Thursday, November 19, 2015

Will the India-Pakistan series happen in December?

In December this year the India-Pakistan cricket series is planned to take place, but the tension between the rival countries has put a spanner in the works. Now it remains to be seen if a decision on where the series will be played can be reached within a month, or if the whole event will have to be called off.

The past couple of months the planned bilateral series has run into some trouble due to political tensions between the two competing countries. The main issue is where the series will take place, where ‘Hindustan’ opposes to play anywhere but in India even though it is Pakistan’s turn to host the series. The Indian Cricket board BCCI claims they:

·         Cannot play in Pakistan for safety reasons and threat of terror attacks;
·         Nor can they play on neutral ground in UAE (for reasons yet unknown).

Pakistan, who’s hosting the event, is reluctant to play a third home series on away ground. They already did in 2007 and 2012 on Indian soil. The Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shahryar Khan was quoted saying “It is our series and we will play at our home venue, which is the UAE."

India has yet not responded to why they can’t play in the UAE, but the BCCI president Shashank Manohar made a clear statement in an interview with The Hindu that they are committed to playing Pakistan in December. He continued: “since it's not possible to play them in Pakistan or the UAE, we have to look at playing the series in Northern India in December."

With India’s cricket legacy and political power, you’re better off wasting your money on online bingo than betting on this series to be played anywhere else but in India.

The controversial matter has now gone up all the way to Indian government level, where BCCI awaits advice on what to do. Whether or not the cricket boards of both countries will reach an agreement is still uncertain. All the while Pakistan has made their stance clear, they won’t host on away soil. Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Shaharyar Khan also revealed that Pakistan will boycott the World Twenty20 in India next year if the December series doesn’t go through.

The eloquent brawl between the arch rivals continues and the future of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by both as of last year, could be in the danger zone.

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Friday, November 6, 2015

Former cricket player Chris Cairns repeatedly denies match fixing

Chris Cairns, the former cricket captain of New Zealand has been repeatedly questioned regarding the allegations of match fixing.  Cairns has repeatedly denied his involvement, and once again had to defend himself in front the Southwark Crown Court in London.

Suspicions started in 2010 when former Indian Premier League Commissioner Lalit Modi posted a tweet accusing Cairns of match fixing. Cairns sued Modi for libel and declared under oath he was innocent, winning the case in 2010. He received £90,000 for costs and damages. It didn’t end there. In December 2013 he was yet again the subject of allegations when ICC (International Cricket Council) initiated an investigation of match fixing. He is suspected to have attempted to manipulate cricket games in the Indian Cricket League while he was playing for Chandigarh Lions. Cairns has denied and rejected these claims.

Cairns countryman and former teammate Lou Vincent admitted to partaking in match fixing in a video testimonial in July 2014. Vincent’s apology for cheating got him banned for life from cricket, but also put Cairns on the spot. Although Cairns won the libel trial and denied his involvement in any match fixing, the Metropolitan Police declared in September 2014 that they would bring Cairns in for perjury in conjunction with the Modi libel trial.

More evidence was brought forward in the still ongoing perjury trial, when Vincent witnessed saying: “I was under direct orders from Chris Cairns to be involved in match-fixing.” Vincent was first approached by an Indian businessman Varun Gandhi believing it was a sponsorship deal. Vincent was offered £32,000 per game and a prostitute, who he later confessed to have slept with. In return he had to under perform in fixed games and got his orders from Cairns. “There were four games I fixed for Cairns in the April/May tournament 2008. I played between eight and 12 games. In three or the four games I was instructed either on the bus or at breakfast. Maybe score 15 runs off twenty balls and get out. “, said Vincent regretfully.

With Vincent‘s vivid testimonial among others, Cairns is now cornered. With evidence ranging from cheating, prostitutes, diamond deals, drug-taking and large payments from bookies it was highly anticipated that Cairns would appear on the witness stand in an attempt to exonerate himself. Cairns is also flanked by his former legal adviser Andrew Fitch-Holland who is charged for perverting the course of justice in regard to the libel trial in 2012 and evidence points to their guilt. The trial is still ongoing and Cairns continues to deny his involvement in match fixing. He claims to never have been approached by bookies to stage the games in order for punters to win on their betting. Therefore it was interesting to read the news recently of Cairns getting up on the stand to defend himself.

The former New Zealand captain claimed that Lou Vincent never told him about the prostitute “gifted” to Vincent back in 2008. Cairns also denied he ever asked his teammate to under perform in fixed games for payment during their time in the Indian Cricket League or that he never suggested such thing. It was an exhibition in no-saying and Cairns seemed composed and confident during the whole questioning.

