Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Feelings of a dejected fan of Pakistan Cricket

By Dua Moqeem

Enraged, dejected, frustrated, betrayed, humiliated. Words alone cannot describe what I, along with 220 million Pakistanis, have been feeling over the span of these past few days. As I sit here today, I have only one question. Why always us, God? Why always us? Why is it always us against the world? I, now, pour my heart out to the world, hoping that they realise the callousness shown to my country by countless people.

Friday, 17th September 2021.

“The Pindi boys and the Pindi girls” flocked to the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium for New Zealand was finally touring Pakistan after 18 years. The ebullience, exuberance and ecstasy it had brought Pakistani cricket fans was unparalleled, for international cricket was well and truly back. Then, half an hour before the match was scheduled to start, the New Zealand cricket board abandoned the entire series citing a “security threat”. Despite being assured by our Prime Minister, our Intelligence Agencies, our Security Forces, despite the team being provided with “Presidential Level Security”, they pulled out, without thinking of the ramifications of their actions on Pakistan Cricket. Upon being asked about the threat, both the Kiwi Government as well as the Cricket Board, refused to say anything. If, and that is a big if, there was a threat, weren’t Pakistani lives at stake? The hotel staff, Pakistani players, the management, the broadcast crew – everybody’s lives were at risk. Or are the Kiwi lives the only lives that matter? Why isn’t the threat being disclosed to Pakistani authorities? Are you really telling us that an island, 1000 miles away from Pakistan, knows our dynamics better than we do? No matter how legitimate the threat, we can’t be expected to empathise with the New Zealanders because, refusing to disclose the threat makes it even more evident that there was no threat. It took the Blackcaps only thirty minutes, to undo everything Pakistan had done over the period of 10 years. An entire generation was deprived of seeing its stars and heroes play in front of their eyes. However, that had started to change over these past few years. But politicisation of this beautiful sport and the unequal playing grounds in international cricket has ruined it all. The Blackcaps forgot what Pakistan Cricket has done for them over. We toured them despite that horrific Christchurch incident, raised no security objections because we didn’t want any country to go through what he been through. Unfortunately, this is a cruel world we live in, one where the good isn’t ever really appreciated.

Monday, 20th September 2021.

With the Blackcaps pulling out, it was almost inevitable that England would pull out as well. It was just one abandoned tour for New Zealand, but for Pakistan, it was the annihilation of 10 years’ worth of security efforts. With England refusing, not only have we had to bear millions in loss but my country’s honour and pride is hurt. My people are hurt. England has cited “mental fatigue” as a major reason for not touring, which is a valid reason. But I must ask, is this “mental fatigue” for the English players only? The Pakistani players toured England twice when this pandemic was at its peak, stuck to strict bio-secure bubble rules, weren’t they mentally fatigued as well? Or is the well-being of the English players all that matters? Another question that comes to mind – does the “mental fatigue” vanish when playing the IPL? Or does the money compensate for it?

Pakistan and its cricket fans have millions of questions that are unanswered because the world has no answer. Cricket has become a game where money is preferred over international duties, over bilateral ties and bilateral cricket. This beautiful sport will die if it is just the “Big Three” that get their way while others are treated with blatant disregard.

To my people, I must say this: We are Pakistanis. We have seen worse and been through worse. But we have emerged victorious before and will, once again. Our spirits are not so easily dampened. We will fight this. And to my dear Pakistan Cricket Team: We are behind you. Pakistan Cricket will emerge from the ashes because Pakistan Cricket is inevitable. Babar Azam and co, fight your heart out at the World T20 and bring the trophy home! Pakistan Zindabad.

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Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Pakistan's World T20 Squad is not all bad ...

Pakistan isn't playing any cricket at the moment, but the past two days have been quite happening for Pakistan cricket.

These resignations have Rameez Raja written all over them.

Rameez does not assume the PCB Chairman role till September 13; however he has been involved with the PCB from the day his appointment was announced.

His input was taken for the WT20 squad, and he had made his intentions clear regarding the future of Misbah and Waqar.

And then, this morning, a statement was released by the PCB CEO, Wasim Khan, refuting all speculations being made in the media.

No dull day in Pakistan cricket!

Let us now get back to the most contentious subject - Pakistan's squad for the WT20.

At first glance, I was disappointed with some of the selections. The inclusion of Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah, and Azam Khan did not make sense to me. The exclusion of Fakhar Zaman disappointed me. Even the sacking of Sharjeel Khan and Haider Ali could be argued.

And why does Haris Rauf keep getting selected?

Here is Pakistan's 15-man squad: Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, Sohaib Maqsood, Mohammad Hafeez, Asif Ali, Khushdil Shah, Azam Khan, Shadab Khan, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Wasim Jr., Haris Rauf, Mohammad Nawaz

The more I look at it, the more it makes sense to me, barring a few selections.

The Batting
Pakistan's opening combination of Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in T20Is has done wonders for the team. In setting up totals and in chasing them down, including a recent record partnership and run chase, the two have been brilliant.

Babar and Rizwan are not only the best opening combination in Pakistan, but in the world. Their partnership is not only the best among all opening partnerships, but it is the best partnership in the world for any wicket in T20Is over the past two years!

The inclusion of both Fakhar and Sharjeel in recent T20I squads only caused confusion in my opinion. Both are openers and do not really fit any where else in the batting order. Whoever made the call, made the right call, and made the captain's and management's life easier. 

Barring Babar, Rizwan, and Hafeez, no other batsman was an automatic selection. 

Neither the ones selected, nor the ones dropped, made any case for themselves over the past two years.

Among all batsmen that have played T20Is for Pakistan in the past two years, all have similar mediocre records. 

Fakhar, Haider, Khushdil, Iftikhar, Maqsood, Sharjeel - none of them did any wonders to be selected. One can pick any three out of these and with Pakistan requiring middle / late order batsmen rather than openers, it probably made sense to pick Khushdil and Maqsood over the rest.

What doesn't make sense though is the inclusion of Asif Ali and exclusion of Shoaib Malik. For the latter, it seems that the selectors believe his time is up.  

I really do not understand why Asif keeps getting selected after failing over and over again at the international level.

Sure the PSL counts for something, but international performance should definitely be given more weight than PSL performance.

As for a reserve wicket keeper - Azam or Sarfraz - it really is a toss up. Go for the future, I guess; but is Azam Khan really the future?

