Time to deliver
Umar Akmal showed great promise when he debuted for Pakistan back in 2009. Itís time that he starts delivering consistently.
By Bilal Hussain  
When Umar Akmal scored a superb century on debut against New Zealand in Dunedin back in 2009, he was hailed as the next best thing for Pakistan cricket. He was just 19 at that time but had been knocking at the doors of international cricket for quite a while. Experts rated him as a very promising youngster and the way he made his entrance to world cricket gave weight to that tag. Three years on, Umar remains as a talented youngster yet to really deliver on the promise.  

Clash of the Titans
By Khurram Mahmood  
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in the sub-continent. No other form of entertainment creates as much excitement and enthusiasm in this part of the world as cricket does. This excitement reaches its peak when there is a match between Pakistan and India. People of both countries take it as a war even if it is only a round match of a tournament.  
The expectations of the people put extra pressure on both sides. Both sides have always had huge talent, but at the end of the day it is more a battle of nerves than talent.  
The encounter between the two sides in the Super Eights on Sunday is going to be a clash between Pakistan's formidable bowling and India's intimidating batting.  

Big guns need to be challenged more
By Harsha Bhogle  
It took eight days for the World Twenty20 to get to the eight teams we knew would play the next stage. We yearned for the established teams to squirm a bit, maybe even get embarrassed. Why, we wouldn't even have minded if one got knocked out because it would have meant the game had got more competitive. But apart from a tiny little period of play from the spirited Afghans against India, we yearned in vain. There is still no challenge to the established forces, and that isn't great news for a global sport. A hundred countries may play cricket but it is still really only eight.  
Of the four countries that made early exits, two (Afghanistan and Ireland) need more cricket and two (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) need to be challenged.  

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Time to deliver
Umar Akmal showed great promise when he debuted for Pakistan back in 2009. Itís time that he starts delivering consistently.
By Bilal Hussain

When Umar Akmal scored a superb century on debut against New Zealand in Dunedin back in 2009, he was hailed as the next best thing for Pakistan cricket. He was just 19 at that time but had been knocking at the doors of international cricket for quite a while. Experts rated him as a very promising youngster and the way he made his entrance to world cricket gave weight to that tag. Three years on, Umar remains as a talented youngster yet to really deliver on the promise.

Look at his figures. Umar began with a bang when he struck a career-best 129 against New Zealand in what his very first Test. That was not all. The diminutive batter once again displayed his attacking style in an impressive knock of 75 in the second innings of that Test. Pakistan lost that match but Umar earned a lot of accolades. Unfortunately, he has played 15 more Tests since that successful debut but Umar is yet to score another hundred. He has scored 1003 runs from 16 Tests at 35.82.

His One-day International story is quite similar. Umar scored an unbeaten 102 in just his third ODI appearance -- against Sri Lanka in Colombo in the summer of 2009. But since then he has failed to score any more ODI tons due to his inability to convert fifties into hundreds. The Lahore-born batter has 16 ODI fifties. He has accumulated 1976 runs from 70 ODI appearances at an average of 38.00.

These are pretty mediocre averages for a player, who is seen by some as the most talented batsman in Pakistan's line-up.

The problem with Umar is that he has failed to mature into a more reliable batsman that Pakistan so desperately need in their middle-order, especially due to the fact that seniors batsmen like Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq are now in their twilight years.

Normally when it comes to Pakistan cricket, players don't get ample chances if they are unprolific. But Umar has been much luckier. He has more or less been a regular feature of the Pakistan team at least in limited-overs formats during the last three years. By now, he should have been playing the sort of role for Pakistan that Virat Kohli is performing for the Indians. Kohli is just a year older than Umar and has played lesser number of Tests and Twenty20 Internationals than the Pakistani youngster. But within a span of just ten Test appearances, Kohli hasn't just cemented his place in the Indian batting line-up but has become his side's star performer after having almost overshadowed the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag with his recent heroics with the bat.

