Vada Pav Gleanings

An Open Letter to Ijaz Butt

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Dear Butt Saab, (doesn’t sound too good, but not my fault)

I must confess, wholeheartedly enough, that I am a big admirer of the way you’ve ran Pakistan cricket, quite professionally to the best of my knowledge. Equally, you have done an awful lot for Pakistan cricket, both within the country and the larger international stage. Your tenure as the Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, a post you largely acquired by a typical sub-continental virtue of jugaad, is perhaps hailed as the Golden Age of Pakistan cricket, leaving behind mortals like Abdul Hafeez Kardar who did nothing. You have presided over a period in Pakistan cricket, in which I must confess, achievements galore – a terrorist attack on a visiting team, the small matter of your team actually winning something — some T20 competition in England, the World Cup being taken away from your country and some larger international conspiracy by Hindoos, Americans, Jews and heck the Goras to defraud Pakistan cricket. From being a former Test cricketer, a wicketkeeper, at the least one of Kamran Akmal’s earliest predecessors, you have now emerged as the face and tone of Pakistan cricket, which to me is quite an achievement, Sir.

But, amidst all this, you’ve equally come through as a nice old man, ageing nonetheless with disorders like denial, unfortunately, something I don’t blame you for, given that it is very much “in the air” you breathe in I would guess, Sialkot. But I equally thought, you were mature enough at 72 to know what immaturity actually means. I was gently mistaken, I must say. And again, not your fault, shall I add. Your statements in the past two days, have at the least done more for Pakistan cricket, than Imran Khan’s World Cup win, Pakistan’s first ever Test win under Kardar and of course Younis Khan’s WT20 win, for which you rightly claimed credit for. I shudder to imagine if they were products of a larger international conspiracy to help Pakistan cricket reach its zenith. I wonder if Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were a part of a larger conspiracy to terrorize batsmen, or heck, Shoaib Akhtar’s genital warts or mildly suggested as “skin problems” was a conspiracy to deny him an active sex life. Of course, they were, for you believe everything is a conspiracy to “defraud Pakistan”. For the want of a harsher sentence, I hope your very existence isn’t an international conspiracy to defraud Pakistan cricket, but I shall humbly submit that you are a conspiracy to defraud Pakistan cricket. After all, life is a conspiracy, isn’t it?

Having established your credentials and existence as a conspiracy, let me come down to the trivial business of your latest statements. First and foremost, I thought you said something, and I heard something, didn’t I? Or are my ears conspiring to defraud Pakistan cricket? I hope not. Then, didn’t you just say that “the loud call from the bookies circle is that some England players were paid stacks of cash to throw away the game against Pakistan”? I thought you did, and rightly so. I thought you finally lost your virginity of non-association with bookies with that statement, didn’t you? And of course, what you did imply through that statement, which you woke up, smelt the coffee and claimed you didn’t, was that Umar Gul’s supposedly brilliant spell was for nothing? Or was that a con…youknowwhatImean? I hope you stand up, be a man and say you were possibly inebriated when you did say what you did say what you didn’t say you decide. Come on, Butt saab, you could do better. Of course, you will deny all of this, but isn’t that how it is scripted to be?

Oh Butt saab, how could you gather the balls, I mean balls, when you supposedly have none, to demand the removal of, Haroon Lorgat as ICC CEO, when you have shown immense faith in yourself, when time and again, there have been calls for your removal and don’t get me wrong here, by newspapers like The Nation of all things? You stoically state,”Why should I resign, these are merely allegations at me? Not a single one is proved against me?”, for the want of a better English, I gather. Sorry, even as a long-time admirer of yours, hypocrisy doesn’t sound too good on you, I humbly submit for you are the doyen of integrity, accountability and all things credible in Pakistan cricket, aren’t you? And that, you’ve now emerged as the self-appointed saviour of Pakistan cricket against the wishes of the evil forces, of course you know them, saab.

