Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Despite this win, Pakistan's ODI team needs a FIX

After losing 5 successive ODIs, Pakistan finally broke their losing streak yesterday by beating New Zealand in the first ODI in Dubai.

Despite this victory, Pakistan has a lot to think about leading up to the World Cup, which is just 2 months away now.

Saeed Ajmal's ban did not hamper Pakistan's preparations as much as Mohammad Hafeez' ban has. Pakistan have coped well without Saeed Ajmal, both in tests and ODIs, however without Hafeez' bowling, Pakistan will struggle more often than not.

With Hafeez not being able to bowl, Pakistan's entire balance and make up of the ODI team is impacted. Hafeez' presence in the top order and ability to bowl 10 economical overs with a wicket or two has been a luxury that Pakistan has enjoyed over the past 4 years.

However, now, in the span of just 7 ODIs, Pakistan has to come up with a viable alternative strategy for the World Cup.

The first solution was Haris Sohail. A prolific scorer in domestic First Class cricket, Sohail had played only 4 ODIs and 3 T20s for Pakistan before yesterday. He had not produced much with the bat in those 7 outings, and he had not delivered a single ball.

In his entire cricket career, Sohail had bowled 80 deliveries before the first ODI against New Zealand. Yesterday, Sohail bowled 75% of his entire career's deliveries in a single ODI!

There is no doubt that he did a great job. 10-0-39-0 are returns that Hafeez regularly produces for Pakistan. Sohail made sure that Pakistan does not miss Hafeez' services with the ball; however it remains to be seen if he can do it regularly or not.

Sohail came on to bowl when New Zealand were already on the back foot. Irfan and Wahab had provided vital breakthroughs and Sohail benefited from a batting unit that was under pressure.It will be a different situation when the batting team is on top or when a team is chasing a target against Pakistan.

I'm taking nothing away from Sohail's performance yesterday. He was superb. With both bat and ball and played an instrumental role in ensuring victory for Pakistan.

But, there is still a lot to think about. Three key things to think about:

1. The Professor's Dilemma

The biggest question that needs to be answered is the one regarding Mohammad Hafeez' place in the side. Does he still warrant an automatic selection given that he cannot bowl?

Nasir Jamshed is waiting in the wings. Sarfraz Ahmed can open the batting. There are middle order batsmen who deserve to be playing but are not.

Given all this, does Hafeez make the cut solely as a batsman?

Probably not in my opinion. He was severely exposed in South Africa, and majority of his good innings have come in the subcontinent; so to persist with him solely as a batsman for the World Cup in Australia might not be the best idea for Pakistan.

2. Keep Shoaib Malik OUT!

I could not believe my ears when I heard Rameez Raja mention Shoaib Malik, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times during the entire match.

You got to be kidding me Rameez. Shoaib Malik is your answer for a batting allrounder? What has the man done in the past 5 years to warrant selection?

Just because he can bowl off spin makes him an option for Pakistan?

NO IT DOES NOT!

Fawad Alam, who happens to be Pakistan's best ODI batsman this year, and Sohaib Maqsood, who has had a tremendous start to his ODI career, can both bowl.

These are your batsmen, along with the newly found Haris Sohail, who can collectively contribute 10 overs in an ODI game for Pakistan.

Shoaib Malik needs to be kept in the wilderness. Or even beyond that if possible.

3. Fix the Middle Order

I still can't get over the fact that Pakistan went into this ODI with the middle order reading Asad Shafiq, Younis Khan, Haris Sohail, Misbah Ul Haq.

I wondered whether Misbah had confused the format of the game because that middle order sounds like one for a test match!

Asad (Test Ave: 40.2; ODI Ave: 25.9); Younis (Test Ave: 53.4; ODI Ave: 31.6); Haris (FC Ave: 52.0; List A Ave: 35.4) are proven performers in the longer version of the game. Anyone with some sense can tell you that the difference between those averages is too significant for them to be considered good for ODIs.

Once again, Haris showed immense potential and won the game for Pakistan, but would he have been able to do the same if Pakistan were chasing a score in the vicinity of 300?

Maybe he would have. I won't take any thing away from him after yesterday's knock. But what in the world are Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan doing playing at 3 and 4 for Pakistan's ODI team!!!?

That too with Umar Akmal and Nasir Jamshed on the bench, and Fawad Alam all the way in Pakistan.

Seriously?

This middle order needs a fix and it needs a fix soon.

Pakistan is running out of time and persisting with Hafeez when he can't bowl, thinking about Shoaib Malik when he can't bat nor bowl, keeping Umar Akmal and Fawad Alam out of the XI when they happen to be your two best batsmen in ODIs, and paying heed to someone's twisted demands to play Asad and Younis will not help their cause at all.

The World Cup is only 2 months away and everything seems to be in disarray.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Sarfraz is right up there among the best Wicketkeeper Batsman in the World

He made his debut in 2010 in Australia in the test that followed the infamous Sydney test. He played just that one test due to the immense public pressure to oust Kamran Akmal, and then disappeared from the international scene for 3 years before returning again in 2013 for the 3 tests in South Africa.

He played those 3 tests, on wickets where most Pakistani batsmen failed, and managed a top score of 40 in his 6 innings leaving question marks over his batting abilities. He was axed again and didn't play for another year, till he was recalled to replace an injured Adnan Akmal in the second test of the series against Sri Lanka in the UAE earlier this year.

Since then, Sarfraz Ahmed has not looked back.

It has been a marvellous year for him and he has marched on like a man on a mission.

For a man whose batting was doubted by everyone around the world, Sarfraz made one hell of a turnaround to notch up scores of 7, 74, 5, 48, 55, 52*, 103, 55, 109, 15*, 19*, 13*, 112, 24* in 8 test matches in 2014.

This year, Sarfraz has scored 691 runs at an average of 76.77 and a strike rate of 73.12 in 8 tests!

Those figures include feats like the fastest century ever scored by a Pakistani wicketkeeper, the second fastest century ever scored by a wicketkeeper, and the only Pakistani wicketkeeper to score three centuries in a calendar year.

