Tuesday, November 3, 2009

An Open Letter to Imran Farhat

(a version of this article was published yesterday in Dawn and can be found here)

Dear Imran Farhat,

So, you’re back. I’d tell you it’s good to see you again, but it’s not. You must be over the moon, what with being picked for all three formats. Why, you must think you’re a regular Kevin Pietersen, eh?

Well you’re not, Imran. I haven’t forgotten who you are. You may be a year or so older. You may be a day or so wiser. But underneath all that flash, beneath all that ICL bravado, you’re still the same guy who’s going to perpetuate our opening problem. You’re still the same batsman who miscues an ambitious pull shot. You’re the same player who will attempt a cross-batted hoick across the line of the ball for no reason other than your own ego. And you’re the same guy who helps perfect the opposing side’s slip-catching skills.

I’ll give you one thing Imran: you must be one helluva husband.

Your wife probably has only good things to say about you to her parents, because not many father-in-laws would accost the coach of the international cricket team, berating him for not selecting his precious son-in-law out of, ironically, bias. Even fewer father-in-laws would threaten the national selectors for not picking the apple of his daughter’s eye for the Pakistan team. But I suppose that’s the kind of class act your dad-in-law, Mohammad Ilyas, is, eh? And how does the PCB choose to handle an individual who allegedly threatened to “start a war” against their selection panel? Make him part of the selection panel, of course. I suppose their skewed logic is that those primed to do the most damage to the system should be placed in a position of power within that system so they have a stake in its survival. One can’t really blame the PCB for such logic since the apex of the Federal Government’s been applying that strategy as well. Wonder how that’s working out?

And what was Mr. Ilyas’s first order of business? Restore you, Imran, to your “rightful” position, of course. Most might say that something fishy’s afoot. But not me. I think its one big, freakish coincidence. It’s not like your numbers don’t justify your inclusion. A healthy average of barely above 30 in both major forms of the game make you a shoe-in for any Wisden World XI team. And your discipline? Exemplary. Some called you a crybaby for phoning up a selector in the middle of the night and demanding to know why you’d been dropped. But I figured you just wanted to say “hi”. Apparently it got so heated that you were fined for dissent. It doesn’t stop there. When you jumped ship for the ICL you took a few more shots at the PCB for assassinating your career, as if your lazy wafts outside the off-stump weren’t the true culprits.

So kudos, Imran – you can’t bat competently, but I’m sure you are one exceptional family man. I can just see the case Mohammad Ilyas made on your behalf in front of the selection committee. Sure my son-in-law has no patience outside the off-stump. But he always asks my daughter how her day went when they’re on the dinner table. Granted he will give his wicket away carelessly, thereby enhancing the pressure on our other batsmen. But apparently he volunteers to do the dishes on Tuesdays and Saturdays. And his lack of foot movement is completely offset by the fact that he lets his wife handle the remote when they’re watching television.

The fact is Imran, you’re back and there’s no use crying about it. Just show up, make your random 30 odds and scratchy half centuries, and then leave us be. Pakistan cricket is at a very important stage right now. We’ve been deprived of home games and yet we’ve managed to win a World Cup and make it to the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy. We’ve got a couple of young players in Umar Akmal and Mohammad Aamer who have it in them to ensure a very bright future for our team. And what’s more, we as a nation want revenge this time around. Beating New Zealand was supposed to be a sure thing, like it’s always been, which is what made it all the more traumatizing to lose to them in the Champions Trophy. We don’t want to beat them. We want to maul them. I’m sure you figure yourself to be the man to do the mauling. Sadly, you’re not. You’re not even the original, unreliable Imran. Now that kid could maul. Pity about the temperament, though.

So enjoy yourself, Imran. Don’t get too comfortable and please, don’t do any lasting damage while you’re out there. When you’re in the nets, don’t drive a ball straight at Saeed Ajmal and cause him bodily harm. He’s the best thing to happen to Pakistan off-spin bowling since Saqlain Mushtaq and we’ll need him in the tests against New Zealand. Furthermore, if you’re ever in the locker room and arguing with Shahid bhai about whether youngsters like Umar Akmal respect you, don’t grab a bat and start swinging at Umar. Akmal’s a national treasure. Furthermore, you might meet two guys while you’re training with the team: Ahmed Shehzad (though he’s not selected) and Fawad Alam. Both of them have the potential to be extremely successful and productive batsmen for Pakistan. So steer clear of them and don’t offer them any pearls of wisdom such as: “always charge down the track when the ball is full and swinging”. Just point them both towards the direction of Younis Khan and you’ll have done your bit for Pakistan cricket.

You know Imran, you may very well have a good series, maybe even comparable to that glory tour against the same team a few years back. You’re even capable of a test century or two. But you’re not a long term solution. You’re just another in the line of ICL alums whom the selection committee insists on trotting out even though they forget that they were dropped for poor performance in the first place.

Enjoy your run, Imran. My regards to Ilyas sahb.


Divine Justice

This is a small point, but how frustrating must it be for a player to do all the hard work and then watch an undeserving team mate reap the awards?

Case in point: the first 10 overs in Pakistan's ODI against NZ.

Umar Gul, while not bowling terribly, was easily the weaker link of the attack. After starting well enough with a maiden, he leaked 10 runs in his second over and was smoked for 3 fours in his third, altogether leaking 23 runs in his first 3.

At the other end, Aamer was immaculate. Mixing his length and generating the odd lift from the pitch, Aamer repeatedly beat the edge, rapped the pads and grazed the stumps. He made Aaron Redmond, and McCullum to a lesser extent, look like schoolgirls.

But, as fate would have it, first blood went to Gul.

This is hardly a rare phenomenon, but it just got me wondering how frustrating it is for a bowler. Forget the idealistic "who cares, its all for the good of the team" argument. It must have really sucked for Aamer to see Gully walk away with that first wicket, eh?

I'm sure most of us can relate. Lets say you're working on a project for your firm along with a colleague and you're putting in the hard hours, producing some excellent memos / research pieces when one day, you walk out of your room to go to the bathroom at the same moment your boss walks in and congratulates your colleague for all the good work done and promising him a raise when he's actually just been sitting on his ass the entire time eating super crisps. I dont know about you, but I'd be fucking pissed. I'd question the point of my work ethic and my place in the world in general.

Ergo: Mohammad Aamer's plight. There's no solution for it. It's really just bad luck.

As I write this, the following incident ocurred which I will let the live commentary team of cricinfo relate to you.


Umar Gul to Taylor, no run, on a length around off stump, driven hard back down the track and Umar Gul tries to stop it from front of his face but ricochets it to his groin. Ouch!

Ouch indeed. That's one possible solution. Letting God restore parity. That's two wickets for Gul but one less child in the future. Actually, I'm glad this happened because its allowed me to change the title of this blog from a boring "Aamer's woes" to a more mildly catchy "Divine Justice". That settles it. Next time I'm sidelined at work by a colleague I'm diving fist first into his crotch.


And Aamer gets a wicket! Considering he didn't have to lay his testicles on the line for it, I'd say he's one-upped Gul now.