Just take a look at his figures. The Delhi-born Kohli has scored five hundreds in his last nine ODI outings. In his last seven Test innings, he has scored fifty or above on six occasions -- two of them being hundreds. In contrast, Umar has failed to score a single hundred in his last 67 ODI appearances. In six of his last 20 outings, he has failed to reach double figures.

So what's wrong with Umar Akmal? Some experts blame his careless approach while others find flaws with his technique. I believe it's a combination of several factors. Umar certainly needs to learn to value his wicket which means the careless approach will have to go. He may still be 22 but he is not a rookie any more. His technique, too, needs improvement.

In addition, the national team management will have to tell Umar in clear words that he can't take his place in the line-up for granted. Pakistan may be short on world-class batters but players like Asad Shafiq and Azhar Ali are serving them better than their misfiring teammates like Umar Akmal.

And it seems that things are changing. Last Friday, Umar was joined by his namesake Umar Gul as the duo lifted Pakistan out of deep trouble to help them beat South Africa by two wickets in a thrilling World Twenty20 encounter in Colombo. Gul got out after a sizzling knock but the younger Umar kept his nerves and took Pakistan to victory. He should be doing that more often.

bilalsports86@yahoo.com

 

 

 

 

Clash of the Titans
By Khurram Mahmood

Cricket is by far the most popular sport in the sub-continent. No other form of entertainment creates as much excitement and enthusiasm in this part of the world as cricket does. This excitement reaches its peak when there is a match between Pakistan and India. People of both countries take it as a war even if it is only a round match of a tournament.

The expectations of the people put extra pressure on both sides. Both sides have always had huge talent, but at the end of the day it is more a battle of nerves than talent.

The encounter between the two sides in the Super Eights on Sunday is going to be a clash between Pakistan's formidable bowling and India's intimidating batting.

Pakistan have the services of three top T20 bowlers: Saeed Ajmal, Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi.

And Indians have Virender Sehwag, Virat Kholi, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh and skipper MS Dhoni -- the best T20 batting line.

I am sure this match will attract largest number of viewers for this tournament -- if there is not another Pakistan-India clash in the final.

In the warm-up match of the World T20, Pakistan beat India, but Pakistan have never beaten India in a World Cup game, not in 50-overs game, nor in T20.

Pakistan and India have met four times in World Cups from 1992 to 2011 and India have always won. In the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in 2007, Pakistan lost to India in the final.

In 1996 World Cup quarter-final in Bangalore, Aamir Sohail smashed a delivery from Indian seamer Venkatesh Prasad through the covers for a four.

After this, he pointed his bat towards Prasad and the boundary where the ball had gone. On the very next delivery, Prasad bowled out Sohail and pointed his finger towards the pavilion.

In the same match, Ajay Jadeja had hit Waqar Younis for 18 & 22 in 48th & 50th overs.

Ajay Jadeja's 45 eventually proved to be the difference as Pakistan lost by 39 runs.

The two rivals then met in a group game of the 2003 Cricket World Cup at Centurion.

India were chasing 273 against a classy Pakistani pace attack comprising Wasim, Waqar, Shoaib and Razzaq. Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag gave a flying start of 53 in 5 overs, demoralizing Pakistan's bowlers, hitting sixes and fours off Shoaib Akhtar.

India eventually won the game with four overs to spare.

The First T20 World Cup was played in 2007 in South Africa and the first T20 match between Pakistan and India ended in tie. The bowl-out took place, which India won by 3-0.

The teams met again in the final. Pakistan needed 6 runs off 4 balls with 1 wicket remaining. Misbah ul-Haq, on 53, was on strike. He got out on the fourth ball of Joginder Sharma and India won the match.

The last World Cup clash between the two teams came in the semifinal at Mohali in 2011. Under Afridi's leadership too, Pakistan failed to break the jinx and lost the game by 29 runs.

