four' ready to overpower rivals
Jayasuriya attains grand ODI double
We simply do not have a replacement for the great Inzi, thanks to our set-up. Coach, no coach, local coach or foreign coach, no one can alone turn the tables
By Muhammad Asif Khan
Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson has finally been named as Pakistan cricket coach. Lawson who has played 46 Test matches and 79 ODIs for Australia is the eighth coach since 1999 of the national side while before him two foreigners -- Richard Pybus and Bob Woolmer -- have coached the Pakistan team.
As expected, mixed reactions followed the announcement, therefore we need to look at every possible aspect of the appointment. After the World Cup debacle, the job was advertised with challenging credentials, therefore among the short listed candidates, Dav Whatmore would have been chosen as he coached Sri Lanka to World Cup victory in 1996 and steered Bangladesh to the Super Eights stage of the World Cup this year, but he was snubbed, and Lawson with no international exposure, having only coached a state side in Australia was chosen.
Why was the decision not taken on merit as claimed while advertising the job? The World knows that Whatmore knows sub continental teams better than Lawson or the other short listed fellow, Richard Done.
Two possible reasons were reported, one -- former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga had a word with Talat Ali which led to the decision of overlooking Whatmore. Since the Chairman PCB has negated this report, therefore, the other reported reason should be considered as valid that some senior players were of the view that Lawson would be a better choice, hence he was selected. If the PCB was to end up listening to the players then why did they advertise the job in the first place and waited for so long? Players could have been consulted earlier as well, but it's better late than never.
After going through the record of Geoff Lawson, it is quite obvious that his skill lies in fast bowling hence he would be beneficial for the fast bowlers only. Pakistan have had wonderful pace bowlers over the years and this is a reality that we lost most of the matches because of our batting not bowling, therefore, it goes without saying that a batting coach should have been preferred.
I know, the PCB Chief has said that a batting coach would also be hired. The PCB has money to burn I believe, otherwise these heavy investments would not have been planned (Lawson to get 80,000 pounds per year along with other perks). If a bowling coach has to be hired then why Waqar Younis was shown the door in the past.
In January this year, Waqar reportedly resigned in protest at only being asked on the South Africa tour for the Tests and not ODIs. This was the kind of respect a local and able coach got from the cricket management while on the other hand the services offer to foreigners is there to be seen. The statement from the board claimed that "The management feels that Waqar had very little contribution in the past as far as the shorter version of the game is concerned", well one can only laugh at this because Waqar served as the bowling coach from March 2006 to January 2007, and after going through the record it is quite evident that our fast bowlers were pretty disciplined as compared to the pre-Waqar era.
During the period under Waqar, Pakistan played 18 ODIs in total out of which two matches were rained out. In the remaining 16 matches our bowlers delivered only 44 no-balls (2.75 no-balls per match). This performance clearly shows their discipline and of course the dedication of the bowling coach. Therefore the claim of the PCB management regarding Waqar's performance was simply baseless.
I am personally not at all in favour of a heavy duty coach at the top level because if one has flaws after even qualifying for a national side then it would be very hard to get rid of them. What a coach can do with people having played over one hundred matches yet faulty in their techniques?
I have written it earlier and would like to reiterate that just before the final stage of representing the national squad a penultimate phase should be introduced for which young players should be selected and get trained under qualified coaches. For this stage I believe, qualified (foreign or local) coaches should be hired. Also, by doing so, we will always have a backup of injured or out-of-form players.
What went wrong in the recent World Cup? We actually had lost half the battle before even playing our first match, because Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi were not available and we did not have quality players to back them up. Now Inzamam is about to go, who will replace him? This is a big question and no one can answer it, because simply we do not have a replacement for the great Inzi, thanks to our set-up. Coach, no coach, local coach or foreign coach, no one can alone turn the tables.
In the end, I would like to touch upon the issue of preferring foreign coaches over local. Two schools of thought are there, and one says foreigners are good managers. First of all we are looking for a coach not a manager and how can a person manage a bunch where the majority cannot even communicate with him due to the language barrier.
Recently, after Bob Woolmer's death, Talat Ali has been managing the team, and despite being not a foreigner, he did a relatively good job. Yes, a controversy reported on the issue of naming Salman Butt as vice-captain, but it was amicably managed. The second school of thought believes that a local fellow will politicise matters among team mates.