All said and done, I feel that a batting order that reads Babar, Rizwan, Maqsood, Hafeez, Khushdil, Asif looks really strong on paper. 

I would have definitely liked Shoaib Malik in place of Asif (actually even a rabbit is better than Asif), but all one can do now is hope that Asif replicates his PSL form in international cricket.

The Spinners
Pakistan has gone for 3 spinners in Shadab, Imad, and Nawaz. All three are decent batsmen as well, giving Pakistan's lower order a good aggressive look.

However, the exclusion of Usman Qadir has raised some eyebrows, given that he has been Pakistan's best spinner in the past two years; that too by some distance.

Qadir's numbers are not easy to ignore. But I also understand that Shadab, when 100% and in full flow, is irreplaceable and playing two leg spinners is not really ideal. 

I'm sure it was a difficult decision to choose between the two, but there is no reason why both of them could not be in the squad. Qadir should have been in there in place of Nawaz in my opinion, as Imad is a sure starter.

The Pacers
We all love to hate Haris Rauf, but the fact is that he has been Pakistan's best bowler in T20Is for the past two years.

There is no difference in Rauf's and Shaheen's economy rate. And Wahab's is worse. Plus Rauf has a better average than both of them.

Not only has he been the best pacer for Pakistan in T20Is, he has also been the best pacer in the world in T20Is during this period.

Then why do we hate Haris Rauf? Maybe it is because of his ODI performance, which is quite poor. 

I think he deserves to play T20Is. He takes wickets and his economy rate is no different from some of the best pacers in the game.

So overall the squad is not all that bad.

The only change I would make is replacing Asif Ali with Shoaib Malik. However if the management believe his time is up, then replace Asif with Fakhar or Haider Ali. Either will be more effective.

Usman Qadir is a good to have, but if Shadab can regain his form then he will be just as potent as Qadir; not to mention the impact Shadab can make with the bat and in the field.

Pakistan plays 7 T20Is in the lead up to the WT20; 5 against New Zealand and 2 against England. That should give this squad enough time together in middle and should prepare them well for the big tournament.

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Friday, September 3, 2021

Kevin Pietersen's Memorable Times at the Oval

The 4th test of the exhilarating Test Series between England and India gets underway today at the Kia Oval.

Just ahead of the Test, Kevin Pietersen, the Betway ambassador, returned to the Oval and reminisced about his favorite moments at the ground.

Check out his memories in the video below.

KP talked about his 158 against Australia in only the 5th test of his career that helped England draw the final test of the 2005 Ashes series resulting in England's first ever Ashes win in 18 years!

In the video, KP points out to the spot at the ground where he celebrated his first ever test century.

He also reminisced about the 4-0 series win over India in 2011 that led England to the number 1 ranking in test matches. 

The 4th win came at the Oval and KP scored 175 in that test.

He remembers how England celebrated with the Test Mace around the Oval.

Check out the video for more KP memories about the Oval! 

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Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Using Numbers to Redefine T20 Cricket

When it was launched in 2003, T20 cricket was considered no more than a more commercial format of the sport, which was a bit of fun, and provided a quick result for maximum entertainment.

It seemed like it was more entertainment, than sport. It was not cricket as we had known it to be.

The game's traditional format - Test Cricket - is far more meticulous with the better team almost always triumphing after five days of good competitive cricket. While, the middle format - ODIs - is somewhere in between.

The longer the format, the more exposed one's skill is and the likelihood of an upset is very low. Which is why T20 cricket provides for more intense and competitive games. It is the most random of the three formats of the game and in a shorter period of time any team can come out on top.

As the balance of power within cricket has swung towards T20, money and research has poured in to work out how to be successful in T20 cricket.

The T20 format has prompted a significant increase in the use of data analysis to improve recruitment, selection, and tactics, in a way that has never been used previously. Mumbai Indians, who are favorites to win the IPL as per the latest IPL betting, have used this to drive home huge success.

There is a weird paradoxthere,” says Tim Wigmore, journalist for The Independent and co-author of Cricket 2.0, a book about the T20 revolution.

“T20 is the most random format in that it takes the smallest number of deliveries to swing the course of a match, but it can also be planned. It gives you a far better opportunity to use data to plot your path to victory.”

The best managed T20 teams have learned how to use data to gain an edge in all departments of the game.

Teams are able to access averages, strike-rates, boundary percentages and much more in every phase of the innings at the click of a button.

If a team requires a batsman who hits at a strike-rate of 200 in the last five overs, for example, they can find out who has a track record of doing so.

Data is also used far more regularly to determine weaknesses in oppositions and to deploy tactics for specific matches.

Technological improvements have also coincided with the rise of T20 cricket, but that is not the only reason why this format has been most influenced by data analysis.

“There is so much more data to work with in T20 cricket,” says Wigmore. “The scenarios repeat themselves so much more often.

“You have so many variables in Test cricket. If you’re batting on a day-five pitch that is turning a certain amount, you might only have come across that scenario once or twice a year because of the number of things that need to take place in a Test match to get there.

“T20 scenarios do repeat themselves. You can plan for the 15th over when a certain batsman is well set because it happens so often.

“There are so many more top-level T20 matches. A top T20 player might play 50 matches per year, while a top Test player might play 12 or 13. It actually gives you a proper sample size to work with.”

The driving force behind the popularity of T20 cricket has been franchise leagues - the IPL, PSL, Big Bash, CPL - almost all nations have a league of their own. Salary caps and restrictions on number of overseas players allowed maintain the balance of the sides making the league more competitive.

Due to such restrictions, smart use of technology and data provide teams with a significant competitive edge.

The Mumbai Indians, who have won the IPL more times than any other team, have utilized data analysis the best among all T20 teams around the world.

“Mumbai Indians’ success has been rooted in out-thinking their opponents,” says Wigmore. “They are excellent at doing it before they even get to the auction able.

“They’ve got a very good idea of how to assemble a team because they’ve used data to establish the best strategy. Then they have a really strong scouting system that allows them to chase all of the most undervalued domestic talent.

“It’s a bit of a myth that you want to get the best overseas players – you actually want the players that add the most value to the team, which is dependent on which local players are available.

“For example, there is a relative shortage of power-hitters at the death in India, so they’ve used an overseas slot on Kieron Pollard, who’s a brilliant hitter.

“They’ve honed their strategy.”

