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How to avoid embarrassment

How to avoid embarrassment

We’re going to get slaughtered in England. I think you should know this. It doesn’t matter what pitches we play on, or who exactly plays for Australia (early part of the summer) or England (latter half of the summer), or who captains our side, or what inane thing Ijaz Butt says on a particular day – we’re going to get slaughtered in England. In my esteemed role as a Dawn.com blogger, I feel it is my responsibility to calibrate readers’ expectations to something approaching realistic, so once again: we’re going to get slaughtered in England.

That said, the team we pick can and will make the difference between being slaughtered organic-style, and being slaughtered in one of those mechanised slaughterhouses that I saw in Food Inc that made me a vegetarian for a couple of days. So here’s my handy five-step guide on how to avoid being embarrassed.

1. Pick the batsmen entirely on the basis of their fielding ability.
And you think I’m joking. If memory serves, we dropped an average of four catches a day on our twin tour to New Zealand and Australia. Not four catches a match, or even innings. Four catches a day. It was a team effort – the Akmal brothers, Imran Farhat, Misbah, even the bowlers.

Here’s the problem: our bowling attack is now a very non-traditional one, in the Pakistani sense. Our three best bowlers in history – Imran, Wasim and Waqar – were all wicket-to-wicket bowlers, who’d get tons of batsmen LBW or bowled. In effect, they took our pathetic fielding out of the equation. But our newer bowlers, guys like Asif and Aamer, are most Western in orientation, relying on edges and miscues to get batsmen out. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different. But this method does presuppose a halfway adequate fielding side, especially behind the wicket, which we are decidedly not. Which is why we need to pick our batting solely on whether they can field or not.

Think about it: would you rather have Imran Farhat, with a test batting average of 33, opening the batting, or Imran Nazir, with a test batting average of 32? Both would fail miserably in English conditions against good bowling, but at least the latter wouldn’t cost the team hundreds of runs in the field.

I don’t know if we have six or even five decent fielders in all of Pakistan, beyond the obvious candidates like Younis Khan and Fawad Alam. But it’s not my job to know; it’s the selectors’. Between now and when the team for the summer is announced, I want them to scour the country for people who can dive, take catches and stop boundaries. Pick them, and then send them to England.

2. Don’t let Shoaib Malik anywhere near the team
This guy is the cricketing equivalent of the plague. Pakistani cricketers are rarely united on anything, but one thing they do all agree on is the fact that Malik is the embodiment of evil. Doesn’t that tell you something?

Pardon me if I don’t find his assurances of being a “changed man” entirely convincing. He’s still the guy who poisoned the team, who single-handedly led to the factionalisation of the dressing room, who turned against two captains, and who backed out of batting at number three when he saw a difficult pitch. He’s been this way for a long time, and he deep down harbors the hope of becoming captain again, which means only one thing: he will sabotage Shahid Afridi the same way he did Younis and Yousuf. Just wait and see.

Look, Pakistani cricketers find it hard enough to get along, without throwing a diabolical schemer like Malik into the mix. It would serve us all if instead of his wife giving up her career, he gives up his. But if he isn’t going to go away of his own volition, the selectors should send him away.

3. Drop Kamran Akmal.
Akmal returns to the scene of the crime. You may recall that before the England tour of 2006, Akmal was one of the world’s two best keeper-batsmen. He was very assured behind the stumps, scored crucial runs, and was generally thought of as one of the pillars the team would be built around for the next decade. But it all fell apart for him on that tour, and he hasn’t been able to recover any semblance of form behind the stumps since then.

The decline and fall of Akmal is a truly shocking and as-yet unexplained story. Does anyone actually know what’s happened to him? How did he go from being one of the safest and most agile keepers in the world to absolute rubbish? Seriously, does anyone have an answer?

Either way, we can’t afford to have this guy author any more game-changing moments. For as long as I am alive I will not forget his performance at Sydney, when he was more supportive to Mike Hussey than the Aussie tail. In fact, I’m fairly certain Akmal has links to sectarian and militant outfits in Punjab; there is no other explanation for his consistent and unmitigated efforts at ending Danish Kaneria’s career.

