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“You know, there was a Pakistani cricket team with five county captains, one of a kind in international cricket history. Asif Iqbal was captain at Kent, Zaheer Abbas at Gloucestershire, Intikhab Alam at Surrey, Majid Khan at Glamorgan and Mushtaq Mohammad at Northamptonshire. Son, leading an English County is no mean feat; it takes more than just a good cricketer to get the honour. Not long ago, only gentlemen got that rank, not professional cricketers.”

This, among many was a repeated story I heard my father narrate at an age I could absorb little. But this I understood; cricket was religion and Pakistani cricketers were its idols.

Growing up, I remember my father always speaking in particular about Fazal Mahmood with great love and admiration, a hero of a Pakistan I hadn’t seen. I imagined Fazal as not just being a champion fast bowler but also a really good looking bloke with a charismatic personality, a true poster boy of the time when my father himself was a kid. He often recalled how “Hanif Mohammad cycled from Garden (a municipality of old Karachi) to the National Stadium Karachi, to open the innings for Pakistan on the morning of a Test match. His mother packed his tiffin that he shared with his brothers at lunch.”

I knew this was the stuff of legends. There was an air of pride in my father’s voice as he reminisced about Pakistan cricket.

As an integral part of most households across the country, in cricket, people found solace in times of crisis and amplified exuberance in times of joy. It was not just a sport; it was a lifestyle, injected into the veins without a conscious effort. Kids are extremely impressionable and cricket had a large imprint on the youth of Pakistan.

While Vivian Richards was the undisputed king of cricket in our home, each family member had a Pakistani idol.

My two eldest brothers, being a decade older than me, had seen the glory days of Javed Miandad and Imran Khan and had illuminated their hearts with the duo. The eldest was a loyal Karachiite and maintained that it was Javed who was the grit and brains behind Pakistan cricket, accusing Imran of provincial nepotism and favoritism in selection. On the contrary, his younger brother was in awe of the man Imran Khan was; idolising Khan was always self explanatory. The third in line was our only brother who graduated from club level to play first-class cricket in Pakistan. He was a Shoaib Mohammad fan. Shoaib, son of the original little master Hanif, was consistently among runs and technically very sound, but also painfully slow. He was, unjustly, the victim of many jokes because of his lack of aggression; one could draw certain parallels to Misbah-ul-Haq of today.

You can be born in a religion but it does not necessarily give you faith. Belief comes from one’s own experiences in life, a prayer that is answered, a miracle that is witnessed or an event that instills absolute conviction in your heart. One man that immediately became my cricketing deity was Wasim Akram, he was my poster boy. He could do no wrong; I celebrated his conquests and defended his failures. I fought and guarded him even when I knew he had gravely erred and sometimes even betrayed.

The arguments in the house were fierce and ended up in heated discussions on the dinner table. But like religion, it was to each his own and we were taught to respect differing opinions by our father who usually remained neutral and almost always had the last word. Our home was a reflection of a typical Pakistani household of the ’80s.

Quantum Physics has revolutionised how we interpret the physical world, giving us insight into the minutest inner workings of the world we live in. A principle of Quantum Physics, called the ‘observer effect’, states that the observer and the observed cannot be separated. The theory argues that the very act of observing an object or event, changes it in infinitesimal ways. Given this, in essence, every single person watching a cricket match is not just observing it, but is also contributing to its result. The theory, which is often cause for debate, applies well to what Pakistan cricket is experiencing, at least the mental side of things.

India was on a tour of Pakistan in 1989 when I first met cricket’s greatest modern-day icon, Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar. He was visiting my uncle’s home along with Ajay Sharma. Hardly the cricketers that excited me or ones I knew. Although, meeting Sachin was immediately a little special. He was a bit shy but his reputation preceded him, plus at only 16, he seemed closer to my age than other cricketers. Later on that tour, he was hit on the mouth by Waqar Younis but continued to bat in a blood-soaked shirt. Sachin’s sanctity was immediately established.

Fast forward 24 years later. Tendulkar received the largest and most emotional cricketing farewell in memory and his retirement speech was of a man with extreme humility and gratitude. Without glorifying his own achievements, he recognised the contribution of his wife, parents, siblings, coaches, doctors, peers, friends, the entire country and its media made toward his success.

Sachin was always given the accolades of a higher God among other cricketing deities created in India. When match referee Mike Denness reprimanded six Indian players in a Test match including a one-match suspension to Sachin for ball tampering, the entire Indian nation got behind their heroes and burnt their opponents to ashes, literally. Indian cricketers are best looked after by their people, making sure the men that excel at such craft are highly respected and provided with an extraordinary lifestyle. It’s a sign of a progressing civilization, a stark contrast to their neighbours.