Teams that have nailed their recruitment have placed themselves in the best position to master their tactical approach, too.

‘Match-ups’ has become an increasingly popular buzz term around T20 cricket over the last few years. Teams use data to identify the weaknesses of individual opponents and work out how players within their squad can exploit them.

Exposing a rival’s weakness is not new, but the use of numbers legitimizes the tactics.

“A lot of analysis for me is about knowing what the bowlers have in their armoury,” says South Africa and Rajasthan Royals batsman David Miller. “Their strengths and weaknesses.

“I want to know what they do when they are under pressure. Whether they go to the yorker or the slower ball, for example.

“Having that information definitely helps swing the odds in your favour.”

Wigmore explains that there are different ways that teams can use analysis of their opposition.

“You can plan it to a really deep degree,” says Wigmore. “You can plan when you want to bowl specific bowlers – I know Ricky Ponting says you can basically map out the entire bowling innings – but another way is to plan which bowlers you want to bowl to specific batsmen.

“For example, if your opening bowler has a really good match-up against their number three batsman, you might give them a third over with the new ball.

“A great example was the World T20 final in 2016 when Joe Root opened the bowling against Chris Gayle. England had worked out that Gayle against off-spin is not nearly as good as against other types of bowling, and Root got him out.

“We saw in the South Africa v England T20 series last year the England data analyst Nathan Leamon holding signs up with codes that reminded Eoin Morgan of the various match-ups that had been planned. That’s the degree to which players are working now.”

Morgan is a data enthusiast who believes in that way of working, but studying the numbers does not work for all players.

“I was never looking to take down certain bowlers that suited me – I didn’t look at things in that way,” says Kevin Pietersen, 2010 World T20 champion and one of the IPL’s greatest overseas players.

“If I decided during the match that a bowler had to go, then it didn’t matter who it was. It was game-based, so I didn’t plan it with analysis beforehand.

“I knew what my areas were, though. As my career went on I became more aware of which balls I could hit and begun to train my brain to recognise them early.”

Wigmore has spoken to players on both ends of the spectrum.

“There are players who have really embraced it,” he says.

“Look at Morgan and Pollard over the last few years – they have looked at their numbers, worked out how they can improve and have begun to start their innings much quicker.

“Quite a few of the West Indies team that won that final in 2016 look into numbers, too. Carlos Brathwaite second-guessed that Ben Stokes would bowl the yorker length in that last over because the long boundary was on the leg-side. That was a brilliant example.

“But most players don’t spend a long time looking at the numbers. They can talk to analysts about improvements they can make without even knowing the numbers behind it.”

An apparent divide between data sceptics, cast as stuffy and old-fashioned in their views, and data enthusiasts, forward-thinking and progressive, has emerged among cricket supporters over the last few years.

While there is no denying that teams using a data-driven approach enjoy lots of success, Wigmore argues that there is still a place for gut feel, instinct and an innate understanding of the game.

“Data can’t measure everything,” he says. “There will always be something that the model can’t account for on the day.

“It maybe can’t account for the wind or the dew or an injury, or whatever. I don’t think anybody is actually trying to say that gut feel is being replaced. I don’t think that’s how it’s being sold, and rightly so.

“But data can be used as a way of challenging and improving your decision-making. It is a really useful tool and increasingly important.”

While the analytics revolution gathers pace, you can be sure that those who are most open-minded to it will continue to flourish.

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Babar Azam vs Virat Kohli?

Since Babar Azam became the number one ranked ODI Batsman in the world, comparison between him and Virat Kohli has flooded social media.

Not only fans, but even former cricketers have weighed in with their retorts.

The comparison between the two batting greats is natural as it was Kohli who was dethroned by Babar in the ODI rankings. Plus, Babar and Kohli are the only two batsmen in the world who are ranked in the top 10 (actually top 6) in each format, which clearly makes them the best in the world at present.

However, there is a big difference between the two.

Kohli has been playing international cricket for 13 years! While Babar has been around for only 6 years. Kohli has played 435 international matches across formats. Babar has not even played 200.

While comparison may be natural, it is not entirely fair given the different era that they started their careers in, and the different stage of their careers they are in now.

But who are we to stop this comparison.

Where Babar ranks higher than Kohli in ODIs and T20Is, Kohli ranks higher in Tests.

Kohli is the only batsman in the world who averages over 50 in each format. Babar was there once, but currently he is not.

If you compare Kohli's performance during the first third of his career, i.e. after the same number of innings as Babar has played currently in each format, you will note that Babar's numbers are superior.

In terms of runs, Kohli is ahead in Tests; however Babar has a significant lead in the limited overs formats. In terms of average, I would say that Babar is ahead given the stark difference in their ODI average.

Overall, Babar's numbers are better considering he has scored 7,915 international runs in 184 innings, compared to Kohli's 7,332.

One can't ignore the fact that when Kohli started his career with India, he was in the company of very good batsmen like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, and Yuvraj Singh. Even presently, he has the likes of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Cheteshwar Pujara, and Ajinkya Rahane.

Meaning that there was a lot less pressure on Kohli; whereas Babar has had to many a time single handedly carry Pakistan's batting.

All what the above comparison shows us is that Babar has been far better than Kohli during the initial part of their careers. Kohli from hereon, improved with every season, and went on the become the absolute best batsman in the world across formats; and still is.

Babar has laid down a tremendous platform to sky rocket. He too has improved with every season and currently his batting is at a level that none of us have witnessed before.

The momentum is with him with his best years well ahead of him. If Babar can keep improving, or even continue in the same vein, he will do well to level with Kohli, if not go past him.

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Thursday, April 15, 2021

Babar Azam - The Best in the World

That Pakistan are not good at chasing is something we have heard and witnessed for as long as Pakistan has been playing international cricket.

Despite that fact, in the 6 completed limited over matches on their current tour of South Africa, Pakistan have completed 3 successful run chases and have once come to within 17 runs of a mammoth target of 342.

Moreover, the 3 successful run chases have included their third highest ever chase against South Africa in ODIs, and two of their highest chases ever in T20Is - both within a period of 4 days.

In the first T20Is against the Proteas, Pakistan chased down 189 with a delivery to spare, on the back of a fighting unbeaten knock of 74 off 50 deliveries by Mohammad Rizwan.

That 189 was the highest total ever chased by Pakistan in a T20I.

Till last night, when Pakistan made chasing 204 look like a cakewalk.

