cricket
T20 squad certainly has a 'liberal' and 'moderate' look!
Following Pakistan's disappointing performances in the previous two elite tournaments heads were set to roll like raging torrents
By Imran Farooqi
Pakistan have announced their squad for the inaugural edition of the Twenty20 World Cup that will be hosted by South Africa next month. And as per the media speculations two established performers of limited-over cricket have been left out without being allowed a proper opportunity to show their worth in the latest addition to the two existing versions of the sport.

Thrill-a-minute cricket is here to stay
Just as the 50 over version was ridiculed in its fledgling years as "pyjama cricket", so too has the 20 overs-per-side hybrid been dismissed as a glorified whipping session
By Fazeer Mohammed
It's the new wave of the international game, so we might as well get used to it. Those who measure the quality of a cricketer by his performances over the long haul, and have grown to tolerate one-dayers as a necessary evil, will probably look scornfully upon the two Twenty20 Internationals between the West Indies and England.

Senior pros find their place in kick-out radar
Misbah's selection has come under fire from former opener and captain Aamer Sohail who has criticised the omission of Yousuf and Razzaq
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
Their fate has been decided. And they are not going to participate in the inaugural edition of the upcoming Twenty20 World Championships in South Africa next month.

cricket
Twenty20 World Cup:
Beyond cricket?
We must understand that Pakistan may not require Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir to win twenty20 matches since it is a thinking player's game
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Aamer Sohail, a delectable and awesomely remarkable opener of his times is Pakistan cricket's most outspoken voice. His trenchant views, expressed on television, never fail to provoke a reaction. And he speaks with the authority of a man who has been at the heart, and at the top, of the game since 1991-92.

Yousuf, Razzaq omitted from T20 squad... as expected
Pakistan so far have played only two Twenty20 matches – against England and South Africa – and won and lost one each
By Khurram Mahmood
Pakistan's most experienced batsman Mohammad Yousuf and all-rounder Abdul Razzaq were omitted from the final Twenty20 World Cup squad as expected. The exclusion of Yousuf really can't be regretted because the Twenty20 type of game does not suit him. No doubt he is one of the most dependable batsmen in both Tests and One-day Internationals but the Twenty20 is a different style game altogether.

Muralitharan: The greatest off-spinner of all time
Bowled by the spin bowling wizard (b Muralitharan) is the most common dismissal in Test cricket
By Fasihullah Siddiqui
Muttiah Muralitharan, who has become only the second bowler in Test history to take 700 wickets, is now heading towards his next target -- to break the world record for most Test wickets as well as to defeat Australia on the Australian soil to win a Test series there.

 

cricket
T20 squad certainly has a 'liberal' and 'moderate' look!

Pakistan have announced their squad for the inaugural edition of the Twenty20 World Cup that will be hosted by South Africa next month. And as per the media speculations two established performers of limited-over cricket have been left out without being allowed a proper opportunity to show their worth in the latest addition to the two existing versions of the sport.

Following Pakistan's disappointing performances in the previous two elite tournaments -- the ICC Champions Trophy in India and the World Cup in the Caribbean early this year -- heads were set to roll like raging torrents.

One must not forget that Pakistan had failed to advance beyond the first round in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa as well. So the need was of course there to set things right by getting rid of the incompetent administrators and players, who had not made positive contributions on regular basis and were disturbing the balance of the team by hanging on merely for the sake of money.

But apart from Inzamam-ul-Haq we did not see any significant changes in the composition of the Test and One-day International teams. During the last five years we have seen exceptionally gifted players like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar, Saqlain Mushtaq, Moin Khan, Rashid Latif, and Mushtaq Ahmed disappear from the world stage. Although replacing such a distinguished bunch of stars is not easy for any team, we, on our part, have not made any serious efforts to prepare a back-up. This is the chief reason for Pakistan's inconsistent performances in recent past in both forms of the game.

