I apologize for the absence and lack of posts but since the media/press box extravaganza in addition to the absolute thrashing we got at the hands of the Kiwis I decided to take it easy and remain on the down low while enjoying the rather gripping encounters coming our way from Group B. Bangladesh have added much needed fervor and color to the tournament with their extremely passionate and biased crowds (seriously it looks like every match they play is equivalent of the 96’ Bangalore Quarterfinal for them…..oh sorry I meant Bengaluru 96’ ). Nothing much has been going on in Kandy…..well up till today that is Went to Asgiryia yesterday, the old test venue here in Kandy, to see the Pakistan team practice, a lot of fun I must say. I cannot believe that this ground was a test venue, it hardly qualifies as a ground fit enough for school cricket let alone International cricket. The ground we had in Margalla Campus could give Asgiriya a good run for it’s money. No wonder Wasim bhai was hitting the ball constantly out of the park in the 97/98 tour or was it 2000 (don’t remember correctly now) the field’s boundaries are 60 meters at their maximum. Those of you who have read the Indian Express coverage of this practice will be disappointed to know that most of it was masala and exaggerated way out of context. Yes Ahmed Shehzad was scolded by Waqar Younis but it was more like a slap on the wrist rather than the five laps he had to do around the ground with Younis Khan on his back. Shoaib Akhtar looked pumped in the practice and got Hafeez and Shehzad out (Hafeez got bowled at least three times) constantly. The Pakistani opening pair looks fragile to say the least. Razzaq, Ajmal and Gul were also given quite a work out before the team played a 7 on 8 real time match. The match didn’t go any where as the teams and combinations of bowlers and batsmen kept on changing at Waqar’s orders who was controlling the entire procedure from the umpire’s position. Tried to talk and make small chat with some of the players but the security around the field was quite tight so couldn’t get any where, did manage to wheedle out where the team was staying though from the team’s bus driver.
Some of my school friends were coming down from Pakistan today and the scene after meeting them, as it was bound to become, was to “chapaa maro” the team hotel…..and then well we would take it from there. So after a very tasty meal of chicken kotti, a Sri Lankan street food specialty basically like Kutta Kut (but with the rotti chopped up as well with the meat), we get into the good old trusty Tuk Tuk (three wheeler) and headed towards Maha Valley Ridge, the humble abode of the Pakistani and Zimbabwean team here in Kandy.
A very uncomfortable half hour ride with one person sprawled over the other three with the TukTuk’s engine groaning for mercy on the hilly terrain of Kandy ensues. Being the street smart buggers we are we make sure we got off a good two three hundred meters before the hotel’s entrance so that not to get turned away right at the entrance given the grand mode of our arrival. Confidently striding through the half barred gates (hoping against hope that the guards won’t be too perturbed by the inch think dirt on our faces, they weren’t) we enter the hotel. The first thing we see, and I know how made up this sounds is Afridi on the porch playing with his daughter with the Mrs on the side. Not wanting to be too intruding on the “family time” we just shake hands with the skipper, wish him the best of luck and walk coolly on into the lobby. Besides between just you and me Afridi has quite a stick up his ass and isn’t really the talking type. In the lobby we just sit around and make small chat while the occasional player (Hafeez, Misbah) walk by. Apparently every one has their families on tour for Hafeez had his son with him as well, but the families are not staying in the same hotel, which is good . Afridi and Wahab Riaz play a game of snooker in the billiards room while we watch Canada gallantly score 256 in reply to N.Z’s mammoth 350+. Really though all we keep doing is sneaking peaks through the glass door where Wahabi is apparently beating the captain quite comfortably. Not wanting to be thrown out for just idly sitting around and checking out Afridi in a tight black V-neck one of us orders an extremely expensive glass of Orange Juice, while the other three take turns at having a go in ping pong. Secretly hoping that one of the players would challenge us to a game, hopefully the Akmal brothers in a doubles encounter where the paddle would “accidentally” slip out of my hand and hit Kamran square on the face.