Only AB De Villiers has scored more centuries (4) in a calendar year as the designated wicketkeeper of the team.

Sarfraz' batting has been a revelation and he has been a major factor towards Pakistan's success in test cricket this year.

He is only 12 tests old, yet he has already left a mark on the cricketing map and is fast gaining the reputation of being Pakistan's best wicketkeeper-batsman ever.


There are 8 wicketkeepers who have played at least 10 tests for Pakistan in the history of their test cricket; and as far as their batting prowess is concerned, there haven't been any better than Kamran Akmal and Moin Khan.

Kamran and Moin lead the runs rally for Pakistani wicketkeepers in tests and both have a similar average as well. It can be argued that Kamran was slightly better considering he has 6 test centuries (no wicketkeeper from Pakistan has scored more), with some match winning ones.

Sarfraz, with 3 test centuries is already half way there; and the way he is batting, he could well be above Kamran in just another year.

Sarfraz' test average of 45.88, which is 15 runs better than Pakistan's best ever, already shows his superiority with the bat.

No one among all test wicketkeepers in the world comes close to making the impact that Adam Gilchrist and Andy Flower made with the bat. Sangakkara and AB De Villiers could have had they continued to keep in test cricket; however if Sarfraz can sustain his current form in the long term, he will undoubtedly be remembered among the greatest wicketkeeper batsmen in test cricket ever.

Among his global peers, Sarfraz is right up there in terms of his batting average in tests, among all wicketkeepers who have played at least 10 tests.


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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Extraordinary Achievements of Pakistani Batsmen against Australia

It is extremely rare that Pakistan plays a test series and comes out of it with its batsmen breaking record after record. The Pakistani batsmen have played so well in this series against Australia and have broken so many records that one wonders what woke up these sleeping giants.

I believe that in this series we have seen the best ever performance by Pakistani batsmen ever in a test series. At least in my lifetime.

And I am not buying any excuses regarding flat pitches because it is the same pitches where the Australian batsmen have fallen like nine pins. Besides a David Warner century in the first test and a Mitchell Marsh 87 in the second, the Aussies have had no answer to Pakistan's pace, reverse swing, and spin.

So many records have tumbled in this series, that its become hard to keep a tab on all of them. If you take a look at the best betting apps out there, each one of them will tell you that the Pakistanis achieved all this against the odds!

Here is what the Pakistani batsmen have achieved in the two tests against Australia.

1. Most Test Centuries by a Pakistani Batsman

The record was held by Inzamam Ul Haq with 25 centuries. Younis Khan started this test series with 24 hundreds, equal with Yousuf and one behind Inzamam, and he ended the test series with 27 centuries, an all time Pakistan record.

2. Century in both Innings of a Test vs Australia

Glen Turner scored 101 and 110* in the same test against Australia in 1974. Since then, Australia played 425 tests over 40 years and no one ever achieved the feat of twin centuries against them. The Australians were known to roll over opposition batsmen, and if any one scored big against them, he wouldn't a second time around because the Aussie bowlers were well prepared for him.

This test series witnessed three Pakistani batsmen score centuries in both innings of a test! Younis Khan did it in the first test with 106 and 103*, while Azhar Ali (109 & 100*) and Misbah Ul Haq (101 & 101*) did it in the second test.

Something that was not managed over 40 years and 425 tests was achieved by 3 Pakistanis in just 10 days and 2 tests!

3. Three Consecutive Test Centuries vs Australia

It was in December 1924 - January 1925 when Herbert Sutcliffe scored 115, 176, and 127 in three consecutive innings against Australia. No one managed that feat for another 90 years till the Australians came up against Younis Khan in the UAE. With scores of 106, 103*, and 213 Younis Khan became only the second batsman to score three consecutive centuries against Australia in tests.

You can look at that another way - Younis Khan is the only batsman in the world to score 2 centuries and 1 double century in 3 consecutive test innings against Australia. Additionally, Younis Khan's 422 runs in 3 consecutive innings is the highest aggregate for any batsman against Australia in 3 consecutive test innings, beating Sutcliffe's 418 scored 90 years ago.

4. Highest Aggregate in a 2-test series vs Australia

Sachin Tendulkar scored 403 runs in 4 innings in India's 2-test series against Australia in 2010-11. That was the highest aggregate in a 2-test series against Australia. Younis Khan aggregated 468 runs in his 4 innings in this series against Australia, taking the record away from Sachin Tendulkar.

Just for the record, the highest aggregate in a 3-test series against Australia is also held by a Pakistani - Salim Malik, who scored 557 runs in 6 innings in the series in 1994-95. Interestingly that was the last time Pakistan beat Australia in a test series.

5. Highest Aggregate by a Pakistani Batsman in a 2-test series

Javed Miandad held the record for the highest aggregate by a Pakistani batsman in a 2-test series. He had scored 389 runs in only 2 innings, including a cracking 271, against New Zealand in 1988-89.

Younis Khan now holds that record with his record run spree against Australia.

6. Fastest Fifty in Test Matches

Jacques Kallis held the world record with a fifty off only 24 deliveries against Zimbabwe in 2004-05. The Pakistani record was held by Shahid Afridi who had managed it in 26 deliveries against India, also in 2004-05.

Misbah broke the world and Pakistani records by getting his fifty off only 21 deliveries against Australia in the second test of the series.

7. Fastest Century in Test Matches

Sir Vivian Richards was the owner of the record for the fastest 100 in test matches. He had reached his 100 off only 56 deliveries against England in the summer of 1986. For 28 years he was the sole owner of the record. However, now, Sir Viv shares the record with Misbah who smashed a 100 off 56 deliveries against Australia in the second test of the series.

Sir Viv's innings was 110* off 58 deliveries with 7 sixes and 7 fours. Misbah's was 101* off 57 deliveries with 5 sixes and 11 fours.

8. Centuries against all Test Playing Nations

Prior to this series between Pakistan and Australia, there were 11 batsmen who had scored centuries against all the other 9 test playing nations, but none of them were from Pakistan. Younis Khan became the first batsman from Pakistan to join that esteemed club of centurions.