Twenty20 cricket is still new as far as Pakistan are concerned. And most of our players have a very limited experience of this version of the game. A great deal of experimentation may, however, produce disastrous results. Although the selectors have made progress in the right direction by choosing a pretty young squad, they have overlooked the fact that by dropping Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq they've compromised on experience. Ignoring these players at a time when they are on the top of their game is something which most of the people find hard to grasp.

On the other hand, the selectors have again picked Shoaib Akhtar, whose fitness and disciplinary record is quite poor and who even failed to bowl properly in the Karachi phase of the training camp because of a stiff neck. As if it was not enough he showed his respect for the team management by leaving the camp without informing them.

What kind of message the Pakistan Cricket Board wants to convey to his team-mates and young players by keep giving chances to Shoaib who has hardly contributed anything during the last 12 months? Although he has been fined on charges of violating discipline it's unlikely we'll see any improvement in his behaviour.

The World Cup squad is crammed with stroke-makers. It's very difficult for players like Salman Butt, Younis Khan, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Misbah-ul-Haq to restrain themselves from going after the bowling. No doubt T20 cricket demands exactly that sort of approach, it is also a fact that Pakistan's batting is their weakest link.

Having an unsettled opening pair and a vulnerable middle-order, Pakistan always struggle against good attacks. Watching the team totter at 30 and 40-odd for 4 is not an unusual sight in 50-over games. So what can happen in a 20-over affair where there is even less time available to undo the damage is not something that is difficult to realise. With their most experienced and accomplished batsman not in the line-up holding the innings together will be a tough task for the young lot.

Moreover, the selected boys have little experience of what they will be encountering in South Africa, where conditions generally encourage fast bowlers, offering both bounce and movement off the deck in the air. Opening the innings and scoring runs at a fast pace in those conditions will not be easy for the less-experienced batsmen, who will also be looking to claim a permanent place on the team. The presence of Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq, who are both vastly experienced at this level and know how to make good use of such tracks, in the eleven could have made a lot of difference.

Their fielding could be their Achilles' heel as in 20-over games one dropped catch can turn a match on its head. But keeping in view Pakistan's batting limitations their inclusion in the South Africa-bound squad would have given the team a huge boost as both, specially Abdul Razzaq, can score runs quickly towards the end of an innings. The grounds in South Africa are not that big, and even Yousuf could have been dangerous for the opposition.

If age was the deciding factor, Shoaib Akhtar and Misbah, too, did not deserve a place as both are over 30 and aren't getting younger. Similarly, Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq's fitness and disciplinary record is far better than that of Shoaib.

Maybe the selectors have tried to give a 'liberal' and 'moderate' look to the T20 squad by sidelining the team's premier batsman, whose record is quite impressive in Test as well as one-day cricket.

Aaqib Javed, former pacer and now coach at the National Cricket Academy, laid bare the facts recently when he slammed Shoaib for his irresponsible behaviour. At most the pacer might play for two more years, he said of the injury-prone bowler.

This assessment of Shoaib's career and attitude by Aaqib should have been enough for the selectors to know what sort of contribution the fast bowler, who has reportedly been slapped with a fine of Rs 300,000, is likely to make in future.


Thrill-a-minute cricket is here to stay

It's the new wave of the international game, so we might as well get used to it. Those who measure the quality of a cricketer by his performances over the long haul, and have grown to tolerate one-dayers as a necessary evil, will probably look scornfully upon the two Twenty20 Internationals between the West Indies and England.

Just as the 50 over version was ridiculed in its fledgling years as "pyjama cricket" with its coloured clothing and other gimmicks, so too has the 20 overs-per-side hybrid been dismissed as a glorified whipping session, where the subtleties and complexities of the real thing are abandoned in the quest to clear the boundary ropes almost every delivery to the accompaniment of ear drum-puncturing noise from the resident DJ.

