cricket
Beware! Coaching Pakistan can take your breath away

After 87 days of poor judgement and false allegations, the Jamaican Police finally revealed that Woolmer wasn't murdered and he died of natural causes
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
At last, the Bob Woolmer mystery has been solved, much to the relief of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the national cricket team, Woolmer's family, hundreds and hundreds of cricket enthusiasts and people involved with the game.

Kevin Pietersen: Nuclecus of the English batting line-up
Pietersen's confidence, audacity and range of strokes make him one of the most dangerous one-day batsmen in the world
By M Shoaib Ahmed
Averages well above 50 in Test and One-day Internationals and he is arguably the most dangerous batsman in the world when in form.ćKevin Pietersen is the main weapon in the England batting line-up, has all the shots in the book, to go with a couple of his own invention.

cricket
Who is going to step into Bob Woolmer's shoes?

Once a successful approach had been developed, there seemed to be a gradual regression into the false safety of conformity and predictability with a growing distrust
By Dr Nauman Niaz
One definition of a genius is someone who creates novel employment, strategies, policies and art what he wishes. By that definition, the late Bob Woolmer did not qualify in this category. His second career was cricket coaching that had a long and often venerable tradition not just in England but in countries like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Regrettably, despite four Test cricketers at one time or the other working as Chief Executive Officers (Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Rameez Raja and Zakir Khan) failed to create a coaching culture within the vicinity or domain of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) if not in the country. They in this regard were passing meteors.

Pakistan need an improved, consistent Shahid Afridi
The most inconsistent batsman in the world, Afridi is the only player who has scored more than 5000 runs but has a batting average of below 25 runs
By Waris Ali 
He has played 235 One-day Internationals during his cricket career spanning over a decade since his debut in 1996, when he scored a century in the very first innings he played; it was, however, his second match, because he could not get a chance to bat in his first one-dayer. He is inherently an aggressive batsman and enjoys the strike rate of 109 runs per 100 balls which is the highest in the history of the one-day version of the game.

From timeless to 'countless': 
It's killing the game

A tremendous lust for money is making the cricket's governing body silly and mad. They are keen to organise as much cricket as they can
By Syed Ahsan Ali
In 1876-77 the first-ever Test match was held between Australia and England. The game ended in four days but it was scheduled to be a timeless affair means the match could not be over till its fate was decided.




cricket
Beware! Coaching Pakistan can take your breath away
After 87 days of poor judgement and false allegations, the Jamaican Police finally revealed that Woolmer wasn't murdered and he died of natural causes
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid

At last, the Bob Woolmer mystery has been solved, much to the relief of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), the national cricket team, Woolmer's family, hundreds and hundreds of cricket enthusiasts and people involved with the game.

Since the time when the former England player was found dead in a Jamaican hotel room on March 18th this year, there were numerous speculations and theories developing up to somehow prove that Woolmer had died not because of natural facts, but for the reasons that he was poisoned or may be strangulated among others.

And that not only affected the World Cup which was ongoing then but it created scenes of panic and disturbance in the Pakistan camp.

Our national team, already baffled after their shocking defeat against minnows Ireland in their second World Cup match on March 17th which saw them being knocked out of the quadrennial event in the West Indies, were then questioned and somewhat mentally pressurised and tortured in the probe into Woolmer's death.

Before that Woolmer, after being taken to the hospital when he was found unconscious by a room maid in the room where he was staying, was announced two days later that his death was not a natural one and somebody had strangulated him with a towel and murdered him.

The police, Jamaica's, was asked to get involved in the matter. And the first thing they did was to point fingers at Pakistan team players and coaching staff. They questioned them not once but twice. Reports came up that few of the players might have killed their coach shocking up the players' life completely.

Not only that but other stories were made up which almost justified the false fact that some Pakistani(s) might have killed Woolmer.

A coroner's autopsy at that time had confirmed that Woolmer was indeed murdered and there was no way he died of a heart attack or because of some other natural cause. The police involved then started working on assumptions and guesses that were being made by various corners of the world.

One report came up a few days after Woolmer's death that Shahid Afridi along with his captain and few other players had teamed up to take their coach's life away. Pretty strange and shocking was this speculation which never really came up in local newspapers here but was the newsmaker in Jamaica.

The police worked hard to find the culprits and then they found something predictable, which wasn't really groundbreaking in the sense as it was merely a false allegation.

A CCTV footage presented a view of two Pakistani journalists talking to Woolmer two days before his death. Now would any one clarify how can you prove that the people talking to Woolmer had killed him? Like there must have been a thousand more people who might have been seen talking to Woolmer before his death in the hotel which the cameras must have recorded on tape. Why those clippings weren't shown and why weren't other people besides those two poor Pakistani media men alleged of killing Woolmer?

