The deep thoughts of Shoaib Akhtar

Thus spoke Shoaib:

“Cricket should be about fast bowlers, not batsmen,” he said. “Spectators like to see fast bowlers running in, hurting people, and pitches that make batsmen struggle for runs.

“But now we play on good batting tracks all the time, they’ve made laws about bouncers and free hits for a no-ball.”

Discuss. Personally, although I admit Shoaib can be a bit of a dill, I think he’s got a point. Except for the bit about hurting people.

End of the road for Shoaib?

He’s managed to get himself sent home from the Twenty20 World Cup after an incident with Mohammad Asif in which he is alleged to have hit Asif with a cricket bat. Pakistan’s cricket authorities can be very forgiving, but you have to wonder if that won’t be the end of Shoaib, at least for the time being. It’s a shame, because in his pomp, Shoaib Akhtar was a magnificent sight, the very model of a modern speed demon. He made a major impression on the world stage in the 1999 World Cup and he impressed Australians like Steve Waugh on the need for speed in an attack, thus paving the way for the career of Brett Lee.

Too highly rated?

I see Kevin Pietersen has been knocked off the top spot in the ODIs by Ricky Ponting. Very difficult to argue with that – Ponting is surely the stand out batsman in both forms of the game. Looking at the other batting rankings, it is difficult to find fault, although on current form, Shiv Chanderpaul ought to be in the test top three at least. Also, I struggle to understand how Mahela Jayawardene doesn’t break into either top ten, while Hussey retains a top five place in both. He’s very good, granted, but is he top five?

Jason Gillespie

The bowlers are altogether more perplexing. For one, how can Shoaib Akhtar still be at number 10 in tests? He’s played four tests since the start of 2006 and taken only a handful of wickets. Maybe in the current game, not playing is the way to climb the rankings. Likewise, Jason Gillespie (22) is still deemed a better Test bowler than Lasith Malinga (28)!

Agreed, it must be difficult to devise a workable system. Also, stats don’t tell the full story. But things start to look decidedly suspect when you inspect the Best Ever Ratings, which is a list of players at their peak. Ponting at four is just about fair enough, given his recent dominance. However, Peter May above Viv Richards shows a flaw, while Matthew Hayden in the top ten is just crazy. KP (21) is one place higher than Sachin and two places higher than Wally Hammond. Enough said.

For the bowlers, I half expected to see the list packed high with bowlers of yesteryear, given how modern bowlers are meant to have struggled, but it does put Murali, McGrath, Pollock, Waqar and Warne in the top 15. Of course, Warne should be in the top three, if not top of the pile. Wasim Akram limps in at number 57 behind the likes of Ntini, Shoaib and Harmison, which doesn’t seem right.

That said, like most critics, I can’t think of a better way. There must be some bright spark at Cricinfo with a formula….?

The Shoaib and Asif farce

I’ve been out of action for a few days drinking my bodyweight and trying to ignore the fact I’m now closer to 30 than 20. Not to mention a flurry of “you’re halfway to 50 you old bastard” texts.

What better way to cure my groggy mind than to understand the Shoaib and Asif affair?

    They test positive for Nando Bannedo
    They are banned
    The ban is overturned. Lots of people go mentalist at the decision
    Somehow, they “avoid” a PCB dope test (last week). That was clever
    They both pick up a couple of injuries. Smoke and mirrors
    Off to the airport. The team all sing reggae in the bus, Inzamam on the steel drums
    Oh but hang on, the injuries are too bad, too serious. GET OFF THE BUS NOW

“The truth is both of them are injured and they may take even months to make a full recovery,” Nasim Ashraf said, with fingers, arms and legs firmly crossed. “The board’s medical panel will soon check them out but the chances of them recovering quickly from their injuries is very bleak.”

Complete and utter farce. But they’re not banned, they’re injured. Just in case you forget.

In other (non-Ashes) news…

There’s more cricket then the Ashes going on. Just to keep everyone up to date….

Sri Lanka play New Zealand in a two-Test series starting this morning NZ time. A thoughtful bit of scheduling, that, to not clash with the Second Test. The good news from a neutral point of view is that Shane Bond is actually still fit despite playing in the Champions Trophy, so his performance will be worth looking out for. Sadly, I don’t think he’ll ever get recognised for what he could have been- the best bowler in the world, when he’s fit and firing.

