SL v PAK: Well played Sri Lanka

The name of the nation is Sri Lanka and its economical and political status are a total mess. People are protesting on the streets. There's a wave of sadness across the country. They wish to smile for a moment - still they can't because there's no medium that could provide them such. 

We know very well the status of the Sri Lanka cricket team over the years - they're passing through a never-ending transition period. One disgraceful display is followed by another, but guess what, they decided to become the medium of smile for a nation that is in tatters. 

They conquered Bangladesh. They beat Australia in the ODI series and bounced back to draw the Test series. Then, after fighting hard against Sri Lanka in the first Test, they lost, but kept the fight alive and beat Pakistan in the second Test. 

From Day 1, Sri Lanka kept on piling the pressure upon Pakistan, who tried hard, but still, couldn't get a grip over the match because Sri Lanka wouldn't let their nation down - who had already been let down by their politicians, and neighbors, and communist helpers. 

They won and I am extremely happy for Sri Lanka because they need such victories for the sake of the people and for the sake of cricket that can't afford to lose such a brilliant cricket nation.

Thank You 

Faisal Caesar 

ODI and Test cricket are in danger: ICC and Big 3 need to rethink the strategy

No one was ready for Ben Stokes to retire from One-day International (ODI) so early. he was just aging 31 and still had plenty to offer for the 50-over format where he was crowned as the World Champion and one of the stars of the last ICC Cricket World Cup in 2019. As an allrounder, Stokes had so much to the format that it is still hard to accept his "premature" retirement. 

Stokes was appointed as England's Test captain earlier this year and said that playing three formats was "just unsustainable for me now" and that he felt as though he was blocking opportunities for other players.

He had been due to play all six of England's ODIs this summer and rest throughout their T20I commitments against India and South Africa, as well as the Hundred, but has now opted to quit the 50-over game in order to give "everything I have to Test cricket" and "my total commitment to the T20 format."

The decision of Stokes has led to the debate of the heavy workload, the top players digest these days. 

The emergence of Twenty20 Leagues has added enough pressure to the players and the lucrative returns from such domestic leagues are such that it has become hard for the players to ignore. Again, one of the powerful boards in world cricket - BCCI - endorsing such leagues and forcing the International Cricket Council (ICC) to discover a separate window for them, has made things complex. 

BCCI is powerful and with big powers come big responsibilities, which the BCCi have always forgotten and emphasized more on running the crazy money train named the Indian Premier League at the cost of longer-formats. 

At present, if any format is in big trouble then it is 50-over cricket. 

A few days ago, Wasim Akram endorsed the idea of putting the 50-over format to rest. 

"Him deciding that he is retiring from one-day cricket is quite sad but I agree with him," said Akram. 

"Even as a commentator … one-day cricket is just a drag now, especially after T20. I can imagine as a player. 50 overs, 50 overs, then you have to pre-game, post-game, the lunch game."

"T20 is kind of easier, four hours the game is over. The leagues all around the world, there is a lot more money - I suppose this is part and parcel of modern cricket. T20 or Test cricket. One-day cricket is kind of dying."

"It is quite tiring for a player to play one-day cricket. After T20, one-day cricket seems it is going for days. So players are focussing on more shorter format. And longer format obviously [with] Test cricket."

Asked if administrators should consider scrapping ODI cricket, Akram said:, “I think so. In England, you have full houses. In India, Pakistan especially, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and South Africa, one-day of cricket you are not going to fill the stadiums. 

“They are doing it just for the sake of doing it. After the first 10 overs, it’s just ‘OK, just go a run a ball, get a boundary, four fielders in and you get to 200, 220 in 40 overs’ and then have a go last 10 overs. Another 100. It’s kind of run-of-the-mill.”

Akram's statement was a shocking opinion for me because Akram might have completely forgotten what this format has given Pakistan and as well as India - it has put these two nations right on the map. 

Had the 50-over formats not been started, neither India nor Pakistan could reach the level at which they are in and include Sri Lanka in this group as well. 

If Akram thinks that the 50-over format is dying then he should have spoken in favour of it and stated strongly that if nay format that is disturning the overall health of cricket then it is the Twenty20 format and the Franchise Leagues. 

The ebb-and-flow of the longer-formats make it a special one and not everyone's cup of tea. 

Most importantly, the 50-over format has given Test cricket a new life, when it was suffering badly in the 50s and 80s. 

Whereas Twenty20 Cricket might have given money, surely, it is killing the soul of cricket slowly - it is like slow poisoning. 

Then, what is next? 

Will people start talking about abolishing Test cricket because it is too long? 

If they can suggest scrapping the 09-over format then they can hunt after Test cricket as well! 

Former cricketer and head coach of India, Ravi Shastri said, "If you want Test cricket to survive you cannot have 10, 12 teams playing. Keep the top six, keep the quality of cricket going and respect quality over quantity. That's the only way you open up a window for other cricket to be played." 

I agree with Ravi Shastri. 