Given their stubborn refusal to accept those ODI innovations in the immediate aftermath of Kerry Packer's revolutionary World Series Cricket, it is more than a little ironic that this latest consumer-friendly variety has really taken off in England, as evidenced by the overwhelming popularity of the domestic version since it was introduced to a very receptive audience four years ago.

They were not the first to experiment with an even shorter form of one-day cricket, but it is fair to say that its instant success convinced the ICC of the need to get in on the action, seeing as almost every match, whether domestic or international, is played in front of capacity crowds that are representative of every strata of society, from hardcore party animals to whole families enjoying an evening's entertainment.

And that's essentially what it is: entertainment. Not a complex series of sub-plots and individual skirmishes, all unfolding over time in a duel that has almost as many twists, turns and changes of pace as the most complex scandal-laced soap opera.

In an era when those who have extra money can't enjoy the luxury of much spare time, Twenty20 fills the breach almost perfectly.

Most people were more preoccupied with the staggering sums of money shovelled out than the quality of the cricket played, but Allen Stanford's ground-breaking Caribbean version of the frenetic spectacle proved such a hit last August in Antigua that, just for a moment, we almost believed his baseless boast that "West Indies cricket is back on track!" just after Narsingh Deonarine smashed a six off the penultimate ball of the final to give Guyana a pulsating victory over Trinidad and Tobago.

It's all about instant gratification, so there's no point griping about it lacking the depth of the longer contest. That is not to say, of course, that any fool can dash to the nearest phone booth and be transformed Clark Kent-style into a Twenty20 superhero.

Indeed, there is enough evidence to suggest that the concentrated demands of this extremely abbreviated style have contributed to even sharper fielding, while batsmen exposed to it on a regular basis are now more inclined to attack much earlier and with more clinical efficiency in both Tests and one-dayers.

Still, it doesn't appeal to all players, despite the financial rewards. Two years ago, Brian Lara commented that he didn't enjoy having to swing for the hills almost from the word go when rain reduced an ODI against South Africa at the Queen's Park Oval effectively to a Twenty20 affair.

A number of Australia's senior players, including skipper Ricky Ponting and 2007 World Cup final hero Adam Gilchrist, have cautioned against exposing younger players too much to a form of the game that could see them developing habits inimical to ensuring the country's continued dominance at Test level.

Still, Twenty20 has well and truly claimed its place in the cricketing world with the ICC approving the inaugural World Cup in South Africa in September. It is unlikely, however, given the increasing complaints about squeezing more matches into an already congested international schedule, that Twenty20 will enjoy the unfettered growth of its 50-over relation.

Of course, as with anything else, it takes some getting used to. But that's Twenty20 for you: gratification without any real meaning, much like life in the 21st century. It is very much a game for the times.

--Trinidad & Tobago Express

Senior pros find their place in kick-out radar

Their fate has been decided. And they are not going to participate in the inaugural edition of the upcoming Twenty20 World Championships in South Africa next month.

Yes, these players are none other than batting maestro Mohammad Yousuf, seasoned all-rounder Abdul Razzaq and pace ace Mohammad Sami. Also out of the frame was Yasir Hameed -- one of the few better opening batsmen Pakistan has had in its line-up in the past two years.

Pakistan, who has India and Scotland in its group, recently announced its final squad for the T20 World Cup. A pool of thirty players was selected before the final squad was announced. These thirty players participated in training camps, which were especially arranged for the preparation of upcoming important assignment, in Abbottabad, Lahore and Karachi.

The Abbottabad camp solely focused on players' physical fitness and their discipline. The Lahore-leg saw players working on their fielding skills while the Karachi-leg of the camp saw practice Twenty20 matches played between two teams -- Pakistan Panthers and Pakistan Tigers -- which were made up of those thirty players in the provisional squad.

Before the final squad was to be announced, there were rumours that Yousuf, Pakistan's best batsman for the past couple of years, might be dropped for the T20 assignment. The reason that came up in the news for this decision was that Yousuf isn't regarded as a good fielder and in Twenty20 cricket, fielding plays a very important role in team's success.