Whether or not he will be found guilty future will tell, but his reputation as one of cricket’s best all rounders, has unquestionably  been dragged in the dirt for a foreseeable time to come.

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Monday, October 19, 2015

The Curious Case of Shoaib Malik

Shoaib Malik has had one of the most intriguing cricket careers. He made his debut in 1999; in 16 years of international cricket, we still don't really know what his role exactly is. He is one of the very few cricketers who has played in every position from 1 to 10 in ODIs. Is he a batsman? Is he a bowler? Is he an allrounder? He is definitely one of the best fielders in the Pakistan team; no one makes a catch in the outfield look as easy as Malik does. But what his role exactly is in the Pakistan team will probably be defined during the last phase of his career that started with his international comeback earlier this year.

I first remember watching a young 14 year old Shoaib Malik play in the Lombard U15 Challenge in 1996. He was part of the Pakistan U15 team in that tournament and played as an up and coming off spinner. I remember watching him deceive batsmen with spin that turned outrageously, similar to the turn that the great Muralitharan used to extract. At that time, Saqlain Mushtaq had recently made his debut for Pakistan and watching Malik was like watching a young Saqlain. He had a similar action and bowled just as well as the inventor of the doosra. I wondered when I would see him play for Pakistan.

It has been 16 years since Malik made his international debut. In those 16 years, despite periods of greatness, he is yet to define his established role as a Pakistan cricketer. His ODI career can be divided into 9 distinct phases, including the current one, which might as well be the one that really defines him.

Debuts for Pakistan as an off spinner

Malik got his first international call three years later in 1999, when he was selected to replace an injured Saqlain, as part of Pakistan's ODI squad for the triangular series against West Indies and Sri Lanka in Sharjah. He played 5 games in that series and was the second highest wicket taker for Pakistan with 9 wickets at an outstanding average of 18.11 and an excellent economy of 4.16. If it wasn't for Azhar Mahmood's 6 wicket haul in one of the matches, Malik would have been Pakistan's highest wicket taker in his debut series.

Malik made sure that no one missed Saqlain during that series, and in 1999 that was an achievement and a half as Saqlain had already made his mark as a world class off spinner and was touted as one of the best in the business along with Muralitharan.

For the next two years, Malik continued to play as an off spinner, but sparingly, filling in for Saqlain when required. But he never really lived up to the expectation that he had created after his debut series. After playing 20 ODIs in 2 years, his record was 19 wickets at an average of 36.1; hardly the numbers of a successful spinner.

First Stint as a Top Order Batsman / The Allrounder

As Malik's stock as an off spinner dipped, someone realized that he has potential as a batsman. In his first 20 ODIs, Malik continuously batted at 8, 9, or 10 and didn't show much signs of being a good enough batsman to bat in the top order. He got an inning at 6 and another at 7 also, but without much success. His 11 innings in his first 20 ODIs yielded 145 runs at an average of 18.1.

However, under Waqar's captaincy, in the series against the West Indies in Sharjah in 2002, he batted at number 4, and in his first innings in the top order he scored an unbeaten 111. He followed that up with another century two ODIs later, this time as an opener. He enjoyed a decent run in the top order mustering 369 runs, including two centuries, in 10 innings at an average of 41.00. Despite this performance, he did not make it to Pakistan's squad for the World Cup in 2003.

He returned to the squad following the World Cup under the captaincy of Rashid Latif and slotted at number 6. For the next year he remained in the lower order, fluctuating between 6, 7 and 8, and played the role of an off spinning all rounder. His batting exploits in those positions were just about average as he notched up 750 runs in 34 innings at an average of 25. He managed 4 fifty plus scores during this time, however his bowling was not much to talk about as he managed to pick up 33 wickets at a mediocre average of 40.

Golden Period in the Top Order

In the course of that year, Inzamam Ul Haq had taken over as captain of the team, and Bob Woolmer has joined as head coach. Realizing that Malik's talent was being wasted in the lower order, they decided to move Malik back up the order again, where he had briefly displayed his ability under Waqar Younis. Malik got this chance at number 3 during the Asia Cup in 2004 and immediately repaid the faith of the leadership with scores of 118 and 143 during the tournament.

