Tuesday, January 29, 2019

What do you look for when buying a Cricket Bat?

Cricketers across the world have a tough choice to make when choosing cricket bats resulting in various questions being asked before they make a purchase that could be the difference between a good and bad season. Which bat do I go for? Do grains make a difference? Which brand is the best? What is a sweet spot? Many of these questions run through a cricketer’s head before they make a decision – some think about these more than others.

The revolution of cricket bats came with the experimentation of the distribution of weight, spearheaded by iconic bat-makers Gray Nicolls and John Newbury. This distribution ensured the cricket bat had a ‘sweet spot’, where the middle to lower half of the bat was dense, enabling more power to the blade resulting in the traditional cricket bat shape which is known all over the world.

Each cricket bat brand have their unique story. Gray Nicolls for example, have been at the forefront of bat-making since their formation in the 1940s, resulting in iconic blades such as the Gray Nicolls Legend, the Gray Nicolls Powerspot and the Gray Nicolls Scoop – endorsed and used by legends in the game such as Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, David Gower, Michael Atherton and many more. More recently, Gray Nicolls have added innovative touches to their bat ranges, offering a variety of modern day options whilst holding the traditionalist outlook to their brand. For 2019, Gray Nicolls have launched the Gray Nicolls Supernova, Gray Nicolls Powerbow 6X, Gray Nicolls Shockwave and carried forward their established Gray Nicolls Classic collection.

Bat-making started a little later for Kookaburra with the brand diversifying from cricket ball manufacturing into bat-making in the mid 1980s. The Kookaburra brand grew into one of the household names in cricket with the help of over 27000 runs for the Australian national team by none other than Ricky Ponting. Entering its 17th year, Ponting’s endorsement of the Kookaburra Kahuna range will have undoubtedly played a huge part in the Kahuna being the most recognizable blade of the Kookaburra bat range. For 2019, Kookaburra have launched the Kookaburra Ghost, Kookaburra Nickel, Kookaburra Rampage, Kookaburra Glare, Kookaburra Charge and carried forward their established Kookaburra Kahuna collection.

New Balance has bulldozed its way to the forefront of the cricket bat market with the help of endorsements from some of the world’s best batsmen such as Joe Root, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith – to name a few. Although still embryonic in comparison to larger brands like Gray Nicolls and GM, New Balance has produced high quality cricket bats coupled with aesthetically pleasing visuals, aiding its meteoric rise. Entering the bat market in 2012, their roster of established international cricketers is huge, often resulting with these players having huge impacts in high profile cricket matches, ensuring people take notice. Since its introduction to bat-making, New Balance has launched the TC and DC ranges with the introduction of the Burn range in the 2018 season.

With over 130 years of bat-making experience, Gunn & Moore hand craft their bats in Nottingham, England. Having mastered the craft of bat-making, GM have been endorsed by some of the greats of the game including Michael Vaughan, Marcus Trescothick and the recent acquisition of England’s powerful All Rounder Ben Stokes adds to a long list of international cricketers. The unquestionable credibility of GM Willow has resulted in the brand becoming one of the leading bat-makers in the world. For the 2019 season, Gunn & Moore have launched the GM Diamond, GM Zelos, GM Neon, GM Haze, GM Mythos and the GM Noir.

Selecting a cricket bat can be a tough choice to make but a decision every cricketer needs to make. After all, not every player has to bowl, but every player has to bat. Pondering over myths about cricket bats have forever been prominent in cricket retailers around the world. Although widely used in the cricket retail world, relentless bat tapping and ball tapping are not always the way forward when selecting your willow.

Differing from bat to bat, the grains on a cricket bat are usually a respectable indicator on the quality of willow you are purchasing. Usually, cricket bats between 6 and 12 grains are a good measure of willow performance. However, the amount of grains can affect performance. For example, a bat with 6 grains is likely to be softer than a bat with 12 grains resulting in it needing to be used for large periods of time to reach peak performance. Whereas a bat with 12 grains will need knocking in for a short period of time and will reach peak performance quicker, the lifespan of these bats tend to be shorter.

Universally, there are 5 grades which cricket bats can be segmented into with Grade 1 being the highest (as used by professionals) and Grade 5 being the lowest. As expected, the cost of a Grade 1 bat will be considerably higher than the cost of a Grade 5. The visual appearance of the blade will also need to be taken into account with straight and even grains on the high end blades with minimal marking/coloration on the high end cricket bats.

The Profile on a cricket bat often indicates where the sweet spot is located. This is where most of the wood in a blade is located so when opting for a new willow, it’s crucially important the sweet spot is in the place which suits your style of play as well as the pitches you play on. For example, if you’re playing on slow, low pitches, it would be helpful you have a cricket bat with a low sweetspot whereas bouncier pitches would suit a high sweetspot.

Ensuring that the ‘pick up’ of the bat is right for you is equally as important as any of the above. Testing the bat in your actual stance playing an array of shots is what is commonly used by professional cricketers to help them gauge whether the bat is right for them. After all, if the pick up of the bat feels too heavy and is going to hamper your chances of getting your hands through the ball quickly and efficiently, then this may not be the bat for you.

In summary, there’s lots to think about when purchasing your cricket bat. After all, large amounts of money can be spent in selection so it’s important that you have peace of mind that the money you’re paying on the blade is not only justifiable, but well spent.


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Monday, January 28, 2019

Imam Ul Haq - a Young but Promising Career ...

For as long as Inzamam Ul Haq remains PCB's Chief Selector, poor Imam Ul Haq will have to bear the brunt of judgement calls and nepotism remarks.

Such is our nation, that no matter how good someone performs, they will for some reason always feel he is in the team because of his legendary uncle who is the Chief Selector.

I really never understood why so many people feel this way.

Inzamam was appointed Chief Selector in April 2016. That was probably the most ideal time to select Imam Ul Haq considering he had just completed the best domestic season of his career, which included a career best first class double century.

In fact, during one of the press conferences, soon after becoming Chief Selector, Inzamam was asked by a reporter why he had not selected Imam considering Imam was the the best performing opener in the domestic circuit.

Inzamam's response was "Imam had not done enough to be considered yet".

The first time Imam was selected in Pakistan's squad was for the ODI series against Sri Lanka in October 2017 - a good 18 months after Inzamam had been Chief Selector.

The first time he was selected for the Test team was in May 2018 - a whole two years after Inzamam had been Chief Selector.

Nepotism? I don't think so.

In both cases, it was pure performance.

Imam made it into the ODI squad after two solid domestic seasons and responded with a debut ODI century in a successful chase against Sri Lanka.

He became only the second Pakistani, and 13th overall, to score a century on ODI debut.

On his test debut, against Ireland, his composed unbeaten 74 ensured Pakistan a victory after they had been precariously left reeling at 14-3 in pursuit of 160.

