Thursday, September 21, 2006

Ijaz, the Fraud

So cricinfo decides to commemorate Ijaz Ahmed's birthday today, calling him a "man of many hundreds", a "gifted and prolific batsman" and telling us how valuable he was because of 6 of his 12 hundreds came against Australia. See, this is what happens when sports writers go by just numbers and statistics. In actual fact, Ijaz was one of those annoying players who was never good enough to win an important test match but never bad enough (at least compared to the all star bunch of Pakistani middle order batsmen in the 90s not named Inzamam) to be dropped. Every time he'd come to the crease when the chips were down, using that god-awful stance, I just knew he was going to get out. And he always would. He never did anything when it mattered and scored all his runs either when (a) against average or below average bowling attacks or (b) the series was over or (c) on dead pitches.

Need proof? Ijaz's first hundred came in the late 80s against a bowling attack of, wait for it, Bruce Reid, some guy named Anthony Dodemaide, Steve friggin Waugh as first change, and three spinners: Tim May, Allan Border and a leggie called Peter Sleep. His next hundred (fine, I'll admit it) was a good one, coming in the second innings as we chased an impossible 430 at the MCG. Number three came in a dead rubber match, in an era in which Australia were kings of losing dead-rubber matches. The next one came in the very next match against a formidable New Zealand team, whose bowling consisted of Danny Morrison, Dion Nash, Cairns, Dipak Patel and Gavin Larsen, who weren't exactly Bond, Tuffey, Oram and Styris. (That was a joke; only Indian readers will get it).

Anyway, our prolific one-down next made a hundred on the deadest Headingley pitch ever. I distinctly remember watching this match, completely flummoxed by the fact that Wasim and Waqar didn't run through England like they always did, and ended up conceding 501 in the only innings England batted. The next two came against average New Zealand and Sri Lankan teams. Next came another dead-rubber hundred, this time against a West Indies team so good, it was the first to be given a 3-0 whitewash by Pakistan. Number 9 was another gem against Australia, on a pitch which yielded 18 wickets for almost 1500 runs. He reached double figures with an innings which, as usual, would mean nothing, because there was no way we were going to chase more than 400 against Australia in less than a day. His 11th was a good one, because it helped us beat Sri Lanka and win that Asian Test Championship thing, which was more famous for being the first time most of the world was introduced to what is known as the Shoaib Akhtar yorker. And our man of many hundreds made his last one in yet another dead-rubber match, again not making any impact on the game.

Am I being too harsh? I don't think so. Compare his hundreds to Inzi's, which always seem to come when (a) we're in a seriously tough position, (b) we're pressing for a win or (c) when there're 150,000 Indians screaming for blood. What did Ijaz ever do when we needed him? Against good bowling attacks, or on difficult pitches? Nothing. In terms of importance of series/difficulty of opposition and conditions, these were Pakistan's toughest test series (because one-days don't count as cricket) in the 90s: '92 in England, '93 in the Windies, '94 at home vs Australia, '95/96 in Australia, '96 in England, '98 in South Africa, '98 at home vs Australia, '99 in India and '99/00 in Australia. Taking dead rubber matches out of the equation, here were Ijaz's numbers for those series: DNP against England, DNP against the Windies, 27 against Australia, 38 against Australia, 68 against England (remember, the dead Headingley pitch), 15 against South Africa, 140 against Australia (remember, the 1500/18 pitch and the good-for-nothing 4th innings in the third test), 10 against India and 23 against Australia. His numbers are atrocious when you look at them with a discerning enough eye. But that's the thing: you HAVE to be discerning when looking at a guy's stats. With crappy teams, easy pitches and useless bowlers around the world these days, anyone can have a healthy average and look like a good/great batsman without actually being one (look no further than Yousuf before 2006). But it's the Inzis, Dravids and Steve Waughs, the guys who produce against tough teams, against tough bowling attacks and in difficult circumstances who can be truly called great batsmen. Ijaz didn't so he isn't.

1 comment:

Moss J said...

Yah but please dont forget the 139 he has scored against India in pakistan when he hit all those sixes. That was truly a cracker of an innings.
I do agree that ODI is not as weighty as test cricket, but that was one enjoyable innings or what?