Tag Archives: Mohammad Amir

IS WHITEWASH A WAKE UP CALL?

Two elements in the universe will remain melodramatic and unrepaired, soap operas and Pakistan cricket. The supporters of the team Green deserves a lifetime achievement award for their tolerance and patience for the team. We are aware of the fact that the national team has more weakness in conceding the match than capabilities to win but it is our love for Pakistani cricket that keeps us hoping that the glory days may return soon.

The domestic infrastructure will take time to improve under the fresh hands of the governance of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). International Cricket Council (ICC) is finally admitting of security improvement in the country to stage more cricket matches than in the past. The level of comfort and perception to play in Pakistan has gradually changed.

So there are signs in the coming times that maybe international cricket return to a normal schedule from next year. Prime Minister Imran Khan‘s announcement of staging the entire Pakistan Super League (PSL) in the country next year is delightful and diverting.

But what is the national team’s own justification for the claim on the mega event happening in a couple of months?

Pakistan’s ODI performance since 2017 Champions Trophy

Pakistan stood a ‘TOP’ ODI team for a long period a couple of decades ago but the stance has dropped with quite a huge margin and in the recent years, Pakistan has built no good memories in the format since winning the ICC Champions Trophy (CT). They were invincible against the mediocre teams of Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe beating them 5-0 each but exposed fragilities while losing against the top ODI sides of New Zealand (5-0), South Africa (3-2) and Australia (5-0), the last team arriving in UAE with many key absentees. During this process, they also couldn’t even qualify for the Asia Cup final last year. With such a monumental discrepancy, the certainty of winning the biggest trophy or even doing wonders look highly unlikely.

What went wrong?

The answer to this question deserves its own library bigger than the Library of Congress. But I will highlight a few because I have other things to do in my life.

This question needs a periodic timeline from where I should begin highlighting the issues and even that will take more than a blog, a volume perhaps. So I will set a scale from winning the CT and try to be quick in my argument.

Winning the CT was one of the golden chapters in Pakistan’s cricket history because our accomplishments in this sport are quite limited. The last major trophy Pakistan ever won before this in the format was Asia Cup 2012, thanks to Bangladesh who couldn’t score 9 runs the final over with 3 wickets in hand.

(Pakistan in ODIs has won one World Cup (WC), two Asia Cups, one CT in their history but their major dominance for any trophy in the format was limited to Sharjah Cup which they won 15 times, a record. One major reason how Pakistan has a better head-to-head record against India.)

No World Cup Planning

After winning the CT in 2017, the cricket board should have focused on the WC preparations. They had a two-year time to shape a plan and devise a strategy under which the national team would have analyzed their strength and weakness through a detailed report which would aid them to build a potential team to form a winning combination and maintain it like the top sides.

PCB has a history of lacking long-term plans and that is a major reason why the performance never improves. Their main focus was in organizing PSL every year and making efforts to bring the international cricket back to the country. That even didn’t help the national team. Pakistan couldn’t find a single batting talent through PSLs in four years. Only the foreigners and the already-established batsmen representing the country before PSL’s existence have been performing.

Pakistan holds the reputation of being the factory where the fast bowlers of the supreme quality are manufactured since Fazal Mahmood in the 50s. If the assumption is applied that more newcomers are making their place in the national team since the introduction of PSL then the question is that why PSL has been made a standard or benchmark to launch their careers? What is the use of the domestic one-day and T20 tournaments then?

 

Britain Cricket – Pakistan v India – 2017 ICC Champions Trophy Final – The Oval – June 18, 2017 Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir celebrates taking the wicket of India’s Virat Kohli Action Images via Reuters / Andrew Boyers Livepic EDITORIAL USE ONLY.

Lacking cricket at home and unfavorable UAE games

Another major issue is lacking international cricket at home which has disturbed and disrupted the natural self-confidence of playing in front of the home crowd. The borrowed HOME country has been of no use for Pakistan in the ODIs.

A decade has crossed playing ODIs on the pitches of UAE but our performances have only declined. Neither has Pakistan adopted the modern cricket system through the UAE games nor have given many of expected positive results.

