Category Archives: Shoaib Malik

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!

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Pakistan represents the Muslim world?

India scrapped hard and scraped through for an impressive victory in last nights’ final of the Twenty20 World Cup — the ICC is calling it the World Championship to differentiate it from the ODI World Cup. This was a final played out by two very commited teams that are on the mend and on the up after what has been an embarassing year for both of them up until now.

I plan to write about the game in greater detail a bit later in the day, but want to pick up on what Shoaib Malik said in his post-match speech on the presentation-dias. To set the record straight, I have been watching Shaoib Malik grow with every game and in him and M. S. Dhoni, I believe Pakistan and India, respectively, have to strong, capable, inventive, innovative and fearless leaders who will do well for their respective countries. I do have a lot of time for both of them. However, I do believe, on the evidence of this one comment — which, I accept, may be harsh judgement — Shoaib Malik perhaps needs to be more aware of the World game that he plays.

When asked about the game I thought he said thank you to every Muslim in the world! I thought I had heard wrong and searched online for confirmation of what I had heard. I confirmed that that is exactly what I had heard. I immediately wanted to ask Shoaib Malik if he also wanted to thank Irfan Pathan, a muslim in the Indian team who bowled him out in the match — and indeed won the “Man of the Match”!

I then found this write-up on the same topic in a blog by Mukul Kesavan (Men in White). So rather than pen my views on this comment from Shoaib Malik, I am merely reproducing Mukul Kedavan’s words.

Then the Pakistan captain said something that was so irrelevant that I couldn’t believe my ears. So I looked at the highlights over and over again to make sure that I’d actually heard him say it. This is what he said to master of ceremonies, Ravi Shastri, who asked him a sympathetic question about the game after Shoaib had collected his loser’s medal:

“First of all I want to say something over here. I want to thank you back home Pakistan and where the Muslim lives all over the world.”

This is what he said word for word because it’s important to quote him correctly. The problem here isn’t the syntax, it is the sentiment. I don’t expect Shoaib Malik to be a politically correct intellectual, but it is reasonable to expect him to know the world of cricket that he inhabits.

It is a world where Muslims, Hindus and a Sikh currently play for England, where Buddhists, Muslims, Christians and a Hindu play for Sri Lanka, where Hashim Amla turns out for South Africa, where a Patel plays for New Zealand, where Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Hindus play (and have always played) for India. Why would Shoaib think, then, that the Muslims of the world were collectively rooting for the Pakistan team or that they felt let down by its defeat? Did he stop to think of how Danish Kaneria, his Hindu team-mate, might feel hearing his Test skipper all but declare that the Pakistan team is a Muslim team that plays for the Muslims of the world? It is one thing to be publicly religious—Shahid Afridi thanked Allah and Matt Hayden and Shaun Pollock are proud, believing Christians—quite another to declare that your country’s cricket eleven bats for international Islam.

Is this the forum to talk about this? Shouldn’t Cricinfo and cricket’s online community stick to cricket and leave issues like this alone? No we shouldn’t, because Shoaib Malik chose to make it our business by saying it in team colours at the end of the ICC World Twenty20 final. He said something that goes to the heart of cricket’s loyalties, its culture, its plurality of race and faith and language. If Shoaib took in nothing else about the final, he must have noticed that the bowler who took his wicket was called Irfan Khan Pathan, that the Indian team’s most visible cheerleader, the guy who was hugging Indian players in turn at the end of the game, was one Shah Rukh Khan. I feel a residual distaste in even mentioning their names because both Shah Rukh and Irfan are admired in India for what they’ve achieved, not who they are. But sometimes it is important to spell things out and Shoaib could do with the instruction.

— Mohan

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? 🙂