CAPE TOWN: Pakistan held on for a close six-run win in the second Twenty20 on Friday to end a six-game losing streak to South Africa in limited-overs games.

Shahid Afridi’s 3-28 backed up earlier half-centuries by Umar Akmal and captain Mohammad Hafeez as Pakistan successfully defended its 176-4 at Newlands to draw the series 1-1. Akmal made 64 and Hafeez 63 in a match-winning 102-run stand off just 55 balls after Pakistan opted to bat first and made it count.

Hashim Amla replied with 48 opening South Africa’s chase, but legspinner Afridi accounted for Quinton de Kock (26), Faf du Plessis and AB de Villiers to have the hosts 87-3.

After Amla was out just short of his half-century, JP Duminy (47 not out) and David Miller were held at bay by good death bowling by Sohail Tanvir to give Pakistan a long-awaited win. South Africa finished on 170-4.

The teams begin their three-game ODI series at the same ground on Sunday.

"We have been working hard," said Hafeez, who was named man of the match and man of the series. "We knew we had to win this game to stay positive for the rest of the series."

 

Akmal and Hafeez combined for their century stand to lift Pakistan from a slow start at 44-2. Akmal had five fours and four towering sixes in his explosive 64 off 37 balls in Pakistan’s only significant partnership. Hafeez hit five fours and three sixes for his 63 off 41 balls before he was out in the 17th over to Dale Steyn (2-29).

Akmal fell to Steyn in the last over but the damage was already done, giving the home team a tough target to chase down under lights.

Amla began brightly, stroking five fours while opening partner De Kock hit four boundaries in his 26.

Spinner Afridi changed the game, though, having De Kock and captain Du Plessis caught in the deep and then bowling De Villiers with a quicker, flatter delivery. Amla fell to Pakistan’s other spinner, Saeed Ajmal, leaving Duminy and Miller with 60 runs to get in only 27 balls.

Their unbroken 53-run stand brought South Africa close, but Tanvir held his nerve in the final over to concede just six runs off the first five deliveries, clinching just a second win for Pakistan in nine limited-overs games against the South Africans.

Teams: South Africa: Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock (wkt), AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Wayne Parnell, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Aaron Phangiso.

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Sohaib Maqsood, Umar Amin, Umar Akmal (wkt), Shahid Afridi, Bilawal Bhatti, Sohail Tanvir, Saeed Ajmal, Junaid Khan.

Umpires: Johan Cloete, Shaun George (both RSA)

TV umpire: Karl Hurter (RSA)

Match referee: Andy Pycroft (ZIM)

JOHANNESBURG: Five days after completing a series in the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Pakistan square up again in a Twenty20 International at the Wanderers Stadium on Wednesday.

Two Twenty20 games will be followed by three One-day Internationals in a tour arranged in haste after a fall-out between the Indian and South African boards led to India cutting short a tour to the republic.

It is the third tour featuring South Africa and Pakistan this year. The Pakistanis played three Tests, five One-day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals in South Africa between January and March. In a reciprocal tour which ended last Friday, the two nations clashed in two Tests, five One-day Internationals and two Twenty20 Internationals in the United Arab Emirates.

The tour will serve a double purpose for South Africa. It will reduce the estimated loss of an estimated more than US$10-million caused by the curtailment of the India tour, four One-day Internationals and two Twenty20 games were cut from the original itinerary, and it will enable the host country’s limited overs teams to continue to work towards the elusive goal of winning a global tournament.

Although South Africa’s Test team are the undisputed world champions, both the Twenty20 and one-day sides have had mediocre records in recent times. Both made considerable progress in the UAE, where South Africa won the one-day series 4-1 and the Twenty20 series 2-0.Pakistan, by contrast, have ground to make up after their batsmen in particular let them down in the recent series.

Mohammad Hafeez, Pakistan’s T20 captain, said in an arrival press conference on Sunday that his players were heartened by their showing in South Africa earlier in the year when they won the only completed 20-overs game and extended South Africa before losing the one-day series 3-2, with their batsmen performing better than they did in the UAE.

“We put up a good show in the shorter formats and we believe in this part of the world, we’ve done reasonably well,” said Hafeez.

Pakistan coach Dav Whatmore, whose contract will not be renewed when it expires in February, hailed the emergence of the hard-hitting Sohaib Maqsood as a positive from the recent series. But Pakistan will hope for improved form from the likes of Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad and Umar Akmal.

Pakistan will be without tall left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, one of their better bowlers in the recent series. He suffered a hip injury in the last match in the UAE.

