Reviews, Opinions, Analyses, Stats and Numbers

Most World Cups

Shahid Khan Afridi is set to become only the 5th Pakistani to have appeared in 5 World Cups or more. He is going to join the elite list of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Inzamam ul Haq with 5 appearances each. Javed Miandad appeared in 6 editions and shares the record for appearing in the most World Cups by any player with Sachin Tendulkar.

Ponting, Lara, Jayasuria, Kallis, Aravinda DeSilva, Ranatunga, Chanderpaul and Muralitharan also appeared in 5 World Cups. From the minor/non-Test Playing nations, Thomas Odoyo and Steve Tikolo represented Kenya in 5 editions as well.

From Pakistan, Saleem Malik and Ijaz Ahmed are the only other players to have represented Pakistan in 4 World Cups while Saeed Anwar, Shoaib Akhtar, Abdul Razzaq, Ramiz Raja, Saqlain Mushtaq, Waqar Younus, Mohammad Yousuf, Azhar Mahmood, Zaheer Abbas, Sarfaraz Nawaz, Wasim Bari and Mudassar Nazar appeared in 3 World Cups each.

From the current players, only Younus Khan has appeared in 3 World Cups while Kamran AKmal, Umar Gul and Mohammad Hafeez have   appeared in the World Cup twice before.
Here's a list of International players with most number of World Cup appearances.
PlayerSpanWorld CupsMat
SR Tendulkar (India)1992-2011645
Javed Miandad (Pak)1975-1996633
Wasim Akram (Pak)1987-2003538
TM Odoyo (Kenya)1996-2011525
ST Jayasuriya (SL)1992-2007538
SO Tikolo (Kenya)1996-2011528
S Chanderpaul (WI)1996-2011531
RT Ponting (Aus)1996-2011546
PA de Silva (SL)1987-2003535
M Muralitharan (SL)1996-2011540
JH Kallis (SA)1996-2011536
Inzamam-ul-Haq (Pak)1992-2007535
Imran Khan (Pak)1975-1992528
BC Lara (WI)1992-2007534
A Ranatunga (SL)1983-1999530
WPUJC Vaas (SL)1996-2007431
SR Waugh (Aus)1987-1999433
SP Fleming (NZ)1996-2007433
SM Pollock (SA)1996-2007431
Saleem Malik (Pak)1987-1999427
RS Mahanama (SL)1987-1999425
N Kapil Dev (India)1979-1992426
M Azharuddin (India)1987-1999430
JN Rhodes (SA)1992-2003424
J Srinath (India)1992-2003434
Ijaz Ahmed (Pak)1987-1999429
HP Tillakaratne (SL)1992-2003424
GD McGrath (Aus)1996-2007439
DPMD Jayawardene (SL)1999-2011433
DL Haynes (WI)1979-1992425
CZ Harris (NZ)1992-2003428
CL Cairns (NZ)1992-2003428
AR Border (Aus)1979-1992425
AJ Stewart (Eng)1992-2003425
AA Donald (SA)1992-2003425
A Flower (Zim)1992-2003430
Shahid Afridi (Pak)1999-2011420
IVA Richards (WI)1975-1987423
IT Botham (Eng)1979-1992422
GA Gooch (Eng)1979-1992421
ADR Campbell (Zim)1992-2003419
SM Gavaskar (India)1975-1987419
CA Walsh (WI)1987-1999417

Perfect series before the World Cup

Well done PCB, selection committee and team management in utilizing the last series before the World Cup in best possible way and taking all the daring steps for the future. All experiments done, all monkeys (off the shoulder) tested and all such arguments and theories put to rest that could have effected the team moral and unity in the future.
Now just have to apply the conclusions and learning of this series into the World Cup and not to repeat these experiments there. A few long term take aways of the series:
1. Younus and Asad Shafiq can watch the World Cup anywhere except Pakistan dressing room.
2. M Hafeez can still be kept in the team only as a batsman as well.
3. The inclusion of Fawad and Suhaib in the WC is now a no-brainer.
4. Haris Sohail is here to stay and can be very handy with the ball; can provide an able support to our spin trio of Afridi, Ajmal and M Hafeez even if the two get cleared to bowl. With Fawad and Ahmad Shahazad also being able to bowl, that makes more than enough howling options for the tournament.
5. Misbah can continue as the captain. Afridi’s appointment as a captain is not going to turn it around for Pakistan just for the sake of it.
6. Afridi CAN play sensibly if enough incentive is on offer and when is motivated and handled properly. Keep the ear plugs on.
7. Irfan is fit enough to go the distance. Wahab and Tanvir can fight for a slot and then Anwar, Bhatti and Junaid can fight for the rest of the slots for the pacer(s).
8. We still need to find a batsman who can bowl medium pace instead of spin for the pitches where 4 pacers are required. Bhatti and Anwar simply aren’t that reliable in batting to fill that slot. Not even Tanvir.
9. Sarfaraz is settled in the team and no need for Umar Akmal to keep wickets. He can be used both as an opener as well as “batting power play specialist” when required.
10. The same support staff and management can continue till the World Cup. No need for any changes there.