On the record, Pakistan has never won a single ODI bilateral series against a ‘TOP’ ODI side (Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, England) in the UAE in the past 10 years!

2009 – New Zealand won 2-1

2010 – South Africa won 3-2

2012 – England won 4-0

2012 – Australia won 2-1

2013 – South Africa won 4-1

2014 – Australia won 3-0

2014 – New Zealand won 3-2

2015 – England won 3-1

2019 – Australia won 5-0

India didn’t play any bilateral series in this period against Pakistan in the UAE. Pakistan has only taken the pride of defeating West Indies and Sri Lanka in the bilateral series again and again.

To my surprise, PCB never questioned about considering the UAE their home. With dismal performances and ridiculous predictability in failing to perform and conceding the series, fans in the UAE dropped their interest showing up to the stadiums to watch their team doing no favor and therefore the attendance of spectators has dropped more and more.

The recent Pakistan-Australia encounter was played in almost-empty stadiums which is a disgrace. Much of this year’s PSL was organized there before this series and remained cold as dead. The only time the stadium in the PSL went full throughout PSL was the opening day obviously because of the fondness to watch the opening ceremony and the live performances.

Selection Dilemma

To some extent, there were some good decisions helping the team realize their strength. The opening combination of Fakhar Zaman and Imam-ul-Haq gave Pakistan many decent starts and during the process generated enough runs to become one of the quickest to 1000 ODI runs. Babar Azam maintained his superb form and his remarkable scoring consistency, something which most of the Pakistani batsmen traditionally lack. Shaheen Afridi and Usman Shinwari were trusted and did some justice.

But during all this, selectors also made grave mistakes like ignoring Junaid Khan several times disturbing his form due to irregularity, giving too many opportunities to underachiever Faheem Ashraf, emphasizing on ever-failing Mohammad Amir who since his CT final heroics has taken only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs, and depending on the failing veterans, Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik who have scored only 426 runs (16 inns) and 716 runs (25 inns) since the CT glory.

The worst was the ego-bound priority of keeping Wahab Riaz regular in the XI for more than two years for his undoubtedly magnificent spell against Shane Watson in the 2015 World Cup quarterfinal. Since then, he went on to play 25 ODIs taking 25 wickets at a very expensive average of 47.08 and conceding 5.82 runs per over. Out of those 25 games, he conceded 50 runs on 10 occasions. One of those 10 occasions was his unforgettable 0/110 recording the second worst bowling performance in a 10-over quota. He was finally dropped after one bad game against India in 2017 CT and never considered to include in the ODIs.

Testing bench strength 3 months before the World Cup?

Let’s speak about the recent crisis which is not helping me understand the situation. During the South Africa-Pakistan ODI series, captain Sarfraz Ahmed admitted passing racist remark to Andile Phehlukwayo for which he was banned for four games which included the starting games against Australia in the recently concluded series. But PCB decided to completely drop him from the Australia series and give him rest. All the players who played in the South Africa series played PSL but then a few key players like Hasan Ali, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, and Babar Azam were dropped to play against Australia despite performing well in PSL. Reason? To give them rest after the busy cricketing schedule for the past few months and also judging their bench strength.

Ok first thing, Pakistan hasn’t played enough cricket that their key players are exhausted. Even if I assume that Pakistan played pretty much cricket then why was playing PSL that compulsory? Was playing PSL more important than the Australia series? You could have rested your key players after the South Africa series and played directly in the next. And another point, if they are taking rest, how come Hasan Ali and Babar Azam are playing some Gujranwala Premier League? When the squad to face Australia was announced, the reason for resting key players was to give them rest. Then why were they playing this league? What kind of rest is this? 

The second thing is judging your bench strength a couple of months before the mega event is sheer stupidity. If the board was really considering to judge their bench strength, why didn’t the board plan long before this time? How can you judge your bench strength from one series? The pitches of UAE and the WC host England are extremely different.

