cricket
Pakistan squander golden opportunity of bagging the rubber
After losing every Test a routine statement is given by the coach and the skipper that 'we will learn from our mistakes and bounce back in the One-day Internationals'
By Khurram Mahmood
Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince finally took their side home as South Africa won the third Test against Pakistan in Cape Town by five wickets and clinched the series 2-1. South Africa won the first Test at Centurion by seven wickets and Pakistan bagged the second in Port Elizabeth by five wickets.

Asif the lone ranger in the Tests against South Africa
'With due respect to the 31-year-old Stuart Clark, Asif is the most exciting young pace bowler in world cricket at the moment'. The Pakistan players are given marks out of 10 for their performances here
By Osman Samiuddin
A tired host, Shaun Pollock rested for the decider and a strong pace attack meant that this was Pakistan's best chance to win a series in South Africa in recent memory. They didn't capitulate as they had in 2002-03 but despite a tough battle, they couldn't quite sneak through. Still provided enough gumption to warm the heart on occasion.

cricket
Time to implement hawk-eye technology in cricket
The game of cricket after such incompetent umpiring is begging to the ICC for giving a bigger role to technology to save the credibility and transparency of the game
By Ghalib Mehmood Bajwa
Hosts South Africa managed to win the three-Test series 2-1 against an under-strength touring Pakistan team after a tight fight. It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan won the second Test and offered top class resistance in the remaining two games despite having limited resources in the bowling department. Though the Test series ended in favour of the hosts, it left a question mark on the credibility and status of the game. The followers of the game observed highly questionable umpiring particularly in the first two Tests of the series.

Inzamam-ul-Haq: The curtain call?
Asif, a bright bloke who has other strings to his bow, had a marvellous series and it is in him to be a role model for his people
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Of late, much of the cricket news from South Africa has been shameful. Thankfully, after months of distress on and off the field, Mohammad Asif restored a little dignity with his remarkable performances in the three-Test series. Pakistan didn't get close to South Africa in the first Test and they lost at Newlands as well. Nor they could muster more than 200 in either innings in the third match. The key batsmen too -- many to list -- were tortured by poor form, lack of technique, attitude and temperament; to add insult, top bowlers Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar were beset by injury.

 

 

Pakistan squander golden opportunity of bagging the rubber

After losing every Test a routine statement is given by the coach and the skipper that 'we will learn from our mistakes and bounce back in the One-day Internationals'

By Khurram Mahmood

Jacques Kallis and Ashwell Prince finally took their side home as South Africa won the third Test against Pakistan in Cape Town by five wickets and clinched the series 2-1. South Africa won the first Test at Centurion by seven wickets and Pakistan bagged the second in Port Elizabeth by five wickets.

Pakistan lost a golden opportunity of winning the Test series for the first time in South Africa. Before the recently concluded Test series Pakistan had toured South Africa in 1994-95, 1997-98 and 2002-03 but failed to win a Test series there.

This time the bowlers specially Mohammad Asif and Danish Kaneria delivered their best even though the other bowlers were not supportive as required, but the batsmen also failed to capitalise on the advantage.

Only three experienced players Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf secured the first three positions in batting department. Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Yaseer Hameed failed to cement their places in the side.

Skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq missed the opportunity to score his first hundred against South Africa in the second Test at Port Elizabeth; he remained not out on 92 which is his highest Test score against the Proteas.

Mohammad Sami failed to capitalise on the opportunity which was created by the injuries to Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul. In two Test matches he took just four wickets at an average of 38.75. Shahid Nazir too remained unsuccessful taking only two wickts in two games with a high average of 94. Shoaib Akhtar's 11 overs and four wickets guided Pakistan to win the second Test match but as usual he suddenly got injured and could not bowl in the second innings.

Wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal had a poor Test series against South Africa, where he dropped dozens of catches and missed stumpings throughout the series and some at decisive stages. It was his second consecutive poor series abroad after following a similarly depressing tour to England last year. His performance provided a consideration to the selectors for replacing him with reserve wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider.

Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer blamed a packed schedule for his side's injuries after their 2-1 Test series defeat. "Fatigue leads to injuries -- it's a proven equation. If you have too much fatigue, your back goes or you twinge a hamstring or get a stress fracture," Woolmer said.

South Africa had just concluded their home Test series against India when the Pakistan team landed in South Africa. India, after playing one-day and Test series against South Africa, played a four ODI match series against West Indies and another ODI series against Sri Lanka is starting from 8th February.

Therefore, complaining of excessive cricket is not only the Pakistan team's problem. But it is the same dilemma which is also facing almost every team and its the management which finalises the team schedule without a reasonable gap.

After losing every Test a routine statement is given by the coach and the skipper that "we will learn from our mistakes and will bounce back in the One-day Internationals". But now it's time to take some concrete decisions. Now Pakistan have only five one-dayers before the World Cup to set their final eleven and give them enough chance to show their skills on a long-term basis.

Pakistan's number one bowler Mohamamd Asif has made his entry into the top 10 in the Test ranking and equalled a Pakistan record for the fewest matches to break into the top 10 that is just nine Test matches.

After losing the Test series Pakistan and South Africa maintained third and sixth places, respectively in the rankings, for teams.

The world's number one all-rounder Jacques Kallis was the most successful batsman of the series with 272 runs at an average of 54.40 including three fifties. From Pakistan vice-captain Younis Khan was the top scorer with 226 runs with the help of two fifties at an average of 45.20.

Mohammad Asif and Makhaya Ntini took 19 wickets each at averages of 18.47 and 18.67, respectively. Danish Kaneria claimed 15 wickets with the average of 26.33.

