Mark Nicholas, etc.

8 02 2012

I’m finally reading Michael Atherton’s book and wanted to share this bit he wrote on Mark Nicholas, his captain on a 1990 England A tour to Zimbawe and Kenya:

“Mark was a thoughtful and enthusiastic captain and very good company although he tended towards hyperbole. On seeing a cheetah with a fresh kill in a Nairobi game park, he was heard to proclaim that it was ‘the greatest day of my life!’ He repeated the claim twice more before the trip was through – on seeing the Victoria Falls and on meeting Robert Mugabe.”

I’m imagining a dark-haired Bradley Cooper cuddling a jungle cat. Anyway, here’s a random quote from an old thread on PakPassion on Nicholas’ commentary:

Richie Benaud (before senility crept in):
‘Good shot for 3’

Same shot (Mark Nicholas):
‘My word. My word. My word! (in fast tempo). Awwwww Awwwww Awwww. Have you ever seen anything like it? Thats the shot. That the spot. And thats the lot.’ blah blah blah

Btw, Atherton’s honesty, wit and crisp writing makes the book a must-read, but unless you haven’t heard his commentary or read his columns, you knew that already. Also, his struggle with a hereditary condition that causes inflammation in the joints reminded me of all the heartache Shoaib Akhtar’s hypermobile joints brought to him and his fans – everything from playing through pain, not being able to get out of bed, injections of painkillers before a match, even a board that didn’t offer any financial help for his treatment. It’s also interesting that so many people born with abnormal, painful conditions end up going on to become professional sportsmen.





go-slow or grow up

25 10 2011

the title of this post is dedicated to everyone who believes that criticism of a defensive approach in test cricket (that has sadly become typical of the current pakistan team) warrants a stand-in-the-corner-and-watch-some-ipl punishment.

pakistan should’ve won the first test against sri lanka. there are a few things they did wrong:

– dropped too many catches (hafeez 3, younis 2, wahab 1, gul 1, akmal -1)
– lost time batting slow
– didn’t go for the target
– set defensive fields when the lankans finally got a partnership going

i don’t think there is any disagreement on the catches hurting us. however i don’t agree with the opinion that the missed chances were the ONLY reason we lost failed to win after dominating for four days.

there was nothing in the pitch for the bowlers after day 1. sri lanka crumbled to 197 all out in the first innings, but it was still their batting more than anything else which could bring them back into the game – you can’t get a team with the likes of sangakkara and the jayawardenes out for sub-200 scores on dead tracks every day. that pakistan’s fast bowlers created as many chances as they did against sri lanka in the second innings was impressive and commendable, but – importantly – also unexpected given the conditions and the quality of the opposition.

the dropped catches were not part of the plan (or so we hope). but what about the pace of pakistan’s first innings? taufeeq, younis, asad barely made 30 in their first 100 balls, despite the team being in a good position having bowled sl out for 197 and the conditions being made for batting. captain misbah-ul-haq was the only one who showed some intent. yes, i know test cricket is not boom boom dhishoom, but surely there are some time considerations if you want to win? you have to leave enough time to bowl out a decent batting side on a road of a pitch and bat again to chase down the deficit, right? is there a chance pakistan overestimated how quickly they could get 10 sri lankan wickets? were they assuming they wouldn’t have to bat again – in which case, as jayasuriya suggested, it might’ve made more sense to hold off on the declaration? but guess what the team management thinks:

did you hear that? “the only only (negative) thing was our fielding.”

i don’t know about you, but i think it would’ve been more appropriate if he’d said that the only negative was pakistan’s attitude. misbah also pointed out that sri lanka were a top team, so i guess we shouldn’t mind drawing with them despite being in a position to win for 4 days. here’s him explaining why pakistan didn’t make an attempt to chase that target:

i hate hate the rule that lets teams quit an hour early and think whoever decided not to go for the target, improbable as it may be, was a wuss. i would talk about the damage inflicted by dilshan playing mind games by forcing pakistan to play an extra 5 overs in that last hour and then announcing that the momentum was with them, but i don’t think anyone in the pakistan team cares, so it probably doesn’t matter. also, mind games are still not strike bowlers, at least not on these pitches.