Pakistani players and fans are desperate to avenge all their previous World Cup defeats and the Greenshirts can do it if the batting and the fielding provide full support to the bowling.

khurrams87@yahoo.com

 

 

Big guns need to be challenged more  
By Harsha Bhogle

It took eight days for the World Twenty20 to get to the eight teams we knew would play the next stage. We yearned for the established teams to squirm a bit, maybe even get embarrassed. Why, we wouldn't even have minded if one got knocked out because it would have meant the game had got more competitive. But apart from a tiny little period of play from the spirited Afghans against India, we yearned in vain. There is still no challenge to the established forces, and that isn't great news for a global sport. A hundred countries may play cricket but it is still really only eight.

Of the four countries that made early exits, two (Afghanistan and Ireland) need more cricket and two (Zimbabwe and Bangladesh) need to be challenged.

I think Ireland have a point when they say they don't get enough cricket against better teams. It is an issue that needs to be addressed immediately because otherwise they will continue to lose players to England. Eoin Morgan has been lost, now Boyd Rankin has quit, and at some point George Dockrell is going to think about whether he can fulfil his dreams with the limited opportunities he gets.

We saw too that in the limited cricket world they have seen, Afghanistan have made impressive strides. They deserve to be tested more at another level. They looked far from ready against England, and they will continue to be that way against teams with pace and bounce, but they have shown spirit, and a couple of players have caught the eye.

But the problem in world cricket outside the top eight is not as much with Ireland or Afghanistan or Netherlands or anyone else seeking to break in but with those already in but not looking the part. Zimbabwe and Bangladesh were terribly disappointing and I suspect for their own development they need to be asked some hard questions. At least Zimbabwe can point to political and allied issues but Bangladesh can't. They have the funds, the facilities and the opportunities but not the results.

Like Indians and Pakistanis, Bangladeshis are great cricket lovers. They love watching cricket, they support it well, and they deserve more from the team that is out playing for them. It is now 12 years since they played their first Test and their win-loss record is 3-63. Losing 63 out of 73 Tests played, many at home, is a woeful record. They do a bit better in one-day internationals with 72 wins to 188 losses but if you take the top eight cricket nations only, their record plunges to 20 out of 152. In their Test batting averages only four players (who have played ten or more Tests) make it past 30. Two of those don't reach 31 and no one is close to 40. Only one of their bowlers averages in the vicinity of 30. It gets worse. Of the three slots left (batting average over 30, bowling average around 30) Shakib Al Hasan fills two.

At a similar stage in their development, Sri Lanka had a win-loss figure of 4-27 out of 55 Tests, which wasn't great but was better. But, critically, they had already produced Roy Dias, Duleep Mendis, Aravinda de Silva, Arjuna Ranatunga, Roshan Mahanama, Sanath Jayasuriya, Asanka Gurusinha, Hashan Tillakaratne, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas. The base had been laid and they were ready to move on. Bangladesh have Shakib and occasionally Tamim Iqbal, and really, that's it.

I got the feeling here that everyone other than Shakib was batting two places higher than ideal. In good teams batsmen seem to be batting one position lower than where they are capable of playing. With Bangladesh it was the other way around. Mushfiqur Rahim and Mahmudullah at Nos. 4 and 5 suggested there aren't batsmen to fill those positions.

They spark sometimes, do Bangladesh, like they did at home during the Asia Cup, when they beat India and Sri Lanka and almost beat Pakistan in the final. But their next world-class player isn't yet in sight and I think it might benefit their cricket if they are challenged a bit more; if it is suggested to them that they need to prove they are closer to the top eight than to the next four, or that else they might have to play more in the little league.

A small threat might jolt them into looking at the system that produces cricketers and in being fairer to their many fans who so dutifully and admirably sustain the game there.

World cricket needs the top eight to be challenged more if ICC events have to be more competitive. In two and a half years we will again have 14 teams at the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, and you cannot have a competition that is waiting to begin halfway into its fixtures.

I had thought that T20 would make world events like this one more competitive. It didn't happen in Sri Lanka. Ė Cricinfo

 

 




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