For the next two years under Inzamam, Malik remained Pakistan's permanent number 3 in ODIs. In 44 innings during this period, with all of them at 3 besides a couple at 4 and 6, he smashed 1,713 runs at an average of 41.8. His runs tally included three centuries and 14 fifty plus scores including two 90s and an unbeaten 86.

During these two years Malik showed the world that he belonged among the best ODI batsmen in the business. His bowling took a back seat during this period as he concentrated on delivering as a batsman and he did it extremely successfully.

Short Stint as Opener

After a successful stint at number 3, Inzamam and Woolmer now decided to use Malik as an opener to fit Younis Khan in at 3 whose ODI stocks were also increasing and being wasted at 5 or 6. For the next 6 months, Malik opened for Pakistan, albeit with limited success. In 7 innings as an opener, he managed only 141 runs with a top score of 46.

Back to the Allrounder Position

Realizing that the experiment had not worked, Malik moved back to number 6 since Younis had firmly made the number 3 spot his own. Back in the lower order, Malik rediscovered his form and shone as a batsman again. In these 6 months, including the World Cup in 2007, Malik batted in 15 innings at number 6 and notched up 406 runs at an average of 40.6, including 3 fifty plus scores and as many quickfire forties.

Malik had truly flourished as a batsman under the leadership of Inzamam and Woolmer. The former had also identified him as a future captain given his rise as a batsman with a sound head over his shoulders. Following Woolmer's tragic death and Inzamam's retirement after the World Cup 2007, Malik was chosen to lead Pakistan.

Golden Run as Captain

For the next two years he captained Pakistan and further flourished as a batsman. Preferring to bat at number 5 as captain of the team, Malik shone as a middle order batsman for Pakistan. In 33 innings as captain, mostly at 5 with a few as an opener, Malik notched up 1,225 runs at an average of 43.75. He scored one century and 10 fifties during this period.

His captaincy period however was filled with team politics and controversies. Somewhere down the line he lost trust of the seniors, namely Yousuf, Younis, Afridi, Akhtar, and Razzaq, all of whom felt that one of them should have been leading the team. Despite a reasonably successful stint as captain, and even moreso as a batsman, Malik's run as captain was cut short in 2009 due to team politics.

Younis Khan, who would have been captain instead of Malik in 2007 had he not turned it down after the World Cup, was now given the captaincy.

Years of Turmoil

For the next two years, Pakistan went through several captains, namely Younis, Yousuf, and Afridi as team politics ran rampant and Pakistan remained largely unsettled. And so did Malik. Team politics hampered Pakistan's former captain and main ODI batsman the most as he failed to find a settled spot in the XI and remained in and out of the team.

Even when Pakistan finally settled to some extent under Misbah from 2011, Malik was not a permanent feature of the team. He faced several axes and several recalls to the team and batted in all positions between 3 and 8 during the 4 years between 2009 and 2013. Such inconsistency can bog down the best of them and Malik never recovered his old touch. In 39 ODI innings during this period, Malik managed to score only 741 runs at an average of 21.17. This was easily his worst phase as a batsman and in 2013 he found himself out of the team for good.

The Remarkable Comeback

It had been six years since a team had toured Pakistan for an international cricket series. That last time an ODI series was played in Pakistan, Malik was captain. So earlier this year when Zimbabwe decided to tour Pakistan for three ODIs, the selectors decided to plug the experience gap in the middle order created by Misbah's ODI retirement and Younis' lack of ODI form. Their answer was Shoaib Malik who had not played ODI cricket for Pakistan for two years.

Malik earned yet another recall to the side under the captaincy of Azhar Ali, and in his first ODI in two years he smashed 112, his first ODI century, in fact his first score above 43 in 6 years! In his comeback ODI, he batted at 3; however since then Malik has slotted into the number 5 position and has smashed 500 runs in 11 innings at an even average of 100! His remarkable comeback to the ODI team has yielded scores of 112, 26*, 55*, 51, 42*, 96*, and 34*, among others.

In a team that was lacking middle order experience, Malik has taken over the responsibility like never before and is looking like the great ODI batsman he once was. His run of form has not been restricted to ODIs only and he has continued in the same vein in T20s also, a format of the game in which he is a giant in leagues all around the world. His comeback to the team has been so remarkable that he has picked up the Man of the Series Award in two of the three series he has been involved in this year.

This rich vein of form with the bat resulted in the selectors picking him for the test series against England. Even though Malik had shown glimpses of being a great test cricketer during his unbeaten 148 against Sri Lanka in 2006 where he batted for over 8 hours to help save a test match, he never really made it as a test batsman. An average of 33 across 32 tests does not make a world class test batsman, and Malik's test career went down the same road as Shahid Afridi's and Abdul Razzaq's who also showed traces but never really made it in tests the way they did in limited overs cricket.

