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The expendable Mr Razzaq

Published Oct 11, 2012 05:57pm


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Abdul razzaq, shahid afridi, shoaib malik, mohammad hafeez, sohail tanvir, kamran akmal, world t20, pakistan world twenty20
It’s easy to understand Abdul Razzaq’s annoyance at being left out of Pakistan’s side for the World T20 semifinal in Colombo. As a proven game-changing all-rounder, especially in this format, Abdul Razzaq may well have felt he deserved a spot – that too after missing majority of the tournament.

There is no black-and-white solution to this problem, as has been made out in the aftermath of Pakistan’s exit. Spare a thought for Mohammad Hafeez, probably the side’s steadiest all-rounder – in this tournament, he led both Pakistan’s run charts and wicket tallies – who is now being flayed by former cricketers who imagine that they had done better in their time. Razzaq’s bitterly sarcastic remarks upon arrival in Pakistan, where he claimed that Hafeez had single-mindedly changed a winning combination and supposed himself a better tactician than a number of more accomplished advisors, will do nothing to help the embattled captain.

At the same time, it has to be said that in the past decade, no player has spent more time on the sidelines or in the dressing room than Razzaq. Pakistan does not have a more sidelined senior player. Part of this comes down to the player’s role in the side – as a merchant of slow, accurate cutters that, if not as quick as they were in his youth, retain a militarily discipline and economy, and as a fierce late-order hitter with the versatility either to lash out at the end of an innings or patch up a stumbling innings – he can be easily overlooked. Similarly, as one of the side’s quieter, more staid personalities – in contrast to the gregarious and charismatic Shahid Afridi, for instance, whose exclusion would raise a whirlwind of a backlash – he is an easier prospect for a captain to overlook if changes need be made to the side.

Consider the semifinal: Hafeez wanted Sohail Tanvir as an additional bowler in the squad, which is a fair enough call for a captain against Sri Lanka’s lineup. Tanvir’s fine record against the side most definitely helped but rather than replacing one of the underachieving batsmen – including the palpably out-of-form Afridi, Shoaib Malik or Kamran Akmal, each of whom holds more leverage as a more dominant and difficult personality – he omitted Razzaq. This, despite the man’s distinguished record with the ball in similar conditions over six separate visits (2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, 2009, and 2010). Never mind the fact that in his only outing this time around he had done a better job, with a swift 22 on a sluggish pitch, than the aforementioned players had. Never mind, either, that his Twenty20 record with the ball is as good (indeed slightly better) as his replacement’s.

This is not a new phenomenon.When a captain is looking to experiment - as the ambitious and possibly eager Hafeez has since taking over - Razzaq has been an easy player to brush aside in the past three years regardless of performance. He neither boasts the fan following, and subsequent leverage, of Afridi; nor does he wield Malik’s supposed expertise – which has vanished in the past year – as a middle-order accumulator; nor does he have the same sort of monopoly over a spot that Kamran, a vastly regressed keeper whose talent with the bat disappeared throughout this tournament, has over the important keeper’s slot. He simply has a long pedigree in salvaging difficult causes with bat and ball.

This is by no means specific to the now veteran player, of course. Other steady but overlooked performers include Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Kamran Hussain, Sarfraz Ahmed, Fawad Alam – even Waqar Younis and Mohammad Yousuf were strangely sidelined in their final few years, despite magnificent records with ball and bat respectively. But it is also a tactical oversight; Pakistan’s abuse of the seam-bowling all-rounder’s spot has been more of a reactionary oversight in the past fifteen years than a necessarily intentional move. Azhar Mahmood, Yasir Arafat and young Hammad Azam often had to wait until others failed or struggled before they were given an opportunity, either with bat or ball; the much-maligned Arafat, indeed, was another victim of poor management in this tournament, where he took five wickets at 14.60, out-bowling the likes of Umar Gul and Tanvir, and yet lost his place.

