Pakistan’s South African Blushes

We have lost the test series already. The last one should have been for pride. To consolidate. However as the stumps were called on the 2nd day of the Centurion test, Pakistan lost 11 wickets, are playing after follow on was enforced and have started their second innings in roughly the same manner they finished their first. We trail the Proteas by over 200 runs and have already lost an opener in the 2nd innings. Should we press the panic button, call for the downfall of Misbah and blame everything on the brothers Akmal? I don’t think so.

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For one things the Akmals aren’t even part of the squad in SA so the management really hacked it’s own feet in terms of coming up with or having a ready made excuse in front of them for the disaster. Downfall of Misbah? As an individual player… maybe … as a captain … only to the point where he is batting himself and should be leading by example …. but that takes it back to his own individual performance as a player. But as a captain on the field… well I think as a captain on the field he hasn’t done too badly.

Misbah

Yes there is plenty of room for criticism in terms of perhaps taking the foot of the pedal when it was required to finish of innings in the last match and what not. But the captain is not really in any position to be blamed when the team goes out to bat. The captain doesn’t have the liberty of being on the field constantly to talk to the batsmen on the pitch. So the batsmen have to be held responsible themselves for extremely poor technique and lack of ability to negotiate the bounce and movement of the new ball on these pitches. Some part of that blame can be given to the management in terms of not planning the tour well enough to give team more preparation time in SA before the start of the official tour. One 4 day game before the first test is not good enough when you haven’t played a test in SA in the last 5 – 6 years. Nor is it a good idea when you are going up against the number 1 test side on their own home turf. Also I think they really needed to go with a wicket keeper who can bat. Sarfaraz Ahmed isn’t an exceptional keeper and his batting prowess is absolutely horrible. There is no technique whatsoever. In the 2nd test the manner in which he got bowled by Peterson is evidence to this.

Panic Button need not be hit.. but certainly a call to action to examine all that has gone wrong and why. The third test as things stand seems to be in the South African’s hands so that’s that really for the test part of our long tour of SA. There are the ODIs and T20s to follow. Which brings us to the recall of Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi to the ODI team. Why? Is it a panic response to the poor showing in the tests? If so how is it going to be helpful to recall Afridi? He has been extremely out of form for over a year now and well hasn’t really done anything on the domestic or even friendly matches front to merit a recall. Feels more like a last chance saloon situation for him. I have been a hardcore Afridi Fan for the last 6-7 years and I think the man deserves a lot of respect for all that he has achieved in his cricket career for Pakistan.

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However the time has come for him to call it quits… at least in the ODIs. T20s maybe he can evaluate after the SA series. But even in that department I feel now is the time from when we need to start building for the next world cup and I don’t see Afridi being around till then. Not because of age or fitness… but I genuinely feel his talent pool is in a decline and he will be done within this year. So why not give the future players a chance to start showing what they are capable of. Let them prove themselves for regular selection and then allow the team balance to get settled in and gel over the next 3-4 years till the time of the T20 world cup.

I was hoping that the test encounters will be much more intense and daunting, you know in the way that great test battles can be. That it will be a match up between a scientific, efficient approach (SA) versus the instinctive, raw talent approach (PAK). The scientists handed us our asses, the batsmen anyway. Graeme Smith and his men have performed to show a gulf of difference and a continued summer of success. 

Oh well … here’s to hoping for redemption in the shorter formats!

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Of Test Cricket & Smith’s 100

Cricket has over the past 7-8 years seen a move towards making more exciting formats and attracting a wider audience with a fast paced result oriented encounter. Smash and bash has been the tone and the T20 format has been established as the third format here to stay. Domestic leagues are getting more importance and wider coverage through this short and excitement based format, the T20 World Cup is far more important than the ICC Champions Trophy – or so the perception is. Bowlers and batsmen alike are getting more and more tuned to the shorter format of the game especially in the subcontinent. The Indian Premier League and now in the last year the addition of the Sri Lankan Premier League and Bangladesh premier league are giving more credence to Club Cricket.

However perhaps because Cricket has since its inception been so much more of a international sport in the sense that if compared to Football (Soccer) club cricket has been and still is less important than international cricket that I haven’t really taken to following club or domestic cricket as much. No matter how exciting it seems to have been made. The calendar has national duties has filled up and the domestic level is confined to proving your worth enough to be included in the national squad.

Also for me Test Cricket still remains the holy grail of cricketing. It is the original gentleman’s game. The superb draw of tactics, strategy, endurance and moments of brilliance is what makes Test cricket for me ultimate. Bring on two good test playing nations packed with lots of skilled and talented players and you are in for a great series. I am not saying that ODI and T20 internationals do not excite me.. but they cannot take away what test cricket has to offer. I loved the Pak India series (of course that is also because we won) but the intensity of the clash was brilliant. If only the tour would have had a test leg to!

I am really looking forward to Pakistan’s full tour of SA (Starting with the first test today). 3 Tests, 2 T20s and 5 ODIs. Great tour for us and against great opposition.

What I am loving most is seeing our team battle with South Africans in the test format ( the first day so far has been classic test match cricket ).

Also something of note: Graeme Smith has today led the South African side for the 100th time in test matches. The mere fact that he has played more than a 100 tests alone is a great achievement but to become the only captain test history to lead a side for the 100th side is fantastic. And they have been the number 1 test side on a few occasions under his lead and are currently the top side too. The guy has been a fantastic leader, taking it on almost as soon as he entered the international cricketing arena ( I think he took over in his 8th or 7th test) and at the young age of 23ish. Fantastic. Kudos to Smith on this great achievement.

Looking forward to a good tour for Pakistan Smile