Category Archives: Afridi

A healthy ball.

Dramatis Personae. 

Michael Atherton. (Captain)
Marcus Trescothick
Rahul Dravid.
Sachin Tendulkar
Andrew Symonds.
Shahid Afridi
Hansie Cronje
MS Dhoni (wicket keeper)
Imran Khan
Waqar Younis.
John Lever.
Stuart Broad (12th man)
********** 

This composite team lines up against a World XI 

Act 1. Scene 1. 

Dressing Room. 

Athers: All right listen up everyone. We’re bowling. On the field in fifteen. 

Imran, tossing the ball back and forth with Waqar; “Keep the shine on the Kookaburra, boys.”

**************
Act 2. Scene 1.

Since this is a combined media production, there is a close-up of a four piece ball as a backdrop. The ball is beautifully, immaculately shined on one side, the figure of the Kookaburra still in mint condition. The other side though, looks like the proverbial dog’s breakfast-scratch and scuff marks, rhythmic serrations, lifted seam. The demarcating seam though is immaculately clean. 

As Athers leads the troop back into the dressing room, shoulders a-slump, Afridi’s still running fingers through his hair making sure it looks picture perfect for that elusive L’Oreal contract. 

Athers: Goodness Gracious me, 371 in fifty overs, and I thought between the lot of us, we’d have been able to make that ball sing Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor.

Imran: Well, I surreptitiously scratched up the ball with my bottle top as I ran in…
Waqar:…and I gave it a nice long lick to load up the rough side. Must admit, the Chennai earth tastes just as dodgy as the water.
Hansie:…as well as digging my studs in as we waited on the boundary decision.
Athers:…besides adding the best of British dirt into the scratches.
Lever:…Don’t forget the invisible Vaseline on the shiny side.
Symonds:…and my sweat, topped off by some zinc cream
Tresco:…and a varnish of my mint-spit.
Dravid:..I don’t admit to producing any spit from my lollies
Sachin:..nor do I admit to cleaning the seam of any dirt or spit with my fingernails.
Dhoni:…The boys bowled in the right areas..sorry, the extra long flaps on my gloves weren’t really needed, as the ball didn’t swing as we thought it would.
Afridi: None of your tricks did the job, so, as I normally do, I thought I’d bite it with my specially sharpened incisors, canines and molars, paid for by the PCB,….but that %$#@! Viru just kept hitting us for six!

Act 2. Scene 2. 

Tresco: Say, is it just me, or does anyone else feel queasy?
Waqar: No, same here. I vote we elect to go home ill.

**

Disclaimer: Chill guys, an impromptu, spur-of-the-moment confection. No malice intended.

Soundar

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The Indian fan can dream again…

It was a scrap alright; a scrap on a pendulum. The match swung one way then the other and back and back again. Even in the penultimate over of the game, the pendulum swung India’s way first when Umar Gul was bowled by R. P. Singh. Then the pendulum swung Pakistan’s way immediately when Mohammed Asif tickled the first ball he faced for 4 through the vacant slips area. With 13 runs needed from six balls, the pendulum defied gravity and stayed, almost irrevocably, on Pakistan’s side when Misbah-ul-Haq danced down the pitch and straight-swatted — there must be a special Twenty20 term for this almost improbable shot — a full-toss from Joginder Sharma for six! And then, when Misbah-ul-Haq decided a deft paddle-sweep was needed, and when the resulting catch was taken, the pendulum rested with India.

India were crowned the innaugural Twenty20 World Champions because they just refused to lose. They held their nerve in an edge-of-the-seats final. It was a fitting finale for an impressive tournament that had erased the bad memories of a badly organised, badly planned and badly played World Cup 2007 in the West Indies.

But right from the time of the toss, the match swung one way and then the next. It perhaps swung Pakistan’s way when Virender Sehwag was declared unfit to play. One would have thought that Dinesh Karthik would have played. But M. S. Dhoni is his own man. He does things his way and he went with Yusuf Pathan, the older brother of the more famous Irfan Pathan. And what’s more, Dhoni declared that the older Pathan would open the innings — it was a like-for-like replacement, for Yusuf Pathan, like Virender Sehwag, gives the ball one heck of a tonk in domestic cricket and also bowls off-spin.