Lastly, I humbly hope that your Chief Patron or whatever that fancy title Mr. AA Zardari holds, gives you an extension once your tenure is up for renewal, and no, that I assume wouldn’t be a conspiracy to defraud Pakistan. Even if he doesn’t, I think you have left your mark and a legacy which many have failed during their haydays in the PCB Chairman’s post. I think Pakistan cricket needs you more than you need Pakistan cricket. And more than Pakistan cricket, it is people like us, dedicated admirers of your infectious personality who need you, given some of the reassurances you’ve given us in the past few months. I utterly hope, you are NOT one of those with fake degrees and that your blood relations with the little known defence minister of Pakistan are put to good use in October. Here’s wishing you a long life and more years of yeoman service to Pakistan cricket.

Thanking you,

Yours Conspiratorially,

Venkat Ananth
Mumbai, India

Let me state the obvious here. While reading this post, please add “NOT”, I repeat, “NOT” at the end of every paragraph I have written. That should help you read better.


Written by Venkat Ananth

September 20, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Posted in Pakistan cricket

The last of the Gunasekaras (A tribute to ‘CI’)

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I vividly remember that day in rainy Colombo, sometime around the second week of May of 2007, when I walked past my hotel in Bambalapittiya, turned left on Dickman Road (now Lester James Peiris Mawatha) and if I remember correctly, the house number was 85. An old Maruti 800 car was parked right outside the steps and a man in whites, came out, opened the gates and together we went. That man was Conroy Ievers Gunasekara at 87, one of Ceylon and possibly one of Sri Lanka’s best batsmen of all time, alongside his colleague Mahadevan Sathasivam and the modern-day greats like Aravinda de Silva, Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara. Gunasekara, like most ‘Ceylon’ cricketers, represented an era which saw the island nation’s cricketing foundations only getting stronger.

The Gunasekara I met was recluse, after the death of his wife six months earlier, and was living in conditions unimaginable for someone who served Ceylon cricket passionately and tirelessly. His diet, a LKR 50-60 worth of a ‘lunch packet’ commonly sold by roadside vendors and a few bottles of beer to boot. He sat me down and handed over a photocopied piece on his career by Bruce Maurice, a journalist who lived bang opposite his place. The conversations ranged from his career, his past colleagues, modern day Sri Lankan cricket, and interestingly, the English language. He was honest enough to admit that he never spoke Sinhala, or didn’t intend to do so, because he felt, the Ceylon he knew was the Queen’s country and not quite the one run by Rajapaksa & Co. today.

During some of my background research before interviewing Ievers, I read that he was one of the most hard-hitting batsmen of his times, seconded by none other than Keith Miller, whom he played alongside with for a Commonwealth XI vs the MCC in 1952. And I quizzed him further about his batting style, and he said, “I used to play tennis regularly, and that’s where I learnt shot-making from. My strength in tennis was hitting the ball as hard as I can, because I was gifted with powerful forearms.” That’s where when one of the most ferocious strokeplayers of Ceylon cricket, learnt his trade, unusual yet amazing. Ivers said, “People call it slogging these days, but no, I wasn’t quite slogging. I just saw the gap, and if the ball was there to be hit, hit it as hard as I could, so that the velocity of the ball could beat the fielder and make it difficult for him to catch.” From what his peers and colleagues told me, he was a tentative starter, preferring apprehension over bravado, gauge the bowler like a predator and out of nowhere, as his cousin Channa describes Ivers’ batting his book “The Willow Quartette”, “would he unleash an upstanding straight drive of super velocity past a terrorised bowler’s head, who prompted by instinct of self-preservation takes swift evasive action away from its murderous flight – all the earlier diffidence evaporating now.” Channa writes further, “Blessed with powerful forearms blended with steel wrists sans velvet, the delicacy of a late cut or a leg-glance were not for him, he rather trusted the full meat of his 3lb bat. Some of his forward defensive jabs more often than not were wont to streak past an astonished mid-off for boundaries. Sixes straight and square, lofted drives and pulls kept the scoreboard in a state of perpetual motion, and it was not just indiscriminate slogging, but an operation of clinical precision.” That was the original ‘Master Blaster’.