Khurram Mahmood works in the art department of 'The News on Sunday' in Karachi

khurrams87@yahoo.com

PAKISTAN IN SOUTH AFRICA: 2006-07

TEST SERIES AVERAGESSouth Africa Batting and Fielding

Name Mat I NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 Ct St

A G Prince 3 5 1 240 138 60.00 45.80 1 1 6

J H Kallis 3 6 1 272 91 54.40 41.33 3 3

H H Gibbs 2 3 0 136 94 45.33 43.03 1 7

M V Boucher 3 4 1 123 46 41.00 63.40 11 1

S M Pollock 2 3 1 79 39* 39.50 54.48 1

H M Amla 3 6 1 161 71 32.20 39.17 2 4

G C Smith 3 6 0 167 64 27.83 70.16 1 2

A Nel 2 3 1 38 23* 19.00 44.18 2

A B de Villiers 3 6 1 48 15 9.60 38.09 7

M Ntini 3 4 1 23 18 7.66 43.39 1

A J Hall 1 1 0 4 4 4.00 26.66

D W Steyn 1 1 0 3 3 3.00 18.75

P L Harris 3 6 0 15 7 2.50 25.42 1

H H Dippenaar 1 2 0 3 3 1.50 13.04

South Africa Bowling

Name Mat O M R W Ave Best 5 10 SR Econ

A J Hall 1 15 3 52 3 17.33 2-23 30.0 3.46

M Ntini 3 103.1 21 355 19 18.68 6-59 2 32.5 3.44

D W Steyn 1 24 6 87 4 21.75 3-47 36.0 3.62

P L Harris 3 58.1 11 135 6 22.50 4-46 58.1 2.32

S M Pollock 2 67 18 187 8 23.37 3-60 50.2 2.79

J H Kallis 3 68 4 250 10 25.00 4-42 40.8 3.67

A Nel 2 85.5 13 300 4 75.00 3-100 128.7 3.49

Pakistan Batting and Fielding

Name Mat I NO Runs HS Ave SR 100 50 Ct St

Younis Khan 3 6 1 226 68 45.20 52.07 2 9

Inzamam-ul-Haq 3 6 1 198 92* 39.60 52.94 1 2

Mohammad Yousuf 2 4 0 151 83 37.75 67.41 1

Naved-ul-Hasan 1 2 0 63 33 31.50 90.00

Kamran Akmal 3 6 1 140 57* 28.00 59.82 1 10 1

Imran Farhat 3 6 0 134 68 22.33 38.61 1 1

Shahid Nazir 2 4 0 85 40 21.25 77.27

Yasir Hameed 3 6 0 124 65 20.66 51.02 1 3

Mohammad Hafeez 3 6 0 99 32 16.50 39.91

Mohammad Sami 2 3 0 45 31 15.00 43.26 1

Mohammad Asif 3 5 3 22 8* 11.00 41.50

Danish Kaneria 3 5 1 25 23 6.25 71.42 3

Faisal Iqbal 1 2 0 10 9 5.00 17.85 1

Shoaib Akhtar 1 1 0 4 4 4.00 25.00

Pakistan Bowling

Name Mat O M R W Ave Best 5 10 SR Econ

Shoaib Akhtar 1 11 2 36 4 9.00 4-36 16.5 3.27

Mohammad Asif 3 125.5 34 351 19 18.47 5-76 2 39.7 2.78

Danish Kaneria 3 179.1 45 395 15 26.33 4-105 71.6 2.20

Mohammad Sami 2 45 7 155 4 38.75 2-41 67.5 3.44

Naved-ul-Hasan 1 24 5 113 2 56.50 2-92 72.0 4.70

Shahid Nazir 2 40 3 188 2 94.00 1-37 120.0 4.70

Mohammad Hafeez 3 36 4 99 1 99.00 1-36 216.0 2.75

Imran Farhat 3 8 0 26 0 3.25

 

Asif the lone ranger in the Tests against South Africa

'With due respect to the 31-year-old Stuart Clark, Asif is the most exciting young pace bowler in world cricket at the moment'. The Pakistan players are given marks out of 10 for their performances here

By Osman Samiuddin

A tired host, Shaun Pollock rested for the decider and a strong pace attack meant that this was Pakistan's best chance to win a series in South Africa in recent memory. They didn't capitulate as they had in 2002-03 but despite a tough battle, they couldn't quite sneak through. Still provided enough gumption to warm the heart on occasion.

9 -- Mohammad Asif topped the class after returning from detention. For much of the series, he was Pakistan's sole threat but what a threat. The weaker batsmen were worked out with cruel efficiency and the better ones with a little more thought as he dismissed the entire South African top seven, Ashwell Prince apart, at least once. The pace was down but he was relentless, lion-hearted (most overs by any fast bowler in the series) and intelligent throughout.

His Port Elizabeth five-for will be remembered as one of the best spells of the year, already. With due respect to the 31-year-old Stuart Clark, Asif is the most exciting young pace bowler in world cricket at the moment.

7 -- Danish Kaneria. Wheeled away admirably through the series for 15 wickets, including a match-turning spell in the first innings at Port Elizabeth. He even unveiled a flipper of sorts late in the series. Will not be thanking Kamran Akmal who shelled any number of chances off him. But as has become the norm, he bowled well, without luck, with little support and without ever threatening to run through a side. Given the bounce and turn in the surfaces, that will irk him.

7 -- Younis Khan. Remarkably similar to his 2004-05 series against Australia, where he was the leading run-scorer for his side and consistently its most solid player, but incapable of making starts count. In the first two Tests, he should have made three fifties and a hundred, instead of the two fifties he ended with. Loses marks for irresponsible wafts at Cape Town but makes up for it by being Pakistan's most reassuring presence at second slip since a young Inzamam.

6 -- Inzamam-ul-Haq. Unusually, got off to starts and didn't make them count through the series, apart from once. His unbeaten 92, a lesson in batting with the tail, at Port Elizabeth was every bit as good as any of his 17 match-winning hundreds and equally as effective. Sadly, will end career without a hundred in South Africa. Captained astutely when he was a bowler short at PE and took two very good slip catches.