Then the squad was the question mark. Test fast bowler Mohammad Abbas was selected about whom was rumored to be tried for the WC. There was confusion over him if he should be tried in the ODIs or not. But the problem is timing. Abbas is playing test cricket for the past two years. Why didn’t the board or the selectors make their mind to introduce him in ODIs sooner than pretty later? The result was disastrous with Abbas ending the series with a forgettable performance.

Another inclusion was of another test player Yasir Shah. If Shadab was to be rested then why did Yasir take his place? PSL wonder boy Umer Khan could have been tried. Why is Amir repeatedly picked after failing again and again? He has been in miserable form and is eating other’s chances. And giving chance to Umar Akmal for the umpteenth time proved that his situation will never change. Umar will do wonders in domestic cricket but will repeat the same mistakes when he will play in international cricket. Picking him was actually the selectors thinking backward.

All these points prove that the PCB didn’t plan anything for the WC. Judging your bench strength is sending your B-team to tour Zimbabwe like Indian cricket board did back in 2016.

What Pakistan must do?

After the disastrous conclusion of being whitewashed against a resurging Australia and failed tests in the laboratory, PCB must finalize the WC squad now and send them to play 5 ODIs against England at their home where the WC will be staged a couple of weeks after the conclusion of this series.

Pakistan is the luckiest of all the WC participants to arrive in the country first and fully take advantage of growing their game on these pitches. Pakistan is even playing three limited over games against county clubs and two warm-up practice matches after the series and before the big event which means 10 games of quality practice before the mega event begins. This is more than enough preps any WC participant can ask for.

If Pakistan finalizes the WC squad after the England series then that will be the dumbest of all the decisions PCB has ever made. Because it makes no sense to make changes in the squad after the final preps. Play your 15 men in 10 of those English games to be more prepared than the others.

My 15-Man World Cup Squad

I am mentally prepared to see PCB make a mockery of the selection as they have historically attempted before. That is why under the heading, I am listing the 15 names of what I believe should enter the mega event, not PCB.

Captain and wicketkeeper: Sarfraz Ahmed

Openers: Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Abid Ali

Middle Orders: Babar Azam, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Rizwan, Shoaib Malik

All-Rounders: Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim

Bowlers: Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Junaid Khan, Usman Shinwari, Mohammad Hasnain

Squad Explanation

Yes, no more Mohammad Amir. We should come out of this delusion that he will do wonders like 2010 English tour or 2017 CT Final. As stated before, this bowler has picked only 5 wickets in 14 ODIs since that Final. We should admit that he doesn’t justify his place.

What makes me pick Hasnain over him is the fact that this teenager is the fastest of all the picked bowlers and his understanding the pitch makes me think that Sarfraz can make better use of him on the English pitches. Sarfraz already has been his captain in PSL. Give him those 10 games, use him properly and he is a threat.

A lot of talk on Shinwari if he is that good to be considered. Yes, he is very expensive in the T20s but when I see 28 wickets in only 15 ODIs which includes 4/35 vs South Africa and 4/49 vs Australia, that speaks a lot. I will count wickets rather than think about being his expensive.

Indeed, we don’t have power hitters, something which almost every top team has the luxury to cash on. It is highly unfortunate that Pakistan couldn’t produce a single power hitter in all these years. That is why I am bound to pick out of form but heavily experienced Shoaib Malik over him who should come at no.6 and try to accelerate the run rate.

Shadab Khan is must in every single game, he is a genuine spinner with the heavy assistance on batting when in crisis. Haris and Rizwan with two centuries in the latest series cannot be imagined to be ignored for the WC. Babar needs to drop some weight of middle-order responsibility with their support.

Abid Ali is definitely the third opener of my squad who justified his selection by recently scoring a wonderful hundred on his debut. Imam-Fakhar is the permanent pair and this should not change for a long time, even after the World Cup. These openers are the quickest to 1000 ODI runs, something which never happened in ODI history before. Imam has proven against the South Africa series that he can score against the biggies and should not be dropped from any game. We fans should stop voicing against this kind of nepotism because at least this lad is performing.