But none of these players have the prowess or experience that Razzaq has in this role, despite having maintained it for the better part of the decade without any assurance or security over his role in the side. An outburst, in the piquant disappointment of what he obviously felt was a lost match where his skills could have come in handy, was understandable. Razzaq’s eventual swipe at Hafeez was wrong, an indefensible snap from a rank-and-filer to his captain – but it also showed that, rightly or wrongly, the veteran all-rounder did not feel he could raise this question to the management in the dressing-room during the tournament. This is only vindicated by the same management’s failure to critique more popular, but under-performing, players for their failures.

The problem here is not whether Hafeez was right or wrong in selecting Tanvir for the semifinal. Hindsight, indeed, shows that it was a brave call. It does not even matter whether it was a unilateral call from the captain or a collective decision by the management. In any case, a newish captain should not be blamed for taking a bold decision.

The question these turn of events raises is why some players, some roles, are so easily marginalized and overlooked, and why others retain their spots with impunity, regardless of performance in what is meant to be a professional setup.

Ibrahim Moiz is a student at the University of Toronto who spends more time writing about the game than watching it.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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Comments (38) Closed

suroor Oct 11, 2012 07:39pm
Very good article, taking a different approach of handling the problems faced by Pak cricket. I hope that Crciket Board officials will read this article.
Siyyid Oct 13, 2012 01:07pm
Hafeez even cannot justify his own place in the team Do you people think that on merit he should the innings for Pakistan there are hundreds of people who can do better then professor. I think Hafeez should be posted as DG Cricket studies in BCCP.
ajk Oct 12, 2012 08:21am
Afridi has earned fame by now and is a man of means. He should quit on his own !
Salman Oct 12, 2012 06:13am
thank you ibrahim from Tdot.
Talha Oct 12, 2012 06:37am
Include Hafeez's name as well to the list. Razzak is far better than Hafeez who is nothing but an ordinary street cricketer. Hafeez is in the team, and now a captain as well, just because of a strong lobby. No one will mind calling this team the Punjab XI. Previously, players used to come on pawwa but then they proved their worth as well. It has been in the last 10 years that this pawwa has been used to recruit and retain nothing but below par cricketers.
Saleem Oct 12, 2012 10:08am
Absolutely well said,
mash Oct 12, 2012 10:41am
fantastic analysis!, look forward to more articles from you
pervez Oct 12, 2012 06:35pm
Razzaq should been in the lineup as he is was in form and better player than any current squad even better than hafiz.
Jamil Oct 13, 2012 02:30am
Abdul Razzaq is a true and honest star and will remain shining forever. You are incredible!.
Saadat Oct 12, 2012 02:00pm
A nicely done piece. Thanks
akum Oct 11, 2012 02:42pm
Razzaq is the most desciplined player I ever seen in pakistan squad. He is a real gentleman.
iqbal Oct 11, 2012 11:10pm
agreed , not sure Hafeez had been ignoring him from day 1 in the wc although he did put razzaq on hot seat against the Aussies in UAE and he still delivered so I think Hafeez's oversight on this is mind boggling and he should be questioned for such bad calls.. every kid in the street knew the playing eleven except Hafeez..
communist Oct 12, 2012 04:09am
Every decision look bad and worst, once your team losses a game. No body ever mentioned the aforementioned issues when Pakistan won an easy game, difficultely, against SA. If, Hafeez would have included abdur Razaq in the semi-final, I can bet every body would gave been saying other way around. We should accept loss even more open heartely than a win. This is what games teach us!
Shakil Oct 12, 2012 07:38am
absolutley; you have highlighted order of the day
M.Toor Oct 11, 2012 03:12pm
