Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Kane Williamson has time to develop leadership skills

Kane Williamson was appointed New Zealand’s captain in all formats of the game following the retirement of Brendon McCullum. 

McCullum ended his career following the Black Caps’ defeat to Australia in February, bringing an end to a successful 14-year tenure in the game.

The 34-year-old was named New Zealand’s captain in 2012 after Ross Taylor opted to stand down as he struggled to cope with the duties.

McCullum took to captaincy like a duck to water, although his side lost two of their opening three series under his leadership against South Africa and England.

Following their series loss in England, the Black Caps went on a seven-series unbeaten run, claiming wins over the West Indies, India and Sri Lanka. His decision-making in the field was outstanding, which on numerous occasions would produce wickets out of nowhere.

McCullum led by example with the bat, raising the level of his game by scoring six of his 12 hundreds with the captaincy, including a remarkable triple-century against India.

He made the decision to retire following his side’s defeat at the hands of Australia on home soil, although he was to sign off in style in his final match by scoring the fastest Test century in history.

He will now have to find a new hobby to display his dominance to fill the void and, as one of the stars of the sport he will have a range of options. Punditry, coaching or life away from the game are all options. But he could still get his cricket fill with console games or online games, such as Cricket Stars and other Kiwi pokies.

His shoes have been filled by one of the stars of the modern game in Williamson. The 25-year-old has the unenviable task of replacing a hugely successful player and captain.

Williamson has become one of the leading batsmen in world cricket and was named Wisden almanack's leading cricketer of the year in 2015, matching the promise he displayed on debut against India when he made a century.

Since 2010 he has scored 13 Test centuries and 19 fifties, leaving him just four hundreds behind Martin Crowe, who holds the New Zealand’s record for most centuries.

He has all the credentials in the longest form of the game to be a solid leader for his country, and has already shown a great deal of promise in limited overs cricket.

Williamson made several good decisions throughout his side’s campaign in the ICC World Twenty20, guiding the team into the semi-finals following their four-straight wins in the group stage.

His bowling changes always appear to work with great success and his use of spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi choked their opposition leading to wickets for the impressive duo.

Their campaign ended in disappointment with their loss to England, but the Black Caps will have been pleased with how they coped for the first time without McCullum’s presence.

Williamson now has four months to hone his skills before his first Test match as captain against South Africa.

As England proved in their win over South Africa, AB de Villiers’s men have vulnerabilities and could be exposed by New Zealand’s potent attack.

However, they still have plenty of talent in their squad so it will be a good chance for Williamson to cut his teeth as he begins his leadership journey.

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Mark Wood to Miss Most of the Season

Despite hopes that bowler Mark Wood would return to his previous form following ankle surgery last November, the 26 year old is reported to now miss out on the greater part of this season following yet more surgery. 

Back in the summer of 2015, although the injury was known, it didn’t appear to be in a state that warranted an operation. Wood himself even commented on the fact that, while the heavy impact of the sport didn’t help the issue, no fast bowler was ever playing at 100 percent and that medication had been helping. Unfortunately though, by the time November began, it was evident that the repetitive injury was becoming too big a problem to ignore, and that a specialist was needed to determine what was going on. 

Although a blow for the England team, surgery and rehabilitation seemed the best way to ensure that Wood would return ready for next season, however that hasn’t been the case. Even though he initially responded well to treatment after the surgery, pain soon returned and created all sorts of pre-season problems, which in turn led to Wood visiting another specialist, this time in the Netherlands. Upon his arrival it soon became clear that a second procedure was needed to remove a piece of floating bone that was irritating the joint. 

The unexpected news has not only set the player back further, but has also called into question the treatment he initially received. While it was understood at the time that two operations one after the other wouldn’t be possible, the prolonged gap between the two has resulted in even more time out of playing, a factor that heavily impacts on both Wood’s morale and the team’s.

 With so much uncertain, especially that of his expected recovery period which hasn’t been revealed by the club, news is affecting all the tips currently circulating big name bookmakers. Betway’sodds are constantly getting updated as to how England will fare in the Sri Lanka Tour, starting May, and also whether Wood will be able to return in time for the beginning of the Pakistan Tour in July. The England team have been on good form lately, even despite the continued loss of Mark Wood, so it may be possible that the club will succeed perfectly fine without him. Nonetheless, with the bowler eager to get back to playing, the back-to-bowling regimes he must endure prior to his return to competitive matches can’t come soon enough.