There has to be more emphasis on quality rather than quantity in Test cricket and to play the best format of the game, a cricket-playing nation needs to ensure technical and temperamental efficiency rather than taking the format for granted. 

I would endorse the idea of a two-tier system that would ensure quality more than quantity in Test cricket. 

The Top 6 or 8 teams should be categorized as top tier teams and if a team fails to remain in the top 6 or 8 then their Test status should be abolished and to achieve it again have to work harder.. in the meantime, the facilities which they used to receive as a Test nation should also be cut off. 

While being in the second tier, they would play 4-day matches against each other which would be rated as first-class matches and if one of them comes top then just one and only one team would join the first tier and compete for survival. 

Such steps would force cricket nations like Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Ireland, and West Indies to take Test cricket seriously. 

Frankly, speaking teams like Bangladesh don't give Test cricket anything rather than disgrace and have taken this format for granted in the last 22 years.

Finally, I would request ICC and Big 3 to rethink the strategy regarding the longer formats. 

Money is needed but for that, the soul of cricket should not be murdered. 

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

SL v PAK: Who is Abdullah Shafique?

Knock! Knock! 

Open the door! 

I have to ask you a question! 

Do you know Abdullah Shafique? 

Surely, you don't know him or bother to care for him because he is not seen in funky dresses in the commercials and dances like an idiot when the circus shows go on. And, he doesn't have a contract in the idiot premier league or any other premier leagues. And, no one went Gaga for this lad because he did not hit two or three big sixes and became a sensation to the paid experts. 


Shafique is just another Pakistani opener, who had arrived in the international arena only to be faded away as the rest did before? 

Since that majestic pair of Aamir Sohail and Saeed Anwar parted ways from international cricket - the Men in Green could hardly find a stable Test opener or an opening pair - openers came and go and some raised hopes and quickly faded. Well, when Shafique went out to bat for the first time in Test cricket; he was rated as just another Test opener who had been included only to complete the final XI. 

Shafique made his first-class debut in 2019, for Central Punjab in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, scoring 133 runs. He had a moment to relish in the shorter format at the domestic circuit, but keep in mind, anyone can do such even without proper technique, still, he was hailed and included in the T20 team - 41 runs came off against Zimbabwe, while two ducks against New Zealand in 2020 dented his confidence, and as usual, he was forgotten because at present - the performance in the circus shows matter so much! 

But someone like Misbah-ul-Haq, who was the coach at that time and has a piece of sound knowledge of the game and captained Pakistan successfully in test and limited-overs format, backed this boy. Misbah pointed out that Shafique had a very good technique and mentally, he was mature enough to take on big responsibilities. 

Pakistan's experiment with Imran Butt failed and it was time for Shafique to become another experimental project - but after almost 5 months, project Shafique is reaping a rich harvest and I think, even the Pakistanis can't even believe it. 

Within 11 innings in Test cricket, he is sharing the platform with Sir Don Bradman, George Headley, and Sunil Gavaskar - the 23-year-old averages 79 with the bat in Test cricket till now!   

The bulk of the runs have come on subcontinental pitches and apart from Bangladesh, you can count Australia as one of the best against whom he averages 79.40, and the hard nut to crack Sri Lanka against whom he averages 173.0 at present! 

His mental aspect could be realized since the tough Test series against Australia at home - but like every cricketer, he also had his moment to elevate his level and that came at Galle in the first Test against Sri Lanka, where Pakistan were given a tough total - 342 - to chase in the fourth innings. 

Pakistan were given a paltry total to chase in Galle back in 2009, but they succumbed to Rangana Herath and when the matter is about chasing totals - Pakistan have always been on the back foot most of the time even with batters like Inzamam-ul-Haq, Saeed Anwar, Younis Khan or Mohammad Yousuf.  

At the backdrop of such a record and memory of 13 years ago, Shafique cashed on his mental aspect. 

He could realize what triggered the downfall of Pakistani batters in the first against Prabath Jayasuriya  - the straighter ones against which the Pakistani batters committed shots too early and lacked astute footwork. 

Shafique took caution over aggression and decided to leave those deliveries on a deck that becomes a stage for the sacrificial ceremony to the spinners on the final two days.   

He had full control over his technique as the backlift hardly erred while executing the defence and scoring shots. His footwork seems to improve each day and surely playing against Nathan Lyon a couple of months ago has added a great value to his repertoire. 

Ramesh Mendis and Jayasuriya kept on attacking the middle and off and varied their flight and length to distract Shafique and there were moments when he was totally beaten, but still, managed to bury the fear of getting out and continue to hold one end and add enough fuel to keep the innings moving - moments of stagnancy could pile pressure and invite a collapse - Shafique's mature mind could realize that and thus, maneuvering the strike became his force to counter the threat. 

Courtesy of Shafique, Pakistan managed to chase down 342 runs - a massive chase and one of the best in the history of Pakistan cricket given the fact - as far as fourth-innings hundreds go, this was one of the toughest assignments - only three batters have ever done at Galle before, and only one (Dimuth Karunaratne 122 vs New Zealand in 2019) in a victory.