6 -- Mohammad Yousuf. Looked mostly untroubled in the four innings he batted, yet had only one score to show for it. His 83 was a stunning knock but as befits a batsman in his form, it twice required superb deliveries to dismiss him. Still searching for a first hundred against South Africa.

6 -- Mohammad Sami. At Port Elizabeth, gave his best Test bowling performance in a couple of years, combining pace, aggression and accuracy but no fortune. Threatened to revert to type at Cape Town, before injuring his finger though he batted with good sense and spirit. With injuries galore, has given Pakistan a glimmer of hope to cling to.

5 -- Imran Farhat. Scored nearly half his runs in the second innings at Centurion, but apart from that never appeared comfortable at any stage. Continued to slash and burn in the slips and six years after his international debut, you have to wonder whether Pakistan aren't better served by trying out someone, anyone else. Dropped only one catch and held on to a rather good one.

5 -- Yasir Hameed. Announced his return with a pleasant, battling fifty at Centurion but threw away his wicket. It wasn't the last time either and at as crucial a position as one-down, it was criminal. Wasted both his starts and a chance to cement his spot in the team.

4 -- Mohammad Hafeez. Never failed to get to double figures but never went beyond 32. The pattern was repetitive: a couple of pleasant boundaries to begin, a few plays and misses and a dismissal. Impression that he is merely a short-term replacement for Shoaib Malik forever lingers. Given that Malik is not a specialist opener either, that is worrying.

4 -- Kamran Akmal. An awful, horrific series behind the stumps, the kind that you have nightmares about, and shelled so many chances you eventually lost count. Looked as lost with Kaneria's leg-spin as the English have against Warne's. Worryingly, it caps a poor year for him with gloves and bat, as calls for resting or replacing him continue to grow. But for a brave, bustling fifty at Port Elizabeth and a couple of useful lower-order hands, would have scored even less.

3 -- Shahid Nazir. Not just ineffective with the ball, apart from a beauty to Kallis at Cape Town when it didn't matter, but damaging as he continued to let up pressure at ever opportunity. Useful tailend biffing on occasion.

3 -- Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. Test matches continue to flummox him as a desperately poor stint with the new ball at Centurion confirmed. Leaked runs for fun and never looked like taking a wicket until the very end. Cheery, breezy run-bashing lower down, reinforcing the belief that he is a key ODI player.

3 -- Faisal Iqbal. Errr. Asim Kamal anyone?

Shoaib Akhtar -- A five if for those who think he left his team in the lurch by getting injured when they needed him most, and picking a fight with Bob Woolmer to boot. A nine for those who think his 11 overs and four wickets set up and eventually won the Test for Pakistan. --Cricinfo

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo

 

cricket

Time to implement hawk-eye technology in cricket

The game of cricket after such incompetent umpiring is begging to the ICC for giving a bigger role to technology to save the credibility and transparency of the game

By Ghalib Mehmood Bajwa

Hosts South Africa managed to win the three-Test series 2-1 against an under-strength touring Pakistan team after a tight fight. It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan won the second Test and offered top class resistance in the remaining two games despite having limited resources in the bowling department. Though the Test series ended in favour of the hosts, it left a question mark on the credibility and status of the game. The followers of the game observed highly questionable umpiring particularly in the first two Tests of the series.

The winner and loser should have been determined on the basis of cricketing performance not on umpiring decisions but unfortunately it didn't happen in the Pak-South Africa series. The result of the important series could have been different had the umpiring alone been done on merit.

True, the touring batsmen threw their wickets particularly in the first and third Tests in a highly irresponsible manner. Remember seven batsmen got out while playing hook shots in the first innings of the opening Test while, in the third Test, over a dozen (in both innings) lost their wickets while chasing away going off-side deliveries.