anyway, since misbah clarified that it was indeed team strategy to not go for the 170 in 21 overs needed for the win, i just want to know when during the match that realization set in. at what point did they accept that it was no longer practical to push for a win?

sri lanka’s last 5 wickets fell in 15 overs for less than 50 runs, so misbah & the boyzz couldn’t have felt too differently about the practicality of going for a win between sangakkara getting out and the end of their innings. so, what was the point of bowling out the quicks on a road all the way to the end of the innings in heat so oppressive the umpire didn’t mind wearing a cooling aid that looked like a dog collar when your batsmen weren’t even going to pretend to go for the target? i mean, are the batsmen lazy or scared (of what, their fair and lovely not working?) or are you trying to follow india’s approach to the number 1 test ranking by killing all your fast bowlers before you play england?

if the icc is serious about protecting fast bowlers, it should ban batsmen from becoming captains, selfish bums, the lot of them. they should also ban that abu dhabi pitch. only misbah saw the “lots of roughS” on it on day 5, everyone else seemed to agree it was good for another 5 days.

for all of you who are going to think/comment that i should “go back to watching t20 pajama cricket” because i have a problem with 3 out of the top 4 scoring at a strike-rate of less than 50 against a murali/malinga-less sri lankan attack on a pancake of a pitch, I KNOW.

i just keep getting scared by shots like these:

ohno

what brings me back to tests

jokes aside, i’m nervous about pakistan’s approach for the second test – basically, our strategy is that we’re going to try and field better. like a wise ball-sniffer once said:

ek fielding ka masla aur ek kashmir, ye doh maslay kafi time se hal nahi huay…

practice session ahead of 2nd test: can you feel the intensity? via PCB





Learning from Salman Butt

11 06 2011

Remember last summer when all the sportswriters in England were getting excited about how eloquent Salman Butt was? Well, he does. And now that his schedule has freed up somewhat, he’s on TV a lot. It’s too bad most of the talk shows are in Urdu so only those who understand Urdu/Hindi can be subjected to enjoy his expert commentary on everything from legspin to ethics. So I’m going to translate some of his most profound thoughts.

Butt started batting against Afridi during the run-up to the World Cup that the PCB turned into a captaincy race between Afridi and Misbah.

Speaking exclusively to News One, Salman Butt said that the current team is stronger (on paper?) than the Test team but weak leadership and the lack of planning it demonstrates is the the real reason behind its failure.
“The (current ODI) team is more or less the same as the one that won (the Test series v. NZ), and has also performed well in recent Test matches. The two or three changes to the team are the additions of very experienced players who have come in, who have been playing cricket for fifteen odd years. But I think a lack of planning and very weak leadership is the reason (for their loss), because the same team appears to be a different unit when they’re in a Test match, but when they come in to a one-day, it looks like they don’t even know what they have to do.”

“A person who himself is clueless – if he comes and says you should do this and not that, his words will neither be effective nor hold any weight. I think the captain should be a leader who leads by example. And right now, since Misbah is in great form, and has leadership qualities in any case, you can say he’s a born leader… from the players in the current team.”

He hasn’t looked back since.

He was an expert commentator on Pakistan’s Channel 5 during the World Cup. I didn’t catch much of that coverage (because I was too busy experiencing Shahid Bhai kick ass in Sri Lanka), but I did watch him try his best to explain away Afridi’s success by saying things like “the minnows lost their wickets to him because they were playing him as a spinner, but he can’t spin the ball much.”

He’s back to prime-time punditry to share his expertise on the Afridi vs. the PCB drama. His shoes should tell you all you need to know about him, but i’ll share some of his most thoughtful comments anyway.

Salman Butt turns out to talk

On compromise and sacrifice
He felt that, regardless of his grievances with the board, Afridi should have shut up and played instead of demanding to play only on his own terms, “because you work for the prosperity of the country.”

On respect
His message to Afridi, and possibly to every ice-cream conglomerate czar, football club owner and sports agent: “You have to respect the profession from which God gives you respect.”

On role models
“Kids watch you and want to become you (Afridi) or Imran or Wasim, so don’t leave them with examples that are not there to follow.”