For all those who thought that Inzamam used his influence as Chief Selector to select Imam, why were these two sterling debut performances not enough to justify his selection?

The remarks from the critics continued, despite Imam piling on the runs, especially in ODI cricket.

Following his debut ton, Imam knocked three more in the ODI series against Zimbabwe. Sure it was Zimbabwe, but even then it takes plenty of work to be this consistent and focused.

Before the start of the ODI series against South Africa, Imam was averaging 60+ in ODIs, and yet there were calls about how he should be replaced and that he was in the team only because of his uncle.

A 60+ ODI average damn it. How many other ODI batsmen have that?

NONE.

4 ODIs into the series against South Africa and Imam still averages 63.6 following scores of 86, 5, 101, and 71.

That average of 63.6 is the highest average among all batsmen that have scored at least 1,000 ODI runs (for countries with permanent ODI status).


In a career that is very young, that is a great average. What is even greater about it is that in matches that Pakistan wins, Imam's average is a staggering 84.5!

4 of his 5 ODI hundreds and 4 of his 5 ODI fifties have all come in wins, demonstrating his contribution to Pakistan's ODI wins.

The only ODI century that did not lead to a Pakistan win was last week against South Africa. Who knows what the result may have been had rain not played spoilsport.

During the course of that century, Imam brought up his 1,000th ODI run, getting there in only his 19th ODI innings and becoming the second fastest to that mark, behind only his opening partner - Fakhar Zaman.


In his young ODI career, Imam has fast become the most dependable batsman in the line up, after Babar Azam. As an opener, he is more reliable than the country's poster child - Fakhar Zaman.

Sure, Imam's test career has not taken off the same way as his ODI career has, but that is no reason to continue making snide remarks against his position in the Pakistan team.

Even Babar Azam took his time to settle down in whites.

Even the world's greatest batsman took a while to establish himself as a test batsman - Virat Kohli averaged under 30 till his 8th test, and he did not consistently average above 40 till his 15th test. The first time it went above 50 was in his 52nd test!

In tests, it will take time, but in ODIs there is absolutely no doubt that Imam deserves his position as an opener irrespective of who his uncle is.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Pakistan Surprised Everyone with a Strong Chase

Pakistan have now played 4 ODIs at Port Elizabeth and haven't lost even one!

That is quite a record for them in a place like South Africa.

No one really expected Pakistan to win the first ODI. I mean our ODI team is worse than our test team, and with the way the test team was wiped out, it was really difficult to expect the ODI team to win anything.

If you took a look at the best betting exchanges, no one would have placed their money on Pakistan.

For starters, I felt Pakistan played the wrong XI.

I had wanted Shan Masood, Mohammad Amir, and Shaheen Afridi to be in the starting XI.

Leading up to the match a lot of people had said that they wanted Shan Masood to replace Imam Ul Haq at the top of the order.

That is not what I wanted.

Imam averages 60+ in ODIs and you can't drop someone who has scored 4 centuries and 3 fifties in ODIs because of his failures in test cricket. Imam deserved his spot in the team and he also showed everyone why he should be Pakistan's first choice opener in ODIs.

After this innings in the first ODI, Imam averages 64.6 and has scored 4 hundreds and 4 fifties in 17 innings!

What I had actually wanted was for Pakistan to go in with a top 6 comprising Fakhar, Imam, Shan, Babar, Hafeez, and Malik.

I feel Sarfraz at 6 is one position too high. He is not the batsman you want coming in at 50-4, which is something that happens to Pakistan quite often.

I know that means playing a bowler short but Hafeez, Malik, and Fakhar should be able to provide 10 overs among them. Moreover in a place like South Africa, and England (during the WC later in the year), even Shan Masood can turn his arm over for a few overs.

With the above mentioned top 6, followed by Sarfraz, Shadab, Faheem and any two pacers out of Amir, Hasan, Shaheen, Usman is a solid line up in my opinion.

The fact that Pakistan won the first ODI with what was arguably not their best XI is quite heartening.

The bowlers did a tremendous job restricting South Africa to only 266. They looked set for a 300 plus total but never really accelerated. It was a really odd scoreline seeing 266-2 on the board.

Despite that, no one really thought Pakistan could chase 266.

But Imam and Fakhar had different thoughts.

They gave Pakistan a solid start and when Fakhar departed after a quick 25, Babar Azam took over like he does every time he bats in colored clothing.

Imam held the innings together with a 45 run opening partnership, 94-run partnership with Babar, and a 46-run partnership with Hafeez.

Imam has scored 4 ODI centuries, but this 86 was his best ODI innings in my opinion.

After Imam left, it was all about Mohammad Hafeez. He was just sublime.

Dale Steyn missing from the line up probably helped, but after beginning slowly, Hafeez just owned the game and never made it feel like Pakistan will not get there.

It was great to see Pakistan win something on this tour after the embarrassing test losses, and it was heartening to see Pakistan win against a top team in ODIs, a format in which they have struggled heavily in recent times.

With 2019 being the World Cup year, it is a fantastic start for Pakistan's ODI team. 

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The Epic Junooni Experience

Around the middle of 2018, a friend working in the Dubai events industry asked me if I would be interested in a Junoon Reunion Concert in Dubai.

Hell Yeah I would be!

He then asked me to do some quick research on whatsapp by asking my friends the same question and also figuring out the price range they would be willing to pay to watch Junoon again.

Majority answered YES! Many said they would fly down from Karachi if this were to happen. Some said that it will never happen. Junoon will never reunite.

That was the first time I heard about Junoon possibly coming back together after 15 years to do a reunion tour.

Excitement and anticipation had kicked off right then!

Stories started coming out of Pakistan that Junoon was definitely coming back together.

Peak Freans Sooper were doing something with them.
Pepsi was planning something with them.
A concert in Karachi was in the works.

Then around October, Oberoi Middle East Events announced that Junoon will be performing at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on 18th January 2019!!!

Tickets to go on sale 26th November 2018!!!

Excitement had gone through the roof.

Within minutes of the announcement, whatsapp groups were buzzing with anticipation and soon I had a list of 20 people for whom I would be buying tickets for on 26th November.

Leading up to the concert, there were a lot of mixed reactions.

Some said it will be memorable and nostalgic. Many could not wait for the day to come. Some were skeptical at Junoon's potential to perform. Some felt Ali Azmat had lost his vocal chords. Some doubted their ability to perform together.

For me and most of my friends, the excitement was at its peak. We could not wait to be at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium on 18th January.

I was there at the same venue in 2005 when they performed here for the "last time".

14 years later - I was back again!

And it was an absolutely EPIC 2.5 hours with Junoon!!! Ali Azmat still had it, Salman and Brian still had it, Junoon still had it! They completely killed it and left a 6,300 strong crowd totally overwhelmed.


The concert, the performance, the music, the crowd, the atmosphere, the experience was just phenomenal!