My question to them is that in which department of Pakistan, politics is not played? Therefore it's an endless debate. We should stick to the basics and strive for the betterment of the cricket structure in the country which will surely lead to a better combination at the top and subsequently a better and consistence performance.
writer is a freelance contributor
Sami along with Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif and Umar
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
Pakistan has an unprecedented cricketing history of producing top-class pacers in its bowling ranks over the years.
From the likes of Wasim Akram -- the greatest ever left-arm pacer -- and Waqar Younis -- one of few who mastered the art of reverse swing -- and with Imran Khan and Sarfraz Nawaz if we go further back in time, the present combination of Team Pakistan's ever-feared pace attack isn't bad either.
Pakistan, who had a disappointing World Cup trip this year, is now undergoing a rebuilding process.
It has a new captain in the face of Shoaib Malik, who captained the team to a one-day series win against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi after failure in the quadrennial event in the West Indies, a new vice-captain -- Salman Butt who was appointed recently as Malik's deputy -- and a new coach -- former Australia pacer Geoff Lawson.
And Pakistan's next assignment is the Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa -- the inaugural edition of the tournament. This format of the game has gained huge popularity worldwide with almost every cricket-playing country hosting a domestic T20 competition every year.
After Pakistan returned empty-handed from the Caribbean -- where they also lost their coach Bob Woolmer who suffered a heart attack after the team's miserable defeat at the hands of Ireland and were shown the exit gate -- expectations are few from them.
Though Pakistan is a cricket-mad nation, a return to the top of the ladder, with a sweet triumph in the T20 tournament, would be most welcome here. This feat, if achieved hopefully, would bring back the interest in fans as well. Pakistan would then embark on a journey they would want to relish forever and keep their winning momentum.
But in order to do that, they would have to work hard, keep everything intact and build up a combination which can perform on the big stage as well.
Pakistan has a renowned batting line-up. With master-class batsmen in Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, with world-class all-rounders in Shahid Afridi and Abdur Razzaq and a new breed of cricketers knocking on the doors to sneak into the national team, Pakistan has a strong squad to rely on.
But what has been and can be the main force for them for further success on international stage is their bowling strength. And when talking about producing talented pacers, Pakistan is second to none.
This time around too, Pakistan has a strong bowling squad. And it wasn't the bowlers who disappointed in the World Cup; it was the batting that failed there. And with the return of pace spearhead Shoaib Akhtar and future star Mohammad Asif, the bowling compartment has been strengthen even further.
Both Shoaib and Asif missed out on the World Cup trip after suffering injuries. Though there were speculations that the pace duo had skipped the Caribbean sage because of the fear of a doping ban, their absence was surely missed.
Both the pacers had positive dope tests -- traces of a performance-enhancing drug nandrolone was found in their blood -- before the start of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Champions Trophy in India last year; and they were withdrawn from the tournament.
Two years and twelve-month bans respectively were imposed on Shoaib and Asif by a Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) committee, a decision which was overturned after a few weeks by another PCB committee.
The ICC didn't like the idea and the case was in the hands of Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) which threatened life bans for the pacers if found guilty again. A few say that the pacers still had traces of nandrolone in their blood for the reason which they skipped the World Cup and hesitated in giving another dope test.
Asif though made a high-profile comeback after the World Cup. He was appointed as Malik's deputy for the Abu Dhabi ODI series which Pakistan comfortably won 2-1 against an under-strength Sri Lanka side. Asif was later stripped of his vice-captaincy role after Butt was handed over the responsibility.
But that wouldn't shake up his confidence as Asif has been in full flow during his bowling recently. He was an integral part of Pakistan's pace attack in Abu Dhabi. One of the brightest prospects of the country, Asif was also selected for the Afro-Asia series in India.
Asif, who has performed brilliantly over the past one-and-a-half years, has won many matches for the country till now and some more is expected from him. Asif's progress has been under the radar continuously. Team Pakistan recently attended two training camps -- one in Abbottabad and the other in Lahore -- where the team's fitness and fielding skills were under the spotlight most of the time and Asif was amongst the better players to come out, fit and raring to go.
On the other hand, the so-called Mr Attitude of Pakistan cricket, Shoaib Akhtar is also back with a bang and is in perfect physical and mental condition than ever before.
