Three Test series have been wiped clean of the FTP this year and it seems no body (the ICC especially) could care less. West Indies and SriLanka mutually called off their Test series in the Caribbean in April, allowing there players safe passage through the entirety of the IPL.
The Sri Lankan officials realizing nobody really gave a hoot, then went ahead and also postponed (read: scrapped) their home test series against S.A. The West Indian Cricket authorities not to be left behind, saw and raised the SLC’s move by dumping the Pakistan home tests from their calendars. Both of these last two test series were rubbished due to the scheduling of a more alluring short ODI (7 matches) tri-series to be played between India, W.I and Sri Lanka. Apparently the riches to be earned through this mini-venture were enough for the Sri Lankan’s to give the world’s number one test side the boot, as well as lure the West Indies to shift away from their once long-time sporting rivals, Pakistan. The men in Green, due to the intense rivalry they enjoyed with the Windies through much of the 80s & early 90s, remain a local favorite touring side.
It isn’t as much the action of these two boards as the lack of discourse and sheer disregard of these cancellations amongst the Cricket community that is disturbing. Apart from the obligatory report summarizing the press releases from the respective boards, not much else has been written on the matter. The Cricket media and pundits who are usually out with their sharp knives and daggers if a similar scenario arises with the English or Australian Cricket teams (or worse, if India, god-forbid schedule another limited over series) have remained conspicuously silent. The “Test Cricket is Dying” brigade alarmingly seems to only notice blows to the five-day format, in regions where there isn’t actually any threat to Test Cricket at all. As long as fat helpings of Ashes pudding are there to keep these Test Cricket “sympathizers” well fed, they couldn’t care less about what’s happening with the remaining countries.
Often their wrath is wrongly directed towards India or more specifically the BCCI, especially when the board schedules another meaningless T20 series, or squeezes a couple of ODIs in its home schedule. But to be fair the BCCI has always kept itself up to pace with a healthy dose of Test Cricket spread through its calendar year. The dwindling Test crowds in the country are less to do with the death of the Test game and more to do with modern day lifestyle changes, a preference for limited over Cricket (which is nothing new, and has been building ever since the 80s), and most importantly the perceived shift of Test Cricket in the Indian consumer’s mind from a spectator to a T.V sport. This coupled with the lack of marketing strategy or coherent thought process by the Asian boards (and the ICC as a whole) to stopper the shift and reverse this trend back in favor of spectators, means these countries have lost their in-stadium Test audience.
Test Cricket is not a three, sometimes four, if you count S.A (but they too are quickly turning victims), member sport. The lack of attention, the suspension of these three series, has gotten is alarming and unfortunately points to a clear divide which has now filtered down from administrative to media circles. The raising of such issues by the informed mainstream Cricket media is essential to getting the point-of-view of fans across to the ICC and other relevant administrative bodies.
It doesn’t matter that such criticism has never really amounted to much or changed the views of those governing the game. Just having that outlet, on a major platform, shedding light on all sides of the coin is important enough. Test Cricket fans in countries like the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Pakistan cannot afford the media dropping the ball on this matter. For it is in these countries (and not the three that often occupy most of the space on this discourse) that Test Cricket is truly on its deathbed. The West Indies are about to go through their first home season with just two scheduled Tests (those too against Zimbabwe). They will not play a Test at home for over a year! This should be big news, but has barely caused a ripple in the Cricket fraternity.
South Africa are the recent holders of the Test Mace. As with all their non-Asian predecessors of the title before them, they are not truly deserving of the crown until they prove their mantle against spin in the Subcontinent. The tour to Sri Lanka would have served as a great litmus test for measuring their batsmen’s capability to cope with spin in helpful conditions, as well as a true challenge for the likes of Philander and Morkel to prove themselves on less friendlier surfaces. Thanks to the ICC we won’t get to savor this challenge any time soon. Pakistan has never won a test series in the W.I. With Misbah at the helm and the test side much more settled than when he captained them to the Caribbean shores two years ago, this might have been that historic tour. Thanks to the ICC again we will never find out.
I blame the ICC, and not the respective boards because these decisions, as excruciating as they might be for Test Cricket fans, are understandable when seen through the lens of these cash-strapped boards. Both SLC and WICB are perpetually in need of money, and one cannot really blame them for milking the cash cow that is T20 and Indian ODI Cricket. The ICC however (as rich as this will sound), apart from the usual revenue generating obligations, is also the custodian of the international game, and so bestowed with the responsibility of the safeguarding of Test Cricket. It is then up to them ultimately to make sure the FTP is abided by, and that proper disciplinary measures are taken if it is not.
The ICC allots a significant amont of money each year to all its member Test nations for the development and running of the game. Maybe it is time they made sure the FTP and all its Test requirements were being met before this money found its way in the exchequer of the respective boards. It is also not that far fetched that more money be designated to some of the countries suffering from greater symptoms of Test Cricket withdrawal than others.
The smaller boards (Pak, S.A, Sri, S.A, N.Z) themselves of course also need to come to the realization that they are already scraping at the bottom of the barrel in terms of FTP Test allocations. Instead of canceling each others tours, and taking a bite out of the others apple, they need to sit down and collectively come to agreements where they can increase Test as well as ODI commitments. The FTP of all these countries are nowhere near as packed as the other three, and allow plenty of room for maneuverability. Yes, the money won’t be as easy as with an Indian tour, but long-term commitments, repeat tours, and proper marketing can lead to the generation of new rivalries that can create new revenue streams.
The India-England and India-Australia rivalries, so prevalent in Cricket today due to their billable nature, are not like the Pakistan-India and Ashes where there is a historic context to them. These are modern-day manufactured rivalries that have taken their current forms through some expert T.V marketing. With the aid of narratives, stories and symbols along with an excess dose of these contests, the rivalries have been force fed and developed (mainly as revenue generating tools) before our eyes in the last decade and half. Instead of fighting over crumbs, the smaller boards should find opportunity in there current squalor and look to forge similar strong alliances.
The current situation, if allowed to prevail, is eventually heading to a stage where it might become essential to have either India, England or Australia be one of the sides competing in a Test series. But given how much we care from the current levels of discussion on the matter, it’s highly likely we’ll not even notice when this “begins”.
The sight of Wasim’s celebration in the nineties is imprinted on almost every Cricket fan’s memory
The Interview originally appeared at Dawn.com, this is the unedited version.
