No time to do a full-blown preview, so here are a collection of random thoughts:
Taufeeq, With You Our Future Is Extremely Bleak
Now you know why I didn't become a rapper. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is that Salman Butt and Yasir Hameed should be our openers at least until 2023. They are the two best in Pakistan, though to be fair that's not saying much. Yasir has scored a ton of runs domestically, played really well against the touring Australia A side, and would give us a right-left combination to throw off the new ball bowlers' lines and lengths. Taufeeq has been tried and tested to pretty average results. The question to ask, however, is this: how pissed off can I be about our openers now that Imran The Terrible has been jettisoned? Answer: not much. Good riddance to really smelly, crappy, disease-infested, fly-attracting rubbish.
Dropping Pollock Is A Bunch Of Bollox
I quite like this rhyming thing. I think I'll stick to it for the rest of my post. Anyway, if this Morkel fellow gets fit, South Africa are about to make a huge mistake. If you haven't heard already, South Africa are "looking to the future" and are planning on dropping Pollock and playing the two young tearaways (Morkel and Steyn), that crazy nutjob Nel, and Ntini, with Kallis and Harris doing mop-up duty. This is stupid. Pollock has an unbelievable record against us, both in South Africa and Pakistan. More importantly, our batsmen, including the best of the best (Yousuf and Younis) cannot play his style of bowling. Even more importantly, he has a psychological strangehold on our batsmen going way back to 1997, when he won them a test (and as a consequence, the series) at Faisalabad. If SA want to play both Morkel and Steyn, they should drop Nel instead. Here's hoping Morkel gets fit and SA make a huge mistake. We're going to need them to make mistakes if we want to win this series.
Yousuf, For You The Dressing Room Will Be Quite Tough
Ok, imagine you're part of a new young team that did well in a multi-team tournament for the first time in about 15 years. You and your teammates are all around the same age (mostly 23-27) and are anjoying each other's company without the overbearing presence (and religiosity) of the previous regime. Moreover, some of those who chose to excuse themselves from the setup did so on the flimsiest of excuses (being dropped from an inconsequential tournament) and then threw their toys out of the pram and signed for a rebel league, in effect giving their country a big F-You. Unfortunately, your boss made a big show of needing one of the aforementioned toy-throwers really badly, and friggin' begged him to come back, when in fact the only begging that should have been done was by the toy-thrower, for being an immature penis with a delusional sense of self-entitlement. In essence, the spoilt kid got exactly what he wanted - a bunch of attention and some money. You were good, and were treated normally. He was bad, and was treated better than normally. How will this make you feel? I venture to suggest: not good. Throw in the fact that his close friends in the team (Inzi, Afridi, Razzaq), or fellow members of the ruling cabal, depending on who you believe, are out, and you can surmise that the dressing room is going to be a lonely place for Mohammad Yousuf. Which is probably fine with him, given he has God in his life and all.
Akmal, If You Continue Keeping Like You Have Done For The Last 16 Months, Kaneria Will Bash In Your Skull
Look, I like Kamran Akmal. I really do. I think he's a great guy, has a huge heart and genuinely wants to do well. I just think that the next six months are so unbelievably important to Pakistan cricket that we can't dick around with an Akmal that is continuing to fuck up. He should be given these two tests to recover form. If he doesn't, we should drop him for the SA one-days and try someone, anyone, else. Have you seen what this guy goes to Kaneria's confidence? How many stumpings and catches has he let go since June 2006? Seriously, how many? 25? 30? 50? I have no idea, though I suspect Kaneria does. His form is especially damaging to Kaneria because Dani really feeds off wickets - once he gets one, he gets jumpy, his run-up is more bubbly, he starts spinning it more, and most oddly, actually improves his line and length despite being pumped up. The next time Dani beats a batsman, and Akmal misses the stumping and yells out "Shaaba Dani, Shaaba" I guarantee you Dani's going to lose it. We could see the first cricketer-turned-murderer ever.
Oh, wait. I meant second cricketer-turned-murderer ever.
By The Time Asif And Gul Are Done With South Africa, They'll Want To Go Back(a)
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the best new-ball pairing in the world. You want pace? Check. Swing? Check. Seam? Check. Reverse swing? Check. Control? Check. Brains? Check. Attitude? Check. Heart? Check. Yorkers? Check. Bouncers? Check. Burgeoning desire to show world that Pakistan doesn't need an overrated, balding, assholic prick to play? Check and check. I'm so excited about these two, you have no idea. This will be the first time that the two will get to bowl with each other as we the fans have gotten to know them. Consider: while Asif was in the process of becoming the man (Dec 2005-May 2006), Gul was recovering from injury and still working himself back into top form. By the time Gul had worked himself into top form (Windies last year), Asif was caught up in, uh, controversies. By the time Asif was out of the woods with said controversies (SA earlier this year), Gul got injured again. If you don't know, please let me tell you: if fit, Asif and Gul are going to destroy - destroy - batting lineups all over the world for the next eight years. It begins now.
Lawson, Figure Out How To Get Kallis, And You Will Be Truly Awesome
Dani can't get Kallis. Gully can't get him either. Hell, even Asif said in an interview once that Kallis is an exceptionally difficult wicket for him to get, and he works out friggin' everyone. Here's the bottom line: how we bowl to Kallis (and how well he bats) will determine this series. If he makes a mountain of runs, SA have a chance. If he averages less than 50, we'll win 2-0. At the end of the day, it may not even matter how well we bowl. Maybe his state of mind will prove more important. Remember, he went all Pakistani-prima donna on the South African board after he was left out of the T20 World Cup. Is he still pissed off? What his is relationship with Graeme Smith? How will all this affect his play? We can only wait and see.
Six Bowlers Or Three, That Is The Key
South Africa are probably going to play six, count 'em six, bowlers: Morkel/Pollock, Ntini, Steyn, Kallis, Nel and Harris. Pakistan will, for all intents and purposes, play three (Rao, or Row as Waqar Younis calls him, is not an international test bowler). SA will have a long tail and if Asif and Gul can get early wickets (which they will), Dani on our pitches, against this team, will be too much to handle. So much so that I'm throwing caution to the wind and giving my first bullish prediction for Pakistan.
Two nil to us, people. Two nil to us.