Posts Tagged ‘Cricket’

A Sweet, Sweet Victory!

The Pakistani team of a few years back would have succumbed to the high pressure. Playing one of the favourites to take the cup this time, on their home ground, was always going to be a crunch encounter. As far as the points table was concerned, it wouldn’t make much difference. As the format is pretty favourable to the top eight teams in the world, so barring any big upsets, all would be playing the quarter-finals. What was at stake today was mere pride, and taking confidence into the rest of the matches. For Pakistan, they are still termed outsiders with little chance of winning the cup. For Sri Lanka, the least they could have hoped to do was erase their dismal record against Pakistan in World Cups. They have won none of the teams’ six encounters!

 The game is done and over with. The dust has settled on the Premadasa pitch. The Sri Lankan bands have been silenced in the crowds. And Pakistan has sent out a message to the rest of their rivals- in the captain’s own words, “…we will play harder with each game”. The steely determination of the Afridi-led clan was evident today. The batting was rock solid, with the experienced Younis and Misbah making all their talent and experience count. The “Rawalpindi Express” finally bowled with the fire today that will prove a killer to any big batsman of any team. Anyone who has any doubts should just ask Jayawardene. The look of disbelief as he actually turned around to look at his middle-stump dismantled. Yet the bowling hero, for the second consecutive match, is Shahid Afridi. Forget Ajmal and Rehman, the captain is claiming the top spinner’s slot. He most definitely is leading from the front.

When a little of the joy has subsided, some matters need to be taken into consideration. We need to make better use of the batting powerplay. Against Kenya we were fabulous. Yet against the Sri Lankan attack, only thirty-six runs were scored with the loss of one wicket. It should have been taken with the set batsmen on the crease, i.e. Younis and Misbah. Secondly, the Razzaq factor is still puzzling. If he is not going to be playing any active part in the side, then why not leave him out. He comes in to bat at number eight, when mostly there is no time for any constructive innings. And his bowling is dismal on the Asian tracks. Now either he should be promoted up the batting order. And if that cannot happen, then he should be replaced with Wahab Riaz, who will definitely bowl a much better ten-over spell. And he can also bat pretty well at that number eight position. The last weakness, as is always the case with our team, our fielding needs more commitment.

This win will boost the team’s morale. The confidence taken from it will prove a big factor in the rest of the games. Here’s hoping that amidst the celebrations, the team management will formulate plans to eliminate the weaknesses. For the fans, it is time to savour a sweet, sweet victory!

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On our way…!

Our World Cup campaign has finally started and a pretty good start it was. Now some of you might be a bit apprehensive since the opponents were cricketing minnows, but being a die-hard fan of the Men in Green, I am celebrating the victory and ask you to do the same. The reason; it could easily have been a repeat of Pakistan versus Bangladesh in 1999, or Pakistan versus Ireland in 2007. It could even have been a scratchy affair as it was for England against Netherlands just the other day. Yet our team delivered and has conquered the first hurdle. And that, as all my fellow cricketing buffs would agree, is sometimes the most important and difficult hurdle to pass in a World Cup.

Amidst the victory, I couldn’t help but feel a loss too. The Sri Lankan kids were a joy to watch, dancing around waving Pakistani fans, yet one could only wonder that this could have been our kids cheering the team on. Losing the chance to be hosts was indeed a sad blow.

Coming back to the match itself, the playing-eleven was always going to be an interesting enigma. The batting line-up looks well-settled. It’s the bowling department that poses a few questions. Where Akhtar has looked a tad lack lustre in recent outings, Riaz has come of age as a talented player. Gul is still not at his best, but his accuracy will always assure him a place in the side, I believe. Even last-minute inclusion to the squad, Junaid, made a case for himself in the last practice match. Both Ajmal and Rehman are world-class spinners, and will come in handy on the turning tracks of the subcontinent. It is a well-rounded unit.

To me, the omission of Riaz was quite a surprise. Apart from the fact that he has been bowling really well, he is a left-armed pacer and this gives variety to the bowling attack. We do need a fit and firing Shoaib to produce results on these slow and dead tracks, but as he remained wicketless, Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed must be scratching their heads as to play him against Sri Lanka or not. Rehman looked good enough, but the unlikely hero was Shahid Afridi with five wickets. Trust the captain to rewrite records and produce a performance that would make his fans go ‘Boom Boom’. One thing the Pakistani camp needs to re-think is Razzaq opening the bowling. While this may have worked in New Zealand, yet here on these slow tracks, it’s a no-no. He has no pace to trouble the very fine openers we will encounter in the rest of our games. The batting line-up looks solid and exciting, yet with four half-centuries, at least one should have gone on to get three figures. We will need that kind of maturity in the coming weeks.

The Men in Green are on their way. And the cricket-crazy nation is clinging onto high hopes desperately. There is a tough, rocky road to the ultimate prize-and that is ‘the Cup that matters’.