Tour with Pakistan Cricket as a Fan

Pakistan Cricket TeamThis year (2012), Pakistan has almost exclusively played in the neighborhood. Most of their matches (barring a few) have been played England in UAE (Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Asia Cup in Bangla Desh and bilateral series in Sri Lanka. Later this year, they will take on Australia in UAE, T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka and a bilateral series with India in India.

At the same time, it is disheartening to see half empty stadiums and just a few scattered Pakistan cricket fans supporting our team against the best in the world.

Would it not be great if Pakistan Cricket Board announced a tour package for the fans. A package that includes basic amenities like:

  • Visa for the country where the games are played
  • Travel tickets through the air lines (preferably a local like PIA, Air Blue or Shaheen Air)
  • Hotel options where we can choose to stay
  • Tickets to the games (we can choose how many we want to see)
  • Pick and Drop from the airport. It could be cheaper if fans band together in one bus.
  • Local sight seeing and shopping options. Places like Sri Lanka, Dubai do offer great opportunities
  • And a chance to have a dinner (paid of course) with the team during the tour

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Today, Cricket Died. Period.

Stunned. Anguish. It does not even begin to express my emotions at this time.

Watching Pakistan under perform on such regular basis is always heart wrenching. Watching them lose matches from seemingly a winning position, was depressing and incredulous. But, as die hard fans of our team, we would always come out supporting the green shirts no matter how they fared in the field. Hoping against all odds, they would eventually overcome their short comings and give us victory like yester-years. Today, all that changed.

After shocking revelations in News of the World which was lapped up by the international media  on spot match fixing in cricket, I am now not only disturbed but utterly disgusted with the players who have literally played with our emotions for such a long time.

The under cover investigation claims that this has gone on for over two and half years and possibly much longer. And that the players themselves initiated this ring is rather alarming. The investigation claims as many as seven players are fixing the outcome including the captain Salman Butt, fast bowler Asif and Aamir and wicket keeper Kamran Akmal. The other players names were not revealed, but it is safe to say they are probably all batsmen. It did mention though that Shahid Afridi is not involved and that all these seven players are ganging up against him to oust him.

Last year, Yunis Khan dropped out of the cricket world saying he has lost the confidence of his players. Or was it the same players orchestrating his ouster, like they are doing today of Shahid Afridi? All these stories of infighting among team members really revolving around the match-fixing gang? If so, then the problem is far deeper than the seven named.

This is not the first time we have heard of spot betting and match fixing. The first I heard was in early 1990s when Shane Warne, Mark Waugh, two great Australians, were caught sharing some match information with bookies. Not dissimilar to what has happened today. However, they were fined (AUS$5,000 each) and the story was not aloud to go out till leaked many years later. Similar claims were made in India for Indian team when it was failing to win critical matches. Pakistan, South Africa also suffered from those allegations. Eventually, Hanse Cronje (South African Captain), Mohammad Azharuddin (India’s Captain) and Salim Malik (Pakistan Captain) received life bans and made the scape goat of the corruption within Cricket. Sadly, Australia never banned any of its players.

What the Cricketing body, ICC, did not do is investigate thoroughly and capture the rest of the gang of players in each team. Surely, Warne, Azhar, Hansie and Malik cannot throw a game or bowl/bat badly alone to change the outcome. They need support of others. Shockingly, ICC left it for the boards to decide the course of action for them and went sleeping. Players like Shane Warne (Australia), Sachin Tendulkar (India), Wasim Akram (Pakistan), among many others were internally reprimanded but never publicaly punished. They, like many other team members, were far too big a star and cricket brand to be publicly lynched. Sadly, spot fixing survived, under closed doors till this day.

ICC has no clue what is going on out there. Today, could be a great eye opener for them. But judging from their previous conduct, they will not budge from their sleeping position and refer it back to respective boards to sort out internally.  But if they continue to turn a blind eye to such matters, it is no secret that more people, like me, will turn their eyes away from cricket. In not so near future, we will have a time when young fans will no longer come out to support their teams. They will switch to other cleaner sports and ICC, which is now banking on a billion people audience for their billions in rights, will be competing for their attention with other sports. Time has come to not only fix the game but to catch/ban all those old timers who are still playing and enjoying the protection of their boards while participating (covertly) in spot fixing.