9. Pakistan's Highest Scorer in Test Wins away from Home

Inzamam Ul Haq, with 2,707 runs, was Pakistan's highest scorer in test wins away from home before Pakistan started this series against Australia. After the first test that Pakistan won, Younis Khan went past Inzamam's tally and is now Pakistan's leading run scorer in test wins away from home with 2,847 runs.

If Pakistan wins the second test against Australia, which looks likely by tomorrow, Younis Khan will extend that runs tally to 3,106. That will leave only Ricky Ponting ahead of him in the list of highest run scorers in test wins away from home.

10. Average of 50 in Each of the 4 Innings of a Test

Sir Don Bradman and Herbert Sutcliffe were the only batsmen in the world who boasted an average of 50 or more in each of the 4 innings of a test match (with a minimum of 10 knocks in each innings).

With his exploits in this series against Australia, Younis Khan now ranks alongside the two greats and averages over 50 in each of the 4 innings of tests.

11. Century in both Innings of a Test by two Batsmen

This feat was achieved only once before when Ian Chappell and Greg Chappell, both scored centuries in both innings of the test between Australia and New Zealand in 1974.

Today, Misbah Ul Haq and Azhar Ali joined them and became the second pair of batsmen in the world to score centuries in both innings of the same test.

*************************

I'm sure there are a few more records that I missed out on, but these are 11 grandiose facts regarding batsmen from a team that is not known for its batting. It is a team that has historically perished in font of quality bowling and a team that has often collapsed for no good reason. Yet, here they are, scoring heaps of runs against the world's number 2 test team and arguably the best bowling attack in the world.

Another interesting fact is that five Pakistani batsmen, Younis Khan, Misbah Ul Haq, Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, and Sarfaraz Ahmed, scored 9 centuries against Australia in the two tests. All of them scored their first ever test century against Australia in this series.

Those are some amazing achievements by Pakistani batsmen. They look even greater when one hears the names of batsmen whose records were broken or equalled by these Pakistani batsmen.

Sir Don Bradman, Herbert Sutcliffe, Ian Chappell, Greg Chappell, Glen Turner, Sir Viv Richards, Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, Sachin Tendulkar, Jacques Kallis, Mohammad Yousuf, Steve Waugh, Brian Lara, Kumar Sangakkara, Ricky Ponting, and Rahul Dravid were all bettered or equalled by the Pakistani batsmen during the course of this test series against Australia!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Rare Success for Pakistan's Leadership

This 2-0 series win over Australia was sweet. Extremely sweet! There are so many stories within this 2-test series that I don't really know where to begin; but they all need to be told, for this series win is right up there as Pakistan's best test series victory, in my lifetime, if not ever.

When I think of Pakistan's victories in test series that I have witnessed, the greatest ones that come to mind are the ones against England '92, Australia '94, Asian Test Championship '99, South Africa '03, England '05, India '06, England '12, and this one Australia '14.

It will take time for this win to sink in and to realize how this one compares with past victories; and time will also tell the role this victory plays in shaping the future of Pakistan's test team.

However, one thing is quite clear. I don't think Pakistan has ever dominated a series the way they did this one. And that too against expectations considering that Pakistan were ranked number 6 in the world and they were up against the world's number 2 side, which was the top ranked side till a few months ago! Those lucky punters who believed in us with the bookies like Paddy Power will be rubbing their hands excitedly now too!

Pakistan completely outplayed the Australians and how.

I think that the greatest story of this 2-0 test series victory over Australia lies in the rare success of the PCB and the team management. No one could have even thought of a result like this considering that barely a few weeks ago Younis Khan had threatened to quit tests due to his sacking from ODIs and Misbah Ul Haq had stepped down from the team for the 3rd ODI against Australia due to losing all his confidence in himself.

In a situation like this with Pakistan's senior most cricketers down and out, it was PCB Chairman Shaharyar Khan' years of diplomatic service experience that came to the rescue. You can't give enough credit to Shaharyar sahab for convincing Younis to continue his test career and also for putting his weight behind Misbah at a time when the skipper was at an all time confidence low.

For a cricket board that has had leadership problems and management issues for as long as I have known it, this series will go down in history as the rare occurrence where true leadership was demonstrated by the Board. I salute you Shaharyar Sahab.

As for the new team management, this was their second series in charge. Moin Khan, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, and Grant Flower had got off to the worst possible start in their first series in charge in Sri Lanka a couple of months ago. The T20 and ODIs against Australia were also nothing to write home about.

The tests against Australia however were a different story altogether. Younis Khan has publicly acknowledged the effort that Grant Flower put in with him. The success of Pakistan's batting line up, in a series where Australia's world beating batsmen failed, also lies in the work that Grant Flower has put in.

Sarfraz Ahmed has had a marvellous year with the gloves and the bat. Moin Khan deserves a lot of credit for not only Sarfraz' inclusion in the team, but also for the confidence Moin has had in his abilities for a long time now.

Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah combined to take 28 Australian wickets in the 2 tests. Prior to this series, Babar had played all of 2 tests for Pakistan, while Yasir had played none. They did have tonnes of first class experience, but this series was no domestic game, it was against the mighty Australians and both the spinners exploited the Aussie weakness against spin to great effect.

It was a big ask in the absence of the more experienced Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman, yet both Zulfiqar and Yasir stood up and performed like champions, and I believe some credit must go to the spin consultant, Mushtaq Ahmed, who has been working behind the scenes with Pakistan's spinners.

While Pakistan's batsmen and spinners dominated the series, the pacers, Imran Khan and Rahat Ali, both with very little international experience, also performed their role to great effect. Both of them provided crucial breakthroughs in both the tests and their reverse swing was noteworthy, especially compared to the Australian pacers, who were pedestrian at best.

Every time Waqar Younis gets involved with the Pakistan team, the pacers tend to pick up their performance. Whether it is as bowling coach, or head coach, Waqar has always had a positive impact on the team, and more so, on the fast bowlers. This time is no different. He made a difference when Rana Naveed was part of the team; he did it with Umar Gul, Mohammad Aamer, and Mohammad Asif; and now he has done it with Imran Khan and Rahat Ali.