In this regard, who can forget vice-captain Younis Khan's suicidal dismissal in the first innings when the team was looking for a big contribution from him. And our bowlers also couldn't bowl up to the mark mostly but the umpires had the final say in Pakistan's 2-1 series defeat. The poor umpiring also played a major role in killing the spirit of the visiting bowlers, fielders and above all the cricket lovers.

The game of cricket after such incompetent umpiring is begging to the ICC for giving a bigger role to technology to save the credibility and transparency of the game. The governing body of the sport must respond to cry of the game and lovers of the game as well after such a pathetic show from Elite Panel decision-makers.

Suppose these dubious decisions might have been human errors so why don't they give technology a chance to prove its worth. Everybody related to cricket wants this change immediately. The ICC high-ups must keep in notice that a single bad decision can change the whole scenario of the game and thus the real winners and losers can't be ascertained. Though the ICC looks after the game globally it has no right to destroy the transparency of the game just to please the field umpires. The ICC's top priority should be the spirit and transparency of the game instead of the umpires' dignity.

The authorities of the game should keep in mind that more use of technology is the only way to salvage the game's credibility. The factual situation can easily be ascertained through TV replays in close bat & pad, caught behind and lbw decisions. The ratio of wrong decisions could definitely be lessened to a great extent if the ICC decides to involve TV technology to a bit greater extent.

This development could breath a new life to the game and above all the deserving sides would be able to win the matches. The field umpires should also be aware that a greater role of technology is the need of the hour and by doing so there would be no threat to their dignity and importance.

As we know, TV technology is already being used successfully in run out and stumping decisions for the last couple of years. If TV technology is so beneficial and acceptable to the ICC then what's wrong with hawk-eye technology. Some ICC quarters say that the hawk-eye technology can't be used in lbw decisions due to variation and movement of the ball but this stance does not have much weight.

Hawk-eye is a computer system used in cricket, tennis, soccer, snooker and baseball to track the path of the ball. It was developed in 2001 by a former Buckinghamshire player Dr Paul Hawkins. The system was first used by Channel 4 during a Test match between Pakistan and England at Lord's on April 21, 2001.

Since then it has been an indispensable tool for commentators. Hawk-eye can track any type of bounce, spin, swing and seam very near to its factual state. It is quite simple to implement the hawk-eye technology in cricket.

According to the proposed suggestion, the third umpire is to just check whether the ball is hitting the inside of leg stick or off stump, if it is then he can give his 'Out' verdict without any hesitation. He can turn down appeals easily if the ball is touching the outer part of leg stump or off stump.

By introducing the hawk-eye technology, the ICC can get 80 to 90 per cent fact-based decisions if not 100%. But in the present circumstances, over 50 per cent good lbw appeals are being turned down without any strong justification.

True, the third umpire can also make an error but that would be considered purely as a human error. In the first Test of the recent series, third umpire made such an error when he declared Ashwell Prince not out after a low caught & bowled appeal from Shahid Nazir.

Prince mistimed a drive and Shahid picked up the ball low down in his follow through. Shahid threw the ball up in triumph but Prince stood his ground. Umpire Steve Bucknor consulted with square leg umpire Billy Doctrove and the appeal was referred to TV umpire Karl Hurter. The replays showed that Shahid picked the ball very neatly but even then Prince was given not out.

During the important series, the last one before the World Cup, over a dozen umpiring decisions went against Pakistan on crucial stages. In the absence of hawk-eye technology, Pakistan bowlers Mohammad Asif, Shahid Nazir and Danish Kaneria remained the major sufferers. In the first Test, the left-handed Ashwell Prince survived a close lbw appeal by Mohammad Asif on 98.

At Port Elizabeth, opener Mohammad Hafeez, who was well-settled to play a big knock, was given out lbw on a Shaun Pollock delivery clearly missing leg stump. In the same innings, now it was Pakistan skipper Inzamam's turn to become a victim of sub standard umpiring. Inzi missed a Ntini delivery that was travelling to outside the off stump but West Indian umpire Billy Doctrove, the second main character of infamous Oval Test, raised his finger instantly to give Inzi lbw out.