After 15 years, Junoon still had it in them to bring the house down. Through the night, they had 6,300 people up on their feet, singing, dancing, and feeling Junooni. It was a truly epic performance that transported each one of us back into the 90s and made us relive old memories.

Never before have I seen a crowd so IN SYNC at a concert. Each one of the 6,300 people came out with all their Junoon! Full of energy, full of passion, a Pakistan-flag-waving-true-Junooni crowd!


I felt it was one of the best crowds I have ever seen at a concert. Several friends said that this 6,000+ crowd had more energy than the 15-20,000 crowds they have seen at many other concerts.

Junoon were fantastic! Their music, their coordination, their energy was simply awesome. They rocked the night and left an incredible after taste.

It has been 3 days since the concert and I am still thinking about it and watching concert videos over and over again. A number of my friends, since this memorable Friday night, have been constantly listening to Junoon on Youtube, in their car, in the office, at home, wherever they go.


I don't think I have ever felt like this after any concert.

Here is a list of some moments, in no particular order, that made this concert so special for me and I am sure for everyone else too!

KHWAB UNDER THE STARS
Salman Ahmed's cue on the guitar was enough to get everyone in the mood to dream. Before Ali Azmat even sang the first words, there were 6,000 mobile phones up in the air with lit torches! It was a magical sight.

This is what I mean by the crowd being IN SYNC. Even Ali Azmat let out a "wow".


HEADBANGING TO YAAR BINA DIL MERA
This not only brought Ali Azmat, Salman Ahmed, and Brian O'Connell together singing into 1 mic, it also brought the 6,300 people together singing along and headbanging to the music of Pakistan's biggest rockstars.


GOOSEBUMPS WITH SAAEIN
One of my favorites, this one had the crowd hypnotized to another level. This particular part just brought out the goosebumps.


THE DOSTI ANTHEM
In my lifetime, there have only been two songs that became the anthems for friendship - Yeh Dosti from Sholay and Yaaron Yahi Dosti Hai by Junoon.

The best part about this was that I was there with my oldest and closest friend who I have known for 25 years, and with whom I have attended 4 Junoon concerts in the past two decades -  this one being the 4th!


THE CROWD'S JAZBA E JUNOON
Like friendship, Pakistan's rockstars have also created cricket anthems, and similarly only two songs have gone on to become the cricket anthems of the nation - Vital Signs' Dil Dil Pakistan and Junoon's Jazba-e-Junoon.

You might be tired of hearing about how IN SYNC the crowd was, but I really can't get over it. Every single one of the 6,300 people there was completely immersed into the atmosphere and sang this one louder than Junoon themselves.


PAK SAR ZAMEEN
The only other place I have seen such patriotism from Pakistanis in a foreign land is at a cricket ground. This was simply awesome.

The Dubai crowd, which not only comprised residents but visitors from all over the GCC, Pakistan, UK, USA, Australia, Singapore, and I'm sure some other places too, was just fantastic.


PAKISTAN ZINDABAD
The concert ended, but the after effects remained as the crowd broke into a Pakistan Zindabad chant. Once again, IN SYNC !


Junoon left an everlasting impression, which will be difficult to get over.

I guess by the time we are just about to move on from this epic night, it will be February 14th, and Junoon will be back in Dubai to perform at the PSL Opening Ceremony at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

This Junoon hangover may never end and I won't really mind that!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Azhar Ali & Asad Shafiq have been Epic Failures

When Pakistan's greatest test batsman, Younis Khan, and most capped test captain, Misbah Ul Haq, retired in May 2017, we all thought; rather we all knew that Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq were ready to take over the role of Pakistan's leading test batsmen.

Till that time, Azhar and Asad had played all their test cricket in a batting line up that was built around the backbone of Younis and Misbah.

Azhar made the number 3 position his own and even excelled as an opener; while Asad always provided solid support at number 6.

Both of them excelled in their respective roles.

So much so, that Azhar was Pakistan's leading run scorer in tests during the period between July 2010, when he made his debut, and May 2017, when Younis and Misbah called time on their careers.

During this period, Azhar was also the 5th highest run scorer in tests, with only Alastair Cook, David Warner, Steve Smith, and Kane Williamson ahead of him. He scored more than the likes of Younis, Sangakkara, Kohli, Amla, and Root during these 8 years!

Azhar truly excelled as an opener during this time, scoring a triple hundred, as well as a double hundred at the MCG! His average of 55 as an opener during this period (2010-17) was the highest among all batsmen who opened in at least 10 test innings.

Asad, on the other hand, made number 6 popular again. During these 8 years, he became the most successful test number 6 ever scoring more runs at that position than anyone (barring Steve Waugh) in the history of the game.

He also created the record of scoring the most test centuries from number 6, breaking a record held by Sir Gary Sobers!

Azhar and Asad were more than ready to take charge of Pakistan's test batting when Younis and Misbah bid adieu to the game.

12 tests in since the retirement of the two legends, and I have come to realize that Azhar and Asad will never be the test batting greats that they could have been!

They have been epic disappointments for Pakistan's test team and I solely blame them for the rut that Pakistan's test team has been for the past 18 months or so.

When Javed Miandad and Saleem Malik moved on in the 90s, they passed on the torch to the likes of Inzamam Ul Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, and Younis Khan. When Inzi and MoYo moved on, Misbah Ul Haq joined Younis Khan to take Pakistan's batting forward. Azhar and Asad should have done the same.

They were ready and had been groomed; however they have been major failures, which has resulted in embarrassing test losses for Pakistan.

To put things in perspective, take a look at the difference in their performance in the two periods.


The dip in Azhar's performance is alarming. Asad's performance has not decreased as significantly as Azhar's, but when we look at his performances in context of the matches, you will realize how he has been a big reason for Pakistan's failures.

Here's a look at what Azhar and Asad did in the 12 tests that Pakistan have played since Younis and Misbah retired.

PAKISTAN vs SRI LANKA - 2 TESTS IN UAE

Pakistan's first assignment in the new era was a two test series against Sri Lanka in the UAE, a fortress for Pakistan where they did not lose a single test series in 7 years under Misbah. In those 7 years, Pakistan lost only 4 tests in the UAE.

Sri Lanka, severely depleted themselves since Sangakkara and Jayawardene retired, completely blanked Pakistan in both the tests resulting in Pakistan losing their first ever test series in the UAE since it became their official home.

The loss hurt, but the manner of the loss hurt even more.

Pakistan lost the first test by 21 runs when they failed to chase a target of 136. Azhar went for a second ball duck and Asad managed only 20.

Pakistan lost the second test by 68 runs. In the first innings, Azhar failed to build on his 59 and Shafiq went for 12 as Pakistan conceded a huge lead. In the second innings, Pakistan were chasing an improbable 317 but Asad Shafiq could not close the game despite scoring 112.