I know that everything looks good when the team performs. It makes the captain look good, it makes the team management look good, and it makes the board look like a professional unit. There may be little chunks here and there that need ironing out, but for Pakistan, this leadership and management seems to be coming together well, and at the right time considering that the World Cup is right round the corner.

Praising the leadership will be incomplete without a word or two about Misbah Ul Haq. Anyone in power is prone to criticism and being Pakistan's captain makes you even more vulnerable. Every single move is scrutinized and every little mistake is admonished as if one has committed a grave sin. With Misbah, it is no different.

For the past 3 years, Misbah has been criticized by former players, his own players, and the large fan base of Pakistan cricket. He has had supporters too, but he has heard his fair share of criticism for a number of things - for the way he bats, for the way he leads, for the players he supports, and for really everything he does on the field.

The pressure on Misbah, particularly during this year, has been immense. The losses have hurt, and the loss of his own form has hurt even more. One of Misbah's great strengths has been his performances under pressure. Hell, he took over the team when they were going through the worst crisis in their history; if that is not absorbing pressure and leading then I don't know what is.

The pressure never really did get to Misbah. Or so I thought. He seemed to soak it all in, ignore the critics, and continue in the way he thought best. But he finally crumbled. He buckled under pressure after a number of losses for Pakistan and batting failures for him, and he decided to sit out of the last ODI of the series against Australia.

For a captain to sit out of a match because he has no confidence left and he feels the team will be better off without him should result in the end of a captaincy career.

Not for Misbah though.

To come back from that to lead the team to its first test series win over Australia in 20 years, whitewash the Aussies and dominate them like they were some minnow, score twin centuries in the same test, and smash the fastest century ever in test cricket is nothing short of remarkable!

Misbah came back from the ditch and at the end of the series stood tall as the most successful captain in Pakistan's test history, along with Imran Khan and Javed Miandad.

The series win over Australia and the largest ever win for Pakistan in terms of runs was a rare occurrence, but so was the success of Pakistan cricket's leadership.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

An Open letter from Michael Clarke to Shaharyar Khan & Moin Khan

Dear Mr. Shaharyar Khan and Mr. Moin Khan,

First of all let me take this opportunity to congratulate both of you on taking the responsibility of PCB Chairman and Chief Selector / Team Manager respectively. I am sure that you both will do justice to your roles and I wish you all the best for the future.

Secondly, and more importantly, I am writing this letter to you as a plea from myself, the Australian cricket team, and the Australia public.

We have always cherished playing against Pakistan. Over the years, our players have enjoyed he competition on the field and our cricket fans have enjoyed watching the likes of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Inzamam Ul Haq, and Wasim Akram to name a few.

Pakistan have always fielded exciting players against us and we have always managed to beat Pakistan in test series after test series. Our Australian fans have loved the fact that for 20 years we have managed to beat Pakistan comprehensively.

Coming into this series in the UAE, we were very confident that we will once again thump Pakistan and go away with another test series win under our belt. After the T20 and ODIs, we were even more confident.

Additionally, our confidence was further boosted by our successful lobbying for the ban of Saeed Ajmal due to his unconventional action, which has given our batsmen nightmares. With no Saeed Ajmal, we were sure of a win in the tests against Pakistan.

Yet here we are, having lost the first test in Dubai, and staring at a massive first innings total by Pakistan, which will by all means bat us out of this test match.

We are at a loss as to how to explain this mediocre performance against a depleted Pakistan team. So much so that our coach Darren Lehmann could not come up with a better excuse than to say "our batsmen missed straight balls".

However, after today's play in Abu Dhabi, we as a team realized what went wrong.

What went wrong dear sirs, was that you dropped Younis Khan from the ODI squad and publicly stated that he would not be considered for the upcoming World Cup in Australia.

That is what went wrong sirs.

Younis was so pissed off at you and your management that he decided to take it all out on us!

He has been pummelling our bowling inning after inning and our bowlers have no idea on what to do against him.

In the previous test he became the first ever Pakistani batsman to hit two centuries against us in a test match. Not only that, but he became the first man to do that against us in 40 years!

And Younis did not finish with us there. He continued to pummel us today as well on the first day in Abu Dhabi and hit another hundred to make it three consecutive centuries against us!

The last time an Australia side had someone score three consecutive centuries against them was way back in 1925! That was 90 years ago sirs.

It has been almost a century where players like Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Viv Richards, Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara, Rahul Dravid, Jacques Kallis, Inzamam Ul Haq, Kevin Peitersen, Kumar Sangakkara and so many others have come up against us Australians and yet haven't achieved anything like Younis Khan has against us.

Can you even begin to imagine what your decision to drop Younis from ODIs did to us Australians? What it did to our bowlers? What it did to our cricket fans? and more importantly what it did to our rich cricketing history?

You have destroyed it sirs.

In view of this, please consider my plea and include Younis Khan in the ODI squad for the World Cup. We, the Australia cricket team, and our public can no longer face this humiliation at the hands of Younis and we will be really grateful if you can do this for us.

We have seen enough of Younis Khan's wrath and we can't take it any more.

We promise you that Younis will be treated graciously in Australia in February and March, and we will make him feel like the King he is when he visits us for the World Cup.

Please sirs, please help us out.

Yours sincerely,

A hapless Australian captain,

Michael Clarke.

(on behalf of the Australian cricket team and Australian cricket fans)

*the idea for this letter was given by Ahmad Malik*

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Misbah - Pakistan's most Successful Test Captain?

This second test against Australia being played in Abu Dhabi is Misbah's 31st test as captain of Pakistan, which puts him level with Inzamam as the third most capped test captain of Pakistan.

Only Javed Miandad (34) and Imran Khan (48) have captained Pakistan in more test matches than Misbah has.

Both, Miandad and Imran are also Pakistan's most successful test captains with 14 test wins apiece.