He played at a time when Ceylon cricket was blessed with some of its best talents – battingwise. The likes of Mahadevan Sathasivam, Derek de Saram and Sagaradaththa Jayawickrama were Ievers’ colleagues and that just speaks highly of the standard of cricket played in Sri Lanka in that period. Ievers said, “The cricket we played was like international cricket. The standards were really high, and the level of competition helped us in playing against strong visiting teams who toured us.” Right from the 40s to the 70s, many teams – representative and invitational in nature, toured Sri Lanka for the odd-game they’d play. For some of the Ceylon cricketers, this was their occasional shot at international glory and somewhere as Channa Gunasekara said, “It went a long way towards us getting Test status.” In 1949, the visiting Pakistanis bore the brunt of Ievers’ ferocity, when he pumelled a 120 in a memorable counter-attack after Khan Mohammad and Fazal Mohammad had Ceylon down to 49/4. He single-handedly took on the swing and the pace of the Pakistanis, in producing one of his most memorable innings at the time. One of Ievers’ finest moments as a cricketer came against an MCC side in 1952 for a Combined Commonwealth XI led by FC de Saram which included 4 Ceylonese, 2 Pakistanis, 2 Indians and 3 Aussies (including Neil Harvey, Keith Miller and Graeme Hole). A rare Indo-Pak combine (Imtiaz Ahmed and Vinoo Mankad) opened the batting and got off to a sound start – a 50-run partnership, followed by a brilliant 74 by Neil Harvey in just 80 minutes (13 fours). Then, walked in Ievers and along with Keith Miller, added 207 for the fourth wicket. Channa’s description of the partnership goes, “Given the head start of very nearly thirty runs, CI closed the gap rapidly, and then began to challenge Miller in a neck and neck race for their respective 100’s. It was a rare cricketing fiesta to see two of the hardest hitters in the game in harness together and the sparks were really flying. CI caught up with Miller in the 90s and Miller, the magnanimous showman he was, then let up and CI raced to his hundred ahead of him to the wild delight of the local crowd.” Ievers later fell for 135, with 20 ferociously stroked boundaries and a six. The Commonwealth XI went on to win the game by an innings.

Following that inning by CI, this is what Keith Miller had to say about Gunasekara, “I was fortunate enough to have a close look at two great innings, those of my Australian colleague and Ceylon’s own CI Gunasekara. I can say that very few top ranking players put as much power behind their strokes as Gunasekara does. His secret lies in the heavy bat he uses (I will not be able to use it) and his perfect timing when he hit the ball, it travelled like a bullet.” That knock by CI, left a permanent imprint in his mind, that even 40 years later, he wrote in a letter to Miller, “Hello there Master Batsman, I well remember your epic century and have often told people about it. No fooling, it was an innings of great skill and power.”

His bowling is often the less talked about facet regarding his cricket, but make no mistake, Ievers was a lethal leg-spinner with a seemingly unplayable googly. Channa writes on Ievers’ bowling, “At the end of a short 5 or 6 yard run, he would brace his sturdy frame just prior to delivery and using his entire body, propel the ball at near medium pace and bounce with the click of strong fingers or turn of wrist. He could spin his googly or leg-break a yard or so on a faintly responsive surface, but I think he rather fancied operating on a hard strip, where he could trap the unwary with fizzing top-spinners.” And most importantly, he was an excellent fielder, who more often than not, held on to his catches.

Ievers was a special sporting personality. Someone who not just mastered three distinct sports but perfected them and excelled in them. His glorious tennis career included 8 national titles in the Mens Doubles and Mixed Doubles and he told me about his “double-handed forehand”, an unusual shot during those days, which originated from striking a tennis ball with his father’s racket, which was heavy and had to use both hands to derive maximum power. Ievers, played golf with equal skill and commitment, thereby managing to make it to the National semi-finals during the early 60s. For the record, he turned up for the iconic Royal College in no less than five sports – rugby, cricket, golf, tennis and hurdling.

