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The Story of Two Pathans . . . 29 March 2005

Posted by TwentyTwoYards in Howzzat!! (aka the 'Honourable Game').
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After the epic fightback at Mohali, Pakistan have pulled another rabbit out of the hat and actaully won the Bangalore Test . This performance definitely has shades of the 1987 Bangalore victory; whilst 1987 was probably the greatest Pakistani win of all time, the current one is special too – it was certainly achieved against greater odds and with a 'weaker' team. How many of us actually believed we could draw this series against India? Come on, be honest! :-)

Yes, this was a herculean team effort, and everyone, even Sami and Yasir Hameed, did their bit very well.. they are all heroes and deserve plaudits, but maybe, the real heroes of this match, apart from the obvious Inzamam, are two Pathans, with vastly different styles, approaches and mindsets: Younis Khan and Shahid Khan Afridi. One a sensible, level-headed, intelligent, hard-working vice-captain from Mardan…. the other a hot-headed, tempetuous, street-fighting die-hard from the Khyber Agency. One grew up in cosmopolitan Karachi, and is the team's glamour boy and its hearththrob, complete with the ludicrous hair-do… whilst the other has his roots in the harsh surrounds of the Frontier regions, still plays some of his domestic cricket in the Frontier and is almost as modest and self-effacing as Inzi; in short, a gentleman who plays the game as it should be played… definitely not a glamour boy!

But both played with great heart, achieving everything for their country, and outplaying India's best ever team in its own backyard. Credit also to Inzi and Woolmer, for allowing both of them to play the second Test. After the epic face-saving draw at Mohali, they could have opted to play it safe and continue with Butt, but they opted to bring in some fire-power in the shape of Afridi. They could also have given in to loud public pressure to drop YK after Mohali, but they stuck to their guns and look how handsomely they have been rewarded.

Afridi's bowling was excellent in patches in the two Tests he played, though ordinary at other times. On the fifth day though, he was as close to unplayable as you can get on a relatively benign track. In four innings during this series, he snapped up the biggest wicket of all, that of Sachin Tendulkar, three times. Alongwith the peerless Glenn McGrath, a certain Pathan from Karachi can now also rightly say that the world's greatest batsman is his bunny! He bowled with great intelligence, using his variety, and some clever deceptions…if only he batted with so much brains!

And so to his batting…well what can I say that has not been already said.. The only reason Pakistan made such an excellent start on Day 4, was thanks to that man Afridi. He really batted like no one else can, especially against the Indian pace bowlers. No one, not even Kumble, was shown any respect by the man from Karachi and Khyber, despite facing some very negative bowling. Pathan's first five overs went for 45; Balaji's three for 26. Ganguly had to try something different and so SRT was given the ball in the 11th over. Both Kumble and Tendulkar resorted to bowling leg spin aiming for the rough well outside the batsmen's legs, just to nullify the Afridi effect!

Well done Affers.

And Younis Khan… over 500 runs in the series, at an average in excess of 100! When was the last time one of our guys got 500 in one series, and that too in a three Test series? 350 runs in the last Test alone. 2 excellent catches on the very last day. 100% commitment in the field, every minute of every day. Excellent support to Inzi as the vice-captain. Great perspective on life, so not getting too serious about what is still just a game. Tremendous levels of fitness, to still be running so hard for singles when on 260 odd… staggering levels of stamina to appear to be the most agile fielder on the 5th day today, after he has been in the field for almost 29 hours!* Astonishing really, this man is more defatigueable than the Duracell bunny….

The complete team player too, happy to do whatever his team wants. Open? Yes sir, I will. Come in at number three? Of course. Bat at no.7 with the tail? Sure, why not. Field at first slip the whole day? With pleasure. Catch at short-leg? Would love to. Be the v/c and run the show with Inzi? For the team, yes. Keep wickets even though you are not a keeper? Yes, of course I would. YK, for me, personifies the team ethic, and has done for a while, but I was never convinced about his batting technique and longevity till now. It is a pleasure to see that finally he merits a place in the side as a batsman too! An FPC** without a doubt ….

Two cricketing heroes to salute today…!

* He was in the dressing room only for the first 6 mins and the last 2 mins of our first innings, and then the first 62 mins of our second innings. That makes 70 mins in the dressing room over the full five days, and so the remaining time, he was out there in the field for over 29 hours, giving 100%. Astonishing….

** Future Pakistan Captain

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