Sri Lanka have a real fast bowling find of their own in Lasith Malinga, who seems to have come on in leaps and bounds as well. Given that Chaminda Vaas isn’t getting any younger, it’s time for Malinga to stand up, and given the constant problems New Zealand have in their top order, he can really cash in.

****

Pakistan can’t stay out of the news, with the drugs ban on Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif being overturned. With all the Ashes excitement, I do not know enough about the case to comment, but it certainly will be a shot in the arm for Pakistan to have them back in the side. They weren’t needed in the first ODI against the West Indies, but there is four more to come.

And it is past time that West Indies fired up and made a statement and went out and won this series. I’ve seen a lot of West Indies in the past few months, and while they keep promising, they still haven’t actually delivered anything. There seems to be a new spirit in West Indies cricket, but they remain fragile; the onus is on them to prove that they can roll with the punches, otherwise they’ll be bit-players at their own party when the World Cup comes along.

Shoaib and his steroids

So then. What do we all think? Original story at Cricinfo if you don't know what's going on.

"I cannot say much at this time about what has happened but I just want to assure everyone that I am innocent of doing anything I shouldn't have," Shoaib told bigstarcricket.com. "The President of Pakistan has asked me not to comment in any detail at this stage and I want to respect his wishes, so I will keep my message short.

"All I can say is that I have not knowingly taken any performance-enhancing drugs and would never cheat my team-mates or opponents in this way. I have always played the game fair and I give 100 percent and do not feel that I need to take drugs to help my bowling."

And for what it's worth, The Times have a piece on nandrolone and its effects. Leave your thoughts on the whole mess below.

Video of Shoaib Akhtar “fiddling” the ball

He’s been cleared today. I’m not making any comment. Here’s the video for you to make your minds up. (click here if you can’t see it below)

The issue is more to do with Sky, than Shoaib…

Pakistan vs India, 1st ODI open thread

Pakistan won the toss, and invited India to bat.

Shoaib Akhtar is not playing, but Pakistan have struck early and India are 1 for 21 in the sixth over.

Update – Sachin Tendulkar hit 100 exactly and India have motored to 328. Yikes!

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre

That was a French General reacting to the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854. It is also my reaction to the First Test, where India, as I write, are 0 for 403, and they’ve just gone off for bad light. Sehwag is 247, and Dravid is 128. This is in response to Pakistan’s 679 for 7 declared, a total that could have been far larger had Pakistan put their minds to it.

So by my creaky mathematics, we’ve had 1,083 runs and 7 wickets.

Great. But to me, this is almost as much nonsense as that Twenty-20 rubbish. Sorry to be an incurable snob, but to me, cricket is a contest between bat and ball, not a batathon. If there is any justice in this world the curator should be impaled with a pristine cricket stump, and I am sure Shoaib, Danish Kaneria, and indeed Harbhajan Singh and Irfan Pathan would endorse my sentiments.

Trescothick- Shoaib was the difference

England opening batsman Marcus Trescothick conceded that England had been outplayed in Pakistan, and pinpoints Shoaib Akhtar as the difference:

There’s no point making excuses: we were outplayed, simple as that. They had qualities that we didn’t. Most critically, they had Shoaib Akhtar, who bowled better than I have ever seen him bowl before. Sure, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Danish Kaneria had big series, too, but it was Shoaib who kept putting us under pressure early on in our innings. Without him, Pakistan would have been a much less fearsome unit.

Shoaib is a huge figure in world cricket; a volatile, dynamic, and emotional man who has a huge role to play in Pakistani cricket, and I wrote about him at length the other day.

Trescothick also muses about the lessons England need to take from their defeat:

But the lesson here is that we have to learn to adapt. You can still be positive by scoring at two runs an over. We have to become flexible enough to control any situation.

The best example of this was our run-chase at Multan, which ended in failure and so set the tone for the series. We had two half-decent partnerships – first Andrew Strauss and Ian Bell, and then Geraint Jones and Shaun Udal – which relied on playing patiently and seeing off the bowlers. While it would have been nice to dash to a quick win – and the pitch wasn’t getting any younger – hindsight certainly suggests we were too eager that day.

You don’t get many opportunities to win games in Pakistan, so it really hurt to let that opportunity slip. We had outplayed them for most of the match, and if we had won it, I’m sure the whole tour would have been a completely different story.

In a three Test series, it is so hard to come back after you’ve dropped the First Test. Mismanaging the runchase as they did, England will have to learn if they want to do better in the sub-continent in future.