Shoaib, from whom the nation expects a lot, has been bowling with complete rhythm in the nets. And with the arrival of a new coach, who himself is a former pacer, Shoaib's targets have grown even more and he, himself, has expressed his satisfaction over the new coach's appointment.
A member of a special group -- which contains bowlers who have bowled over 160 km/h speed -- Shoaib always has been an essential part of Team Pakistan. After making his debut a long time back, when Wasim and Waqar were the spearheads, Shoaib now has a lot of responsibilities up on his shoulders. And to people's content, Shoaib has vowed to give his 100% for the team.
Umar Gul, who has come out of his age and improved immensely, is another important cog in Pakistan's pace mechanism.
Gul took full responsibility on his shoulders when Shoaib and Asif were out of the tournaments the team played in recently and produced many match-winning performances. He was the mainstay of Pakistan's pace attack in the World Cup as well where experienced campaigners such as Rana Naved-ul-Hasan completely failed. And now with the return of Shoaib and Asif, Gul would feel more comfortable and would be looking to contribute more for team's success.
Another name in the frame, which is forgotten sometimes, is Mohammad Sami.
Sami, who initially forced his way into the Test team with outstanding performances in domestic cricket, has been disappointing in recent times with a stream of promising paceman overtaking his place in the squad.
But he has made a strong comeback in the national team now and is looking to cement his place in the team's strong pace attack. Sami is fit -- one of the fittest in the team -- and athletic. He is a good batsman at the death and generally a reliable fielder but fast bowling is what he is renowned for.
From a short run-up and high action he generates surprising pace, settled in the mid-to-late eighties but with occasional forays into the nineties. And with a coach now appointed, a former pacer himself, Sami would feel his negatives would be eradicated now if there are any. And Sami along with Shoaib, Asif and Gul can be a lethal weapon for Pakistan if they are to do well in the upcoming tournaments.
writer is a staff member at 'The News' Karachi
Only Jayasuriya can decide how many more years he wants to be on the field, but the spectators would want to see his game as long as possible
By Khurram Mahmood
During the second ODI against Bangladesh, Sri Lanka's master blaster opener Sanath Jayasuriya became the first player to complete the grand double of 12,000 runs and 300 wickets in One-day Internationals.
The 38-year-old veteran playing in his 397th One-day International for Sri Lanka, bagged 4-31 to become only the third Sri Lankan after Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas to get 300 wickets in the shorter version of the game. Overall he is the ninth player to take 300 one-day wickets.
"It's tough to get 300 wickets and score over 12,000 runs. It's hard work and a lot of sacrifice in your career. It's not easy. Somebody who wants toachieve that feat will have to work really hard and be lucky and and I never thought of getting the four wickets today. But I am extremely happy with my achievement," said the delighted Jayasuriya after taking the Man of the Match award in the second ODI.
He recalled that his best bowling had been in the 1996 World Cup against England and against India in the semifinals. "I also took crucial wickets in the 2007 World Cup. Sometimes if you fail to score runs but can contribute with the ball it is good for the team and it also gives me a lot of confidence."
As far as Jayasuriya's batting is concerned a lot of people have recognised him, but not many have recognised his capabilities as a useful bowler. Skipper Mahela Jayawardane accepted that Jayasuriya made a huge difference to our team over the last 10-12 years with his bowling.
In the field too, he has taken 114 catches in 397 matches. After Sachin Tendulkar, Jayasuriya is the only player to have completed the exclusive record of 10,000 runs, 100 wickets and 100 catches.
Jayasuriya is also leading a unique all-rounders club, having scored over 5,000 runs and taken 200 wickets in ODIs. Only South African Jacques Kallis and Pakistan's Shahid Afridi have done the same.
Jayasuriya is the fourth batsman to score over 12,000 runs in One-day Internationals after Sachin Tendulkar, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Sourav Ganguly were the only batsmen to have scored more runs.
The fact is that he is currently the highest-capped player in ODIs, Sachin is just behind with 388 matches. At the age of 38, Jayasuriya is the senior most player among those who are still playing in international matches, only Tendulkar having played longer than him.
How important his performance is for his team can be judged from the fact that Sri Lanka has won 22 of 30 ODIs when he has taken three or more wickets. Even his batting also played a vital role in Sri Lanka's success, 22 of his 25 hundreds he scored resulting in victory for his team.
He has so much power in his forearms that he is the only batsman in the world who consistently hits more sixes over the cover boundaries than any other player.
