Monday, November 19, 2007

I am waiting ...

I am bad with dates and names. I am bad with statistics pertaining to the game as well. I can't recall when this affair with the game began for me - but I do remember watching Miandad score a century on the opening day of the world cup 1987 against Sri Lanka in Hyderabad. I do remember collecting coke bottle caps during the tournament to win the free scoring sheet that Coke had offered to its consumers. I do remember feigning stomachache and pulling a sicky from my class to watch the semi-final with Australia, tallying every run and wicket on the most prized-scorecard till Steve Waugh hit Jaffar for 18 in the last over. With the last over of Aussie innings not in my scorecard, I started afresh in Pakistan innings. Don't remember much, except that Bruce Reid clean-bowled Miandad and my scorecard remained incomplete, and down the throat of a dust-bin. I remember watching the Sharjah-6 by Miandad. I remember Imran Khan inviting Indian film-stars to raise donations. I remember Zia's crash, and I remember Nazia Zoheb's young tarang, where Ali Azmat sang Dosti with Jupiters (awesome song by a crap band).

But I think the affair became an obsession at the start of 92 world cup. Waqar was sidelined, and Miandad not selected. There was wholesale criticism about Imran, and everybody at my dad's press (where I used to spend my evenings getting acquainted to computers) proclaimed doom for Imran Khan. There is history here as well. Both Imran and Miandad had their exclusive fanbase ... and this was reflected by where a person was physically based in Pakistan. If you are in Karachi/Hyderabad, Miandad was the superman, and Imran was perceived to be this conniving dictator, who had this sectarian-based agenda of sidelining players from Sindh, and had a personal vendetta against Miandad on top of it. I was (still am) an idealist - and was extremely miffed by this sheer bias of my dad's folks as I could never understand how hatred for one person (Imran) and love for another (Miandad) would lead somebody to actually dismiss the entire Pakistani campaign even before it began. In one of those arguments with a bunch of over-patronising elders, I proclaimed "Imran will bring the cup to Pakistan."

Nobody took me seriously but myself. I would wake up in the middle of the night, make myself sehri, and watch the match. Good thing I was in the middle of schools, and was usually at home. I remember Ramiz taking ages to get a century in the opening match, and then Lara completely dominating Pakistan attack. I went through heartache after heartache in the initial stages of the campaign. Yet, every evening at Iftar at the press, I would stand by my captain, and more than anything, reassure myself that Pakistan would win - often under extreme pressure from the patronizers. There was too much going against Pakistan. Ijaz was our 5th bowlder. Inzy wasn't clicking and floated in the batting order. I hated Iqbad Sikander. Yet Imran, Miandad and Akram were digging in deep - and there was this immovable faith in Imran Khan.

Then came the crunch games, we shared a point with England, and our qualification was on the road. I remember praying for Aussies victory against Windies, and actually offering 2-Nafils when the semi-final berth was confirmed. The blind-faith in Imran was paying off. I was boasting off in my dad's office. It was as if I was giving all those patronizing sonofbitches a finger-salute. The semi-final gave us a star in Inzy. Miandad, Imran and Was were the support act. Moin's pull for a straight six was a classic. Aaqib's slower one to get rid of Greatbatch. The moments have been etched in my memory. Then there was the final, Wasim was the beauty, Imran the anchor, Miandad the shrewd, Mushy provided the guile, and Ramiz the finishing. The world cup was ours.

Imran had brought the cup home. I lined up on the street to welcome our all-conquering heroes. I even campaigned for Shaukat Khanum Hospital fundraiser at school. That was the beginning of my passion for the sport. Imran retired, and we've been see-sawing on the cricketing map since then. Some good, some bad and some downright ugly moments form the sports history post 1992 triumph. I sat down to list the best-11 for ODIs after 1992, and here is what I came up with:
  1. Saeed Anwar

  2. Aamir Sohail

  3. Abdul Razak

  4. Inzamam-ul-Haq

  5. Mohd. Yousuf

  6. Shahid Afridi

  7. Moin Khan (WK)

  8. Wasim Akram (C)

  9. Waqar Younis

  10. Saqlain Mushtaq

  11. Shoaib Akhtar
It's been 15 years since that triumph, and only 3 players in the current setup find themselves in the best-11 post-92 triumph. This is an astoundingly worrying prospect as in these 15 years we have given ODI debuts to a total of 76 people. Asif and Younis are the only other players from the current team that can potentially challenge to displace somebody from this list - though highly unlikely as Asif is no Waqar and Younis is no Inzy. The future is yet unknown - the openers are a dilemma that doesn't seem to resolve despite Butt's resurgence (i still doubt his ability), Misbah is a finisher who never finishes, and Rao/Tanvir are average bowlers at best. And we are still missing Razzak's batting in late order.

I am waiting for the nextgen of Ws and Inzy to come through. And yes, I still believe in Imran Khan. I am waiting for my captain to lead us out of the rot, this time the task is even bigger - it's the country. Yet the faith has never been stronger - both in the captain, and in the ability of the country to produce the next best thing to hit the cricketing world.