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Inzamam Ul Haq & the PCB - Some Historical Perspective

2006: Inzamam takes team off the field at the Oval and ends up forfieting the test. Then PCB Chairman, Shaharyar Khan resigns citing failure to control drama at Oval.
2007: Pakistan exit embarassingly from World Cup. Inzamam resigns from captaincy and retires from ODI cricket.
2007: PCB, as always, sets up an investigation into the WC disaster and a committees report squarely lays all blame on Inzamam Ul Haq. Report calls him a dictator and admonishes his tableeghi influence on the team. PCB pushes Inzamam into test retirement also.
2013: Shaharyar Khan's book Cricket Cauldron includes details on the Oval fiasco and Inzamam. Shaharyar Khan criticizes Inzamams influence and also mentions how he kept many deserving batsmen out of the team.
2014: Shaharyar Khan becomes the first elected Chairman of the PCB.
2015: after Pakistan's loss in World Cup quarterfinal, coach Waqar Younis submits a report to PCB. Out of his many recommendations, one is to appoint Inzamam as a chief selector. Report is ignored by PCB and Shaharyar Khan.
2016: Pakistan have another disastrous campaign. This time the World T20. Coach Waqar Younis submits another report mentioning the same recommendations as in 2015 and also complaining that the PCB did not listen to his suggestions in the past.
2016: a day after the report is leaked to the media, Shaharyar Khan asks Waqar Younis to resign. Waqar submits his resignation.
2016: a week after Waqars resignation, Shaharyar Khan decides to implement one of Waqars recommendations. He meets with Inzamam and offers him the post of chief selector. Inzamam in return asks for full control of selection committee, the authority to appoint the members of the selection committee, and no influence from board members on selection matters. Shaharyar Khan agrees to all terms.
Interestingly the same sort of terms that resulted in a PCB report and a Shaharyar Khan book that labelled Inzamam a dictator and blamed him and his influence on the team as the reason for Pakistan crickets downfall.
The amazing and mysterious ways the PCB functions.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Pakistan Cup & how it demonstrates PCB's ineptness once again!

The PCB launched the Pakistan Cup recently, a domestic one-day competition that replaces the Pentangular Cup, with all the right buzz words like "improved product", "tougher competition", "attracting investors" and so on.

The Pakistan Cup will be contested by 5 regions - Punjab, Sindh, KPK, Balochistan, and Federal, which will be captained by Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Younis Khan, Azhar Ali, and Misbah Ul Haq respectively.

Yesterday, the PCB conducted a draft for the selection of the 15-man squads for each of the teams. We have heard of player auctions for domestic T20 leagues, and we even witnessed a first ever player draft on the lines of the NBA two months ago for the Pakistan Super League. However, for a one-day competition, this was a first.

Full marks for being innovative!

The draft began with a list of around 170 cricketers that the regions could select from. Besides selecting one U-19 player from their own region, there was no other criteria for selection.

Here's a list of the players that the regions had to select from.

And here are the selected squads.

All well and good?

Not at all.

So here are my issues with all of this.

1. The Captains

So it makes sense to make Azhar Ali the captain of one of the teams considering he is Pakistan's ODI captain. Makes sense to make Sarfraz captain as well considering he has just been announced captain of Pakistan's T20 team and is also the Vice Captain of the ODI team.

But the other three captains do not make sense at all.

Misbah and Younis have long retired from ODIs, while Shoaib Malik is in the final few years of his career.

The PCB missed a golden opportunity of providing captaincy experience to future prospective leaders. At a time when the national team has a dearth of leaders this was the perfect chance to test the captaincy skills of some players and even groom some of them.

I can understand the presence of Misbah and Younis in the squads despite their ODI retirements. They are senior players and will bring in plenty of wisdom to the dressing room that other players can draw upon and learn from. However, having them captain the teams serves no purpose. Another player with the reigns, coupled with the opportunity to bank on advice from senior pros, would have provided for a great learning opportunity.

Imad Wasim, a former U19 captain and Asad Shafiq are just two examples of players who could have benefited from such an approach.

But then again, we know that the PCB has no vision for the future!

2. The U19 Selections


Anyone who watched the U19 World Cup earlier this year (each one of the PCB members and selectors should have been watching it) must have seen Hasan Mohsin. The way the kid batted must have put some of the senior players to shame!