Although the umpires tried to settle the score in the second Test by giving a few decisions in favour of Pakistan but, again at Cape Town, Pakistan were at the receiving end as far as poor umpiring was concerned. In the third Test, Kallis and Prince, who later steered South Africa to victory, were given 'lives' as many as four times by the umpires.

In the third Test when the home team were struggling to cope with bowling genius Mohammad Asif and Pakistan were very much on the victory track, umpires turned down a more than perfect lbw appeal against Jacques Kallis from the accurate seamer. Probably that highly poor decision was the turning point and from there on the home batting pair of Kallis and Prince managed to settle down. Similarly, West Indian umpire Steve Bucknor, who was officiating in probably the last Test of his career, rejected an lbw shout from Danish Kaneria against Prince when the home team were far from victory.

The Pak-South Africa series had some other interesting aspects which have never been discussed. Firstly, the duration of all three Tests came down by one day every time. The result of the first Test at Centurion came on the fifth and last day while the second Test finished on the fourth day. Eventually, the final Test met with its result on the third day. It is to be noted here that all the three Tests finished in almost identical fashion and situations. The winners were chasing not so big totals on all three occasions and the losing teams had also a ray of hope for winning the game every time.

There was another interesting happening in the first innings of the second Test when Pakistan captain used four bowlers -- Shoaib Ahktar, Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Sami. And all the four bowlers got their wickets in descending order -- 4, 3, 2, 1 which seems to be very rare in international cricket.

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

ghalibmbajwa@yahoo.com

 

Inzamam-ul-Haq:

The curtain call?

Asif, a bright bloke who has other strings to his bow, had a marvellous series and it is in him to be a role model for his people

By Dr Nauman Niaz

Of late, much of the cricket news from South Africa has been shameful. Thankfully, after months of distress on and off the field, Mohammad Asif restored a little dignity with his remarkable performances in the three-Test series. Pakistan didn't get close to South Africa in the first Test and they lost at Newlands as well. Nor they could muster more than 200 in either innings in the third match. The key batsmen too -- many to list -- were tortured by poor form, lack of technique, attitude and temperament; to add insult, top bowlers Umar Gul and Shoaib Akhtar were beset by injury.

In the series, even the fielding went down the pan. Which was nothing to the dreadful business off the field -- Shoaib's physical battle with Bob Woolmer was like a one-sided civil war, and we followed news bulletins with nervous, heavy hearts. On the third morning of the second Test, it was learnt in the nets that Shoaib was unlikely to bowl.

However, it did not diminish Inzamam-ul-Haq's resolve and Pakistan's commitment. The bizarre, tragic sequence of events hardly put the importance of cricket into perspective but the repercussions increased Inzamam's determination to reiterate the pride and unity of spirit which hasn't been the feature of his captaincy recently.

Asif made the ball swing, accurately enough to pick his second successive fiver in the series. In a match spoiled by Shoaib Akhtar's untimely hamstring injury (or whatever), Inzamam's extraordinary batting helped them to win on an okay pitch. The batting was led by Inzamam alone, in the second Test, his grit was most impressive and the abrasive style of those around him then was evident in his every step. By the end, Pakistan had comforted to an unexpected win, South Africa licking their wounds -- the scratches of a skirmish admittedly, rather than the cuts of war -- but it was a staggering turnaround from the humiliation Pakistan had suffered in the first Test, a week earlier.

This reflected the character of Inzamam, the batsman who recently hasn't been seeing life through a wider lens than on which he focussed exclusively on cricket. Inzamam's 92 not out was a magnificent effort, full of warmth and conviction, colour and adventure. He was representing Pakistan without rancour over top order failure, Shoaib's unjust behaviour or reference to private strain.