It was a false claim that completely disturbed the alleged people's life. The neighbouring media took full advantage of the circumstances and almost made it the truth that those two people had killed the Pakistan cricket team's coach; they showed that clipping over their websites; published stories related to the incident and did everything to make this incident a dramatic one.

Amongst the poison theory, the snake venom theory, a mad fan killing the coach theory and blah blah, the most attention-grabbing one was that of Woolmer dying after drinking alcohol which was presented as a gift, two bottles of champagne, by Pakistan cricket team's bowling coach then, Mushtaq Ahmed.

Few claimed that it was a poisonous drink which Woolmer had intakes of and Mushtaq was the culprit of providing those two bottles to him. Although Mushtaq admitted that he had presented the bottles to Woolmer, it wasn't proved amid other gossips that this was the true story.

June 12th was the date when this whole saga was unfolded. And it took such a huge u-turn that surprised everybody and I am saying everybody. After 87 days of poor judgement and false allegations, the Jamaican Police finally revealed that Woolmer wasn't murdered and he died of natural causes.

And this was all done by the help of British coroners who provided a true autopsy of Woolmer's death that he wasn't strangulated and had died of a heart attack. It was a slap at the faces of Jamaican authorities who couldn't provide the true face of the story and just played the blame game for almost three months. Their police completely failed and the coroner hired by them to probe into the case, who still thinks that Woolmer was murdered, failed too in his job.

All this is history now but coming to the conclusion, nobody has pointed out yet that though Woolmer wasn't murdered and died of a heart attack what could have led his death to such an untimely one.

According to Woolmer's family, he was a heart patient and as age was taking its toll on him his health was affected very badly. There have been confirmations too that he was a diabetic and asthma patient as well. But being a coach of a cricket team, at an international level, one can't really think of having a sick person at the helm. Woolmer was himself a cricketer and a hard working coach, indeed. And there weren't any such incidents in the past in which he was hospitalised or given intense treatment.

It has to be said that such is the pressure, mental really, of coaching cricketing sides like us that it can affect ones life up to all extents.

Pakistani people are cricket enthusiasts. The love for this game here has exceeded every other sport and the trend goes on and on by the day. People expect a lot from their national team and supposedly want them to win every match they play. Defeat is unacceptable here and there are only few such times when people here do settle for a defeat when the team loses a match after fighting their heart and soul out.

They praise their players like any thing. They respect them and it gives them immense pleasure when their heroes earn victories for their homeland. But the other side of the story is pretty horrendous. When our cricket team loses a match, a series or fail to win a major tournament, the consequences the team faces is quite shocking.

Their effigies are burned. Their houses stoned. The media pressurises them. They are stormed away by questions and queries and every body is seen then seeking explanations from them. Just to lose a match while representing national colours can be so dangerous that sometimes your life can be at a risk.

And obviously when Team Pakistan lost out in the World Cup -- after losing the opener to hosts West Indies and then failing again in their second match against an International Cricket Council associate nation -- the consequences were lethal.

Woolmer, at that time, must have thought that his job is now gone. Pakistan were among the favourites, at least to qualify for the Super Eight stage but the manner in which they went out of the tournament was pretty embarrassing. When Pakistan were playing their match against Ireland and were on the verge of defeat, Woolmer, sitting in the dressing room alongside Afridi, had a face of a dejected person who didn't knew what to do next. He must've known at that period that a disaster was about to happen. The pressure, both mental and emotional, must've been pumping up in his nerves.

Leading a side which such an emotional crowd to back up can be dangerous sometimes. Woolmer, considering the fact that when he along with his team would return back to Pakistan and face the media, people and the cricket board and would be questioned by them on their World Cup failure, must've been under immense pressure after losing out in the group stages. And this pressure might have taken its toll on his nerves and could have caused his heart failure.

Pakistan cricket team's coach slot is still empty. There have been quite a lot of speculations about who's going to fill in the gap. Foreigners and locals, both, have been enlisted to take up the post but no final decision yet has been made (till the filing of this article). But whoever is going to take up the job, he should be aware that this job isn't that easy.

Because when you are coaching the Pakistan cricket team, expectations are high, so are the emotions, deadly can be consequences if you fail, massive can be rewards and praises if you succeed. So better don't make any decision in haste because this job can take your breath away.

 

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

shehnu@gmail.com



Kevin Pietersen: Nuclecus of the English batting line-up
Pietersen's confidence, audacity and range of strokes make him one of the most dangerous one-day batsmen in the world
By M Shoaib Ahmed

Averages well above 50 in Test and One-day Internationals and he is arguably the most dangerous batsman in the world when in form.ćKevin Pietersen is the main weapon in the England batting line-up, has all the shots in the book, to go with a couple of his own invention.

