X-Press Pace

This Blog is about my passion in Life. It is all about Cricket in Pakistan and wherever it is played...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Akmal may Open; Umar Gul and Rafat-Ullah called to the Camp

Hi Readers:
Have been out of the loop for a few days, I am traveling for work all this, I am actually in NYC this whole week.

Prem said in one of his posts, "No stories out of the training camp, no interviews with any of the players; no punditry; no nothing. Is it indicative of a lack of real interest? Or of lack of real money in Pak cricket (you need to be in a newsroom to understand just how the need to keep sponsors happy with frequently uploaded sites forces you to come up with stories by the hour, even when there are none)?Anyone from Pakistan with any insight into this?".

Prem you are right the interest is lacking a little bit, or not where we would like it to be. I am pretty sure there is no shortage of interest amongst people, although I do feel that there are two things that are sort of on the front burner in Pakistan right now:
1. Kalabagh Dam and the water issue
2. The political situation in N.W.F.P

Also, the final itenery coming out so late did not help to much either. I feel interviews / articles / analyses will start kicking in once the Pakistani team starts it's training camp. For those of you who don't know, the "conditioning camp" starts from Jan 5th until Jan 10th. Bobby is also returning from his deserving break on the 5th of January. Meanwhile, the 15 member squad has been announced. Pretty much the same team which played against England (which I was expecting), a few notable inclusions:

1. Umar Gul called back (returning from his back injury) after an excellent performance inQuaid-e- Azam trophy. He took 10 wickets for PIA in a 4 day game, just a reminder that Wasim Akram is coaching the PIA bowlers these days. Gul couldn't have asked for any better preparation than this. Wasim says he has imense potential and talent.

2. Rafat-ullah has been called as an opener, he is an ok opener. This years avg of 38 and a career avg. of 29 approximately. I am a little surprised at his inclusion. Although, both Inzi and Younis Khan spoke very highly of him after he made 55 in a side game against England at Bagh-e Jinnah (Lahore Gymkhana - Ground on a pitch where the ball was seaming a lot and none of the English batsman could get a decent score), but still I wasn't expecting him to be called in so soon. I doubt that he will make it to th eplaying 11 though.

3. Razzaq has been included in the camp. According to PCB he is recovering well and should be in good shape before the first test. I seriously doubt that, but I hope that he gets fit before the first test.

The rest of the players were pretty much the same: Inzamam-ul-Haq, Salman Butt, Shoaib Malik, Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Akhtar, Kamran Akmal, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, Mohammad Sami, Danish Kaneria, Arshad Khan, Mohammad Asif, Asim Kamal and Yasir Hameed.

One interesting article in this daily "The News" from Pakistan talks about some gossip doing circles that Kamran Akmal may be asked to open the innings in tests as well. It might be a good move as it will give Pakistan batting more depth and will also allow them to either play Razzaq or Shahid Afridi as an all rounder."The feeling is that if Akmal opens with Butt then Pakistan has the option of playing three specialist batsmen — Younis Khan, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf — followed at number six and seven by either all-rounders Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq or specialist batsman Asim Kamal and Shahid Afridi to give more depth to the bowling and have a fifth bowler available," the article said.

This option will be discussed in detail when coach Bob Woolmer returns from his vacation and the conditioning camp begins in Lahore. I guess we would have to wait and see, although Bobby always has something different up his sleeve and might totally shelve this plan.

The article also says, "the fact that five specialist pacers and one all-rounder in Razzaq has been invited for the camp also means that captain Inzamam-ul-Haq is dead serious about his intentions to have pitches with more carry and bounce for the Tests to allow Pakistan to take advantage of its in-form pace attack".

Only time will tell if the attack is "in-form", I sincerely hope that this is true. No doubt the bowling attack was outstanding against England, Shoaib Akhtar was a "re-defined" bowler, Kaneria was attacking all the time and the support bowlers stuck to a plan. But will they be able to do this consistently? Being a fan, I can only hope that this is true!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Pakistan's point of view on "Sight Screen"

My article on "Sight Screen" - A blog by Prem Panicker

Hi Readers:

I have been a regular listener of "Panix Station" on Rediff and I have always enjoyed Prem's expert opinion on cricketing matters. To my surprise and for some strange reason "Panix Station" stopped featuring on Rediff. Being a fan of Prem and Panix Station, I followed him to his Blog "Sight Screen".

