July 17, 2010

Pakistan

Chirpy Warnie, grumpy Chappelli, and a nutty Afridi

Andrew Hughes
Shahid Afridi and Mohammad Amir watch their team self destruct from the Lord's balcony, Pakistan v Australia, 1st Test, Lord's, July 16, 2010
Afridi rues not having resorted to a childish attention-grabbing stunt in his last Test match  © AFP
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One of the pleasures of the enthralling first Test at Lord’s was listening to Shane Warne. I emphasise the word "listening". On camera, Warnie is a slightly alarming presence, sporting a tan suggestive of a fortnight at one of Mercury’s more exclusive resorts and teeth that could guide trawlers to port on moonless nights. But safely ensconced in the commentators’ booth, he is an uplifting contributor who rivals Harsha Bhogle in the congeniality stakes.

For instance, I have yet to hear the game’s greatest legspinner utter a negative syllable about anyone or anything. All of life’s unpleasantness is encapsulated by the word, "rubbish", a word he occasionally uses to describe such diverse phenomena as inaccurate bowling and negative personality traits, but only to confirm that such things are entirely absent from the make-up of the player under discussion.

Optimism and generosity of spirit isn’t for everyone though, so viewers in need of an alternative had the option of tuning in to Test Match Special, where Ian Chappell was holding court. Gruffer than a billy goat recovering from laryngitis, he seems to have discovered new frontiers of grumpiness since I last heard him; at one point managing to inject bile, belligerence and bad temper into an anecdote about learning to ski.

Still, sometimes only plain speaking will suffice. Invited to assess the performance of Pakistan’s Test captain, Chappell remarked bluntly that he seemed to have gone backwards. Those of us willing the luxuriant-haired one to succeed could only concur as we watched him embark on a cricket-themed suicide ballet. Nineteen balls, 33 runs and then, the crazy icing on the failure cake, a spur of the moment resignation. Top that, Salman.

Still it’s not too late for showman Afridi to sign up for one of the many amusingly-named domestic Twenty20 teams. Yes, like an epidemic that was once briefly in the news, turned out to be duller than expected, but hasn’t yet gone away, the Friends Provident Twenty20 persists. A flurry of fixtures signifies that we are approaching the outskirts of the quarter-finals as those teams who have qualified for the next bit attempt to secure home advantage and those teams who can’t possibly qualify attempt to avoid injury while fulfilling their contractual obligations.

After witnessing all of Thursday’s play at Lord’s, I fought the impulse to switch off the county action and found myself watching a collective, calling themselves The Steelbacks, playing against Lancashire on a pitch that had been laid out by a groundsman with a keen sense of the comic potential of the absurd.

“That’s out of here!” roared the man with the microphone as one batsman lobbed a gentle slog sweep forty yards. In a Test match, such a shot would have resulted in a comfortable catch at shortish midwicket, but on a pitch reduced to back garden dimensions, it sailed over the rope and landed in the acres of space between where the boundary ought to have been and where it actually was.

My daughter is only six and I’m fairly sure that, granted a stiffish following breeze, she could reach that boundary with her size one plastic bat. Earlier during the day, a pre-recorded Clive Lloyd had suggested that Twenty20 is an exhibition. This was more like a family fun day. All that was missing was a coconut shy at square leg and Pakistan’s newest former captain running the tombola.

Andrew Hughes is a writer currently based in England

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Keywords: Commentary

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by alex blackman on (July 31, 2010, 15:10 GMT)

Forgive me again but Andrew Hughes's humour made me laugh so much I forgot what the article is about!!

Posted by Mitcher on (July 18, 2010, 8:15 GMT)

Arslan Ahmed Butt: I apologise if i've misunderstood the intention of your comment but if you're saying ponting doesn't attract people to cricket like afridi then you're kidding yourself. Look at ponting's sustained record which includes piling on runs at great pace in all forms of the game (don't forget brutal innings in world cup finals etc). No doubt Afridi is an excitement machine but producing the goods 5 per cent of the time isn't enough. Talk to me in 20 years and we'll see who everyone remembers..

Posted by Bilal(pak) on (July 18, 2010, 6:25 GMT)

I want say something to Afridi please don't resign from test cricket because no one else you to create a community with our team of Pakistan so please carry on it i m big fan of your's take care of yourself and best of luck for the next time.Bilal(pak)

Posted by Ali on (July 18, 2010, 6:03 GMT)

Afridi, Good luck for t20's and in odi's... Good decision and at right time if you retire after second test against australia, It would have been too late and it would have been open too much debate that PCB made Afridi to retire... bla bla

Posted by Mehdi Akram on (July 18, 2010, 5:42 GMT)

Afridi should not retired now.

Posted by Nadeem on (July 18, 2010, 4:58 GMT)

Ian Chappel is best in the business, knowledgeable and straight forward.... as far as Afridi is concerned, it's a very courageous decision but wrong timing...

Posted by Abid Mashwani on (July 18, 2010, 2:43 GMT)

@shahzeb Nawaz, I totally agree with you that "the guru" Mr. Malik is using Akmal brothers effectively. Whenever a captain sat Malik out, we saw outrageous collapse of Pakistan inning, before batsmen showing some guts (I should say showing some form to cement their place in the team for next game) when match is already being lost.

We saw it when YK and MY rested Malik, and we saw it again in the Lords. Therefore, I will suggest Pakistan drop Malik (for ever from test side), drop K Akmal from test side, and see how drastically things improve.

But unfortunately, S Butt is one of the character in same episode, now we will see Malik back in the team, Akmals showing more guts, and Pakistan back to 2008.

Very unfortunate for a talented side due to bad management at the PCB level.

Posted by Arslan Ahmed Butt on (July 18, 2010, 0:36 GMT)

you just say 15 year of his career. Look at my friends Analysis Shahid Afridi and Ricky Ponting Careers Shahi Afridi Career Matches Debut in 1996 Tests 27 ODIs 296 T20Is 35 Ricky Ponting Career Matches Debut in 1995 Tests 145 ODIs 351 T20Is 17 see the difference u know one thing more he is business player no one come in ground to watch live cricket for Ricky Ponting Al thou he is great player and have record. Shahid Afridi is a Game thats y People Call him B00M B00M

Posted by z. Khan on (July 18, 2010, 0:21 GMT)

Laugh Out Loud ..Afridi (one test player who didnt know anything about test cricket) retires for another Salman Butt( another player who after 10 years have finally started making 70 runs) , what a joke , i am ashamed to be a pakistani , these guys are a joke . This is a jokle for pakistan and its cricket.

Posted by Sadia on (July 17, 2010, 23:46 GMT)

Afridi is fair enough in making his decision at right time.we should not expect miracles from Pakistan team,they need time to give results.no comparison between Australia n Pakistan teams.Aussies have experienced players,whereas pakistan team has no experience in terms of test cricket.still they shown great courage n talent in first match. Kamran akmal should b sent as opener or at no2,bcz he is doing nothing at no6 with showing no responsibility at all.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Hughes
Andrew Hughes is a writer and avid cricket watcher who has always retained a healthy suspicion of professional sportsmen, and like any right-thinking person rates Neville Cardus more highly than Don Bradman. His latest book is available here and here @hughandrews73

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