He loves the game so much, that's what he's been doing since he started playing cricket when he was nine years old and never distracted himself from it. He was grateful to his parents, who have supported him right throughout his career.
Jaysuriya made his One-day International debut against Australia at Melbourne in December 1989. Batting at number five he scored just three runs as Sri Lanka lost the match by 30 runs.
He scored his first fifty (58) in October 1993 against Pakistan in Sharjah, while his maiden hundred (140) came in December 1994 against New Zealand at Springbok Park, Bloemfontein, South Africa.
The left-hand opener remained one of the idols of Sri Lanka's batting for over a decade. He was Sri Lanka's most prolific batsman in both forms of the game. He is also Sri Lanka's highest run scorer as he has made 6,613 Test runs, including 14 centuries and 29 half-centuries at an average of 41.59. Jayasuriya also served admirably as Sri Lanka's skipper for a successful period after the sacking of Arjuna Ranatunga in 1999, but stepped down in April 2003. He was also declared Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 1997.
His temperament was worth mentioning, as tough situations don't fluster him. He was such a dangerous player, especially on the subcontinent's slower, flat pitches. Short in stature and powerfully built, he cuts and pulls with awesome power.
Jayasuriya announced his retirement from Test cricket after the first Test against Pakistan at Colombo last year after some rift with the board, but when Asantha De Mel took over as the chairman of selectors, he was brought back into the game.
Only Jayasuriya can decide how many more years he wants to be on the field, but the spectators would want to see his game as long as possible.
JAYASURIYA: ODI CAREER
Mat Runs HS BatAv 100 50 W BB BowlAv 5w Ct St
overall 397 12108 189 32.90 25 64 300 6-29 36.92 4 114 0
for Asia XI 4 66 28 16.50 0 0 3 3-53 44.66 0 0 0
for Sri Lanka 393 12042 189 33.08 25 64 297 6-29 36.84 4 114 0
v Africa XI 3 38 14 12.66 0 0 3 3-53 42.00 0 0 0
v Australia 43 924 122 23.10 2 4 28 5-28 47.35 1 11 0
v Bangladesh 17 766 109 54.71 3 3 13 4-31 24.30 0 8 0
v Bermuda 1 22 22 22.00 0 0 0 0
v Canada 1 9 9 9.00 0 0 0 0
v England 28 1102 152 44.08 4 3 28 6-29 36.42 1 2 0
v ICC World XI 1 28 28 28.00 0 0 0 0 0 0
v India 68 2200 189 36.66 5 12 41 4-18 42.92 0 20 0
v Ireland 1 24 24* 0 0 2 0
v Kenya 5 127 44 25.40 0 0 4 2-21 37.00 0 0 0
v Netherlands 2 193 157 96.50 1 0 0 0
v New Zealand 45 1488 140 34.60 5 8 33 3-26 32.39 0 14 0
v Pakistan 75 2356 134 33.65 3 18 66 5-17 36.93 1 23 0
v South Africa 43 1056 86 24.55 0 6 33 4-53 36.24 0 11 0
v U.A.E. 1 21 21 21.00 0 0 0 0
v West Indies 30 922 115 32.92 1 5 29 5-58 28.65 1 14 0
v Zimbabwe 33 832 102 26.83 1 5 22 4-19 38.18 0 9 0
Home 106 3304 130 35.52 6 22 104 6-29 28.26 2 26 0
Away 134 3818 157 30.06 11 15 89 5-17 41.66 2 30 0
Neutral 157 4986 189 33.68 8 27 107 4-19 41.40 0 58 0cricket
PCB players' contracts: Is there any sanity in madness?
One wonders how good Misbah-ul-Haq must have been on the ICC charts to win a place in Category C and how bad Asim Kamal must be to be left in the backwoods
By Dr Nauman Niaz
There could be some sanity in madness; there hasn't been any. Our cricket is not mad but it is living in the world of dissociative realities. In recent months, attempting to be more civilized, PCB's government is slipping into contradictions. Decisions etcetera have come in huge numbers, and these as one realises have been like invisible spirit not as a completely natural and interactive part of everyday reality.
Decisions taken, to the extent that we view them through the lenses of intelligence and conscientiousness, we shall see cricket as an object whose structure, character and functions are slavishly determined by tunnel vision of those who run the game in our country, the cause and effect. We shall not say the future will be bright.
