Even Ayyan would be a better choice than Azhar Ali

Published: March 28, 2015
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She may not be very bright, but she has made some dangerous friends and tried something quite daring, illegal as it was. PHOTO: AYYAN ALI FACEBOOK PAGE

Not satisfied with having had a poor World Cup campaign and an average limited overs cricket record during their reigns, it seems that both coach Waqar Younis and retired ODI captain Misbahul Haq have decided to leave us with a parting gift. This parting gift exemplifies their horribly defensive mindset which has been a major factor in the Pakistan ODI team’s mediocrity.

Various reports state that it was the duo that influenced the PCB into naming Azhar Ali as the new ODI captain. It almost seems like a joke where Pakistan cricket is the punch line.

Misbah has been a fantastic hand for Pakistan cricket and a knight in shining armour for a struggling team, but he has not been without his flaws. For one, he lacks the ability to rotate the strike when building an innings. This flaw has been less obvious because the skipper has invariably come in during a crisis. However, he has often hurt the momentum after the team has been off to a good start, dragging the run rate down. What’s more, his defensive style has sometimes created needless pressure on the other batsmen, especially when chasing a score.

While Misbah is proud of reaching the quarter-finals, let’s be honest, the nature of the tournament certainly played a part in getting us there in spite of Pakistan’s awful performances against India, the West Indies, and Zimbabwe. Perhaps our knockout opponents would have been easier adversaries than the eventual finalists Australia had management not adopted a safety first attitude. In the game against West Indies, seven batsmen (eight, if you count Shahid Afridi) were played. Fawad Alam a leading scorer was ignored, while Younus Khan who has a poor ODI record, and newcomer Haris Sohail, whose limitations were exposed in Australia, were inexplicably selected. Meanwhile, Yasir Shah, possibly the best spinner in the tournament was neglected – except for a game against the world’s best players of spin – while South Africa utilised Imran Tahir.

The short term mentality was also exposed when the injury prone Muhammad Irfan, Pakistan’s primary weapon, was not given the rest he deserved against the UAE. Management was so afraid of defeat that the big fast bowler was cut open like the goose that laid golden eggs. To make matters worse, Nasir Jamshed, who was picked by management against the wishes of selectors, was given far too many chances. Certainly, our tournament would have been easier with Sarfraz Ahmed opening the batting early in the World Cup.

You can’t say that these mistakes are only obvious after they happened. Like countless others, I had called for Sarfraz to open, Yasir and Fawad to play every game, Younus to be dropped, Irfan to be rested against the UAE match, before management made the mistakes.

While these selection issues were clearly the fault of captain and coach, of course, the majority of the blame lies with the Pakistani batsmen, who showed both a lack of skill and temperament for international cricket. At the very least, Misbah, as the batsman, was fighting for the nation in every game, as he always has.

But the skipper has taken Pakistan as far as he can within the limitations of his abilities and cautious mind-set. As captain, he rescued a side recovering from dark controversies, and has certainly boasted some fantastic victories in Test cricket. But while his style has kept the ODI cricket team from hitting rock bottom, it is now clear that he can never reach the top of the mountain either. In an age where teams are scoring 350 runs a match, his cautious approach towards batting and team composition are archaic at best.

This is exactly why the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should have ignored Misbah’s suggestion of selecting Azhar as the new ODI captain.

Often, though not always, a captain’s playing style is an extension of their mindset. For example, Imran Khan was both an aggressive all-rounder and an aggressive leader. Similarly, Wasim Akram was an attacking skipper. Javed Miandad was a shrewd batsman, and a wise vice-captain.

It is for this reason that Azhar seems like the wrong man to take Pakistan’s ODI team forward. I can see why Misbah has recommended him – it is the same reason he persisted with a defensive player like Asad Shafiq in the ODI team, because he reminds Misbah of himself.

Certainly, Azhar seems to have a giant heart and is batsman who does not get dismissed so easily, but he carries the exact same flaws as Misbah, except that they are far worse in Azhar, like a terminal disease. If Misbah has trouble rotating the strike, then Azhar seems completely incapable. In fact, Azhar only operates on first or fourth gear. Whereas Test cricket is a game of more deliberately paced batting, most modern batsmen bat with a strike rate of at least 50. Azhar, on the other hand, bats at 39.56.