On records
“If Afridi says he did well with a broken team, I can also say I had a broken team after he ran away after the First Test against Australia. Never in 400-500 years have you seen a captain run away from a 4-month tour after the First Test!” said Butt, who became the first captain in 400-500 years to not attend the post-match ceremony because everyone had found out he was a cheat before the start of the 5th day’s play.

On popularity
The opener from Lahore, who took over the captaincy from Afridi and also averaged just 6.05 fewer runs than him as a Test bat, had the following to say about the street support Afridi seemed to enjoy: “Anyone can gather a few people together for a protest, we all know how things are done in Pakistan.” A valid point indeed, and one that made me wonder whether my check from the MQM / ANP / Mian Sahab was already in the mail.

Afridi meets fans outside the Sindh High Court © AP PHOTO

Popularity is overrated, thinks Butt. © AFP

On reconciliation
In an apparent shift from his scathing criticism of the PCB for suddenly abandoning all support for the spot-fixing trio he led to a few ice-cream-parlour sponsored extras last summer, Butt also pointed out that: “Apart from him (Afridi), no other player has any issues with the PCB.”

On the responsibility that comes with authority and stardom
“You are Pakistan’s captain, God has given you so much respect, you should be careful….”

On what it’s all about
Butt also said Afridi’s impulsiveness was hurting the country, that his stories didn’t match up, and that all this meant that he was “not setting a good example.” After all, he said, “it’s about the country.”


Links to the videos

Most of the quotes are from an episode of Khailta Pakistan (no idea what channel that show runs on, but if you do, please comment to let me know because I have a few questions for the host who can’t get that smirk off his face), which you can watch here:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Part 4:

The last two quotes are from Salman Butt’s appearance on an ARY News talk show, along with Mohammad Ilyas and Ijaz Butt, which you can watch here (thanks to Faran for the link): 

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

 

 

 





30 hours in India

10 04 2011

Ravi Shastri in the commentary box just before the India-Pakistan semi-final said that all the roads in Chandigarh led to Mohali. Maybe that’s why there were no signs when we got into Chandigarh. Our taxi-driver from the Wagah-Attari border was lost and the three people we asked for help all pointed in different directions! It was quite a contrast from the match towns I had been to in Sri Lanka (Kandy and Colombo) where you couldn’t drive 15 minutes without seeing a larger-than-life poster of Sangakkara or Afridi, but the atmosphere at the stadium when we finally got in more than made up for it.

The stadium gates were a half-mile trek from the where we got dropped off: me and my two girlfriends kept losing our flip-flops in the sand and the wild bush of the makeshift parking lot, but we didn’t slow down. We knew every cheer from the stadium – and there were many in that third over – meant an Indian boundary (we’d heard on the radio in the cab that India had won the toss). The boys needed us to be in the stadium ASAP.

We suffered a mini-heart-attack when the security at the first gate told us we couldn’t take our cameras inside but they let us through when we told them there wasn’t time to go back to Pakistan to drop off our banned belongings. There was still a bunch of Indian fans queued up to get in to the gate for the stand before ours – the three of us felt the need to make our Pakistani presence felt, so we held up our big Pakistan flag, let out something between a woohoo and war-cry and ran past them. Most of them responded by flashing their own flags and posters and laughing, all fun and good-natured. The policewoman at the final gate check didn’t give us too much trouble but refused to let us “bulbuls” (tapori for girls from Pakistan?) through unless we gave her some Pakistani change as a souvenir. We gave her a shiny purple 50-rupee note and we were in.

We couldn’t believe we had made it to Mohali.

Chacha Cricket and Chacha Lite. Photo credit: Saba Gul

We made it!

There were more Indian flags than people. Our stand – the PCA Members and Associates stand – had a section full of Pakistan fans, but there wasn’t a single empty seat in sight. It was also seriously hot and there was no shade, so I was glad I brought my floppy Pakistan team hat, the kind they never wear on the one-day field anymore. We finally found a place to sit on the stairs, next to a group of girls in Boom Boom jerseys who were reciting a prayer non-stop. Pakistan needed it too: Sehwag was demolishing our best fast bowler of the tournament.