PAKISTAN vs IRELAND - 1 TEST AWAY

Pakistan just scraped through to a 5 wicket win thanks to Imam Ul Haq and Babar Azam. Chasing 160, Pakistan were reeling at 14-3 and looking at an embarrassing loss to test first timers. Azhar's 2 and Asad's 1 contributed to the 14-3 situation. 


PAKISTAN vs ENGLAND - 2 TESTS AWAY

Pakistan's test win at Lord's was probably the biggest shock of 2018. The test showed the importance of Azhar and Asad to Pakistan's test team as their innings of 50 and 59 respectively helped Pakistan take a first innings lead resulting in a victory scripted by Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Aamer, and Hasan Ali.

In the next test however, Pakistan succumbed to an innings defeat. Azhar and Asad contributed 2 & 11 and 27 & 5 respectively.



PAKISTAN vs AUSTRALIA - 2 TEST IN UAE

Asad had a decent series with scores of 80, 41, 0 and 44. Those scores show that he has the ability but they also show his lack of concentration, focus, and motivation to build on a laid platform.

Azhar, on the other hand, continued to disappoint, with scores of 18, 4, 15, and 64.

While Pakistan won the series 1-0, it could have very easily been 1-0 to Australia had Fakhar and Sarfraz not saved them from 57-5 in the first innings of the second test. That scoreline of 57-5 was 57-1 at one stage before Lyon wrecked havoc with 4 wickets in 6 deliveries including Azhar (15) and Asad (0).


PAKISTAN vs NEW ZEALAND - 3 TESTS IN UAE

Azhar and Asad continued to disappoint against New Zealand as their failure resulted in Pakistan losing the first test of the series by a mere 4 runs.

They failed to capitalize on their platform in the first innings falling for 22 and 43 respectively; and then miserably failed in the second innings as Pakistan failed to chase a target of 176. Asad fell for 45 while Azhar was last man out for 65 unable to score 5 more runs required for a win.

Pakistan won the second test quite comfortably and Azhar added 81 to an innings dominated by Haris Sohail and Babar Azam. Asad could only manage 12 runs in Pakistan's solitary innings.

The third test of the series, and 10th test since the retirement of Younis and Misbah, finally showed the world what everyone had been waiting for.

Azhar and Asad came together at 85-3 and put on a 200 run partnership for the 4th wicket. Both knocked centuries with Azhar scoring 134 and Asad 104. Had they finally arrived as the batting leaders they were supposed to be?

Their partnership helped Pakistan secure a first innings lead and a possible series win.

But that was not meant to be, as Pakistan's batsmen failed to survive two sessions on the final day and crumbled for 156 in a match that could have very easily been drawn had they just batted the day out.

At a time when Azhar and Asad just needed to put on a rearguard they disappointed in epic proportions falling for 4 and a first ball duck respectively.


PAKISTAN vs SOUTH AFRICA - 2 TESTS AWAY

The end of 2018 and beginning of 2019 brought the toughest test yet for Pakistan's batsmen. No one expected much of them on this ongoing tour, but one at least expected some sort of fight.

In the first test, Pakistan managed only 181 with Azhar and Asad contributing 36 and 7 respectively.

Pakistan's bowlers did really well to restrict South Africa's lead to just 40 odd runs and then Imam Ul Haq and Shan Masood played beautifully to wipe out that lead and take Pakistan to 100-1 at Tea on Day 2.

A lead of 58 runs, 9 wickets in hand, and a fantastic chance to pile on the pressure on South Africa and bat them out of the game.

The stage was set for Pakistan's leading batsmen to capitalize on a brilliant platform set up by Imam and Shan.

Azhar walked out to bat with Imam falling right after tea and Pakistan's score at 101-2. Azhar lasted only 3 deliveries. Pakistan 101-3. Asad walked out and back to the pavilion soon too leaving Pakistan on 134-4.

Their failures, yet again, resulted in Pakistan setting a target of 149. Game over.

Similar failures continued in the second test as Azhar and Asad fell for 2 and 20 respectively in the first innings. When Pakistan batted again, they were facing a deficit of 254 and a likely innings loss. Azhar failed again scoring only 6, and Asad just delayed the inevitable with a meaningless knock of 88.

I say meaningless, because I am amazed at how many irrelevant runs Asad has scored. A century while chasing 500 to win a test, a century when the top order has already piled on 250+, an 88 that takes you no where.

There was a stage when Pakistan were 190-3 with Asad and Babar Azam at the crease. The deficit was 60 odd, Asad was in his 80s and Babar was knocking it well and had raced to 30 odd. That was the time when a batting maestro like Younis or Misbah, or even an Inzi or MoYo, would have grasped the opportunity, scored a big test hundred, and given Pakistan an outside chance of a win with a target of 150+.

What does Asad do? Throw it all away like always!

It is just sad that Azhar and Asad have not been able to become the batsmen that they should have. They will always remain average test batsmen who could not take the next step and evolve into true batting greats.

They have had all the chances in the world. They have had the best grooming possible by sharing a dressing room with Younis and Misbah for 7 years and by batting with them in the middle for 7 years in over 50 tests.

There could not have been a better way to master test batting.

And there could not have been a better time for Azhar and Asad to stand up and be counted among the batting greats of this era.

Unfortunately that will never happen now.

What epic failures these two have been.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Simon Taufel Reminisces about the past and talks about umpiring

"The best way I can describe it is that umpiring chose me. I didn't choose it."

- Simon Taufel, renowned former international cricket umpire and former member of ICC's elite panel of umpires.

Having spent over a decade as an ICC umpire, Simon Taufel is now semi-retired and recently spoke to Betway, over Skype from Australia, about his career, what he is up to currently, and how he feels umpiring has changed and can be improved going forward.

Taufel stood in 74 tests, 174 ODIs and 34 T20Is resulting in the best part of his life spent on the road. This trip to Australia however, is for pleasure as he is there to watch is daughter compete in an Under 12s regional tournament.

“When I pulled the pin on my international career," he says, "I sort of thought that I'd lost a lot of my two boys growing up, and I didn't want to lose my daughter."

Taufel was just 29 when he umpired his first Test in December 2000 between the West Indies and Australia.

He estimates that, for each of his 13-and-a-half years as an umpire, he spent an average of between 60 and 70 days officiating, and another three days away for every one that he was on the field. That is about 180-210 days a year!

That is a total of over five years spent away from family.

"It's not easy and it's not for everyone," he admits.

Taufel was only looking for some "handy pocket money" when he took up a friend's invitation to enroll in an umpire's course before starting university in June 1990.

His friend, Dave, failed to achieve the 85% required to pass, but Taufel, managed it.

"If anything, I was always probably a little guilty of over-preparing," he says. "I'm a bit of a checklist freak."

