The Heavy Ball

One day in the Pakistan strategy room

Who says Waqar's boys don't plan? They plan all right

Alex Bowden
Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis address the media, Lahore, April 18, 2010

'It's called the un-baggy red. Nice, no?'  •  AFP

From the outside, it might look like Pakistan reel around without direction. In reality they make very specific plans, as this transcript of a team meeting prior to their visit to England reveals.
Waqar Younis: "Okay, we've got a lot of international cricket coming up in the next few months. Let's make a plan. Kamran - you take notes."
Kamran Akmal picks up a pad of paper successfully, but the pen gets away from him and flies end-over-end into the middle of the room. Waqar sighs softly, picks it up and hands it back to him gently.
Waqar: "It's okay, Kamran. I think it rolled a bit just before you picked it up."
Akmal smiles sheepishly, but doesn't say a word.
Waqar: "Okay, first things first: who's available for selection?"
(He directs this comment at Mohammad Yousuf, who's eyeing Shahid Afridi suspiciously.)>
Yousuf: "Yes, I'm available. I'll play. I'm keen to play. I'll play for anyone. I'm ready to go."
Waqar: "Okay, so you're available."
Yousuf: "Well, no, I'm retired. Unless you want me? Do you want me?"
Waqar: "Yes, I'm pretty sure we want you, if you're keen to play, we'd like you in the side."
Yousuf: "I don't know. Who's captain?"
Waqar: "Afridi is captain. You know this."
Yousuf: "Oh, er. I don't know. I mean, I am retired."
Waqar: "So you're unavailable."
Yousuf: "Unless you want me."
Waqar grimaces and decides to move on.
Waqar: "Kamran? Have you got a pencil? Can you just pencil him into the squad for now?"
Akmal makes a pained, frightened expression and a moment later the pencil spins through the air. Waqar ignores it.
Waqar: "Right, now what do... where's he gone?"
Waqar is looking at the empty seat where Shahid Afridi had been sitting. The captain has left.
Waqar: "Kamran, you can put Afridi down as captain. I'll not have a chance to speak to him about this again for a while... Ow!"
Waqar hands Akmal the pen, rubbing his eye with the other hand.
Yousuf: "Can I be captain?"
Waqar: "No. You've had your turn."
Yousuf: "Well, I'm retired anyway, so I couldn't do it even if you wanted me to. You definitely don't want me to?"
Waqar: "No."
Yousuf: "Good, cause like I say, I'm retired."
Waqar turns to Shoaib Akhtar.
Waqar: "So, Shoaib, how's your, er, your... how's your... condition?"
Shoaib: "I've got some topical balm from the chemist that's working a treat. I'm fine."
Waqar: "Excellent, so you're available too?"
Yousuf: "I'm not available."
Waqar ignores Yousuf and waits for Akhtar's response.
Shoaib: "Fully fit and ready to go."
Akhtar emphasises his point with a tiny fist pump, at which point he flinches and tries to hide a grimace.
Waqar: "What was that? What just happened? Are you injured again?"
Shoaib: "No, no. I'm fine."
Waqar: "Are you sure? Be honest."
There is a long pause.
Shoaib: "Er, well... I think I might have just ruptured my pancreas."
Waqar: "Kamran, make a... actually, hand me the pad and pen."
Waqar ducks.

Alex Bowden blogs at King Cricket. All the quotes and "facts" in this article are made up (but you knew that already, didn't you?)