Chacha Cricket and his Indian counterpart (in a tri-colour turban) were a few rows ahead of us. They posed for many, many dosti pictures and were constantly engaged in a side-match of their own with a group of young men in the neighbouring stand who seemed more interested in interacting with our stand than in following the match. It kind of reminded me of watching a match from the ladies’ stand at the NSK, where the neighbouring stands are impressively focused on things other than the cricket. The dosti chachas got kind of annoying after a while because they jumped up and blocked our view after almost every scoring shot, but the dancing turbans entertained everyone by singing (in Punjabi) and dancing pretty much non-stop for all the eight hours we were there.

A sea of tri-colour. Photo credit: Saba Gul

the non-stop dance party

Venturing out to get food in the innings break was a bit of a nightmare. There was no cold water or drinks (you couldn’t take water bottles inside the stadium anyway) and there was nothing left to eat except ice cream and aalu tikkis. I found out later that the VIP boxes hosting Prime Minister Gilani also ran out of tea, so I guess they just weren’t prepared for the number of people that showed up. Almost got stampeded on the way back but managed to bring in some warm mountain dew and cold samosas. The “Pakistani stand” had a warm, hospitable, awami feel to it – every few overs, someone would go get a box full of choc-bars or half a dozen coffees and just distribute them, so we didn’t stay hungry/thirsty for long.

My favourite moment of the match came in Wahab Riaz’s second spell. His two wickets in two balls shut up the 28000 Indian supporters and the few hundred Pakistani voices took over for a bit. Apart from the usual “Jeetay ga bhai jeetay ga…” slogans, a special naara for the star of the day made its debut: “Nahi karta kissi ka lehaaz, Wahab Riaz, Wahab Riaz.” It felt like there hadn’t been an Indian boundary for ages, we were high-fiving random Pakistani uncles (one of whom turned out to be Shahid Afridi’s chacha!) and even the dancing hecklers from the stand next door took a break, shoulders slumped – Pakistan were on top.

Wahab! © AFP

"Munnis & Sheelas Back in the Pavillion!" Photo credit: Saba Gul

Unfortunately, the self-assured feeling that the Pakistan fans had watching Wahab dominate towards the end of India’s innings didn’t carry through to the Pakistan innings. I guess I’m not the only one who’s ALWAYS nervous when we bat, even before the first wicket falls. Most fans around me felt we were batting too slow or losing too many wickets or, worse, already out of the game, even while Asad Shafiq was still at the crease. The Pakistanis in our stand started leaving when Umar Akmal got out, and were almost all gone by the time Wahab fell. Still, there were a few of us laughing and chanting “You can do it Misbah – do it for your average!” when he was hitting boundaries for fun near the end.

The Indian fans were gracious hosts after their win. As we stood near the exit, waiting for the crowd to clear out before we left the stadium, tens of locals walked up to us for a friendly handshake or a chat or a picture. A few even apologized for winning, and one decidedly confused guy actually told us we had been the better team, ha! Almost everyone thanked us for making the trip to India, which doesn’t sound like much but felt really good to hear. As we left Mohali to drive back to the border after some 2AM chicken tikka sandwiches at Subway (food at last!), we heard a random car stereo in a parking lot by the team hotel play the Meesha Shafi and Arif Lohar song from last season’s Coke Studio. I think it made me feel a little less broken about losing to India than watching Amir Sohail’s bitter post-match analysis on TV would have.

(A very edited version of this blog was published in the News on Sunday on April 10, 2011. Seriously, what on earth does “Riaz was bucked up” even mean?)





why karachi needs to stand up for cricket

15 01 2011

Nothing makes me sadder than the hopelessness of the prospects of international cricket returning to Pakistan. But I love cricket and I refuse to give up on my team and it breaks my heart to see the ICC’s touring party watch the final of our premier domestic championship play out in front of near-empty crowds, so I’m listing 10 reasons why you need to go to the National Stadium this weekend:

1. It’s the final of Pakistan’s first-class competition, the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. I know it’s hard to care about PIA vs HBL, but it’s still the best two FC teams in the country, battling it out in what seems so far to be a very competitive championship game, with some exciting fast bowling with the late orange ball under lights bringing some quick wickets near the close of play on both days. PIA 228 (1st inn) HBL 313 (1st inn) PIA 13/0 (2nd inn)

