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Five Thoughts on the Third ODI

Five Thoughts on the Third ODI

  1. Sustained brilliance: At what point does a good bowler become great? There are many different permutation to that step up, but invariably if his brilliance is ignored as being part of the norm then surely he has to be considered a great. That is precisely what Saeed Ajmal is experienceing right now. One over against Yuvraj aside, he has had a typically good series with the ball. To start off he broke the back of India’s middle order in the first T20, and finished with a five-fer that really should have won the match for Pakistan. In fact, he deserved the MOTM award, but the less said about the merits of that the better. But perhaps most pleasing has been his continuous control over India – in an era when few Pakistanis can claim to have that. After 8 ODIs against their lot – the best players of spin in the world, lest we forget – he averages under 20 with an economy rate of 4.03. In fact his overall economy rate (4.09 in all ODIs) has been the best indicator of his greatness: in an era infamous for the lack of balance between bat-and-ball, he has continued to exert control despite often bowling in powerplays and the death overs. Yet all of this was considered not worth commenting on by many (including the four 5Thoughts article prior to this) in the past week or so. Quite simply, Ajmal’s excellence is now assumed to be the natural state. And that really is where he separates himself from the rest of his generation, and why he is the leader of this Pakistani attack. HC
  2. The demystification of Kohli:  The last time Kohli played us, the he had taken 22 balls to score the last 49 runs he made in one innings. This time around, it took him five innings across two formats to match the same tally of runs. In three ODI innings, his tally of 13 runs was just a bit over half the number of boundaries he’d hit last time around. To contextualise this, please remember that the last time we played, many wise people were comparing him to Sir Viv frakking Richards, and didn’t seem to be wide off the mark. Please also remember that this was the guy that had both scored a Test century in Australia and flipped off their crowds, a guy who had captained his team to an U-19 World Cup, won the World T20 while in his teens, and added the World Cup crown just in his third year of ODI cricket – and each time he had played and celebrated with this brash, impetuous, bastard style that made you want to abuse and maim and kill him, and secretly wish that he was on your side. Oh, did I mention he’s also kinda hot? Bastard. As time passed, I began to despair that Kohli’s awkward phase might never arrive – that he would become some Greek god we would be forced to worship. But thankfully, graciously, FINALLY, Kohli come undone. And what made it special was that it wasn’t poor form or lack of confidence, it was because he purchased a luxurious villa for himself in Bunny Gala. There, Junaid Khan will be building Kohli’s Bunny villa which will stand aside the one Mohammad Asif made for Kevin Pietersin, the penthouse Imran made for Gavaskar, and of course, the mansion Razzaq made for Sachin. AN

    Junaid Khan is excited to be with his Bunny(s).

  3. Same old, same old: Pakistan confidently chased down 2 decent scores on this tour, and almost completed one which was well beyond merely decent. For a few blissful days, Pakistanis almost got the feeling that this was advent of a new era, where Pakistan would win the toss and field – and be confident about that decision. That a lifetime of shooting-yourself-in-the-balls chases was about to come to an end; that Jamshed was going to be our saviour. We were finally going to be like a normal professional outfit which doesn’t go weak in the knees as often as a Southern belle at a strip show. Well that didn’t last long did it? Everyone has their own favourite – if that’s the appropriate word – amongst the plethora. There is historic ballsing-up and there is that in a dead rubber. For many, the team and the time don’t even matter; you only have to mention the place: Bangalore, Mohali, Faisalabad, Guyana and Sydney. Oh Sydney. So, considering that all sports fans are just nostalgic beasts, it was nice of the Pakistan cricket team to remind us that they can still do what they do best. Even in the era of powerplays and scoops, of 7 footers and chuckers, of Gayle and Dilshan, Pakistan can still do this. There’s a comfort in knowing that all you knew hasn’t changed, all you learnt was of relevance. That the ability to both laugh and shout at your national team at the same time is still of some use. The bowlers bowled the opposition out for nothing and the batsmen used every tool in the book (charging to a non-spinner, getting caught at leg bleepin’ slip, etc) to completely mess it up. Plus ça change… HC
  4. Stick with Dhoni: While 30 Rock has many superb jokes in each episode, one of my all time favourites is when a character named Dennis adopts an African-American child and names him ‘Black Dennis’. When called out for being a racist, he replies “Yeah right, the guy with the black son is racist!” In a similar vein, last night I realised that after comparing India (not the team, but the entire idea of the nation) to a two-legged puppy, I had gone to some strange places in my alpha-jingo-sports-identity-euphoricinanguishingdefeat phase. But quick as a whip, I reminded myself that the guy who reveres Dhoni can’t be an Indo-bigot. And despite the attempts of the BCCI to make him look like a choot with undeserved MOTMs, Dhoni played one of the most stoically tragic series I’ve seen in a long while. And that’s probably the reason India needs to stick with MS as captain. The reason being that India’s middle order has been eviscerated by the retirement of greats. It takes teams eras to recover from such traumas, and despite all the hype, the new lot aren’t as good (yet). In times like these, the only way out is through a gritty, grizzled warrior of a leader who protects his team and its future. The template I have in mind is Allan Border, who took a post-Packer side to the cusp of greatness, swallowing bitter pills of defeats to all and sundry. Virat et al might be the guys for the future, but MS is the guy India need now. You see it in how he comes up with Mourinho-esque excuses to deflect pressure off his team, and how he manages not to chop their heads off after they still managed to stink up the place with their terrible performances. Through out the five match el desi clasico Dhoni was the only Indian player who managed to show some courage, some heart and a lot of fight. And if you can handle the derby della Radcliffe Line you can handle most of what the world has to throw at you. AN

     

  5. The nemeses There comes a time when you start to question whether international cricket teams actually research their oppositions. In this case it was when, despite Jadeja’s spell, Dhoni refused to bring on Yuvraj. Yes, he has had an ordinary series with the ball, but Pakistan are as comfortable playing left arm spinners as a man in sandpaper Y-fronts. The inability to play left arm spinners has become a chronic weakness of Pakistani batsmen. At least, as far back as 2000 – when the team made Ashley Giles look competent – Pakistan has struggled to deal with mediocre left armers. They’ve made Paul Harris look like a Test class spinner, made Monty Panesar look like Bishen Bedi, and today made Ravi Jadeja look unplayable. They, singlehandedly, kept alive the international career of Rangana Herath, and the world is thankful for it. The fact that Azam Hussain and Zulfiqar Babar were two of the best bowlers in the recent domestic season shows that the next generation and the lower rungs aren’t any more adept at playing left arm spin. The fact that teams don’t just stock up their bowling with SLA’s when facing Pakistan is something Pakistani fans should be thankful for. HC

About Ahmer Naqvi

Ahmer Naqvi is the Brian Lara of his generation. He's a genius but his team usually loses.

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