And Yousuf's worst nightmare came true when he was omitted from the squad. Yousuf, who is one of the most established batsmen in world cricket at the moment, is generally regarded as a genuine Test batsman though his record in One-day Internationals (ODIs) isn't bad either.

Yousuf, who has 6553 runs from 75 Test matches at a healthy average of 56, has scored 8081 runs from 242 ODIs at an average of 41.02. In spite of these prime achievements, Yousuf never has been a good fielder and has dropped many catches during his career.

And he his second to none when poor running between the wickets comes into the frame. Yousuf has run himself, and teammates, out on a number of occasions. And he is one of the poorest fielders in the team and lacks athleticism during the play.

These reasons compelled the selectors to drop him for the T20 World Cup. But they said they had dropped him because they wanted him to give a break for the following series and include some new faces for the South Africa tour. Yousuf has played just one international T20 match in his career.

These some new faces included Karachi youngster Fawad Alam, who has been the star performer in local Twenty20 competitions.

Fawad, who was named in the squad for the previous ODI assignments, is a talented all-rounder and would add a spark to this newly-built national side which has seen quite a lot of changes in the past few months.

Inzamam-ul-Haq, the former captain, resigned from his captaincy role and quit ODIs after World Cup flop in the West Indies. He was blamed for the debacle and his 'bossy' attitude was pointed out by every circle. He wants to play Test cricket now but his chances of playing at international level seems very slim.

Shoaib Malik, who has been named captain for the T20 assignment, succeeded Inzamam for the captaincy role after the World Cup and though his own place in the Test side was uncertain before he was appointed national skipper, he has managed the ODI side well enough leading them to a ODI series win against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi. Pakistan won the series 2-1.

Pakistan lost their coach, Bob Woolmer who died due to a heart attack, during the World Cup after their defeat to Ireland and now a new face has replaced him in the post -- former Australia pacer Geoff Lawson which rounded up the change in the national set up.

Coming back to the final T20 squad, Razzaq's omission came in as a big surprise to few cricketing pundits. Razzaq, who is considered a world-class all-rounder around the world, missed Pakistan's World Cup campaign due to an injury but was part of all the three training camps.

Big-hitting Razzaq, who is a handy bowler as well, is a renowned ODI specialist. He has played 231 ODIs scoring 4465 runs and taking 246 wickets in the process. And as his nature of game suits the T20 format, there was no way he shouldn't have been selected for the upcoming World Cup.

But as they say, you never know when the axe will fall on you. And that is just what happened with Razzaq. His poor fielding skills were brought under spotlight while finalising the final squad alongside his lack of match practice.

Though Razzaq participated in the practice T20 matches in Karachi, he didn't perform well enough to secure a place in the final squad. These days, players aren't really selected on their previous records but on their present form and Razzaq should have known this. Though he lamented his omission from the squad on a TV channel recently, all will be history now as he won't be participating and representing Pakistan in the first-ever Twenty20 World Cup.

Surprise inclusion in the squad was of Misbah-ul-Haq, who was back in the side after three years. Although Misbah is an ageing player now his performances on the local circuit has been very impressive which led to his selection.

Misbah's selection has come under fire from former opener and captain Aamer Sohail who has criticised the omission of Yousuf and Razzaq.

Sohail said: "Their (Yousuf and Razzaq) omission raises pertinent questions. You don't consider seniors because they are in their 30s. But on the other hand you opt for Misbah who is 33. What returns are you expecting from him? By the time he plays the 2011 World Cup, he will be 37. There should be some consistency in the policy".

Sohail seems right in his observation though. If Pakistan is looking towards its future and is including youngsters to groom them up and to replace seniors who are now facing retirements, why to select a player who will retire in a few years time?

Hopefully the selectors' decision will pay dividend and their choice will fulfil all their expectations.

Meanwhile another surprise inclusion in the squad is of left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman, who took a hat-trick in the last of the practice matches in Karachi.