South Africa named an unchanged squad for the two Twenty20 games. A squad for the One-day Internationals will be named later in the week. It is widely expected that veteran all-rounder Jacques Kallis will be included. Kallis has not played in a One-day International since February 2012.

Squads:

South Africa (T20 squad): Faf du Plessis (captain), Hashim Amla, Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, A.B. de Villiers, J.P. Duminy, Imran Tahir, Ryan McLaren, David Miller, Morne Morkel, Wayne Parnell, Aaron Phangiso, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Dale Steyn, David Wiese.

Pakistan (tour squad): Mohammad Hafeez (T20 captain), Misbah-ul-Haq (ODI captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Umar Amin, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Anwar Ali, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdur Rehman, Nasir Jamshed, Asad Shafiq, Bilawal Bhatti.

Schedule:

Nov 20: First Twenty20 International (Johannesburg).

Nov 22: Second Twenty20 International (Cape Town).

Nov 24: First One-day International (Cape Town).

Nov 27: Second One-day International (Port Elizabeth).

Nov 30: Third One-day International (Centurion).—AFP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan fast bowler Mohammad Irfan on Saturday was ruled out of the short tour of South Africa after developing a hip strain during the Twenty20 international against the Proteas on Friday.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) named uncapped fast bowler Bilawal Bhatti as a replacement in a 17-member squad for the two Twenty20s and three one-day internationals which begins with a Twenty20 at Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Misbah-ul-Haq has been retained as captain for the three ODIs after losing the series 4-1 against South Africa in the United Arab Emirates.

Mohammad Hafeez, who did not score a run in Pakistan's 2-0 rout against the Proteas in Twenty20s, will continue to lead in the shorter format.

The PCB said that Irfan will stay in the UAE for medical checkups.

Irfan fell over in his follow through while bowling his second over on Friday, and walked off the field in pain.

He returned to bat at No. 11, but was visibly in discomfort while running between the wickets as Pakistan lost the second Twenty20 by six runs.

Surprisingly Pakistan selectors kept faith with the same set of batsmen who struggled against South Africa in the UAE.

Allrounders Abdul Razzaq and Shoaib Malik, who both made an unimpressive return to the team for the Twenty20s, got another opportunity to strike forms along with struggling Shahid Afridi, Umar Akmal and Nasir Jasmhed.

Cape Town will host the second Twenty20 on Nov. 22 and the first one-day international on Nov. 24. The remaining two ODIs will be played at Port Elizabeth (Nov. 27) and at Centurion (Nov. 30).

It will be the third bilateral one-day series between the two countries this year. Pakistan lost 3-2 against the Proteas in South Africa earlier this year before losing in the UAE. Pakistan is yet to beat South Africa in seven bilateral one-day series.

The just-completed series saw South Africa jump to No. 3 in the world Twenty20 rankings, and Pakistan fall to No. 4.

Squad: Misbah-ul-Haq (captain ODIs), Mohammad Hafeez (captain T20s), Ahmad Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Asad Shafiq, Umar Amin, Shahid Afridi, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik, Sohaib Maqsood, Sohail Tanvir, Anwar Ali, Junaid Khan, Saeed Ajmal, Abdul Rehman, Nasir Jamshed, Bilawal Bhatti.

SHARJAH: Captain Misbah-ul-Haq says Pakistan's trouncing in the one-day series against South Africa is an ominous sign before the 2015 World Cup.

Pakistan went down by 117 runs in the fifth and final match in Sharjah on Monday, losing the series 4-1.

Batting was once again the problem with Pakistan, chasing a target of 269, folding for 151 in 35.3 overs.

Misbah said the consistent batting failures are worrying.

“As a captain this is very difficult for me and these are worrying signs for me before the World Cup 2015,” he said after the match.

Pakistan have been let down by their batsmen since their 3-0 Test rout in South Africa. They also lost the one-day series 3-2 in February-March this year.

In June they lost all three of their matches in the Champions Trophy in England, and despite their one-day win in the West Indies the batting remains a headache.

In September Pakistan lost a one-day game and a Test match against cricketing minnows Zimbabwe.

“Every player has got adequate chances, more than two series, and yet they are not performing and it's a big worry,” the captain said.

“But rather making a big hue and cry over it we must sit down and think seriously about it.”

“As captain you are responsible,” said Misbah, who took over as Test captain in 2010 and one-day skipper in 2011.

Asked if he wants to keep the captaincy until the 2015 World Cup, he replied: “I always say this and I maintain that I want to play as long as I am fit.”

Misbah's counterpart AB de Villier said victory in the one-day series is a step in the right direction before the World Cup, to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand.

The captain, who hit an unbeaten 115 on Monday, said the victory had lifted the Proteas after their 4-1 loss in Sri Lanka in July.