Play him as a batsman if you must, but please, for the love of everything that is sane and holy, don’t let him keep.

4. Hope Shoaib Akhtar gets injured
Actually this one should take care of itself. I give him, I don’t know, six overs before he pulls up at the Asia Cup. Chalo, eight overs.

I once wrote a 2000-word essay on why Pakistan needs to say goodbye to Shoaib Akhtar. You know the crazy thing? That was three years ago. That is, just after he got banned and unbanned for steroids but before he smacked Asif with a bat in the dressing room, before the liposuction and the sexually transmitted diseases, before his Bollywood career crashed and burned without actually getting started, before countless other injuries and ailments, and before the most drunken performance as a studio analyst during the recent World T20 in the Caribbean that one could ever hope to witness (come on, we all know he wasn’t sipping coffee).

I’ve got nothing personal against this guy; as characters go he is less unseemly than the Akmals and Yousuf and Misbah, never mind Malik. But he’s a distraction and can’t be counted upon. Luckily, we won’t have to worry about this too much. You watch, he’ll be home before the Asia Cup is finished.
 
5. Kidnap Mike Hussey
I can’t possibly be the only Pakistani who’s had enough of this guy. It’s time to take more serious measures. Lord knows our cricketing establishment has connections to the seedy underworld of Karachi and Dubai. Let’s take advantage of it. Because, honestly, I can’t deal with another St.Lucia, let alone another Sydney. It’s time to put a stop to this menace.

Ahsan Butt is a PhD candidate in Political Science at the University of Chicago, and he blogs at Five Rupees.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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79 Responses to “How to avoid embarrassment”

  1. SAJJAD HUSSAIN says:

    aoa,

    just for the fun sake its good but I really hope we should concentrate more on cricket than personalities.

  2. Babar says:

    A very well written satire on Pakistan cricket. Very well done Ahsan.

  3. tariq says:

    mr. Butt
    you are a very negative person. Before the games have begun you have already made your decision that failure is in the near future. This is probably the best team they could select according to the circumstances. Let them display their talents and they will do good. Pakistan has a lot of talent and I think they are going to prove you wrong. Please give them encouragement so that they can bring laurels to the country.

  4. Mushtaq Ahmed says:

    Hilarious !

    We need to concentrate on Shahid Afridi , as a Captain. He must know the weakness and strength of
    opponents. He should be able to think on the field and devise / revise strategy to get them out. His
    defensive field placing between 7 – 15 overs against Aussies in semi – final of Twenty 20 was the main
    reason of losing the match.

    His own batting and bowling performances has been very patchy.

  5. Akbar says:

    Some of your observations are right on spot but I personally think that you have gone a bit too far away from the game. Firstly the captain need support of the board as well as the nation, for a turn around in our cricket fortunes. By doing so, the fear regarding certain players undermining the capt can be neutralised. Same is true for Akmal, he is really a talented player but needs to be roped by sending a 2nd wicket keeper with him. I personally think Akhtar should say good bye to the short version of the game & concentrate on tests. He can breath amongst his spells in a test match. He is otherwise unfit for 20/20 & ODI’s for the simple reason that on so many of his comebacks, he has proved too expensive & ineffective. We know ODI cricket is about containing & taking wickets, which he has not done on many many occasions. Secondly our cricket administrators needs to show some maturity & abandon the U turns on disciplinary matters, irrespective of the status of the player. Lastly I would say that we did not loose in AUS because of our bowlers. The matter of concern was captaincy. The same set of bowlers brought the team in a winning position on many occasions on the twin tour of NZ/AUS. It was poor fielding coupled with unthinkable leadership to resultantly loose the matches in a heart breaking manner.

  6. Dr. Asad Sadick, Germany says:

    Are you implying that you need the selectors chair or for that matter even Butts chair.

  7. Saleh says:

    Nice article. Problem is those who can resolve these issues do not (or cannot) read. It is like everything else in the country. People vent their frustrations out by either actions or writing and all their protest in any form fall on deaf years.