Audio-Part 1 & 2
When you started playing Cricket, how much of it was tape ball growing up?
A lot. A lot of tape ball, a lot of plain tennis ball. I remember six a side had started in Lahore and I was living with my grandmother in Inner Lahore at the time. This is around 83’ I think, I was about fifteen. Used to be a tape ball “professional” and would take Rs10/game to win sides matches.
It was only after 83’ then, that I started to play with a Cricket ball… Uss say pehley tau har jaga tennis ball tournaments hi khele..sarkon pai tournamnets ho rahay hain, ya chatoon pay, ya School ki lightonkay neechayn…Ramzan of course you used to have a tournament every night, so yes that’s how it started.
So what do you think of tape ball as the stepping stone for budding fast bowlers?
I think the idea is really to just play Cricket at the age. Get your muscles going and just getting used to fast bowling. Then when you have hit the age of fourteen you can make the transition to a Cricket ball. So when I started bowling with a Cricket ball, I was quite nippy, because with tape ball you are already used to exerting more energy, which means I had strengthened my shoulders before I had made the switch to the Cricket ball.
Because it’s a common theory that does the rounds that since Pakistan has tape ball we have a lot of fast bowlers, and India who play with the heavier MRF ball they don’t produce as many….
Maybe…..it’s a good observation but I have never thought about it in that regard. It could be the reason but I think the biggest factor is the difference in psyche…India main meray khial say fast bowlers aatay hain..,magar aik aik saal baad saaray ghaib ho jaatay hain bajay is kay ke aur taiz hoon.
Look at Irfan Pathan, RP Singh, Munaf I can keep on going with the list. Now they have found another in Yadav but let’s hope he can keep on going instead of fading away like the rest. So by phyche I mean they often lack the hunger and drive to keep going after hitting the biggest stage, they need to push themselves more and need good mentors to work with.
You don’t think it has any technical drawbacks for a fast bowler to grow up on tape ball and then suddenly make the switch to hard ball?
No not suddenly…aahista aahista. I went to a proper Cricket net the first time in ’83 when. A guy in my neighborhood Khalid Mahmood, a first class Cricketer, told me to go practice in the nets when he saw me bowling with tape ball on the streets. I was in class ten, didn’t really heed to his advice said “Nahi mujhe net pai nahi jaana”…so he basically forced and carried me there on the back of his bike to Ludhiana Gymkhana. That’s when I slowly left tape ball and switched to the Cricket ball.
You got a five-wicket haul in your first first-class match against N.Z, did you realize it then that “Yes I am made to do this” ?
No I didn’t. I thought while playing that game that if I don’t get any wickets I will be gone. Wo to saath out ho gaye…but I don’t know how. I remember getting Martin Crowe, John Wright, Edgar, Reid and all and got seven in the first and two in the second innings.
But after that I got good mentors. Javed Miandad who was my captain and he really groomed me in the Cricket camp, how to play, how to put in the hard yards. Mudassar Nazar was there and then I met Imran on the Australian tour in the mini World Cup.
So when did that feeling actually sink in?
I think when I got ten in my second test I realized…actually was told by Javed bhai “Tum ne mahnat karni hai…You can play long for Pakistan.” Mudassar Nazar insisted as well told me how to work hard. Tareeka bhi to hota hai na mehnat karnay ka, paaglon ki tarah thori bhaagay jaatay hain. So I am grateful that I had very good people surrounding me at the beginning of my career that helped me to become the bowler I was.
The story goes that you actually weren’t going to go to the open-net camp after not getting a turn in the nets…tell us a bit about that.
It was my coach Sabih Khan and fast bowler Saud Khan, a first class cricketer as well. I had gone up to them exasperated, “Mujhe bowling nahi mili teen chaar din, tau main nahi jaa raha”. But they insisted that I go, and they will call the people up and make sure I get a turn.
So the fifth day I went and got a turn with an old ball late in the day. I looked good…Agha Saadat Ali, a test-cricketer was the camp commandant and the next day he tossed me a new ball. I have never looked back since.
You had a small bustling run up not common to fast bowlers at the time, how did that come about?
It was the 87’ tour of England if I recall, before that I had a long run up. Imran told me why don’t you try a shorter run up, you will be able to play longer. And I said what about the pace? Imran bhai lai gaye mujhe saath apne and measured out a run up. And that’s where I ran in from and bowled at the same pace. So he said agar chotay run up say utni hee taiz kartey ho to faida kia lamba bhaagnay ka…and he was right…
How much was it Marshall’s influence ?
Marshall also did it later on in his career. I talked to him through out and kept picking his brains whenever I could because I always thought and it still remains the same that Marshall was the most complete fast bowler Cricket had ever seen.
I played against him and with him a lot. Always used to bugger him with questions, but he always gave me time and listened to me. And of course Imran, all of fast bowling’s technicalities, your psyche and reading the batsmen’s mind every thing I learnt from him.
So Imran was to you what Terry Jenner was to Warne?
Definitley. Fast bowling for sure. More generally I had two, him and Miandad.
Imran always used to stand at mid-on whispering in your ear, tell us a bit about that and if you can recall specific instances following or not following his advice.
I always used to follow his advice because I needed somebody to guide me, to give me confidence in the ball I was about to bowl. And Imran say behtar to koi bowler tha hi nahi confidence bharanay kai liyay.
With the new-ball we usually did the normal of bringing the ball in, but with the old ball he used to tell me to change it up. Kabhi bahar nikal lo, kabhi andar lay aao, kabhi bouncer kar do…
Imran say behtar tau koi bowler tha hi nahi confiedence denay kai liyay
Did it ever happen that Imran was saying something else and you thought otherwise?
No I never did that, because he was Imran Khan. By 89’ I had become confident and knew what I was doing. Had played a few seasons in county and polished off my game.
Same with Waqar, we usually stood at mid-off or mid-on when the other was bowling. Aik doosray sai baat kartay rehtay the…laray hotay the magar baat kartay rehtay thay. What to do. What not to do. What should be done.
And it’s very important for young and experienced fast bowlers. I mean you only have to look at the Indian bowlers here in Australia to know that. They get hit around, they are lost, no body talks to them. At least I had people telling me what fields to set.