Whippedć from a good length outside off-stump through midwicket has become his trademark, and his ability to score off good balls and hit the same delivery in about eight different directions makes setting a field to him little more than guesswork. Pietersen's confidence, audacity and range of strokes make him one of the most dangerous one-day batsmen in the world. He is an attacking right-handed batsman and occasional off-spin bowler.

He made his first-class debut for Natal in 1997 before moving to England after voicing his displeasure at the racial quota system in place in South Africa, in order to further his opportunities for playing at international level. Being born of an English mother gave Pietersen eligibility to play for England, and after serving a qualifying period of four years playing at county level, he was called up almost immediately into the national side. He made his international debut in the match against Zimbabwe in 2004, and his Test match debut in the 2005 Ashes series against Australia the following year.

Pietersen quickly became the fastest batsman to reach both 1,000 and 2,000 runs in One-day International cricket, and currently has the highest average of any England player to have played more than 20 innings of one-day cricket. He also has the second-highest run total from his first 25 Tests, behind only the Australian great, Donald Bradman.

Pietersen attended Maritzburg College in Pietermaritzburg and made his first-class debut for Natal's B team in 1997-98. He continued with the newly-renamed KwaZulu-Natal side for the next two South African seasons, but a lack of opportunities in his homeland, caused in part by the country's racial quota system, caused him frustration and he moved to England to play for Nottinghamshire for the 2001 season.

He made an immediate impression with his big hitting and athletic fielding, and managed an impressive batting average of 57.95 in his first year in county cricket, making 1,275 runs that season; in July he made 218 not out, having been lbw for a duck in the first innings. The following year he made another unbeaten double ton, 254 not out at home to Middlesex, and in 2003 he scored 764 runs in one-day cricket.

By now it was clear that England recognition awaited as soon as Pietersen had completed his four-year residency qualification, so in preparation for this he accompanied England A to India in 2003-04. He had a wonderful time, scoring 147 not out, 31, 114, 115, 32 and 94 in his six first-class innings to record an average of over 100 with the bat, as well as making 131 in a one-day match against India A in Bangalore.

Pietersen was, unsurprisingly, selected for the full England one-day side at the earliest opportunity, for the tour to Zimbabwe and South Africa in 2004-05. He had a relatively quiet debut in the second One-day International at Harare, scoring 27 not out from 47 balls, but hit an unbeaten run-a-ball 77 in the third ODI. He played only one more innings in that series, and that was a first-ball duck at Bulawayo, but the South Africans lay in wait.

He made a brilliant 96-ball 108 in the second ODI at Bloemfontein, celebrating reaching three figures by kissing the badge on his helmet. He made 75 at Cape Town, then at East London made an unbeaten 100 from just 69 balls. England lost, but smashing the last ball of the game for his seventh six to bring up his century. The final game, at Centurion Park, saw another Pietersen master-class, though again in a losing cause -- coming to the wicket at 32-3, which soon became 68-6, Pietersen hit 116 with ten fours and six sixes, finally gaining not only respect but admiration from the crowd, who gave him a standing ovation.

In 2005 he joined Hampshire under the captaincy of Shane Warne. He was not picked for the Tests against Bangladesh, but picked up a Man of the Match award in the Twenty20 demolition of Australia at Southampton, when he made 34 from 18 balls and held three catches.

England's ten-wicket win over Bangladesh in the first ODI at The Oval meant that Pietersen's next game was also against the Australians, and at Bristol he produced what England captain Michael Vaughan called "probably the best one-day innings I have ever seen by an Englishman", smashing an unbeaten 91 off 65 balls as England recovered from 160-6 to pass Australia's total of 252 with 15 balls to spare. At that point Pietersen averaged 162.25 in his 13 ODIs.

Pietersen debuted for the English Test team in the first Ashes Test at Lord's, scoring 57 in his first innings in Test cricket and 64 not out in his second. This makes him only the 4th player to top score in both innings on debut for England, one of only eight English players to score over 50 in each innings on debut, and only the third player in history to make 50 or more in both innings on debut at Lord's.

He followed up with 71 in the second Ashes Test at Edgbaston, giving him three half-centuries in his first three Test match innings.

In the fifth and final Test of the Ashes at The Oval on 12 September 2005, Pietersen scored 158 in the second innings -- his maiden Test century -- to help England secure the draw that ensured they regained the Ashes with a 2-1 series victory. His innings included seven sixes -- a record for an English player in an Ashes innings. Pietersen was named Man of the Match for his efforts.