By the time Taufel reached International level, he was reviewing and summarizing six different laws every day to refresh his memory of the cricket rule book. He studied bowlers and batsmen, he reviewed previous series, and he attended net sessions to watch teams train.

He also prepared for contingency by reading up on local airports and alternative hotels in case of emergencies.

All this was before the cricket had even started!

"I think I probably went further than most, simply because I wouldn't describe myself as a natural umpire," he says.

"I had to work harder at my game to feel that I was ready and that I deserved to have a good day out there, rather than just turn up and it be OK."

Such dedication saw Taufel win the ICC David Shepherd Umpire of the Year award for the first five years since the award's inception, though he's since given all but one of the trophies to people that supported him along the way.

"I did feel embarrassed and uncomfortable with those awards," he says, "because umpiring is a team sport and we were singling out one person."

Talking to Taufel, the importance of teamwork between umpires is a recurring theme.










































After retiring from umpiring in 2012, he moved to the head office to work as the ICC Umpire Performance and Training Manager, where he supervised the development and implementation of additional resources to support umpires on the field and in the television booth, including the deployment of umpire coaches to all international matches.

“If I did my career again, I would probably want to talk more about my mistakes," he says.

"To share my shortcomings more with my colleagues after a day's play, rather than keep them to myself and have to deal with them on your own in your hotel room."

One would think that DRS would have helped ease the burden on umpires but Taufel, who experienced only 4 years, out of his 13.5 year career, with technology thinks otherwise.

“I don't think DRS has necessarily made umpiring easier or more difficult," he says. "It's just made it different."

“Pre-DRS, you'd deal with the error later. With DRS, you've got to deal with it at the time.You hear your decision dissected in your ear piece, in front of millions of people, and then, after 90 seconds, two minutes, you have to publicly change your decision and somehow regather your thoughts. You can feel a bit embarrassed and humiliated. It's really tough to move on and focus on that next delivery.”

As was made clear in March this year, when Australian batsman Cameron Bancroft was caught using sandpaper to alter the condition of the ball in a Test match in South Africa, technology has become increasingly important not only in aiding decision-making, but also in helping to manage player behaviour.

"The third umpire, quite easily, has got the toughest job out of the whole umpiring team," explains Taufel.

"Their job is to watch the TV as their primary focus. There should be nothing that goes out to people in their lounge rooms that is missed by the third umpire.”

But, the sandpaper gate, which led to Bancroft, his captain Steve Smith and vice-captain David Warner all being banned, proved that this is not always possible.

"I think it's fair to say that nobody would have expected what happened in Cape Town to unfold before our eyes as it did. As much as you try to simulate different scenarios in a training environment, sometimes there are things that you just think: 'Wow, is this really happening?'"

Taufel was working for Cricket Australia, in charge of umpire selection and match referee management, at the time, and has sympathy for officials that are put in that position.

"The game of cricket is now more commercialised. It's a different type of animal at Test and international level. There are a lot of people who push the envelope to try to get the result to go their own way. I've got no problem with players playing the game hard, no problem at all," says Taufel.

Not many know that Taufel also played some cricket before he went on to become an umpire. He captained his first team at secondary school before going on to play for New South Wales Schoolboys Under-19s alongside Adam Gilchrist and Michael Slater.

He laughs “I played the game pretty hard. I appealed for just about everything I could. I don't think I ever got into trouble with the umpires, but I do remember getting a bit of a bollocking from my coach for swearing on the field. For me, behaviour is a captain, a coach and a team issue. At the moment, people seem to abrogate that responsibility of managing player behaviour through code of conduct or umpires.”

Yet Taufel, who remains the only umpire to have ever been invited to give the MCC Spirit of Cricket Cowdrey lecture, believes that the episode can serve as a turning point for the game as a whole.

“I hold the spirit of cricket close to my heart. Results come and go, but who we are and how we play really defines us. We are guardians of the game of cricket. We have to leave it in good shape for the next generation. The only way that we can do that is through adherence to the laws and to the spirit of that game." 

This is where Taufel believes that players and coaches can learn from umpires.

“You can't change what's already happened, it's part of history now. But, like a cricket umpire who can't change the ball that’s already gone, you can certainly do your best to get the next decision right,” he says.

“That's what I would say to Australian cricket and that's what I would say to the global game: learn from what's happened and use the opportunity to make the game stronger than it's ever been before. That's something that everyone can look at. Not just one country or one player or one captain, it's up to everyone to play their role."

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Babar Azam comes of age in Tests

For the Pakistan fans and the cricketing world in general, Babar Azam has been an enigma.

Till recently he was even criticized for not being "test material".

For some, rightly so, considering he had played 16 tests, batted in 31 innings, and had not scored a century. To top it off, his test average was below 30.

At the same time, he was totally rocking white ball cricket as the only batsman in the world with a 50+ average in both ODIs and T20Is.

In a career that is 3 years old, Babar started his 17th test having smashed 8 ODI centuries, 9 ODI fifties, 8 T20I fifties, and 8 Test fifties.

Despite a 99 in the series against Australia and an unbeaten 90 in New Zealand, Babar was criticized heavily for not converting starts in tests and for not being a test batsman.

It all changed during his 32nd test inning.

As Pakistan added to New Zealand's agony in the field over two days during the second test, Babar was instrumental in taking Pakistan past 400 as he knocked his first test ton.

Babar's unbeaten 127 was a coming of age innings.

He finally crossed the barrier of the nervous nineties and he finally showed the world that he can bat in whites too.

No doubt that he has been extremely prolific in limited overs cricket and has not been able to extend that form to test cricket, but at least now he has brought up the coveted first test century.

From hereon, there should be no looking back for Babar Azam, who is Pakistan's first true all format batsman since the days of Inzamam Ul Haq.

Even though Babar had not scored a test ton, I feel the criticism he received was a bit unfair.

If one is to look at his test scores before the 100, then this season against Australia and New Zealand, he had scores of 4, 28*, 0, 99, 62, 13. Not mind blowing but also not worthy of criticism.

Even prior to that he scored 68 against England in Pakistan's victory at Lord's an innings that was cut short due to injury. He really looked like scoring a century during that innings.

What is even more interesting is that for all batsmen that have batted in at least 10 test innings in 2018, Babar Azam has the best average!

Even better than Virat Kohli's!


Look at the batsmen he is performing better than - ABD, Root - both modern legends of the game.

Now that Babar has reached his first test ton, I don't think he will ever look back. The runs will flow from his bat in tests and there is no doubt in my mind that he will become one of the best, if not the best, batsman to ever play for Pakistan.

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Yasir Shah - The Best Leg Spinner in the World

Pakistanis love to criticize and I am guilty of it too.

Azhar Ali bats too slowly. What is Haris Sohail doing out there? Yasir Shah is not the same bowler any more. Babar Azam is only suitable for white ball cricket. Where did that declaration come from? Why didn't they accelerate before declaring out of the blue? Why did they enforce the follow on? If New Zealand set a target of 120 or so, Pakistan will lose.

