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November 1, 2010

South Africa 2010

Razzler dazzles Pakistan back to life

Kamran Abbasi
The moment before impact: Abdul Razzaq winds up for a big hit, Pakistan v South Africa, 2nd ODI, Abu Dhabi, October 31, 2010
On form, no ground can hold Abdul Razzaq's power  © AFP
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Pakistan fans have been feeling like punching bags, taking one heavy blow after another. A few have even revoked their support of the national team, although true fans wouldn't do that, would they? Admittedly it has been hard mustering enthusiasm for Pakistan's cricket and its cricketers. Shorn of its best bowlers, depleted of batsmen of any substance, and betrayed by butter-fingered fielders, the Pakistan cricket team has cut a pathetic figure across the globe. A previously uplifting pursuit, replaced by the upper-cuts received by a punching bag.

Enter Abdul 'Razzler' Razzaq, a prime specimen in the tragedy of Pakistan cricket, a player of rare ability and a victim of wanton neglect. Razzler's thunderous century against South Africa in Abu Dhabi came at a moment when even the most hardened supporters had begun to despair. Was there anything of merit or joy in the current Pakistan team?

In 2006, I watched a Pakistan practice session in London. Bob Woolmer was beginning to grapple with the technical issues in Kamran Akmal's glovework. Waqar Younis was overseeing the endeavours of the pace bowlers. Eventually Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq emerged, side by side in the practice nets. What followed was not entirely professional although it was great viewing. Afridi annd Razzaq embarked on a spontaneous competition to smite the bowlers as far as possible. My money was on Afridi but the Razzler won by a clear distance. On form, no ground can hold his power and we were reminded yesterday of his rare ability to hit far, hard, and handsome wherever the ball lands.

Go back further to 1999 and Razzaq is Pakistan's No. 3 in the World Cup final at Lord's. He is a mere teenager facing Australia, the strongest team in the world. Pakistan lose, of course, and Razzaq does nothing special but in the tournament he has done enough to suggest an allrounder of genuine substance has been unearthed.

Over a decade later Razzaq's career has really gone nowhere other than some memorable cameos against India and Australia. Some blame rests at Razzaq's door, for a bowling career that waned before it even waxed and no real progression from his block or blast approach. Sanjay Manjrekar revealed on Twitter that Inzamam-ul Haq, Razzaq's frequent captain, described him as only having a first and a fourth gear.

Yet Razzaq is a perfect example of how the Pakistan Cricket Board has failed to develop cricketers for over a decade, and he is one of the most high-profile victims. Players of genuine ability keep emerging but their transition into resolute international cricketers never occurs. That transition has at least two pre-requisites. First, a country's cricket structure from domestic cricket to international cricket must have coaching systems that are capable of overseeing that development. Second, and perhaps most importantly, there has to be some logic and consistency about national selection policy.

It is this second point that Razzaq himself has identified as the curse of his career. "I always play a match as if it is my last," he says. Uncertainty creates insecurity, and a distracted player will struggle to perform optimally at the highest level. The Pakistan Cricket Board needs to take note.

Now Razzaq has shown that he has something special to offer Pakistan cricket as a match-turning batsman in limited overs cricket. How often that happens will have as much to do with his temperament as with the policies of the PCB. As a batsman Razzaq could play another five years, perhaps more? Anybody who watched Razzaq's desert blitz will have been thrilled and bemused in equal measure, bemused at how that natural ability has been squandered.

But most of all, Pakistan fans will be grateful to the Razzler for unexpectedly lifting their spirits and reminding them of why they love their team in the first place. Let's hope Razzler's dazzle also lifts the team to halt a dangerous decline in its cricket. We've all had enough of being punching bags.

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Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He tweets here

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Posted by Tahir Masood Sandhu on (December 8, 2010, 2:05 GMT)

The dazzlers have done wonders for Pakistan cricket, but only far and few. There was a time when we had the best record of runs in the last ten overs. Not any more. The innings is commendable for winning a match, which was all but lost. It has happened before but, are we waiting for such miracles to win matches, rather than performing to the best of their abilities, and fighting it out. Not just one or two but all the matches. The team was about to raise its head when the spot fixing scandal hit them like a Tsunami... The loss of Asif and Amir is going to hurt us most. The attack, minus these two, looks toothless and rather impotent. The new boys on the block, though look fairly talented, yet will take time to learn the tricks of the trade. The best thing is that, the team is willing to perform and is willing to accept Misbah as the man in charge, as they are all struggling to cement their places for long. But still, its a good omen and their biggest strength is their ability to fight.

Posted by saadjarral on (December 5, 2010, 17:00 GMT)

Abdul razzaq is one of the best one day player and he is also a fine person but i don't know why he was not in the 2007 t20 world cup any good reason behind that i don't think so. and he had scored 50 from 21 balls before 1st t20 world cup

Posted by saadjarral on (December 5, 2010, 16:52 GMT)

hi

Posted by Geo on (November 7, 2010, 13:23 GMT)

when will Afrisi learn ?

Posted by Irfan on (November 4, 2010, 13:59 GMT)

Individual performances like this always takes away the focus from our main problems. In the end Pakistan won the match! Hehaw! Were they ever close to winning it had it not been for Razzak? Naw. Dismal performance otherwise. And it's gonna get swept under the rug too. So I understand that Shahzaib is failing but 'parchi' opener Farhat hasn't done anything. Allow Asad Shafiq to play at one down and not an opener. Experimenting is not going to allow him to settle down. That idiot Afridi knows no other way then to boom boom regardless of the situation. I guess his brain which goes "hit, hit, hit" is incapable of realizing that he is the team Captain. After a career spanning over a generation one hopes he knows that not every ball can be hit. His batting pretty much sums up the total approach of the team; which is 'lack of planning'.

Posted by Khuram Khan on (November 4, 2010, 6:14 GMT)

The team was selected prematuarly and the results are there to see.Lack of physical abilities and fitness is writ allover.Then comes ability to pierce the field.This requires technique and practice.This inability of Asad,Farhat and Fawad cost us the match.Afridi does not inspire as a leader.Mentally he is apparently not in the game otherwise he would have had a more serious approach when he came to bat.Asad Shafique does not have the class to play at this level.Wicket keeper uses his mouth more than his legs and needs to be advised.Runouts could have been avoided if players had resorted to dives when needed.Our fielders not once hit the stumps.This was pathetic.

Posted by ram on (November 3, 2010, 18:44 GMT)

South africa is the best team for past several years.

Cannot say what is lacking to get on Top.!!!

Will some comment?

Posted by Vish on (November 3, 2010, 16:00 GMT)

@Amir: Many Pak fans are claiming that their team is the most attractive and can turn around from nowhere. Let's looks at Sri Lanka at the moment. Just now, they defeated Australia in one of the most stunning comeback in the recent times. Shall we call Sri Lanka the "most attractive" now? Come on guys -- Cricket is a unpredictable game, and winning once in a while doesn't make Pakistan the most "most attractive" team.

Posted by Muhammad Saidul Haque on (November 3, 2010, 6:19 GMT)

Assalamulaikum Kamran vhai, please tell mr. Afridi that South African team should & must not be ignored/avoided & underestimated everywhere. The SA are totally balanced in every department. Everyday does not belong to Abdul Razaaq. Saied Ajmal should be rested for remaining last two matches due to out of his sorrowed form. Abdur Rehman must be included in replaced over Ajmal definitely. Be realistic mr. Afridi---- you know very well about your team batting depth, winning the toss at the 3rd match, Afridi should had taken batting firstly because of different pitch condition way saying that from previous 2nd. match. Please, Afridi, never underestimate the South Africans .

Posted by muzz on (November 2, 2010, 21:47 GMT)

lethargic running today 2 run and lost by 2 runs think about it guys. is is a good job there is no drinking in dubai

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kamran Abbasi
Kamran Abbasi is an editor, writer and broadcaster. He was the first Asian columnist for Wisden Cricket Monthly and wisden.com. Kamran is the editor of the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. @KamranAbbasi

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