One wants to wish PCB all the best, and also one would like to see over-ambitious plans turning into practicality, things fitting into proper-sized shoes and our cricket that has been limping now for quite sometime should be running, the feet not hitting the ground. One as a true jingoist, a flag-waver wants everything to turn into gold; drenched in prosperity-nevertheless, for a moment it seems a grandiose illusion -- grandiosity is one thing we all suffer from and contradictions make us defeatists.
One feels somber and completely disillusioned with the tools now being used to dig deep into our future; cricket management is a story of self-preservation, eccentricity, nepotism, spitefulness, self-possession, defiance, renunciation and injudicious reactions to criticism.
In view of Pakistan's despicable show in the ICC World Cup 2007, Dr Nasim Ashraf resorted to revamping and rebuilding cricket in the country, a decision that was mostly received with eagerness though with a tinge of cynicism.
We all know, the key to any successful management is to compromise. While things may not always go the way we want them to, in the end, coming to an agreement helps us to achieve a greater good. Nevertheless, when we are subjected to situations where we have to weigh merit and utility and investment, we are not advised finding the middle ground; we have to be abrasive and straight.
The Pakistan Cricket Board recently gave contracts to twenty players; in selection there is always an element of ambiguity but compromising team's future development in view of both, the external and internal pressures is unwarranted; our paid selection committee headed by Salahuddin Mulla with Shafqat Rana and Saleem Jaffer as members provided a list of thirty players to the PCB from which ten were to be excluded before the contractual details were finalised.
To make final decisions, a committee was formulated. It comprised Mudassar Nazar, Zakir Khan and Shafqat Naghmi. With exception to Mudassar who was an above average all-round cricketer, the other two could be questionable. Zakir, presently PCB's Director Cricket Operations, hardly got himself selected as a player and from 1984-85 until 1989-90 he was picked for only two Tests. While Shafqat Naghmi must have been included to attend to the financial concerns; PCB's Chief Operating Officer, a Masters in Business Administration from Berkley University (USA), Naghmi is very highly rated by Dr Nasim Ashraf, Chairman PCB. He must really be good. However, if the Director of the National Cricket Academy, Director Cricket Operations and Chief Operating Officer were assigned the duty to finalise the final twenty players, it shouldn't be disputed.
The threesome then picked twenty players and awarded contracts; unlike the previous theories, this time the PCB decided to offer performance based contracts regardless of the seniority and effectiveness of a cricketer. Three categories were made, with players in Category A being given Rs 3.0m per annum, those in Category B Rs 1.8m yearly and those in Category C Rs 1.2m. One admits to the fact that such decisions are always difficult to make, and it is fundamentally an exercise in compromise -- a compromise between enforcers and the stakeholders (usability and merit should never be sacrificed as a result of office politics) but compromise between the drawbacks and benefits of selection. You can't have your cake and eat it too. In creating balance, one must cope with two primary interrelated limitations: the finite amount of information that can be used to make decisions and to wade through the ensuing clutter.
The selectors and the three-member committee used a points system to finalise the names for the three categories of performance based central contracts. ICC Rankings were taken into consideration -- one wonders how good Misbah-ul-Haq must have been on the ICC charts to win a place in Category C and how bad Asim Kamal must be to be left in the backwoods.
We are told that another clause was also added in the criteria for selection -- that a player should be available for both Tests and One-day Internationals. To some this clause was incorporated to give PCB enough reasons to leave Inzamam-ul-Haq out. Obviously utility, future concerns and current form were also taken into consideration.
How Shoaib Akhtar could get a Category A slot is mesmerising. He has played a solitary Test since mid-2006, also missing the all important World Cup. Shahid Afridi's name is also amongst the toppers. Abdul Razzaq who was absent from Pakistan's World Cup 2007 line-up gets into A grade; are these contracts performance based or still the same old stuff where seniority is attended to.
It is really interesting to note that Inzamam-ul-Haq at 37 is considered redundant (though he has been asked to attend a fitness camp before South Africa makes a full tour to Pakistan in October 2007) and Misbah young enough not only to win a Category C contract but a couple of months ago his name was also included in the National Cricket Academy's Youth squad; he is only 33.
