Saturday, January 9, 2010

Where were you...

Where were you when JFK was assassinated? Where were you when Armstrong landed on the moon? Where were you when Pakistan won the World Cup? Where were you when 9/11 happened?

This most basic of questions is usually reserved for momentous events that forever change the course of history. Now, as supporters of the Pakistan cricket team we have another event to add to the list - where were you when Pakistan lost the plot in Sydney? If one of my favorite writers, Dr Saad Shafqat is to be believed then this is THE "most heartbreaking" Test in Pakistan's history.

I followed all 4 days of the test match, waking up each day believing that we had a real chance of winning. Ofcourse, being a Pakistan cricket fan I knew that anything was possible. I remember a famous Adidas ad campaign featuring Beckham and others in which the tag line claims "Impossible is Nothing". With the Pakistani cricket team you know that "Nothing is Impossible". On the rare occasion when they achieve great heights from impossible positions, all followers of the team are left exulting and the cricketing world repeats its usual cliches about Pakistan being the most unpredictable and mercurial side in the world. But if anything is predictable about the team, its that they lack the application and temperament required for the longer version of the game.

This was clearly evident at Sydney where the Pakistanis dominated for the first 3 days but came out on the 4th as if they were on the defensive. I wonder what went through their minds when they lay in bed before the 4th day? Ofcourse the captain must take the blame, which he has. But the sad part is that he still doesnt realize his mistake. Yousuf has defended his tactics and said that Hussey was the set batsman which required the 7 fielders on the boundary. What about confidence in your bowlers? And what about the fact that every batsman starts fresh on a new day? Bigger batsmen have fallen after a drinks break.

In his writeup Dr Shafqat also mentions Pakistan's most momentous wins, one of which was the win at the Oval in 1954. It is for sure one of Pakistan cricket's most historic wins. The thing that struck me the most was Fazal Mahmood's conviction and sheer belief that Pakistan would win. Here is what he said after the match:

Even though we were bowled out for 133, I did not think for a second we would lose
I wish he were alive today to explain the definition of conviction and self-belief to Yousuf and the team. At the same time our cricketers share a symbiotic relationship with society. If you look back and take a look at the last year in Pakistan (leave cricket aside) then they're probably happy to just be playing. Fazal Mahmood and his team mates were probably full of an optimism and self belief born from the birth of their nation. They had a point to prove that Pakistan belonged with the other Test playing nations. Maybe the current Pakistan squad should use this Sydney match to motivate themselves? That they will put a price on their wickets, hold on to their catches and prove to their strongest detractors that they can beat any team in the world.>

On another note I couldn't help but dig up some other painful memories (to compare with Syndey). I agree with Dr Shafqat that Syndey was our most heartbreaking Test. But in my mind, two other Test's come close behind.

1. The infamous St. Johns test where Jimmy Adams, the umpires and Saqlain all came together to deny Pakistan what would have been a historic series win in the West Indies.

2. And ofcourse that morale sapping historic 4 innings chase in Hobart in which Gilchrist scored his maiden Test century and the umpires and Saqlain figured prominently. An attack that featured Shoaib, Wasim, Waqar and Saqlain failed to defend a 4th innings total of 369... still hurts!

Let us know what you think and whether the Pakistan team can rebound from this loss.

Make your pitch on this post...

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12 Pitched:

  1. Golandaaz said...

    It was as if Pakistan suddenly realized they were being watched and developed stage fright. It was "the" freakiest test I have every seen. There have been fight-backs before, but this was more a case of Pakistan having a brain freeze than Australia fighting back.

    Only my utmost respect for Pakistani teams prevented me from outright laughing at their performance, but otherwise it was as laughable as it was lamentable.

    I believe Pakistan can bounce back. But for them to regain their status as a strong test nation, they need to play more tests. It is perhaps the single biggest reason they are unable to close out tests

  2. Obaid said...

    @Golandaaz... thats a good way to put it. Once we started batting we showed some very nervous aggression which turned out to be a disastrous approach

    I think we can fight back too but it will take some time. It will also take some deconstruction on the part of our players because they need to un-learn what they believe to be test cricket

  3. Anonymous said...

    Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

  4. Atif said...


    I am still waiting to see your remarks on Pakistan's safest pair of hands..
    I wouldn't name him so as not to offend you and many of our friends who visit this place regulary

  5. Reverse Swing said...

    What is going to happen in Hobart any guess?