There are few things as exciting as watching Azhar play a Test innings. Watching paint dry is one of them. Observing the ceiling fan rotate slowly for a few hours is another.

Yes, everything we don’t like about Misbah, we really won’t like about Azhar. He is like a bad Misbah impersonator; a Misbah clone with second-hand parts. A Mini-Me of Misbah, if you will.

Now is the time to upgrade our operating system, not install a pirated copy of Misbah 2.0.

Selecting Azhar is like slapping on a band-aid when the wound has healed. Our broken leg has mended. It’s not time for another crutch; it’s time to learn how to run again.

Here, I have come up with a list of candidates who would be better options than Azhar:

1. Wahab Riaz

Photo: AFP

The tears flowing from his eyes showed how much World Cup glory had meant to him. Similar emotions were written on the South African cricketers’ faces after they lost to New Zealand. On the other hand, players such as Younus and Afridi were all grins after crashing out. We need a player who truly loves playing for Pakistan, and Wahab seems like the man. The fact that he’s an aggressive bowler would also be a welcome change in leadership.

2. Sarfraz Ahmed

Photo: Reuters

He seems like a natural choice, having captained Pakistan to U19 glory. Sarfaraz is an attacking player who has the mental toughness for the job. In fact, this choice seems almost too natural for the PCB, and we know how easily they miss a target when it is staring straight at them.

3. Fawad Alam

Photo: AFP

He is perhaps the best limited overs batsman in Pakistan and has loads of experience captaining at domestic level. My only concern is the state of his mental wellbeing. Fawad is the Cinderella of Pakistan cricket; stuck in the attic while his ugly stepsisters enjoy the limelight. He’ll need to be groomed if he is made skipper. And by groomed, I mean a shave and a haircut.

4. ZaidAliT

Photo: ZaidAliT Facebook page

This young Pakistan comedian may steal some of his jokes, but at least he has the common sense to steal the good ones. On the other hand, Azhar looks to have borrowed only Misbah’s shortcomings.

5. Ayyan Ali

Photo: Lahoripoint.com

Look, she may not be very bright, but she has made some dangerous friends and tried something quite daring, illegal as it was. Although it may seem physically impossible, she certainly seems to have greater testicular fortitude than some Pakistani cricketers.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • PAKISTAN CRICKET

    Even Meera would be a better choice than Noman Ansari as a cricket expert.Recommend

  • Stickykeys

    Marvelous! The flow was impeccable!
    Bravo!Recommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    Doesn’t take a cricket expert to see these basic things.Recommend

  • Absar

    Crappy writing. We do we always have to be critical of someone? Give Azhar Ali a fair chance. Pakistan is not going in to 2019 world cup next month. We can always give the captaincy to someone else in comings days..Recommend

  • Rehman Khattak

    i second youRecommend

  • Jameel

    THIS BLOG WAS AWESOME.Recommend

  • Adil Mazher

    Agree what the hell Wrong with PCB Another Bloody slow captain Azhar Ali Defensive as Hell They Want to appoint as captain Ohhh upset emoticon cry emoticon OHHH Get Rid of all these people including the PCB CharmainRecommend

  • Maria

    Only takes a 5-year-old to notice the inherent flaws in our management! These days you need an aggressive yet wise captain like Dhoni or Brendon McCullum, who lead from the front and set a brilliant example for the rest of the team. Can’t see someone as defensive (or more) as Azhar Ali succeeding in this age of cricket. The game has changed, guys!Recommend

  • Chasmish

    A load of cr*p this article. Give me a break you guys. U people r simply one of those people who have zero knowledge of cricket or ur from those people who simply seek for negativity in our cricket.

    The choice for Azhar is better because he has good relationships with cricketers and board officials. Unlike urs Afridi, who fights with anything (or everything). Making Hafeez captain wasn’t a bad idea either but he had issues with Waqar. Fawad isn’t a bad choice either but the politics in Pakistan will always ignore this talented player. Kick out the inconsistent Akmal and the so called hero Maqsood. Give Shehzad a slap on his back and then see how well Pakistan does.

    Misbahs captaincy has cleaned up all the mess: “heavy” politics and fixing related issues in Pakistan cricket. The only problem left now is favoritism or personal-hatred which might never end. An example can be taken from Waqar – when he didn’t included Sarfarz at the beginning of the tournament due to his personal ego and decision.