Malik was brought back into the Pakistan test squad after a gap of 5 years. He probably would not have played the first test against England had Azhar Ali been fit, however Malik was given an opportunity at number 3 and he grabbed it with both hands and feet. In his first test knock in 5 years, Malik played a monumental knock of 245, breaking several records on the way:

  • Not only was it his first double century in a test, it was his first every double century in first class cricket.
  • It is the highest score by a Pakistan batsman in tests in Abu Dhabi, and second highest score in a test in Abu Dhabi.
  • It is the second highest score by a Pakistan number 3 in tests against England, and the fourth highest score by a Pakistan number 3 in all tests.
  • He was involved in Pakistan's fourth highest partnership ever, and the highest in tests against England, for the 5th wicket.

Malik has been playing international cricket for 16 years and even though he had periods that defined his role in the team, he never really established his position for an elongated period. After his comeback in 2015, however, in what is the final phase of his career, Malik has taken it upon himself to define the type of cricketer he would like to be remembered as.

For as long as I have been watching cricket, I have rarely witnessed the sort of comeback Malik has made to international cricket this year. 2015 has been a remarkable year for him and for him to do it after 15 years of international cricket baggage, it is nothing short of phenomenal.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Pakistan, England, and DRAMA!

Pakistan vs England test series always provide entertainment, on the field and off it as well! Rarely does a series against England go by without one controversy or the other. While the cricket between the two sides has been extremely entertaining, there has been plenty of drama dished at us as well in the past.

Arguments with umpires, ball tampering allegations, forfeited tests, spot fixing, pitch tampering, court cases, you name it and we have seen it in a series involving Pakistan and England.

With yet another test series between the two sides starting tomorrow, here’s a look at some of the controversies we have witnessed in the past in Pakistan vs England tests.

Umpiring Altercation: GATTING vs RANA

Back in 1987 when there was limited TV coverage and barely any cameras covering the action on the ground, the naked eye of Shakoor Rana spotted England captain Mike Gatting moving a fielder while a bowler was in his run up (during the 2nd Test at Faisalabad). Rana immediately halted play and reprimanded Gatting for breaking the rules, and with it the spirit of the game. Gatting waving his finger at Rana is an image that has been played repeatedly on Pakistan television and the internet.

Umpiring Altercation: AAQUIB VS PALMER

During England’s tour of 1992, Pakistan’s pace attack was arguably at its best and England’s batsmen had little answers for them. During the 3rd test at Old Trafford, Roy Palmer warned Aaqib Javed about intimidating bowling to number XI Devon Malcolm. Aaqib had bowled a couple of bouncers and Palmer was not too impressed. Aaqib bowled another short one but it was not a bouncer from any stretch of the imagination. Malcolm ducked and the ball hit his helmet smack in front of the stumps. Palmer called it a no ball! At the end of the over Aaqib snatched his sweater and cap back from Palmer in anger and Miandad had to intervene to calm things down and also give Palmer a piece of his mind.

Umpiring Altercation: INZAMAM VS HAIR

Who can forget the episode with Darrel Hair who accused the Pakistanis of ball tampering and docked them 5 penalty runs during the 4th test at the Oval in 2006. Pakistan’s captain, Inzamam Ul Haq, took this so personally that he decided not to take the field after tea and forfeited the test match. The first such instance in the history of test cricket. Administrators from both sides and ICC officials failed to convince first Inzamam, and then Darrel Hair, to restart the game and an exciting test match ended midway during day 4 with the first forfeiture ever in test cricket history.

Ball Tampering Allegations

That wasn’t the first time the Pakistanis were accused of ball tampering; though it was the first time that they were docked 5 penalty runs because of it. No Pakistan tour to England is complete without ball tampering allegations.

It all started in 1992 when Wasim and Waqar swung the old ball so late into the batsmen that the English had no idea what hit them. They were so confused by what was happening that they termed it cheating and accused the Pakistan pacers of tampering with the ball. The British Tabloids were full of stories about Pakistani bowlers running their nails into the ball and lifting the seam with their fingers. Accusations were passed left, right, and center as the English batsmen continued to fall like nine pins.

The allegations continued during Pakistan’s tour to England in 1996 and 2001; and then finally culminated in that forfeited test in 2006.