What my picked batsmen have to do while constructing the inning is to accelerate the run rate, score more boundaries, reduce the percentage of dot deliveries and try to convert their twenty-five into the fifties and fifties into hundreds. There is not a single instance of a middle-order century for Pakistan in the World Cups since 1987. All the hundreds since 1992 have been scored by the openers. So this curse should end and I have high hopes that at least Babar can do it.

WC glory chances? Extremely low. And just like the previous edition, consideration of their reaching the semis will be a miracle. But this is exactly how Pakistan won all the three major trophies. They were not expected to do anything special in 1992, 2009 and 2017 but shocked the global cricket community. So whatever and whenever the squad is finalized, let us hope Pakistan does their best and not let us down. Hoping is living.

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Why White Elephant Farts?

Lackluster performance! Submerging what the servants of the sports are capable of. Demotivated and discouraged by the viewers judging them at every delivery. Mauled by the arch-rivals to whom you were superior in performances against once upon a time. The unpredictables have become highly predictable. Their game is old school but watching them play has become ragefully tormenting with shameful and embarrassing results.

“India v Pakistan”, the title used to define as the Clan of the Titans! The mother of all battles! But in few years with the rise of the cricketing standards in team India and repeated failures in implementing the modern attacking cricket in team Pakistan has bored the tagged anticipation of the rivalry as Wildcat v Pussycat. In the last few years or a few contests, we have observed that India is not only beating Pakistan in results but destroying in all three departments; batting, bowling, and fielding. This has subjected the fans of the latter to expect low in the rivalry games which used to be those special occasions when the employee had to forward his request of a sick leave to his boss. In the countries where multinational people live and work together, the employee (if he is Pakistani) has to face his (Indian) colleagues in the office the next day with embarrassment.

As Imran Khan tweeted a couple of days ago “As a sportsman, I know winning & losing are part of the game but it’s painful to watch Pak being thrashed by India without putting up a fight”. There is no shame in losing but is shameful if you lost without attempting to fight. And the time passes on and we wait for the next Ind-Pak clash in the future ICC events, do we?

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Why did Pakistan lose so badly? What was missing? Was Pakistan really not able to defeat them? The simple answer is NO. We were able to defeat them ONLY if the team had believed in themselves and were self-confident that they can defeat any team on any given day on any given field. On the cricket field, if you want to defend yourself in the game, you have to attack. You have to roar, not meow.

There is no motivator who can make them believe and bring the will power to achieve something in their times. Not even the captain can inspire his own team who stated last week, “We are ranked eight, we have nothing to lose”. Wow! How touched I am reading the words of our captain. The word of the captain matters and no one set examples of what Imran influenced the generations when he wore a white t-shirt with a picture of a tiger before the 1992 World Cup quarterfinal match against the Aussies at their yard. Then there are further cases in our history when the tempo of the team is hurt by the behavior of the captains like Younis refusing to lead in 2006 Champions Trophy without consulting the PCB, Shahid Afridi retiring in tests after a 4-year comeback in the format during the 2010 English tour or his passing the statement that the team got more love in India than his country while stepping in India for his last international assignment, WT20.

Khan sahab is repeatedly repeating the repetitive statement repeated in past 30 years to maintain and strengthen the domestic infrastructure which is weak enough to introduce mentally weak players to the international cricket who would face difficulties in adjusting themselves to the challenges they face in proper standards. No one will disagree with him as all his fears and predictions have gone right. And to our misery, we do are suffering. PSL is not important as building a strong domestic infrastructure is. If other cricketing nations organize T20 franchise leagues than the reason is that they already have developed theirs. Despite the fact the infrastructure is weak, we still have been gifted with many champions and achievers like Wasim, Waqar, Saqlain, Inzamam, Saeed, Shoaib, Razzaq, and many more.