    And once again… the article was just made to seek attention and to create negativity – as always its been the way us Pakistani’s have been (chaotic).Recommend

  • Wazah Khalid Baloch

    Is this a joke article naming ayyan and zaidT? Recommend

  • Zain khan

    Brilliant piece of writing loved every bit of it.azhar Ali is a big No for captaincyRecommend

  • Anon

    Ha ha ha nice blog. Very good analysis on Misbah and Azhar ali. Pakistan really needs to improve strike rotation and let go of the defensive mindset. Azhar ali has no place in one day. Fawad Alam should replace MisbahRecommend

  • Yasir Mansoor

    The only thing these writers do is to demoralize each and every youngster, you don’t have to be a cricket expert to know that Fast Bowlers are prone to injuries and captain can’t always be taken out of game every six months or so… They needed someone after Misbah to hold crease while the youngsters crumble, I personally believe Azhar Ali was the best choice after Sohaib Maqsood to be Kaptaan of Pakistan Cricket!Recommend

  • Padam

    So, you needed to invoke a test strike rate in order to make point about his ODI captaincy. Those modern batsmen come from countries where players go through a process and are well polished before hitting the international arena, unlike Pakistan where 20 runs for 4 wickets is a common sight.

    That sums up how honest you are and how much cricket do you understand. Thank you for starting another round of bashing, this time with Azhar in place of Misbah. RIP Pakistan cricket.Recommend

  • Ali Sardar

    Check his latest statsRecommend

  • Ali Sardar

    Come up with something good next time.Recommend

  • Parvez

    Oooh !…that was such a googly…….leaving the Ayyan bit to the end and poking your finger into ZaidAliT’s eye ( again ).Recommend

  • DD

    “There are few things as exciting as watching Azhar play a Test innings. Watching paint dry is one of them. Observing the ceiling fan rotate slowly for a few hours is another.” Certainly true. Not once, but twice I fell asleep while watching Azhar bat recentlyRecommend

  • Ammar

    Pcb is taking a good decision..WC is not hapening after 2 months .. lets Sarfraz,Wahab and fawad make consistent show..Making captain on few matches performance of the WC would not had been wise..Azhar can be changed anytime if we find the best man..Recommend

  • Khurram

    Excellent stuff, more than that interprets clearly the general opinion which has to come true sooner or later… no doubt Azar Ali is a poor choice.. time will prove itRecommend

  • Khabeer ul Tanwir

    You wrote such long phrases trying your level best to prove yourself as a cricket expert yet forgot to mention that even Misbah was not part of the test team when he was appointed as captain back in 2010.

    At what time Misbah said, Atleast give someone a fair chance to prove his worth. So Azhar deserves a chance too !!

    The thing is we as a nation need something on which we can talk or write about !!

    Recommend

  • Khabeer

    True. I agreeRecommend

  • AAQ

    Well written I really dont know what s up with PCB Recommend

  • The Unexpected Virtue Of……

    Whos gonna save Pakistan when they are 8-2? I assure u Umar Akmal wont be sticking around. Azhar is a mature player and a talented batsmen who will make good as capatinRecommend

  • Rashid

    hahaha good read *thumbsup*
    Hilarious last 2 choicesRecommend

  • YAK

    Even meera could be a better expert on writing blogs on cricket. Misbah is the most successful captain for Pakistan. What in the world are you talking about?????? We don’t need another Misbah!!! Seriously. And stop with twisting the facts: had it not been Misbah’s solid contribution with the bat pakistan would have crashed out of World Cup very early, it was Misbah who gave wahab the aggressive field placing and got him to bowl 6 overs straight with bouncers and almost got the wicket of Watson had rahat ali not fumbled. No wait a minute it was Misbah’s defensive mindset that caused rahat ali to drop that catch!!! Right !! Man stick to your everyday chatter and make a blog out of it but FOR GOD SAKE STOP THESE AMATEUR, CRAPPY AND NONSENSICAL blogs on cricket. I can only plead!!! Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    His ODI strike rate hovers at around 60. If he bats 50 overs he will score 180.Recommend

  • Usman

    can we leave cricket for real experts who atleast have played cricket in ground? In Pakistan everyone who have a TV set, these days have become cricket expert and writing crap on ET. Total nonsense article. Any one who have little bit of cricket knowledge and have played cricket in ground knows that batsmen-ship need solid technique and knowledge that how to stay on pitch for atleast 30 overs. Please stop the stupid propaganda against Azhar Ali who is a solid player and let the PCB and real expert talk.