Make your pitch on this post...



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16 Pitched:

  1. Q said...
     

    I had tears in my eyes by the time I was done reading this. Is it only me being emotional, or is this the story of every Pakistan cricket fan there is?

    Very moving KC.

  2. KC said...
     

    i'll be a bollywood-style filmmaker one day ;-)

  3. Obaid said...
     

    KC, you monster! Great writeup. I remember that I had given up when Pakistan was chasing in the 92 semi... I stopped watching TV and then was blown away when I turned it back on. I bunked school to watch the ifnal but the power failed at the end of the Pak innings so I missed Inzi and Imran's final push.

    Q, I think its the pain killers :)

  4. zulfishah said...
     

    why would you have razzaq at no. 3 when you already have 5 bowlers + amir sohail? you need a batsman... possibly between younis khan, ijaz ahmed or salim malik (match-fixing charges notwithstanding). hmm, we do seem to have a historical shortage of authoritative batsman at no. 3.

  5. Soulberry said...
     

    Beautiful! KC, wonderful to share this nostalgia with us through this exquisitely written article.

    I never understood the sectarian bias among the fans which usually lasts till the team begins to play. We see it in India too and till the team starts playing anyone listening on to the converstations would be left wondering how they play at all as a team!

    It is a wonderful feeling when one stands up to hold an ideal aloft and see it fructify. That's the kind of stuff for indelible memories. With the 83 WC it was something like that for me. When the pool of 60 players were selected and later culled down to 30 and then the team...not many of my mates believed this team could achieve anything. I urged them to take a closer look at the individual names on the roster - barring two players, everybody could do at least two things on the field...bat and bowl. Then they were all young players and many rather athletic for those days..so fielding would be better. And most of all each of those players had shown plenty of spirit on the domestic scene or international stage whenever they played - I thought they could win (I was laughed at for India couldn't play ODIs well yet and 1979 and 36 no. was still fresh in memories) and said so. Rest is history but I'll never forget the way I followed the matches on radio and the semis and finals (India's first overseas live telecast of cricket). My mates were all caught up in the excitement by that time and had converted to believers! I had a happy laugh at the end of it all and remains etched in my memory.

    I'd prefer MoYo at 3 and Razzak used as a floater depending upon the match situation. That must be the best ODI selection for Pakistan. I'm sure they'd do well in tests too...I'd keep Imran Khan instead of Shoaib Akhtar.

    Immy is perhaps the best all-rounder in terms of all round contributions in winning causes compared to Botham, Kapil,Hadlee, Sobers et al. And he is certainly as good a bowler, if not better, than Shoaib. The W's need to be there (Wasim is my all time fav). I'd feel Shoaib may be unlucky to miss out for Imran in my hypothetical team. Then there's Zed..Zaheer Abbas was rather good in limited overs too.

  6. Q said...
     

    Now that I am over all the emotions that were driven inside me due to this blog, I can give more constructive comments :-)

    It really was moving KC - It was like reading about a little boy describing how his dream came true, and since then how that boy has been waiting for it to happen again.

    I remember being up all night for the 92 semi final between Pak and NZ. I watched the wntire NZ innings from 2 am to 530 am. Then I watched an hr of Paks innings before heading to school thinking that Pak was bowing out. I called home during one of the breaks and was pleasantly surprised to hear that Pak had gone through. I remember screaming in front of the head supervisors office (the phone booths were there) and being told to get out of the admin building. Man that feeling, I still remember it.

    I bunked school to watch the final. It was also the day when we got the first satellite dish installed in our home. Even though the WC was being shown on some local channel in Abu Dhabi, I remember waking up early in the morning to help my dad install the dish and receiver and all to watch the game on prime sports was it? Or some channel. The dish was installed, friends and family were over, I don't know if i was more excited at seeing a world cup final with Pakistan in it or the fact that I was bunking school. I still remember it was a Wednesday.

    I dont think any Pak cricket fan will ever forget the nitty gritties of the 1992 world cup. I guess its the same for the Indians who were lucky enough to witness the 83 WC, as soulberry pointed out.

    As for the team - Imran and Zed dont make it as KC has built a post-92 team and both had retired by then.

    I would have Razzak in the team, but maybe not batting at 3. As Soulberry suggested, he could be used as a floater with MoYo at 3.

    Or if we can twist the rules a bit and include Imran Khan to captain the side, we can leave Razzak out and Khan saahib can bat at 3.

  7. KC said...
     

    i think razzak was one of the better ODI players that we gave to the world ... his hitting was phenomenal (five 4s against mcgrath in an over), and his bowling was match winning on occasions. he gave freedom and a further dimension to the captain, in both the departments.

    younis doesnt cut it for me - not just yet. i have to see more match-winning finishes from him.

    malik was past his prime after 92. and ijaz loses out primarily because of razzak's bowling, and marginally cuz i didn't like his stance on the crease ;-)

    as for imran and zaheer, as Q pointed out, both of them had retired by that time.

    as for moyo at no. 3, it's just that moyo never prefers to bat at that position, and that razzak did play some crucial knocks at that position. of course, floating him based on the situation is the way to go.

