Wear Head not Heart on the sleeves
February 1, 2010 2 Comments
Australia completed a series whitewash over Pakistan both in Test matches and ODI. Despite all the bad press India and Indians were coping in Pakistan about the IPL fiasco, I felt very sad as a cricket fan at their mauling.
Pakistan cricket, much like their country is an enigma ; one can never be sure of what they will come up with. They play the game as if their success solely depends on which side of the bed they get up from. They can be both brilliant and pedestrian at the same time.
Having said that it is not too difficult to understand the cricketing woes of our neighbour. (most loved, if you are to believe Shahrukh Khan). Their problem is to do with leadership and the societal influences on their team.
Even if we in India have to make with the inept Ranji Trophy as the “criteria”, Pakistan on the other hand have no such system at all. Despite this, they come up with some of the most exciting talent the world of cricket has ever seen.
I’d love to know how Pakistan continues to throw up Mohd Aamer, Umar Akmal et all despite the apparent lack of a cricketing system.
Unfortunately for them and indeed world cricket, Pakistan doesn’t know to value their “gems”. I mean no other country in the world would have wasted Azhar Mehmood, Abdul Razzaq and Saqlain Mushtaq the way they have done. The only exception ofcourse is the enfant terrible, Shoaib Akhtar who is very often too big for his own boots.
Show me a team which is better man to man than this lineup : Anwar, Sohail, Younis, Yousuf, Haq, Azhar, Moin, Akram, Saqlain, Waqar, Shoaib. What world beaters they could have been ! And consider the fact that there is no place for Afridi or Razzaq in this.
The feudal nature of the Pakistan society and the associated clannish behavior meant that selecting a “leader among leaders” was always going to be very difficult. At best of times, Akram and Waqar didn’t see eye to eye while Inzamam and Shoaib were always at loggerheads.
The under-performing Pakistani economy also meant that unlike their Indian counterparts, Pakistani cricketers weren’t exactly laughing their way to the bank. The riches of a Wasim Akram, for instance could be the same as a Robin Uthappa who hasn’t exactly set the cricketing stage on fire. This resulted in the Pakistanis getting lured by easy money be in the county cricket or as is believed very often, they were lured into “throwing away matches”. Remember Salim Malik.
The tour down under reiterated the perennial woe of Pakistan – their batting. There must be something to it that while India has produced some of the finest batsmen of the last 100 years, Pakistan isn’t exactly known for batting. This is a fact despite Hanif Mohammed, Zahir Abbas and Javed Miandad.
India boasts of at least 3 batsmen with more than 10,000 test runs while Pakistan’s very best, Inzamam Haq managed only 9000 odd. And this, despite the fact that Inzamam was considerably better than Tendulkar in playing long innings.
To succeed in Australia, visiting teams have to wear their “head on their sleeves” which cannot be expected of a temperamental team such as Pakistan known to wear their “hearts on their sleeves”. It could only but be Pakistan which would leave out Younis Khan for the tests and bring him back for the ODIs woefully short of form, confidence and support. After a magnificent century opening the innings, Fawad Alam found himself out of the team. India’s selection woes, thankfully, aren’t so bad but sometimes could be blamed for being on the other side of the extreme. Remember Hrishikesh Kanitkar : He played on for nearly an year merely on the strength of the fact that he scored a winning boundary against Pakistan in Dhaka’s fading light chasing a then record 315 for a win.
The problems faced by Pakistan much indicate a lesson or two for India when it will be their turn to visit Down under. An ageing middle order may not fare too well, that is if at all they last for the tour and Yuvraj is still finding feet in Test. It may just be left to Sehwag’s pyrotechnics, Gambhir’s solidity and Dhoni’s cheeky batting to bail India in their next time.
Of course we can breathe easy that we have a strong batting pipe line. Kohli is maturing and so is Murali Vijay while Manish Pandey, Cheteshwar Pujara and Rohit Sharma are waiting on the wings. I don’t back Badrinath to succeed, unfortunately for him, he gets his turn a little too late.
Indians who are gloating on Pakistan’s embarrassment must also do well to remember that we haven’t exactly done much except for 2 wins at Adelaide and Perth. India is yet to win a series against the Aussies in Australia.
Meanwhile the men in baggy green cap have regrouped. Despite the absence of Brett Lee their pace attack looks solid, even with the now-on-now-off Mitchell Johnson. The success of Shane Watson provides a huge advantage to Australia and he could very well on his way to be the Jacque Kallis of the next decade.
Nathan Hauritz has put finger spin back on the cricketing map without being exactly as flamboyant as Shane Warne. In Phil Hughes and Shaun Marsh, Australia have a solid opening pair should Katich lose his touch and Watson moves to his proper position at No. 6.
Michael Clarke is well groomed to do both the roles – of captain and one drop and even if Punter and Mr Cricket should call it a day in unison, their batting looks strong and secure.
All those who had predicted an Australian slide should take a long walk. Australia is firmly back and is certainly on the ascendency.
Bangladesh has no great cricketing prowess, despite which I fully endorse Sakib-Al-Hassan’s retort to Sehwag’s ill-founded barb, that Australia and South Africa are unofficially the better teams compared to India.
Till such time India wins on sporting wickets and wins more consistently in Australia and South Africa, their number one status may be for the record books but they wouldn’t in my view earn respect in the cricketing world.
And to win against these two super power houses, India must learn to play with their head. Failing to do so may earn them a repeat of what Pakistan had to go through where they literally and figuratively found to be “biting” dust down under.