He finished the 2005 Ashes series as highest run scorer over the five Tests, scoring 473 runs at an average 52.55

Pietersen had a less successful time in the three Test matches against Pakistan, which England lost 2˝0. He made little impact in the first and third Tests, his highest score being 34. He fared better in the second, however, making his second Test century in the first innings. He was also performing well in the one-day series with two explosive innings of 56 from 39 balls to help England win the first ODI, and 28 from 27 balls in the second. The quick-scoring innings in the second ODI was to be Pietersen's last on the tour. A rib injury sustained in the first ODI proved too painful throughout the second, and Pietersen returned to England to recover fully for the tour of India.

In March 2006, Pietersen played in the three Tests against India, which England drew 1˝1. His 87 in the second innings of the first match came during England's acceleration period. This half-century was followed by another in the first innings of the second Test. The second innings was not so good, facing just 13 balls before being given out caught behind off a Harbhajan Singh delivery. The unhappy Pietersen was later fined 30 percent of his match fee for shaking his head and showing signs of dissent. Pietersen posted scores of 39 and 7 in the final Test, a match England won comfortably.

In the one-day series, which England lost 5˝1, he was top scorer for England in four out of the five matches he played, and had the highest average of any player with 58.20. His 71 in the second ODI took him past 1,000 ODI runs, equalling Viv Richards's record of 21 innings to reach this total.

In May 2006, Pietersen matched his highest Test score of 158 in the first match against Sri Lanka, and followed it with 142 in the second Test. This took him passed the milestone of 1,000 Test runs, in his 12th Test match, and he became the first batsman since Graham Gooch in 1990 to score a century in three successive Test innings on English soil. On the first day of the third Test against Pakistan, Pietersen reached his fifth Test century with an overnight score of 104.

Although Pietersen retired hurt shortly after reaching three figures, due to cramp, he returned to the crease the next morning and went on to top score in England's first innings total of 515 with 135 runs from 169 balls.

In Australia, Pietersen was widely judged to be England's best player, scoring 490 runs in five matches and averaging over 50. He started well with a defiant 92 in the first Test. In ćthe second Test in Adelaide, sharing a 310-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Paul Collingwood. However, even Pietersen seemed disheartened by the end of the series, which England lost 5˝0.

In the first One-day International of the 2006˝07 Commonwealth Bank Series, on 12 January at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, Pietersen was injured when a ball bowled by Glenn McGrath hit him on the ribs. Despite continuing his innings in some discomfort, making 82, X-rays revealed a fracture and Pietersen was forced to miss the rest of the series.

In the 2007 Cricket World Cup, Pietersen crafted 104 runs off 122 balls against Australia in the Super Eight stage of the tournament. It was the first World Cup century by an Englishman since 1996, and the first ever against Australia. He made three half-centuries, scoring 60 runs from 92 balls against New Zealand, 56 runs from 72 balls against Kenya, and 58 runs from 80 balls against Sri Lanka.

In England's final match of the World Cup against the West Indies, Pietersen made 100 from 91 balls, and effected the run-out of retiring captain Brian Lara. This century took him passed 2000 ODI runs, in doing so equalling the record 51 matches set by Zaheer Abbas. He finished the tournament with 444 runs, at an average of 55.5.

Having scored a century in the first Test against the West Indies at Lord's, Pietersen posted his highest score of 226 in the second Test at Headingley, surpassing his previous best of 158 which he had achieved three times. With this score, Pietersen moved ahead of Everton Weekes and Viv Richards to be the batsman with the second-highest run-total out of his first 25 Tests (behind Don Bradman). It is also the highest Test score for England since Graham Gooch scored 333 against India in 1990.

 

PROFILE

Tests: Matches 26, Innings 49, Not Outs 2, Runs Scored 2525, Highest Score 226, Average 53.72, 100s 8, 50s, 10, Catches 16, 1-218 as bowler. One-Day Internationals 51, Innings 45, Not Out 9, Runs Scored 2026, Highest Score 116, Average 56.27, 100s 5, 50s 14, 1-93 as bowler. First-class matches 107, Innings 177, Not Out 14, Runs Scored 8544, Highest Score 254*, Ave 52.41, 100s 29, 50s 35.


cricket
Who is going to step into Bob Woolmer's shoes?
Once a successful approach had been developed, there seemed to be a gradual regression into the false safety of conformity and predictability with a growing distrust
By Dr Nauman Niaz

One definition of a genius is someone who creates novel employment, strategies, policies and art what he wishes. By that definition, the late Bob Woolmer did not qualify in this category. His second career was cricket coaching that had a long and often venerable tradition not just in England but in countries like Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Regrettably, despite four Test cricketers at one time or the other working as Chief Executive Officers (Javed Burki, Majid Khan, Rameez Raja and Zakir Khan) failed to create a coaching culture within the vicinity or domain of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) if not in the country. They in this regard were passing meteors.