Rizwan was instrumental in this chase as well with another unbeaten knock of 73 off 47 deliveries.

But the man of the hour was Babar Azam.

Newly crowned as the number one ranked batsman in ODIs, Babar celebrated that achievement by playing one of the best innings ever played in a T20 international.

Babar made the chase look so easy that Pakistan reached their target with a full two overs to spare!

I have never witnessed such a masterclass of an innings in a T20I. Not by a Pakistan batsman, not by any batsman.

It was truly majestic.

Babar's 122 came off only 59 deliveries and included 15 boundaries and 4 sixes.

From the get go, he was in charge of the chase, hitting boundaries in every over, running with supreme urgency with Rizwan, finding gaps with precision, turning good deliveries into run scoring opportunities, and clearing the boundary with such finesse.

The best part about Babar's innings was that not once did he seemed rushed, not once did he try to slog, not once did it seem it was about power hitting. It was completely flawless classical batting with text book shots.

He did it with such ease that it left everyone from his teammates to the opposition and all the viewers completely awestruck.

I have already gone back and viewed his innings another 4 times since the match ended and I have no doubt in my mind that I have witnessed the best T20I knock ever in the history of the game.

Babar also broke a number of records with his majestic innings, including:

1. His 122 is now the highest individual score by a Pakistan batsman in T20Is, overtaking Ahmed Shehzad's 111* against Bangladesh in 2014.

2. 122 is also the highest ever score by a captain in a T20I chase, and the 4th highest ever by a captain in a T20I.

3. It is also the second highest ever score by a batsman while chasing in T20Is. Babar was unfortunate to miss out on the record 125 scored by Evin Lewis against India in 2017.

4. Babar reached his maiden T20I century off 49 deliveries, the fastest 100 ever by a Pakistan batsman in T20Is. And in all limited overs cricket, there is only one Pakistan batsman who has scored a century off fewer deliveries - Shahid Afridi - one off 37 deliveries and another off 45.

5. His opening partnership of 197 with Rizwan is now the highest partnership ever in T20Is by Pakistan, going past the unbeaten 143 put on by Shehzad and Hafeez against Zimbabwe in 2013.

6. It is also the highest ever partnership in a chase in T20Is, eclipsing the unbeaten partnership of 171 between Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill against Pakistan in 2016.

7. The 197 run partnership is also the highest while chasing in all T20 cricket.

8. It is also the 4th highest ever partnership for any wicket in T20Is, and the highest ever in a match involving two of the top 8 ranked teams.

9. Babar smashed 15 boundaries in his innings, which is the most number of boundaries hit by any batsman in a T20I chase.

10. It is also the second highest number of boundaries in a T20I innings by any batsman, just 1 behind the 16 hit by Aaron Finch against Zimbabwe.

On top of all these records, it was also Pakistan's highest ever successful chase in T20Is.

Babar was truly marvelous. The innings was a rare gem, and if you missed it you must watch the highlights. On repeat. Multiple times.

With every season, Babar has grown in stature. He is the best batsman in Pakistan, we all knew. Now, he has claim to the tag of being the best batsman in the world too!

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Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Rise of Mohammad Rizwan

Having made his debut for Pakistan in 2015-16, Mohammad Rizwan did not become a permanent feature in Pakistan's starting line ups till the end of 2019, when Sarfraz Ahmed fell out of favor with the selectors and team management.

Rizwan has not looked back since he became Pakistan's number one choice for wicket-keeper; and while he has been great behind the stumps, it is his achievements in front of them that have impressed everyone.

Last night, opening the innings for Pakistan against South Africa in the first T20I of the 4 match series, Rizwan was assertive in an unbeaten knock of 74 that guided Pakistan home in the final over of the innings.

Rizwan's was the perfect innings that was required for a successful chase of a daunting target of 189.

Rizwan's last 5 innings in T20 internationals read: 89, 104*, 51, 42, 74*.

All but one of those innings have been match winning ones.

While his career T20I average is a decent 36.5, it his numbers since becoming a permanent feature of the team that are truly remarkable.

In 17 T20Is since November 2019, Rizwan has scored 449 runs at an average of 56.1 and a strike rate of 132.4. 

He has also shone in Test Matches for Pakistan during this period with 741 runs in 12 Tests at an average of 46.3.

Since he became Pakistan's permanent wicket-keeper in Tests and T20Is in November 2019, he has been the top performing wicket-keeper with the bat in the world.

In Test matches since November 2019, only Jos Buttler has scored more runs than Rizwan, however at an average that is 10 runs per innings lower.

Rizwan's average is right up there and he has more 50+ scores than any other wicket-keeper in the world during this time.

Even in T20Is, only Buttler has more runs than Rizwan during this time; however Rizwan has hit his runs at an average of 80!

Rizwan is also the only wicket-keeper who has scored a T20I hundred during this period.

With the way he is currently playing, he will surely surpass Buttler's tally during this 4 match T20 series against South Africa.

In T20Is, Rizwan has shone as an opener. He has scored his century and all 3 of his T20I fifties while batting at that position.

As an opener, Rizwan sits alongside the best in the business, with a batting average that is twice as much as the next best.

Look at how well Rizwan's numbers as a T20 opener compare with those of Babar Azam, who is one of the best batsmen in the world, and was also ranked the number one T20 batsman for a long while.

Like last night, Rizwan has played a number of match winning knocks in both Tests and T20Is since becoming a permanent feature of the team.

His stock has risen quickly and he has fast become one of Pakistan's most dependable batsman in these two formats of the game.

He is clearly the best wicket-keeper batsman in the world at the moment.

Rizwan has not been able to demonstrate this form in ODIs, but if he keeps continuing in this vein in T20Is and Tests, it is not long before he will be able to do the same in ODIs.

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Sunday, April 4, 2021

King Babar Azam

Babar Azam's 13th ODI century led Pakistan to victory over South Africa in the first ODI of the series. Pakistan won the match off the final delivery; however Babar and Imam had set up the chase perfectly and it would have been a much easier win had it not been for some middle order panic.

Babar, the world's number two ranked ODI batsman, has grown in stature with every season. He smashed his 13th ODI ton in only his 76th innings, faster to the mark than any other batsman in the world.

Babar's 103 against South Africa was his second consecutive century, following the 125 against Zimbabwe in November, making him the first Pakistan captain to score two consecutive ODI 100s.