Here one doesn't intend to slay Misbah but the systems which we are trying to implement. Najaf Shah, Fawad Alam, Shahid Yousuf, even Taufeeq Umar, Sohail Tanvir, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Naved Latif didn't fit in the selectors' scope -- and most abysmally Asim Kamal was berated.
According to sources, Mohammad Asif was initially put in Category B. Someone advised the decision makers to revisit their decision to avoid humiliation and controversy. Interestingly, Mohammad Asif has been Pakistan's most successful player in recent times, picking four 5wI hauls in only nine Tests at 20.12. With 49 wickets in nine Tests and on the verge of equalling Waqar Younis's record of 50 wickets in 10 matches, Asif was relegated to Category B, if he ever was; to our and his good luck, some sanity was evidenced in madness and Asif was given the move-over.
Imran Farhat getting the contract has also come as a surprise. And here one would not associate his arrival with his father-in-law Mohammad Ilyas's hunger strike.
Asim Kamal has been overlooked. Disbelievingly, given Pakistan's not unmerited reputation of talent, Asim is still a prospect. Asim now needs an Ian Fleming to conspire to bring him back in the team. He requires someone to restore his peace and confidence. His unexplainable coolness and prompt adjustment in different conditions and against all types of bowlers helped him to develop into a saviour.
Seeing him bat, one clearly perceives the improvement and unsurprisingly Asim seems to be Pakistan's solution of middle order problems. He doesn't lack confidence. He has failed, so often to unveil a deliberately cocky guise, shy of a word; an experimentation in his inventive stroke-play. Critics insist it's necessary.
Asim's role in the team can be multi-purpose. He needs to return to international cricket and bat willfully for Pakistan. Oddly his dogged style has led to criticism that his run making is not profligate. One must condemn such criticism; his sense of responsibility and preservation of wicket has been laudable. Because of the thinness of Pakistan's quality middle order (particularly after Inzamam's unavailability) Asim could have been burdened, adding to stock to the long lasting famine.
There has been too much reliability in him; less of perkiness and enterprise, and he has enough of olden idiosyncrasies.
Replacing Inzamam-ul-Haq's middle order presence will take some doing. Pakistan dallied between preparing a middle-order bat and playing an all-rounder in recent times. The insecurity was without beneficiaries; Asim Kamal has been lost. It's regrettable. Asim this season averaged 43.00 in the Pentangular Cup and 45.00 in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League. What else, the selectors need from him; eight half-centuries in twelve Tests are not enough for the PCB to place him even in Category C of the much touted central contracts.
Misbah-ul-Haq who wins the central contract is 33 years of age and is surely not getting younger with each passing day. In five Tests he averages 13.33 and 33.88 in 12 One-day Internationals in which he has represented Pakistan. His last Test came in 2003-04 and one-dayer in 2004-05. Nevertheless his overall first-class record contradicts our claims that a contract may well not have been given to him.
In 119 matches, he averages 49.22 with 25 hundreds and 42 half-centuries. To set the record straight, Misbah's recent performances have been astounding. He averaged 56.50 in the Patron's Cup, 113.00 in the Twenty20 Cup, 100.00 in the Pentangular Cup and 64.11 in Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Gold League. With this sort of performances one needed to get amongst the top twenty picked for central contracts.
Nevertheless, if he is still one of our future hopes at 33 why not bring back Inzamam at 37. In stark contrast with Asim Kamal, unlike him Misbah whenever is chosen in international matches hasn't been able to rise to the occasion. Misbah lacks the killer's instinct and the right temperament to take his first-class cricket's form to international matches; it seems we would still be reinforcing failures. Similarly we have Yasir Arafat amongst the contracted and Najaf Shah along with Fawad Alam still stumble in uncertainty.
Simply recognising the fact that the selection design is based on a foundation of compromise will not go a long way in getting the PCB team to understand the why behind disasters. Doing so will not reduce the risk of derailing an optimal policy that is inaccurately critiqued by those who only see one side of the story.
By clearly showing the benefits, and the corresponding net value of their selection policy, they could educate the critiques while championing their vision. After all, if we can all just compromise, we can live with the good and the bad. Just don't give us the ugly.
as Pakistan's new coach
Muralitharan has the distinction of taking 10 wickets in a Test match 20 times which is a remarkable achievement considering this very fact that he rarely finds support from the other end
By Muhammad Akram Chohan
Geoff Lawson has been appointed as the new coach of Pakistan's cricket team and finally he has succeeded in getting the nod of approval from our Board's top officials. His closest rival for this post, Dav Whatmore, was overlooked once again by an Asian country in spite of his excellent track record as he is a shrewd thinker in the game. Initially he'd received similar harsh treatment by India for the most demanding job of the Indian cricket coach.