The Spot Fixing Saga

Arguably the worst scandal to hit Pakistan cricket. Despite all the match fixing allegations levelled against Pakistani cricketers throughout the 90s, surprisingly tours to England remained devoid of such accusations. Besides one-off rumors about ODIs during the tour in 1992 and 1996.

Pakistan’s last tour to England in 2010 has got to be their worst tour there ever. In Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir, Pakistan had found a potent new ball pair that was right up there with the very best. Finally, Pakistan boasted a new ball attack as lethal as Wasim and Waqar. What could have been is a question that still lingers around the minds of cricket fans as we all witnessed the downfall of the two best bowling talents produced by Pakistan in the past decade.

The 4th and final test of the series was underway at Lord’s when the News of the World broke the news about a spot fix that Asif and Aamir has been involved in along with their captain Salman Butt. Pakistan’s cricketers had been caught in a sting conducted by the now defunct investigative British tabloid.

Every tour of England has been full of drama for Pakistan’s cricketers but there was none that had been as embarrassing as the one in 2010.

There are several more off-the-field stories like British tabloids reporting Imran Khan’s affairs during tours to England, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi partying at Soho on nights before matches, and the famous pitch tampering that Afridi got involved in during England’s tour to Pakistan in 2005 that have added extra spice to Pakistan vs England contests over the years.

With Pakistan’s current test squad largely subdued compared to their predecessors, one doubts that we will witness drama of this kind in the test series that gets underway tomorrow. But then again, one thought the same about the Inzamam led team.

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How Pakistan's Bowlers have Tormented England

While no series brings with it as much excitement as Pakistan vs India, it is also true that no series provides for nerve wrecking and dramatic test victories for Pakistan the way a test series against England does.

From Fazal Mahmood in 1954 to Saeed Ajmal in 2012, Pakistan's pacers and spinners have been tormenting England's batsmen in tests and orchestrating test wins in games Pakistan had no business winning.

Imran Khan and Mudassar Nazar did it in the 80s; Wasim-Waqar-Mushtaq did throughout the 90s; Shoaib Akhtar-Danish Kaneria-Saqlain Mushtaq did in the 2000s; and most recently Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman did it in the 2010s.

Given the way some of the Pakistan vs England tests have unraveled in the past, I am looking forward to witnessing Yasir Shah run through the England batting line up on the final afternoon of a test match while chasing a moderate target.

It has happened repeatedly against England and it may as well happen again.

Fazal Mahmood single handedly and successfully defended 168 at the Oval in 1954.

Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed combined to bowl England out for 243 after they were 168-1 on the final afternoon at Lord's in 1996 to win a match that was heading towards a draw.

Wasim Akram and Mushtaq Ahmed did something similar at the Oval in 1996, bowling England out for 242 after they had reached 136-1 to ensure that the game ends in a draw. 

Waqar Younis and Saqlain Mushtaq ran through England and bowled them out for 261, after they were 146-0, at Old Trafford in 2001 to win a match that was heading towards a draw.

Shoaib Akhtar and Danish Kaneria combined to bowl England out for 175, 22 runs short of a moderate target of 198, which should have been easily achieved, in Multan in 2005.

Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman crushed England, bowling them out for a mere 72 in Abu Dhabi in 2012. All England needed for a win was 145!

These are victories forever etched in the memories of Pakistan fans purely because of the way they were achieved. On the back of magical spells that struck on England like a bolt of lightning leaving them clueless about what hit them!

It is victories like this that make being a Pakistan fan so damn exciting!

I dont think Pakistan has scripted such test wins against other opposition, which is what makes a test series against England all the more exciting for me.

I can't wait for the test match to get underway tomorrow.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Cricket & Beyond - In Conversation with Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram

The inaugural Cricket & Beyond event was held in Dubai yesterday, 9th October, at the Rixos The Palm. The event featured two legendary cricketers - Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram. Cricket commentator and journalist Harsha Bhogle moderated the talk show.
The event lived up to the hype of its title - Cricket & Beyond. Harsha Bhogle took the entire crowd down memory lane by asking Sachin and Wasim about their memorable cricket performances, and then also went beyond and questioned both the legends about non-cricket related things.

