian Test Championship Final against Sri Lanka. Arshad made a strong comeback into the side in the 2005 tour of India where he played an important part in squaring the test series in his comeback test & winning the ODIs 4-2 from 2-0 down. With his height, gentle action, short run, and side on release Arshad was an awkward frame for batsmen to negotiate.

Shahid Afridi – right arm leg spinner/medium pace

The 3rd leading ODI wicket taker by a Pakistani. The joint leading wicket taker in the 2011 World Cup. The most wickets by a Pakistani in a single ICC event. The most wickets by a captain in an ICC World Cup event. His performances with the ball during the sub continental tournament earned him a place in the team of the tournament during the event, the only Pakistan player to feature in one. The leading wicket taker in Twenty20 internationals & the first to 50 in the shortest version of the great game. Not achieved much to write home about in the longer version of the game which will always count against him, although he produced some fine spells particularly during the Bangalore test match where he out bowled Danish Kaneria.

Shahid Afridi has been Pakistan’s leading ODI wicket taker in 2010 & 2011. The darling of the crowds considers himself more of a bowler now towards the end of his career & is similar to India’s Anil Kumble in terms of style. Afridi is fairly quick for a spinner, not a huge turner of the ball, a bowler who bowls wicket to wicket trying to extract overspin, top spin & drift. You almost have the play him like an inswing bowler rather than playing for the turn. Afridi has a rocket arm faster ball, but can also bowl an off break, unusual for a leg spinner. Throughout his career Afridi has struggled to bowl the googly with control which is one of the reasons the off break with the same action was developed, but in more recent times it’s come back into his armoury as another weapon. With a wide of the crease angle, just narrowly avoiding cutting the popping crease Afridi hones in on the stumps with quick-ish drifting deliveries directed at the feet or ones that will slide through if pitched slightly shorter. You will even find the odd one spitting and turning like a normal leg break. However, when it comes to bowling to left handers this is where his effectiveness is more limited, one way traffic just angling across the left hander or angling into the pads to work away into the vacant leg side gaps when coming around the wicket.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Hafeez as T20 Captain

I have my reservations about this. Mohammad Hafeez has so much on his plate that he will do well to control the extra burden of leadership. Additionally, in Pakistan’s cricketing culture having different captains for different formats has resulted in factions, groupings, and politics in the past. These are my 2 biggest concerns. However, nonetheless, Hafeez is a deserving candidate if there was to be someone.

Abdur Rehman Player Profile

A wily left arm spinner who bowls accurately & economically with nagging control, perseverance to keep plugging away on a line & length knowing the rewards will eventually pay off & the containment to keep the batsmen under pressure, controlling the flow of runs & keeping proceedings as tight as possible. Rehman’s bowling philosophy is built around bowling dot deliveries & maiden overs. There is a degree of repetitiveness about his bowling, comes in through the stumps, fires it in flat and straight, batsmen defends and it happens all over again. He will just keep on doing this in the hope & backing that batsmen will succumb to the pressure, resulting in a lapse of concentration. Rehman was the joint quickest Pakistan spinner to 50 test wickets, getting to the feat in 11 test matches. The Sialkot Stallion has claimed 2 MOM awards in test cricket during the Hamilton test in New Zealand in 2011 and almost a year later he did against England with his 4th innings heroics of 6/25 defending just fewer than 150 as the world number 1s capitulated to spin bowling of the highest order in the Middle East dessert. Often, described as an 'unsung hero' who will tie an end down reliably, but does not possess that WOW factor about his bowling to astonish the batsmen or viewers. Lastly, no mug in the batting or fielding department for that matter either, with a test match 50 under his belt against the South Africans. Not an easy bowler to score against or get away, but as his test record suggests he takes wickets while he’s at it with that canniness.

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Guide


Stretch far forward to try & meet the ball on the half volley length

Watch the ball carefully in travel

Ensure you use the bat or get outside the line if stuck on the pad & play as straight as possible, adjusting with the hands if the ball turns

Front Foot Drive

It is an extension of the forward defence but you push through the line, transfer the weight & follow through with the stroke:-

Get behind the line

Cover the movement

Present the full straight flat face of the blade

Strong forward stride to get near the ball

Use soft hands to keep it down on to the turf

Head on top of the ball

Bent knees to hold the position & smooth stance to be able to locate the ball

Forward Defence

Controlled edge guided & steered away:-

Don’t chase after the line

Watch the ball carefully on to the blade

Play it late, not really committing to the stroke

Soft hands to dab it down, don’t push with hard hands away from the body

Try to make contact with as much of the bat as possible so it will travel quicker & try to make contact with the lower part of the bat so it be coming down on to the ground instead of going up in the air for nicking off in the slip cordon or gully region

Back Foot Tap

Get into position early, decisive foot work required so you don’t get caught on the crease

Use the depth in the crease to give yourself more time

Play it under your eyes/nose as close as to the body as possible instead of hanging the bat

High elbow to ensure it goes down on to the turf after hitting the bat

Wait for it to come & hold the position afterwards giving the bowler the impression that you are in total command upsetting his mind-set, almost as if to say ‘nothing is getting past me’


It is an important underrated skill. The ability to identify deliveries that will not be dismissing or dislodging you ensures you do not or cannot get out on them at all. It is a battle of patience with the bowler & whoever can be consistent & boring for the longer period will come out on top in this battle. For a top order batsmen knowing where you’re off stump is cannot be stressed enough. You need to be able to control a limited range & ensure you are not flirting with risk & danger which you do not actually need to be committing at which will keep the bowler, captain & slip cordon licking their lips.

Ensure the ball is pitched outside the off stump channel & will not be hitting the stumps so you can watch it shoot by through to the wicket keeper

Usually the delivery will have to be going straight on or moving away from a typical right hander

If it happens to be jagging back in to the right hander it has to start from a long way outside the off stump in the initial line to be a safe leave or has to be only doing marginally in the air or off the pitch so you can correctly predict the leave & have a strong idea of how much the ball will be doing

If the ball swings from the hand the leave can be executed more confidently as you can see it all the way through & it will only be going further and further

If the ball swings in the last third of travel then you need to watch out & think twice before leaving the ball, however this takes exceptional skill to do so & therefore one will not encounter such bowlers on a regular basis

You can also trust the bounce of the surface if you are reading the pitch well

If the ball is banged in short then it is hardly ever something you need to play at all unless there are demons in the track with the ball keeping low

If you are ducking you must sway out of the line & drop the hands to ensure the ball does not not take the gloves on the way through