Laray hotay the magar baat kartay rehtay thay
Your action if one sees footage of you through the years went through a lot of modifications. Who did you work with for that?
Mostly I just worked it out myself. Going around the wicket, going over. Sometimes front-arm over, sometimes open-chested. The idea is to distract the batsman, wo aik rat ki tarah moon utha kai bowling nahi karni. Sochna nahi, bas aa kar ball kar dena, that I didn’t want to become. Mudassar Nazar helped me a lot with these little things.
You see all these bowlers, Zaheer Khan now, Vaas earlier emulating you in the yorker they bowl. The arm goes more round arm before the action starts…
Yes the hand goes up and it’s a much higher release, the trajectory is better with ball dropping sharply to the base of the stumps…
Did you see someone doing that? Where did that come from?
I wasn’t told but was inspired by the great West Indian Joel Garner’s action. I gained confidence knowing I was emulating his action aur phir yorkersahi paka lagta tha.
Unfortunately I had to abandon that later on, because the cleverer batsmen figured out when the yorker was coming, so I started bowling bouncers with that change up.
Did you bowl the slower ball much?
Slower ball I learnt after ’92. Watching the West Indian Franklin Stevenson playing county cricket in England. In the nets I started practicing, hitting people on the head, having the ball go fly over the nets, only got it right after a lot of practice.
Uptill ’92 it was all about pace, but after the World Cup I started realizing that variations were necessary in the One-Day game. In county we would play up to three limited over competitions at a time so it became really useful once I started bowling it in actual games and picked up a few wickets with it.
In the Hampshire stint at the end of your career you said you practiced with the slower ball bouncer, no body was bowling that at the time…
Yes it wasn’t a variation used back then, but it was really at the end of my career that I started experimenting with that. I liked trying new things, was really the first that started using the left arm around the wicket angle consistently as a wicket-taking ploy.
How important is the left arm angle…
Very important, it is a very difficult angle for the batsman. When a left-armer comes round the wicket to a right hand batsman he is will always going to think the ball is going to tail in. Tau us nay khelna hi khelna hai wo ball, agar wo seedha reh jaye ya bahar nikal jaye tau edge hai.
Later on for some reason the mind set of umpires changed a bit and the lbws were not given from that angle, but early on when I started using it I even got lbws with the fuller length deliveries.
When did you consider yourself at the top of your game?
After 89’ playing the Australian series there. After that till the end I always felt in control. The county experience had really shone through by that time and I think that had a lot to do with it. Even my batting improved a lot after that and I felt I could compete…
Not just compete but actually feel that no one could really stand up to you?
Yes by compete I meant that I felt like I could get any one out. Kay daroon ga nahi kisi say, na darta tha as a bowler…
So was there no one you feared bowling to?
In that regard there have been many greats that have passed. Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Allan Border, Mark Taylor…where there have been phases that some times they have won and sometimes I won, but was never intimidated by any one. Doosron ko intimidate kia hai, kabhi hoa nahi hoon. I knew how to tackle them, where to bowl what to them, bouncer, yorker I knew by 90’ how to get on top of a batsman.
Any spells that you remember in that regard.
There are many spells like that but where it started was in 89/90. The Australian tour, in Melbourne specifically where I picked up eleven wickets. Wickets with the new ball, then with the old ball, reverse swinging it both in and out… even bowling batsmen off low swinging full tosses.
You have said that you considered King Viv to be the greatest batsmen you have bowled to. Tell us a bit about how it felt like bowling to him?
Viv was a very different breed; it wasn’t just his batting but the whole aura that surrounded him. Over six feet tall, itnay itnay muscles, no sign of any protection, forget the arm or chest guard not even a helmet. So that whole aura was intimidating for a young skinny lad that I was at the time.
But I got him out a few times, because at that point he had started to come downhill and his greatest days were behind him, and I am glad I faced him then and not before.
The young skinny lad that was over awed by the sheer aura of Sir Vivian Richards
How do you rate him with the modern greats?
His record is of course not the same in terms of numbers but he was the most devastating I have bowled to. It’s hard to rate him and compare him to the newer guys because I caught him so late in his career, but growing up I watched and admired him a lot. There was one name only and that was Vivian Richards.
But as a player playing against the best always gave me inspiration. Main kehta tha iss kay khilaf performance zaroor karni hai…Botham khel raha ho tau ussay girana hai…same with Viv and all the top guys.
And how would you rate them amongst themselves; Tendulkar, Lara, Ponting, Kallis, Inzi, Dravid?
Man it’s very difficult. They all have such amazing records, it’s difficult to pick one out of them…
Bowling at them who did you feel like was the hardest to bowl at?
Got Ponting out multiple times, without getting smacked around much. Tendulkar I didn’t play a test against in my peak for ten years. Also have gotten Lara out, but think he was the most difficult to bowl to. He was very unusual to a bowler’s eye…the bat coming down from up high at an awkward angle. Kabhi yahan jump karna kabhi wahan jump karna…so he was some one very different and difficult to bowl to.
Two Modern Greats of the ODI Era; unfortunately Wasim never faced up to the Little Master in Tests during his peak years
So no batsman worried or intimidated you ever…
If I had to pick someone it would have to be Gilchrist in ODIs…
You say that, but at the same time have some amazing dismissals against him…
Yes, but he has hit me quite a bit as well man. He wasn’t like an Afridi type pinch hitter. Kai pata hai kai Afridi sahib nay 100 main say aik match main chalna hai baaqi ka pata nahi…he was a proper batsman and could hit you at any time…
You also bowled to Sehwag. Was he comparable?
I have bowled very little to Sehwag and didn’t feel the same way. In 98/99 he came down at five or six in the Pepsi Cup in India and Akhtar and Razzaq got him I think. And the only other time was the 03’ World Cup where he had gotten off to a great start thanks to our “premium” fast-bowler Shoaib Akhtar.
So I wouldn’t say any one intimidated me. With Gilchrist though I was a bit weary when bowling
Pace is everything to a fast bowler, but there comes a time over a long career when you start losing it. When did that happen to you? And what were your feelings at the time, is there a sense of denial at all?
No I didn’t go through denial. After 97’ I think I realized that I had lost a bit of pace. Was always nippy, but I had mastered the swinging ball by then. There is no room for denial… Pata hona chiyay aap ko apnay khial main…a lot more to fast bowling than just pace.