The legendary cricketers were asked about their love for music. Sachin talked about Dire Straits and Gypsy Kings, while Wasim Akram talked about his love for Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Kishore Kumar. Wasim is a huge Bollywood and Pakistani music junkie and he claimed last night that he gets hold of songs well before the general public because he knows people in the right places!
Similarly, Sachin watches Bollywood movies before they are released to the public. Not only is he invited for private viewing by actors and producers, he also receives unreleased cuts of movies at home, where he enjoys them on his home-cinema system.
Harsha Bhogle revealed that Sachin used to be the first one in the Indian dressing room to own the latest gadgets to listen music on. And soon after, the entire squad used to have the same one. Such was his following!
Both legends also talked about their love for food. We found out last night that there is hardly a restaurant in Dubai that Wasim Akram has not been to. He loves steak and played an influential role in introducing steak, sushi, and other continental foods to Rogan Josh loving Pakistani cricketers.
Similarly, Sachin narrated a story about how he was once raving about Japanese food to some of his team mates and one of them spoke highly about the same cuisine. The next time Sachin and that cricketer, who remained unnamed, went to a Japanese restaurant together, Sachin was so amused to see the cricketer spread wasabi all over his bread!
Wasim was asked about his secret for remaining fit and how he coped with diabetes. Wasim spoke of sleeping early and waking up early, going for a run every morning, and eating healthy! Pretty much what everyone talks about regarding remaining fit.
But what was inspirational to hear was about Wasim's fight with diabetes. He was diagnosed at the age of 29 and played top tier cricket for another 8 years. His insulin injections were a permanent feature of his cricket kit bag, and while on the field he used to stock his chocolates and other sweets with umpires to fight against low sugar levels.
Harsha also told the crowd that Sachin used to be a big prankster in the dressing room and his shy and sober demeanor is a mere facade.
Sachin talked about this time when he and Sehwag were in the bathroom and another senior cricketer, whose name Sachin again did not reveal, was in one of the cabins. Knowing that this cricketer was there Sehwag started discussing how Sachin's adidas t-shirts, shorts, and jackets looked better on him than they did on any of the other Indian cricketers. Sachin told Sehwag that it was because adidas sent him special personalized items that they did not make for anyone else.
An hour or two later, Sachin got a call from an adidas representative asking him what he had told that other cricketer about his clothes from adidas because he called them and asked for the same stuff!
All the beyond talk was very interesting. But it didn't overshadow the cricket talk where both Wasim and Sachin spoke about their World Cup wins, their other memorable performances, Sachin's debut series against Pakistan in 1989, the secret behind their longevity, their influence on junior cricketers, losses that they regret, and wins that they cherish.
The most interesting question that both of them were asked came from social media: "If you had access to a time machine, which match from your career would you like to play again?"
When Harsha asked the question, my immediate thought was that Wasim would say the 1999 World Cup Final and Sachin would say the 2003 World Cup Final, so that they could play those games against and alter the result.
The answers were quite different.
Wasim Akram said the 1992 World Cup Final and Sachin said the 2003 World Cup game against Pakistan at Centurion.
Harsha was quite surprised by the answers as well and talked about how champions think differently from us normal folks. While we thought they may choose to play matches they had lost to alter results, both of them chose to relive their wins!
It was quite a night where we got to experience an interesting conversation between two legends of the game. It was also a great start to the Cricket & Beyond Series, which continues in New York next month. There are other shows planned as well for Melbourne and London where Sachin will be joined with legends like Shane Warne and Brian Lara.

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Tom Curran - Tipped for the top

Tom Curran has been named the Professional Cricketers’ Association’s young player of the year, in the same month that he was brought into the England Performance Programme squad. Curran was presented his award at the yearly gala, alongside Chris Rushworth who won the player of the year award.

The prestigious awards are given out annually to players who are considered the best in their category at county cricket level.

Year 2015 has been an incredible year for the 20-year-old. Alongside his younger brother Sam, the pair have formed a formidable partnership for Surrey, and were key members of the side than won Championship promotion, and got to the Royal London One-Day Cup final. Recently the brothers took 10 wickets in the first innings against Northamptonshire.

The PCA young player of the year has taken more than 70 County Championship wickets this season, including a notable two-seven wicket haul at Surrey’s home ground.

Curran is the son of genuine all-rounder Kevin Curran, who played regular county cricket for Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire, and internationally for Zimbabwe. He was also noted for passing 1000 runs in a season an impressive five times.

Like his father Curran also grew up in Africa and it was here that his talents were first spotted by Ian Greig. The former Surrey player, who now works in youth cricket, observed Curran while playing for his school side and recommended him to PG Academy Director Gareth Townsend.