It’s nearing dusk now and loud bellows of Azaan can be heard in the distance. We suddenly realize that the team is gathering for Maghrib prayer as we spot Gul, Saeed Ajmal and Younis Khan sitting in a small room just across the lobby on white sheets spread on the floor on what unmistakably appear like table cloths . Excluding the once sucha musalman in our group, the rest of us haven’t been in congregation since the complimentary hazri at Eid prayer, that too is stretching it quite a bit for a couple of us. An identity crisis takes place, for about five seconds that is, and we all sprint towards the prayer room. I tell you I haven’t been this religiously awakened since Pakistan won in Chennai in 99′. The jamaat is set up and ready to go as we ask the team if we can join….of course we can join…. who the hell are they to stop us, that’s suppose to be the beauty of prayer in congregation isn’t it …the servant stands toe to toe with the king.. and what not. None of us are in Wuzu though, and when we ask Ahmed Shehzad where to do wuzu, he first casts a nervous look towards Afridi seeing that the skipper is not looking, he signals for us to join in without wuzu any way. “Ye boy tau apney type ka nikla” is what we think in our heads…but not wanting to be complete ass**** and heretics we rush to the bathroom and back in what must have set the new all time world record for four people performing wuzu. The prayer is being lead by the team doctor (I forget his name) while the iqaamat is performed by Saeed Ajmal. It’s a total area of 75sq meter maximum, with the first row consisting of Intikhab Alam, Misbah, Younis Khan (in a chamkeeli gold Sindhi topi) and Ajmal. The second row is Hafeez, Umar, Talha (analyst), Gul, Afridi and next to him …… (no prizes for guessing) Razzaq. I am telling you kuch tau chakar hai un dono ka. Third row is Asad Shafiq, Rehman, Mr Drop Master, Ahmed Shehzad and the last row is me, Wahab Riaz, and the other three. For those interested the two Surahs recited were Surah-Nas and Surah Feel. After the prayer is done I am like damn time to go, but no it gets better apparently after every prayer the doctor reads out a couple of Hadis to the entire team and their fazayl (meaning and importance). I kid you not both the hadis narrated and the lecture that followed was related to the advantages of Halal ki Kamai (The Righteous ways of earning a livelihood)…You just can’t make this stuff up. This was too good to be true!!!!
Umar Akmal was way too infatuated with his muscles through the whole thing, he didn’t listen to s*** all he did was stare at his dolas and compared them to Rehman who was plopped next to him. Rehman was pissed for some reason and was just staring at us stone faced . Razzaq’s sallow kisaan like expression gave nothing away and he looked the same as he does on his profile picture on t.v. Younis Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Gul and Afridi listened intently to every word while Ahmed Shehzad and Kamran kept fidgeting around in the real awkward position you have to assume while in prayer. Kamran Akmal also took his phone out a couple of times (lets just hope he was checking the time and not texting Mazhar Majeed’s cousin). I don’t even know what Intikhab Alam was wearing but it looked like a mix between an African cheetah colored chieftain’s gown and what the Oracle lady wears in the first matrix movie. The cherry on the cake of course was when the entire thing finished and every one was getting up to leave for the team meeting: Shoaib Akhtar walks in Mark Whalberg style from the front door and crosses the entirety of the prayer room without the slightest bit of guilt or even a look that suggested he had passed any thing of significance and walks on calmly into the lobby stopping to chat with a couple of people smoking and drinking at the bar. Needless to stay I found it very hard not to burst out laughing. There you have it folks, my religious awakening.
Match and weather report is that the pitch did have quite a bit of grass on it the evening before the match but will probably be shaved off before the start of play (that’s what they did for the N.Z game). It is definitely going to rain for at least 30 minutes tomorrow (expect it around the 30 over mark in the first innings) but we will have a game. There will be cloud cover though which is why we should bowl first, but given the defensive mindset we cocoon our selves in after a loss I can see easily see us batting first in bowling friendly conditions. The D/L might come into play as well in the first innings where the final score might be adjusted to what ever the team has scored in the first 30 overs which is another reason I think Pak should bowl first. Although the dew factor, the thrashing we got at the hand of the Kiwis and the fact that we just suck under lights chasing I really can’t see us bowling if we win the toss. Please remember we have gone out to Zim in the last two world cups and both times it has rained, bad omens I know which is why I am really fucking nervous for this game. Koi nahi boys seemed pump and God is on our side . Go Green!