Tell me a bit about defending that 125 against N.Z in 92/93 with Waqar?
It was a long time ago, but we had decided that ball haath say chorna nahi hai, because if we had left it then the match was gone…
Was there a tiff going on at the time as well?
No, Javed was captain at the time and Waqar was also new to the team. Javed bhai gave us the ball and told us what ever you can do you will have to do with the new ball. Tab tau thaktay bhi nahi thay hum…and it started to reverse a tiny bit at the end which gave us more hope, because N.Z never really learnt to tackle reverse swing, none of their batsmen really had a clue apart from Martin Crowe.
Your records in both Tests and ODIs are amazing but you got the feeling as a viewer that you especially enjoyed bowling with the white ball in your hand.
Yes early on, but later they changed the rules. The two new balls disappeared; the bouncers were banned which made it really difficult with one white ball. But I really enjoyed bowling in the death more than any thing else.
But as much fun as all that was, Test Cricket was the ultimate. In ODIs you knew that at end you bowl in the block hole, with the batsmen are hitting out, you will pick up wickets. Magar mazaa tau Test Cricket ka hee hai na phir.
So you agree with the two new balls coming back into ODIs?
Yes I do. I mean just look at Cricket today, every thing is tilted in the batsman’s favor. Especially on the Sub-Continent tracks where the ball deteriorates quickly and you started to lose sight of it after the 12th Over! So Thank god ICC had the brains to bring in some change.
Two deliveries. One is to Dravid in Chennai where you take the top of off after a loud lbw shout turned down, and the other is one to Croft in England where it defies physics and hits him infront only to be turned down. Both have created quite a furor on YouTube amongst the fans, can you tell us a bit about them.
I do remember them both being reverse swing. Croft I went round the wicket aur sahi zoor laga kar bowling kar raha tha. I bowled really fast on the Oval wicket, this was 96’I think. I remember somebody gave me a picture where Alec Stewart is ducking me and both his feet are airborne and over the wickets as he is swaying out of the way.
The second one… I had brought two balls into Dravid earlier. In this day and age he would have been given out with out a doubt. Magar nahi out diya….and before that in the previous over I had also just worked on bringing it in, and then I said ab main is ki laat say bahar nikaalta hoon ball and that’s what I did. And what I had visualized in my mind…that this is where I am going to pitch the ball and this is what is going to happen… thankfully exactly that happened.
So you are saying you had complete control over those miraculous deliveries?
Definitely yes. Tukkay main aisee ball nahi ho sakti. You can bowl a bouncer and get a top edge or the batsman gifts you a wicket off a fluke ball, but you can’t get wickets like those, with the old ball to boot off a fluke.
The 1999 WC loss, of course a low point in your career…
Very low man. Forget even the fact that we lost the final, the way we lost that match and the performance we gave…spineless.
The way we lost is what hurt the most…..spineless!
How much did it hurt compared to 1996?
The feeling was very different. In 1996 it was more on the attitude of the players. We had players like Amir Sohail etc, I was injured, they knew I was injured and wouldn’t and couldn’t play the quarterfinal. And match sey pehle hi mood nazar aa rahay thay kay haar jaien gay, kiunke paata tha kay jeet gaye tau Wasim ka naam ho jaye ga.
You see these Cricketers have spent their entire careers trying to bring me down instead of focusing on their play. Iss liye apni performance bhi nahi kar paaye sahi tarah. They have always been distracted.
Back to ‘99 then, tell us a bit about the mood in the dressing room before the final, what was going through your mind.
We were very confident. The entire tournament we had been performing well. We had an excellent bowling attack in Shoaib Akhtar, Saqlain, Azhar, Razzaq and myself. We were batting down till no9….
In hindsight do you think the decision was right to bat first?
Always, I have always thought it was the right decision. We were batting first on seaming tracks through out the tournament and it had been working for us.
Relating to that, we saw a lot of highs during your captaincy, but one thing that also came to the fore was the chasing problem. Why?
I think it is more psychological more than any thing else. The Pakistan team still on most occasions falters when chasing, even scores like 220-230. A sense of fear creeps in and they are confused about the approach instead of just trying to get there sensibly with rotations of strike.
This fear doesn’t go with the team of the time, I mean starting from Imran and then you, Waqar as a bowler…Shoaib Akhtar all very aggressive players. Moin Khan another very aggressive cricketer, then why were you guys so defensive in chasing and had this “bakri” like approach?
It was always in the head, I think fear of losing becomes too much. Log kya kahain gay agar haar gaaye…the batsmen already start thinking of that instead of concentrating at the score. We did try to get rid of this mental stigma but in the end it depends on the batsmen and how good they are as players and more importantly how mentality strong they are. I mean you have to play out the fifty overs to chase 250 in the end either way you look at it.
Would you agree to the notion that Inzi, the great talent that he was, always shielded himself for his entire career by coming down at no5 ?
Of course, if Inzi had come at one or two down he would have been a different player. He would have had over 10 000 runs in Test Cricket, and would have had much more than Miandad even, who he wasn’t far behind when he ended.
But he always use to go on the back foot, because he didn’t believe in himself fully, that’s where Inzi’s problems always lied.
Quick…five wickets that come to your mind.
Hmmm…(long pause) I’ll have to think about them…
Just whatever is coming to your mind first
Nahi koi bhi nahi aa rahi abhi tau yaar
Kitni 500 wicketain lee hain…
Yes 500 ODI over 1000 first class wickets…I have to think about them… Is tarah nahi aa rahi agala sawal pooch lo beta
How was it playing under Waqar? What did you think of Waqar as a bowler? And as a captain?
As a bowler…great bowler, a great sight to watch, one of the greatest bowlers of all time.
As a captain he had no brains, no strategy and was always on the back foot.
But as a bowler he was one of the most pleasant sights and I don’t think I saw or will see a bowler like him ever again.
And as a coach?
I think Waqar did well for Pakistan, but I think he and other people in Pakistan should realize that once you have stopped playing that’s it for you, it is the players who will remain in the limelight not the coach. In our part of the world who ever is coach, wants power first then the job. Tum nay power kia karni hai bhai, tum ho kaptaan kay peechay, kaptaan aur players ki madad karnay kai liyay bas. Descion making is the captain’s job and he has the final say.
