17 January 2011

Azhar Ali Wal Arba'een Harami

Azhar Ali as portrayed by Pakpassion.net

Last summer, when the apocalypse had come down upon the Pakistan cricket team, torn another three of my favourite players into the abyss and completely eradicated my fragile, re-awoken interest just a few months after the Yousuf-Younis-Gate catastrophe, I entirely gave up on the struggle to find any positives in the team, anything that could re-spark my freak love for this bunch of cheats, nepotists, mullahs, ball-tamperers, mutineers, matchfixers, telephone-bridegrooms, blackmailers, drug-addicts and obvious inbreds. Pakistan had to revamp large parts of their team, players were picked who I had never heard of, and so I only followed the Pak-Eng series with half an eye. 

But these 25% of my eyesight sufficed to suddenly pick up a distinctive silhouette: chubby, round-faced, and bowling legspin! PING PING PING three key stimuli were attacking my brain simultaneously, the red alarm lights started flashing and the bells went off! Pakistan have a pokeable young legspinner??? Obviously I had stepped into a pretty common trap here...

I found out that the guy's name was Azhar Ali, he did indeed start out as a legspinner, but matured into a specialist batsman and actually got picked to bat in the top order. And boy he has done a great job so far. Azhar is like one rare gem in the usual Pakistani slog sauce, among all these failed top and middle order experiments of the last year; he would rather stand in the heat for 10 hours to scrape 30 runs together than whack a six and go out dumbly (which he hasn't done so far in his entire Test career... hit a six, that is ;))*, while on the other hand he isn't a permasleeper, combines guts and patience, rotates the strike nicely and takes what's on offer. Together with late bloomer / comeback kid Mo Hafeez and Taufeeq Umar he has quietly heralded that new period of top order solidity Pakistan were craving so much, and one should hope that Pak persist with these three guys and they don't turn up fishy again like the latest herald of a new era, Salman Butt. 

With the experienced, elegant Younis and the capable interim skipper Misbah to follow at 4 and 5 Pakistan have at least temporarily sorted out their batting woes on the first five positions. Young Asad Shafiq looks like one big fat talent, Adnan Akmal isn't a world beater with the bat but his excellent glovework makes up for his batting deficits; the 30 or 40 runs he can't contribute are compensated by his keeping twice and thrice. The tail knows which way to hold a bat, and from here Pak should aim at regular 300-350+ scores.  Their bowling is potent enough to keep the opposition under pressure, despite the absence of Aamer and Asif. 

Let us hope that THIS time Pakistan have made everything right.


*Edit, he has hit a six now! Thanks Zeeshi for pointing it out!


Mudassar Ijaz said...

oh dear first I thought you have given all hope for Pakistan as well as Kiwis (a bad run) but than I thought alright may be Pakistan but Wes is going to say something someday about Kiwis aka Sheeplanders but hell she came up with a post about a Pakistani young with a title I really don't get at all :P

I seriously thought u were not even checking the scorecard of this series as most of the world is doing but there is still some hope in the world and it really makes me think about coming out of shell and say something at CV for God sake Maddy!! come on :P

Wes ~PFCNFS~ Blog said...

Hello Maddy, I am always watching a bit, because it starts at 11 pm my time so I can see a bit of it :)

Okay there is heaps confusion about the title, to make this clear:

It is not Urdu but it is taken from the title of the Arabic fairytale "Ali Baba and the 40 thieves"


Shridhar Jaju said...

Wes, every time I start showing a bit of confidence in Pakistan, they usually come up with something new!

And if they don't, there's always Ijaz Butt!

Lets see how the 2nd Test ends!

Masuud said...

Brilliant. Just one of those pieces which take you by surprise and make your day. Take a bow, Wes you legend x

Wes ~PFCNFS~ Blog said...

Shri, I hope they are going to stick with this line-up for the Tests now, although they need to look for Misbah/Younis replacements in the foreseeable future.

Thanks Masuud, had hoped you'd like it! :)

Maaaaz @ BBK (Maza786) said...

Good one Wes

Certainly has caught my eye as a personal favourite

Boring for the "average" Pakistani fan nonetheless!

Certainly a gem in the making who has composure, patience, hard work, solid temperament, guts, determination, application and technical decency.

I have high hopes for him in the years which lie ahead.

Wes ~PFCNFS~ Blog said...

Hello Maaz, I think the rock and anchor is Mo Hafeez. He is the core of the fortress at the start of the innings imho and he actually deserves his own post as well, I'm very impressed by him.

Mudassar Ijaz said...

ah Hafeez my home town boy (lived just 5 min walk from my home) I don't really remember but I guess I had seen him playing in a college near us with tape ball (10 YEARS ago) as he was pretty famous in hitting long sixes and his nick was Chanda.

He is turning into a good one but yet have to do lot better to become Pakistan premier test opener and tomorrow is the day to do it, chasing 27O+ Pakistan need his opener to give them the right start and survive before lunch.