India started well with Pathan hitting a six and a 4 to race to 15 off 8 balls. But had the brakes put on them when Pathan skied one to Shoaib Malik. The pendulum had swung again. And it did this right through the match until that last moment. The two teams were evenly matched. Pakistan were the better bowling side. India were the better batting side. The two captains were innovative and inventive.

In the middle overs, I thought Umar Gul and Yasir Arafat bowled excellently well. Umar Gul has grown in stature as the tournament has progressed and will serve Pakistan cricket very well in the years to come. Mohammed Asif apparently does not like bowling in the death. In Yasir Arafat Pakistan found a bowler who could do that aptly. Shahid Afridi kept things really tight in the middle overs. While most teams had a weak 5th bowler, Pakistan had Mohammed Hafeez and Yasir Arafat — a specialist death-overs bowler!

Through all of this, one batsman — Gautam Gambhir — shone brilliantly. I have often questioned his role and place in the team. But in this tournament he has batted with rare flair and in an totally unfettered manner. His method has been simple. His strokeplay has been elegant. I think his time has come and I am quite willing and indeed, happy, to eat humble pie. Gautam Gambhir has proved many of his detractors wrong and I would be surprised if he doesn’t score an extended run in the Indian ODI and T20 scene. In the finals, Gambhir stroked his way to a well-crafted 75 off 54 balls. He hit some good cricketing strokes and in those difficult middle-overs, when Yuvraj Singh was finding it hard to get Shahid Afridi and Mohammed Hafeez away, Gambhir even managed to take the pressure of his poster-boy partner by scoring some delectable boundaries. He was my Man-of-the-Match.

The captaincy was excellent too. Two moments stood out. First when Shoaib Malik brought in Hafeez and Afridi the moment Yuvraj Singh came in to bat. The clear signal was that he respected Yuvraj Singh’s hard hitting but wanted the Indian to make the running. By taking the pace off the ball, he posed the question. And on this day the question wasn’t convincingly answered. Full marks to Shoaib Malik for his method as well as his instincts. The other moment was in the middle overs when he had a slip in place! Here was an attacking captain who continually threw the gauntlet at the opposition. He kept asking the questions at crucial junctues and his team also responded. All of these combined to restrict India to a smallish total. At the break between the innings, I talked to 3-4 friends of mine and said that India were probably 15 runs short of where they ought to have ended up. At the toss, M. S. Dhoni indicated that the Indian team was aiming at a score of 180! They ended at 157, about 23 runs short of that mark.

Pakistan, on the other hand would have thought that India, thanks to some belligerent and fear-free strokeplay from young Rohit Sharma, scored abdout 10 runs more than they would have wanted India to score. Shoaib Mallik indicated that they wanted to restrict India to less than 150.

Either way, India had to bowl and field well to defend 157.

As M. S. Dhoni said at the end, he asked the fielders to back the bowlers and add at least 15-20 runs to the total. And the team did that. R. P. Singh bowled brilliantly. Sreesanth was wayward and it looked like the occasion had gotten to him. But every time he sprayed, M. S. Dhoni ran to him and appeared to calm him down. Here was a young man exploding on the inside. He needed tough love and I think he got it. He delivered India a crucial wicket of Sohail Tanveer who had hit a breezy 12 off just 4 balls!

Dhoni handled his bowlers and his fielders very well. At one point in time, he had two slips for R. P. Singh and Sreesanth. It was important to take wickets! He bowled Yusuf Pathan for an over and Joginder Sharma for 3 in the middle when Pakistan were struggling to bring a semblance of stability in the middle order when wickets crashed and fell at the top. This was opportunistic and tactical cricket. Dhoni kept the screws on by bringing in the field and keeping things tight. He invited Pakistan to take the aerial route to take the risks. They did that and paid the price — both Shoaib Malik and Younis Khan perished to ugly hoiks that did not come off. This was smart captaincy.

And then, just when the match was firmly in India’s grasp — or so it seemed — Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Arafat and Sohail Tanvir threated to take the game away. That was until that last pendulum-movement.

India had won an improbable victory. The scenes of madness that followed will live with the Indian cricket fan for a long time. It was a brilliant spectacle and was richly-deserved jubiliation for a young team that played in the spirit of its fearless leader.