2. It’s your chance to be a part of history: this is the first time anywhere in the world that a 5-day match is being played under lights, with an ORANGE ball. There’s been talk of day-night Tests with pink balls for a while now: pink balls retain their visiblity, but lose their shape; they don’t retain their colour for 80 overs so they need to be switched from each end; it gets too cold at night in England and there are issues with the dew in the sub-continent. Pakistan – much like it throws in raw teenage fast bowlers straight into the Test side – has taken the lead in giving the orange ball a shot in the final of its major FC competition.

Danish Kaneria bowls with the orange ball

3. Dave Richardson (can you believe that the dude who kept wickets for South Africa before Boucher already has white hair?) from the ICC is in town to watch the proceedings. The ground looks beautiful, but lonely – show up, if only to be a good host and/or show off your city!

The National Stadium Karachi

4. Two of the most promising new fast bowlers, Aizaz Cheema, and Anwar Ali (yes, him of the banana swing fame from the 2007 U-19 WC final against India) are working their magic. The conditions for swing bowling make the proceedings even more watchable around sunset, just after the lights come on and a sea-breeze descends over the NSK.

5. Ex-captain, ex-husband of Ayesha Siddiqui, and the reason for much amusing Indian outrage, Shoaib Malik is playing. Maybe Sania Bhabi will even join you in the stands if you root for him.

6. You can boo Imran Farhat live! (Or cheer him, he did defy all odds and make a 100)

7. Local boy Danish Kaneria’s uniquely comic fielding will be on display.

8. Free entry. The cricket runs from 2PM to ~9:30PM, best time to go is when the lights come on, around 6PM. This weekend is Days 3 & 4.

9. It’s the perfect solution to waking up at 3am for the Wellington Test and, 8 hours later, finding there’s no more cricket to watch.

10. There were hardly any matches played in Karachi this season (one of the first of the season that I was planning on going to was cancelled because of poor security in the city), so think of this as doing your bit to support the return of cricket to your city too!

Anyway, get your butt to the National Stadium, make some noise, maybe someone will see you waving a “We miss international cricket” poster and send a club team or something to tour. It’ll be fun, I promise, and you’ll be doing a lot to help Pakistan cricket – just GO.

This plea was first published on Dawn blogs at http://blog.dawn.com/2011/01/15/chalo-chalo-nsk-chalo/





Fast bowlers don’t eat ice-cream

17 12 2010

(or why Amir did it)


Amir was training hard before the must-win Test at The Oval. He put in extra time in the nets with Waqar, to get closer to the stumps for his inswinger (and with Aaqib, to get closer to the optimum frequency of hair bounce per delivery). He couldn’t wait to call the girl as soon as he got on the team bus. But he got distracted: Pakistan’s new keeper wanted to take pictures, and nobody else was in the mood to humour him, so Amir felt bad and obliged him with enough poses to keep him busy for the bus ride back to the hotel.

 

When he finally got to his room and pulled out his phone, there were 25 missed calls from her, and this final text message:

 "You have no balls. Don't call me again. P.S. My brother says you’re 24."

92 ignored phone calls, 24 spurned texts and 18 unread emails later, he gave in and used the team’s getaway identity of choice: Asif’s cook, Sheeda.  She didn’t recognize Sheeda’s Pakistan number, but still hung up when she heard Amir say hey. He was crushed – but he hadn’t been with the team long enough to surrender without a fight. He went to his big brother in the team, Salman, for advice.

“You’ve come to the right guy. After all, I’m the first smooth-talking Pakistan captain in ages. Even all the English journalists are saying it. The most urbane cricketer since Imran Khan…”

Cue commotion in the bathroom, where Asif was taking a leak. He stumbled out, stifled smirk on face, but when he saw Salman in his sleeveless Pakistan jersey, poking at the flab under which he always complained his biceps were hiding, Asif’s muffled guffaws broke into hysterical laughter.

"At least they're bigger than Fawad Alam's"

Salman raised a single luscious, aristocratic eyebrow.