Rehman, who has been knocking on the entry door, has played for Pakistan previously and now has been given a huge chance to cement his place in the squad as leg-spinner Danish Kaneria isn't in the squad.

Sami's exclusion disappointed many as he has been coming back to form and full fitness and was considered an important pace weapon in upcoming assignments. He might be selected again after the T20 event but these sorts of exclusions, depriving the player of an opportunity, makes the player feel down on confidence and his game is affected too. Hopefully Sami will regain his confidence back is he has lost any after his omission.

Yasir Arafat, meanwhile, has found his place in the squad. The all-rounder has played impressively for English county side Kent in the past one year and his youthful involvement in the national team would prove quite handy. Arafat basically has replaced Sami in the squad and as he is a handy batsman, he would prove very useful down the order.

Good news for Pakistan is Younis Khan has made himself available for the Twenty20 World Cup. Younis, who refused to captain the side after Inzamam resigned from the post, made himself unavailable for the Abu Dhabi assignment and instead opted to play for Yorkshire in English county season. His experience will bring stability to Pakistan's middle-order in the absence of Inzamam and Yousuf.

Pakistan doesn't lack firepower in their squad. Shahid Afridi will be all over the place if he starts showing his magic. Shoaib Akhtar is back to his best again and along with Mohammad Asif will be eager to rattle up a few participating teams. Imran Nazir and Salman Butt -- both of whom shone in the practice T20 matches -- can supply firepower on top of the innings. If Pakistan sticks to its basics and learns from its previous mistakes, it surely has a very good chance to succeed in South Africa.

 

The writer is a staff member at 'The News' Karachi

[email protected]

 

cricket
Twenty20 World Cup:
Beyond cricket?

Aamer Sohail, a delectable and awesomely remarkable opener of his times is Pakistan cricket's most outspoken voice. His trenchant views, expressed on television, never fail to provoke a reaction. And he speaks with the authority of a man who has been at the heart, and at the top, of the game since 1991-92.

When inquired Aamer intelligently counter-questioned why did the ICC need to bring in Twenty20 cricket? If one recalls, one-day cricket was introduced in England in 1963 when county championship matches were played in empty stadiums and there was an evident management crises. What's the need now to divert from a 50-over a side abridged match to an even shorter face? Is it the money factor alone?

The hyperbole isn't misplaced for its success, well beyond the expectations of even the most fervent optimist, instantly guaranteeing Twenty20s future. Such an event is possible only through the formal, if measured, introduction of one-day limited overs internationals almost thirty years before, a natural progression from such tournaments introduced into English county cricket in the 200os.

Aamer says that Twenty20 came into being because Test and one-day cricket in England was stagnating and slipping into boredom. It was leaving the youthful English boys disillusioned and entranced by David Beckham and soccer. Fearing a decline as there has been one in the West Indies, ECB tried looking for better arrangements and making cricket more attractive.

One-day cricket brought positivity to the playing attitudes in the 1980s and 1990s. Cricket as a science changed. Aamer openly and happily admits that. One fully endorses his views. England's Test and to some extent one-day team was unable to produce results. Since 1975 they haven't been able to win a single World Cup title. They needed to refine their methods to make their game diverse, trying to take it out of the hands of ex-county players turned professional coaches who were orthodox and ultra-technical.

Players were over-coached and when pitted against more scientific and naturally flamboyant teams like Australia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and even New Zealand they couldn't win.

English cricket needed a transformation and thus came the concept of Twenty20s to light. They wanted their youngsters to be more skilful, dazzling and enterprising. South Africa going through the same problematic phase alongside apartheid and colour discrimination picked up the idea.

Now, with changing times in contrast with Sunil Gavaskar's 36 not out in 60 overs in the first Prudential World Cup against England at Lord's in 1975 we have seen scores of 430 plus being chased. A total of over 200 have also been achieved in a Twenty20 international -- things now are moving at a brisk speed and we may well see cricket being completely overhauled.