There is a time when a national cricketer should understand that it's time to quit. Unfortunately this doesn't happen with Pakistani cricketers often. They seem to believe they can play forever. Abdul Razzaq has been in the same mindset. In T-20 format for Pakistan, when ever he is in the final 11, he has never batted above # 7 or 8 when you only have 10-12 balls left to play. Lately, he has hardly bowled 4 complete overs in any game. And if he has that cost so many runs that captain lost faith in his bowling. There are always good and bad moments but over all Abdul Razzaq had a good 15-years career (his debut was in 1996). The point is, based on his form and utility he needs to understand that time has come for him to quit in grace rather than complaining continuously.
Yousuf Kadeer Oct 12, 2012 05:17am
The writer obviously has not played cricket, atleast at any organized level of merit; Hence such carelessnes (he may think it is bold) about the nuances of the world of cricket Pakistan. The match winning knock of 70 odd runs in England a few years ago by His Highness Abdul Razzaq is a testimony of his boldness. i have yet to see that personality in neither hafeez, nor umar, nor sohail. The writer is looking at glass half full. What bold decision without Mr. Bold abdul razzaq?
Mike Shaikh Oct 12, 2012 04:41am
A nation of LOSERS.
liaquat Oct 11, 2012 04:38pm
I agree with Ayub and on the other side Ibrahim Moiz analysis and in a sense supporting Hafiz, is not justyfiable and fair at all. In all matches Tanvir's performance was not good and still he played all matches but one, look his spell he starts with wide delivereis and ends with control over his line and length. It is very obvious that Razzak has been ignored and sidlined for personal reasons than all those fancy wordings that if Afridi was droped it would be a whirld backlash, every first duck and lackluster bowling, how much U will afford a player with a pathetic performance match after match. If ,as the writer has said about the personality than in future matches try to get personalities from TV screens or big screens
Nazim Oct 11, 2012 04:31pm
Really sorry for dropping Razzaq from the semifinal although his performance in the earlier match was comendable. He is a gentleman cricketer never heard involving in the game politics. I think he should be made captain for the next One Day internation or Twenty 20. He should have been given captaincy chance long back.
Uz Oct 12, 2012 08:05am
Excellent article to support and back a new captain. Hafeez on a turning track against mendis and herath would have been awful and sohail bowled extremely well and justified his place, The problem with people of pak is that if we would have won the match nothing would have said and done. Really dissapointed to see some former players not encouraging the team and new captain and having their own opinions. I think we were much better then others in the tournament and the semi final loss was only due to the toss as you can see SL when chasing against WI could not manage a mere 100 runs so we did much better. ICC should make sporting tracks for such tourbaments where toss does not matter.
Yasser Oct 11, 2012 04:14pm
Hafeez's record (top of the batting and bowling chart) has to be taken in context. As an opener he naturally gets the opportunity to bat the majority of the innings. He had a couple of 40+ innings but only as a junior partner to another player dominating the innings. He played a terrible innings in the semis and was lucky to score what he did. Infact, he was lucky in just about every innings during the tournament. His strike rate barely touched 100%. Razzaq's frustration also has to do with the fact that hafeez is a very ordinary player who has been made the captain as he is "yes man". The captain may have the right to decide on whichever team he wants, but he should be ready to bear the criticism as well. Razaq is a great servant of Pakistani cricket and one can fully understand his lashing out at a captain who is a nothing player. Hafeez's ineptitude will be found out in due time and he will soon (hopefully) be discarded into the rubbish bin of history.
Iqbal Oct 11, 2012 04:01pm
if Tanvir was much-needed, Afridi was more logical choice to be dropped. as he was not playing... i don't think Hafeez has got the guts to drop Afridi... so he dropped Abdul Razzak
Javid Shirazi Oct 11, 2012 03:59pm
As long as these prejudices and anomalies prevail, it is difficult to see the team becoming champions. There seems to be a dearth of sincere and honest personalities. Despite repeated failures the same players keep getting selected. When are they going to drop Afridi, Kamran, Shoaib and the other mediocres? Unfortunaely, this inertia seems to be deeply embedded.