Cricket and Technology

December 11, 2014

DRS, no DRS. Hawk Eye, no Hawk Eye, Snicko, no Snicko. Heat map, no Heat map. Review, not to Review.
In recent times, all these questions have made Cricket, already perceived a complex and confusing game, even more confusing and complicated for not only super loyal fans but players as well. Now, as soon as a decision making event happens in Cricket, the first question that comes to mind is not of out or not out but which of the technology tools are available. Add the usual adventure of some players with known lack of knowledge of the rules of the game and you often end up having either a funny or a frustrating few minutes in the middle of the game.

Whether Technology should be used to assist decision making in Cricket or not? and to what extent? It has become such an infinite and never ending debate that has welcomed everyone to have an opinion about it.

I am all for Technology. Technology has changed the way we look at, feel, hear and say in our everyday life. It has changed the way we operate our lives so why shouldn't it change the way we operate Cricket. In this day and age where technology has drastically improved the ability of common people to see, hear and interpret the events around them, how could one expect anyone to be watching the game in the same old pre-1990 era -- where the Technology was insufficient to enhance the experience of TV audience so too of the umpires -- and so whatever the umpire said was final. I remember the time when even broadcasters used to have cameras only one side of the pitch not 11 cameras at a time today to even monitor the events happening at the boundary lines.

Another reason why Technology should be involved in decision making is that Cricket is not left to men in the ground any more. Gone are the days, when only captain, coach, selection committee and boards used to have a say in the career of a Cricketer. In this Information Age, every spectator has a say. Any one of them can hop on social media to examine any event in the game, talk about it and if required, speculate and crib about it. The prime tool under his use is nothing but Technology. Such chain of events often end up in the poor umpires getting all kinds of criticism and bashing. It looks absolutely unfair for an umpire to have one shot, that too on normal speed with one angle, to make a decision that could then be assessed and examined by billions of eyes having the luxury of all kinds of technologies to make their decision, say perception. It should be a level playing field for all - even for both the umpires and audience so that the criticism can be diverted more towards the ability of decision making rather than lack of technology.


The next question is how the technology should be used? What should be the modus operandi to involve Technology in decision making? The current method of players asking the umpire to review his own decision sounds extremely illogical. That happens when either team gestures to the umpire that they do not agree with the umpires judgment and want to take help of the technology that the poor umpire himself did not have in the first place. They could have at least called it "Third Umpire Review" or "Technology Review" or anything. They tried to brush it up a bit by taking out U (Umpire) from the DRS (Decision Review System), as if someone else also makes decisions in Cricket but it still sound rebellious and disrespectful to umpires, to an extent.

I see a logical flaw in the concept of players challenging a decision. Players never stay stationary or focused on decision making. Their focus is always to act, not to watch the activity. Its the umpire who is meant to be there with all his focus on decision making rather than bowling, fielding, catching, throwing playing or chasing the ball. If that dedicated person can't get a decision right then how come one or many other players who are there primarily to play, not make decisions, can make the right calls? If an umpire having the best position in and outside the field to judge an LBW can make an error then how come a keeper standing behind and moving around, or any slipper or any other fielder can even speculate about the decision.

The primary objective of DRS was to eliminate howlers but howlers don't come in predefined numbers like once in an ODI innings, twice in 80 overs in a Test innings. This approach doesn't make it a mechanism to eliminate howlers but more an attempt to stop the players from cribbing about the wrong decisions. Its more like, you could have got the right decision but you know what, it's your mistake that you didn't keep a review for this time. On one side, howlers are untapped once they happen after all reviews are consumed and on the other side, it has also added the unnecessary delay and drama on the field.

Avoidance of time wastage and delays is what has been told as the primary reason behind limiting the number of reviews. But what about all those cases where players confer and then decide not to review. Doesn't it waste equal amount of time?
I simply fail to understand why the same mechanism be applied to LBW, caught and other decisions that has been there for run out, stumpings, doubtful catches and boundary decisions? Yes, players do seem to request for it sometimes but it's purely an umpire's call when to use technology and refer to the third umpire for any decision. The mechanism has been there for decades now and that is the mechanism that has taken out the howlers from the game for those particular kinds of decisions. Do we still witness bizarre run out or stumping decisions? Who ensures that? If the umpires can handle that then why can't they handle all of that.