The last test win over Australia was Misbah's 13th test win as captain.

That is quite an achievement considering that Miandad and Imran are Pakistan's most successful test captains in Pakistan's history.

With the amount of criticism that Misbah receives, it will be quite a slap on the critics faces when he ranks alongside both Miandad and Imran as Pakistan's most successful test captain.

With the ongoing test match against Australia being played and another three to be played against New Zealand next month, Misbah could well become Pakistan's most successful test captain before the end of the year!


What is interesting to note is that Misbah has won a greater percentage of tests as captain than Miandad and Imran did. However, Wasim Akram is the more successful test captain in terms of % wins, winning 48% of his tests as captain of Pakistan.

Misbah has also lost a greater % of tests as compared to Miandad and Imran, however that could also have to do with the higher number of tests that used to end in draws during the 80s.

Miandad, Imran, and Akram also rank above Misbah in terms of W/L ratio in tests as Pakistan captain.

I won't be surprised, however, if Misbah improves on those aspects, i.e. % wins and W/L, considering the way Pakistan are playing and that they face New Zealand in the UAE next.

I have been completely against Misbah as Pakistan's ODI captain. However, I have always maintained that he is the right man to lead Pakistan in test matches, and achieving this record, which may happen as soon as in the next 4 days, will be one huge feather in Misbah's cap.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

One for Pakistan's Young (and some not so young) Brigade

Pakistan's victory over Australia in the first test was not just another test victory. It was arguably one of the best test victories for Pakistan ever, achieved on the same day they registered their first ever victory in test cricket in 1952.

Pakistan's margin of victory, 221 runs, is their highest margin of victory in terms of runs over Australia. That is a massive win over the world's number 2 test team.

What makes this victory all the more special is that Pakistan fielded a relatively young and inexperienced team, particularly their bowling attack. Imran Khan and Yasir Shah were making their test debuts, while Rahat Ali and Zulfiqar Babar were playing their 7th and 3rd test match respectively.

8 test matches between Pakistan's first choice bowling attack prior to this one against Australia, and yet they bowled them out twice on a wicket that was criticized profusely for being a flat deck.

We have all seen and talked about how great Younis Khan was in this test. Yes he was, but at the same time there were various other notable performances, all of which deserve mention and praise.



Ahmed Shehzad

The boy is not even 23 years old yet and he has rapidly established himself as Pakistan's first choice opener across all formats. There is no denying that Shehzad will go on to a forge a career spanning another decade and a half and go on to become the most successful opening batsman ever produced by Pakistan.

He is Pakistan's only batsman, and one of 7 in the world, to have scored a century in all three formats of the game.

In just 5 years of international cricket, Shehzad is already level with Aamer Sohail on 5 centuries in ODIs as an opener for Pakistan. Only Salman Butt (8), Rameez Raja (8), and Saeed Anwar (20) have more centuries as openers for Pakistan.

Shehzad scored a brilliant ton, his second in tests, in the 2nd innings against Australia to ensure that Pakistan was able to accelerate and set up a declaration to have a go at the Aussies. He played a chanceless knock, piling on 131 runs, and was fierce towards the bowling as his innings progressed.

Sarfraz Ahmed

Pakistan has finally moved on from a decade of the Akmal mob behind the stumps and have unearthed a gem in the form of Sarfraz.

Sarfraz is having a phenomenal year with the bat, after having an indifferent start to his test career. Just after 4 tests, Sarfraz was written off as someone who cannot make it at the international level. His wicketkeeping was never the concern; it was the batting or rather the lack of it that was.

In his first 4 tests, Sarfraz managed a mere 89 runs in 8 innings at an average of 11.1. The turn of the year, however, saw a new Sarfraz. The world was his stage as he demonstrated his batting ability and made his bat tell all his critics that he was here to stay.

In 5 test matches this year, Sarfraz has amassed 523 runs in 10 innings at an average of 65.4! Mind you, he bats at number 7, and his runs tally includes four 50s and two centuries. During this period, he has also managed a sequence of 5 consecutive scores over 50, and centuries in two successive tests. His last 10 tests innings read 7,74,5,48,55,52*,103,55,109,15*.

In this test against Australia, he top scored in the first innings with a belligerent knock of 109 at better than run a ball. Sarfraz reached his second test century in only 80 deliveries, which is the 4th fastest century by a Pakistani in tests and the second fastest century ever by a wicketkeeper.

Among wicketkeepers, only Adam Gilchrist has scored a faster century than Sarfraz in the history of the game.

Sarfraz' knock ensured that Pakistan posted a total in excess of 450 in the first innings, which set them up for the entire match.

Yasir Shah

Yasir is only the third leg spinner to debut for Pakistan in the past two decades, with the other two being Shahid Afridi in 1998 and Danish Kaneria in 2000.

Yasir has been a top performer on the domestic circuit and has been impressing the selectors for a long time now. Finally he got his chance in test cricket and how he grabbed it with both his hands and shone like a true champion.

Yasir's haul of 7-116 in the first test against Australia gave him the best figures ever registered by a Pakistani leg spinner on his test debut. The previous best was Shahid Afridi's 5-101, also against Australia. The 7 wickets is the second most number of wickets taken on debut by a Pakistani spinner, level with Mohammad Nazir and Tauseef Ahmed, and 1 behind Abdur Rehman's 8.

Yasir's 7 wickets against Australia included wickets of Michael Clarke, David Warner, and Steve Smith (twice!). Those three are Australia's best players of spin, which speaks volumes of Yasir's achievement in this test match.

His bowling effort managed to impress Shane Warne as well, who had been singing Yasir's praises throughout this test match. What better for a young debutant to be praised by the best leg spinner to ever play the game.

Zulfiqar Babar

He doesn't really qualify as a member of the young brigade. Like Ajmal, Babar is a late bloomer and in only his 3rd test, he managed his first 5 wicket haul to ensure a massive Pakistan victory on the final day of the first test against Australia.

In the first innings, Babar snared the wickets of Clarke and Marsh, and then started Australia's slide in the second innings by effecting Warner's first ever stumped dismissal in 157 international innings.

