By Faisal Caesar
“The ICC tribunal has announced a sanction of ten years' ineligibility for Salman Butt (with five years of a suspended sentence); seven years for Mohammad Asif (with two years suspended) and five years' ineligibility for Mohammad Amir. The sanctions follow investigations of their role in spot-fixing, along with Mazhar Majeed, a players' agent, during Pakistan's tour of England in 2010,” according to cricinfo.
To many fans, this decision came as a shock. They were hoping that at least Mohammad Amir would be spared of harsh punishment. Sadly, the most exciting talent since the legendary Wasim Akram got no such leniency.
The fans and the cricket thinkers of Pakistan should not rue over the decision. Amidst of so many chaos and controversies Pakistan has still a competitive for the World Cup. And under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi, Pakistan has gelled into a fine unit.
The new ball Asif and Amir will be missed, but at present Abdur Razzaq is doing a good job. Razzaq might not unsettle the batsmen with extravagant pace or movement in the manner of Asif or Amir, but he has taken the responsibility of tying down one end with the new ball while the likes of Shoaib Akhtar and Umar Gul attack from the other end.
And Afridi has used Razzaq with much shrewdness. He uses him till the shine of the ball persists and engages Mohammed Hafeez to strangle the batsmen in the middle overs. Afridi's canny leg-spin has not only kept things quiet during the middle overs, but has also broken vital partnerships that have threatened to take the game away. Hafeez is capable of chipping in with a few miserly spells of his own in Saeed Ajmal's absence.
In Umar Gul, Pakistan has the most lethal weapon in the end overs to send shiver down any best batsmen’s spine. Gul is surely the finest merchants of reverse swing at present in the limited-overs cricket. With Gul, Wahab Riaz too is a handy customer and an excellent exponent of late in-swingers to rattle the stumps. And in sub continent conditions, Gul and Riaz will be very deadly while Afridi and Hafeez will be licking their fingers.
So why rue about the absence of Asif and Amir? Pakistan has good replacements in this World Cup.
Personally, I don’t think Salman Butt is needed in the team. His batting form, after being made the captain, was disastrous. Pakistan at the top has the best men in the business at present in the form of Hafeez and Shehzad. Hence, the absence of Butt shouldn’t bother Pakistan. And mind you Pakistan middle-order is wells settled, with the super cool Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq and the Akmal brothers to show their impulsive batting. These guys are well aided by the fireworks of Afridi and Razzaq.
Pakistan is cricket’s greatest enigma. Over the years the team has traveled through troubled waters so many times that it’s enough to make anybody dizzy. The spot-fixing scandal has cost them their two premium fast bowlers, but the Men in Green continue to perform to earn enough praises. Had the other teams had been disturbed by so many chaos then surely they would have crumbled. But Pakistan has gelled well to cement a settle side before the World Cup. The good thing is that the players have understood their roles in the team.
Pakistan must not let the Doha case disturb their focus for the World Cup and they should stick with this settled side and dream big for the World Cup.
(Faisal Caesar is a doctor by profession whose dream of becoming a cricketer remained a dream. But his passion is very much alive and he translates that passion in writing about the game)