He was Pakistan's leading run scorer and leading wicket taker in the U19 World Cup.


There has been a lot of hoopla regarding the selection of Arsal Shaikh by the Federal region and the consequent disappointment of Misbah. For those who are unaware, Arsal is the son of Shakeel Shaikh who is a member of the Governing Board of the PCB. He is also the head of PCB's cricket committee and was the head of the recent committee formed to investigate the humiliation at the World T20.

So that is the only claim to fame for Arsal Shaikh as his performance is shit. What was the basis of his selection? We all know the answer don't we.

3. The Other Selections

I have no idea what the criteria was for the pool of 170 odd cricketers or for the 15 selected by each region. It does not seem like performance was given any due weightage. Rather the captains / regions just selected players they were comfortable with.

This is why I think so:

Usman Salahuddin
He was part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.
Anyone know why?

In the National One-Day Cup that was played in December 2015 he was the 4th highest run scorer with 469 runs in 7 innings at an average of 93.80 and a strike rate of 84.5. He knocked 2 centuries and 2 fifties in those 7 innings.

Sadaf Hussain
He was also part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.

In the National One-Day Cup he was the highest wicket taker with 20 wickets at an ave of 16.55 and an economy of 4.58. In the Quaid-e-Azam trophy he took 36 wickets at an average of 19.55.

His domestic record is for everyone to see and why he has never got a chance to play for Pakistan or in the premier domestic tournaments, I will never understand.

Saeed Anwar
He was also part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.

In the National One-Day Cup he was the 5th highest run scorer with 404 runs in 8 innings at an average of 57.71 and a strike rate of 90.38. He scored 1 century and 3 fifties!

Abdul Rehman Muzammil
He was also part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.

In the National One-Day Cup he scored 337 runs in 5 innings at an average of 67.40 and a strike rate of 100.89. He scored 2 centuries in those 5 innings including a 159!

Raza Ali Dar
He was also part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.

In the National One-Day Cup he scored 293 runs in 6 innings at an average of 97.66 and a strike rate of 88.25. He scored 1 century and 2 fifties. On top of that, he also picked up 11 wickets in the competition at an average of 27.18 and had an economy of 6.1!

Faisal Iqbal
He was also part of the pool of 170 but not selected by any region.

In the National One-Day Cup he scored 265 runs in 7 innings at an average of 53.00 and a strike rate of 88.92. He scored 3 fifties in those 7 innings. Additionally, he had a fruitful Quaid-e-Azam trophy as well scoring 490 runs at an average of 49.00 including 2 centuries and 2 fifties.

*                                    *                                    *

These are just a few names of the cricketers that were ignored by the 5 regions taking part in the Pakistan Cup. As always no justification or explanation was given for the players selected or for the players that were omitted.

As always, nepotism and favoritism played a role in selecting squads. The usual suspects like the Akmal brothers, Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Nasir Jamshed and many others all made it to different squads. Players who have been tried and tested and failed repeatedly are continuing to get chances to display their mediocre talents, yet other emerging and deserving cricketers sit at home and wonder what they need to do.

As always, the PCB missed a good opportunity to test some emerging players, to provide promising talent with an opportunity to play alongside and learn from more experienced international cricketers, to test leadership qualities with the aim of identifying potential future captains.

Waqar Younis' scathing report following the humiliating World T20 was there for everyone to see. The PCB made it public to embarrass Waqar. Instead all it ended up doing was, as always, embarrass itself!

The call for improving domestic cricket, the call for working with a vision for the future, the call for disciplining some of the players and providing opportunities to other emerging talent were all ignored by the PCB in its first plan, the Pakistan Cup, following the report.

Pathetic as always.

How can Pakistan cricket ever improve?

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Jos Buttler to continue rise in IPL

Jos Buttler enhanced his ever-growing reputation in limited-overs cricket with a series of fine displays for England during the ICC World Twenty20.

The wicketkeeper-batsman entered the tournament under the weight of expectation as the Three Lions’ power player in the middle order following his strong displays against South Africa over the winter.

Buttler struggled in the early stages of the competition with low scores against the West Indies and South Africa along with a paltry six runs against minnows Afghanistan. However, when England needed a performance, the 25-year-old rose to the occasion with an impressive 66 not out against Sri Lanka, which proved to be decisive in securing a 10-run victory over Angelo Mathews’ men to keep his side in the tournament.

