Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pakistan-West Indies Preview

Ah, the life of a graduate student. Here we are, 35 minutes before the start of play, and I'm only just getting down to writing a preview I had planned to do 4 days ago. No matter. Previews are nothing like justice. In other words, it really doesn't matter if they're delayed.

Instead of trying to predict things, which as our 9 readers know I'm horrible at, I'm just going to highlight some of the key battles to watch in the series. Onwards we march.

Umar Gul vs. The World
Is there a more likable cricketer in Pakistan right now than Umar Gul? He doesn't go to nightclubs, he doesn't smoke hash, he doesn't take steroids, he works hard, he keeps his mouth shut and he gives it absolutely everything he's got. This is exactly why I'm already starting to feel sorry for him, and the series hasn't even started yet. Think about it. He's going to be sharing the new ball with either Shahid Nazir or Samiullah Niazi, who between them have 10 tests and 23 wickets to their name. He's going to be bowling on pitches that give him absolutely nothing, the type we saw earlier this year against India when scoring a hundred meant you only did what was expected of you. And he's going against a batting lineup which, when it clicks, can absolutely murder you. Gayle, Sarwan, Chanderpaul and, of course, The Prince. Let's wish him luck. He's going to need it.

The Prince vs. Danish Kaneria
Fortunately the last time we played the Windies, I was interning in DC which precluded me from being able to watch any of the action. I did follow it on cricinfo though. I loved those overs from Kaneria which looked like: 4.44.2 or 6.44.4; they were a real blast. To his eternal credit he played a big role in our win at Jamaica and got The Prince for good measure. But let there be no doubt: Brian Charles Lara is the best player of spin in the world by the proverbial country mile. No one comes close to being able to do what he can do on his day. He's played Murali better than anyone else in the world - including the Indians - and he's completely destroyed Warne, who was dropped from the Test team in '99 after the mauling Lara gave him in the Windies. Dani is an excellent bowler who had a bad series in England this year, primarily because our batsmen never gave him enough runs to play with (a point Michael Atherton kept harping on throughout the series) and because some of the umpiring decisions that went against him were some of the more ludicrous I've ever seen. He's going to need to be at the absolute top of his game here - if Lara gets to him to the extent that Inzi has to take him out of the attack, it's over for us.

Younis and Yousuf vs. The Law of Averages
In his last 15 tests, Younis has scored more than 1800 runs at an average of 70 with 6 hundreds. In the same time period, Yousuf has played 14 tests, scoring more than 1700 runs at an average of 74 with 7 hundreds. These are not normal numbers. No matter how great you think both of them are (and they're certainly up there in my book), they can't keep this up forever. Will gravity get the best of them in this series? I don't know. What I do know is that its unrealistic, not to mention unfair, to expect them to show the form they've shown in the last 18 months. Other people have to step up. Which brings me to...

Imran the Terrible vs. The Forces of Sanity
Ok, so maybe comparing Imran Farhat to the guy responsible for serfdom in Russia is a bit much. On the other hand, at least Ivan the Terrible brought Tartary and Siberia into the Russian empire. What the hell has Farhat ever done? This guy is such a catastrophic choice as opener I can't even tell you. He plays extremely low percentage shots; he's liable to get out the same way at 9 as he is at 46 as he is at 91 (if he ever gets that far); he hogs for himself all the good luck we're deemed to deserve (notice how many times he's dropped and then compare it to how many times Inzi/Younis/Yousuf are dropped); and on top of all that he can't catch. It is an absolute travesty that he's in the team ahead of Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed (most likely, from what one can infer from Inzi's quotes). He needs to be dropped. Right now. I'll go so far as saying that for the first time in my life, I will be rooting for a Pakistani to fail in international cricket. I will absolutely be on the Windies bowlers' side when they're bowling to him. And I am not ashamed to admit it.

Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards vs. Conditions
Why, hello, Mr. Taylor. Mr. Edwards, how nice to see you! Such a pleasure. Please, have a seat. We hope you enjoy your stay in Pakistan, where it's going to be hot, where the pitch will give you absolutely nothing, where the new ball will barely move (let alone the old) and where foreign quick bowlers come to die. I take it you've never played in conditions like these before, have you, gentlemen? Well, bon chance to you in that case. If you're looking for advice, speak to your teammate Corey Colleymore, who will be the biggest threat to Pakistan's batting in this series by keeping it straight and keeping it simple. If you try and get too clever, you're going to look like Steve Harmison did back in December last year. In other words, don't try and get too clever.

Dwayne Bravo vs Shahid Nazir/Samiullah Niazi
The battle of the X-factors. Bravo is so important to this Windies team. He's come on leaps an bounds, both with his batting and bowling, and has the potential to develop into a genuine Test all-rounder, if he's not already not there. He's going to be expected to score runs in this series at no. 6 and stave off the Windies' penchant for collapsing plus chip in with at least 15-18 overs every day. Meanwhile Umar Gul's new-ball partner has to, simply has to, bowl well. Even if SN/SN doesn't take wickets, he has to keep the runs down and not let Gayle off to a rollicking start. He has to build pressure on one end and hope that Gully and Dani are good enough to do the job. In other words, he has to be anyone but Mohammad Sami. Can he do it? I think so, but we shall see.

The Team That Keeps Collapsing vs. The Team That Can't Possibly Hope to Take Wickets
I know I said no predictions, but I can't help myself: 1-1.

1 comment:

Farooq said...

3 fantastically quick wickets for Nazir. Already ure eating crow. I say bring on the world cup and extend asif's ban for another year.