  8. Mushtaq Khan says:

    Criticism is an art and trust me you are master in it……. Very well written

  9. Rana says:

    I dont agree with the writer at all. English conditions change dramatically in the second half of the season and pitches become really Batting friendly. Our team would do really well. Please stop publishing conspiracy theories and back the team especially the captain.
    We do have a ray of hope and lets all stay positive. let me also tell you that Shoaib Malik will respond positively. We have a decent batting line now with Akmal Brothers, Salman Butt and Malik being there. Our Bowlers are still a potent threat with Shoaib Akhtar,Amer, Asif, Saeed Ajmal & Abdur Rehman being there.
    Lets back them up for once with the same passion that we use to excessively critize the players.

  10. Jibran says:

    Well done on the analysis!!

  11. I guess this blogger is going too harsh, but i guess he is right too…….

  12. Abbas says:

    Great one Ahsan but none of it will happen:
    1. Pick the batsmen entirely on the basis of their fielding ability==>No
    2. Don’t let Shoaib Malik anywhere near the team==>He’s back with a bang
    3. Drop Kamran Akmal==>He will be in and we have to pray that he doesn’t drop catches
    4. Shoaib Akhtar will get injured..that will happen
    5. Kidnapp Mike Hussey==>Just get him out with a plan..he is not a GOD of Cricket,

  13. Umair Rizvi says:

    Ahsan, my friend i can’t agree more with you. the only thing i would say is that Kamran Akmal has been given alot of chances behind the wickets without any competition. he has batted at different positions and finally he has started hitting at top order. Sarfaraz on the other hand was sent to Australia in the last test and eyes were glued to him even then Kamran was back for ODIs. GREAT FOR SARFARAZ’S SELF ESTEEM!

  14. Fawad Ayub says:

    Great piece of work. I encourage you to write more.

  15. Arbab Gondal says:

    The guy is absolutely spot on!

  16. Anil says:

    Ahsan BUTT for President !

  17. Waseem says:

    Kidnapping Mike Hussey doesn’t look that bad, but think about making Ejaz “butt”, chairman of ECC (England and Wales Cricket Board).
    Guys what do you think? Should we start a movement on Face Book?

  18. Amtul Mussawer says:

    Hahaha. Loved your suggestion about Hussy

  19. Mustafa says:

    Shoaib is our best bowler and our greatest match-winner over the past decade.
    Who cares about whether or not he drinks, its irrelevant to the cricket.

  20. Mani says:

    This article is like a superb catch that changes the state of the match, one that Pakistan threatens to take but then drops it. Great humor and well written. I agree with your sentiments completely.

  21. Abdul Mujeeb Khan says:

    I think the views expressed by writer are an extreme form of over-generalization; he has described events with language that is highly coloured and emotionally loaded. His statement is unnecessarily mislabeling players in such a fashion, that they would always perform low.
    In real scenario, you cant pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolour the entire beaker of water.
    As author has predicted ill performance for many players does not necessarily mean that they would produce substandard performances in Asia Cup.

    Most importunately, in ground; if some one playing to produce runs or struggling to do well in all departments of game included fielding, balling, and batting. No matter, if they even loss matches. Here I can quote recent example of T20 match. Pakistan lost match against Australia in T20 semi final this year, that match was completely thriller especially last two over. As a quality cricket fans we should realize that this is the beauty of cricket that you can’t predict about any thing that what is going to be happening in next ball. In other words, if Pakistani team gives tough fight to opponents we would not disappoint.

    But most, what disappointed us is that, if the seven players out of eleven are involved in creating a plot against captain and taking oath to stay in a unit against captain, then how captain will fight against opposite team while he is just playing only with three players.

    I hope this kind of nasty things will not be repeated by Pakistani team in future.

    Finally, this is a good opportunity for Players to wash their bad marks (especially those pointed by writer) by their brilliant performance.