Babar has been around the domestic scene forever and has looked on from the sidelines finding it difficult to break into the international side due to the presence of Saeed Ajmal and Abdur Rehman. Now with Ajmal banned and Rehman out of favour, Babar has made the most of this opportunity and stood up to be counted as Pakistan's main spinner.

One can only be in awe of the talent available to Pakistan that despite their first choice bowlers either banned or injured, they managed to put together a bowling attack that bowled out the world's number two test side twice in 3 days.

Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq were the find of the season four years ago, and today both of them are key figures in Pakistan's test team. Over the past season and this one, Pakistan have found Shehzad, Sarfraz, Yasir, and Babar, who have started their test careers with a bang.

We can be quite sure (and hope) that they will go on to become major players for Pakistan in years to come.

While the young brigade has shone brightly for Pakistan, a test victory cannot go by without a worthy mention of the captain. Misbah, despite being out of form and under severe criticism, fought against the odds to find some form and managed the team tremendously well on the field.

This was Pakistan's 13th test win under Misbah, which makes him Pakistan's 3rd most successful test captain behind the two greats - Imran Khan and Javed Miandad - both of whom led Pakistan in 14 test wins.

This victory over Australia was sweet... a series win, which will be a first for them over Australia in 20 years, will be even sweeter if achieved.

With Pakistan's senior citizens and the young brigade in this kind of form, it will be difficult to stop them from achieving that. 

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

KING KHAN, Younis KHAN!

A Pakistan test series is never complete without a post on Younis Khan. Younis has been an instrumental figure in test matches for Pakistan and with every series he stamps his authority and grows in stature as one of the best batsman to ever play the game.

Like Michael Clarke, everyone is caught surprised when they hear that Younis Khan has played only 92 tests in his 14 year career thus far. There are so many batsmen all around the world who began their careers well after Younis and have gone past a 100 tests; Clarke himself, Alastair Cook, and Kevin Pietersen to name a few.

I have always wondered where Younis would have been had Pakistan played as much test cricket as Australia, England or India. His figures in test cricket are comparable to those of the modern day greats, and just because Pakistan does not play as much test cricket, his runs tally is far behind.

However, that alone cannot take anything away from the phenomenal batsman that Younis Khan is. He stands far above his Pakistani compatriots, as well as, his international peers.

Prior to this test series against Australia in the UAE, Younis Khan was a distraught man. Having been dropped from the ODI squad (and rightly so), Younis spoke out against the PCB, declared himself unavailable from all cricket, and challenged the board to build a team without him.

That could have very easily ended his career. Thank God for some sane heads in the PCB, sense prevailed, Younis was cajoled and talked to, and the man decided that he will play.

Not only will he play, but he will play with the aim to become the first Pakistani to score a century against all other 9 test playing nations, to overtake Inzamam Ul Haq as the leading centurion for Pakistan, to overtake Javed Miandad as the leading run scorer in tests for Pakistan, and to become the first Pakistani batsman to reach the 10,000 run landmark in test cricket.

He made his aims public prior to the test series against Australia and how he has appeared as a man on a mission.

In the first innings of the series he achieved the feat of becoming the first Pakistani to score a century against all other 9 test playing nations, and in the second, he surpassed Inzamam Ul Haq's Pakistan record of 25 centuries.

Not only did Younis Khan achieve those two feats, he also became the first Pakistani to score two centuries in a test against Australia and the first batsman in the world to achieve the feat of twin centuries against Australia in the past 40 years!

I don't think I have the words that will do justice to Younis Khan's greatness, so I will just let his numbers speak for themselves.

1. Pakistan's Leading Test Centurion

The most significant aspect of Younis Khan's 26 test centuries is that he has achieved the feat in far fewer innings than Inzamam Ul Haq and Javed Miandad.

You can be sure that he will reach the 10,000 run mark if he ends his career with as many tests as Inzamam or Miandad.

2. Pakistan's Leading Run Scorer in Tests

Younis surpassed Mohammad Yousuf's tally in the previous test series against Sri Lanka, and is currently third on the list behind Inzamam and Miandad. He needs a 1,000 odd runs to become the highest run scorer for Pakistan, which in his current form should take him another 8-10 test matches or so.

3. Master of all Oppositions

Prior to this test series against Australia, there were 11 batsmen in this world who had scored a century against all 9 test playing nations. None of those 11 batsmen were from Pakistan.

While Inzamam and Yousuf had missed out on the elusive club due to not being able to hit a ton against South Africa, Younis was missing out due to his failure to convert fifties against Australia.

All that changed on the first day of the series as Younis Khan marched his way to 106 and became the first Pakistani and 12th batsman in the world to score centuries against all 9 test playing nations.

That is some esteemed company that Younis is a part of now. A club that comprises of Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Jacques Kallis, Brian Lara, Steve Waugh, Kumar Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene, Adam Gilchrist, Marvan Atapattu, Rahul Dravid, and Gary Kirsten.

4. One of the Best of the Past Decade

In the past decade, since January 2005, Younis Khan has the third highest average in tests, behind only Kumar Sangakkara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

During this decade, Younis has performed better than the Sachins, Pontings, and Kallises of the world.

5. King of the 4th Innings

Younis Khan is among the only 6 batsmen in this world who can stake claim to averaging over 50 in the 4th innings of tests (min: 1,000 4th innings runs).

He is also among the only 6 batsmen in this world who have scored 4 or more centuries in the 4th innings of tests.

His average of 53.23 in 4th innings of tests is the 3rd highest in the world among batsmen who have scored at least 1,000 4th innings runs in test matches.

6. One of the Best Converters in History

Younis Khan converts 48% of all his fifties into centuries in test cricket. That is a better conversion rate than the likes of Kallis (44%), Sachin (42%), Ponting (40%), Lara (41.5%), Dravid (36%), and many other batsmen who have scored at least 20 test centuries.

It goes without saying that he has the best conversion rates among all Pakistani batsmen to ever play the game. Only 4 batsmen have a better conversion rate than Younis Khan in test cricket.