And thus, this story came to an end on Thursday, with the passing away of Conroy Ievers Gunasekara at 90, – the last of the Gunasekaras as I choose to call him, a man who not just belonged to the first family of Sri Lankan/Ceylon cricket, but also ensured that he lived up to his surname. In 2007, during my conversations with him, he often spoke about his will to stop living and every third sentence had a reference to Kanattha, a cemetery in Colombo’s suburbs. Three years later, Ievers Gunasekara left us all a lonely man yet one of the most celebrated cricketers or sportsmen in Sri Lanka’s history.

Written by Venkat Ananth

July 30, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Adios, Murali!

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One of the stories of this generation might just be coming to an epic end. It’s a story not just of a sportsman’s abilities or the undisputed talent that the man still possesses, but one which epitomised a triumph of strong human character – giving adversity the familiar facial stare you’d associate with him, and even that smile he always sported – irrespective of the situation. It is also a story of a man who knew that he was past his peak, the body – going through 18 years of wear and tear and a man who was honest enough to decide to walk away from the game, rather than being pushed or even nudged to do so. Muttiah Muralitharan’s illustrious career of undisputed talent, unconventional genius, and some wickets to boot only deserves to be celebrated and cherished.

On the very day speculations over his Test future were rife, I telephoned Murali, a routine journalistic call to confirm if these rumours were indeed true. The honest man as he came across, he stated categorically, in true Murali fashion, “After this India test, I am not playing Test cricket anymore,” before going on to also emphatically suggest that we may not have seen the last of him either. “If selected, I will definitely continue playing the IPL.” Read the rest of this entry »

The curious case of John Howard

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Let me get straight to the point. Does he divide world cricket? Yes and no. I’ll get to the rationale in a bit, with a few explanations and interpretations of the whole John Howard aka the “little desiccated coconut ” (Paul Keating referring to Howard in 2007) saga. Firstly, Australia must stand up and admit to nominating someone whose name draws reactions in Australia not too different from what Diego Maradona’s does in England. Again, there are reasons, pretty valid and logical that most right-minded (not right-wing) Australians hate John Howard. So, the first blunder. Secondly, was John Howard’s candidature worth fighting tooth and nail for? I don’t think so. Australia, who previously got Malcolm Gray to head the ICC should have handed over the candidature to Sir John Anderson, a leading businessman in New Zealand and most importantly, someone with previous cricket administrating experience. That said, New Zealand was party to an agreement, and pretty much went with what Australia had in mind.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Venkat Ananth

July 2, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Rewind: South Africa’s Indian Son (2004)

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Okay. This is a piece on Hashim Amla that I wrote way back in October 2004, when he made the South African team for the first time for a tour to India. Remember the one with the likes of Zander de Bruyn and Thami Tsolikile ? That’s the one. So since he’s well and truly arrived and lived up to my expectations, would like to put up that piece again.

Hashim Amla : South Africa’s new Indian son (31st October 2004)

As the whole of India frets and fumes over the disappointment of failing to guard the “Final Frontiers” of the Aussies, there is a small Indian community in Durban which is rejoicing over the selection of their son of Indian decent, Hashim Mohamed Amla for the South African team on its upcoming tour to India. With the South African team reaching the depth of failure after its dismal recent performances, the selectors have turned to the youth in an attempt to resolve the future of South African cricket. And Hashim one can say is a beneficiary of such a youth oriented direction the Proteas are taking. His selection is a great tribute to the growing influence of Asians (people of Indian origin) in South African cricket.