    Noman ansari is trying to be a jack of all trades, trying to write on each and every thing without having any knowledge. By adding Zahid Ali and Ayan in the article doesn’t make you genius. Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Uhh… I captained the U19 Uzbekistan team to the quarterfinals of the World Championship. Do some research.Recommend

  • YAK

    Yeah sure. I am not sure whether its a joke!!! Uzbekistan surely are world champions now. Thank god you did not progress from there on. Don’t take it personal but cricket is not your thing: these nonsensical and comical analysis that we had to suffer the World Cup needs to end. Leading an under 19 Uzbekistan team to justify nonsense is same as shoaib akhtar justifying all the crap that comes out of his mouth because of his international career. Give us a break. I wonder why we are catching so many uzbeki terrorist what kind of lasting impression did your captaincy left on them.Recommend

  • Irfan

    Writer tried his best to sound funny but he fail to prevail sanity. When Azhar Ali was not part of Squad due to presence of Misbah and Younis Khan (already Solid players with defensive style of batting). Now when both will not be part of team, he has best of chance to represent country. Also much better choice than Shehzad or Akmal, even Shoaib Malik.Recommend

  • http://www.studentstalk.pk Hafiz Muhammad Amir

    no doubt! Azar Ali is not a good choice.. INSHA ALLAH time will prove it.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I scored 31 against Khatmandu and took 7 for 21 against Nepal before my back injury ended career. Have some shame.Recommend

  • rayan

    azhar played 14 matches in his 11 year career. why? can anyone explain.Recommend

  • PakSal

    Under 19 and Uzbekistan … WOW … When so many learned people are commenting, we get to read an article written by a rookie at best … Go do something else instead wasting everyone’s time.Recommend

  • PakSal

    Look at the bright side, Pak will have 180 for sure.Recommend

  • M Faisal Nadeem

    Excellent article, dear Noman.
    I was going to write on the same topic for ET blogs and I admit I won’t have written anything close to this awesomeness. Congratulations. :PRecommend

  • M Faisal Nadeem

    Lol. I was in the stands when you had hit a six to let me earn a 1000 Uzbekistani soms for a crowd catch.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari
  • Noman Ansari

    Which let’s be honest, is 2 rupees. I think I remember you. You were eating Uzbeki pulao while cheering with Uzbeki shroom shawarma belly dancers. You had great reflexes. Sorry about the pulao.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I got a contract from Cape Town Koala Bears before I was injured. At least it was more than you.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    By the way Brian Lara came to me and said that I had the potential to be one of the top 100 batsman in Karachi. He said if I was from Trinidad he could definitely see me batting for West Indies 2nd or even 3rd eleven. That’s high praise from Brian Lara.

    So what did Brian Lara say to YOU?Recommend

  • Khalid

    It’s utterly baffling that people are already making judgments on Azhar Ali and his captaincy when he hasnt even captained the side yet. Give him a chance for Gods sake. There have been many captains through history who were defensive players but aggressive captains or vice-versa.Recommend

  • TheBSMshow

    Being a cricket player or getting praised by Brian Lara doesn’t make you good cricket analyst , Azhar might not be the best choice but he isn’t as bad as its portrayed by guys like you .

    Also this might surprise you but Sarfraz , wahab and fawad have been with team for quite sometime now but they never managed to hold a permanent position or showed consistency which they showed off late , FFS wahab was not even our first choice bowler for WC.

    I would have selected sarfarz but we have to understand this is Pakistan where you need lots of backing from team and from others ( management etc ) to survive being a captain which i don’t think sarfraz have at current .Recommend

  • inam ul haq

    A really very bad choice for captancy. where is abdul razzaq or shoaib malik?Recommend

  • PakSal

    That I was flattering this kid :DRecommend

  • Hamidah Fawad

    People supporting Azhar Ali – If he is that good why wasn’t he a part of the World Cup squadRecommend