7. One of the most Frequent Centurions

Younis Khan scores a test century every 6.31 innings. That is the bets ratio for a Pakistani batsman and it is among the best 10 innings per test century ratios in the history of test cricket. It is better than that of Sachin (6.45), Lara (6.82), Ponting (7.00), and Dravid (7.94), to name a few of his international peers who top the run scoring charts in test matches.

8. One of the Best after 92 Tests

Sachin, Ponting, Kallis, Dravid, and Sangakkara are the leading 5 run scorers in the history of test cricket. All of them have played over 160 tests in their career, besides Sangakkara who has played 128.

Comparing Younis Khan to these 5 batsmen at the stage that Younis is right now, i.e. 92 test matches, shows that Younis has the third highest runs tally, a bit behind Rahul Dravid and well behind King Sanga.

It is quite impossible to see Younis play as many tests as Ponting, Dravid, and Kallis did, however one can only imagine where Younis would have ranked among the leading test run scorers if only Pakistan played as much test cricket as some of the other nations.

9. A Batting Giant away from Home

The hallmark of any great test batsman is how well he does in matches played away from home, in alien conditions that require adjustments and mental toughness.

Younis Khan has the most runs by a Pakistani batsman and the 4th most runs by any batsman in the history of the game in test matches played away from home.

Only Sachin, Dravid, and Kallis have scored more runs and more centuries in away test matches than Younis has.

10. The Best Number 3 Produced by Pakistan

Younis Khan is by far the best number 3 batsman ever produced by Pakistan. He is well ahead in terms of runs, average, and centuries.

11. A King Match Winner away from Home

Inzamam Ul Haq's prowess as a test match winner for Pakistan is well documented. No one has scored more runs (4,690) or more centuries (17) than Inzamam has in test wins for Pakistan. Younis Khan is second on that list for Pakistan with 3,347 runs and 12 centuries in test wins.

It will take Younis some time to surpass this record of Inzamam, however there is another Inzamam record that Younis surpassed in this massive test win over Australia. Younis Khan's twin centuries in the test match took him past Inzamam as Pakistan's leading run scorer in test match wins away from home.

Not only is Younis the leading run scorer for Pakistan in test wins away from home, he is now only behind the Aussie pair of Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting as the leading run scorer in test wins away from home in the history of the game. Both those run tallies are within Younis' sights and he could well end his career as the leading run scorer in test wins away from home.

Younis Khan's average of 86.3 in test wins away from home is the highest average in the world among all batsmen who have scored at least 2,000 runs in test wins away from home. And among all batsmen with at least 1,000 runs in test wins away from home, Younis' 86.3 is only behind Alastair Cook (99.7), Sir Don Bradman (96.8), and Wally Hammond (95.6).

Younis is also third on the list of batsmen with most 100s in test wins away from home. His 11 centuries, including the two in the just concluded match, is only behind Ponting's 12 and Waugh's 14.

As I said, words cannot do justice to the stature of Younis Khan.

He is not only the best test batsman produced by Pakistan, he is also one of their biggest match winners, and arguably the best test match batsman ever produced.

All hail KING KHAN!

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Breaking some Myths about Shahid Afridi

Shahid Afridi's career can easily be divided into two phases; the first phase was when the team tried to make the world believe that he is a batsman who can bowl a bit, and the second phase was when the world was made to believe that he is a bowler first and then a batsman.

No other cricketer has suffered more due to this confusion. Not only were the board, coaches, management, and other players confused about what Shahid Afridi is, he himself probably was, and is, confused about it as well.

Despite all this, there should be no confusion about one fact. The fact that Afridi is one of the biggest match winners ever produced by Pakistan.

Here are some myths about him, which his critics love to bring up every now and then, and the related facts, which prove that the myths are not really true.

Myth #1: The Walking Duck

Critic Speak: "Kitni baar zero pe out hua hai yaar!"; "He has the most ducks in ODIs"...  

Question: So how many ducks does he really have in ODIs? And how often does he get out on a duck?

Fact: He has 29 ducks in ODIs, which is the 2nd highest number of ducks after Sanath Jayasuriya. His 29 ducks in 356 ODI innings means that Afridi gets out for no score on average every 12th innings.

Does anyone know what that means? i.e. getting out for a duck every 13th innings? How does that compare with other cricketers? The answer is in the table below.



























(the table was created before the 3rd ODI against Australia, hence it shows 355 ODI innings for Afridi)

There are some interesting names in there of batsmen who get out on a duck more often than Shahid Afridi does, such as Chris Gayle, Andrew Symonds, Brendon McCullum, Younis Khan, Herchelle Gibbs, to name a few.

Moreover, out of the 88 innings in which Afridi has batted at number 7, only 5 have resulted in a duck. That number is less than the number of ducks that others have registered batting at 7, including Chris Harris, Ian Healy, Wasim Akram, and Kapil Dev.

While at number 8, Afridi has registered 3 ducks in 34 innings.

Myth #2: Once in 10 time wonder Part 1

Critic Speak: "Yaar 10 innings ke baad ek score karta aur phir 10 matches aur free me khelta hai"; "It is no big deal if he scores once every 10 innings" ...

Question: So does Afridi really score only once in 10 innings? Has he really performed with the bat in only 10% of the 356 ODI innings he has ever batted in?

Fact #1: Well the fact is that Afridi has scored 30 runs or more in 94 ODI innings. That is a 30+ score in every 4th ODI innings. I have used a benchmark of 30 because that is what I believe refers to as a good average for a bowling allrounder.

Fact #2: In 88 ODI innings at number 7, Afridi has scored 27 or more runs in 24 innings (every 4th innings). And in 34 ODI innings at number 8 he has scored 24 or more runs in 12 innings (every 3rd innings).

I have used the numbers 27 and 24 because those are the respective average scores of batsmen who have scored over 1,000 runs at number 7 and over 650 runs at number 8.

I really think that this shows that Afridi does fulfil his role with the bat more often than not.