Buttler was in imperious form against New Zealand, firing three sixes in quick succession to get the Three Lions over the line and into the World Cup final.

His power was on full display again in Kolkata against the West Indies in the final as he dispatched the bowling of Sulieman Benn over the boundary three times in England's counterattack. However, he made 36 before he was caught going for one big shot too many off the bowling of Carlos Brathwaite, ending his innings when he was just beginning to hit his stride at the crease, while he was powerless to watch as Brathwaite powered the Windies to victory.

Despite England's defeat, Buttler's 191 runs earned him a place in the ICC team of the tournament for his exploits in the middle.

Buttler made a strong impression on the crowds in India with the noise level elevating every time he entered the pitch, bat in hand, which will stand him in good stead when he begins his career with the Mumbai Indians in the Indian Premier League.

The franchise bought the services of the wicketkeeper for £385,000 after the England and Wales Cricket Board allowed him to play for the duration of the competition, as a result of him losing his Test place to Jonny Bairstow.

Mumbai will be aiming to follow up their efforts from their triumphant 2015 campaign, when the club secured their second title, with another success. Their Indian Premier League cricket odds to win the crown stand at 5/1.

Adding Buttler will add power to their batting lineup, with stars such as Keiron Pollard, Lendl Simmons and skipper Rohit Sharma already amongst their ranks.

The 25-year-old will be desperate to make a lasting impact as one of only three English players plying their trade at the tournament along with Kevin Pietersen and Sam Billings.

Buttler demonstrated that he has all the shots in his repertoire to be one of the dominant players in the IPL after notching 12 sixes in the World T20, the second highest in the competition.

He will also get the chance to further develop his skills against high-quality spin bowling on the turning tracks of the Sub-continent, which can only benefit England and his county side Lancashire in the future.

The challenge will be great for the 25-year-old as England players have struggled to hit the heights of their foreign counterparts, but if any player can buck the trend it will be Buttler.

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Thursday, March 31, 2016

Women’s World Twenty20: What Happened England?

The England Women Cricket team was destined for greatness in the inaugural Twenty20 tournament that took place in 2009. In the final match, they faced a consistent New Zealand team who were the host nation but, through Katherine Brunt, who had an opening spell of 3 for 6 bowled out New Zealand for 85. England was too strong for New Zealand, especially with Claire Taylor, who was in inspired form, led them to a comfortable six-wicket victory. But this marked their only Women’s World Twenty20 victory. In the 2010 event, England was bundled out at the group stage: the next two Women’s World Twenty20 events were agonising as they finished runners-up in the 2012 and 2014 games beaten by their arch rivals, Australia. In this year’s event, for the third time in a row, England’s race for the World T20s was cut short by Australia at the semi-final stage: this is a hurting defeat.

This was not a strong versus the weak type of encounter. Both Australia and England were regularly found wanting, especially in the initial ten overs in the field. England showed the first signs of complacency when they bowled a touch that was too wide for the incredible Lanning, who had a classy half-century as a result of her high-quality shots played through the off side. Australia too was complacent with the ball, but Megan Schutt was in the form of her life with incredible inswingers.

The key players for Australia came in the shape of Megan Schutt, Alyssa Healy and captain, Meg Lanning. It is the captain who hit a composed 55, while Alyssa Healy recorded a rapid 25 as Australia accumulated 132-6. For the England team, Tammy Beaumont and Edwards had a perfect start of 133 off to continue their excellent partnership that went to new heights in this year’s Women’s World Twenty20. They played well together to add 67 for the first wicket inside ten overs.

England came into the Women’s World Twenty20 semi-final against New Zealand after winning four of their group matches, but the signs of fragility had been showing especially with the bat. Against India, England lost their nerve and showed poor decision making by dropping from 42-1 to 92-8, it was Anya Shrubsole, the number 10 who dropped the ball before she lashed with the winning runs through backward point. England’s lack of concentration was also evident when they faced West Indies and collapsed from a 59-0 to 109-9, in this game, Merissa Aguilleira was the most culpable when she lost her cool and ran for the stumps with ball in hand allowing Rebecca Grundy to come in and steal the last ball of the innings.