Upon his arrival Townsend was quoted as saying, “Tom has the potential to be a very special player indeed and I am delighted he will be with the club for the next three years at least.”

Curran is a right armed batsman and is known for his fast bowling. Despite his South African roots he will be eligible for England call ups in October 2015, as he will have completed his required four years residency.

England fans will be eagerly making their bets and tracking their side’s success in the test match against Pakistan.  

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Cricket, or where you get to defeat the impossible

One hundred years of top-class records and unforgettable matches. Cricket has always been one of those sports that knew how to hit the headlines. Every single one of The Ashes episodes is responsible, in a way, to this sport’s tour de force. In the same time, various players made quite a name for themselves. All the more so to say that cricket is not just an ordinary sport on ESPN, Saturday night. It’s a living legend.

One hundred years and still counting.

I. Power is a quality. Mind power - a privilege.

Just before you jump to a conclusion, I must clarify something. All sorts of sports have the ability to generate adrenaline, to make teams unbreakable. They all know how to gather a group of thousands or, why not, millions of fans ready to support them, under the rainiest circumstances. But, in my opinion, cricket comprises a power that no other activity does. It engages your entire being.

A Test match cricket can be enjoyed over a 5-day period, in a short session perhaps, or in a rough encounter between a batsman and a bowler. It can go down in a couple of seconds too. Yes, in cricket you can invest it all in a second to none second.

The Nobel-prize winner, Harold Pinter, described cricket as being extremely dramatic. Batsmen view that ball as the biggest threat or the rarest joy in life. Players’ wits are squeezed to their last droplet in order to test their patience. Only chess and golf challenge your concentration as harder as cricket does.

II. Being taken by surprise is no surprise at all.

Players need to be athletic material. Reflexes ought to be polished regularly. Elegance is a prerequisite. Cricket is a game where the rational decisions are somehow fighting against the body’s willingness to rebel.

At this year’s Ashes tournament, England was the one that sang victory in a 5-match series where they won with 3-2. 169 runs during the First Test. Joe Root made that match worth it. But who knows what will happen in 2017? Rain poked its nose into the 2015 series, causing delays and postponing in playing, but for 2017 gambling guides such as Betoclock say that there are more chances for Australia to win, and less for England.

III. You set your own deadlines. And records.

Cricket is a sport made for the individual, not for the team. It highlights the persons’ smarts and talent, bringing it the forward, in the spotlight. And there is no end: individuals are allowed to keep the balls flying till they’re in their 40s or even 60s. For example, in the ICC World Cup 2015, there were exactly 17 players aged over 35, and three of them were above the age of 40. Age can be a blessing in this kind of world.

Now, if I couldn’t argue you into the values of cricket, then these batsmen will. Jacques Kallis, Sachin Tendulkar, Chris Gayle, Adam Gilchrist.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Are Butt, Aamer, and Asif really worth it?

Five years have passed since Pakistan cricket was rocked by the worst scandal ever in its history -then Test captain Salman Butt and Pakistan's two premier fast bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were accused of spot fixing.

It seems like yesterday when they were handed 5-year bans from the game and jail terms for their role in spot fixing during the summer of 2010. There is some irony in the fact that they are once again eligible to play international cricket when Pakistan is gearing up for a series against England, the same opposition they played against last.

Noise has already been made by all three players about resurrecting their international careers.

Aamer's return is most likely considering that his return-path was paved for him 6 months ago when the ICC allowed him to return to domestic cricket, enabling him to play some competitive cricket before making a fully fledged international return. For Butt and Asif, it will be harder. They haven't played any competitive cricket for 5 years and both players are not as young as Aamer, who at 23 has a full career ahead of him.

I would place my money on them returning. Would be interesting to see what the odds are on betting sites regarding the return of these three cricketers.

Whether they will return to the Pakistan team or not is all together another question. Should they return is the more pertinent question really.

It seems a little unfair that Butt, Aamer, and Asif are now allowed to play international cricket again after disgracing their country and the sport on the international stage, while a player like Danish Kaneria is banned for life for coercing a domestic cricketer to accept money for fixing in a domestic game. What this means is that wrong doing in international cricket can be forgiven, while the same in domestic cricket cannot be? That is a bit perplexing for me.

And what about all the players who have represented Pakistan during the past 5 years with integrity and success? Is it fair for Aamer and Asif to come back into the team at the expense of Junaid Khan, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Imran Khan, or Rahat Ali? Is it fair for Salman Butt to make a return at the expense of Ahmed Shehzad, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, Mukhtar Ahmed, Nauman Anwar, Sami Aslam, or Babar Azam? Definitely not.