This and a whole lot more was said during the second test between Pakistan and New Zealand and none of it mattered at the end as Pakistan raced home to a win by an innings and 16 runs to level the test series and set it up for a decider next week.

Azhar Ali, who bats way too slowly, scored 81.

Haris Sohail, who seemed all at sea out there, top scored in the match with 147.

Yasir Shah, who is not the same bowler any more, returned career best match figures of 14-184.

Babar Azam, who is only suitable for limited overs cricket, scored his maiden test century - an unbeaten 127.

And the declaration, which seemed unplanned and out of the blue, was perfectly timed. Mickey Arthur and Sarfraz felt that 418 was more than enough on that pitch to bowl New Zealand out twice, and they were spot on!

Yasir Shah, who was overshadowed in the test series against Australia by Bilal Asif, Mohammad Abbas, and even the touring spinner Nathan Lyon, showed the world why he is the best leg spinner in the game currently.

His 14-184 are the second best bowling figures in a test match by a Pakistani, after Imran Khan's 14-116.


His 8-41 in the first innings, which included a triple wicket maiden over, are the third best bowling figures in an innings by a Pakistan, after Abdul Qadir's 9-56 and Sarfraz Nawaz's 9-86.


Yasir's 14 wickets in the match took his test wickets tally to 195 in only 32 test matches. He is well on his way to break the record of being the quickest in the world to reach 200 test wickets.


Yasir's innings haul of 8-41 and match hail of 14-184 are both the best figures in an innings and in a match in all tests played in the UAE.

No bowler had taken more than 11 wickets in a test in the UAE before Yasir's heroics, and he is only the second bowler to take an 8 wicket haul in an innings in the UAE.


Yasir's innings and match hauls are also the best figures by any bowler in the history of test cricket against New Zealand!

He is the 5th bowler to take 8 wickets in an innings and the first ever to take 14 wickets in a match against New Zealand.


Yasir's match haul is third best ever for a leg spinner in the history of test cricket, behind Narendra Hirwani's 16-136 and Anil Kumble's 14-149.


Yasir Shah now has 195 wickets in just 32 tests at an average of 28.2 and a phenomenal strike rate of 54.4, which is the third best strike rate among all spinners, and second best among leg spinners in tests (those who have bowled in at least 50 innings).


It won't be long before Yasir reaches 200 test wickets and creates a new record of reaching the mark in quickest time. With the way he is bowling right now (22 wickets in 2 tests vs New Zealand), I reckon he will achieve this feat in the next test against New Zealand, which starts next week on Monday in Abu Dhabi.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Ways to Appreciate the Team


Training, practicing, and playing are all key components of a victorious team. However, showing your appreciation (and this goes for both teammates and captains) is also an important tool to a team’s success. By implementing a few bonus strategies to keep up everyone’s spirits and continue giving your all.

Environmental Impact
Appreciation doesn’t always have to be a verbal exchange. A pitch can evoke one’s initial spirit for the sport, but your surrounding facilities and training space should also reflect you and your team’s passion for the game. This can be as simple as upgrading some equipment that’s on its last leg, or adorning some of your gear with decals of your team’s logo or personalized names and numbers. This creates an environment of motivation and can emphasize healthy competition.

Focus In On Fun
Another way to highlight appreciation is to not forget the emphasis of fun. It may seem obvious but it’s easy to forget that the fun and enjoyment of playing and watching the sport is at the core of even the most competitive player’s motivation. Creating an atmosphere that ensures everyone’s goals are not just to win, but being engaged and working together to achieve that victory as well, can put a successful focus on both fun and appreciation. 

Don’t Focus On Failure
At the height of any practice or match, things can go awry in an instant. Sometimes plays don’t work out as planned, and having an off-day or lapse in concentration can spontaneously occur.  The trick is here to not fixate on the failures or mistakes others make that might have been out of their control. It’s normal to feel disappointed, especially if personal goals aren’t met and this can cause a huge mental blockade for some. Instead anyone’s failures can be a lesson in encouraging growth, improvement, and personal triumph.

Cause For Celebration
It is of course beneficial to encourage victory, however empty praise can sometimes be a deterrent when it comes to appreciation. Focusing on smaller victories and celebrating personal achievements can make a big impact on morale and be a confidence booster.

Always Be Empowering
The most beneficial way to show your appreciation for fellow players or captains is simply by empowering them and the team. Letting others know that your confident in their abilities, and maintaining the mindset that you’re all there to achieve a common goal.  It may be corny, but simply believing in others, and recognizing when others are around to uplift you can create a huge appreciative boost. Appreciating the team doesn’t have to be difficult, with a simple mindset and framework, any goal is an achievable one.

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Monday, November 12, 2018

Shaheen & Usman - Tremendous Finds with Huge Potential

Shaheen Shah Afridi ended the ODI series against New Zealand with 9 wickets, behind only Lockie Ferguson's 11 wickets, but at a better average and strike rate.

Shaheen's 9 wickets consisted of two 4-wicket hauls in each of the first two ODIs and before rain spoiled the match last night, he had already got rid of Colin Munro. Who knows how many more he would have got had the match been completed.

Deservedly so, the 18 year old left arm pacer was adjudged Man of the Series.


Shaheen has been a great find for Pakistan.

Only 6 ODIs old, his bowling stats are astonishing, more so because he has played all his ODIs in the UAE, where pitches favor either the batsmen or the spinners.

Shaheen's 13 ODI wickets in 6 games have come at an average of 17.61, an economy rate of 4.88, and a strike rate of 21.6 - that is a wicket every 4th over he bowls in ODIs!

Even in T20Is, Shaheen has been quite effective picking up 11 wickets in 7 games at an average of 18.45.

I really want to say "ek Afridi gaya, ek aur aa gaya" but this is more about the pace talent that Pakistan keeps on churning out.

Just when Pakistan is feeling that they may have lost their star left armer Mohammad Aamir, they have found Shaheen Afridi who seems to improve with every match he plays.

He has just made it to Pakistan's test squad for the series against New Zealand and the prospect of seeing him bowl with the red cherry is even more exciting.

Another exciting left armer with a bright future for Pakistan is Usman Khan Shinwari.

Why he did not play a single ODI against New Zealand is beyond me. Especially at a time when Hasan Ali was struggling for form.

Usman's ODI record is even better than Shaheen's!


In 9 ODIs, Usman has picked up 18 wickets at an average of 15.27, economy rate of 4.66, and strike rate of 19.6 - better than Shaheen in all three areas.

Which makes it really strange that he was on the bench against New Zealand.

Among all pacers that have taken at least 10 wickets in ODIs in 2018, Usman and Shaheen are right up there in terms of their averages.