This is the wrong mentality that Waqar had and Miandad for that matter. Kay mujhay power day do saari, I mean I coach KKR and all I want is for the guys to listen to my advice and show up at the nets on time. Just make a strategy and give it to them and then it is up to them. Stay away from the limelight, like Gary Kirsten did. If any body wants to know how a coach should behave they should look at Kirsten’s model and how he remained in the shadow.
For most people growing up in the nineties the sight of you running in at Sharjah is imprinted in memory…how do you rate Sharjah and what are your other favorite venues.
Sharjah was good fun. I loved playing there because of the crowd (half Indian, half Pakistani), the noise levels, and the attention we got as players. The facilities were nice too, but the tension and the pleasure that tension brought when you got a wicket is what made that place so special.
But if I had to pick a ground it will have to be Melbourne because of the pace and bounce and because every time I bowled there I got wickets. In Pakistan I would pick Karachi and bowling in the evenings with the sea breeze coming in. It used to swing three, three feet some time, making it even hard to control some times in that breeze.
Any other bowler you would exchange your career for?
You will exchange it, just like that…
Haaaan! Araam say.
Not Imran Khan?
Nahi as a bowler Marshall, as a leader Imran Khan of course.
When you played your last match in the 2003 WC, you were the highest wicket taker in the competition at the time. Do you think you could have gone on for longer?
Of course I could have played on. At least ODIs I would have like to carry on in. But for some reason the chairman at the time, Gen Tauqir Zia thought he knew more Cricket than me kiunke main khela hoon 100 Test, 400 One Day aur wo khela go shaaid aik club ka game. So it was more ego than any thing else.
When chairmans come in Pakistan Cricket their ego for some reason goes through the roof. They start thinking they are god…NouzibillAllah. And so I retired and thank god I did..kiunke un kai under main khelna bhi nahi chahta tha. Waqar ka bhi kaafi satya naas kia hai un sub nay…
Because there are a lot of fans who cling onto the hope that one fine morning they will wake up to a Wasim bhai come back, we heard you bowled recently in the KKR nets and were still troubling all the batsman…
Haan shooro main tau main bore hoa hoon wahan magar baad main ki hai bolwing sub ko. It was coming out fine and the batsman were troubled, swing ho rahi thi bowl…
So what do you say about a comeback?
No there is a time for every thing and I have had my time. Not like most Cricketers in our part of the world… jo coaching hi karay jaa rahay hain peechlay assi saal say, and don’t give any chance to the new people. I am not taking any names but you know what I mean.
Wasim’s blistering performance with the bat, and sheer artistry with the ball, won Pakistan the 1992 WC Final. It remains the country’s biggest sporting achievement to date.
Your memory is unfortunately fading and you are allowed to have one ball either the Alan Lamb or Chris Lewis ball remain intact. Which one?
Definitely Alan Lamb. It’s an unplayable delivery which was planned. I asked Imran what to do and he said do this. Fairbrother was there who told Lamb what was going to happen, that I was going to go around the wicket, because we played for Lancashire together. Magar Allan Lamb ko pata nahi tha kai around the wicket koi aisee ball bhi kar sakta hai. It was a very difficult ball.
Originally for Dawn.com, this is the unedited version
Ajmals performance should have been enough to shut the English Media up (Image Getty)
As the Pakistanis are savoring their majestic all-round effort to send the English packing with in three days, the tourists especially the English media contingent are licking their wounds and thinking of novel ways to further malign Ajmal’s action while teeing of on the luxurious golf courses in Dubai.
Controversy has never been far from a Pakistan England encounter, but nobody expected it to begin in the record time it did this week in the UAE. Pakistan, through Ajmal’s artistry, had barely finished delivering the early one two-sucker punch on the morning of the first day that muted calls of foul play and doubtful actions had started ringing in from London. Surprisingly it wasn’t the usually below-par English print dailies doing the whining but the highly reputable Sky headquarters, chock-a-block with some distinguished past Cricketing luminaries in Willis and Gower that started the rot.
“The off-spinner has a conventional round arm, and that doesn’t seem to be a threat but the doosra is the delivery that the batsmen are all struggling with. The authorities are now allowing these mystery spinners, unorthodox off-spinners, to bend their elbow.” complained an irked Bob Willis in one of his lighter rants.
It got worse a couple of hours and wickets later during the tea break when Willis went on to accuse Ajmal of wearing a long sleeve shirt to conceal a kink, completely disregarding the fact that play was being held in the middle of winter, and that eight others were dressed similarly on the field. Matters weren’t helped either when Swann came on to ball later the same day in exactly the same attire.
All respect to the “critics” losing their heads over the still photographs off Ajmal circulating the web, but a little composure and perspective is in order. As already well known, Ajmal has been cleared by an independent ICC approved specialist. Dr. Bruce Elliot a Professor of Bio-Mechanics, Motor Learning and Development at the University of Western Australia cleared the smiling assassin back in 2009 when the Australians were having a hard time deconstructing Ajmal’s mystery. He revealed then that, “during a comprehensive analysis it was apparent that the amount of elbow extension in Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action for all deliveries was within the 15-degree level of tolerance permitted in the ICC regulations”.
If that’s not satisfactory enough for the likes of Bob Willis, maybe he should try this on for size. The ICC’s chief Biomechanics analyst and consultant, Dr Paul Hurrion recently went into some detail about how these tests were conducted so that to remove any lingering doubts on whether the “conniving” spinner had in fact sneaked his way through the trials. “We use synchronized footage of the player bowling in a match to check that they are not just going through the motions or altering their style. They have to replicate the speed of a delivery from a match, the deviation and the revolutions of the ball. When being tested, the bowler is topless and has reflective markers all over his bowling arm, so the 3D, high-speed cameras can film him from every angle” explained the expert.
Really all this would have been unnecessary though if spin and its nuances were given the proper study and credit deserving of the art. For those who have spent a bit of time delving into the deeply enriched nature of spin bowling will know how oversimplified it has been through the years. It is this generalization and viewing of the skill from a very convex lens that has lead to the tirade against innovation seen today.
Spinners for ages have been classified into two broad categories, wrist and finger, with the leggies in the former and the off-break slotting into the later. Nothing could be further from the truth, as many spinners seen on the international circuit today are highly varied and incomparable.