It must go to the credit of Rameez Raja who as Chief Executive Officer of the PCB at least took a brave step convincing the gentlemanly Shahrayar M Khan to hire the services of Bob Woolmer. The only thing which was seemingly wrong was the manner in which Javed Miandad, presumably Pakistan's greatest batsman was asked to leave.

This added spice and bit of controversy as the PCB assembled its resources to welcome Woolmer amongst the ranks. Bob came under an umbrella of controversy. To his ill luck, he had to pick up the shreds and complete the puzzle and second being laid back and easy going he subliminally started to take Inzamam-ul-Haq's dictation.

Apparently it was a case of deviating from one's focus. Woolmer became friendly with Inzamam, a charming character and a lovable man. He wanted to forge a spirited relationship with a powerful captain who was also the best batsman in the country. Slow divergence from his point of concentration saw Woolmer getting confused. And also, one must put it that there was a huge communication and an intellectual gap between Woolmer and his pupil. Woolmer actually failed to redefine his trade and that thuds him out of taking a strong claim to the label.

The possibility that Bob was somehow different became apparent during the 2004 Pakistan season, the year in which his new team qualified for the ICC Champions Trophy final. Woolmer had joined Pakistan with laurels on his resume. In 1994 Warwickshire the county of which Woolmer was the coach won three out of the four domestic competitions. They also reached the final of the NatWest Trophy.

It was a unique achievement in the long history of English cricket, and it came at a most opportune time. The United Cricket Board of South Africa, searching for a new coach for the national cricket team, picked Bob in part on the strength of his achievements with Warwickshire, thus subjecting his coaching ability to the most intense scrutiny at the highest level of the game.

An analysis of his performance as coach of South Africa between 1994 shows that within eighteen months of his appointment he had changed a team battered by defeat -- South Africa had suffered six consecutive One-day International losses on the Asian subcontinent -- into one with the best one-day record between 1995 and 1999. In the 1998-99 season, his last as national coach, South Africa were voted International Cricket Team of the Year at India's CEAT Awards.

In addition, Jacques Kallis, who had come to maturity under the tuition of Bob and Duncan Fletcher, was named International Young Cricketer and International Cricketer of the Year. Why didn't Woolmer get the Pakistan players going? He couldn't because as it seems he was working in a place without systems where nepotism, player-power, the management's incompetence and self-preservation were common.

In my view history will also need to reconcile the silent success of Woolmer with the two outstanding blemishes on his international coaching career: the failure of his fancied Pakistan teams to advance to the Super Eights of the World Cup 2007 and also in the series in England in 2006. The first can perhaps be excused as the performance of a injury-hit and captain dominated team still in the process of realising its true potential, but there was absolutely no defensible reason why the 2006 Pakistanis should have lost in England.

The unpalatable truth remains that the team had actively to lose before an England without 'Freddie' Flintoff, Michael Vaughan and Simon Jones could win the series. Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan consistently and Inzamam-ul-Haq in patches batted marvellously but team selection, reinforcements and planning led to their downfall.

Woolmer and Inzamam both looked out of colour. Perhaps the basis for that defeat will eventually be acknowledged. In my necessarily medical view, the foundation of any such shortcomings lies in the persisting failure to address, in a creative manner, the cancer of modern international cricket: the overwhelming emotional demands made on highly competitive but technically deficient players. First set their attitude right, the technical breaches would automatically be covered.

In England in 2006 and even in the World Cup 2007 in the West Indies Pakistan really lost because they never quite understood Bob or fully appreciated his special talents. In as much as that inability to sustain a high level of performance most likely resulted from an individual failure to cope with the ever present emotional demands of modern international cricket, then controlling them remained beyond the influence of the coach.

In retrospect, it is notable that the early period of rapid innovation as his unusual ideas, readily embraced because there were no others, formed the basis for Pakistan's success. But once a successful approach had been developed, there seemed to be a gradual regression into the false safety of conformity and predictability with a growing distrust of further dominance including captain's high-headedness -- an all too frequent feature of Pakistan sport.

And one from which, in the back to back series against India and in Sri Lanka in early 2006, only the unique genius of Mohammad Asif (Woolmer's discovery) could almost come to the rescue. Asif was regrettably absent in the World Cup 2007. The result of this lack of growth was that by the start of the tournament several teams like had failed to close the gap between them and Australia.

Pakistan were hit by bad selection, untimely injuries and poor management with Mohammad Asif and Shoaib Akhtar still intrigued by bad handling of their doping issues; a growing distrust of change also meant that too few players to their role and demands, so the inevitable injuries occurred always at the most inopportune moments, as with Umar Gul before the crucial World Cup. Or perhaps the lack of success in the World Cup resulted from a failure to attend to the necessary detail.

One can only ever be as good as the working environment allows one to be. The unfortunate aspect to a truly innovative mind is that it will always produce ideas in advance of what is currently acceptable. And so I suggest that the final appreciation of Bob's value could only come in the fullness of time, as his profession had begun to move along the path he was the first to explore.