In the semi-final against New Zealand, England failed to pick up on the momentum started by Beaumont and Edwards. With only seven overs remaining, they just needed 45 with nine wickets in hand, but panic got the better of them leading to their ultimate defeat. It all started when Beaumont was caught over after playing an unnecessary slog, Natalie Sciver bowled an overambitious scoop and bowled third ball and then Erin Osborne was smacked by Heather Knight for a long on. England laid their hopes on Sarah Taylor who was badly out of form: she played a dismal reverse sweep that was caught to sum up their shallow thinking and ultimately, sealed their fate.

The one area that England should improve is to learn to build on their early momentum. If they managed another five runs, they would have had a super over but they failed to capitalise. They also need to learn how to hold their nerve, avoid fumbles and play tactical and smart cricket. With this record, would you
bet on England for the next Twenty20? Let us know in the comments below.

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How Good is Virat Kohli?

This article first appeared on DAWN.

Virat Kohli’s masterful chase against Australia a few days ago excited the cricket world beyond boundaries. Everyone is talking about how great Kohli is and how he compares to other batting legends. Headlines have hailed how he is better than Sachin; Sambit Bal tweeted that he is to Pakistan what Miandad used to be to India; and social media forums are in a frenzy over discussions comparing Kohli with Viv Richards, Ponting, ABD, and others.

There is no doubt that he is an exceptional talent and a phenomenal batsman. There is no doubt in my mind that his unbeaten 80 odd against Australia was the best T20 knock I have ever witnessed. Kohli has played similar outstanding knocks in ODI cricket as well and he definitely is the king of all chases. No one chases a target like Kohli; no one builds an innings in a chase like Kohli; no one has won matches for India like Kohli has; no one has won matches for anyone like Kohli has.

He really is exceptionally good. But how good really?

It is not only difficult but probably wrong to compare batsmen of different eras. Limited overs cricket has changed so much in the favor of batsmen that averages and strike rates are inflated in these modern times. Shorter boundaries, bigger bats, field restrictions, bouncer limitations, better pitches, and many other one-sided rules have resulted in a plethora of batsmen averaging above 50 in ODIs, which was unheard of in the 80s and 90s. Plus, batsmen these days don’t face Wasim, Waqar, Garner, Marshall, Lillee, Thomson, Ambrose, Donald and the likes.

Currently, there are 7 batsmen who average above 50 in ODIs and only one of them (Bevan) made his debut in the 90s. In T20 cricket, there is only one batsman who averages above 40 – Virat Kohli – he averages 55.42 !!! The next best T20 average is 38.96.

In terms of numbers there are other modern day ODI batsmen that are as good as Kohli is; however there are none in T20 cricket. No one even comes close! His T20 average is 16 runs more than the next best. That is a significant difference and shows how well Kohli has mastered the art of batting in the shortest format.

While compare averages and strike rates across eras cannot be compared, I think there is one factor that can be definitely compared – the match winning ability of batsmen. I believe that we can fairly compare a batsman’s contribution to wins irrespective of era, conditions, rules, and opposition.

There are 50 batsmen that have scored around 4,000 runs in ODI wins. Sachin Tendulkar and Ricky Ponting are right at the top of this list with both scoring over 10,000 runs in wins. In terms of average, Virat Kohli’s 67.5 in wins is third on the list, behind Hashim Amla’s 68.3 and Ms Dhoni’s 73.1. These numbers individually represent greatness; however the only way to compare the overall impact of a batsman in wins for his country is to develop an index that can take out biases with respect to era, conditions, rules, and opposition. While some bias may still remain, I tried to take into account 4 key factors to come up with the Match Winning Index (MWI); which is calculated as an average of these 4 factors:

Percentage of Innings played in wins;
Percentage of runs scored in wins;
Percentage of centuries in wins;
Percentage of not outs in wins.

(Key Note: When you take a percentage, you automatically rule out the absoluteness of a number. For example scoring 8-10 ODI centuries in the 80s is equivalent to about 15 centuries in the 90s and 25 centuries or more in the post 2000 era. However how many of them were scored in wins eliminates this bias. Moreover, a percentage of not outs is considered in order to eliminate the bias towards top order batsmen who have more opportunity to score centuries than lower order batsmen who may contribute a valuable 30 or 40 in a winning cause)

Here are the Top 20 match winning batsmen in ODIs.

Sir Viv Richards right at the top!