Cricket was always in his family, and with a rich vein of Indian blood flowing within him, cricket soon became his passion. Just two seasons after his elder brother Ahmed Amla made his debut for Kwazulu-Natal(now Dolphins), Hashim followed suit. He made his debut against the visiting England XI for Kwazulu-Natal at Durban at the age of 18. His debut could well be a forgettable one as he just made a single run in his short stay on the crease and it seemed as though his career at Natal will be short-stayed. He but played in the Durban & Districts league and for South Africa Under-19s and scored heavily for his club for 2 successive years before making a comeback of sorts into the Natal team. And since the he has never looked back. He recorded an aggregate of 816 runs in his comeback season at a good average of 51.The 2001/02 season gave his career a perfect jumpstart, which was one of the reasons as to where he is today. Hashim’s consistent and prolific run scoring in the seasons to follow was good enough to book him a spot in the South Africa A line up, which played Zimbabwe in2003/04 and later New Zealand A at home. He is in phenomenal form this season with an unfinished aggregate of 641 runs in 6 games with centuries against New Zealand A and the provincial teams. One gets a feeling that the fans of South African cricket will expect Hashim to carry this prolific scoring and consistency on his cricket kit-bag to India for the upcoming tour.

Just as Micheal Clarke of Australia is being talked as a future captaincy material by the pundits, the 22-year old is being regarded as a future captain of South Africa. There have been certain steps taken in the very direction to enable him take over the future leadership reins and thus he was named the captain of the Kwazulu Natal Dolphins for this season. He has also captained the South African Under-19 team and the Under-21 provincial teams in the past. His fellow Durbanites of Indian origin like Rivash Gobind, Imraan Khan have already made names for themselves this season and are being talked about being Test materials for South Africa in the days and years to come. Besides being a religious cricketer, Hashim also comes across as a devout Muslim. His long beard may well remind us of Saeed Anwar, but for him its been the secret of his success. If reports are to be believed,Hashim would not be sporting the alcohol logo (Castle Lager) on his cricketing gear, and this is for sure a testament to the fact that religion comes first for him.

Although the quota system in South Africa is at place, where players of colour could easily book themselves a place in the national team,the quota system made sure that it overlooked the performances of the players of Indian origin. The selection of Hashim Amla, whose grandparents apparently once hailed form Surat in Gujarat, should be a major victory in a way for the Indian community in South Africa as they have been finally recognized while selection for the South African team. If all goes well, Hashim should make his Test debut for South Africa in and against a country where he originally hails from and we as Indians will be looking forward to seeing this youngster play to the best of his abilities.

Please read, enjoy and leave your comments. Will get back to it soon.

Written by Venkat Ananth

February 18, 2010 at 5:05 pm

Mahinda 2.0

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Alright. So Mahinda Rajapaksa was decisively elected by the Sri Lankans to another six-year term on Wednesday. And this is pretty much what New Delhi would have expected, and I will outline exactly why, as this post continues. But what the Sri Lankans have opted for, is a politician, reliable by their own standards who in his own way delivered what he promised the first time around – i.e. ending the War in the North and the East. In an interview to The Hindu’s N. Ram soon after the Sri Lankan Army defeated the LTTE, Rajapaksa quite categorically stated that he’d seek the mandate of the people to ensure lasting peace in the North and of course, political power to the Tamils. Well, he got what he wanted, and now here’s the moment for the Sri Lankan President to deliver on his latest promise.

Now, let me bring the New Delhi angle here. To put it bluntly, New Delhi got the man they must have wanted in Mahinda Rajapaksa. And in an essay for Pragati in November, I had argued the very point that India would prefer someone who could promise stability, who could continue with his policies, and of course also, be a civilian leader, over someone like Sarath Fonseka, who despite shedding his military uniform for a civilian post, would have retained some of the tendencies that go with the uniform and whose coalition wasn’t exactly the most stable around. Even though India might have set up a back channel through possibly Ranil Wickeremasinghe, who visited India before the election dates were announced to meet top New Delhi leaders, South Block would have still preferred going with the tried and tested devil, if I could call Rajapaksa, rather than the unknown. Easy choice, shall I say.