These are arguments based on moral grounds.

Here's a look at how these three faired in the three formats before their bans, and whether their return is warranted on a statistical basis or not.

The records that stand out are Salman Butt and Mohammad Aamer in ODIs, and Mohammad Asif in Tests. In T20Is, all three had below par figures. While in tests Butt and Aamer were just about average, and likewise for Asif in ODIs.

I can probably shed more light on these three after comparing their figures with those of the players who replaced them in the past 5 years.

In test matches, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, and Taufeeq Umar have all performed far better than Salman Butt ever did in his career. Even Shan Masood, who is just finding his feet in test cricket, seems like a better test opener than Salman Butt. 

Azhar Ali and Sarfraz Ahmed have been a revelation at the top for Pakistan, and have performed better than most openers. Even Shehzad has a solid record that is comparable to Salman Butt's. 

Salman Butt was never an opener in the T20 mould and Pakistan have far better batsmen to do that job. Shehzad and Mukhtar have both performed better than Butt did, while all the batsmen in the table above, barring Nasir Jamshed, have a better T20 strike rate than Butt's.

It is quite clear from all this that Salman Butt has no place in Pakistan's international team for any format.

On the bowling front, however, the story is a bit different. 

In tests, there has been no fast bowler for Pakistan who has performed as well as Asif. Not even one who has done so as well as Aamer either, besides Tanvir Ahmed who appeared for a short time and then fell out of favor for reasons best known to selectors. In fact, besides Tanvir, only Imran Khan averages under 30 among the pacers that have played for Pakistan in the past 5 years since Aamer and Asif got banned. 

While there have been several bowlers for Pakistan who have done far better than Asif in ODIs; such as Sohail Khan, Rahat Ali, Aizaz Cheema, Mohammad Irfan, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, and Junaid Khan; there has been not a single one who has performed at the level of Mohammad Aamer.

Pakistan's pace bowling has definitely not been the same during the absence of Aamer and Asif, who together created arguably the best attacking pair Pakistan has had since Wasim and Waqar. It is unfortunate that they played together for less than a year and that their best years were taken away from them due to their own grave mistakes.

Once can only sit and wonder what could have been had these two not succumbed to greed and had continued to share the new ball for Pakistan over the past 5 years.

While statistically there is no argument about whether Aamer and Asif should return to Pakistan's colors; however on moral ground there is still plenty of debate.

On Salman Butt however, there should be no debate. Pakistan has far better resources at the moment to go back to a dead weight like Butt.

Butt might have served his 5-year ban from cricket and his jail term, but the damage he has done to Pakistan cricket deserves more punishment in my opinion. He was the captain of the team when all this drama ensued. That only means that he needs to accept more responsibility than both Aamer and Asif who were in a way coerced by Butt to bowl those no balls. Butt was in control of the bowers on the field. He was the sole decision maker regarding who to throw the ball to. He was the one who ensured that Aamer and Asif bowled those particular overs and the no balls on those specific deliveries. The control was all in Butt's hands. He was critical to the whole spotfix. Without him, it would not have been possible.

Just this fact that it was Butt who enable the whole fix should ensure that he never plays for Pakistan again. Ban or no ban, Salman Butt should never be allowed to don the Pakistan cap.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

2015 Cricket Betting Tips From Jon Price

Jon Price one of the worlds most renowned sports bettors has tipped his hat to let the minority of Cricket Bettors that he has his eye on the popular Indian sport. With over 1 million bettors vying to make money off of cricket it is hard to distinguish and to turn a big profit because certain sportsbooks limit the amount you can wager on a cricket matchup.

Some online sportsbooks based in the United Kingdom only allow wagers up to 10,000 Pounds and some whales like to wager a lot more than that to ensure their success. Some of the different options that you can wager on are the following:

Who is going to win the match. For example the Birmingham Bears playing the Essex Eagles will have different payouts based on who wins the matchup. There is also a chance to do proposition bets like Who will be the Man of the match and the top scorer also labeled at most offshore sportsbooks as the Top Batsman. We like to bet on the Top Bowler which is also known as the bowler who takes the most wickets in any given match. 

The more difficult wagers that tend to get bettors in trouble are the next batsman out and the leading wicket taker. The coin flip is similar to the proposition bets on the Super Bowl for Football as well as who will bat first and the next batsman to strike out.  

 is one of the most popular books where people place wagers at for Cricket. 

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