Its no secret that we have all heard of spot fixing, and we have all heard of incidents in cricket matches for many decades. We all know that incredible collapse and that spectacular batting performance is not always genuine. Especially, if the batsmen is part-timer and the bowler has bowled his first 5-wicket haul.

Dear ICC, your fans have been jolted to the reality. It’s time that you also wake up and smell the foul stench that surrounds your sports stars. Its not just limited to Pakistan, it has roots in every major Test playing nation. Standup and clean the cricket field, before we clean the bleachers and head for other sports arenas.

Who will win Cricket Champions Trophy 2009?

ICC Champions Trophy Cricket

ICC Champions Trophy Cricket

Champions Trophy has always produced topsy turvy results. Giants have always crashed out early, while relative minnows seem to get to the top fairly regularly. There was even an instance when Sri Lanka and India shared the title rather than any single team declared victor (2002). And by the way, this is one tournament that South Africa actually has won. Yes, the inaugural tournament held in Dhaka (Bangladesh) in 1998 and a young and upbeat South Africa coached by Bob Woolmer beat out West Indies in the final. And West Indies, who are never ranked among the top 4 in one day cricket won it themselves in 2004.

This year the event is being held in South Africa. Based on the form of the teams and the unpredictable nature of the tournament, it is difficult to predict who will win it. Having said that, I will still predict the semi-finalists for this tournament.  Based on the consistent performance put up by the teams, I believe, the following four teams shall reach the semi-final

Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Pakistan

Sri Lanka is probably the most consistent side of them all. They have the most number of match winners whom one can rely on and therefore, their chances of not only making it to the semi-final but going beyond it are good. Their weakness will be batting on bouncy South African tracks. In the last T20 world cup final, Pakistan exposed this kink in their armor. All great teams get over their weaknesses, and if they did, then Sri Lanka may go on to win it again.

South Africa has begun to shape up like a team possessed for some greatness. They have started to win crucial matches with more consistency and therefore, with current form, it is likely they will reach the semi-final stages of the tournament. Their only weakness will be if their batsmen are able to keep the consistency going throughout the tournament. If not, then early curtains for them.

Australia after a complete drubbing of England (in one day matches) are poised to reach the semi-final. The team is learning fast and new boys are settling in. Most of the players have it in them to make the difference and therefore, it is easy to see them make it to the final four. Their only weakness would be if their batsmen fail to fire at the right times. If that happens, then early curtains for them.

I chose Pakistan as the fourth team over India and New Zealand. India, having just defeated both New Zealand and Sri Lanka in Columbo put up a strong case, but one reason for my dropping them is that they are not consistent enough outside of the subcontinent. Their fielding is weak and at times laughable. And in big tournaments like the Champions Trophy, it counts a lot. Hence, they are not likely to get among the top 4.

New Zealand have an outside chance but nothing more. Their team is suffering from lack of quality cricketers. They lack bowlers who can take wickets at crucial junctures and batsmen who can win them all on their own on a consistent manner. They have sparks of brilliance but nothing to write about.

And now why Pakistan? I must admit they are an outside chance. Only because, they now play the least amount of cricket among all the Test playing nations. Heck, Bangladesh gets away with playing more matches than them in a year. Pakistan’s lack of international cricket is what hides their true strength. They have superb match winning bowlers in Umer Gul and Mohammad Asif. Their batsmen like Yunus Khan and Mohammad Yusuf can win matches all on their own. With able support from Afridi and Ajmal in spin, Pakistan currently has a far balanced squad than either New Zealand or India.

Their lack of Cricket is also one of their strengths. The team is extremely well rested and hungry for victory. So they might seem rusty, but once they get going, boy it will be a treat to watch. T20 World cup a few months back showed their class and their strength. They demolished their opponents so consistently and with such finesse that cricket seemed like a child’s play.

I will not be surprised if Pakistan comes home with the Champions Trophy.