“We really hit an all-time low in Sri Lanka and moving up from there is pleasing to me and the coaching staff and the whole team,” he said.

Batting was tough on a slow Sharjah stadium pitch.

“It was one of the harder innings that I have played up until 60-70 runs. It was bloody difficult,” he said.

“Facing (Mohammad) Irfan there -- he was beating the bat -- was difficult. Saeed Ajmal was bowling well and (Shahid) Afridi bowled an amazing spell and I felt I couldn't get the ball off the square.

“But once I hit a couple in the middle in the 42 and 43rd overs it felt really good and I took my opportunity and followed through nicely,” De Villiers said of his 102-ball knock studded with ten boundaries and three sixes.

The teams now play two Twenty20s in Dubai on Wednesday and Friday.

SHARJAH: AB de Villiers stormed to an unbeaten century to help South Africa beat Pakistan convincingly by 117 runs in the fifth and final one-dayer in Sharjah on Monday, winning the five-match series 4-1.

De Villiers scored 115 from 102 balls with ten boundaries and three sixes, his 15th one-day hundred, to lift South Africa to an imperious 268-7 before bowling Pakistan out for 151 in 35.3 overs.

Sohaib Maqsood top-scored with a solid 53 but otherwise Pakistan failed to capitalise on a weakened South African bowling attack, with spearheads Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel, and spinner Imran Tahir rested for the meaningless match as the series had already been decided.

De Villiers said it was satisfying to win the series after the team's 4-1 loss in Sri Lanka in July.

“It is satisfying to win the series and I think the players played exceptionally well throughout the series and played as a unit,” said De Villiers.

“It was tough to bat on this pitch but I hung on and we were thinking of 220-plus, but in the end we got a good total.”

Pakistan captain Misbah-ul Haq rued another batting failure.

“I think they played very well,” said Misbah.

“They deserved this win and it was the same old batting collapse. We have to seriously think about this.”

Pakistan were 8-2 with Ahmed Shehzad (two) and Mohammad Hafeez (six) by the fifth over, once again highlighting their top-order failure in the series.

It was Maqsood, who hit 56 on his debut in Abu Dhabi on Friday, who gave some consolation to another lackluster batting effort with a 63-ball half-century before he became one of two victims for Jean-Paul Duminy, who finished with 2-14. Wayne Parnell finished with 3-36.

Umar Akmal made 30 while Misbah managed 18. Shahid Afridi (nine) and Umar Amin (five) failed once more as South Africa took the last six wickets for a mere 41 runs.

South Africa won the toss and batted on a slow Sharjah stadium pitch.

De Villiers lifted the tempo in the final overs, hitting Sohail Tanvir's final over for 25 runs, reaching his hundred with a four towards mid-wicket, which came off 99 balls.

He then hit the left-armer for six, four and four to help South Africa add 114 in the last ten overs.

At 105 he also completed 6,000 one-day runs, becoming the fifth South African batsmen to reach the milestone. Jacques Kallis (11,469), Herschelle Gibbs (8094), Graeme Smith (6976) and Gary Kirsten (6798) were others to score 6,000 or more one-day runs for South Africa.

De Villiers was initially slow, reaching his fifty off 70 balls, with a big six off Saeed Ajmal towards mid-wicket. He added an invaluable 83 for the sixth wicket with Ryan McLaren (27) before lashing out in the final overs.

De Villiers had built the innings with an invaluable 62-run stand for the fourth wicket with Faf du Plessis, who made an 89-ball 46 with the help of two boundaries.

Quinton de Kock (34) added 50 with Du Plessis after Hashim Amla fell in the first over of the innings for three. Ajmal finished with 3-45 while Khan took 2-57.

South Africa won the first match by one run in Sharjah before Pakistan levelled the series with a 66-run win in Dubai. South Africa then won both the matches in Abu Dhabi by 68 and 28 runs respectively.

The two teams now play Twenty20 internationals in Dubai on Wednesday and Friday.

KAKAMIGAHARA: Defending champions, Pakistan, on Sunday retained its title defeating hosts Japan by a margin of two goals in the final match of the third Asian Champions Trophy field hockey tournament being played in Japan's Kakamighara city, DawnNews reported.

The Japanese team took an aggressive start scoring one goal to take the lead in the first half.

Pakistan replied with a comeback in the second half scoring three goals before the 66th minute.

The green-shirts had remained unbeaten in the tournament defeating Omman, Malaysia, China and India in the group stage matches.

The previous match played between Pakistan and Japan, during the group stages, had ended in a 1-1 draw.

Malaysia secured the third position in the tournament.

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