Posts Tagged Shahid Afridi

Does not compute

Some days, when I’m feeling particularly masochistic, I try and imagine what it must be like to be a Pakistan cricket fan. Of all the brutal, frustrating, agonizing, heartbreaking, apoplexy-inducing existences a sports fan could lead, that must at least rank in the top five. From STDs to fixes, factionalism to nepotism, idiocy to instability, and – the shit icing on the cake of festering crap – the continued presence of Ijaz Butt, Pakistan cricket has not merely hit bottom (repeatedly), it’s scraped bottom with a spatula and then broken its fingers trying to claw even further down through the bedrock with its bare hands.

Watching Pakistan play, as a neutral supporter, carries with it certain guarantees. Not many, obviously – after all, calling the Pakistan team ‘inconsistent’ is somewhat akin to calling George Bush ‘a bit dim’ – but there are a few. Umar Gul will send down some perfectly pitched yorkers. Misbah will bat as though caught in the glacial timescape of a Salvador Dali painting. Shahid Afridi will bellow and gesticulate like a deranged orchestra conductor, then do his Messiah impersonation when he gets a wicket. Kamran Akmal will fill silences with high-pitched yodelling shrieks reminiscent of a boy soprano attempting to summon sheep from high mountaintops.

He will also drop catches and miss stumpings. Lots of them.

The incredible thing about Kamran Akmal’s keeping – and, indeed, Pakistan’s fielding in general – is that you expect it to be terrible. You always know what you’re likely to see – but it’s still capable of astounding. I know I’m going to see Kamran Akmal fumble a take – ok, who am I kidding, many, many takes – that a paraplegic chimp could have nailed with ease. But every time I see him do it, I throw up my hands and yell ‘Are you fucking kidding me?!’ – or some variation thereof – at the TV screen. The incredulity is fresh every time.

After a point it becomes surreal. I’ll be as blunt as possible – I do not for the life of me understand how it is possible to be as shit at keeping as Kamran Akmal is. Ok, wait, that’s not entirely accurate – I’m probably a far worse keeper than he is. Same for my 81-year-old grandmother. Here’s the thing though – I AM NOT KEEPING FOR MY NATIONAL SIDE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL. So I guess it’s not so much Akmal’s breathtaking ineptitude that baffles me – it’s more the fact that he continues to be able to display it every time Pakistan plays. If your keeper’s performance is so consistently shithouse that spot-fixing is the less embarrassing explanation, THERE IS SOMETHING DEEPLY WRONG. Either Kamran Akmal has incriminating photos of Pakistan’s entire selection panel in flagrante delicto with minors and livestock, or…actually, no, there is no other possible rationale for his continued presence behind the stumps.

What makes it even more mindblowing is the Pakistan camp’s reaction every time it is pointed out to them that their keeper is an embarrassment and a liability, which essentially boils down to, ‘He’s not that bad. He just had an off day.’ Really? Ok, well, does he ever have ‘on’ days? Because you could have fooled us! Honest to God, someone needs to check the Pakistan drinks cart for Kool-Aid.

After the debacle of Tuesday’s match against New Zealand, during which Akmal twice missed edges from eventual centurion and MoM Ross Taylor – at least one of which should not have been missed by any wicket keeper at any level of the game unless he or she was experiencing an epileptic fit or bleeding profusely from the head –  coach Waqar Younis stated that the key for Pakistan going forward was not to panic. I entirely agree. Panic does nobody any good, and in any case Pakistan had no cause for panic. They would if they were unable to pin down the reason for their defeat.  But the reason could not have been more conspicuous if it were walking around wearing a neon sandwich board and trailing a 5-piece brass band in its wake.

Let’s be clear, I don’t think that dropping Kamran Akmal will magically turn Pakistan’s fortunes around, or that everything that went wrong against New Zealand was his fault (Ross Taylor’s blitz in the death overs was courtesy some incredibly crappy bowling, for instance). But that’s not the reason he should be dropped. If a player performs badly over the length of time Akmal has, he no longer deserves to be part of the team. Simple. Then again, affairs in Pakistan cricket are never simple. Even so, even knowing the murkiness that surrounds the team and its selection, I still can’t dredge up anything even approximating a good reason for keeping him on. He really is that bad. And Pakistan’s refusal to acknowledge that fact only makes them look like idiots. Although, in fairness, they have had Ijaz Butt for an awfully long time, so that ship has pretty much already sailed.

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I stand (kind of) corrected…

In my earlier post, I said that Clint McKay was the only man mentioned that I didn’t want to hurt, not severely, but enough to leave a nasty welt and perhaps necessitate some stitches. This was not entirely accurate, because Khalid Latif, the young Pakistani on the receiving end of the drunken-spectator-rugby-tackle-of-moronitude, was the picture of class in a situation that requires some character to handle gracefully. He got up, laughed it off, reassured Younis that he was all right, and got on with it.

Bravo, Khalid. Now do a girl a favour and try to accidentally-on-purpose smack Shahid Afridi on the head with a spare bat. You have no idea how popular you’ll be if you pull it off.

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…I have no words.

Ok, maybe I can muster up a few.

I have questions. Many, many questions.

Who BITES a cricket ball?? Is that even a thing? Nails on the seam, I’ve heard of. Using boot spikes and zippers on the ball, I’ve heard of. Face cream, spit, zinc ointment, all applications as old as the noble game itself. I had thought we’d reached the pinnacle in completely ridiculous methods of ball-tampering with that whole lozenge thing from a couple of years ago, but evidently that was before Shahid Afridi decided to bring his own particular brand of rock-fuck insanity to the party.

Did you think that no-one would see you, Shahid-bhai? Because, and I hate to be the one to break it to you, but turning your back on one camera does not automatically cause a cloak of invisibility to descend from the skies that shields you from all the other cameras that are also there watching your every move. Or did the voices in your head (of which I imagine there are many, some possibly of varying nationalities and speaking in tongues) tell you to do it, the way they tell you which innings to bat like a rabid maniac in? Was it an in-the-moment thing, like the way narcolepsy works? Was it one of those sharp violent surges of crazy – the kind that make you play suicidal shots to good balls – that flared up out of nowhere and made you hallucinate an actual literal cherry in your hand in place of the cricket ball? Did you think that if you did something that was just the right combination of totally insane and completely illegal, you could somehow confuse Australia into losing? Or distract the world from a 5-0 series defeat? Did you, in that echoey vortex of ego and lunacy that lies under your impossibly-shiny hair, think that this would make Pakistan look better, and not completely, immeasurably worse?  HELP ME TO UNDERSTAND YOU, SHAHID. I CANNOT DO THIS ALONE.

Oh, and to the guy who thought it would be a good idea to rugby-tackle Khalid Latif? Smooth move, asshole. Now the rest of the world will see for certain that it’s not just young Indian males the Australian populace seems bent on assaulting, it’s Pakistanis too! Inclusiveness FTW!

Thank you, Clint McKay, for condemning that incident right away. You are the only man mentioned in this blog post that I don’t want to smack upside the head with a boat oar.

Idiots.

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