Win us the T20 World Cup Cricket

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Go Pakistan Go and win the World T20 Cup

Watching Pakistan beat South Africa in the semifinal of the World Cricket T20 Championship last night was like watching a soaring eagle make a swift swoop from its perch to capture an unsuspecting prey with its claws. Throughout the match, South Africa struggled to loosen the stranglehold which Pakistan had placed around their neck, but in vain. In the end, they were agony filled short by seven runs from the penultimate target of 150 which many pundits had predicted would be easy pickings for South Africa. While the streets of Karachi and Lahore erupted with euphoria over reaching another World Cup final by the Pakistan team, Johannesburg and Capetown had deserted and dejected fans pouring out of pubs  as their team once again failed to reach the final of a major cricket tournament.

This time round, it was not the weak or choking South Africa, rather an extremely determined and strong Pakistan side that made the difference. True, Pakistan started this tournament as one of the also rans and no one predicted they would go beyond the Super 8s let alone reach the final. Of course, on the way, they had lost to Sri Lanka and England making them as one of the weaker sides to compete. But Pakistan, as we all have learn to love and predict, is well, quite unpredictable. It has the talent to bounce back from any situation and the team has a never die attitude which makes the games extra special.

The transformation of Pakistan began somewhere in the middle of the the game against Sri Lanka. The initial 10 overs that they bowled to Sri Lanka were well, something nothing to be written about. Starting with conceding 18 runs in the first over, the combination of extras, rudementary fielding and half vollies let Sri Lanka race to over 80 runs within the first 8 overs.  But as soon as the spinners were brought in to bowl,  the match turned as Sri Lankan batsmen failed to cope with the spin and the run rate slowed down to a halt.  Pakistan did eventually lose the game by 19 runs  but the game could have easily swung in their favor had they controlled their line and length in the initial overs.

From then on, they did not let any team take any advantage of them, beating New Zealand, Ireland and now South Africa in quick succession and each time more convincingly than before. Their bowling, fielding and even batting began to click. Players like Afridi, Yunus, Kamran Akmal began to contribute with the bat while Ajmal, Afridi and Gul continued to mesmerize the batsmen with their bowling.

It is ironic that the best and most talked about teams have not made it the final. Heck, Australia was knocked out in the preliminary stages and well India, the tournament favorites, never seemed like winning a game in the Super 8s.

This year, BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) prevented Pakistani cricketers from playing in the IPL (Indian Premier League) hoping to score a few political points against their arch rival neighbor. Hence, Pakistani cricketers were the only ones not to feature this May in the IPL, while the best of the world competed out and honed their skills for the upcoming T20 World Cup in June. The world expected Pakistani players will be too rusty and too out of shape to even make any impact during the world cup.

Rather the opposite happened. The very lack of competitive cricket has made Pakistani team even more hungry for victory. While Dhoni and his men seemed lethargic and tired,  Pakistani cricketers seem to have a new spring in their feet and a vigor to win from any situation. South Africa and New Zealand have found that out the hard way. True they were rusty in the beginning but once the shine returned, all that is glittering is gold. Pure gold.

Go Pakistan Go! Win us this World Cup. This nation deserves a few tears of joy as it has shed plenty of them for sorrow that has besieged it these past many years. We are praying for you.

Bring on ICL franchise to Pakistan

Indian Cricket League

Indian Cricket League

The cricket community generally belonging to the Australian and the European continent are reluctant to travel to Pakistan due to their absurd security concerns (as discussed earlier in my blog). Thus, depriving the fans here in Pakistan of much sought after cricket extravaganza. In fact, 2008 will go down in history as one of the “dead” years when no Test Cricket is played in Pakistan. Barring a few one day matches, the year has been a barren for Pakistan Cricket and a game-less season for the fans.

Meanwhile, just across the border, in India, a rebel cricket league is keeping the fans here in Pakistan glued to the Television screens. Indian Cricket League, or ICL is currently playing 20/20 style of cricket with some of the best talent from across the world  led by some of the greats of International cricket including Inzimam ul Haq, Abdul Razak, Saqlain Mushtaq (Pakistan), Damien Martin, Jason Gillespie (Australia), Brian Lara (West Indies), Marvin Attaputu (Sri Lanka), Murray Goodwin (Zimbabwe), Andrew Hall (South Africa) among many others. In fact, there is now a team from Pakistan called Lahore Badshahs and one from Bangladesh as well.

