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Posts Tagged ‘Abdul Razzaq’

It’s hard to think of a sporting event with more of a fairytale ending. Perhaps South Africa’s rugby World Cup final victory in 1995, with Nelson Mandela wearing Francois Pienaar’s shirt in the stands, would come close. But South Africa were a nation at the cusp of a new beginning, a country trying to say goodbye to a deeply divisive and forgettable past. Pakistanis are currently engaged in a battle for existence, against the forces of extremism that have already dragged parts of central Asia back to the Middle Ages. Sporting victories don’t alter such harsh realities, but they can certainly do wonders for morale. When India won a Test match against England at Chennai less than three weeks after the terror attacks in Mumbai, it was so much more than just a win. For Pakistan fans who danced to Dil Dil Pakistan and We Are The Champions at the end, this will never be just another day out at the cricket. It will be THE day.
Younis Khan, who announced his retirement from international Twenty20 games after this triumph, spoke jokingly of how he was the Second Khan (after Imran) and seriously of how determined he had been to be remembered for a World Cup victory. There were certainly similarities too. Pakistan were a push and a shove from the exit when they took on Australia at Perth on March 11, 1992, and 17 years on, they were left in a situation where they had no option but to win convincingly against the Netherlands. Having been thrashed by South Africa and India in warm-up games and then outclassed by England in their opening group game, few expected much from this side.
But when needed, they made the big calls. Out went Salman Butt and Ahmed Shehzad, and up came Kamran Akmal to open the batting. When Yasir Arafat got injured, they called up Abdul Razzaq, one of the veterans of Pakistan’s run to the 50-over World Cup final in 1999. Not only did Razzaq add experience and nous to the bowling, but he was yet another sounding board for Younis in conditions that he knew intimately because of his county experience. The awareness came to the fore in the final as early wickets ensured that Sri Lanka couldn’t aspire to anything more than a par score.
But the biggest change was in Shahid Afridi. An accident waiting to happen with the bat in the early stages of the competition, he batted with a maturity that astonished even his captain in the two games that mattered. Until Isuru Udana was clubbed over midwicket late on, it would have been hard to convince yourself that it was Afridi batting. Or that it was Pakistan. So used to living on their wits and winning the hard way, they won this final with as clinical a performance as you could hope to see.
You had to feel for Sri Lanka. In tremendous form for a fortnight and with the player of the tournament in Tillakaratne Dilshan, they came up short yet again in a major final. Kumar Sangakkara and Angelo Mathews batted beautifully at the end to take them to a half-decent score, but failure to take wickets in the Power Play meant that the ground never shook beneath Pakistani feet. They also played Ajantha Mendis and Muttiah Muralitharan better than most teams have, and treated Udana with contempt, taking 44 from his four overs. It was the sort of display you associate with Australia.
And so the team who won’t be playing much cricket at home this decade, and whose players were barred from IPL riches, has proved just why world cricket can’t afford to isolate them. In the worst of times, they produced a performance redolent of the best. The thousands of fans who never gave up on their team, who turned up with faces painted and hearts thumping, deserved nothing less. This was their MCG, an evening to etch in the memory. The second Khan and his boys may just have paved the way for Pakistan cricket’s second coming.

It’s hard to think of a sporting event with more of a fairytale ending. Perhaps South Africa’s rugby World Cup final victory in 1995, with Nelson Mandela wearing Francois Pienaar’s shirt in the stands, would come close. But South Africa were a nation at the cusp of a new beginning, a country trying to say goodbye to a deeply divisive and forgettable past. Pakistanis are currently engaged in a battle for existence, against the forces of extremism that have already dragged parts of central Asia back to the Middle Ages.