Whatmore was initially reluctant to coach Pakistan as he was approached by the BCCI who had even hired a chopper to negotiate with him while he was busy with the Bangladesh outfit in their series against the Indians. But suddenly the Indian board took a U-turn and to the surprise of many ignored him for the said post.
It was only after that snub that Whatmore showed keenness in getting the Pakistan job. But to his sheer disappointment, he never got the support of the senior players of our team who are of the view that they can't work with him as he is a very strict administrator and by inducting him in the team it won't be possible for them to work collectively.
To make matters worse for the Colombo-born Australian, former Sri Lankan captain Arjuna Ranatunga advised Pakistan's manager-cum-coach Talat Ali against hiring Whatmore, stating that it will ruin and undermine all the efforts of the Board for reviving the lost glory and the team's affairs will go from bad to worse if his suggestion was not taken seriously. So keeping all these facts in their minds the PCB top-brass took a wise decision and announced New South Wales coach Lawson as successor to the late Bob Woolmer.
After getting the green signal from the Board Lawson got over-excited and leaked the news to the Australian media regarding his appointment as Pakistan coach.
This act on part of Lawson can be described as an innocent one, but the PCB should take it seriously. If this practice is allowed to continue in the future it can harm the team and one cannot rule out the possibility of leakage of internal matters of the team and also of the Board.
So the PCB must tell Lawson not to repeat the mistake and focus on the sole purpose of rebuilding the team in a truly professional manner and avoid mixing with the players unnecessarily as some of the boys might give the impression to the new coach that they have played a pivotal role in his hiring and they should be given some relaxation considering their stature in the Pakistan team.
Whatmore could not become the coach as he was very strongly opposed by our senior players who knew that after the arrival of Whatmore as coach they would no more be in a position to get preferential treatment over other members of the team and they will have to work hard on their behavior, physical fitness and their approach towards the game.
The most important step which our Board must take immediately is that it must clearly convey this message to all players that by appointing Lawson, the PCB has listened and given due respect to their demands and now it's the players' turn to give something in return as the coming international cricket calendar is full of challenges.
The nation and the Board are hoping that our superstars, who were united in getting their demands fulfilled, will exhibit the same unity while representing the country as another pleasant decision the PCB has announced pertains to central contracts in which the Board has taken into account the grievances of the senior players on a priority basis and offered monthly retainers and other financial perks to the complete satisfaction of the players.
This development is a very welcome sign on part of the PCB which was blamed in the recent past for not supporting senior pros. But now the PCB has acted as per the wishes of the boys and has clearly indicated that for the development of the game it can take those decisions which can be in the larger interest of the game.
Sri Lankan superstar Muttiah Muralitharan finished the series against Bangladesh in a befitting manner and won laurels once again for his homeland and during the series he attained the magical landmark of 700 scalps in his international career spanning over 15 years. He needs only nine more wickets to become the leading wicket-taker in the history of the game surpassing legendary Shane Warne's tally of 708 wickets.
He has given a new life to spin bowling and made every Sri Lankan proud of him. Born on April 17, 1972 in Kandy, he has played 113 Test matches and taken 700 wickets at an economical rate of 21.33. Muralitharan has the distinction of taking 10 wickets in a Test match 20 times which is a remarkable achievement considering this very fact that he rarely finds support from the other end.
He is a proven match-winner and nobody in the Sri Lankan bowling squad can even think of matching his credentials and his ability to transform the complexion of the game in just one spell. He is a true magician. Averaging nearly six wickets per Test Muralitharan is one of the most devastating bowlers in the history of the game and undoubtedly the greatest player Sri Lanka has ever produced. His biggest asset is his ability to spin the bowl both ways very sharply.
His career has been plagued by one controversy or the other. It is highly unlikely that Muralitharan's career will ever be controversy free. At the pace he is taking wickets, one can safely predict that he would call it a day when he will be around 900 or more Test wickets.
I would still go for Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Shoaib Malik in the middle order mainly because they are experienced and can build the innings
By Syed Ahsan Ali
Pakistan has announced its coach; the players are busy in gaining fitness at the training camp, two key players -- Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar ρ are back in the squad and now the only thing in waiting is the one real encounter to exhibit their hunger and skills.