Now here is an idea. Let’s invite the teams from ICL to come and play competitive cricket here in Pakistan. In fact, let’s extend the tournament to include venues in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi among other cities and give us fans the chance to see some of the biggest cricket stars slug it out in the middle. Just because ICC sanctioned teams do not want to play cricket in Pakistan does not mean the ICL teams will not travel here. I bet, all of them will be here the moment they get a chance.

So let’s not wait and make this request immediately to Kapil Dev, the foremost Indian cricketer of yester-years and now CEO of ICL. So Mr. Kapil Dev, if you ever get to read this blog, then make it a point to discuss this option with the players and teams and expand your franchise right here inside Pakistan. We will welcome you with open arms. Heck, I am even ready to help organize it. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) may raise a few objections to such an event, but then again, when did ICL ever needed to ask anyone for permission to organize matches. Besides, PCB has failed to organize any serious cricket this year in Pakistan so their objections have no meat.

The second question is whether the sponsors will join in the bandwagon to make it a financial success? Of course! Already, Lahore Badshahs have Telenor (Pakistan’s second largest mobile operator) splattered all across their jerseys. And almost all major brands are advertising heavily on television (and any other medium possible) during the tournament as they all know and understand quite clearly, that Pakistani cricket fans love cricket and ICL is providing them with the a great opportunity to watch some competitive matches.

Cricket a great spectator sport with a following of over a billion worldwide. Every living person has a right to organize, play and watch this great game as they please regardless of any board, any country or any person.

Australian Cricketers Lust for Cash

Greed and Lust has no boundaries in Cricket

Greed and lust finds no boundaries in Cricket

Here is a team that refused to play in Sri Lanka during the 1996 cricket world cup due to remote security concerns. Australians have also avoided to tour Pakistan for over 10 years citing various security concerns. Recently, they were at the forefront of refusing to play in the Champions Trophy to be held in Pakistan again citing vague security concerns. Despite the fact that a successful and safe Asia Cup was held there just weeks before their refusal.

But today, the lure and lust for cash has changed all that. India, which is experiencing a surge in violence and terrorist activities not unlike Pakistan, is now being considered by them a complete “safe” country to visit and play.

Its not just huge amount of cash that each player will earn against match fees, but also the numerous personal endorsements and lucrative advertisements that they will feature has over ridden everything else.

With such rampant greed and lust, it is quite disheartening to see, ICC sitting idle and not doing anything. Letting players and countries chose tours on their own citing whimsical double standards and has made the cricketing governing body a laughing stock.

ICC MUST get strict on such issues and make sure that such tours continue as planned.

As regards Australian crickets lust for cash, it can only be said, that they are losing fans faster than they can accumulate cash from around the world.

http://content-pak.cricinfo.com/indvaus2008/content/current/story/370137.html

Ball Tampering – The accusers are the accused!

For decades, British cricketers and their press has been trying to implicate (quite unsuccessfully) Pakistani great fast bowlers like Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis into ball tampering. These and other such great fast bowlers were able to mesmerize their batsmen for decades. Match after match, the English batsmen would fail miserably against their style of attacking fast bowling.

However, a revelation by Marcus Trescothic (a former English batsmen) in his recently published autobiography reveals that he used mint induced sliva to shine the cricket ball so that it would swing ominously. This “tampered” ball was able to let England win back the Ashes after over 21 years from Australia in a tightly fought battle in 2005. Now, however, we know, it was not all fair play.

Angus Fraser reacted this revelation saying,

“To me it is a total hypocrisy on what is deemed to be ball tampering. When Pakistan were accused of ball tampering it was built into something that was abhorrent. Ball tampering is ball tampering whether you scratch the ball or whether you deliberately put in sugary saliva on it to aid its shine so I don’t see any difference between one and the either.

Somehow, it does not feel right. When Pakistan is blamed for ball tampering, a whole match gets awarded to England and players get banned. The press cries foul and blames everyone in Pakistan. And when Englishmen do the same and admit to the guilt, nothing happens.

The Australians were asked of their opinion of Englismen using illegal methods to defeat them during the Ashes battle, they simply brushed it away. Which is quite odd, as they were up in arms against Pakistan when the same thing was accused on them.

If English Cricket Board choses not to take action against its players who were involved in ball tampering then it would be a clear message to the cricketing world.

It is ok for us, the Englishmen to cheat, as long as we can win.