That should put to rest any discussion on whether Kohli is better than the best ever ODI batsman or not. Kohli ranks 16 on this list; however among Indian batsmen he is at the top. No other Indian batsmen has contributed to wins as much as Kohli has with only Gambhir and Sehwag coming close to him. It is also fair to say that Kohli still has majority of his career ahead of him so we will surely witness this modern day great reach greater heights.

While Kohli may not be as good as Viv Richards was, nor as good as many other modern day batsmen as an ODI match winner, he is the best India has produced. For comparison, Sachin (MWI of 0.655) ranks 43rd on this list.

It is interesting to note the high number of Australians at the top end of the table. As many as 6 of them played as part of the same team also. No wonder they won so many ODIs and lead the tally of most World Cup wins.

For Pakistan, Mohammad Yousuf and Saeed Anwar stand out; but it is also interesting to see that Saleem Malik (0.728), Younis Khan (0.714), Shahid Afridi (0.711), Ijaz Ahmed (0.698), and Inzamam Ul Haq (0.687) were great contributors to ODI wins for Pakistan, and hence the dominance in the 90s.

Coming back to Virat Kohli; it is a different story altogether when you compare the MWI for batsmen in T20 Internationals.

Barring Afghanistan’s animated Mohammad Shahzad, Virat Kohli is the best in the business when it comes to winning T20 matches for India. He has the best ever T20 average, he is the only batsman to average above 40 in the format, and he has the best ever T20 average in wins. Virat Kohli is a T20 giant and a master of the format.

I can understand the euphoria created by that explosive and perfectly executed innings against Australia. We also tend to live in the moment and forget about other greats that have played the game. It is fair to say that Kohli is the best T20 batsman out there and the biggest T20 match winner the world has seen. It is also fair to say that he is the best ODI match winner produced by India; however he is some distance away from being the best in the world.

Kohli may well end his career as the best limited overs batsman ever and he may well be counted among the test greats one day as well; but there is some time till that happens. For now, we should just enjoy his mastery and the effortless ease with which he bats.

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pakistan is not a decade, rather only 20 odd runs, behind...

Our "legends" Javed Miandad and Wasim Akram have been harping on about how Pakistan cricket is a decade behind the rest of the world.

Really guys? You think we are so stupid that we will listen to your lame comments and believe that we suck?

Come on.

Firstly, which rest of the world are you talking about? South Africa? Sri Lanka? West Indies? Bangladesh? Australia?

It does not take a genius to look around and figure out that it is really only New Zealand that is playing exceptional T20 cricket at the moment. Every single other team has struggled at one moment or the other.

The likes of ABD, Amla, Steyn, de Kock could not take a team to the semis, and you expect that Afridi, Shehzad, Akmal, Wahab would have? Even a team comprising of Warner, Maxwell, Watson, Finch, Faulkner is on the verge of being knocked out. As is a team comprising of Kohli, Dhoni, Sharma, and Ashwin!

It was a World T20 tournament. Sure we such at ODIs too, but at least we are among the best test teams in the world, if not the best. Isn't that the real cricket everyone keeps talking about?

So please don't exaggerate and make the public believe that we are so bad that we require your useless services to get out of this rut.

We don't need you, thank you! We all know what you are capable of, or not, so please you may be legends in your own right, but PAKISTAN is NOT 10 YEARS BEHIND OTHER TEAMS.

If anything, we are about 20 odd runs behind.

We lost to New Zealand by 22 runs. We lost to Australia by 21 runs. We lost to India and had we scored another 20 odd runs the result might have been different.

So we are really only 20 odd runs behind. And that is definitely not equivalent to 10 years!

And those 20 runs can easily be brought about by replacing a couple of batsmen in the T20 line up.

One doesn't need an overhaul for that.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

MS Dhoni, Rich on and off the Field

Mahendra Singh Dhoni is widely considered to be one of the world's best finishers, on top of that he has been included in Time 100's list of the 'Most Influential People in the World', and a Bollywood biopic entitled MS Dhoni: The Untold Story, is currently in the making.

The captain of the Indian cricket team is among the best paid athletes on the planet, bringing in more money per year than the likes of FC Barcelona's Neymar, Formula 1 star Kimi Räikkönen and the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt. He is also the only cricketer to appear in last year's Forbes top 100 highest paid athletes and his net wealth is estimated at over $100 million.

Despite cricket's global appeal, the sport trails behind the likes of soccer and American Football in terms of money within the game, so just how has MS Dhoni catapulted himself above people like Neymar and Wayne Rooney when it comes to income?