Then comes the interesting point about the accuracy of technology and which one to use and when. Like all other aspects of life, Technology can augment human intelligence but can never supersede it. There's simply no Technology that is 100% accurate and reliable. Machines simply lack human intelligence and artificial intelligence can work most but not all of the times. That does not mean Technology is useless. Its use is most beneficial when used to aid human intelligence not to compete with it. Technology can show you hot spots on the bat but you will always need a human to identify if it's because of ball hitting the bat or it is because of bat hitting something else. Same goes for Snicko and other technologies as well.

In principle, Technology should be used and all available technologies but it's use should be to assist the umpires in making the right decision instead of being used to challenge or undermine the umpires. The decision of when to use which Technology should be left to the umpires instead of players making those calls.

Let's equip the umpires better and let them do their job and let players focus on their job too - that is to play not to make or review decisions. Lets simplify it and move on and let us all concentrate on the beauty of the game that we all love instead of getting lost into the technicalities of the technology.

Pakistan's history of pre-World Cup chaos and captaincy debate

Since 1999 Pakistan Cricket has prepared itself for the ODI World Cup with chaos, turmoil and self-destruct maneuvers and every time it has done one bit worst than the previous attempt. Whether its a coincidence or natural outcome of incompetent system, can be a good case for some top investigators but it can't overshadow the fact that Pakistan Cricket has been hit with major turmoil within 12 to 15 months before every ODI World Cup since 1999 which makes Pakistan's final standing in the last four World Cups pretty much expected and justified.

It started with unanticipated resignation of Javed Miandad as the coach of Pakistan team before '99 WC barely months before the event. Some say the untapped spot fixing and match fixing also played part but whatever the reason it may be, the timing of that development couldn't have been worst for Pakistan's World Cup campaign.

Although, Pakistan managed to reach the Finals of '99 edition of ODI World Cup but the unexpected losses against Bangladesh in a dead rubber and against Australia in the Finals are a talking point for all match fixing conspiracy theorists till this day. Its not surprising that a few still manages to find a few links between Miandad's resignation, Pakistan's loss against England in Sharjah during a tournament right before the World Cup and those losses during the World Cup.

2002/03 - a year before the next World Cup - Pakistan Cricket was sailing through the ocean of uncertainty yet again. The year marked the poorest performance of Pakistan against Australia (in Sri Lanka and UAE) and against South Africa in South Africa.

That performance is probably the worst in Pakistan's history if considered with the amount of talent, experience and expertise that was available to Pakistan team till 2003 World Cup that served as final curtain for the careers of Pakistan's all-time greats like Wasim, Waqar and Saeed Anwar. The not so confidential differences between then captain, Waqar Younus, and the board and selection committee were further validated when Waqar disclosed all the issues openly after the World Cup which saw Pakistan team failing to reach the knock out stages of the competition for the first time in the history.

Again, comparing the talent, experience and expertise in that squad with the result highlight nothing but rifts and infighting resulting in down fall of a competent side.

Then came 2006, another year before the ODI World Cup, which is remembered mostly for several infamous events like Inzimam - Hair altercation over ball tempering, the dope testing episode involving Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Asif, and Afridi getting banned for, supposedly, threatening a spectator with the bat in South Africa.

Pakistan's loss to Ireland in World Cup doesn't seem so much surprising when one considers the fact that Pakistan was without the services of Asif, Shoaib and Afridi - the three match winners on their day - for that particular match. What conspired after that loss to Ireland is a well-remembered event of history.

Moving on to 2011 World Cup, 2010/11 seasons marked similar chaotic trend with a touch of innovation this time. 2010, England, Pakistan, Cricket, No-balls - I believe it does not need any more hints to point at a particular event.

Apart from those bizarre events during the summer, 2010 was filled with trademark musical chairs for captaincy in Pakistan Cricket. 2009 had ended with Younus stepping down from captaincy and Yousuf taking over for Australia tour.

The start of 2010 calendar probably gave the clear indication of the chaos and madness that was about to follow. The year started with that infamous Sydney test that pushed Akmal brothers to the new level of popularity. The Sydney debacle was followed by the ball-biting stunt by one and only Shahid Afridi.

The irony didn't end their, the same man was also made the captain of Pakistan team for all types of Cricket. It didn't end there either. Afridi came back to Test Cricket from retirement for a test and went back after just a single test. Salman Butt was made the captain of rocking ship in the middle of the tour and his captaincy ended in another chaotic mess of spot fixing.

