cricket
Afridiís dilemma

Pakistanís most valuble T20 player is going through what is perhaps the worst lean patch of his international career. Can he come out of it in Sri Lanka?
By Khalid Hussain
Three years after spearheading Pakistan to a memorable title-winning triumph at Lord's, Shahid Afridi finds himself under the microscope following an extended lean patch that is beginning to threaten his international career.



Twenty20 World Cup
Relying on old horses

By Aamir Bilal
The fourth Cricket T20 World Cup has begun and will continue till October 7 in Sri Lanka.  The tournament started with the hosts Sri Lanka beating Zimbabwe at Hambantota. Pakistan will face New Zealand in their first match on Sept 23 at Pallekele Stadium, Kandy. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cricket
Afridiís dilemma
Pakistanís most valuble T20 player is going through what is perhaps the worst lean patch of his international career. Can he come out of it in Sri Lanka?

Three years after spearheading Pakistan to a memorable title-winning triumph at Lord's, Shahid Afridi finds himself under the microscope following an extended lean patch that is beginning to threaten his international career.

Afridi, Pakistan's most valuable player at back-to-back editions of the ICC World Twenty20 in 2007 and 2009, has been struggling to regain the sort of golden form that can turn him into one of the most destructive allrounders in the shorter versions of the game.

And for Pakistan, looking to win back the coveted T20 crown in Sri Lanka, it's very important that he does because Afridi is one of their top match-winners. If Pakistan want to go all the way, they would need 'Lala' to click.

Maybe he would, maybe he won't.

So what's wrong with Afridi, who till last year was one of the most lethal spinners in both One-day and Twenty20 Internationals?

Ask the former captain and he would say it's just a lean patch. "I'm going through a bad patch," he told me ahead of the ICC World Twenty20. "It's not entirely unexpected because over the years I've seen so many players suffer such patches. For me, unfortunately the timing couldn't have been worse," Afridi added referring to the fact that he is supposed to carry a lot of responsibility as the team's senior most pro in Sri Lanka.

So is he confident of bouncing back in Sri Lanka where Pakistan would begin their title campaign with a potentially explosive game against top Pool D rivals New Zealand at Pallekele today?

"I'm trying my best," he said. "I'm working hard in the nets. I'm taking help from Dav (Whatmore). It's really important for me to do my job both with the bat and ball because it's a major assignment for our team."

Afridi's batting has been below-par since he hit two superb tons at the 2010 Asia Cup in Sri Lanka. Since then he has just scored three ODI fifties in 45 outings.

It's actually an alarming dip in his bowling form in both ODI and T20 formats that has caused more concern among the team management and his fans around the globe. For his critics, it has come as a perfect opportunity to reject the allrounder as spent force. Some of them are now questioning his place in Pakistan's limited-overs squads. Others are wondering whether Afridi's indifferent form is linked to Pakistan Cricket Board's decision to overlook him for the job of the country's Twenty20 captain.

But in spite of all the questions and conspiracy theories, Afridi remains as the most popular Pakistani cricketer of his generation. Over the years, he has garnered the support of millions of die-hard fans in Pakistan and abroad. For them, he is a hero whether he manages to enthrall them with his big-hitting prowess or falls for a first-ball duck.

And Afridi loves playing the role of a hero which is why he always bounces back. "I've always wanted to be a hero even when I was a kid playing on the streets."

Afridi grew up watching movies like Brave Heart, Patriot and Gladiator and counts Mel Gibson and Russell Crowe among his favourite heroes. "I've always loved movies where the hero manages to achieve impossible goals. They are always inspiring."

So what kind of movies had he been watching in the lead up to the World Twenty20 championship?

Well, there hasn't been much time for any movies because Afridi has been spending much of his free time in the nets.

When the chips are down, he switches his focus on getting things right. And these days when nothing is going right for him, Afridi is a busy man.

Last Thursday, I had a chat with Mohsin Khan, the former Pakistan coach. Inevitably I asked him about his views on Afridi.

Is he facing any fitness problems? Or are there any other reasons behind the slump in his form?

Mohsin just shrugged aside the notion that Afridi was dogged by any major fitness worries. "If a player is playing for the last 15 years, he is bound to face a few fitness problems, a few niggles. But I don't think that it's a major concern for Afridi," said Mohsin. "Our boys are physically not as strong as the Australians or the South Africans so you can't expect them to be at their hundred percent all the time."

Afridi could be low on confidence, said Mohsin. "I personally believe that he is mentally down," said the former Test opener.

"I think that it's the responsibility of the coach and captain to pump him up. They should sit down with him and give him all the confidence he needs."

Mohsin rejects the idea that on his current form, Afridi doesn't deserve to be in the playing eleven.

"If Afridi doesn't have a place in this team of 11 then players like Umar Akmal and Imran Nazir won't make the cut for a team of 111," he stressed.

So what would Mohsin have done had he been Pakistan's coach in Sri Lanka? "The thing is I don't talk to the players anymore because I don't want the present team management to think that I'm interfering. But I'm watching the players all the time and if I had talked to Afridi I would have tried to motivate him with everything in my powers. Besides my message to him would have been 'now is the time that you get your act together because nobody can do it for you'."

So does Mohsin think that Afridi can do it?

"Of course he can," said Mohsin. "Afridi is one of the most outstanding cricketers and I believe that if the coach and captain can give him the confidence he needs, he would lift himself out of the lean patch and will do what he does best Ė win matches for Pakistan."

Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi

khalidhraj@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Twenty20 World Cup
Relying on old horses

The fourth Cricket T20 World Cup has begun and will continue till October 7 in Sri Lanka.  The tournament started with the hosts Sri Lanka beating Zimbabwe at Hambantota. Pakistan will face New Zealand in their first match on Sept 23 at Pallekele Stadium, Kandy.

Though we claim that T20 was introduced by Pakistan through 20-overs-a-side night matches in Ramadan, the fact remains that the game was formally introduced to the world in 2003 by the British when ECB launched the T20 Cup with the slogan 'I don't like cricket, I love it'.

The T20 format soon invaded the hearts and minds of those in the subcontinent.

India won the first T20 Cricket World Cup in 2007, defeating Pakistan in the final.

Though batting strength is likely to be the key factor in deciding the outcome of the matches, cricket pundits have predicted that fast bowlers will play a key role in 2012 World Cup because of the newly laid and unpredictable pitches in Sri Lanka.

The teams that have seven or more fast or medium fast bowlers in their bench enjoy definite advantage over the other teams.

South Africa, England and West Indies have eight seam bowlers each in their line up, where as Australia and New Zealand have the services of seven medium pacers each.

Sri Lanka have six fast bowlers at their service and Pakistan and India have five fast bowlers each in the final list handed over to ICC for the T20 World Cup.

Pakistani selectors have preferred experience over speed, penetration and lethality, thus including Abdul Razzaq and Mohammad Sami over the young and penetrative Junaid Khan.

I personally think that our team will badly miss the services of Junaid as the tournament progresses. A few of the available fast bowlers with Pakistan are injury prone or are struggling with their present form and rhythm.

A few anchorpersons in electronic media, sponsored by a particular lobby, have started a campaign against the foreign coach recently hired as well as the team captain. Besides, they have been favouring Mohammad Sami and Shahid Afridi who have served the country well, but are now completely out of form or ó it would be better to say ó have outlived their utility.

Unfortunately we are very fond of living in our glorious past, which makes the transformation process almost impossible.

We are not willing to give time to youngsters. Transformation takes time. But PCB has again fallen for a short term objective. The management thinks that winning the T20 world Cup is of utmost importance and it would give the depressed nation something to celebrate.

The objective may be correct but the means are inappropriate. Our sports story is full of such incidents. Instead of declaring victory, leaders of successful efforts use the credibility afforded by short term wins to tackle even bigger problems. They go after the systems and structures that are not consistent with the transformation vision and have not been confronted before.

They pay great attention to how people and teams are developed. Unlike our ex-super stars who sit on private and government TV channels to misguide the highly emotional public, these hard working professionals are down to earth people who know that transformation and renewal efforts take years of hard work and dedication.

The present PCB leadership like its predecessors also seems to crumble under the pressure of ex-players and media. They have again rested their hopes on old horses.

Pakistan T20 team have the highest average age among the participating teams, and I doubt that this approach will pay any dividends.

It is not understandable what we are trying to dig out of Sami, Razzaq, Imran Nazir, Yasir Arafat and Afridi.

If we are so deeply anchored in our past than we better get Saeed Anwar, Wasim Akram and Javed Miandad back in the ranks.

I can assure you that Akram can still bowl three to four tricky overs and Miandad will be able to place the cricket ball in the gaps with great mastery to bamboozle the opponents for a couple of overs.

England did not compromise on discipline and left out Kevin Pieterson for this important event because they value the system more than individuals.

Australian fast bowler Brett Lee is yet fit enough to be picked for any limited-overs game, but the Australians know that he is now down the hill and any batting onslaught can put Lee out of the ground.

The first world that prefers systems are using technique and technologies in selection and talent hunting. Billy Beane, the Oakland A's baseball manager, instead of relying on media input, is using Regression Analysis to glean extraordinary insights about which baseball players to draft.

Though Pakistan won their first warm-up match against India in a convincing manner, their fast bowling lineup was well exposed by the Indian batting powerhouse.

The butchering of Mohammad Sami at the hands of Kohli and others proved my above statements.

Mohsin Hasan Khan may be very annoyed with PCB after losing the lucrative assignment, but his opinions against Dev Whatmore and the team captain are doing no favour to the team.

Selection of the team and talent hunting is a specialised job that can't be left at the mercy of media, ex-players, redundant coaches and masses that may be crazy about cricket but are not sport literate.

After a convincing victory against India, Pakistan showed their unpredictability with batting against England in warm up match at P Sara Oval, Colombo. The only batsman that looked somewhat comfortable on the lively Oval pitch was Asad Shafiq.

Imran Nazir and Afridi, the darlings of crowd, again proved to be big disappointments. I think the time has come for PCB and the tour management committee to take some tough decisions and withstand public pressure in the best interest of the game.

Imran Nazir, Afridi, Sami and Abdul Razzaq should be decommissioned with full honour and fresh blood should be infused to help complete the process of transformation under the new coach and the captain.

I wish Pakistan to come out with flying colours in World T20, but it will be unrealistic to pin hopes on the retiring fleet.

Thus the key to success is now in the hands of the tour selection committee which picks the final eleven.

I sincerely hope the anchorpersons, instead of indulging in coach and captain bashing, will support the team so that they win with the best possible playing combination.

This tournament is also an excellent platform for the Muslims to show their solidarity, love and respect for the greatest Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). It is therefore suggested that Pakistan Cricket team should use their global appeal and reach and thus send a strong message to the world by participating in the tournament while wearing black ribbons. This indeed will be far more productive than call of shutter down strike, national holiday and burning of public property. 

sdfsports@gmail.com

 

 

 

 




Home
|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|

 


BACK ISSUES