  6. Reverse Swing said...

    What ever gona happen in Hobart I am loving the way Pointing is buried in his ego and is having a hell of a time, Pakistanis pampering him with bouncers and he is having it all over,

    look at the face what a look hahaha

  7. Omer Admani said...

    Umpires also had a strong role when Ghilcrist and Langer chased the 360-odd.

    Personally, it seems to me that poor team-selection is causing the team great harm.

    Yousof is not captaincy-material. Akmal has consistently dropped zillions of catches throughout his life. Malik averages 8 in England, 3 in NZ, and 20-odd in Australia (and he doesn't bowl). Misbah is too average for his age.

    So, if we look at it overall, it is hard to expect the team to win consistently with such weak links.
    Malik has made 2 test centuries in his entire career, whereas Fawad Alam, who was recalled from the tour, made a big hundred on debut. So, the crux of the matter is, Pakistan team can't be a good team until the board realizes that 5,6 players will not win test matches, 11 plyers will. And, the lack of importance on tactics is another reason why the team can't win consistently. Wouldn't it be a good idea for the board to hire a strategist who works with the bowlers and the captain to build tactics, since no player in the team shows that he is capable to be captain and yet be able to do so?

  8. Obaid said...

    @Omer... actually the players might forget the strategies devised for them. Why not get a strategist to play for the Pakistan... might be a net benefit given some of the deadwood like Malik and Khurram Manzoor in the team.

    And maybe we need to find some plaers with extra large hands or something to play as specialist fielders

  9. Obaid said...

    Also, there is no stat for this sort of thing, but Pakistan has a strange knack for bring out of form players back in form (Ponting, Hussey, Clarke) and average talentless players look like world class material (Hauritz)

  10. Omer Admani said...


    I totally agree with you, Pakistan always brings out of form players into form. Also, Pakistan is pretty much a momentum team so they have their initial burst and if they get out a player soon, they get him out. Otherwise, if the batsman see's through that period, Pakistan are flat and uninspiring.

    Pakistan also has this tendency to get out against nothing bowlers and give them an exagerrated status. In South Africa Andrew Hall I remember troubled them a lot, Herat got the better of them in SL, Balaji from India, and now Hauritz in Australia.

    Playing a strategist in the team-- they could do it, but would players be willing to accept that?

    For fielding, they seem to have a concentration problem as the catches they drop don't seem to require extra athleticism. Another issue, as with Aamer's dropped chance, might be basic technique.

    Apart from that, playing only 4 bowlers is quite foolish. Asif and Aamer are bound to get injured at this rate, they already seem half-broken. Why not play Afridi, especially since he bats with a higher average than either Malik/Manzoor/Faisal/Misbah..

  11. Obaid said...

    Looks like we just revived Peter Siddle's career as well

  12. Omer Admani said...

    Unfortunately we didn’t get to see much of Sarfaraz Ahmed with the bat, but the coach saying they will play Akmal because of his batting in ODI’s is ridiculous. And, I’ll show here why:

    Player Test Average First-class average
    Mohd Yousof 53.63 50.11
    Younis Khan 50.09 50.55
    Kamran Akmal 33.55 32.43
    Shoaib Malik 36 29.87
    Fawad Alam 41.66 56.29
    Sarfaraz Ahmed 44.78 -
    Umar Gul 8.96 11.66
    Mohammad Amir 13.9 13.45
    Asif 4.68 7.94

    Note that these are all middle order and lower order batsmen. If there is any position where there is somewhat of a discrepancy between first-class average and test match average (a difference in average of around 7-8 runs), then it is at the opening spot– understandably, since the pitches inside Pakistan are very flat.

    In Fawad Alam’s case, he has only played 3-4 matches, so the discrepancy doesn’t account for much. In Malik’s case, he might have improved as a batsman as he came as a bowler and would have played a disproportionate number of matches initially primarily as a bowler. Apart from these, there is a remarkable correlation between first-class averages and test match averages. In other words, Sarfaraz Ahmed is probably, if given a consistent run, a better batsman than Kamran Akmal. And, he kept relatively much better.

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