Then came Misbah ul Haq as the captain of Test side but by the time Pakistan played the last series before the World Cup against New Zealand, the air was again filled with the possibility of Misbah replacing Afridi as captain of Pakistan team during the World Cup. Although, it did not happen but it was not until the end of the New Zealand tour and just a few days before the World Cup that Afridi was finally announced as captain of Pakistan team for 2011 World Cup.

Whether it played a part or not but what happened in Mohali is a mystery to date where Pakistan defeated itself by not only giving four lives to Tendulkar but also with a run chase full of mind boggling displays - from M Hafeez's incomplete paddle sweep to Younus' slow down to Umar Akmal's and Abdul Razzaq's inability to play regulation deliveries to the unexplained delay in taking the power play when Misbah and Afridi were on the crease to Afridi's mindless hit on a full toss from Harbhajan in his last over before the power play...... and to Misbah's exhibition of devoted defense in a run chase with perfection of taking singles on last ball of every over.

The next series after World Cup in West Indies resulted in public altercation between the captain, Shahid Afridi, and the coach, Waqar Younus. It only needs common sense to understand that it takes a while for such differences to burst out and it looks ominous that not everyone in the Pakistan camp were on the same page before yet another World Cup.

The past is irrelevant until the future conspires to repeat the history. With around 15 months to go for another ODI Word Cup, the scene of Pakistan Cricket is again filled with noises, better say shouts, for Misbah and M Hafeez to be kicked out of their role as ODI and T20 captains of Pakistan, respectively. Let's keep the discussion about T20, M Hafeez and T20 for another day but for ODIs, the scene is amazingly similar with Pakistan Cricket's pre-World Cup history since '99.

Misbah has been the captain of the side since 2011 - right after 2011 World Cup when the West Indies tour - the first after the 2011 WC - resulted in Afridi vacating yet another captaincy slot. Good or bad, aggressive or defensive, inspiring or dull, Misbah has handled this team of volatile ingredients pretty well and to his credit, the world hasn't heard of any new scandal from Pakistan camp for almost three years - rarity, isn't it?

However, the calls for removal of Misbah don't look that unjustified if all the touching-distance losses, dramatic collapses and helpless bowling performances are kept in mind. Misbah has provided much stability at the cost of distinctive flair of Pakistan Cricket, isn't an incorrect statement. It can be said that just like in the middle of fragile batting line up, Misbah has done remarkably well in fulfilling his duties of stabilizing the team in the middle of captaincy musical chairs and all other controversies.

But just like his batting, he is too good to lay the foundation but not good enough to finish the games all by himself. Just like his batting, he is an honest trier and hardworking individual but probably an unlucky one who has missed enough chances to cease the moment and turn a close defeat into a winning finish; probably that is what differentiates him from the classification of typical Pakistani fighters like Miandad, Wasim Waqar, Inzimam and others and probably that is why most of common Pakistanis criticize him for missing the opportunity without appreciating his efforts in taking the game that close from where he could be blamed for not winning it.

So, its not the removal of Misbah as a captain which should be of great concern at this point but it should be the impact of this removal and his replacement. Pakistan Cricket still has time to prepare for 2015 World Cup so it can look for a new leader. It can thank Misbah for his efforts for laying the foundations of a stable base from where Pakistan can launch its band of world beaters.

But if it is going to be just a change of old guard with another old face then it is going to be a disaster yet again. Replacement of Misbah with someone who was removed or stepped down for one reason or the other, may undo Misbah's stabilizing efforts and push Pakistan Cricket back into the familiar hole of captaincy musical chairs, infighting and rifts.

It's time Pakistan Cricket eradicate the disease of every player eyeing the captaincy spot and the board fueling their egoistic wishes by providing all the means for the captaincy musical chair. The policy of no-repeated captain may solve a lot of issues of Pakistan Cricket including dressing room grouping etc.

As for M Hafeez taking over from Misbah, it would definitely be a case of replacing a 4-wheeler with a 2-wheeler just for the sake of  it. It would be change just for the sake of change and primarily because of how much the 4-wheeler is disliked rather than what is exactly needed.

In summary, Pakistan Cricket is standing at the crossroads yet another time right before a World Cup and it should resist the temptation of repeating the history. If it is inevitable, its time Pakistan go for a young captain and work on long term plans like Australia did with Allan Border in 80s and South Africa did with Greame Smith in 2003.

It looks like the careers of veterans like Misbah, Afridi, Younus, Abdul Razzaq, M Hafeez, Shoaib Malik etc. are not going to last beyond 2015 World Cup, so replacement of Misbah with any of these would be nothing but another cut for very short term gains. It looks like the appointment of a young captain is inevitable. Whether it should be done now or left till the end of another unsuccessful World Cup campaign in 2015, is a point to ponder. 

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