This was also Babar's 4th ODI century in a run chase, putting him level with some other Pakistan legends, and behind the one and only Saeed Anwar.

In the past 2 years, since the start of 2019, Babar is among the leading run scorers in ODIs. The most remarkable feature of this is his average of 67 in this period, which is significantly higher than all the other leading run scorers during this time.

He sits well above the rest.

Babar's career average is also not bad.

He is averaging a shade below 57 in ODIs, which is the second highest ODI batting average in the history of the game, behind only Virat Kohli's 59. 

It is still early days, but the best part about Babar's ODI form is that captaincy has done it no harm whatsoever.

He has a long road ahead of him, as a batsman and as a captain, but for now, he sits right up there among captains with the best batting averages in ODIs.

Another great aspect about Babar's ODI form is that it is prevalent against all opposition and in all kinds of conditions.

He scores against all nations and he scores in all countries he tours.

His averages against and in these nations do all the talking.

There is plenty of cricket ahead for Babar Azam. He is still at the start of his career and if he can go on producing the way he has over the past 5 years, he will no doubt become the best batsman ever to play for Pakistan, if not the world.

He can end this series against South Africa as the number one ranked ODI batsman. He has tough competition there with the current best batsman in the world - Virat Kohli - but he is right up there with him.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Why Babar Azam is Right!

News has been floating around that Pakistan captain Babar Azam is unhappy with the squads announced for Pakistan's African safari, where they will be touring South Africa and Zimbabwe.

Having had a look at the squads, I completely agree with the Pakistan captain.

Some of the selection are just bizarre, while some omissions are just mindboggling.

I have no idea what Mohammad Wasim & Co. were thinking when selecting these squads.
Test squad: Babar Azam (capt), Imran Butt, Abid Ali, Abdullah Shafique, Azhar Ali, Fawad Alam, Saud Shakeel, Agha Salman, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Tabish Khan, Hasan Ali, Shahnawaz Dhani, Nauman Ali, Zahid Mahmood, Sajid Khan.

Imran Butt
Is he really the best test opener available in Pakistan? 
He has a below par First Class average of 35.
He disappointed with scores of 15, 0, 9, and 10 in the tests against South Africa.
Why is he in the squad?
Surely it just can't be because of his catching!

Abdullah Shafique
This 21-year old is an extremely talented batsman. He has had quite an awesome start to his domestic career and has flourished in the T20 format, which also earned him a call to the Pakistan T20 team. 

But does that warrant him a place in the test team?

Not really. He has played just 1 first class match, in which he scored 133. Great, a debut 100 in a first class game, but that was the same match where Ahmed Shehzad, Usman Salahuddin, Salman Butt, Mohammad Saad, Zeeshan Ashraf, and Agha Salman scored centuries! Ahmed Shehzad managed it in both innings!

Are there really no other test openers in Pakistan? 

Yasir Shah
Why is he not in the test squad?

It is mind boggling to see that Pakistan's premier leg spinner has not made the cut for the squad, especially when in Pakistan's last test series against South Africa, Yasir was the second highest wicket taker!

Shahnawaz Dhani
This kid recently shot to fame in the cut-short PSL.

Moreso for his celebrations than for his wicket taking ability.

His First Class and List A record is mediocre. His T20 record shows that he is made for that format.

But he finds himself in Pakistan's Test squad, but not in the T20 squad!

How Bizarre!
ODI squad: Babar Azam (capt), Imam-ul-Haq, Fakhar Zaman, Abdullah Shafique, Haider Ali, Danish Aziz, Saud Shakeel, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Qadir, Hasan Ali.

Imad Wasim
Why is he not in the squad?

Mohammad Wasim Jr.
Who is he? Has anyone heard of him?

Besides having the same name as Pakistan's new Chief Selector, this 19 year old has not really done much to be included in Pakistan's ODI squad.

His List A record is nothing to write home about. Why the rush?

T20I squad: Babar Azam (capt), Shadab Khan, Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Hafeez, Haider Ali, Danish Aziz, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Shaheen Shah Afridi, Mohammad Wasim Jr, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain, Usman Qadir, Hasan Ali, Arshad Iqbal.

Imad Wasim
Why is he not in the squad?

And again what has Mohammad Wasim Jr. done to be included here too?

While the core of the team selects itself really, some of these selections (and non-selections) do raise questions!

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Monday, February 15, 2021

Babar Azam the Captain - Pakistan the Winner

Pakistan completed a T20I series win over South African last night with a spirited chase of a relatively steep target, ending a successful home campaign against the visitors.

2-0 in Tests and 2-1 in T20Is - not a bad first full series as captain for Babar Azam.

Despite a victorious series, there are people worried about Babar's captaincy and form.

But I am not really sure why.

At the end of the day, the only thing judgments on Babar should be based on, are results.

And results for Pakistan under Babar's captaincy are exemplary!

Early days still, however one can't criticize a captain with a record such as Babar's. Fine don't praise him just yet, but criticism is quite unnecessary.

It may not be his technical ability that has resulted in all these wins for Pakistan, but something seems to be working.

Maybe the players are responding well to him, maybe he is a lucky captain, maybe it is his decision making.

It really doesn't matter if the end result is a win for Pakistan!

His batting form has also been questioned and I get that he just completed a Test series without a century and a T20I series without a fifty.

But he did score 77 in the second test that helped steer Pakistan out of trouble. And he did score 44 off 30 in the third T20I that set up Pakistan's successful run chase and series win.

And in his first ODI series as captain, Babar smashed a 125 and a 77.

I think Pakistan's captaincy is in fine hands and the results show that too. This is just the start, and the future looks promising with Babar at the helm. Give him some time, and then make your judgment calls.

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Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Epic Test Series Win for Pakistan

This was Pakistan's second test series victory over South Africa, and their first since 2003!

And what a sweet victory it was!

Pakistani pacers ripping through batting line ups is something I grew up with.

When the ball would grow old, the opposition batsmen would collapse in a heap in no time.

The only difference in Rawal Pindi was that it wasn't the old ball but the new one that created the magic.

As soon as Babar Azam took the new ball, Hasan Ali and Shaheeh Afridi struck gold and South Africa lost their last 7 wickets for 33 runs in 10 overs, resulting in a 95 run win for Pakistan.