Ironically, emotionally sensitive and evidently distressed, Bob died in West Indies during Pakistan's unsuccessful World Cup campaign. This ended an absorbing chapter in world cricket coaching's history. To understand why Bob despite resistance from his family and friends chose to be with the Pakistan team requires an appreciation of the factors that had moulded his life as both cricketer and coach, for at the core of any revolutionary there must be at least three components: the desire and motivation for improvement; a nagging dissatisfaction; and the creative streak to visualise how change could best be effected.

These conditions must be allied to a prodigious memory for detail and the ability to observe and recognise, especially the unusual. Bob failed largely because Shahrayar M Khan as Chairman PCB allowed Inzamam to run the team in the manner he deemed better and sensible. Had Shahrayar given Woolmer the extra cushion, things might well have been different from what they are now. Bob's desire and creativity were most likely more established features of his personality; his dissatisfaction stemmed from his own experiences as an international cricketer.

One must believe, from personal contact and experience, Woolmer's strength was his determination to keep looking for ways in which he could adapt and improve his game, both as a bowler and batsman. He understood more than most players that he couldn't improve if he was not alert to change. And his weak points were the gentlemanly character.

He was a large hearted man, giving in and at times rising above his self to allow people shallower and myopic to take control.

Woolmer's replacement is about to be enrolled in the Pakistan camp. Names of two Australians, Steve Rixon and Dav Whatmore top the list. Rixon was an international cricketer, his career ending in the shade of the more dominant Rodney Marsh. Rixon was super talented and could have walked into any Test team barring Australia because Marsh was surely miles better. Interestingly, Rixon has learned his trade and craft from the bottom up.

He did not graduate directly from international cricketer to international coach, as is the norm in Pakistan such as in case of Javed Miandad. Rixon began his coaching career among schoolboys and different clubs and moved to New Zealand to take Stephen Fleming under his control. Fleming, as evident developed into a quality top order batsman and also a superbly cool minded and an able captain while Dave Whatmore, arrogant and a doer is impulsive but has definitely turned Bangladesh around.

To his credit, first the World Cup 1996 winning Sri Lanka team and now Bangladesh from the jitters of nascence to adulthood. Whatmore's formula is based upon the fact that if you can't explain a concept to a ten year old schoolboy, then you cannot explain it to an international cricketer. The second determinant of Whatmore has been his unwillingness, nay compulsion because of inherent eccentricity to learn from all who may have something to contribute.

The PCB committee on picking a coach that includes Mudassar Nazar, Zakir Khan and Imtiaz Ahmad must realise that Woolmer was different while Rixon and Whatmore are virtual eccentrics. They may well have in plenty to deliver but they'll not like to be dictated. Their attitude, abrasiveness and the typical Australian predisposition may well make them misfits in the present half-cooked PCB corporate culture.

Both Rixon and Whatmore may not need gentlemanly people like Zakir Khan and Mudassar Nazar to be given our work ethics; they may well need towering personalities such as Wasim Akram or another Imran Khan to make the best use of them. We know Imran or Akram with their present perspectives may not fit in the PCB's focus. So let us be wise before we take a decision. On this enrolment will depend the future of Pakistan cricket, and of course Shoaib Malik's development as a long term investment as captain. 

 
Pakistan need an improved, consistent Shahid Afridi
The most inconsistent batsman in the world, Afridi is the only player who has scored more than 5000 runs but has a batting average of below 25 runs
By Waris Ali

He has played 235 One-day Internationals during his cricket career spanning over a decade since his debut in 1996, when he scored a century in the very first innings he played; it was, however, his second match, because he could not get a chance to bat in his first one-dayer. He is inherently an aggressive batsman and enjoys the strike rate of 109 runs per 100 balls which is the highest in the history of the one-day version of the game.

He is Shahid Afridi: the glamorous batsman of Pakistan cricket, whose dismissal in a One-day International innings, while chasing the rival team's target, has become a message for the cricket fans to leave the stadium, the reason why he has been nicknamed Boom Boom Afridi.

But this is only one side of the picture; the other side invites just criticism. He is one of the world's most inconsistent batsmen in the history of cricket and is the only player who has scored more than 5000 runs but has an average less than 25 runs per innings.

During the 223 innings he played out of the total 235 one-dayers, he scored 5035 runs at an average of 23.75 with only four hundreds and 28 fifties.

If he can boast about his four centuries and 28 fifties, he should remember that in 20 of the innings he failed to score a single run. Further, the 60 innings during which he failed to score runs in a double figure make up more than 25 percent of his career.

Throughout his career, he could never score fifties in two successive One-day Internationals; it means that his fans must never expect his characteristic explosive batting in the next innings before which he had showed his marvellous batting.