That's what Aamer believes. Despite all the positives that he thinks that Twenty20 brings with it, in the Pakistanis game we really need to be careful. We never suffered at the hands of over-coached cricketers rather lack of technique and temperament has often triggered collapsing of traditions, standards and managements in our country. Aamer believes Twenty20 is a game of skilful and not of big and brawny.

For me, cricket to the traditionalists is an art. It is a relic of a pre-industrial age, a version of pastoral, a colonial legacy, a continuation of the class war by other means? Is it a trivial pursuit? Cricket is all these and more.

When Twenty20 cricket was introduced, Leicestershire, like most counties, had a practice match between themselves. The first team was bowled out inside 12 overs. It was not untypical. Cricket is being associated to 'merriment' where as it has been and it is about basic mechanics of character and adds values to life and living.

There may be fewer bouncy castles, rodeos, Jacuzzis, sky-divers, barbecue zones, face-painters and speed-daters but that is because these days Twenty20 is being marketed by the ICC big enough to stand up for itself.

Are we sure that the players (not the county cricketers) have turned this knockabout concept into a serious competition that has been replicated on a domestic level round the world.

As we prepare for game's first Twenty20 World Cup, the game's administrators, a scandalously hard-of-thinking assortment, can impel each other's hands and pat on their backs on their wisdom. Faced with the primeval disagreement of utilitarianism -- do you give people what they want or what they would want if they were better informed -- the governing bodies, with no little disdain, have by and large opted for the latter.

Twenty20 cricket is an overdue acknowledgement that, for most people, there is life beyond the game, albeit such insignificant matters as spouses, children, home and work. Three-hour cricket, like most other sports, fits in with chaotic, intimidating schedules. Was this the solitary reason when ICC welcomed hosting such a tournament quite prematurely with Twenty20 cricket still in its nascent stage or lucrative television rights coerced them to take it up?

Twenty20 cricket was launched in 2003 against a background of falling attendances for county matches, a malaise that 44 years earlier had given birth to the Gillette Cup England's domestic game's original one-day competition. The idea of a shorter form of the game was discussed in 1998 but dilapidated. It was restored to life in 2001. More than 30 focus groups were called up. Then 4,000, 15-minute, face-to-face interviews were set up to weigh the public taste for the game.

Practically itνs not going to be cricket. Nevertheless, getting into the playing philosophy, it may well prove to be not a young man's game but a smart cricketer's sport. One must have the zest to throw oneself around. But it's more than that. It's about players with high, multi-dimensional skills. Mushtaq Ahmad, Pakistan's ex-leg spinner, has been one of the best bowlers in the competitions in England and he's nearly 37. In fact, Mushtaq is the only bowler featured in the top-20 for economy rates every season.

The pinch-hitters, low-order batsmen sent in early, haven't worked. The best batsmen have been top-order players who can also hit the ball sweetly. You need good strikers with good techniques because you still have to cope with Andrew Flintoff running in.

We must understand that Pakistan may not require Shahid Afridi and Imran Nazir to win twenty20 matches since it is a thinking player's game. It needs huge amount of technical input, and players with coordination and ingenuity and vision, permitting themselves to explore their scientific and technical thought processing.

It's cricket's clearest example of the chemistry between a cricketer's accepted wisdom and implementation. This is hiding and seeking. Every ball is an event. Technique is important but we can't be trapped in by it because inventiveness is so important. One's best ball in Twenty20 should the opposite to what the batsman's anticipating.

Shoaib's pace may leave the spectators in a trance but what he must be thinking is to bowl a little seamer, or one really wide of off stump when the batsman is looking to half-sweep to the vacant deep fine leg; or a low full toss.

It's the delicacy and disparity that are important, slower balls, surprise balls mixed in with the traditional toe-breaking delivery.