A marvelous hundred - a hundred to build a superb career and Shafique and the selectors must keep the faith in this boy rather than messing around. 

Now you know, who Abdullah Shafique is, don't you?

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

SL v PAK: The underrated Dinesh Chandimal

For me - Dinesh Chandimal is a fighter and the most underrated customer in world cricket at present. The guy reminds me of Larry Gomes of West Indies in the late 70s and 80s, when his productive contributions were often overshadowed by the big guns around him and when the big guns had a bad day at the office, Gomes would always show up and get things going. 

World cricket has always left such fighters in the cold because the focus always remained on the big names and with the shift in power in world cricket - even trashes from the streets clear the distance and become the future prodigy in the circus shows - but people like Chandimal does not even come to any cricketing discussion -- the street trashes do because they feature in the circus shows. 

Also, Chandimal does not belong to the Big 3 elites or South Africa and for which, to hog the limelight, he has to break down the sweat 500% more than one of the elite players of the Big 3. 

How would you judge his defiant resistance against Pakistan at Galle in the first Test in both the innings? How would you rate his bold knock the Australians a couple of weeks ago? How would you rate his inspiring knock against Bangladesh in Bangladesh? Do you remember his nine-hour 155 against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi in 2017? Do you remember his twin fifties on debut against South Africa in 2011 which was a memorable tour?  What about that 162 against India in 2015? don't remember those. 

No, you don't! 

You hardly care Chandimal, the man whose travel has been bumpy. 

His rough road has included spectacularly failed brushes with the captaincy. 

He was the shorter-format captain at the age of 23 but was dumped in the middle of the World T20 that Sri Lanka went on to win. 

His Test reign was beset by problems such as illness that kept him out of part of the 3-0 whitewash at the hands of India at home, a ball-tampering saga that saw him suspended for several matches before eventually he was not just sacked, but also dropped from the side, when Dimuth Karunaratne took over and immediately led Sri Lanka to their biggest Test series win in many years, in South Africa.

Although leadership has almost uniformly brought him sorrow, Chandimal agreed to be stand-in captain for this game in Karunaratne's absence.

And, like a team man - he has always given his all for the betterment of the team. 

Neither Chandimal exhibits arrogance to hit the headlines nor does he try to establish himself as a revolutionist in the team - rather - he has always tried to be a Sri Lankan and give the Island nation hope during such a testing time.  

Thank You

Faisal Caesar 

SL v Pak: Another epic vigil from Babar Azam

Steve Smith, Joe Root, Kane Williamson, and Virat Kohli - are among the fabulous 4 batters in modern-day cricket, and, it has always been hard for Babar Azam to find a place among them. In the limited-overs format, Babar has elevated his status as one of the finest in the business; but until and unless you have achieved greatness in white clothes, surely, even in this era of circus shows, you would not be regarded as one of the modern-day greats. 

Babar catches your attention with his sublime timing and crispy drives through backward point and cover region - there is that shadow of Virat Kohli in him when you watch him bring the bat with front foot facing towards cover and with late adjustments -meet the ball at the middle of the bat. But the matter is about displaying temperament to play a long innings - and under pressure - the Smith, Root, and Williamson have always been missing from the poster-boy of Pakistan cricket. 

But - he wishes to join the league of the elite batters in world cricket and since he has been appointed as the captain - the temperamental aspect started to bloom as if a jeweler is shaping up the diamond to showcase at the big stage and impress the Gods of cricket. 

85 for 7 - a score, that is not unfamiliar to Pakistan fans and they are also not unfamiliar with the epic vigils their cricketing legends have dished out since Pakistan joined the cricketing world. 

While standing at the non-striker's end, Babr watched the house collapse, and with the track offering enough turn and bounce; it was up to Babar to negotiate the snakes on the deck like a snake charmer - play the ball late with astute footwork and execute the sweep perfectly without taking undue risk. 

And, most importantly, he was needed to shield the shaky tail. 

85 for 7 became, 112 for 8, and 112 for 8 became 148 for 9 - Game over? 

Not yet - because the team is Pakistan! 

Naseem Shah - whose overall batting average in Test matches is 3.2 - unleashed a defiant resistance like a man possessed and blocked whatever came on his way. 

Yet again, the basics of strike-rotation while building a partnership was reminded and how to shield a tail-ender under pressure, was taught by Babar. 

The last wicket stitched a 70-run stand where Naseem contributed just 5 runs off 52 balls - that's what Pakistan can offer when the contest is lost. 

And when the contest is lost, they discover a one-man army and Babr was the leader of men who led from the front. 

Babar completed a seventh Test ton, and added 24 runs after tea - He whipped a full toss from Theekshana powerfully wide of mid-on and reached 99. In the following delivery, he inside-edged one that was moving towards leg, and the batters scampered through. 

A hundred to remember for ages and yet another epic vigil from the man, who is knocking at the door of greatness and enter! 

Thank You

Faisal Caesar