  22. Irshad says:

    Without wanting to rob Mr. Ahsan Butt of his thunder, the fact that Pakistan will be slaughtered in England is a motherhood statement – we all know it without these words of wisdom having to be cascaded to us by Mr. Butt. That Pakistan should have to call on Shahid Afridi to lead the team is in itself a manifestation of our total bankruptcy in terms of resources. Whatever little we have is at Mr. Afridi’s whims and fancies; like making Mohammad Asif sit out of the 20/20 World Cup except for one game against Australia. It is ironical that your best bowler should sit in the dugout, while those who got chosen ahead of him got belted all over the park. Also, can anyone explain why the promising Hammad Azam was taken with the team but did not get to play a single game when Misbah ul Haq and others were consistently failing? We blame Shoaib Malik but he has a far greater stake to playing than Afridi. I think he is being used as a whipping boy and scapegoat whenever we run out of excuses. As for his namesake, Mr. Akhtar, his playing days are over but he keeps turning up like a bad penny. Again, at the risk of sounding repetitious, so bankrupt are we of resources that even the Akhtar will do.

  23. Mobashir says:

    Just brilliant & true to the core. I wish somebody does listen in Selection Committee/PCB.

  24. Umair NAseer says:

    Ahsan I think you are getting very harsh I accept that Kamran Akmal’s performance in Australia was pathetic but you have forgotten his batting abilities….he is by far the best Wicket Keeper batsman….Sarfraz Ahmed is an ordinary batsman who is yet to score a fifty in international cricket….and Kamran Akmal was the second highest scorer of tournament for Pakistan and I can bet he is better batsman than Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq if he plays in middle order he will score alot of centuries…and about the fielding it has never been Pakistan strength and the main reason for fielding lapses in Australia was lack of commitment from players n Shoaib Malik is the culprit if Pakistan gets rid off him and give Umer Amin and Asad Shafiq some chances I can bet Pak will atleast draw test series against England cause Mohd Amir and Mohd Asif will not be easy to face …………..

  25. Asim A. Hameed says:

    Brilliant!!!!!!!!!

    Shoaib Malik’s fielding is no plus compared to the problems he creates.

  26. Nasir Ali Mirza says:

    You are a Man.

  27. Omar says:

    So much pessimism! Why can’t we Pakistani be patriotic for once and support our team.

  28. umer baloch says:

    I like the last one. kidnap Hussey.

    But on serious note, I believe the action that has been taken has to be this way. If Shoaib malik is left with some self respect then what the world has seen till now is enough for him to behave. As Aqib reminded us that this politics is existing in Pak cricket for atleast 15 years now, so I wouldn’t say its all Shoaib’s fault. The in-charge of cricket including Chairman PCB, Coach and the captain and most importantly the manager has to be in his boots otherwise everyone can easily predict the results of the Home series in English soil.

  29. nashpaty says:

    lol, brilliant piece!

  30. verming says:

    “Our three best bowlers in history – Imran, Wasim and Waqar ” When ball tamp……. was not caught by 36 cameras.

    • Akbar says:

      When Imran & 2 W,s were swinging the ball & broke the noses/toes of best batsmen of the world, it was called ball tampering. But when Darren Gough, Shane Bond, shaun Tait & Dale Steyn started swinging the cricket ball to the same extent, it is called REVERSE SWING. Isn’t it surprising ?

      • Asad says:

        Same (or similar) number of cameras are in place for them as well as us.. and minute by minute reels of all such recordings are available to all (including Pakistan team management) for further analysis and startegic decision making.. yet, we have not so far seen Tait/Bond/Steyn biting into (or otherwise illegaly tampering) a ball.. you think our men would have kept quite if they found such evidence… ?

    • Asim A. Hameed says:

      I dont think the current bowlers can match wasim waqar and imran even if they are allowed to tamper.

      • Abbas Khan says:

        Wasim was exceptional, with or without ball tempering, but I doubt Waqar and Imran’s abilities. Actually Sarfraz was inventor of ball tempering and passed on his techniques to new generation, including Waqar, who benefited most. Imran as skipper would only bowl, when conditions suited him. I mean, new ball, new batsman or tail enders.

        • Akbar says:

          You must recognize the fact that the white people are just suffering from discrimination. Can you count how many of sub continental players have been reported for chucking & throwing starting from Murli ? the highest wicket taker in both forms of cricket. The list is very long,starting from Murli,shoaib,afridi, Malik Harbajan,Chauhan,Parera from SL & how many more were under thwe microscope for unknown reasons. Same is true for ball tampering. Players from other teams have been caught on camera,recent example is that of Broad on SA tour,with out much hue & cry. Then we have examples of Atherton but how did they hush it up.


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