Justanumber Oct 11, 2012 03:42pm
Razzaq should denounce his pakistani citizenship & play for england/aus or SA. Just like Azhar, he still has a lot to offer at int'l level if recognized & utilized better.
Syed Oct 11, 2012 02:52pm
Unfortunately there is no accountability in Pakistan team!! Beside we are I guess the only nation who put their legends behind back burners!!! Unfortunately being a Pakistani I am ashamed to say that Most of Our so called players play for themselves not the Nation!!! I guess we should learn a lesson from the Indian board who continue to play a legend like Tendulkar! Rather I guess they allow him to become the legend by allowing him to play more matches, PCB whereas creates such obstacles or hindrances, players end up resigning!!!Way to PCB...As always No shame!!!
Usman Oct 11, 2012 02:20pm
very well written!
saghir Ayub Oct 11, 2012 02:08pm
it's matter of PAWAA. Unfortunately, Razzaq has no PAWA. That's why he's been sidelined for past many years. Very unfortunate.
confuzzled Oct 11, 2012 01:39pm
Zeeshan Oct 11, 2012 12:26pm
A good summary of what has been happening in the past. The article does well to identify why we have not been able to find consistency in performance.
Waqas Oct 11, 2012 03:14pm
Shoaib Malik never deserved a spot in this side
Shawaz Sadiq Oct 12, 2012 12:31am
hafeez's decision to exclude razzaq was a very logical one!!! his lack of pace means its easy to get him away for runs, and with srilanka playing spin well, hafeez needed a medium pacer who could swing the ball and do well in the first 6 overs!! not to forget that tanvir did bowl well in the semifinal!!! unfortunately it was the batting that let down once again!!... to think that razzaq would have been successful against the spin of srilanka is wishful thinking!! razzaq has been a great player of medium pace bowling, but never of spin!! infact we can also go as far as saying that he has been poor against spin!! while i agree that his personality makes him the easiest to leave out, hafeez i think got it spot on for the semis... and when you say that fawad alam, sarfaraz ahmed and rao iftikhar are steady but overlooked performers, it really disappoints me... they all have been given chances and have failed time and time again.. the reason why kamran akmal was brought back was because no other keeper in the domestic circuit could replace him.. his keeping might be flawed, but his batting is way ahead than the rest of them... u very easily forget his innings australia in the super eights here, in dubai and in the last wc semi!! u also forget his performances in the 2009 wc, where he gave us great starts!!! the only thing i would criticize hafeez for would be the batting order that was in place, which meant umar akmal and shoaib malik came so low in the order!! having them at 4 and 5, would have allowed them to accumulate runs and set a platform for kamran, afridi and sohail tanvir to hit out!!!!! in any case, this article is criticizing a completely non-issue i believe!!!
azzu Oct 12, 2012 11:31am
@Razzaq is the best all rounder in the world after kallis. But this poor nation does not want him as usual. They dont need honest people in the team who dont take money from bookies. He was the best and still the best
Razzaq Oct 11, 2012 08:06pm
This is not the first time that a capable and deserving cricketer has been sidelined for personal reason.Azhar Mehmood despite benn older in age still performing though out the world but have been sidelined for many years by PCB.
Umair Khalid (@umairkd2011) Oct 11, 2012 12:08pm
Whosoever made the decision not to play Razzaq should be penalized. He is a much better player than Shoaib malik, Yasir Arafat, Sohail Tanwir and Shahid Afridi (due to his poor performance lately with both the bat and ball). Even Azhar Mehmood would have been a better option than Shoaib Malik, Yasir Araft or Sohail Tanvir. Poor decision by Hafeez and the team management.
hussein Oct 11, 2012 09:51pm
absolutely right - hafeez saved his skin by not gambling with razak - he could never take this chance with afridi - after all play safe when your captaincy is at stake
Shakil Oct 12, 2012 07:37am
Perhaps he should place the country at higher stakes then the captaincy.
Ozair Oct 12, 2012 10:47am
Razak is spent force let go him it good for him and cricket
ali Oct 12, 2012 03:11pm
Hafeez can be a better politician then a cricket captain.