First thing first, the misconception of wrist and finger spin. There is no form of conventional spin that isn’t aided by the wrist; the reason why leg spin is wrist spin while conventional off-spin is not depends on the timing of the wrist action. In normal off-spin the wrist plays its part first only to hand the ball to the fingers, while the opposite applies to leg spin. The only true finger-spinner in the game is Mendis or Ashwin’s much hyped up Sudoku ball.
The only true “finger” spinners in International Cricket (Images:TenSports, Reuters)
Most conventional off-spinners, are forearm spinners. It is in the turning of their forearm in the delivery action, from the palm side facing downwards to it facing upwards (a position medically termed supination) that they derive most of their spin. Lyon, Swann, Huaritz, Ojha, Vettori are all examples of these conventional forearm spinners playing the international game.
Then there is Murali, the greatest conjurer of them all. To call him a finger spinner would be nothing short of travesty. His entire array of deliveries was dependent on an insane amount of work to be done by the shoulder joint, and was more a shoulder spinner than any thing else.
The man in the limelight this past week however, Ajmal, is another anomaly. He is not a shoulder, finger, or forearm spinner, but instead has dug up the buried art of wrist-spin normally confined to just legspinners and given it a most exciting twist. Most of his spin is not dependent on the fingers, or shoulder but the wrist acting in the opposite manner to which it would for a conventional leggie.
So Ajmal instead of just using his wrist to pass on the ball to the fingers (as Swann, or any conventional offie would do), uses his wrist as the major body part imparting the spin. Getting the wrist in position for an off-break takes that extra fraction of a second, which in tum means he has the delayed, jerky action that is so hotly debated.
Ajmal Wrist Spinning action requires time for the wrist to get into position leading to the Jerkier Action (Image -AP)
This novel wrist spinning style is also the reason why Ajmal has been able to stock up his bowling arsenal with a skiddy straighter one, or what he likes to term the teesra. Nothing new, it has been part of a leg spinners bag of tricks for generations, Warne liked to call it the slider, but with the off-spinner’s action it will take time for the batsman to adjust to the newest variation. Really the English batsman should be focusing on picking the doosra, instead of getting ahead of them selves and getting tangled up in the teesra talk.
As Trott and Prior exhibited in their short stable innings, it was the patience and assured footwork, that the England batsmen were actually missing. Their failure to read Ajmal’s length more than any thing else is their biggest cause for concern. Of course it would serve the team better if the English media and T.V pundits were focused on offering some positive criticism on this front instead of resorting to their age old tactics of griping and digging up a scandal.
This is not the first time Ajmal is bowling to the English batsmen. He was there in the 2010 tour, and has bowled to them quite frequently in county Cricket as well. The only difference of course, this time the off-spinner is the major threat instead of a mere clean-up act behind Asif and Amir. Let’s hope that unlike the recent English tours he decides to take the lead from the Dark Art tour back in the summer of ‘92, when the two Ws vented out their entire anger and a barrage of banana reverse-swingers to go with it at the clueless English batsmen.
It was the Dark-Art in 1992, but reverse swing in 2005. Wonder how long it will take for the doosra and bowlers like Ajmal to get the credit they deserve? Surely not till an English off-spinner well practiced in the art comes along, but until then the Pakistanis have the virtuosity of their wonder off-spinner to relish in.
Got to hang out with the two chucks to discuss the Pakistan England series just about to commence.
This is an unedited (slightly censored) version and viewers who mind swearing etc are asked to wait for a family friendly version that should go up on PP soon. Think no point having the Chucks on if we were going to be uptight about it, and this has very little to do with my laziness and shoddy editing abilities. It’s in two parts hope you guys like it and thanks a lot to the Chucks for giving their time, and don’t forget to check out their upcoming documentary on Test Cricket at deathofagentlemanfilm.wordpress.com/
Expect a controversy free series with Misbah in charge
Team Misbah’s sternest test is almost upon them as England, the world’s premier test side, begins it’s campaign to justify the coveted tag. The Poms are an extremely balanced outfit, and despite the inept performances in the ODI series following the summer romp, Andrew Strauss’s men in whites are the genuine force to be reckoned with in the Cricket World.
The Pakistani captain has already gone on record to indicate that he is pleased with the brand of Cricket being exhibited by his team off-late. Not perturbed by the ultra-defensive show put out by the batsmen against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Misbah seems fine with a safety first approach. What does this thinking exactly mean for the Green shirts?
Are we about to experience another dead encounter like the S.A tour from last year?
Or do the two M’s have a trick or two up their sleeve to outfox Strauss and Flower, the wisest coach/captain combo going around. Here’s a look at what we can expect from these two not so friendly of foes.
The fans must be pleased that two of the test matches are being held at Dubai. The most feisty of the Emirates tracks, Dubai offers much more chance at a result than the pan-cake wickets on offer at Abu Dhabi (Second Test) or Sharjah. Under the tutelage of the GCA groundsman Tony Hemming and a courtesy Pakistani whisper in his ear from seasoned head curator Agha Zahid, the Dubai tracks should offer bounce for the spinner and seamer. Unlike the S.A series where the UAE groundsmen admitted “they had over prepared the surfaces“, the Sri Lanka series offered quality Cricket with a much more even contest between bat and ball.
Expect the Dubai Pitch to be more prone to results
More so than even perhaps surfaces back home, the wickets in the Emirates play favorably into the hands of the hosts and their newly adapted style of going along at the speed of milk floats.The pitches here in the UAE (comprised of Pakistani soil) don’t offer the fluent stroke play on offer in the Sub-Continent. The bounce not as true, and the pace not as dependable, the batsmen can’t afford to be expansive in their stroke play.
Whether pre-intended or not Pakistan’s batting strategy is extremely suited to these surfaces. And the odds tilt slightly more in their favor when they come up against sides like England who have notably base their winning game plan at consistently scoring near four an over.
The Green Apple :
Pakistan need to consider these facts and make the Poms dance to their tunes. The fact that Misbah has spoken out so strongly in defense of his tactics means the leadership is clear on it’s goal and the path to achieve it. The dead bat strokes and slow run rates might not make for the most enticing show on t.v, but provide the hosts the oppurtunity to wither away the English in unfriendly conditions, and then pounce when the time is right.