The other factor involved in the miserable defeat was the team selection which is fetched from a squad selection, and the squad selection (good or bad) is subjected from the selection committee whose selection always raise a question mark. And that is a very critical issue. Let me focus on the XI before the blog becomes a book. There has been a severe agonized outcry that the team is so far from time traveling to the existence that they have no hard-hitting batsmen to ease and accelerate the run rate and help push the score towards 300, 350 and even touch 400 which is yet to be done in the ODIs. Now then you have two such players in Fakhar Zaman and Faheem Ashraf, and the latter doing the unthinkable in the practice match against Bangladesh. The captain and the coach still didn’t prefer to pick any of the two in such an important clash! Was it really hard to think of replacing Ahmed Shahzad, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez with them?

Oh, wait! then there is Junaid Khan, the only potential and capable wicket-taking pace bowler who can make a promising opening partner to Mohammad Amir and make the viewers hopeful of watching their team take all 10 wickets in an inning. Junaid was expensive in the practice game conceding 73 runs, 5 more runs than Wahab Riaz in 9 overs. But the difference was that Junaid grabbed 4 wickets as compared to being wicketless in the latter’s case. To everyone’s surprise, Wahab was preferred over Junaid! And that is easily one of the key reasons for the defeat. Wahab getting smacked and destroyed was always on the card and we don’t have any luxury to witness any economical bowling of him in a lengthy period. I don’t remember if he ever grabbed 5 wickets after the WC semifinal game against India.

One of the tweets yesterday confirmed how worst has Wahab become, what burden of a liability he is on the team since Jan. 2016. In 12 ODIs, he has picked only 9 wickets at an average of 74 with the economy rate of 6.50. His bowling average was 104 vs Aus, 186 vs Eng, and 118 vs NZL. I think the readers are wise enough to understand why would a bowler with such horrible performances still end up in the squad and playing XI but not Junaid Khan.

WAS THE DECISION OF BOWLING FIRST CORRECT?

In most cases, the ideology is that winning the toss is the blessing but I believe either you win the toss or lose, you still have 450 overs in tests, 50 in ODIs and 20 in T20s to win the match. In my opinion, Sarfaraz’s decision of bowling first was correct because of the two factors. One, we know the chasing reputation of India which was avoided. Second, our bowling strength has declined a lot and we are not capable of grabbing all 10 wickets in most of the occasions. Yes, we are bad chasers who collapses even when we have to chase 150 or less but there is still a small percentage of a chance after failing in bowling in the first inning.

FAILING THE DEPARTMENTS

Even if you lose the toss and select a wrong XI, there is still a chance of winning if you perform well in all the three departments; batting, bowling, and *hehe* fielding. A cricket statistician should do some favor to our team and add a new category of catch drops to add some interest in digging that how many catches did the team drop from their soft buttered palms. At least I am interested to know by average that how many are they dropping the catches each game. I happen to watch one of the youtube videos to understand how this team practice before the game and ended up with this video leading me to nowhere.

Then they have a history of losing the most crucial games by the catch drops. More bizarre of the fact is that Pakistan’s journey to the last two world cups ended by dropping the most important catches, 4 against Tendulkar and one against Watson. The military training that was scheduled before the English tour last year is not possible to be scheduled for them on regular basis nor is this a solution. Not all the teams are physically trained by their country’s military.

Sarfaraz’s plan to open the bowling with Imad in the second over was a bad idea. He is a kind of bowler who comes to bowl in the middle of the inning when he has to stop the batsmen accelerating the score in which he is pretty good at. Change in plans and Imad turned IMad with no idea what to bowl in the opening and death overs. Result? The whole focus and blame go on his silly haircut but this was the worst he has ever performed. He has been one of our best performers in ODIs and T20Is in past 10 months. If spin was obligatory from the start, Hafeez was the best option to go with as he has always stood a threat against the left-handers but hang on! the captain gave him not a single over! Indian openers lose their hands for shots when Wahab’s first intolerable spell began. Pakistan could still have marked a decent comeback but they missed easy chances on the field, the bowling was not on the line. When the fielders dropped catches of Kohli and Yuvraj, you actually gave them the license to kill you.