A loosely constructed analysis of his batting career during his career of 235 One-day Internationals is aimed at bringing on the surface the deep-rooted flaws in his glamorous batting, so that he might elevate his batting to the level of excellence.

While Afridi scored 102 runs off 40 balls in the first innings of his career against Sri Lanka in the Centenary triangular tournament, he could contribute just 14 runs (off nine balls) in the 203 runs total of his team in the final of the triangular against South Africa, which Pakistan badly lost by seven wickets.

During the first year of his career in 1996, he played 20 innings in 23 One-day Internationals, during which Afridi could score one century and two fifties only, and was out nine times without reaching a double figure score, including two innings in which he failed to make a single run.

The next year 1997 passed without a century, however was blessed with five fifties. Out of the total 28 matches he played during this period, Afridi was twice out without a run, and seven times failed to score runs in a double figure.

The year 1998 brought no good news, when he played seven innings without reaching a double figure score (including a duck), and four innings below his average of 23 runs. A brief overview of this year has been presented here as representative of his career as a whole.

In the very first tournament, the Coca-Cola Silver Jubilee Independence Cup in Bangladesh, in January, he scored 7, 29, 21 and 18. This was followed by two matches in Zimbabwe that, however, describe a fair performance by the glamorous batsman; he could score just 30 and 32.

In the Standard Bank International Series, he scored 17 and 6 runs. It was the Sahara Friendship Cup in September that year which saw the second century of the Boom Boom; in the other four matches of the tournament, he scored 8, 56, zero and 10 runs. This was followed by another single figure innings, when he could score just 4 runs.

During the two one-dayers against the tourists Australia in October 1998, he could score 6 and 40 runs. Afridi repeated this performance in next series against the tourists Zimbabwe by scoring 2 and 26 runs.

Out of his 21 innings he played during the year 1999, once he was out for duck, seven times he failed to reach runs in double figure and five times he could score below his average of 23. The year went without a century, however saw three fifties.

The year 2000 comprised 22 matches played by Afridi; in three of these matches he failed to score a single run, while four of these innings ended below the double figure. Four of his innings were below his batting average of 23 runs. He could score three fifties in 2000.

In the year 2001, he could score four fifties but no century in the 16 matches he played. Only twice he was below the double figure score, and six times below his average of 23 runs. Afridi was five times out for a duck in the year 2002 when he played 36 matches. While he can boast of scoring four fifties and one century, he must be feeling unpleasant to remember that he was out below the double figure runs in 12 innings while seven of his innings were below his batting average of 23 runs.

The Pakistan team's visit of India in March-April 2005 has a good story to narrate about Boom Boom Afridi. In the six-ODI series in India, though he could score just 8, zero and 17 runs in the first three matches, the last three matches witnessed his characteristic batting with 40 (of 23 balls), 102 (of 46 balls) and 44 (of 23 balls).

In the 13 one-dayers he played during the 2006, Shahid Afridi could score in double figure in four innings only, in all the nine other innings he remained below the figure of 10, including one dismissal for a duck.

During the Pakistan cricket team's tour of South Africa for the February-March 2007 series, Shahid Afridi reached a total of 102 runs by scoring 17, 77* and 8 runs in three ODI matches. He can take pride in his 77*, but must be ashamed of his 17 and 8 runs innings. In the only match he played during the 2007 World Cup he scored 16 runs against Zimbabwe.

Shahid Afridi has so far played three World Cup tournaments, of 1999, 2003 and 2007, during his career, and has failed to score a single century or half century in the 11 World Cup innings. During the 1999 World Cup in England, Afridi batted in seven of the eight matches he played but could score only 93 runs with 37 runs as his highest at the batting average of 13 runs per innings. In three of these matches, he could not score runs in double figure.

In the three matches he played in the 2003 World Cup in South Africa, Shahid Afridi could score only 16 runs in total by miserably failing to achieve a double figure; the 2007 Caribbean World Cup tournament was a 'better' event for him when he could score 16 runs in one innings only.

Boom Boom Afridi has been able to score only four centuries throughout his One-day International career. While he scored a marvellous hundred in his very first innings, he failed to repeat this feat during the next 61 innings; his second century came in the 65th ODI match of his career, during the Sahara Friendship Cup between Pakistan and India in Toronto, Canada, in 1998.

His third century came four years later during the Sharjah Cup tournament in April 2002; it was his 146th one-dayer. His fourth century, 102 runs, came after a lapse of three years in April 2005, during the Indian tour of the Inzamam-led team; the gap in between comprised 47 matches. His fifth century is still awaited.