And for that, the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa can be quite a good stage. On July 10, the names of 30 players were announced for the preliminary squad which will be trimmed down to the final 15 by the middle of August.
Here is a look at the probable list of the final eleven which can serve the Pakistan aim better in the shortest version of the game.
Pakistan cricketers are not experienced in this form of the sport, so we will not go in numbers rather we will pick players on their ability, utility and experience of the one-day format.
Openers: It is one Pakistan team's department which has umpteen choices, but very few of them are reliable. The squad of 30 includes Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Salman Butt, Khurram Manzoor, Imran Farhat and Yasir Hameed with experience of opening even in Test cricket.
With due respect to all, none of them are a Gavaskar or a Boycott, but in today's slam-bang cricket you do not need to be one. Negating one common perception that Twenty20 cricket is all about clearing the boundary with frivolity, I dare to state that the openers really need to survive the first four, five overs so that the middle order can get into its groove and begin the onslaught.
So working on that theorem, we need specialist openers. Afridi does not look too interested in opening these days; using Razzaq, an explosive lower-order batsman, as an opener to prevent any early wickets would perhaps be very much inappropriate; Malik can be utilised as a finisher mainly due to his hare-like running and stroke play while Kamran is already performing one specialist job of wicket-keeping so let him do his task which leaves us with Nazir, Hafeez, Salman, Manzoor, Farhat and Yasir.
Twenty20 cricket is fast-paced cricket which demands good fielding and players with extra utility. On that ground, picking Nazir and Hafeez will be lucrative because both bring in the advantage with them which adds more value to their inclusion. Hafeez is a handy off-spinner with great understanding of how to bowl in dangerous stages of boundary-hitting, whereas Nazir is an exceptional fielder in the inner ring with wonderful reach on both sides.
These two extra dimensions in their game give both an edge which is gold in Twenty20 games. Apart from that, both are specialist openers as well. If you ask me Nazir and Hafeez are the two best choices to open the innings for Pakistan as there is nothing to choose between them in terms of numbers and averages of all these openers.
Middle order: There have been names of Naved Latif, Misbah-ul-Haq, Faisal Iqbal, Shahid Yousuf in the squad as the middle order choices, but I would still go for Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan and Malik mainly because they are experienced and can build the innings.
Yousuf has his share of criticism regarding his running and fielding, but the way he can take any bowler on the sheer basis of his class and finesse is enough to include him in the squad even he is half as good as he has been over the years. Younis and Malik are good enough to amass delightful 50 to 70 runs because of their running between the wickets and improvisation, whereas Yousuf is capable enough of even going for the mark of 100.
All-rounder: It is also an area which does not need too much dwelling or considerations. You have one of the best cluster of all-rounders comprising of Afridi, Razzaq and Kamran Akmal. It cannot honestly get better than this. Wicket-taking bowlers and fierce hitters with immense quality of taking the game away from the opposition within ten to fifteen overs, so these three will be automatically picked in the final eleven.
Bowlers: This faculty is immensely bolstered by the inclusion of Asif and Akhtar, two of the world's most lethal bowlers. One name that should have been here on his ability to bowl some accurate yorkers and in-dippers with genuine pace is Rana Naved-ul-Hasan. But the selectors included Najaf Shah, Rao Iftikhar, Mohammad Sami, Umar Gul, Mohammad Irshad and Sohail Tanvir who got the confidence of Aaqib Javed and Wasim Akram in the last couple of months.
The two spinners included are Abdul Rehman and Danish Kaneria, but on the names and reputations decision will definitely be in favour of Akhtar, Asif, Sami and Rehman which to an extent can be termed as right. Rehman will get the nod of approval because of his ability to use the bat with some dexterity and Sami's performances with the ball has been gaining momentum in the recent games.
So the final eleven for the innovative, or according to some, future of international cricket Twenty20 Cup should look something like this.
1 Imran Nazir, 2 Mohammad Hafeez, 3 Mohammad Yousuf, 4 Younis Khan, 5 Shoaib Malik, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Abdul Razzaq, 8 Kamran Akmal, 9 Mohammad Asif, 10 Shoaib Akhtar, 11 Mohammad Sami, 12th man Abdul Rehman.