Friday, January 21, 2011

Why Pakistan will win the World Cup

I had originally thought of writing a snarkfest on the inquiry in Doha. But on full reflection that comedy of stitch-ups can be dismissed with the swiftness of a Sehwag innings in South Africa. For, once again, the ICC have bungled it.
This little trial, with its officialdom and orderly calm, has had just the one plus point: the chance for three sportsmen to wear suits. (I am convinced sports stars don the two-piece and collar and tie at the first opportunity, to convince their mothers they have proper jobs.)
The ICC's main man, Michael Beloff, is fully deserving of his QC status, but this is like sending the world's best hostage negotiator to ask a six-year-old to return a McDonalds Happy Meal toy to his younger brother. This is playing with a straight bat when you need a reverse sweep over short third man for six. This is keeping it un-deceptively simple, and this is not going to work.
You want the truth from the fumbling, fudging, fibbing trio of Butt, Amir and Asif? Try this: put them in a room, one after the other, with Imran Khan. No one-way mirror, no lawyers, no Holy Quran for them to swear on. Just a table and two chairs. Let Imran ask the questions, flanked on one side by Javed Miandad, dressed in prison-guard uniform, and on the other, firmly in front of the exit door, Inzamam-ul-Haq, wielding one of those illegally wide tape-ball bats. The truth shall not just prevail but burst forth from the accuseds' lips like they were on Mount Olympus faced with the wrath of all the gods.
Having brushed aside legal minutiae with a sweep as easy and quick as Alastair Cook against whoever it was that bowled spin for the Aussies these past few weeks, let me tell you why Pakistan are going to win the World Cup.
Never before has this nation been so cornered and so gagging for sharp-toothed tigers. With this team, however, I think Pakistan, so often heralded as the unpredictables, but this time totally unfancied, will go all the way. These are my 11 men to snatch the cup from an unsuspecting world:
Kamran Akmal
Has hustled the entire world into thinking he is either a cheat or incompetent or both. It is all part of a four-and-a-half year masterstroke by the PCB and Kamran himself. For he is still there and he will make the World Cup and he will remind the world just how good we thought he was going to be back in early 2006.
Mohammad Hafeez
This man has survived a torrential storm of abuse from Shahid Afridi and come out alive. That takes some spunk, so no wonder he is now Pakistan's most reliable batsman. For those who don't get the reference, and who are over 18, type "afridi hafeez" in Youtube.
Younis Khan
This Khan is just pissed off that the best cricketer called Khan in the world right now is, apparently, an Indian. Oh dear, cricket world. You've said it now. Younis is a nice man, a wonderful man, the best of men, but some things cannot be forgiven.
This spot might ultimately be taken by one of the young guns - perhaps Asad Shafiq or Azhar Ali. But I want to see Misbah there. The Quiet Man of Pakistani cricket just broke his voice with the Test captaincy. No more last-ball scoop-sweeps. It'll be over well before then as Misbah combines MBA-trained calculation with straight drives over long-off. Inshallah.
Umar Akmal
I once thought him the new Viv Richards. I still do. Maybe I shouldn't drink so much and listen to all that psychedelic reggae.
Shahid Afridi
This mentalist plays well in India. Maybe it's the flat tracks, maybe the Indian actresses in the hotel lobbies, maybe it's the water and how it poofs his hair just right. Who cares? In India he is going to clear up because he always does.
Abdur Razzaq
Razzaq is the sniper of Pakistan cricket. He waits and waits (and we wait and wait) and then suddenly he kills the enemy general and wins the war. Opposition teams, with your plans and strategies and laptops, tell me this: what can you do about the killer you don't even see till he finishes you with a lethal blow?
Abdur Rehman
A year ago everyone (at least all my cousins) said Saeed Ajmal was the best limited-overs spinner in the world. Now Rehman takes the slot. Oh, how much can change in a year. Admittedly Mike Hussey is the main reason for this changeover, but Rehman does look pretty decent.
Wahab Riaz
Lahore has a new lion. Look at this guy prowl around, whether with bat or ball in hand. He has no discernible talent, and judging from the News of the World story, he is not a particularly discerning judge of character. It matters not. This man will be the star of the World Cup. You heard it here first. (You also must have heard that Page 2 is satire.)

Umar Gul
I have to say I do not understand Gul. He takes this Pakistani thing of swaying from great to godawful to extreme lengths. So if it's the latter, Pakistan can bring in Sohail Tanvir, the man who is such a big swinger he should've been born in the sixties.
Shoaib Akhtar
Like a cockroach, he never dies. Like a cockroach, he will crawl all over the subcontinent, making tough men back away like little girls, and then he will scamper around in limb-stretched celebration.
12th Man. Asad Shafiq
I have it on good authority that Shafiq is the most promising water-carrier since Didier Deschamps. In a hot subcontinental March, this will be the difference between dry-lipped gazes at the cup from a distance and drinking from it greedily, tasting the sweet nectar of victory, and awaking fresh from a five-year nightmare.

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