Before the new ball came into play, South Africa required a mere 129 runs with 7 wickets in hand. After the West Indies' win over Bangladesh a couple of days back and India's heist at the Gabba last month, it seemed like the South Africans were inspired to make another big successful run chase.

But the resurgent Hasan Ali had other ideas.

For Pakistan, this win means a lot.

After a crushing defeat to New Zealand, two long years without a test win against a top side, without much test cricket at home in over a decade, this test and series win will go a long way in establishing Pakistan's dominance at home once again.

Not many people realize this but Pakistan has the best record at home among all Test playing nations.

Yes, better than India's, better than Australia's, better than ALL other teams.

And this record does not include Tests played in the UAE. With those, Pakistan's record is even more dominant.

This series win also helped Pakistan gain two spots in the ICC Test Rankings.

The best part about this series win is that every single player, across the two tests, put their hands up, and contributed towards Pakistan's victory charge.

Winning start to Babar Azam's Test captaincy stint; resurgent comeback of Hasan Ali; coming of age of Mohammad Rizwan and Faheem Ashraf; epic debut of Nauman Ali; continued redemption of Fawad Alam; and consistent breakthrough provided by Shaheen Afridi and Yasir Shah; first test rearguard action of Azhar Ali; and the immaculate slip catching of Imran Butt - all of them  played their part in Pakistan's first test series win over South Africa in 17 years!

It sure was epic seeing Pakistan come out on top in this Test series, and bodes well for the future of Pakistan's cricket under Babar Azam, as well as, for Pakistan playing at home!

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Monday, February 1, 2021

Fawad Alam is Back!

 It has been a while. 

A while since I last wrote, a while for Fawad Alam being out of the Pakistan team, a while since Pakistan won a Test match against a top side.

That while is over. 

Fawad Alam is back. Pakistan have just beaten South Africa in a test match, and I am writing again!

It is no secret that I am a huge supported of Fawad Alam. Anyone who has followed Well Pitched over the years would have read my calls for Fawad to be a part of Pakistan's international set up. You can go down memory lane here.

It took Fawad Alam 10 years and 9 months to play another test match for Pakistan since his last one in November 2009 in Dunedin, New Zealand.

For someone who scored a mammoth ton - 168 - on test debut to be dropped after just two more test appearances was injustice of the highest order.

No one really knows why he was dropped, nor why he was kept on the sidelines for over a decade.

A decade where he was among the top scorers in domestic cricket year after year.

His first class average of 56.4 is the highest in Pakistan. Highest ever in the 73-year history of Pakistan mind you. 

Yet he remained ignored by all selectors.

His comeback in England last summer was not ideal. Dismissed for a duck in his first test innings for almost 11 years!

He scored 21 in the next test in England and then must have wondered if he will ever don the whites again for Pakistan.

But he did.

He flew to New Zealand with the team and in the first test almost saved the match for Pakistan with a fighting century.

A test hundred in the same land were he played his last test knock and failed in 2009.

That knock of 102 is a redemption story for the ages.

Fawad Alam was back!

He ended the tour as the only batsman from Pakistan to score a test hundred.

Sure he did not end up saving the test for Pakistan, but that is no reason why we should not celebrate that knock.

As always, for the harshest critics it is never enough.

So let us turn our attention to a month later in Karachi. Fawad Alam's homeground.

Having dismissed South Africa for 220, Pakistan were reeling at 27-4 when Fawad Alam walked to the crease near the end of the first day.

He first steered Pakistan out of trouble by forging a 94 run partnership with Azhar Ali.

Then he helped Pakistan inch closer towards South Africa's total with a 55 run partnership with captain Mohammad Rizwan.

And then he ensured Pakistan not only gets there but also builds its lead over South Africa, with a 102 run partnership with Faheem Ashraf.

Fawad knocked his third test century in the process in only his 8th test match.

On a pitch where all the South African batsmen and most of Pakistan's batsmen struggled, Fawad Alam marched on as the only centurion of the test.

That 10 year wait has been worth it. For Fawad, as well as, for all his supporters.

He still has a lot of cricket and lot of test centuries left in him, which we will get to see as long as he isn't brushed aside due to politics again.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2020

What about Asad Shafiq?

Following the piece on Azhar Ali and his performance during the Misbah era and post it, a lot of enquiries have been made regarding Asad Shafiq.

Most believe that his performance too has deteriorated since the retirements of Misbah and Younis Khan.

Initially, I had thought so too, and had planned to write regarding both Azhar and Asad. However after reviewing Asad's numbers, I was quite surprised.

A career average of 38.9, an average of 39.4 during the Misbah era, and 37.4 after it suggests that Asad has been consistent throughout his 10-year test career.

The only thing that has changed since the Misbah-Younis retirement is his conversion rate. Under Misbah he scored a test hundred every 5-6 matches, now it is every 10 matches. Under Misbah he converted every second fifty into a century, now he converts every fifth fifty.

That is not the problem though.

My foremost criticism of Asad's test career has been that he has scored a lot of easy and inconsequential runs. Not match saving or match winning ones.

I went back and looked back at his 12 test centuries, and this is what I found.

Note: Pakistan Score is the score at which Asad walked to the crease.

104 vs Bangladesh at Chattogram
Pakistan Score: 311-4

Exploited a relatively weak and extremely tired bowling attack completely to bring up his first test hundred.

100* vs Sri Lanka at Pallekele
Pakistan Score: 176-4

Helped Pakistan set a target of 270 on the final day. A more aggressive knock could have given Pakistan more overs to bowl Sri Lanka out; however they had only 62 overs, which did not prove enough at the end.

Many criticized him for playing selfishly for a test 100 rather than for a win; while others pointed out that caution was important otherwise Sri Lanka may have had an easier target to chase on the final day.

111 vs South Africa in Cape Town
Pakistan Score: 33-4

His best test century till date. Joined Younis Khan in a 220 run partnership on a tough pitch and against arguably the best test attack in the world at the time.

130 vs South Africa in Dubai
Pakistan Score: 70-4

Having been bowled out for 99 in their first innings, Pakistan were facing a deficit of over 400 runs when Asad joined Misbah. They had a 200-run partnership to delay the inevitable.

137 vs New Zealand in Sharjah
Pakistan Score: 36-4

Belligerent knock off only 148 deliveries while facing a deficit of 340 odd. After being 63-5, Asad had no choice but to attack and play his shots in a lost cause.

