30 January 2010

Winning the Break-Up

Have you heard of Ted's (of How I Met Your Mother fame) concept of winning a break up? Ted theorizes that in any break up, both individuals do what they can to portray the appearance that the break up was their choice, i.e. to win the break up (do watch this particular episode, its quite funny).

I would not have thought it, but the machinations of the Pakistan Cricket Board yesterday do lead me to believe that How I Met Your Mother has a significant fan base in the PCB as well. Yesterday, the Pakistan Cricket Board tried to win their break up with Mr. Modi's IPL by stating that they were revoking the NOC's of all Pakistani players - this after each franchisee individually and the IPL as a whole had made it clear that they were not interested in Pakistan at this time!!!

It would be interesting to see whether the PCB would continue to deny Pakistani players a NOC if the IPL did in fact want them to participate. Would the Pakistani cricketers continue to sing in harmony with the PCB if they could see millions of rupees (and fame) disappearing in the blink of an eye? Would the politics of this battle between two very unequal forces result in the Pakistani soldiers deserting the PCB army and going the Flintoff way? In my experience, principles and egos do often fall by the wayside in the hunt for money - what do you think?

29 January 2010

The 4th hammering

I would not have thought it possible, but Pakistan seems to have found a way to lose by bigger and badder margins as the series has gone on. A 5-0 whitewash seems very likely and Pakistan's only hope of redemption on this entire tour will lie in the single T-20 game that they are scheduled to play.

Since enough has been said about Pakistan's ability to make the slightest impression in this one-day series, I will instead concentrate on one of the outstanding features of today's game - Ryan Harris's bowling. From what I saw today, he seems to be a faster, better and smarter version of Hilfenhaus, and bowled some absolutely superb Andersonesque outswingers to unsettle and destroy an increasingly vulnerable Pakistani top order. For those who did follow the previous edition of the IPL, you will remember a certain Ryan James Harris (or Rhyno as he is affectionately called) - the person who opened the bowling for the Deccan Chargers for a few matches. I have no idea what has changed in the meanwhile, but the 30 years old Ryan Harris that is now tormenting Pakistan seems a very different person from the 28-29 year old Ryan Harris that got mauled in the IPL.

Given the quality of his bowling over the last two matches, perhaps he too deserves a place in the Australian test line up and Siddle deserves a rest. Though I hate the Australian cricket team for the way they have dominated cricket, you have got to hand it to them for the rabbits that they pull out of their yellow hats all so often. And Nathan Hauritz take a bow for your batting today...

The Great Snub

Please read the transcript (here) of Andy Zaltzman’s podcast on the IPL auction and his description of the selection of ‘horses’ for the particular course that is the IPL.

Much ink has flowed in the Indian, Pakistani and international media over the non-selection of a single world champion Pakistani cricketer by any of the franchisees and as seems typical for a reaction on anything slightly controversial in cricket, the reactions range from passive (including in the Pakistani publication, the Dawn) to outright fanatical (pretty much everything else in the Pakistani media). Should Pakistan somehow manage to win a single one-day game (or god forbid, the T-20 match against Australia), it seems certain that journalists and bloggers across the world will have a lot more fire to breathe and venom to spew on Pakistan’s ability as a limited overs side, and I want to jump on to this bandwagon too!

Personally, I believe that justice has been done. The very unofficial embargo on the franchisees selecting Pakistani cricketers is somewhat like the West imposing economic sanctions on Iraq. It is a political snub, it is invariably backed by the government (despite what Mr. Modi and Mr. Krishna might say), it is very symbolic of the history of evolution where might is indeed right and it is occasioned by the aggressive intent of the other.

As far as cricket is concerned, while it would have been nice to see some of the Pakistani cricketers in the various line-ups, I for one cannot imagine anyone saying ‘but if only Afridi/Aamer/Gul was here’. When the IPL juggernaut begins to roll again, most of the audience outside Pakistan is going to forget this ‘snub’ and enjoy the cricket like they have over the past 2 seasons. Viewership may draw in Pakistan to begin with, but it is almost certain that as the season moves into its closing stages, all of the cricket addicts will come running back to the broadcasters for their shot of adrenalin fuelled excitement.

In so far as politics goes, there may have been a more elegant ways to extend this ‘snub’, but sometimes the brutal political lesson is more effective than the diplomatic sugar quoted one (after 50 years of trying diplomacy, I am certain that a lot of my countrymen would agree). Generally, I would say that politics and sports do not mix well, but in this particular instance, especially after the attacks on Mumbai and the Indian parliament, I am more than willing to make an exception. For those who disagree, let me ask you this – would you do business with your enemy (perceived or real) if at that very same time that person was trying his best to destabilize your daily existence??

22 January 2010

So much for Predictions

I think the title says it all

Update on the first one dayer

As it happens, Afridi did have one of 'those days' and has powered (literally) Pakistan to 274.

With the pitch offering pace and bounce, Pakistan promises to be a handful. Prediction stays - narrow Pakistan win. Shahid Afridi man of the match.

The First One Dayer

Here's hoping that writing this post will go some way in breathing new life into this comatose blog, even in the absence of John, and hopefully with the all other contributors once again contributing their thoughts.

I woke up early this morning (which, given the cold in Delhi was a lot more difficult than it sounds!) to watch Pakistan yet again take on Australia - this time in a format where they actually have a chance to beat Australia.

As I write this piece, the game is interestingly poised, though Pakistan has somehow managed to start the slide that I have been waiting for since early this morning. Despite the early fireworks from Kamran Akmal and then Salman Butt, and lots of energy and intent from Umar Akmal (how good is he???), Younis Khan has single handedly managed to anchor this innings - and I mean that literally and not in a good way.

I am all for comebacks and I do think Younis is an extremely good bat (especially against India) who deserves his place in the side, but should Pakistan lose this game, he must be held singularly responsible for protecting his wicket rather than getting on with it. So far, he has cost Salman Butt, Umar Akmal and Shoaib Malik their wickets and unless Afridi has one of 'those days', he has put Pakistan in a position where getting 270 will be an achievment rather than the certainty it was 20 overs go.

That said, Pakistan probably possesses the bowling firepower to defend 270 on this pitch, especially with Boom Boom and his ten overs of mesmerizing leg spin waiting in the wings. Add to this the pace of Aamer, the seam of Asif, the off spin of Ajmal and perhaps Malik, and you have the most well balanced bowling line up playing in Australia today.

My prediction - a nail biting Pakistan win (provided they can hold their catches), with Afridi claiming three.