Their other weakness which adds misery to their woes is that if the batsmen go on aggressive mode, their bowling and fielding goes defensive and last of all, they give up. They choose wrong bowlers for the death overs or if they choose the correct one, then they bowl flat. This shows that the captain and coach had no plans, and if they had then these were not implemented. Had Junaid played this match, he could have calmed the pressure and assisted Amir. There could definitely have been a wicket in the start as Rohit was controlling his hands not to make any mistake but their openers succeeded because Imad was introduced at the wrong time and then Wahab did what he is good at. Amir’s temporary injury also helped India smashing more runs in the end as expected. India was so confident that they send Hardik Pandya instead of their death over assassin, MS Dhoni, and Pandya didn’t disappoint the captain.

In 2017, where openers are the destroyers, regular strike rotators, partnership builders, large-inning constructors; there is our baffling batting order who play with the same flow while batting first and second, press the panic button and lose their mind. Collapse all of a sudden like a plucked leaf dropped from the hand or an old individual from the wheelchair. They think twice when they have to take a quick single and commit suicide on the pitch. Their almost every batting scorecard has an honorable mention of a RUNOUT by someone. In an era when the teams are chasing 300 more often, this team reaching 300 is still a rare event. In an era when the batsman is focusing on breaking records and building huge innings on the flat pitches, scoring a century by our batsman is sapphire-rare. And that is why there are only 3 entries of our batsmen reaching 150 in ODI history. Strauss alone has 3.

When you are chasing a target at the required run rate more than 6, you have to take the risk and play shots, and try to accelerate the score. But once Ahmad Shahzad departed, the humans on the batting crease became zombies. Till the 17th over, the stats showed on the screen that Pakistani batsmen had dotted 60 balls which are precisely 10 overs. Even the commentators complained live that the batsmen were taking the pressure and dotting too many balls which helped the asking run rate climb swiftly and they gave up. This is not how you bat in modern cricket. 

With that target, Sarfaraz must have decided to open with Ahmad and drop Azhar to 4. But the Plan B was missing, so was Plan A. When two wickets fell, they made further mistakes and sent Hafeez instead of Shoaib. And the rest is boring.

ANYTHING TO EXPECT IN CT JOURNEY?

Given the fact that Wahab is injured and out of Champions Trophy for good, Sarfaraz and the coach Mickey Arthur have to decide what should still be done to expect positive or aggressive cricket. Junaid will likely get the ball in the next game. Either Hafeez or Ahmad can make the room for either Fakhar or Faheem. Or both can be dropped and add Haris Sohail with any of the two Fs. But enough is enough, such performances are a huge insult to the global fans who support their team green. So many people from around the world show up on the ground for the love and support but are deceived and bereaved. 

How long will they play old-school cricket? When will they upgrade their game or install the new software/hardware? For how long will we listen to the excuses in the same funny post-match interviews of our captain. Yes, Pakistan is not playing international cricket at home and didn’t get that much exposure of IPL, the home of flat pitch batting circus, the game changer in the modern cricket which put a permanent full stop in the golden competition of bat and ball as it used to be in the old times. But being very honest, this is all excuse. Despite the above-mentioned factors, Pakistan somehow peaked the ranking in Test cricket last year thanks to our heritage of performing well and being unbeatable side on UAE pitches. We did win Asia Cup, defeated South Africa and India in the ODI series at their yard. We claimed the world title in T20 in 2009 and even reached the semis of 2011 WC. Sorry, but there is no excuse of what the team has become. If the international cricket is not coming to Pakistan, then the head of the PCB should ask ICC the reason? If the international wrestlers can come to Pakistan, if Leisure League featuring world famous football legends Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos can happen, then why not international cricket? If security was really the issue then the above-mentioned entertainers and sportsmen would not have bothered to come here.

I know they will repeat the mistakes but hoping the best for the team is the only thing I can do while writing this blog because since beginning to love this sport in 1997, I have seen my team in fluctuations and in many good and bad unforgettable moments and memories. Cricket is won only when you promise yourself that you will never let the game down. Cricket is won only when the challenges are tough but the desire of achieving is real. Cricket is won only when your heart tells you to be sincere with the game and conquer the game for the sports, for the nation, for the people who support and love you. May you someday achieve what we still wait for.

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