Sporting victories don’t alter such harsh realities, but they can certainly do wonders for morale. When India won a Test match against England at Chennai less than three weeks after the terror attacks in Mumbai, it was so much more than just a win. For Pakistan fans who danced to Dil Dil Pakistan and We Are The Champions at the end, this will never be just another day out at the cricket. It will be THE day. (more…)

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Like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, the Pakistan cricket team’s behaviour is impossible to predict. Against England and Sri Lanka, they were horrid, especially with the bat, but against the Netherlands they were good. Today, at The Oval against fancied New Zealand, they were very good indeed. Barring another unimaginable Irish upset though, it’s safe to say that Pakistani fans can start looking at semi-final tickets.
This was as clinical a performance as anyone could have hoped for. And it should have surprised no one that the catalyst for it was a rebel. Abdul Razzaq hasn’t played for Pakistan since throwing in his lot with the Indian Cricket League and it was only injuries to Sohail Tanvir and Yasir Arafat that saw him being called up after he had torn up the ICL contract. A decade ago, Razzaq was a young star as Pakistan went all the way to a World Cup final against Australia. These days, he bowls about 10km/hr slower, but his cleverness was a big factor in a superb bowling performance after Mohammad Aamer had started the innings poorly. Razzaq had Brendon McCullum caught at point off his fourth delivery and he bowled a maiden on his way to figures of 2 for 17.
With an experienced hand ensuring that the new ball wasn’t wasted, Umar Gul was in his element with the older ball. New Zealand’s middle and lower order had no answer whatsoever to wicked reverse-swung yorkers as they went from 73 for 4 to 99 all out. Gul’s contribution was 5 for 6 from  three overs, and he was twice on a hat-trick. In faraway Kolkata, some would no doubt have wondered how much different the Knight Riders’ IPL campaign might have been if one of the world’s best T20 bowlers had been involved.
Statistically, it was the best spell ever in a T20 international, and it gave Pakistan much leeway in the net run-rate stake in a group that might not be as straightforward as some people think. But for some slipshod batting – horrid, to go back to the poem – the margin of victory should have been even more emphatic.
You could have said the same for South Africa earlier in the day. With Graeme Smith, Jacques Kallis and Herschelle Gibbs batting as though they were having a net, a total in excess of 200 seemed possible. But Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor bowled superbly in the final stages to keep the vaunted middle order in check. A target of 184 might have been surpassed had Chris Gayle and a couple of others got going. But apart from an exceptional innings from Lendl Simmons [77 from 50 balls], only two West Indians got to double figures, and neither went past 20. Like the girl with the curl, West Indies too deal in extremes.
Credit to South Africa though. Dale Steyn was fast and accurate and Roelof van der Merwe is a bruiser trapped in a spin bowler’s body. And they have a star in the making in Wayne Parnell. One of the best performers at the Under-19 World Cup last year, Parnell has made the transition to senior level without too many hitches, and today he finished with 4 for 13. The semi-finals loom large now, and the main challenge for the South Africans will be to avoid the mental glitches that have stymied them in big tournaments ever since they returned from isolation. The quality of their players and the form-guide both make them big favourites, but things are seldom so simple in a World Cup. Just ask Pakistan, who go from 0 to 60, and from 60 to 0 so rapidly that it can make the head spin.

Like the little girl who had a little curl right in the middle of her forehead, the Pakistan cricket team’s behaviour is impossible to predict. Against England and Sri Lanka, they were horrid, especially with the bat, but against the Netherlands they were good. Today, at The Oval against fancied New Zealand, they were very good indeed. Barring another unimaginable Irish upset, it’s safe to say that Pakistani fans can start looking at semi-final tickets.

This was as clinical a performance as anyone could have hoped for. And it should have surprised no one that the catalyst for it was a rebel. Abdul Razzaq hasn’t played for Pakistan since throwing in his lot with the Indian Cricket League and it was only injuries to Sohail Tanvir and Yasir Arafat that saw him being called up after he had torn up his ICL contract. A decade ago, Razzaq was a young star as Pakistan went all the way to a World Cup final against Australia. These days, he bowls about 10km/hr slower, but his cleverness was a big factor in a superb bowling performance after Mohammad Aamer had started the innings poorly. Razzaq had Brendon McCullum caught at point off his fourth delivery and he bowled a maiden on his way to figures of 2 for 17.

With an experienced hand ensuring that the new ball wasn’t wasted, Umar Gul was in his element with the older ball. (more…)

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