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Less rituals, more runs please

February 20, 2012

The talented Umar Akmal was over the moon after he completed his fifty in the third ODI against England. -Photo by AP

Over the years batsmen around the world have celebrated their centuries by raising the bat, taking off their head gear and waving it towards the pavilion. The more enthusiastic/passionate ones make it a point to leap, kiss or hug their partner or sprint for anywhere between ten to thirty yards.

Generally, batsmen, at least the leading ones, think that the only milestone that is worth celebrating is a century, most of the time fifties are not rated as an extra-ordinary achievement.

Former Australian opening batsman, Mark Taylor, once said that his only aim was to score centuries every time he strode out to bat for his country.

The Pakistanis of late, have found it extremely hard to reach three figures in any format of the game. Even half-centuries have been hard to come by in the ongoing ODI series and for that matter the preceding tests. But when they have, they have ensured that they let the world know of their relief in achieving that ‘special’ knock that perhaps has sealed their place in the team for at least the duration of the series!

While there is nothing wrong in thanking the Almighty, there sure is a problem when players return to the pavilion moments later, totally exhausted and having lost focus due to their over the top celebrations. (This includes removal of the helmet, a huge grin, a “sajda”, a warm hug for/from the batting partner and waving of the bat at everyone present inside the stadium).

For instance, the talented Umar Akmal was over the moon after he completed his fifty in the third ODI against England. And as he was going through his celebration rituals one feared his demise was nigh! He didn’t disappoint. He subsequently failed to add a single run to his score, and lost his wicket in a brilliant one-handed catch to Samit Patel at mid-wicket only moments later!

Similarly Taufiq Umar and Adnan Akmal perished almost immediately after reaching the dizzying heights of a test fifty (celebrated with aplomb) in the first match of the series at Dubai.

While Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen tonked tons with leisurely ease, the Pakistani batting effort - or lack of it - has only produced two fifties in the first three ODI games.

The top scorer for Pakistan has been, of all people, BOOM BOOM Afridi. His fifty came minutes after Umar Akmal had finished his celebration rituals. A focused Afridi barely raised his bat and at this juncture he was heard on the stump microphone saying, “Bohot overs hain Umar aaram se” (Take it easy Umar, we’ve got plenty of overs). Akmal nodded, and reassured the former captain that he was in it for the long-haul.

It meant very little as he fell in the very next over.

A few hours later Pietersen had thumped his way to a ton. He had switched back on after scoring his fifty, as focused as a man starting fresh.

With England on the verge of recording a ‘greenwash’, can a Pakistani batsman do away with the rituals and record a face saving ton tomorrow?