Myth #3: Once in 10 time wonder Part 2

Critic Speak: "He is not a match winner. He fails more often than not, and hardly wins games for Pakistan" ... "haan toh 10 match ke baad ek match jitda diya toh kaunsi badi baat hai"...

Question: So does Afridi win any matches for Pakistan? Does he win 1 in 10 games for Pakistan?

Fact #1: Afridi has 32 man of the match awards, the most by any Pakistani and the 3rd highest in the world, in 384 ODIs. That means that he wins a man of the match award in every 12th ODI, meaning he puts in a match winning performance every 12th ODI.

That is a match winning performance more often than all Pakistani cricketers (barring the opening duo of Saeed Anwar and Aamer Sohail) that have won at least 10 man of the match awards in ODIs.



Fact #2: Pakistan has won 212 out of the 384 ODIs that Afridi has played in, i.e. a 55% success rate. His batting average in matches won by Pakistan is 30, a good 7 runs more than his career average of 23. 5 out of his 6 ODI hundreds and 27 out of his 36 ODI 50s have come in matches that Pakistan has won. In those 212 ODIs that Pakistan has won, Afridi has taken 271 wickets at an average of 25.3, which is a remarkable performance for a spinner. That average is a good 9 runs less than his career average of 34. All of his four 4-wkt hauls and nine 5-wkt hauls have come in matches that Pakistan has won.

Now tell me, if those aren't figures of a match winner, I wonder what are!

Myth #4: He is not an allrounder


Critic Speak: "chalo bowling theek kar leta but batting me bilkul bekaar hai"... "he is not fulfilling his role as a bowling allrounder"... "he does not deserve to bat at 7"...

Question: So does Afridi fulfill his batting role at number 7 or 8?

Before I present the facts, let me state that Afridi is the most scrutinized number 7 or 8 in the world. No other cricketer who regularly bats at 7 or 8 is scrutinized as much and as seriously as Afridi is. For a large part of cricket history, batting was the role of numbers 1-6, wicketkeeping the role of number 7, and bowling the role of numbers 8-11. It is a more recent phenomenon that wicket keepers and bowlers are required to contribute with the bat.

Fair enough, a bowler or keeper who can bat well at number 7 or 8 gives an ODI team more batting depth.

Fact #1: Out of all ODI number 7s in the world, Afridi has the 3rd highest runs tally and the best strike rate. His average among all batsman who have scored at least 1,000 runs in ODIs while batting at number 7 is the 10th best in this world. And that is out of hundreds of cricketers who have batted at number 7 for their team.

If anything, that outlines consistency really.

What is the role of a number 7 in an ODI? To either save a sinking ship when coming in at 100 odd for 5, or to accelerate at the end of an innings when coming in at 200 odd for 5. You can't expect much of Afridi in the former situation, but in the latter situation, it works more often than not. And why should you expect anything from Afridi when your frontline batsmen have failed?



Fact #2: Out of all number 8s in the world with at least 650 runs, Afridi has the 7th best average, and the best strike rate.


The man bowls, the man bats, the man fields, and the man also leads from the front. What else does one want?

Take Afridi out of the eleven and you will require four players to fill his shoes. One to bowl and pick up wickets, one to smash it around, one to field, and one to keep the chips up when they are down!

Do you really know anyone who can replace him?

I don't!

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Friday, October 10, 2014

An open letter to Misbah Ul Haq


Dear Misbah,

You lost your first wicket in the 26th over with the score on 126. The openers had laid out an enviable position, a solid platform, which you needed to capitalize on. From 126-1 in 25.1 overs, 250 should be a given, while 275 reachable, yet you fold for 215.

Pathetic. Absolutely pathetic!

Can you tell me one player in the world who walks in to bat at 130-2 in 26 overs and then faces 30 balls for 15 runs!?

Most teams would use the position to send in their best batsmen and build on the platform. Most batsmen in the world will carry on the momentum created by the openers.

But not you sir. No sir, you will use tactics that will suck the life out of the innings and derail any progress that could have been possible.

You started the game once again without Sohaib Maqsood, a batsman who has had a brilliant start to his ODI career - an average of 36 and a strike rate of 84 in 17 innings. And instead of him you once again played Asad Shafiq who has taken 47 ODI innings to show what a rubbish ODI player he is with an average of 25 over those games.

Not only do you include Asad Shafiq in the XI, you send him to bat when the team is at at the top at 126-1 in 25.1.

You do that when you have in your dressing room an Umar Akmal, the top scorer in the previous ODI, and Fawad Alam, someone who grinds his way through the innings and has accumulated 325 runs at an average of 81 in his previous 6 ODI innings.

Alright maybe due to some brain damage you thought that Asad Shafiq was capable of continuing in the same momentum as Shehzad and Sarfraz, but once the second wicket fell, you still did not realize that Umar or Fawad should go out.

Instead you walked out yourself, probably hoping that you could regain some much needed form. At 130-2, the team's better batsmen should have walked out so that the team could have remained on top.

Yet, you sir, with 210 runs in your previous 9 ODI innings at an average of 23, decided that it was more important for you to get some batting practice than it was for the team to progress to a competitive total.

You sir put your needs ahead of the team's needs.

And you know what is sad?

You will probably blame Fawad Alam for scratching his way to 20 not out and make him the scapegoat and drop him for Sohaib for the 3rd ODI. When in fact you should have started with Sohaib in the XI instead of Asad.

How do you expect to continue like this sir?

The World Cup is 5 months away and you expect to lead your team at the global event?

How will your team compete against the top teams when you continue to falter game after game and refuse to learn from your mistakes?

How do you expect the team to perform when you bring them down every time they look to rise to the occasion?

After an opening stand of 126 in 25 overs, only you could have made it possible to end the innings at 215.

I don't know anyone else who would have killed his team's chances the way you did today.

Please resign gracefully and leave the limited overs game gracefully. Otherwise you may be left with egg all over your face when you are asked to step down.

Time to go sir. Time to go home and appear on some TV channel as an expert for the World Cup.

Yours truly,

Q & many other Pakistan cricket fans.

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