Posts Tagged WTF
After the last post, on my feelings regarding the death of the late Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, these were the top searches that led newcomers to the blog:
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……..seriously? SERIOUSLY? Screw every last one of you.
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.
I’m a fan of bowlers. Spinners especially. In the batsman-dominated and batsman-friendly modern game, I’m usually one of those people that seethes over flat decks and run-glut games and gets disproportionately excited when a spinner notches up some great figures. Good economy rates racked up by slow bowlers make me extremely happy, which is something I’m almost certain I can’t say about most other women I know. I do have a healthy admiration for quality fast and seam bowling – I could watch Shane Bond all day every day if it weren’t for the fact that it would kill him very quickly, and he, Chris Martin and Iain O’Brien were three of the main reasons I became a Kiwi fan – but spin is the ultimate fascination.
I also quite like Graeme Swann. He’s an excellent bowler, he’s refreshingly witty and straight-spoken unlike a lot of his anodyne contemporaries, and he’s usually an amusing Tweeter. Got to love a man who can make you laugh and bowls smart finger-spin. (Daniel Vettori bowls extremely smart finger spin, and is far foxier than Graeme Swann to boot, but isn’t nearly as funny. Except when he makes unwise choices regarding his hair, but that doesn’t really count. Oh well.)
Earlier today, Graeme Swann, bowler of offspin, became the first Englishman in over 50 years to take a 10-wicket haul in a Test match, and the first to ever do so in the subcontinent. It’s a tremendous achievement, and one that he fully deserves – his talent and performance for England over the past little while leaves no doubt about that. But Swann – so affable, so popular – managed to tarnish his own achievement at the eighth wicket, when he finally got rid of Junaid Siddique to end the staunch rearguard resistance Siddique and Mushfiqur Rahim had mounted for close to 70 overs.
Yeah, he gave him a send-off. Complete with bellowed ‘Fuck off!’ and fist-pumping. Real classy, Graeme.
Let’s review a few things, shall we? First, you’re 31, Junaid is 22. HE’S A CHILD. He also plays for Bangladesh, the team you might remember as the one that always almost makes it but doesn’t quite, except for that one time against Australia that I still think about when my mood is scraping the floor and I need cheering up. Also, it’s not Junaid’s fault that you have an uninspiring and ludicrously overcautious captain, or that you and your fellow bowlers couldn’t get him or the other plucky kid battling to save a Test for his country, Mushfiqur Rahim, out earlier. The whole thing seemed to represent England’s general mood, which was sheer disbelief and something almost like righteous indignation that Bangladesh were proving so hard to dislodge, very much, “Oi! I know WE’RE crap, but you’re supposed to be MORE crap! What the fuck d’you think you’re doing, screwing with the script?!” Sorry, boys, that’s not how it bloody well works.
All these factors aside, Junaid played brilliantly, as did Mushfiqur, and they deserved to be shown some respect. England have been guilty of this several times on this tour, starting off with Paul Collingwood’s dickish crack about wooden golf clubs, and elsewhere today when Stuart Broad, having got Abdur Razzak out lbw, didn’t bother to make anything remotely approximating an appeal, not even turning around to so much as look at the umpire for confirmation. I’ve heard comments defending Swann by stating that his gesture was actually a backhanded compliment to Junaid, showing how important his wicket was, and Broad by calling his move merely overconfident, and those comments aren’t without merit, but what it looked like was disrespectful, juvenile and arrogant, particularly in light of the fact that England’s performance has actually been fairly flat for much of this Test.
I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating: there seems to be an epidemic of this kind of shitty classlessness infecting international cricket, and God how I hate it. New Zealand v Australia has already given us a massive dose, and the stage seems to be set for more of the same with Michael Clarke’s return for the Tests after his personal problems with his now ex-fiancée. Chris Martin proved once more why I adore him so by stating earlier today that in his opinion, the crowds will run wild with this, but the New Zealand players shouldn’t. They won the ICC Spirit of Cricket award last year, and this is a golden opportunity for them to prove that it’s not just BS, and that it is still possible to play hard and be uncompromising while still being gentlemen by not bringing up a man’s private heartache in an attempt to fuck with his head on the field.
Please, New Zealand, as a fan, I’m asking you nicely: don’t do it. Please. It’s not worth it. To Daniel Vettori: I get the feeling that you overlook Tim Southee’s tendency to be a douche (he certainly was against Bangladesh) because he is a young, spirited and talented player, but you’ve got to impress on him how important this is. Because it really, really is.
I’ll be watching, and hoping. Please don’t fuck this up, New Zealand.
As anyone who is acquainted with me or has read this blog knows, I am not a fan of T20s. (If you didn’t before, you do now.) I don’t hate them – I had contemplated buying this shirt, but eventually decided I didn’t want to walk around with any statement emblazoned across my chest that I didn’t fully support – but they just don’t do it for me. I hate the manufactured drama, I hate the damn cheerleaders, I hate the fact that it’s about cheap spectacle and devalues the game. Given how much I love the game (here’s a hint – A LOT) that last one is the most egregious sin of all.
So I don’t usually write about them.
But the universe has been sending me nudges that turned into prods that turned into giant neon signs reading ‘HEY DO WE HAVE YOUR ATTENTION YET’ and I have finally caved. This post will be entirely about T20s. And not just one, either.
First, I must address a small but devoted fanbase. In the last month or so, people have been led to Long (Way) Off by typing the following terms into search engines:
‘Tim Southee’ – Yes, I’ve mentioned him. I believe I called him adorable, which he can be if his hair isn’t being alarming. I have thought him an extremely promising bowler since watching his performance against England in ’08, but have not wanted to jinx him by being all ‘OMG here is the KIWIS new superstar !!!!11!!’
‘Tim Southee single?’ – I have no idea. If he is, probably not for long. And if you have to Google that, you probably don’t have much of a chance. (Sorry.)
‘I love you Tim Southee’ – Aw, that’s cute. But if I can offer some entirely well-meaning advice: he’s probably unreachable by this point. Go for the nice guy who opens the door for you at school or awkwardly compliments your perfume.
‘How old is Tim Southee’ – Dude. Do I look like your personal ReferenceBot? Also, if you’re trying to figure out if he’s legal, that is really, really creepy. (Run, Tim! Run!)
‘Tim Southee hot’ – Um. Wouldn’t go that far. Attractive boy, but he’s a kid still. Hotness might come later.
Ok, now that that’s dealt with, I can properly give plaudits to Tim for his performance yesterday. As I’ve said, he’s very young, and that was not a young man’s performance. He’s showed glimpses of that kind of nerve and maturity before, but the control he showed yesterday in the last part of the innings, and then in sealing that final over, was pretty extraordinary. Fortunately the batsmen – Brendon ‘You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry’ McCullum and my favourite imaginary superhero, Martin ‘Guppy Two-Toes’ Guptill didn’t let him down. Other people have described Baz’s unreal innings much better than I could, so I’m just going to record what flashed reflexively through my head when I saw it:
I refuse to comment further on Shaun Tait than to say: that was super-classy of you, Shaun, and look how well it worked!
And then, just when we thought the day had been action-packed enough, there was the match that hardly anyone even knew about, let alone was planning to watch: West Indies v Zimbabwe.
I am a staunch Zimbabwe supporter – when Grant Flower announced his plans to return and be their new batting coach, I was overjoyed – so I was actually pretty keyed up for this. That lasted all of ten minutes into Zimbabwe’s innings, and by the time they’d crawled painfully from 0-3 (yes, you read that right. 3 wickets, ZERO RUNS) to 105 all out, it was extremely late and I figured that even for a cricket masochist of my calibre, battling exhaustion to watch them be further humiliated wasn’t going to be worth it. So I went to bed.
My reactions on waking up this morning:
On the one hand, YAY Zimbabwe! Bloody hell, that was a spectacular comeback! Grant Flower’s still got his work cut out for him, because damn if that wasn’t some pretty abjectly pathetic batting, but still!
On the other hand: Are you freaking kidding me?!
Good God, West Indies. I mean…I have no words. (Suleiman Benn, you are exempt from this, you did a great job. Congratulations. I’m sorry this is the team you’re saddled with.) I hope to God that Chris Gayle was sitting out for even a remotely legitimate reason, because I already think he’s a tiresome arrogant ass who thinks he’s far cooler than he actually is and would hate to have to expend the energy to dislike him even more.
Ottis, I like you. I do. I do believe you’re doing your best. But if Grant’s got a tough job ahead of him, yours seems positively Herculean. I’m not exactly likening the West Indies cricket team to the Augean stables, but at this point, they both do seem to be equally full of shit.
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.