Now, what does this mean for India in terms of its Sri Lanka policy ? Experts in the past have been arguing that India is losing its leverage in Sri Lanka. And yes, a valid argument too – given China’s more public and active support for Sri Lanka during its war against the LTTE and also through the heavy amount of investment opportunities it has managed to grab with both hands, when New Delhi was in a way caught napping – possibly through other preoccupations. But, given the sort of influence India has had in Sri Lanka for years together, it’s not yet a situation of doom and gloom to be honest, and even if it is, it presents a golden opportunity that New Delhi must not let go. Be it through private investments, or infrastructure development (like ports) or even for that matter the goodwill we’ve had there through our soft-power i.e. Bollywood, cricket etc. Secondly, it is about time we reconcile that China is there to stay in Sri Lanka, and Beijing won’t be pushed easily. Competing for the space is important, no doubt, but I guess, it’s more down to what we must do and we must do best, both for us and for Sri Lanka, rather than be bogged down due to heightened Chinese presence there. And of course, an urgent need is to win back the trust of the majority Sinhalese population, who’ve always seen India as he bully, and equally the minority Tamil, who’ve felt betrayed by New Delhi’s lack of support during the war. There’s no better opportunity than now, to refresh our approach, reach out to the disenchanted and get the engines started.

That said, Rajapaksa is our best man. Why ? Because from a foreign policy point of view, he brings a certain balanced approach, with no 180-degree tilt either way – India or China. But, unfortunately, for the West, which might have nurtured ambitions of plotting a regime-change in Sri Lanka with Fonseka as their front, Rajapaksa’s win might be seen as a setback. Why ? Because the Sri Lankan President has over the years made peculiar friends – the likes of Libya, Iran, North Korea who in a way do not quite tow the West’s line of thinking, across various spheres.

I think if Rajapaksa’s second term would be analyzed six years from now, it would largely depend on how he handles the situation in the North, resettling the Tamils and of course, eventually, the devolution of power. Yes, the Tamils in both the North and the East voted overwhelmingly against Rajapaksa, but I think they hardly had any meaningful choice to make. But, where in a way the Tamils have won, is by exercising that very right to vote free and fair as opposed to obeying the diktats of the LTTE, putting their very life at stake. Their right to choice was the first step forward and a good one at that. But, that is exactly where Rajapaksa’s challenges begin – developing the North should be his priority, transferring power maybe next on the list and eventually establishing a policy of reconciliation which might actually lead to the Tamils and Sinhalese being able to live in peace, together. That of course, is a long-term objective, but whatever happens, the healing process must begin in the right earnest.

And lastly, the Rajapaksa Presidency 2.0 must obviously work to ensure greater media freedom (and I write this on a day when a newspaper called ‘Lanka’ was shut down) and equally, the onus is on the government to accept criticism, and make Sri Lanka a truly functional democracy, rather than a Police-state, which many fear it might end up being if these current trends of institutionalized impunity continues. Riding on this emphatic victory, Rajapaksa and his alliance will seek a fresh mandate during the parliamentary elections, and I don’t quite see many things going wrong for the ruling party and its alliance. All said, it’s been a fascinating election to follow as an observer of Sri Lankan politics.

Written by Venkat Ananth

January 31, 2010 at 12:03 am

11 Idiots

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Firstly, must thank Raju Hirani for coming up with a timely film titled 3 Idiots. Yes, the title of this post has been inspired by the film’s title and that’s about it. The 3 Idiots on the cinema screen were still better off than the 11 Idiots I am going to write about here, absolutely. And yes, you guessed it right, the 11 Idiots here are none other than the Pakistan cricket team, for doing themselves at Sydney, exploding on a wicket where 176 was perhaps achievable, but when cricketers turn into battle-hardened suicide bombers (sorry for that analogy, but this is perhaps the most apt example), there’s little you and I could do.