Both of them are among the only 5 pacers in the world with an average under 20 this year.

Plus, Shaheen's strike rate is among the absolute best, right up there with Dale Steyn's.

Together, Usman and Shaheen can form a potent new ball attack, which can be extremely dangerous in South Africa early next year and then in England during the World Cup.

Both of them have tremendous potential and have made it much easier for Pakistan to not miss a struggling Mohammad Aamer.

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Monday, November 5, 2018

Pakistan Continue their T20 Dominance

The Pakistan team and fans thought that New Zealand were going to provide a stronger fight than Australia, which was probably a first for the Kiwis to be considered more dangerous than their antipodean neighbors.

The first T20I showed just that as Pakistan scraped home with a 2 run win.

The next one, even though it seems like an easy win on paper, also went to the last over as Pakistan hit the winning runs with only 2 balls to spare.

With their 11th consecutive T20I series win under the belt, Pakistan could have become complacent and taken the third match lightly.

Not this Pakistan though.

They were ruthless and turned out at their best, posting their highest T20I total of this season beating New Zealand comprehensively by 47 runs.

No one could have predicted such a dominant season in T20 cricket for Pakistan. As some experts put it aptly - the most unpredictable team is the most consistent in the sport's most unpredictable format.

Fathom that.

Take a look at online cricket betting sites too, such as www.onlinecricketbettingsites.com, and you will realize that while Pakistan were termed favorites for the T20s against Australia and New Zealand, the odds were not too stacked up in their favor.

Here's a look at some of the record breaking feats of the team, its batsmen, and its bowlers.

THE TEAM

After their win last night, Pakistan became the first team to clean sweep New Zealand in a T20I series.

In the process, Pakistan became the only team to win 11 consecutive T20I series.

Pakistan have also become the only team, besides Afghanistan, to win 9 consecutive T20Is.

And with 17 T20I wins in 2018 they have won more T20Is in a year than any other team!

This has improved Pakistan's W:L ratio under Sarfraz Ahmed even further taking it to an unprecedented 7.25!


THE BATSMEN

Pakistan's batsmen continue to smash T20 records as well.

Babar Azam scored his 1000th T20I run on his way to 79 last night, becoming the quickest batsman to achieve that feat in 26 innings, breaking Virat Kohli's record of 27 innings.

That is something we will not hear too much of in our lifetime - breaking a Virat Kohli batting record.


Babar has been ever so consistent in T20Is, which is extremely impressive considering he is not a big hitter of the ball. He bats traditionally and plays the ball on the ground, yet is effective and scores at a fair pace without getting bogged down.

He rotates the strike and pierces the gaps in the field with utmost ease.

His consistency has enabled him to stretch his lead over other batsmen - he remains the only batsman in the world with a batting average in excess of 50 in T20 internationals.

Once again, ahead of the great Virat Kohli.


There is one Kohli record, however, that Babar was unable to break - 641 runs in a calendar year in T20 internationals.

Yet, Babar and Fakhar are right up there as the two leading run scorers in T20 Internationals in 2018.


Actually, Babar was never really in the running to break that record considering he missed 7 of Pakistan's T20 Internationals in 2018.

However, Fakhar Zaman had the record in sight.

But injury, which made him miss a T20I each against Australia and New Zealand, coupled with indifferent form, resulted in him falling short of the 641.

THE BOWLERS

On the bowling front, Shadab Khan has continued to raise his stock in T20 Internationals.

His 3 wickets last night took his tally to 28 wickets in 2018, the highest in the year, and the joint highest in a calendar year ever.


Shadab's 2018 wickets tally is equal to Bumrah's; however Shadab has managed it in fewer matches, at the same economy, and at a better average and strike rate.

Shadab is also the second highest wicket taker in T20 Internationals in the period starting from Sarfraz Ahmed's captaincy in the format.


Two other Pakistani bowlers feature in this list as well - Hasan Ali and Imad Wasim.

Hasan is among the few pacers in the list and has the most T20I wickets in this period among pacers.

The bowlers are firing, the batsmen are piling on the runs, the team is winning rolling on like a T20 juggernaut - happy times for Pakistan's T20 cricket!

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Monday, October 29, 2018

Pakistan's T20 Dominance

Last night Pakistan completed their 10th consecutive series win in T20 Internationals.

This run includes wins against England, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Australia, West Indies, a World XI team, and a tri-series involving Australia and Zimbabwe. The streak dates back to September 2016; since then, in over two years, Pakistan have lost only 4 T20  internationals.

I don't know of any team that has had such an outstanding run in T20s.

It is quite remarkable!

Here is a look at the team, the captain, the batsmen, and the bowlers who have made such dominance possible.

THE TEAM
No surprise that Pakistan is the number 1 ranked T20 team in the world, with quite a margin.

They have a whopping win loss ratio of 6.5 over the past 2 years!

I have never seen such a W:L ratio in any form of the game for a period this long. It is miles ahead of all other teams, barring Afghanistan (who largely play the associate nations), making the difference between Pakistan and rest of the teams quite significant.

Pakistan have not only dominated T20 cricket over the past two years; they have been dominating the game since its inception.



























Pakistan have the best W:L ratio in T20 Internationals since the format began (barring Afghanistan). Considering Pakistan have played more T20 Internationals than any other team, that fact is even more impressive.


THE CAPTAIN
September 2016 was when Pakistan played their first T20 International under Sarfraz Ahmed, and despite all the flak and criticism he has faced recently, he has been a star skipper in the shortest format of the game.

Pakistan's remarkable streak in T20 cricket coincides with Sarfraz Ahmed's T20 captaincy and it has made him the most successful T20 captain in the history of the format.

No other captain comes even close to Sarfraz's Win % and W:L ratio in T20Is.


THE BATTING
During this period, since September 2016, Babar Azam is the leading run scorer in all T20 Internationals.

In fact, Babar made his T20 debut during this period and he has been miles ahead of all other batsmen since then.

Shoaib Malik and Fakhar Zaman, who also made his T20 debut during this period, are both among the top 5 runs scorers in T20 Internationals since September 2016.

Babar and Malik, along with Glenn Maxwell, are the only batsmen in T20 Internationals who are averaging above 50 in this golden period of T20 cricket for Pakistan.

Babar Azam has had an amazing run in T20 Internationals. His past 5 scores are:

97*
51
68*
45
50

If it wasn't for that 45, he would have become the first batsman to have 5 consecutive scores of 50 or more in T20Is.

Babar is also on the verge of breaking Virat Kohli's record of reaching a 1,000 runs in 27 T20 innings.

Babar requires another 95 runs in 3 innings to break the record, an opportunity that he will have during the three T20Is against New Zealand over the next one week.

There is another Kohli record that can potentially be broken over the next week.