“Sorry, man. Every time someone compares a player to Imran Bhai, this happens. It’s just one of the nasty side-effects of my vitamin supplements.”

“You mean those goat-milk extra-strength pills your village doc gave you? The ones that make you pee every 21 minutes, and especially at the end of your spells?”

Luckily, Salman was a gentleman (read: not Shoaib), so no bats were raised and Asif emerged from the bathroom with his own words of advice on relationships. Citing his tremendous experience in the matter, Asif told Amir that it was ridiculous to waste his tears on a girl who didn’t read her email.

“Dude, my ex would even check my email!”

The thorough Ms Malik displays details of Asif's communications

He urged Amir to get his fix of intricate beauty from bowling instead and launched into a tireless lecture on setting batsmen up. All Amir could make of it was “mindfuck” and “KP”, so he went back to sulking with his unresponsive phone. Salman saw the need for leadership and seized the opportunity:

“Why don’t you tell me what really happened in the nets today?”

“She’s crazy. She was watching us practice with her friends and wanted to show off every delivery I’ve got.”

“Well, that’s kind of cute.”

“Anyway, I told her there wasn’t time because Wiqi Bhai was only supervising one over per bowler, and I only had 2 balls left. She got on my case to bowl no-balls! To prolong my spell!”

(Asif snorted a laugh but was immediately shut up by another raised-eyebrow glare from Salman).

“No, he’s right. She thought a no-ball would mean an extra ball. In the nets! And she won’t let me explain – what am I supposed to do!”

“Look, it’s just a couple of no-balls. Let’s just have you bowl them in the match. As a gift for her. Pick a meaningful number, like, your anniversary and bowl your promised delivery of love in that over. It’s genius!”

“Anniversary? I met her 2 weeks ago, with you, at that ice-cream parlour opening you dragged us to.”

“Oh, right, this is the girl who’s a steward at Lord’s…”

“Hasn’t discovered email, doesn’t give a fuck about cricket yet works for one of its most esteemed institutions. Reminds me of Uncle,” Asif chimed in, putting an arm around Salman.

Ijaz Butt discovers the news. © AFP

“Asif, you’re testing my patience again. He is not related to me. Anyway, ignore him, kiddo. So, how many times?”

“Well, this would’ve been our third date, but our first *special* one.”

“Let’s make it the first ball of the third over, then? I’ll write it down in my strategy notebook too, so we won’t forget. By the way, you guys should really read these notes sometime. Did you know the English media calls me an Anglophile?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Anyway, this plan is golden. You will literally bowl her over – ha! See what I did?”

“I guess it’s worth a shot.”

And so it was. Amir crossed his fingers and thumbed a text to the girl to deliver this promise of enduring love. Unfortunately for him and Pakistan, Mazhar Majeed joined the boys in Butt’s room soon after the plan was finalised. He sneaked a look at Butt’s open notebook, which gave him all the information he needed for a perfect spot-fix, as long as he got to make the call on which ball in which over would demonstrate his ‘influence’ (a task made easier by the compliant News of the World staff who showed no interest in picking the timing themselves).

However, holding up his promise would prove to be a handful for Majeed.

He had not anticipated that Asif would proceed to share stories of his ups and downs with the ladies. Somewhere between the village vamp who spiked his lassi with HGH and the B-grade Lollywood actress who framed him in the theft of her red-hot Ferrari (a tale that never failed to elicit a curious yelp from Yasir Hameed), Amir started to question whether a girlfriend was even a good idea. Besides, every night after dinner, Shoaib Malik emailed the team a new YouTube clip from the extensive media trial Asif’s ex put him through.

Asif-Veena press conference. Photo: Express Tribune

“It was brutal, like bowling to Sehwag on a Faisalabad road,” Asif admitted.

This was starting to make Amir want to flee, all the way back to the border-town near the Taliban-infested Swat Valley where Geoff Lawson thought he grew up. He was so scarred by the tales of Asif’s trials, you would think he had developed antibodies against women: he didn’t bowl a single no-ball in what ended up being a match-winning spell at the Oval.