However, during the last Pakistan - India series on Panix Station and now on Sight Screen, I felt that the discussions lack the "Pakistani Perspective". I thought that Prem should have had someone from Pakistan on his blog to discuss/comment from Pakistan's point of view as well. Also, someone with a little more insight on Pakistan cricket, its domestic cricket structure and upcoming players will not only add value to the blog but will also make discussions much more interesting. I pitched the idea to Prem and he was kind enough to make me a part of his Blog. I am really thankful to him for giving me the opportunity. So from now onwards once in a while you will see some interesting articles/opinion from me.

I have infinite passion for cricket (which by the way is not rare to find in our parts of the world). In my first post, I would like to tell you a little more about myself:

My High School Years: I went to Aitchison College Lahore. If you haven’t heard about Aitchison, it is one of the best institutions in Asia established by the British in 1886. It is the same high school that produced some of the best cricketers in the world (Majid Khan, Imran Khan and Rameez Raja to name a few). I was lucky enough to be selected in Aitchison College’s cricket team.

My College/University Years: My father persuaded/convinced/forced (whatever you want to assume/conclude) me to realize that out of a population of 140 million it would be extremely difficult, in fact impossible for me to make it to the Pakistan Cricket Team. So instead of going for trials of Pakistan under 18 (for which I was selected from my high school) I ended up at the University of Engineering & Technology, Lahore. Still not willing to let go of cricket, I played for my University as well. I ended up with a degree in Electrical Engineering and Business Administration.

My Professional Career: I was never a fan of Engineering so I started my professional career as a banker and started working for Abn Amro Bank. Abn Amro ironically happens to be the sponsor of domestic cricket in Pakistan. I could still not let go of cricket and while at Abn I was a regular member of Abn Amro Cricket Team. I worked there for two years in Corporate Banking and then decided to move to the USA to get my MBA.

While in Pakistan, I played active club cricket all along.

Vermont, USA: I got a scholarship from UVM (University of Vermont) and thus decided to do my MBA from here. After completing my MBA I got a job at KPMG LLP and since then have been working here. I still play cricket for a local club here (Chittenden County Cricket Club) and open the bowling attack for this club.

Once in a while you will see my analyses, articles and comments from a slightly different angle - from "A Pakistani Perspective"

Thanks again Prem....

Mind Games Begin

As always much before the series between the two traditional rivals began, mind games have already come into action. More so from the Pakistan side, quite a few ex-Pakistani players' have signaled warnings to the Indian camp. One example is as follows:

"Beware Shoaib and the new Pakistan" says Intikhab Alam who played 47 Tests for Pakistan and who coaches Indian Punjab team. Intikhab said, "India will have to watch him (Shaoib).... Pakistan beat England who had defeated Australia for the first time in 18 years and this has given confidence to the Pakistani team.... It will be foggy atmosphere and will be difficult to complete quota of 90 overs in a day. In such circumstances, the first Test should have been played in Karachi. The weather conditions are different in January and February. Last time, India had visited Pakistan in the month of March and April, and this will make a lot of difference....This Pakistani team is not the one that lost early last year"


I think there are some very interesting observations made by Intikhab, but I am sure the Indians will do their homework pretty well. Also, another very interesting aspect is that Greg Chappell has coached in the Pakistan Cricket Academy and will thus have first hand information on many of the young Pakistani players who are now in the Pakistan Team. Chappell will also have a very good idea of the conditions under which India will be playing as he had coached in the Pakistan cricket academy in the winter months as well.

How much of these mind games will have an impact on the Indian camp is difficult to judge but they would be carefully read and analyzed by the Indian camp for sure.....

In fact some of these mind games have already woken one Indian giant. Sehwag confident of taming Pakistan according to HTCricket.com. "If they give us bouncy and seaming tracks they will struggle against our attack because their batsmen are not technically sound", said Sehwag to a query that Pakistan is thinking of preparing bouncy tracks.

However, legendary cricketer of the yesteryears Imran Khan rates Pakistan as favorites Pak favourites against India: Imran . According to Imran, skipper Inzamam-ul Haq and pace ace Shoaib Akhtar are a match-winning pair, the former captain said even home conditions were favourable to Pakistan during this time of the year.


But I still believe only time will tell.......

Pakistan vs India 2006 - The rivalry resumes

Forget Yankees vs. Sox, the "Ashes" or Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier. It can't get more intense when more than 1 billion people are watching two of the best cricket teams in the world. It is a test of nerves, skills, fire and passion of 11 players from Pakistan chosen from a population of 140 million vs. 11 players from India chosen from a population of more than 1 billion. Expectations aren't scalable as cricket is nothing less than passion for 1.24 billion people on both sides of the borders. So fasten your seat belts and get ready for action.....