107 vs Bangladesh in Dhaka
Pakistan Score: 323-4

Easy runs were on offer against a weary attack that had been plundered for plenty already.

131 vs Sri Lanka in Galle
Pakistan Score: 86-4

A great test match winning century. Put on 140 runs with Sarfraz, batted with the tail, and helped Pakistan set up a match winning total in excess of 400.

107 vs England in Abu Dhabi
Pakistan Score: 251-4

More easy runs as he walked out to bat against some tired bowlers, who bore the brunt of a Shaoib Malik double hundred.

109 vs England at the Oval
Pakistan Score: 52-2

His first and only test century while batting at number 4. Put on 150 runs with Younis Khan, who scored a monumental 218. A century that helped Pakistan to a match winning total.

137 vs Australia in Brisbane
Pakistan Score: 165-4

This could have turned into the greatest test knock ever played. Yet it will be remembered for not being enough.

Pakistan faced an improbable task of chasing a target of 490. Asad, along with the tail, helped Pakistan inch to within 40 runs of that target.

There are many arguments stating that Asad had no choice but to try his luck for as long as it lasted, which he did. Could he have scored the same way if he was under pressure chasing a total of say 270? Doubt it.

112 vs Sri Lanka in Dubai
Pakistan Score: 49-3

Once again it was just not enough, in a chase of 317, where Pakistan ended 68 runs short of the target.

104 vs New Zealand in Abu Dhabi
Pakistan Score: 85-3

This is the only test match, post MisYou, where Azhar and Asad did what they should have been doing from the day Misbah and Younis retired. They put on 200 runs for the 4th wicket to take Pakistan out of a difficult situation; however it was still not enough to save them from defeat.

So then, in a career spanning 10 years he has scored 12 test centuries; however only 2 of those were match winning ones, and only 1 other was a truly great test knock. The remaining 9 were largely inconsequential.

What does this tell you about Asad Shafiq?

A batsman with a sub-40 test average is not a mainstay of any batting line up.

All this suggests that Asad is a decent test batsman, not a great one. He is very good as a supporting act, but can never be the one responsible to steer the ship.

He has an enviable record at number 6. He is the only batsman in the world besides Steve Waugh to score over 3,000 runs at that position. His 9 test hundreds at number 6 are more than anyone else in the history of test cricket.

However, he averages 41 at number 6, which again is decent, but not great. 

There are batsmen like Steve Waugh, VVS Laxman, Sir Gary Sobers, Allan Border, Shiv Chanderpaul, AB De Villiers, Ian Bell and Saleem Malik who average over 50 at number 6.

So the expectation that Azhar Ali should have become the main batsman of the side after MisYou was valid; however to expect the same of Asad is perhaps not correct.

I still feel he fits into Pakistan's test XI, perhaps at number 6 and not any higher. That is the position where he has shone as a batsman, and that is where he should continue to bat in my view.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

How long will Pakistan persist with Azhar Ali the batsman?

A lot has been said about Azhar Ali's captaincy in the Old Trafford test against England.

I will reserve my comments on his test captaincy, given it is only 7 tests old. He is an inexperienced captain no doubt and 7 tests is no measure to judge one's ability.

My problem is with Azhar Ali the batsman.

Azhar was supposed to be the one to take the baton from Younis and Misbah, following their retirement. 

Similar to how it was passed on from Javed Miandad to Salim Malik to Inzamam Ul Haq to Mohammad Yousuf to Younis Khan over the past 3 decades.

Azhar had all the ingredients to become a test batting great for Pakistan. 

In the 7 years under Misbah he blossomed as a test batsman. He has the most runs for Pakistan in tests at the number 3 position; more than Younis Khan.

As an opener he flourished too, becoming only the second Pakistani opener to score a triply century in tests. He also knocked a double ton at the MCG.

He averaged closed to 50 in those 7 years.

But when the time came to become the senior statesman of Pakistan's test side, his form deserted him.

Losing form happens to everyone. 

But losing form for 3 years is a cause for concern.

Pakistan cannot afford to keep a batsman who has not been in the runs for over 3 years!

The difference between Azhar Ali's performance during Misbah's tenure and after is drastic.

A batsman who is averaging 27 in tests over the past 3 years does not command a position in the team, let alone at the crucial number 3 position.

Pakistan cannot continue to persist with him. 

Unless something changes significantly, I feel Azhar's career will be over soon. He was on the verge of achieving a test average of 50; instead it has fallen to 42 in the past 3 years.

It is all about the mindset really. Batting while knowing that Younis and Misbah are in line to bat is surely a lot easier than batting and thinking that you need to take on the burden as there is a lot of inexperience to follow.

Unfortunately I do not see how anything can change.

It is sad that a batsman who could have been one of the best produced by Pakistan will end his career as just an average test batsman.

The question now only is, how long will the selectors persist with him?

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Shan Masood's Second Inning

Shan Masood scored an impressive 75 on test debut against South Africa in Abu Dhabi.

That was 7 years ago and since then he has played only 21 tests scoring 1,345 runs at an average of 33.6.

Those are not great stats, however it is largely due to the fact that he has never had a prolonged run in Pakistan's test playing XI.

Till now.

It is already difficult for batsmen who are not considered for white ball cricket to maintain consistent performances at test level. It is made even harder by the selectors who keep changing their minds.

Shan has had a very start-stop test career, till Pakistan's tour to South Africa at the end of 2018. Since then he has been Pakistan's preferred test opener and he has shown all of us why.

Before the start of that series against South Africa, Shan had played 12 tests during the period 2013-17, scored 565 runs at an average of 23.5, and had knocked 1 test century and 3 fifties.

Since that series, Shan has played 9 tests, scored 780 runs at an average of 48.75, and has knocked 3 test centuries and 3 fifties.

Shan's 156 at Old Trafford was a monumental knock.

It was really unfortunate that he ended up on the losing side, but his effort on days 1 and 2 of the test set up the game for Pakistan.

The sheer determination with which he played on a difficult pitch and countered two new ball bursts from Anderson, Broad, Archer, and Woakes was heartening to watch and completely praiseworthy.

Shan's 156 was a memorable knock for many reasons. Here are a few.

It was his third consecutive test century, following his 135 vs SL and 100 vs BAN, placing him in elite company that includes the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan from Pakistan and batting greats like Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, and Jacques Kallis.