How the top-order holds up is key to Pakistan’s hopes. It’s all well and good to plunder runs against ailing oppositions but let there be no doubt that the real test for the batsmen lies here against England. In conditions suited for batting, where their mental game more than their techniques will be under the scanner, the likes of Taufeeq Umar who claim to have “reinvented” their batting will be tested by the formidable English pacers. The least expected of him and the others is to perform in friendly conditions against good attacks. They might never be equipped enough to handle the harsh conditions else where but failure here against England will mean all the good work put in the last year has mounted to nothing.
How far has the Pakistani top order actually come?
Spin of course will be Pakistan’s major weapon. Saeed Ajmal proved his metal in England in 2010 and will act as the spearhead this time round. What really matters of course is what combination Pakistan decide to play around their star bowler. Going in with Rehman from the get-go must be considered a viable option given the older hands knack of picking up the crucial wicket.
It was also only after Pakistan decided to play the extra spinner in the series against Sri Lanka that the hosts were able to taste victory. This means of course that one of the fast bowlers will need to sit out. With Cheema off-late being Pakistan’s best seamer, and Junaid’s left hand angle and expertise with the old ball desperately needed against a team packed with left handers, Gul who is yet to set the Test World on fire should be the logical omission.
The hosts also benefit a lot when the three spinners play together, but expecting Pakistan to make the bold move of resting the veteran without tasting defeat first is asking to much of the Pakistani camp.
The English Muffin:
Andrew Strauss’s side will look to dominate from the start. If the visitor’s are able to make solid in roads early on, and get on top of the Pakistanis in the first Test, the hosts will be hard-fought to make their way back given the conservatie psyche of team Misbah.
Strauss will hope the tourist keep their excellent batting form going and his opening partner Cook (a.k.a Bradman) keeps piling on the runs. They will have to watch out for Hafeez though who likes taking the newer ball against left handers.
Pietersen (elated at not having to face Asif) and Bell however, being the best players of spin in the team will hold they key for the tourist in the batting department.
In bowling it will be Broad that the Pakistanis must fear. Coming of the defining season of his career, the Nottinghamshire man will test every batsman with the extra bounce and nip he gets. Asad Shafiq who struggled against the shorter stuff against the likes of Bangladesh will have his work cut out.
Swan although a threat will be made much more potent if the Poms decide to go in with Monty as well. Pakistan traditionally horrible against left arm spin have suffered at the hands of Panesar before, and given their recent failings against Shakib-ul-Hassan in Bangladesh those ghosts are far from being put to rest.
Broad and Swann will both worry the hosts, but will Monty get the chance to expose Pakistan's frailties against Left-arm spin
The English tail and how it copes will also prove crucial. If the lower order batsmen like Prior, Swann and Broad can handle the guile of Ajmal & Co they are capable of taking the game away from the hosts in quick time. Since Pakistan lack the destructive pace to rip through tail enders, the extra runs the English are able to add coming lower down may indeed turn out to be the defining factor in the end.The last thing Pakistani fans need to see is the dreaded, but now familiar sight of Strauss signaling yet another declaration from the dressing room.
Of course controversy is never far away from a Pakistan, England encounter and Pakistan should prepare themselves for a barrage of accusations and reminders from the English media contingent. Don’t be surprised if Saeed Ajmal’s bowling action is yet again brought to the fore as he, and not the fast bowlers (like Asif and Amir last time), is Pakistan’s main bowling strike force.
The two teams meet on the back of being the most successful sides in 2011. Both will look to keep that record unblemished, but where Pakistan will target safety first, England will not be happy with any thing less than a convincing margin of victory at the end of the three tests. And there in lies Misbah’s opportunity. If Pakistan are able to catch the English by surprise early, weather the English storm and then take the series deep into the third test there is every likelihood they can snatch an upset series victory, to gain revenge for the most dreadful of away tours in 2010.
So we come to Sydney, a venue that has provided some controversial yet entertaining Test Cricket over the last few years. India having squandered the most golden of opportunities at Melbourne find themselves with their backs to the wall yet again. The Indian media contingent however, as well as the team itself remains upbeat. According to them a fight back from the tourists and a batting display that lives up to the hype is imminent. They would be well-advised however, to count the cricket balls before showing up to net practice because despite the stellar records some of their batsmen have had at this ground, the Indians have failed to win a Test in Sydney since 1978.
Of course you can’t completely rule out the tourists for they are definitely capable of clawing their way back into this series. Here is a look at the things looking up for them going into the New Year’s Test.
The bowling contingent seems fit and raring to go. What looked like the biggest question mark prior to the series came out as the actual plus from the defeat in Melbourne. Both the young quicks in Ishant and Yadav bowled with fire and zeal touching the 150kph mark consistently. Ishant, the unluckiest of the lot, found the verve missing since his last tour to Australian shores and bowled with a refreshing accuracy and fullness often absent from the lanky fast bowler’s repertoire. Yadav came out all guns blazing as well and benefited extremely from the experienced Zaheer bowling at the other end. The old horse produced some magic with the wearing ball and provided Dhoni and India the comfort of knowing that a wicket was never far away with the old ball. Even Ashwin managed to bowl reasonably well given the conditions, however he would be better advised to pitch the ball a bit fuller.
The Indian Pace Attack shouldn't be Dhoni's major concern
Tendulkar averages over 200 here at Sydney and all of his three hundreds at the venue are unbeaten. Which means the little master will be relishing the challenge of taking guard on his favorite ground outside India. The hype of the ton of tons and this being the 100th Test at the SCG on aside, what the Indian team must really be comforted by is the fact that most of their batsmen have had stellar records at Sydney and once in, they usually make it count. This was the major concern at Melbourne where the batsmen (Dravid, Tendulkar and Sehwag the guilty parties on the occasion) after having put in the hard yards were not able to really push the advantage home. Dhoni would be hoping that is not the case second time round.
The Sydney pitch has shades of Durban is what the Indian camp will be reminding each other. The comeback win in S.A late last year was on the back of a defeat as well and remains the only notable victory of the number two ranked side in over a year now. The Australians seemed to have fallen in the same trap as the Protease and had prepared a grassier track in Sydney after the Boxing Day triumph. Zaheer who initiated absolute carnage back then must have been licking his lips this time round too but the sun beating down these last few days has meant the pitch has lost most of it’s green tinge. Still the pitch should offer a lot to the fast bowlers on the first day and if India bowls first Dhoni’s men would definitely be looking back at Boxing Day 2010 for inspiration.