The third Test was a shambles. The Pakistan management with their Chairman and Chief Operating Officer/Director Cricket Operations amongst the audience, needed to realise that the game has been hanging by a thread and so the promotion of other youngsters like Abdul Rehman, Imran Nazir and Zulqarnain Haider is essential, assuming they are ready that is, if the selectors, the captain and coach are to appreciate what can be achieved.

Asif, a bright bloke who has other strings to his bow, had a marvellous series and it is in him to be a role model for his people. Apart from Asif, Danish Kaneria bowled diligently and it had always seemed certain that Inzamam-ul-Haq would become an icon of Pakistan cricket, a player to set along side Hanif Mohammad, Fazal Mahmood, Imran Khan and Javed Miandad. This may still be but it is on ice, waiting for the man to find himself again and choose his road.

For the moment the road chosen for the Pakistan team is based on self-preservation and power-share. Disparate groups whispering in corners, one for all, all for one; Inzamam's 92 not out at Port Elizabeth was as welcome as it was unsurprising. The prodigal son was bound to reappear at his best after a lackluster season in 2006, for a fellow simply cannot walk away from a talent of that sort and imagine himself unhurt. Although, he might detest Shoaib Akhtar and the newspaper columns against his unregistered decision of letting go Waqar Younis to accommodate his childhood friend Mushtaq Ahmad, might yearn for a gentler life, Inzamam's cricket is coming to an end through the softer pastures within.

As contemplated his future from behind the closed curtains, Inzamam surely reflected upon the slowness of time passing, the ticking clock, the occasional phone calls, the knocks upon the door, the fleeting appearances of warmth and then the cold gain that waits upon us all, alive or dead. Put beside this prospect the inconvenience of Pakistan's captaincy with its enquiries and its failures and the pressure to fulfill a talent both gilt-edged and fragile, must have seemed unappealing.

Pakistan as a unit has been grossly unpredictable. As he considers these matters in his months of contemplation he must realise that the life of withdrawal is soon going to be for him, the life without exuberance and experiment, for that way retirement lies. A man must eventually tire of breakfast and the morning paper who has held crowd in his thrall, who has created works of art upon the field, ornate them and magnificent and beyond the reach of common mortality.

Inzamam sought happiness as captain upon this earth but found it elusive as he expressed a mediocre talent of leadership, in complete contrast with his batting prowess, and felt the burden of responsibility that goes with it. His ability has distorted his life and taken him away from the simple comforts of batting, an art that came naturally to him into the rigours of captaincy.

Captaincy's was a nice flavour, an intoxicating aroma, the power and additionally, the perils of extra-responsibility. Starting successfully against Bangladesh and New Zealand in 2003-04, he imagined what he wanted, the plush cushions of fame, the goggling eyes of celebrity and the sleek walk of fortune. He has since been in a dilemma because this new gift did not bring happiness, only occasional bursts of a satisfaction few can know, for few are touched by this magic wand. He wanted life to be easy but it is not so, not even for the blessed batsmen like him. He looked like one too laid back, apathic, disillusioned, completely lost and more frequently, out of place.

Power-sharing and strong-headedness made their inroads. Inzamam imagined and saw himself to be in place with the top captains. Though filled with equanimity, he has lacked Imran Khan's stature and Wasim Akram's adeptness. Of all the champions of the age, his captaincy period has been the most brittle.

Plainly Inzamam didn't conclude that the torments must be endured, for they are merely the other side of the coin that brought those momentous innings, at least twenty-five of them in Tests, innings notable for their variety: the grittiness of his batting was often missing from his leadership. As captain, he became more responsible as a batsman and world fame finally arrived. His hundreds against India in India in 2004-05 (his hundredth Test), against England in Pakistan in 2005-06 were displays of brilliance, together they formed a masterpiece that denied and almost undid powerful oppositions.