The future for both India and Pakistan looks bright. The investment in youth and a clean-slate-start had paid off for both teams.

But more importantly for this blogsite, the Indian fan can dream again!

World Twenty20 Team

Adam Mountford from the BBC picks his World Twenty20 team. The twelve-member-team has in it two Indians (Yuvraj Singh and M. S. Dhoni). The team also includes two Australians (Matthew Hatden, Stuart Clark), one West Indian (Chris Gayle), 4 Pakistani players (Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul), one Kiwi (Daniel Vettori), one South African (Morne Morkel) and one Englishman (Kevin Pietersen).

Not only is Dhoni the ‘keeper, he is also captain of the World Team that’s been chosen by Mountford who says: “Not only is he a real entertainer, but who better to captain a T20 Dream Team than a real swashbuckling hero. Ian Chappell said on TMS that a team takes on the personality of its captain, and thinks India are playing without fear because of the character of Dhoni. That is how I want this super team to play.

1. Matthew Hayden
2. Chris Gayle
3. Yuvraj Singh
4. Shahid Afridi
5. Shoaib Malik
6. Misbah-ul-Haq
7. M. S. Dhoni (captain and wicket-keeper)
8. Morne Morkel
9. Daniel Vettori
10. Umar Gul
11. Stuart Clark
12. Kevin Pietersen

This is not a bad team at all in my view and has the right people in it.

Comments/views?

— Mohan

Ps: How come Ajit Agarkar and Matt Prior do not rate a mention? 🙂

Boom Boom…

Granted, Uganda is not a great cricket team and even some domestic teams can take them out. Still, Afridi’s 57 of 15 balls in the Twenty20 tournament against them would have been great to watch. Here is the filtered commentary from CricInfo:

Filtered commentary – Pakistan innings – Shahid Afridi
15.6 Arinaitwe to Shahid Afridi, no run

Pakistan 145/3   Shahid Afridi 0* (1b)

16.2 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, 1 run
16.5 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, 1 run

Pakistan 155/3   Shahid Afridi 2* (3b)

17.1 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, SIX, mayhem Afridi style struck over the bowler straight to the sight screen
17.2 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, Afridi moves across and hit it to fine leg good glance
17.3 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, SIX, struck hard over the sight screen
17.4 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, SIX, hit again over the bowler straight over the sight screen
17.5 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, SIX, My word thats mighty bitg hit over long on
17.6 Isaneez to Shahid Afridi, SIX, firmly struck over long on Afridi is enjoying the bowling on offer

Pakistan 189/3   Shahid Afridi 36* (9b 1×4 5×6)

18.2 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, SIX, there goes Afridi again what entertainment we are having here, hit over deep mid wicket
18.3 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, short of length pulled to deep square leg
18.4 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, 1 run
18.6 Kamyuka to Shahid Afridi, SIX, Urged by the fans to hit another and he duly obliges and sends this one over the long on to the car park

Pakistan 208/3   Shahid Afridi 53* (13b 2×4 7×6)

19.5 Patel to Shahid Afridi, no run
19.6 Patel to Shahid Afridi, 5 wides, drifted to the leg side
19.6 Patel to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, firmly struck through extra covers

Pakistan 226/3   Shahid Afridi 57* (15b 3×4 7×6)

Ever wonder why he has the nick name “Boom Boom”? 🙂

-Mahesh-

First steps on a long road to recovery…

Team India took a few strong steps on its road to recovery after her exit from the World Cup 2007 Tournament left her many fans in a state shock and disbelief.

India first beat Ireland and then, South Africa. The 2-1 win over South Africa must give the team hope, resolve and confidence. The matches were played in Ireland in conditions that would have probably suited South Africa’s game more than it did, India’s. Moreover, India were without some of their key players for all three games. And let’s not forget that South Africa is currently the #2 ranked ODI team in the world — to India’s sixth.

But the road to recovery is long and it is arduous. Sterner tests await — first against Pakistan and then against England.

Moreover, I believe that this tour has not answered as many questions as it ought to have.

In the main, the one un-answered issue is around team-balance. There seems to me to be some confusion on whether or not the team goes in with 4-bowlers or 5-bowlers. At the risk of sounding like a boring parrot, I think that this is where the lack of an all-rounder option hurts the team. If only Irfan Pathan was in better form/fitness. If only Dinesh Mongia was more consistent (or had someone in the team-think-tank whose trust he had). If only.