 

Yousuf, Razzaq omitted from T20 squad... as expected

Pakistan's most experienced batsman Mohammad Yousuf and all-rounder Abdul Razzaq were omitted from the final Twenty20 World Cup squad as expected. The exclusion of Yousuf really can't be regretted because the Twenty20 type of game does not suit him. No doubt he is one of the most dependable batsmen in both Tests and One-day Internationals but the Twenty20 is a different style game altogether.

Players like Shahid Afridi, Imran Nazir, Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Adam Gilchrist and Andrew Symonds are the most suitable players for the shortest version of the game. The hit and run type of format demands more than 100% strike rate from the batsman.

In this format batsmen don't exactly have to be technically correct, they just have to be able to hit the ball hard as much as possible and score as fast as possible. But this type of cricket reduces the gap between a good and technically adept batsman and an ordinary player.

Mohammad Yousuf's exclusion became controversial after the picking of Misbah-ul-Haq who is in fact a few months older than Yousuf. If the selectors seriously wanted to give a chance to a future player they should have selected from among Shahid Yousuf, Khalid Latif etc.

Misbah has not played for Pakistan for the last three years, his last One-day International was against Zimbabwe at Peshawar in Octiber 2004. He has never played in Australia, England and on South Africa soil. On the other hand Yousuf has a vast experience of all types of pitches and he has played 23 One-day Internationals in South Africa in which he scored one hundred and six fifties.

Young and talented all-rounder from Karachi Fawad Alam defeated Abdul Razzaq in the selection. Abdul Razzaq's dropping from the team obviously was not easy for the selectors and the captain, as his clean hitting in the lower-order batting and useful medium-pace bowling is ideal for the Twenty20 format. Though Abdul Razzaq has splendid bowling figures, his lazy fielding and unimpressive performance in the practice matches caused his exit.

It should not be disappointing for Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq because no doubt the format of the Twenty20 game is more entertaining and thrilling for the spectators and TV viewers who want to see more entertaining cricket in less time, but it's not the format to judge the talent and calibre of any batsman or bowler. 

Pakistan's former coach Bob Woolmer about the Twenty20 format before his death once said that "I hate this format of the game, I'll be honest, I think it's an absolute abortion of cricket."

Yousuf and Razzaq were not the only senior players to be dropped for the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa next month, even from India their most experienced trio (Tendulkar, Ganguly and Dravid) were also not included in the side. But the difference is India replaced senior players with younger ones who can represent India in the future while Pakistan have preferred more experience (age wise).

The other notable exclusions were fast bowler Mohammad Sami and middle order batsman Yasir Hameed. Sami is the second fastest bowler of Pakistan after Shoaib Akhtar but for quite sometime he is trying to get his rhythm and a permanent place in the side. But in the presence of Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and some regular good performances from Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar in One-day Internationals made it difficult for Sami to confirm his birth in the final squad.

Yasir Arafat's impressive all-round performance for his county Kent also forced the selectors to prefer him over Mohammad Sami.

In the presence of Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Imran Nazir, Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi it was difficult for Yasir Hameed to get a place in the upper or middle order. Yasir's cool and calm style of batting also did not support him for Twenty20 type of cricket.

Most of the time bowling wins the matches for the team, Pakistan are among the 12 competing teams in the T20 World Cup to be held from September 11-24 and are hoping that a full strength bowling attack can do the trick for them.

Pakistan have a good balanced bowling attack consisting of Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Rao Iftikhar, but Shoaib Akhtar's performance will play a vital role for Pakistan victory.

Shoaib Akhtar always remains in the headlines whether he is in the ground or off the field. In Karachi during a practice match he suffered dehydration and missed the remaining games because of a stiff neck, but the selectors and captain are confident that Shoaib would be fully fit and find his rhythm before departure to South Africa.

In the batting department too, skipper Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Imran Nazir, Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez in the upper and middle order and all-rounders Shahid Afridi, Yasir Arafat and Fawad Alam in the lower order have the capability to set or chase any target against any opposition.

