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Friday, January 1, 2021

retirement and politics of Pakistani Cricket

At  Adelaide, the Test is in a far different position than what Cricket Australia or any other Australian Cricketer thought of.  The scorecard reads :  India 244 (Kohli 74, Starc 4-53) and 9 for 1 lead Australia 191 (Paine 73*, Ashwin 4-55, Umesh 3-40) by 62 runs.  In the day-night Test first day saw 7 wickets fall and in the 2nd 15 tumbled.  It was an object lesson for Indian selectors too, who had sidelined Ravichandran Ashwin, who rightfully deserves places as numero uno spinner of their attack. 

Away from Indian Cricket, this post is on a retirement.  The first price of popularity is that one is hounded quite often of ‘retirement’……… the great genius writer Sujatha in his heydays was confronted in a student’s forum with the Q  : Sir, when will you stop writing ? Pat came the reply – ‘in the night ~ when I feel too sleepy’………… ~ one need not be guided by the Q and can have one’s own way !! The Genius Little Master  SAchin Tendulkar was haunted with the Q of his retirement .. .. and so many critics were speaking of the retirement of the mercurial Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Pak Cricket was rocked – or was it that some of their important figures knew it well before ? -  On 1 November 2011, two of their pace bowlers  were convicted at Southwark Crown Court, along with another premier leftarm pacer  who had previously pleaded guilty, of conspiracy to cheat at gambling and conspiracy to accept corrupt payments.  The man was sentenced to 6 months in Feltham Young Offenders Institution, whilst the two others  were sentenced to 30 months and 12 months in prison respectively. The pace bowler  was later transferred to Portland Young Offenders Institute in Dorset, from which he was released on 1 February 2012, having served half of his six-month sentence.

Just like West Indies, in Pakistan too, fast bowlers come out of nowhere.  Sometimes they get recognised even before they play their league, if some of the power that be spots the ‘speed gift’ – one recent example was  the  fast-tracking of Mohammad  Hasnain to the top echelons of cricket. He was a club cricketer at 12, a Pakistan Under-19 player at 17, a Pakistan Super League pacer at 18 and a World Cupper at 19. The big break into the squad of 15 for England was on the back of the much-publicised 151 kph thunderbolt he bowled for Quetta Gladiators in the PSL.  Pakistan, historically, has a weakness for speed demons. They make them jump the queue, put them on a pedestal. They even vote them into the Prime Minister’s office.

When India toured Pak in 1978 after decades, it was Sarfraz Nawaz and Imran Khan.  Then at Delhi, Sikander Bakht  who had been  included in the team in place of Ehteshamuddin jumped to fame.  Other than legends like Wasim Akram,  Waqar Younis, Shoaib Akhtar – there were many others too, but they faded sooner.  Remember a Paki left armer debuting against India in 1983.  Azeem Hafeez went on to play 18 tests though he had a big challenge, he had two fingers missing on his right (non-bowling) hand.

Now comes the news that Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Amir has announced his retirement  from International cricket, as confirmed by the PCB. Amir represented Pakistan in 36 Tests, 61 ODIs and 50 T20Is, and recently played in the inaugural Lanka Premier League for runners-up Galle Gladiators.

"Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Wasim Khan spoke with Mohammad Amir this afternoon following reports that the fast bowler had announced his retirement from international cricket. The 28-year-old confirmed to the PCB chief executive that he has no desires or intensions of playing international cricket and as such, he should not be considered for future international matches," a PCB statement said. "This is a personal decision of Mohammad Amir, which the PCB respects, and as such, will not make any further comment on this matter at this stage."

The statement serves as another reminder of the extent to which relations between Amir and the current team management have broken down. It came off the back of an interview he gave to Samaa TV earlier on Thursday, in which Amir claimed he had been "mentally tortured" by the team management, taunted frequently and was being deliberately sidelined by them.  "I am leaving cricket for now because I'm being mentally tortured. I don't think I can bear such torture. I've borne lots of torture from 2010 to 2015, for which I served my time. I've been tortured by being told the PCB invested a lot in me. I'll just say two people invested in me a lot: [former PCB chairman] Najam Sethi and [former Pakistan captain] Shahid Afridi.  Discontent had been simmering for a while before finally coming to a head on Thursday. Amir, who retired from Test cricket last year, had found himself excluded from the PCB's list of central contracts earlier this year, and omitted from Pakistan's 35-man squad to New Zealand last month.

Upon that squad announcement, Amir said on Twitter "only Misbah" could explain why he hadn't been included, before criticising bowling coach Waqar Younis for talking about his workload. That, coupled by Amir's frequent praise of former Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur, at one point saying he would "love to play under Arthur for any side in the world", offered insight into how he viewed his relations with the current coaching staff. That he singled Sethi out for praise in his statement is unlikely to have played too well in front of his successor Ehsan Mani or CEO Wasim Khan, further condemning Amir to international exclusion.

The 28-year old is still widely sought after in T20 leagues around the world, which his complete international retirement should allow more time for.   Bursting onto the international scene in 2009, he played a pivotal part in the 2009 T20 World Cup final against Sri Lanka, dismissing Player of the Tournament Tillakaratne Dilshan in the first over as Pakistan clinched the title. He would go on to take five wickets in the Boxing Day Test later that year, and continued to torment Australia in England in 2010, taking seven wickets at Leeds as Australia were skittled out for a first innings 88, and Pakistan won their first Test against that opposition in 15 years. Five wickets at Lord's against England were next before the spot-fixing scandal erupted.

Following his comeback, he was never quite at that scintillating best, though glimpses of that outrageous talent were obvious from time to time. The spell with the new ball in the 2017 Champions Trophy final may be his most famous, as he removed Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan to set up a romping 180-run win.

The controversies and politics of Pakistan are too deeply mired and cannot be understood perhaps by outsiders.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


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