This dilly-dallying can hurt the team and its long-term chances badly.

It seems to me that the team has almost decided on Zaheer Khan and Ajit Agarkar as its main two bowlers. The team will chose between R. P. Singh and Sree Sreesanth for the 3rd seamer. While this is fine, in theory, this reliance on Agarkar is somewhat frightening to me. One just can’t predict which of the Agarkars will turn up on match day! The sooner Team India makes up its mind on this, the better things will be, in my view! The back-up bowling strength looks strong — even considering Ishant Sharma’s not-too-bright start. With Ishant Sharma, Ranadeb Bose, Munaf Patel and Rakesh Patel waiting in the wings, one could suggest that there is reasonable bench strength. Moreover, in Piyush Chawla and Romesh Powar, India has two steady spin bowlers. They will be tested severely in the game against Pakistan though. One mad over to Afridi or Pietersen may be enough to wreck either of these two spinners! It will be good to see how they fare in that game. Neverthelsee, signs are there that the bowling is pulling things together. They need to bowl in the right areas and with far greater discipline. Hopefully the appointment of Venkatesh Prasad is helping here.

It seems to me that the team has reverted to the old-firm of Tendulkar-Ganguly at the top. While that is fine in theory, I’d need to see the middle-order play with more fire and grit than it had in the past when Tendulkar and Ganguly fell cheaply and early. The last match yielded some signs that, with Dravid coming in at #4 and with a more responsible Yuvraj and a dependable Karthik to follow, there are promising signs for the future. For this reliance, Yuvraj’s role is extremely vital. He has to be the clinical finisher that Michael Bevan was; the finisher that Mike Hussey is! But there are signs of the batting holding together. However, one swallow does not make a summer. Time will tell whether reverting to the Ganguly-Tendulkar old-firm is a good move. If Tendulkar and Ganguly open, it is in my view necessary for Dravid to come in at #4 to hold things together in the face of a mini-collapse. This then makes the role of the #3 quite crucial. And this is where, I think, the team needs to invest.

And this brings into question Gautam Gambhir’s role! I am not sure if his role has been either decided or clarified. He seems to me to be caught in a shall-I-attack or shall-I-defend frame mind. And this results in a rabbit-caught-in-headlights type situation. Not the best situation for anyone to be in.

Oh! How we yearn for a fit and strong Irfan Pathan at #3! The advantage of a person like Pathan at #3 is that, along with the 4 other bowlers (8, 9, 10 and 11) he will make the bowling complement. Moreover, he has the ability to hit out — if the start has been brisk — or buckle down with tight defense — in the event of a disaster start.

And mind you, we haven’t talked yet of a fit and fighting Virender Sehwag!

Sigh! If wishes were horses, pigs would fly!

Mohan

Afridi 32 runs in an over

Here is the CricInfo commentary from that eventful over. Kamran Akmal had just played out a maiden at the other end before Afridi went berserk –

38.1
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, This is too easy now, Bandara flights it outside off and Afridi jumps down the track yet again, tries to go over cover but the thickish outside edge flies away over point for a four. Boom boom

Around the wicket from Bandara now

38.2
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, FOUR, change of angle matters little now. It’s tossed up and Afridi arrives, even before the ball is delivered, and creams it down the ground for a blistering four. Straight and hard – the best way we guess. Boom boom

Over the wicket this time

38.3
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, Shot of the day. must be, a flat-batted six to beat all flat-batted hits. Flatter this time and he charges again, tonks it sensationally through extra-cover for a six. Boom boom boom

38.4
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, And this is bigger, much bigger. Thrash, bang, wallop. Similar formula, down the ground and blasts it way over extra cover for a huge six. That’s massive. Thunder bolts flying around now

38.5
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, Miscued and that’s six more, he tries to whack it over long-on but the thick edge howitzers over long-off for another six. The fielder can’t get to it

38.6
Bandara to Shahid Afridi, SIX, What an over. Ends with a flourish, down the ground and plasters it back over the bowler’s head for a huge hit. 446666 – the second most expensive over in one-dayers. Only behind Herschelle Gibbs. Blitz, boom, bash, bosh. Bring them on

-Mahesh-