It was the first test century by a Pakistani opener away from home (Pakistan/UAE) in over 3 years. The last one was scored by Azhar Ali in the Caribbean in May 2017.

He became only the 5th opener from Pakistan, and the first this century, to score a test hundred in England, following the feats of Mohsin Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Aamer Sohail, and Saeed Anwar.

It is the highest test score in England by a visiting opener in 5 years. The last time an opener scored more than Shan was in July 2015 when Chris Rogers hit 173.

It is the highest test score by any batsman from Pakistan away from home (Pakistan/UAE) in almost 4 years. The last time a batsman scored more was in January 2017, in Sydney, where Younis Khan played an unbeaten knock of 175.

The 319 deliveries that Shan faced during his knock were the 3rd highest by a Pakistan test opener in England, after Mohsin Khan (386) and Mudassar Nazar (362). Plus they were the most deliveries faced by a Pakistan opener in England since 1992!

The 319 deliveries faced by Shan were the most by a visiting test opener in England since 2014 when Murali Vijay faced 361 in Nottingham.

This truly is Shan's second inning in test cricket. He has had a great run as test opener for two years now and with the way he batted at Old Trafford, following a good last season at home, Shan looks set to score plenty more test runs for Pakistan.

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Thursday, August 6, 2020

The New Fab 4!

Steve Smith, Virat Kohli, Joe Root, and Kane Williamson have been considered the Fab 4 of Test batting in modern days.

Rightly so, given their numbers.
Each one of these 4 great batsmen made their test debut between 2010 and 2012; they have played over 70 tests each, and scored more than 6,000 runs.

In the past decade, 2010-19, they were undoubtedly the best test batsmen around.

In the past 2 years however, two other batsmen have emerged who have posed a challenge to the world renowned Fab 4.

Babar Azam and Marnus Labuschagne!

Babar made his Test debut in 2016 and has played 27 tests including the current ongoing one against England.

While Labuschagne made his Test debut in 2018 and has played only 16 tests.

Both had a slow start to their test careers; but their last 12 months have been simply phenomenal!

Babar's last few test scores read: 

104 in Brisbane
97 in Adelaide
102* in Rawalpindi
60 and 100* in Karachi
143 in Rawalpindi
69 in Manchester

While Marnus has absolutely smashed it with scores of:

185 in Brisbane
162 in Adelaide
143 and 50 at Perth
63 and 19 in Melbourne
215 and 59 in Sydney

Those are quite some numbers.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that these two have displaced Kane Williamson and Joe Root, whose fortunes have dwindled in recent times, from the Fab 4.

Take a look at Test batsmen with the highest averages since the start of 2018.
It is quite evident who the Fab 4 are based on performance over the past 32 months.

It is also quite clear that Babar Azam is leading the pack with the highest average during this period. Only Kohli has more test centuries than Babar in this period and no one has more test 50s.

Sure both Babar and Labuschagne have a long way to go in their careers, but the way they have been batting in recent times, there is no doubt that both will go on to become greats of the game.

For now, lets just know that there is a new Fab 4 in the cricketing world.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Kevin Pietersen talks about his IPL Experience

The IPL season will be here soon and all the franchise owners, players, and fans are waiting for it with a lot of anticipation. The Indian Premier League is nothing short of a grand cricket carnival, an entertainment extravaganza, which everyone looks forward to every year.

While the fans wait to watch their favorite cricketers, the cricketers themselves look forward to playing alongside some of the greats of the game.

Betway recently spoke to Kevin Pietersen about his IPL experience, in which he has made some very interesting observations while describing the league as spectacular, gripping, and captivating.

Pietersen started his IPL stint in 2009 with the Royal Challengers Bangalore and even captained them, a team that included stalwarts like Virat Kohli, AB De Villiers, Chris Gayle, and Virender Sehwag.

In the later part of his career he moved to Delhi Daredevils, now known as the Delhi Capitals.

KP has scored 1,001 runs in 36 IPL matches at an average of 35.8 and a strike rate of 134.7 with a highest score of 103.

At one point he was the most expensive player bought at the IPL auction.

Speaking to Betway about his IPL experience, KP reminisced about the interaction with other greats, the pressure, team spirit, captaincy, and what it means to play and watch cricket in India.

He says that he always wanted to be part of the IPL because as a professional one should not be behind the pacemakers of the game, and back in 2008-2009 the pacemaker was the Indian Premier League.

"One could learn from the greats of the game. How they practiced, how they spoke, how they approached the game, how they conducted themselves in team meetings, how meticulous they were in their preparation, how they trained, how they padded up ..."

Hearing KP say this shows the admiration he has for the IPL and what it means for players around the world.

He also spoke about the pressure that the IPL brings on, just due to the fact that franchise owners have invested their millions on a player, which brings with it added responsibility.

The pressure of playing internationals is quite different from the pressure associated with the IPL according to KP. He provides quite an intriguing example and speaks about the difference between walking out to bat at Lord's and walking out to bat for your IPL franchise.

The announcer at Lord's would say "coming out to bat is England's number 4 Kevin Pietersen".

The announcer at the Wankhede or Ferozshah Kotla would say "coming out to bat is the world's most expensive buy in the IPL auction" and with it there will be banging music and fans jumping and shouting in the stands.

Pietersen's most interesting reveals were about his experience of playing with other stars like Virender Sehwag and a young Virat Kohli when he was just starting out.

About Sehwag, he loved his careless free spirit and how he used to sing while bowlers ran up to bowl and then whack them all over the park. KP calls him a superstar and says some his most fun experiences in the cricket field were with Sehwag.

He goes on to talk about how he always knew that Kohli was destined for greatness because of his sheer determination to be the best possible player he could be, because of how he approached the game, how he learnt, how he was always determined to get his team over the line.

KP talks about this incredible friendship he shares with Kohli despite him being a lot senior, while sharing a few stories about making fun of Kohli's chubbiness in his early days.

He signs off by talking about how huge cricket in general and the IPL in specific is in India.

"Nothing compares to the IPL in India. There is nothing more spectacular, gripping, and captivating. There is no better entertainment than watching cricket in a packed Indian stadium"

Hearing the crowd cheering when Dhoni walks out to bat, or watching those partnerships between Kohli and AB De Villiers, according to KP, there is nothing like it in this sport.

It sure is a full entertainment package and the way KP describes it in his talk with Betway, I can only wonder what it would be like to be a part of this extravaganza as a pure spectator.

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