In those weeks of inspiration Inzamam was himself again, an unstoppable force let loose, a typhoon across the land. It must have been enjoyable. Those momentous moments of batting masked his insecurities as captain. He could not walk away from it. He needed to meet the challenges. Inzamam, despite an impeccable presence in the Pakistan dressing room couldn't make it. He has been respected more because of his outstanding merit as a batsman rather than to be inspirational as captain.

As a top batsman, it was different as captain neither the players nor the dressing room was the same. People looked towards him, seeking solutions to their problems and his replies were often unworkable. Inzamam tried to face challenges chin-up intending to feel strong and nimble, only to find something had been lost along the way, an edge, a sense of the invincible and suddenly the sucker punch was not seen.

Inzamam's growing stature and age both impeded his captaincy. His has been a generation gap with most of the players. He has stopped enjoying the dressing room atmosphere. He does not enjoy hours spent on buses with cards and music in the ears, does not easily join the jokes and the songs that may arise to pass the time or else to celebrate some particular feat. He was never the sort, now he became the man apart. In some respects it has been due to the difference between him and the other players, his seniority and typical mindsets. He unknowingly by the sheer weight of his hard-mindedness and intractability, created a space around himself. He was no more the hail-fellow-well-met types likely to prosper amongst people of different philosophies.

Very few would realise, because of his adamancy he developed problems with people like Shoaib Akhtar and in the later part, with Waqar Younis, Pakistan's bowling coach. He with Bob Woolmer failed to evolve futuristic plans attempting to give solutions to cricket's problems such as the non-existent bench strength. He hardly could become a role model and his captaincy period, as most fear didn't secure anything for the future. He didn't mean to be disruptive but ostensibly his strong likes and dislikes denied few talented players proper exposure in big cricket.

Allegedly, the likes of Asim Kamal suffered. He couldn't inspire the openers to get settled with people like Salman Butt, Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat carrying technical frailties and problems with them in their old kit bags. His intentions have surely been honourable and he tried hard on the field and off it, encouraging his pupil to practice diligently, fulfilling his obligations, saying the right things, supporting his colleagues. However, occasional bursts of anger and an impressionable mind saw him failing to handle the main trouble-maker Shoaib Akhtar. His over dependence on some of the players offered fewer opportunities to him to try new youngsters to fill in the roles. Unlike his batting career, his stint as captain was not built upon firmness of purpose.

Shoaib's was always a difficult case. He has had personality problems. Nevertheless, some think, Inzamam wasn't loyal to the injury-prone fast bowler, failing to unite the team behind him. He tried to build sturdy partnership with Bob Woolmer, was successful collecting the teammates, men of different temperament and capability motivated them making religion the common space.

Inzamam's recent shift to religious orthodoxy helped him in motivating his blokes. His infirmity as captain was often shrouded as Pakistan won matches regularly until their tour to England in 2006.

There were differences too. He could have tried giving Shoaib as much time and room as he could despite the latter being self-destructive. Though, Inzamam didn't make issues of minor mishaps, he failed to inspire Shoaib without crowding him, failing to bring him within the confines of a team apparently not so well determined to regain its reputation. Shoaib, though not publicly stooped to chide Inzamam, criticising his captain for not trying hard to understand, support and appreciate him.

It seems as Shoaib's failing, not Inzamam's obstinacy. It was not truly hypocrisy but, Inzamam often worked in two hemispheres, at one end motivating people to forge unity and on the other favouring friends and making his likes and dislikes known. This baggage of looking after personal friends may well have hit him like a sledgehammer. Seemingly, he couldn't maintain objectivity.

For a time Inzamam may find the runs flowing freely again, might relish the unleashing of a talent not yet ready for burial. But the true test will come as Pakistan goes to West Indies for the World Cup. Whether or not Inzamam can find constancy needed to bring about a restoration in the longer term, one will always see him as a captain who just passed through time.

A great batsman just can't always be a great leader, it is as it goes. Will the World Cup 2007 be his curtain call? Inzamam's strength has been his high-quality batting, the lesson being that there is more to life than personal achievements.

 

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