First off, MS Dhoni is a giant of the game. He is widely regarded and believed to be the best Indian captain of all time. Aside from his prowess as a player, he has been noted for his leadership skills, making bold decisions when it came to player selections.

He was the ICC ODI player of the year in 2008 and 2009, has featured in the ICC World ODI team 6 years in a row and was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the most prestigious award in Indian sport. This alone made Dhoni a hugely valuable commodity, but there is more behind MS Dhoni's wealth than his prowess on the pitch.

All of the world's biggest sports stars are the face of advertising campaigns, and Dhoni is no different. In 2015 he brought in $27 million from sponsorship alone. He is the face of international Pepsi and Reebok deals, and in 2014 he signed a very lucrative deal with Spartan Sports. Outside of this he also fronts a number of advertising campaigns within India.

In 2010 he signed a $42 million deal with Rhiti Sports, who now manage his image and continue to further his brand inside and outside of India. A keen footballer in his youth, he has since taken up a position as co-owner of ISL side Chennaiyin FC, and has his hand in several other companies.

This means that while his playing career may be drawing to a close, his presence as an international figure will remain, especially if the Indian Super League grows at its predicted rate.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Australia set out in search of their first World Twenty20 Title


With the World Twenty20 now under way in India, there are a number of sides vying to lift the trophy of this young tournament for the first time. Although Australia have dominated the cricket world in nearly every respect over the years, they have thus far failed to make their mark on this modern, fast-paced version of the game. This could be the year in which that is about to change.


There is plenty of belief within the Australian squad, with the ambitious captain, Steve Smith, stating that they are here to try and claim the elusive title once and for all. The Baggy Greens are coming into the tournament on the back of a T20 series win over South Africa, and this should give them a confidence boost and allow them to take some momentum into the tournament. At the time of writing, Smith and his teammates are 9/2 with 32red Australia and Unibet to win the tournament, while the hosts, India, are priced at around 3/1.

For a nation with such a rich cricketing history, and a sense that cricket runs through the blood of the country’s inhabitants, it seems strange that they haven’t conquered the game in this format. The players and the fans are now starting to believe that this is long overdue, which could spur the team on to try harder and claim the title this time out.

Many found the squad selection for this World Cup to be a rather mysterious one. Some big names were left out and lesser known players were included. The selectors have argued that it is too hard to pin down Australia’s best T20 squad, and that is the reason behind the controversial selections. Although there has been debate over whether the players selected are the best available, there is certainly enough quality there to get the job done.

Peter Nevill will take over behind the stumps, and this decision to bring in the nation’s best wicketkeeper for this tournament has been hailed as a smart move. To have a specialist keeper in the squad also emphasises the selectors’ faith in the strength of the batting line-up.

They have some of the world’s best hitters in the team, with David Warner at 14/1 with 32red and 10bet to be the tournament’s leading batsmen. Smith, Usman Khawaja, Shane Watson, and Aaron Finch, make a considerably strong top order on paper.

Josh Hazlewood will lead the bowling attack but it could come down to Australia’s young spinners, Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar, to make the difference in favourable conditions for turn.


The Baggy Greens will have been elated upon hearing the news that the hosts of the tournament and favourites to win the title were beaten by New Zealand in the opening match. The Kiwis pulled off a shock 47-run victory over India and now the hosts face a challenge to top their group and put this early defeat behind them.

Another of Australia’s main rivals are South Africa, who are 4/1 to win the tournament with Unibet, 32red and Betway. If Australia progress from the group stage they may well encounter these able foes on the route to the final. Although Russell Domingo’s players suffered a demolition at the hands of England in the recent Test series at the turn of the year, they bounced back and pulled off convincing victories in the following One Day and T20 series. They have one of the world’s most dangerous batsmen in their ranks with AB de Villiers, who, at 9/1 to be the top tournament batsman, is a force to be reckoned with on his day. Many are anticipating him to enjoy a devastating return to form on the world stage.

Australia will also have to contend with their closest rivals, New Zealand, in the group stage. With only two teams progressing from each group, it could be a fierce battle between the two teams to claim one of the top places in the “Group of Death”.  

Australia certainly have the ability within their ranks to produce a victory in this tournament, and at a time when their main rivals seem to be faltering they could well take advantage. But first they must claw their way out of this tough looking group.

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