Fakhar Zaman requires another 101 runs to go past Kohli's record of 641 T20I runs in a calendar year, and he has another 3 innings left in 2018 to make this happen.

Coming back to Babar Azam; he is the only batsman in the world with a batting average of over 50 in T20 Internationals.

That is quite a feat by Babar considering the kind of batsmen he is ahead of.


THE BOWLING
Each match of this just concluded T20I series between Pakistan and Australia had a similar pattern. Pakistan got off to a flying start, stuttered in the middle order ending 20-30 runs short of what they should have got, and bowled and fielded exceptionally to keep Australia well away from the target.

Pakistan's bowling in the shortest format of the game has been outstanding.

Shahid Afridi, who hasn't played the format in two years, is still the leading wicket taker in all T20Is. While Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, who haven't played T20Is for two and three years respectively, are among the top 4 wicket takers in the history of T20Is.

As for the current crop, during the period since September 2016, Pakistan have 3 bowlers among the top 10 wicket takers in T20 Internationals, with leg spinning allrounder Shadab Khan leading the way.

Pakistan's bowling attack is full of variety comprising left arm pacers, right arm pacers, leg spinners, off spinners, left arm spinners, and the works.

Undoubtedly that makes it quite tough for the opposition.

Pakistan have bowled out teams 30 times in T20Is, which is the most by any team in T20 Internationals.

Quite a record that!


PAKISTAN are no doubt the Kings of T20 cricket and their run over the past two years has been nothing short of phenomenal! They have got the top order, they have got the bowling, and now if they can only find some consistent middle and late order batting they can truly become an invincible T20 Force.

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Monday, October 22, 2018

Chanderpaul on the Unique Art of Batting

Most sports people get the chance to immediately put their mistakes right.

Nobody remembers, for example, that Andy Murray surrendered a 40-0 lead as he served for his first Wimbledon title in 2013 before eventually overcoming Novak Djokovic.

Nor is it now relevant that Sergio Aguero squandered two good goal scoring chances against QPR before stealing the Premier League title in stoppage time for Manchester City in 2012.

Similarly, when Andrew Flintoff dismissed Ricky Ponting with the seventh ball of his ‘Greatest Over’ in the second Ashes Test of 2005, there weren’t many in the feverish Edgbaston crowd ruing the earlier no ball that had forced him to run in again.

Yet had Murray, Aguero, Flintoff or countless others made such telling errors as batsmen – when one faulty piece of footwork, lapse in concentration or slight misjudgement can prove terminal – they might never have had the chance to atone.

It is why, according to Steve Bull, who was the England men’s team psychologist between 1997 and 2014, batting as a sporting discipline is “as close to unique as you can get”.

Bull formed part of the backroom team for the famous Ashes victories in 2005 and 2010/11, but was also present for lows such as the 5-0 reversal Down Under in 2006/07. He knows the intricacies of the game, having witnessed first-hand the effect that they can have on world-class players.

“A slight error of technique and you are out,” says Bull. “One mistake. The margin is so ridiculously small, and the consequences of a mistake are so huge.

“The knock-on effect is that after two or three low scores, the rest of the mechanisms kick in and the confidence starts to go.

“It can take you into the abyss.”

This is not news to Shiv Chanderpaul, a West Indies legend at international level, where flaws are exposed most brutally and scrutiny is most intense.

Chanderpaul is the fifth-most capped player in Test-match history, scoring 11,867 in 164 Tests at an average of 51.37, putting him eighth on the list of all-time top run scorers.

Yet he was still a victim of those same demons.

Chanderpaul spoke to Betway and here are some excerpts from that interview.

“He’s perfectly spot on there,” says Chanderpaul, when asked whether he agrees with Bull’s assertion.










































“These days bowlers study you more – it’s not that easy. Bowlers can tell when you’re struggling.

“In difficult conditions, you might be able to leave a few, but one or two you might nick off. It depends how long you’re able to stay out there, if you can get lucky and miss those balls.”

Luck is an element of the game that the standard observer can struggle to compute: it is intangible and incompatible with the narrative of failure that comes to define cricket teams. 

As Bull explains, a batsman can do “everything absolutely right” and still end up back in the hutch, an arbitrary feature of the game that can dictate the trajectory of a player’s career.

“There are many walks of life where, if you take control, if you’re confident, resilient and conscientious, it will take you far,” he says.

“In cricket, you can get that piece of bad luck, and that hard work comes to nothing.

“Conversely, if you’re in bad form and get dropped at second slip, then things go your way and you score a hundred: bingo. If that catch had gone to hand, that’s another failure.”

Cashing in when things are going your way was perhaps the key to Chanderpaul’s exceptional longevity.

“I would always go out and play a bit harder if my place wasn’t on the line,” he says.

“I would just fight as hard as I could, try and bat as much as I could. You don’t want to be in that situation when you’re being put under pressure.

“You feel a little more relaxed, but you dig in.”

Chanderpaul’s record meant that his place in the team was rarely at risk, though not everybody was convinced at first. His unusual technique – standing square-on to the bowler before shuffling into a sideways position as the ball is delivered – was long treated with suspicion and, in theory, gave bowlers a better chance of dismissing him.

“There wasn’t a coach telling me what I have to do, or where I have to be,” he says.

“But you still have to remember the basics – eventually getting into a side-on position. Remember these things, and go out there and try and use them to help you through whatever period you have to go through.”

The challenge is for batsmen who don’t yet have the statistics of a distinguished career to back them up to show the same mental strength.

“You can’t have a situation where your confidence is dictated by how many runs you’ve scored,“ says Bull. “That’s not a good state of affairs.

“That means that if you’re scoring well, you’re confident, and if you’re not, you’re not.

“Better players are resilient and tough players. They say: ‘I’m taking control of this. I’m going to feel confident. I’m feeling good in the nets, hitting the ball well, moving my feet.’

“That’s good psychology. If you are more of a worrier, very negative and very analytical, it can take you deeper into trouble.”

That is why Bull encourages several of his clients just to relax – “it’s a cliché, but sometimes the best thing you can do is take a break and switch off” – by going out for a drink or a day out.

“It is very much player-dependant,” he says.

“There were some players who liked structured thought and process-orientated strategy to get ready. With other players, the best they could do was to forget it.

“It takes you to a sports psychologists’ favourite maxim: control the controllable.

“When a player is worrying about whether they are going to get picked or not, they have no control. You’ve got to come to the next session completely refreshed and start again.”

Chanderpaul managed to combine that approach with avoiding the desire to step away from the game when unhappy with his form.

“If I was struggling, I would be in the nets, hitting some balls,” he says. “If I don’t feel good about it, I’ll do the work until I start feeling good.

“If I feel OK, I’ll ease off, take a breath, and not stress about it.”

That last point, according to Bull, is the key.

“Don’t let that voice in your head take over,” he says.

“Every day: start afresh, control the controllable, here we go.”

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