Osman Samiuddin’s gem of a piece in Cricinfo sums everything up to be honest. Kamran Abbasi’s fanboy perspective of everything cricket in Pakistan perhaps asks serious questions, which of course knowing the way the game is run in that country, will never be answered. But I just have a simple question – Have you ever seen a Pakistan team so mentally fragile (as Osman describes it, quite eloquently, “Hollywood rehab clinics have fewer mental frailties than this side.” ? I haven’t to be honest. Pakistan were always known to be a team who believed in fighting it out, not giving up till the bowler ran out of steam, or even in the field, often relentless. But here again, I am talking about the days of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, which might seem like digging into 18th century marvels. So what is the problem with Pakistan cricket at the moment ? I am not going to dig into the technical aspects, but the larger questions i.e. Where is the leadership ?

As an Indian journalist covering the World T20, I tracked the Pakistan cricket team up close and personal. Made friends within the camp and to be fair, they came across as immensely amiable individuals, but at the same time, immensely motivated individuals. Where did that motivation disappear suddenly ? No idea to be honest, but that is Pakistan cricket for you. In hindsight, all those Younis Khan press conferences I attended which were like attending a comic session with unadulterated lunacy coming through his words, suddenly sound like honest appraisals or as Pakistanis may argue stringent criticism of both the system and the team that played. Yes, they won the tournament, alright. In a way put Pakistan cricket on the map, all over again. But yesterday’s loss has just wiped off everything good that ever happened for Pakistan. And the key difference between, and of course I am talking T20s and Tests here, the two extreme performances was largely the belief or the lack of it. Pakistan didn’t believe they could win this game against Australia, whereas their opponent’s very strength comes from immense belief in turning any situation on its head and pulling off something unexpected, something you often wonder only they could.

As unfortunate as it might seem, Mohammad Yousuf comes across as a captain who believes in retreat rather then attack. And attack he should have, having Australia reeling on the mat at 80/8. That was the moment where Pakistan should have believed. But, so they didn’t. Michael Hussey produced a knock that in a way typified Australia’s belief on the other hand. One where, they could defend anything their batsmen came up with. And believe you me when I say this, if Australia would have lost those two wickets in a jiffy, with a target of about 100, they’d have still won the game. There in lies the difference. A mental block that should have been overcome by Pakistan, but in a way will never happen. Some of the selections were bizarre, taken. But when you go to Australia, dominate them for 3 of the 4 days in a Test match, you must be really bad to lose the plot and just do all you could to lose the game from such positions.

Yes, Pakistan are a talented unit. But what is talent without temperament, I ask the good old question ? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Which is where Pakistan’s problems begin and end. They’ve been a fighting side over the past few years, but this current crop of players, so pre-occupied with limited overs cricket, particularly T20s, don’t a) have the temperament to last five days and b) the ability to pull of something special, possibly because they don’t value themselves as much as the Aussies or let me sound politically incorrect for a while, as India these days do – possibly why the scales have heavily tilted against the Pakistanis in recent years. They had this special ability to find a way through any situation, a decade or two ago, squeeze through moments they just don’t know what to do with today, and pull of something extraordinary, something fans across the cricketing spectrum would remember for years together. Sadly, not this team. The lasting image of Yousuf playing that needless stroke straight back at Hauritz, perhaps the gamechanging moment is all this Pakistani team has given us.

So, where do Pakistan go from here ? Back to the drawing board, big time. Must do so right away. Dropping and changing players will not help their cause, at least in the short run. Where is the stability ? This Pakistan team, sorry to say, represents the state of chaos within the nation to me. No stability, no leadership, no grit, and sadly, no winners. About time they sorted this mess they’re in at the moment, harness the talent by not exposing them to what Younis Khan fondly refers to as WWF i.e. T20 cricket, but giving them the required experience when it comes to wrestling in the Akhadas (i.e. first class cricket) and make them believe, not just in their own ability to go out there, challenge the best and score runs, but also as a team, win key moments, and take it from there.

As idiotic it might seem, the Sydney Test of 2010 will go down as the match when the Pakistan cricket team decided to blow up itself. And this, I am afraid, is the story of the 11 idiots aka Pakistan cricket team.

Written by Venkat Ananth

January 7, 2010 at 12:36 pm