The new captain with the new look energetic side is confident to perform upto expectations of the nation and if Pakistan qualify for the final it would wash the tears of the nation which come out after an embarrassing first round exit from the World Cup earlier this year.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had initially introduced Twenty20 cricket as a way to get the crowds back in domestic cricket. The first Twenty20 Cup was held in 2003. The winners that year were the Surrey Lions who defeated the Warwickshire Bears to clinch the first ever Twenty20 Cup. It was a huge success as the crowds were pleasantly taken by surprise.

The first ever Twenty20 International match between two nations was played between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park, Auckland on 17 February 2005. It was a day-night game which won by Australia convincingly by 44 runs. Ricky Ponting for his 98 in just 55 balls received first the man-of-the-match award. A crowd of over 20,000 witnessed the first Twenty20 game.

Pakistan so far have played only two Twenty20 matches -- against England and South Africa -- and won and lost one each.

 

           

Muralitharan: The greatest off-spinner of all time

Muttiah Muralitharan, who has become only the second bowler in Test history to take 700 wickets, is now heading towards his next target -- to break the world record for most Test wickets as well as to defeat Australia on the Australian soil to win a Test series there.

Sri Lanka will play two Tests against Australia in November and Murali, who took 12 wickets in the third and final Test against Bangladesh at Kandy in July 2007, is likely to overtake Shane Warne in front of the Australian crowd.

Murali says "It's a big achievement taking 700 wickets. I knew anyway that I would get the 700 wickets. I want to go to Australia and try and win the series because we have never won one there. Also I have not taken five wickets in an innings in Australia. They are the No. 1 team in the world but we can also be better than them if we play to our strengths."

Muralitharan finished the three-Test series against Bangladesh with a haul of 26 wickets bringing him nine wickets closer to breaking Warne's world record of 708. He can achieve a little bit more than the world record. The 35-year-old spinner is now looking for 1000 Test wickets.

Over a career spanning 15 years, Murali has come a long way and waited for 27 Tests to get to his first 100 wickets. What's striking is the improvement in average and strike-rate every time, which suggests he is still growing in stature as a bowler.

His average has come down from 31.49 after 27 matches to 21.33 after 113, while the strike-rate has reduced by 18 deliveries per wicket.

His last 195 scalps, especially, have come a mindboggling rate: after 87 Tests, his tally stood at 505. In 26 matches since then he has nabbed 18 five-wicket hauls and seven ten-fors, averaging 17.27 runs and 38.7 balls per dismissal.

 

 

WORLD RECORDS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

Muttiah Muralitharan holds a number of world records, and several firsts:

The highest number of international wickets in Tests and ODIs combined (1155 wickets as of 14 July 2007). The most 10-wicket hauls in a match at Test level (20). He is the only player to take 10 wickets/match against every Test playing nation. The most 5-wicket hauls in an innings at Test level (60). Fastest to 350, 400, 450, 500, 550, 600, 650 and 700 Test wickets, in terms of matches played. Only player to take 10 wickets in a Test in four consecutive matches. Murali has achieved this feat twice. Only player to take 50 or more wickets against every Test playing nation. Muralitharan and Jim Laker (England) are the only bowlers to have taken 9 wickets in a Test innings twice. 7 wickets in an innings against the most countries (5). Most Test wickets taken bowled (153), stumped (37) and caught & bowled (30). Bowled by Muralitharan (b Muralitharan) is the most common dismissal in Test cricket. Most successful bowler/fielder combination – c Mahela Jayawardene b Muttiah Muralitharan (63).

 

MURALITHARAN'S PROGRESSION OF TEST WICKETS

 

Wicket no.                Tests                Average                Strike rate                5wI/10wM

100          27                31.49                71.47                6/0

200          42                26.90                64.25                16/2

300          58                25.17                61.66                24/5

400          72                23.53                59.79                33/10

500          87                22.89                59.06                42/13

600          101                22.35                56.25                50/14

700          113                21.33                53.41                60/20

                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

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