Of course all is not rosy for Team India as they still find themselves 1-0 down in the series. Here is a look at where the tourists are struggling and why they might continue to do so.
Dhoni’s captaincy just like Yousuf’s outrageous approach from Sydney in 2010 was the deciding factor in the Melbourne Test. The captain’s field placements and lack of aggression at the fag end of the first innings, and even more importantly on the morning of the fourth day resulted in the tourists losing the plot and momentum so important in constructing Test wins. Four fielders on the boundary to the number eleven and easy rotations of the strike to the lower order in general meant that a chase that should have been around 240 was converted to the considerably more daunting 292. A lot of blame for the conservative tactics is being directed towards Fletcher in the media but no one really knows how much truth there is to that. What is apparent is that Dhoni still lacks belief in his bowlers. It might have been fine given their attacks of the recent past but the form the quicks showed in Melbourne the Indian captain must recognize that a more proactive approach is the need of the hour. If not grasped in time India can well be staring down another defeat.
Three of their batsmen look woefully out of sorts. Most of the Indian victories in the recent past have coincided with solid opening stands. Sympathizers, the Indian captain included, keep giving the benefit of the doubt to Gambhir, who hasn’t scored an international hundred in 18 Tests. It may just be bad form combined with an extreme case of rotten luck, but it can also be, as is becoming increasingly apparent with the Indian opener, a case where he has been found out. Gambhir has glaring technical deficiencies against bounce and has unfortunately failed to adapt his game accordingly. His habit of plunking down his front foot and playing the dab down to third man, a shot that exemplifies his limited over’s game, has filtered into the Test match arena as well. Not an easy flaw to rectify, it is becoming a nuisance not just for Gambhir but the entire batting line up. Kohli has similar problems and Dhoni’s vulnerability outside the sub-continent it seems has just become something the Indians have made their peace with. The one good token fifty every tour might have been sufficient when the top order was in full swing but the keeper’s failures must surely be addressed if India is to do well on this tour.
Gambhir has some tough questions to answer while Ponting looks good on the comeback trail
Things are made much worse for the Indians by the Australian pace attack. Pattinson, as he threatened to before the series started, has indeed turned out to be the real deal. Siddle, always consistent, seems to have found a higher gear as well and Hilfenhaus with Harris waiting in the wings has a point to prove himself. If Australia win the toss, the already struggling Indian batting trio may well be made to sweat it out. Clarke however, given his press conference responses, seems confident the pitch will offer assistance to spinners starting as early as day two and might then be hesitant to bat last on the pitch. Whatever the case may be, if the pitch has the bounce witnessed at Melbourne the Australian bowlers are poised to ask questions the Indian batsmen will struggle to answer.
Ponting’s return to form has also gone unnoticed. He might have just hit two fifties but the nature of those fifties is what is worth noting. He didn’t look like the shriveled up batsman on display these past twenty months, but batted with a freedom and confidence reminiscent of the legend. Don’t be surprised if the Tasmanian Tiger finally digs it’s claws deep in Sydney for just like his Indian counter parts Punter loves batting in the Sydney heat.
The SCG was suppose to serve as a booster for the touring side after a safe or even victorious first test. Things didn’t go according to plan in Melbourne however, and they need that lift now more than ever. Given the hungry nature of this Australian out-fit under Clarke it will always be an up hill task. Are Dhoni’s men hungry enough themselves? Are they willing to realize and rectify their shortcomings? Only the next few days will tell.
The stylish Members Pavilion still stands as proudly as it did all those years ago
Walking onto the Sydney Cricket Ground today I realized why many who have played the game hold it in such high regard. Loved by the cricketer and general public alike, the SCG is widely considered by most as their favorite venue. In a world where sports stadiums of old have given way to iron coliseums devoid of any soul or character, this cricket ground, nestled in an offshoot of Moore Park Sydney, must surely serve as a welcome relief for its performers.
For at the most basic of levels that is what a Cricketer really is— a performer, an exhibitionist who is there to display his artistry in front of a live audience. And just like the play artists of olden times, there is nothing that would please him more than to bring the house down with his theatrics. Mesmerize, but more importantly absorb the joy, energy and adulation of his viewer and let it reflect in his own level of play.
It is this interaction and feedback from the crowd that has started to go missing from most current venues. I am not just talking of sparse crowds plaguing Test Cricket in general but the actual feel that exudes from the stadium. Blinded by greed of excess turnstile revenue and corporate advertising most stadiums have lost the charm and allure of summers past when the focus was just Cricket and nothing else.
It is not hard to foresee a time in the not too distant future when Emirates stadiums and U.S Cellular Fields will have forced the original names completely out of our minds. Pavilions like the Ladies and Members at the SCG, with their antique brown seating exuding an indescribable charm would just have become relics of a forgotten past.
The Cricketer in the modern day playing environment is sadly better tagged a gladiator than the originally intended artist, for most stadiums even when full to the brim, do not offer the level of interaction desired in an artist/spectator relationship. The performer is far removed from the viewer packed in giant structures that at best represent him as a part of a jeering crowd unable to tell the difference between virtuosity and butchery. With the advent of the t20 game and the amount of useless ODIs taking place this negligence and disregard for the relationship between the player and spectator is off little importance to the administrators, as long as the wallet is bursting at the seams the authorities.
Sydney, of course is an entirely different story. It is not like the SCG has not seen it’s share of innovation, only two years ago for instance, in the now infamous Pakistan vs Australia Test of 2010, a quarter of the ground was closed for renovation. The stadium itself is also no shallow trough, able to hold an impressive 45000 at capacity. But credit must be given to the NSW and Australian Cricket authorities for having come out of the whole ordeal of modernization with the field’s deep-rooted antiquity and lure still attached.
Sitting at the SCG, the fan feels much more part of the play than at most other stadiums, regardless of their size. His cheer is not drowned out or falling on deaf years, but actually reverberating through every play that takes place on the field. That feeling and experience more than anything else is what the spectator pays for.
At the very least the Test match viewer, devoid of the fast paced exploits of the limited overs formats deserves the sanctity of the player/spectator relationship to be given it’s due respect. Here at the SCG that bond is not only still intact, but alive, healthy and given a boost every year with the staging of the “Pink” Test. It is no coincidence then that each New Year Test, just like the atmosphere, the Cricket is at its enthralling best.