Majeed had failed to deliver on his promise to NOTW and it was time for him to be proactive. He had to ensure Amir delivered the no-goods come Lord’s. It took some key strategy documents from the top-ranked side and a Bank Holiday weekend special of high school rom-coms like Clueless, but he finally managed to convince this 18-year-old that girlfriends were good.

Or so he thought.The night before the day of the planned no-ball, Amir texted him:

“Shall I do it or not..?”

Majeed almost had a nervous breakdown, but there was little he could do except warn NOTW it might not happen.

Amir didn’t hear from Majeed but it didn’t matter. He told himself this was it: this was going to be his day. He could feel it. And so could anybody watching. He bowled with fire and heart, and had four wickets before anybody knew it was time for his third full over.

Except he knew it. He wasn’t nervous, but he wanted to make sure he got it right. He turned to Salman one last time. The long discussion that followed had many keen observers of the game guessing (and one Pakistani in South London throwing his white BlackBerry at his TV).

“This is it, Salman Bhai. This is the right decision, right?”

"Are you sure I should do this?" Photo: News of the World

A delivery of promised love © Sky Sports

After one final review of the positive externalities of loving on fast bowling, Amir walked back to his mark. He bowled that no-ball. The girl was at the ground. She smiled, he sensed it, and everyone else saw it all in his bowling – relief, freedom, love. That sajda after the 5-fer was not just for God and cricket. Rob Smyth was right: It was not a kiss of betrayal, it was the kiss of a boy who loved his cricket. And his girl.

Ah, to be young and and free and in love © PA Photos

The kiss of betrayal?                    © News of the World

(Originally published in the Alternative Cricket Almanack 2010, which is full of honest, fun writing on all things cricket. Proceeds go towards a scholarship for Afghan youth cricket that aims to find the first Afghan cricket superstar. Buy here, read excerpts, etc. here).





curious interview of the day

10 12 2010

I read PakPassion’s interview of the Pakistan cricket team’s kit suppliers, Boom Boom and it reminded me of something I first realized when I read this excellent interview of David Dwyer, then Pakistan trainer who did a wonderful job but wasn’t paid for months: the PCB screws up so many, so big and so often that it’s easy to ignore not only their smaller, lower-profile injustices, but also the unique challenges of working with them in any role.

Anyway, if you were wondering which fashion-savvy octogenarian from the PCB management is calling the shots on the national team’s kit design, this should narrow it down:

“The designs which we showed them before T20 World Cup were totally different but it was decided by, at that time it was Mr Yawar Saeed and Shafqat Rana who changed the design and they said we have the responsibility and we have the rights to choose the design, and as kit suppliers you can only provide and choose the fabric.”


Yawar Saeed: “So, olive or pistachio green?” | Shafqat Rana: “Hmm, I liked the forest.” |  Kamran Akmal: “‘WTF are you guys talking about, I told you I’m not wearing Umar’s lipstick.” Photo credit: Getty Images

 

I don’t know about you, but this reminds me of bitchy authoritarianism at lunchtime in primary school.

Some more WTF quotes from the interview:

“The colours for 2011 will be changing pretty soon, so it will be back to that dark green, hopefully if the board decides, because that was our original option for the 2010 World Cup as well but they said we won 1 World Cup in the lime green so lets go and try that again, so let’s see.”

Yeah, let’s see. *Praying really hard the lime-green kit wasn’t the beginning and the end of our team strategy*

On Amir:

“I did manage to get through (to him) and ask him what was going on, he sounded very positive and I told him your contract is still there.”

People will really never stop talking about him, right? (Imran Khan revealed in a World Cup unveiling ceremony yesterday that Pakistan absolutely needed Amir for the World Cup, that he was the best young talent he’s seen, and that he was streets ahead of Wasim Akram. Just kill me now).

On the impact of the spot-fixing fiasco:

“We were reviewing our contract with our lawyers. I was under a lot of pressure to terminate our contract with the Pakistan Cricket Board.”

On professionalism:

“At times it gets tough for us because there is suddenly (something) like if you look at Zulqairnan’s case, he suddenly left the team and there is a new guy coming in, he might not be wearing Zulqairnan’s size. He could be taller, smaller, wider, whatever. So if you need to prepare (a) kit for him we need to know his name at least.”