What was Afridi thinking?
|Shahid Afridi’s actions today rank right up there with Dumb & Dumber © Getty Images|
This weekend, I’ve seen some things on cricket fields which redefine stupidity. First cab off the rank - without even knowing what will become of the inevitable interview with the match referee, Shahid Afridi’s actions today rank right up there with Dumb & Dumber.
I write this post, barely ten minutes after the finish of a tense game in Perth, so I don’t even know if Afridi has been summoned to a “please explain” with Ranjan Madugalle or not, but I’d be hugely surprised if we see him at the MCG on Friday night. Goodness knows what he was thinking or what his excuse will be for seemingly gnawing away at the cricket ball, but as captain it really begs the question of whether he is true leadership material. He has always been accused of playing stupid shots while batting but that is also his charm and excitement. This latest incident has no up side.
I daresay there will be the usual protestations of wide-eyed innocence but I’m not sure if it will wash this time around. Umar Gul’s earnest conversation with him during a subsequent break in play seemed to be about anything but the next bowling change. Of course, that is only my guess but I reckon the dressing room would have been sending urgent messages to the captain, trying to find ways to put out fires that will burn long into the night. Actually, leading up to that incident, his leadership seemed pretty inspiring, in stark contrast to what Mohammad Yousuf's charisma looks like from afar, watching on TV. However, the TV coverage of the 'bitegate' was not pretty – as much as I love watching Afridi play, I just can’t imagine what excuse will save his skin this time.
Running a very close second to his stupidity was the (presumably inebriated) spectator who invaded the WACA ground and tackled Khalid Latif. In fact, in terms of player safety and the spirit of the game, that action deserves nothing short of contempt. It is to Latif’s credit that he scrambled to his feet with a smile on his face and did his best to make light of what was a very potentially serious incident. If he was an international footballer (soccer), Latif would have done four death rolls and writhed in pain for a few minutes until he got sufficient TV coverage and then sprung to his feet like a startled gazelle when the magic sponge was applied! Fortunately, these Pakistani cricketers are a tough bunch of lads.
On a far less public stage, I witnessed (again and again) an umpire in club cricket who persisted in dropping his lighted cigarette butts on the edge of the field as he walked out to start each new session. Apart from the litter and hygiene aspects, most of Australia is normally in the midst of some fire ban or the other. The horrors of the Victorian bushfires, barely a year ago, should still be vivid in our minds, especially considering some of those killer blazes were allegedly ignited through carelessness or murderous intent. And yet, grown adults, entrusted with some leadership roles, repeatedly do this sort of thing! My two-year old son, accustomed to coming down and playing on the fringes of the oval, picked up one of these butts and was about to suck on it in curiosity when I intervened just in time. When confronted on the issue, the umpire initially tried to deny it but soon realised that the evidence was overwhelming. Dumb, Dumber and now Butthead!
Final observation on less than clever things I’ve seen this weekend? Pakistan’s continued obsession with Younis Khan at the top of the order. With Imran Farhat waiting in the wings, a dead rubber and a batsman clearly out of his depth on Australian pitches (on this tour anyway), it seemed like a deliberate own goal to keep sending him out at No. 3. His inability to score off the short ball meant he was just pinned back in the crease, chewing up valuable balls in the Powerplay and then forced to play away from his body, nicking to keeper or slip. If it was essential that he played in all 5 games (I can’t think of why but….), why didn’t they allow him to ease into things gently at 5 or 6 when the field is usually spread and singles are more easily available?
Pakistan’s cricket this summer has been a series of inexplicable events. Unquestioned talent, missed opportunities, daft cricket at times and a real lack of sensing the moments when the game swung on a knife’s edge. It was a fitting end to the tour really, to see the game won with a lobbed catch off a waist high no-ball. I read just now that the chief selector has just resigned too. Another tour that promised so much and has so far delivered sweet nothing. Isn't that oh so Pakistan!
Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane