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May 28, 2013

Champions Trophy 2013

Green arrows, silver linings

Hadeel Obaid
It happens only in Pakistan: Umar Gul winning Man-of-the-Match awards with the bat  © Getty Images
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Cricket in Pakistan is for the irrational and the passionate. It draws in believers who refuse to give up hope. It's for adrenaline junkies and masochists happy in their pursuit.

There's something daring about being a fan of this team. There is no logic to be applied, no predictability. You live for each day, placing blind faith in a team that breaks your heart and then makes you love again, keeping you hungry for more each time.

Over the last five years or so analysts have diligently emphasised the need for depth in the Pakistan line-up. They've referred to stats and brought up examples from the past. There is a general agreement among the experts that consistency is the cure for the team's ills.

I have watched too many matches where I have prayed that the team bat out the allotted overs. And we are all too familiar with the feeling of impending doom, no matter how many runs our opening pair has posted. Epic collapses, record-breaking lowest totals and final-over jitters have become a way of life. Logic does not explain many of these circumstances; there are no explanations for why a team that posted 250 in one game failed to chase 167 in the next.

The government, the PCB, and the squad: all are forever in a state of flux. It's time we embraced the fact that consistency is not in Pakistan's blood. We have world-class talent but simply fail to produce world-class performances consistently enough. It's time we focus on the silver linings.

Pakistan has time and again produced brilliant bowlers who make any target seem defendable. More so, the failure of our top-order batsmen has enhanced the batting skills of our tailenders. About four years ago, in a match against New Zealand in Abu Dhabi, Mohammad Amir and Saeed Ajmal added 103, the first time a No. 10 and No. 11 had added more than 100 in an ODI . The momentum shifted, commentators went hysterical, and the familiar craving crept back into the hearts of the fans. Few may remember the outcome but the partnership showed us that we are addicted.

There is no dearth of talent in Pakistan; any street cricketer can vouch for that. Perhaps inadequate training or lack of institutional interest has left us with only one leg to stand on. We are unlikely to be as strong a unit as South Africa. Umar Akmal will not be the dependable Kohli we seek. But we must focus on what we have: a strong allrounder in Hafeez, a resilient captain in Misbah, and a bowling line-up capable of getting even seasoned batsmen to quake in their boots. We have a young pace attack with Junaid Khan, the seven-foot tall Mohammad Irfan, and the experienced Umar Gul, capable of producing magic. Plus there's Ajmal's deceptive doosra.

When in college, I learnt that you don't have to be a Pakistani to be a fan of this team. I met South Africans and West Indians whose second-choice team - after their national side - was always Pakistan. They loved the side's unpredictability. They looked forward to swinging yorkers and doosras. They gawked at our batsmen's masterful domino-like collapses.

Watching Pakistan play is pure entertainment; they consistently ensure there is never a dull moment. We are not the best side in the world - clearly the ICC rankings are self-explanatory - but we are a team with heart. Our batsmen may not measure up to the likes of Gambhir and Gayle, but as long as Pakistan cricket produces the likes of Amir and Ajmal, the green arrows and saviours, they will remain a force to be reckoned with.

As a Pakistani, I would like less heartache and more celebration. The present team is a perfect mix of youth and experience. We have seen the potential of Nasir Jamshed and the stoic match-winning ability of Shoaib Malik. Yet we continue to expect mediocre performances from our batsmen and miracles from our bowlers. It is less about ability and more about results.

Ideally a team needs to have a solid balance. Batsmen should be able to post and chase big totals. But we are far from that reality. Umar Gul wins Man-of-the-Match awards for his cameos with the bat!

Despite all its flaws, our team has the ability to turn a cynic into a believer. This is a team that does not use logic, so perhaps the analysts and experts need not look for reasons for wins and losses.

Heading into the Champions Trophy, statistics, past performances, and rationale are likely to be dismissed. I'll applaud my bowlers. I'll pray for my batsmen. And on June 7, before their first match against West Indies, the realist, the optimist and the cricket lover will all become one.

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Posted by Black-Zero on (May 30, 2013, 4:44 GMT)

Very well written article Ms.Obaid. About Shoaib Malik, I strongly believe that he has been misused as a FINISHER.If you look at his career, you will notice that his best performances came when he batted in the top order.I think that he can provide SOME stability at the top, if made opener in ODI's.Most likely with Kamran Akmal, because like Malik, his best performance has come as an opener too. Best of Luck to the Green Shirts. May the best team win the Champions Trophy. BTW,you have made me a fan.I will try to follow your blogs.

Posted by   on (May 30, 2013, 3:04 GMT)

This article typifies Pakistani cricket. Fantastic read. Nonetheless, I look forward to watching the boys in Green battle it out in the Champions Trophy!

Posted by   on (May 29, 2013, 12:20 GMT)

oh no doubt about that. hadeel your article is master class. keep shining. you have presented the true depiction of our team and nation as well.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2013, 11:59 GMT)

Malik is always there to perform against team India. Check the records.

Posted by Abbas1984 on (May 29, 2013, 10:41 GMT)

Great article by Hadeel Obaid really represents our culture and mind set of our players and people. i am also very hopeful of pakistan success and we have a great bunch of young players who just need a bit of exposure and international cricket in their home land and also we have experience players like shoiab malik ,hafeez, mesbah,and also karmran akmal he will be one of the player to watch.

Posted by   on (May 29, 2013, 7:28 GMT)

Dear Author! in referance to your point that its time we accept that consistency is not in Pakistan's blood, I would like it to put in differant words to say that professionalism is not in Pakistan's blood.

Posted by crotisn on (May 29, 2013, 6:44 GMT)

@ mredz84 and humvey90 ... I don't agree hafeez is batsman at all and got cricket brain?? Firstly Most of people knew that hafeez is not a cricket batsman. Secondly I don't agree with people saying he got cricketing brain.. World gas been change and you should be smart enough to adopt new fast world. And how on this earth a cricketing brain equipped hafeez have to have last over too spin bowler when defending 14,15 runs. Every body knows to slog a spinner is much easier than fast bowler. This is not one occasion there is whole book about him recently SA one bowler asking him I every time than u gonna be out on my bowling even Steyn teach him little bit batting.Lol Is very nice article with lot of emotions. Impressed.

Posted by cric4world on (May 28, 2013, 23:11 GMT)

@ mredz84..ur comments are exactly wat this article is about. because u r judging pakistani players and team on papers and this article says pakistani team cannot b judged on papers. one day they perform so good they can beat the best and next day they can b beaten by the worst. reading ur comments make me think u love the scoreboards and cricket stats books more then u love the game. lol. u keep talking abt average but u should know many all times great dont have very impressive averages its more about wat u do for a team.hafeez since his come back has been very good when u consider wat team he is playing for. he is not playing among kallis, ab and smith, not playing among hayden, langer and ponting either.when u talk about pakistani team u gota talk about game and not paperwork. lol. if technique is all u need to consider a player then i m sure u dont think of sehwag and gayle as a player either.thick bats shouldnt make them legends either right?

Posted by humvey90 on (May 28, 2013, 19:17 GMT)

@ mredz84 : lets come back to the original statement that was made in the article where apparently u were lost at 'a strong allrounder in hafeez' and since u checkd the ODI ALLROUNDER RANKINGS, where hafeez stands at NUMBER ONE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW! so what exactly are you talking about?, number one allrounder doesnt mean you have to be in top 10 of batting and bowling, and stop checking 'averages' he made a comeback thus he has poor avg wen he dint play well enuff and was dropped and yes recently again his form hav dipped but thtz wat cricket is all about, FYI ian botham averages 23 in ODI's would you say he wasnt an allrounder either??..and about 'young' bowlers, somtimes itz reffered to in terms of 'experience' , understand before you put in your own 'cricket knowledge' which isnt all that great clearly.

Posted by   on (May 28, 2013, 16:38 GMT)

True article Ms. Obaid. But there is one thing i would like to add. Is the number of opening partnerships that pakistan have produced. We arent talking about the successful ones that work out sometimes here and there but then fail to go pass single digits, we are talking about the total number since 2003 (so as not to exaggerate too much). Thus again proving your point... where are the batsmen???

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hadeel Obaid
Hadeel Obaid is a patriotic Pakistani and an avid cricket fan with a passion for sports writing. Fresh out of college, she works with her family in the textile industry and has written for blogs and sports websites. Hadeel is loud, energetic, loves to read and lives for good food and a live match at the stadium. Her ultimate dream is to be the first woman chair of the Pakistan Cricket Board one day.

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