    Q - any idea if we ever managed to field these 11 in one game in the last 15 years?

  8. Tayyab said...
     

    I have no clue who KC is and whether i know him.. My points are that the articles is well written but i disagree on 2 points:

    1. Imran Khan will lead the country out of disaster.. i have my doubts he will win oremiership in the first place and i doubt he will be able to make much of a difference.. the rot is everywhere in the system.. the cancer of corruption is everywhere in the bureaucracy

    2. I dont think Sohail tanveer is an average bowler.. i personally think given time, he will mature and do really well for pakistan.. pls dont put him in the same league as rao as theres a big difference

    3. The article was very well written

  9. KC said...
     

    tayyab ... i'll defer my detailed comments on the politics for another forum (coming soon). for the time being, it's not always about being in government, the whole idea behind democracy is to ensure that the opposition is strong and honest enough to provide the checks and balances. i have no delusion about Imran's chances - but I am an idealist, and a patient one at that ;-)

    as for tanvir - i'd be glad to be wrong on this one. for me, he doesnt seem to have the variety to threaten oppositions consistently for long. but yes, he seems to be and exciting prospect.

  10. Ottayan said...
     

    KC,

    Good write up.

    Made me relive those days again.

  11. Q said...
     

    A point on Sohail Tanvir - Tayyab I agree, he is a very promising bowler, definitely leagues ahead of Rao and hopefully he will develop into a great one. I agree KC, he doesn't have the variety right now, espeically the insiwnger to the right handed batsman. If he doesn't develop that, it will be difficult for him to be a consistent wicket taker.

    BUT, we need to give him time. He was a batsman who could bowl till 6 months ago when Wasim Akram discovered him in trials held for all rounders. He has 2 100s and 4 50s in 10 first class games. He came to the trials as a batsman who could bowl before Wasim bhai taught him some tricks of the trade. The bowler he is today is thanks to Wasim bhai's 10 minutes of coaching. I hope Wasim Akram continues to mentor and groom Tanvir.

    Now for KC's intriguing question - has this team ever played together? Thas a tough one KC and I could be doing research all day before getting to an answer.

    The team seems most identical to the one that played the 1999 world cup but Waqar Younis featured in only 1 game the entire tournament. Plus Saleem Malik was still around then. The final of the 99 cup comes closest to this team with Wasti, Azhar Mahmood, and Ijaz Ahmed playing instead of Sohail, Waqar, and Yousuf (he was injured for the final)

    Then i thought about the 2003 world cup, but that had Rashid Latif instead of Moin Khan and Aamir Sohail was gone. The match against Netherlands had a similar team with Rashid, Taufeeq, and Saleem Elahi instead of Moin, Sohail, and Afridi.

    I then realised that Aamir Sohail played his last ODI in 2000 and Shoaib Akhtar played his first in 1998, so that gave me a 2-3 year window within which to do the research.

    While searching I figured out that Aamir Sohail played only 22 ODIs since Shoaib Akhtar's debut. And in none of those 22 matches did this team play together. The closest they came was in the 1st ODI against Zimbabwe in Gujranwala in Nov 1998 when Ijaz Ahmed and Azhar Mahmood played instead of Razzak and Waqar. And also in the 1st ODI against WI in Canada in Sept'99 when Wasti and Azhar Mahmood played instead of Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar.

    I didn't stop and continued to figure out when this team minus Aamir Sohail played a match together.

    And I finally found a match!

    In the Carlton & United series match against India in Jan 2000 at Brisbane, this whole team played together! The only difference was Ijaz Ahmed instead of Aamir Sohail. (http://content-gulf.cricinfo.com/ci/engine/match/65588.html)

  12. Obaid said...
     

    Wow, what a lineup... and trust q to dig things up :)

  13. NAzhar said...
     

    Excellent article...there are too many bowlers and not enough genuine batsmen...I would play Younis, Ijaz or Shoaib Malik instead of Razzaq/Afridi...even though I agree Razzaq is one of the best ODI players...you need genuine batsmen in the team.

    Tanvir is an exciting prospect...my concern is that the strain he puts on his body because of his unorthodox action makes him prone to injury and end his career short.

  14. zulfishah said...
     

    you can even SEE the highlights of the match you're talking about here:

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=hHl9dZrpcBQ
    (part 1 of 4...)

    Isn't youtube just the BEST? :)

  15. Q said...
     

    Youtube definitely rocks Zulfi Shah!

    Younis definitely not in an all time ODI XI...Ijaz and Malik maybe.

    If you were to choose a test XI, then Younis would probably be one of the first 3 players you pencil in and the ONLY choice for the #3 position. But ODIs - nope.

  16. Jamal said...
     

    I would probably open with Ijaz Ahmed instead of Aamir Sohail. Although Sohail was a charismatic individual he never was a consistant player and often found himself out of the team for long stretches.

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