The fact that Afridi is a good bowler kills his real charm; he is attractive as a batsman, an aggressive hitter, and he must correct himself to elevate his this stature. While Afridi has time enough to play a further 150 one-dayers, he must try to improve his image as an explosive but more consistent batsman in the history of cricket.

 


From timeless to 'countless': 
It's killing the game
A tremendous lust for money is making the cricket's governing body silly and mad. They are keen to organise as much cricket as they can
By Syed Ahsan Ali

In 1876-77 the first-ever Test match was held between Australia and England. The game ended in four days but it was scheduled to be a timeless affair means the match could not be over till its fate was decided.

The contest, fortunately, ended in four days. The spectators came to the ground in numbers which approximately exceeded 20,000. It was a huge turnout considering the resources, popularity and money attached with the game at that time.

When you first hear the term 'timeless' it touches your ears as if it deals with something romantic or idealistic; a thing which is loved by people and they want it to linger on as much as possible. Timeless, priceless are tag lines that are associated with things which you cannot want to let go at any cost, which you hold very close to your hearts.

Timeless Test match meant no matter what happened they wanted it to go on and on and on. It showed the kind of love and admiration this game held century back.

But cricket is no more a timeless affair. It has turned into a 'countless' affair. 'Countless' is the word which shows the abundance of certain good which is present here, there and everywhere and consequently held very little esteem of consumers.

Economics says that scanty the good, higher the price and immense the value attached to it by the users.

Unfortunately, cricket these days is neither scanty nor expensive rather it has become a good which is losing its value as the time is progressing.

You switch on the TV to get your dosage of cricket, live or recorded, entertaining or boring, exciting or time-killing. It does not matter, it is just cricket. TV channels can't help themselves. They have to feed their screens. Different international channels show different brands of cricket. If a certain channel whose audience is mainly Indian, it replays victories of Indians no matter how stale or how waspish those telecasts may be.

And if they attract Pakistani audience, they keep running recordings of the 1992 World Cup, Javed Miandad sixer in Sharjah or Wasim-Waqar show in New Zealand. And if they think, they are making you fed up with their re-runs they call some veteran cricketers for two hours of discussion on umpteenth issues related to Pakistani cricket and filled those two hours with live calls. And it is the best thing to do in a region where people are tired of load-shedding, traffic jams, and political crises. So make them happy as if they are toddlers who can keep them busy with freaky toys.

They are just following the suit of the ICC. A tremendous lust for money is making the cricket's governing body silly and mad. They are keen to organise as much cricket as they can. Regardless of the hectic itinerary, they squeeze time for a spineless competition between two continents when the conclusion was foregone well before preparations got underway.

The TV rights ware the biggest hook for any broadcasting company these days for survival. But telecasting intercontinental affairs became so unwanted that one or two channels refused to go for the live cameras. The reason behind is that the ICC is running after money regardless of what this money-mongering attitude can do to the game.

Senseless and mind-boggling itineraries set for the cricketers are making their cricketing lives short with each and every outing in varied conditions. Standards are deteriorating rapidly. Top players are getting injured now and then due to increasing workload and absence of top players from the scene is making encounters less competitive and more one-sided.

The fast bowlers' plight goes beyond mending procedures. Sweating hours and hours in nets and then in international matches with pressures of keeping the same level of intensity and exuberance going already turn them far more endangered species than orangutans and penguins. Time is very near when we will be witnessing orangutans and tigers in number of zoos but there will be no Shoaib Akhtar, Brett Lee or Shane Bond. Medium pacers will keep the teams pumping and batsmen with heavy bats will keep them mauling here, there and everywhere and keep re-writing record books. Twenty Test matches and 40 One-day Internationals are not enough then they are adding an extra burden of Twenty20 fixtures on every international tour.

Coaches, captains and their players have piles of worries about how to sustain their energies and the best players for key matches. The 53-day long World Cup exposed the nefarious designs of the ICC to extract every single dollar from the game as soon as possible as if there will be no tomorrow to organise a cricket match.

Sri Lanka went home after taking part in the longest tournament of its history and got back on the playing field in searing heat of Abu Dhabi. What is this? What are they doing is getting beyond any sane person. Too much cricket is not about good cricket. Too much cricket means too many injuries, too many dead matches and too much money, and too many despised feelings in the hearts of cricket fans.

Cricket is run by lawyers and managers not by former players who can understand the rigours of top-level cricket, and who can tell how to make it more attractive and entertaining for the crowds. They know two plus two is four. But they do not know that while they do their arithmetic spectators and fans are leaving and they have to content with sponsors, broadcasters and media managers.

The ICC attitude reminds me of one very simple idea of economics. The idea is that marginal utility which says that level of satisfaction reduces with every additional unit of a commodity. The more you use it, the less you want to use it again. The same is happening to cricket. They are not extending any help to the game rather they are killing the game and killing it brutally.

 

 

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