Impressed with Shahid Afridi

I have to admit to being very impressed with the way Shahid Afridi has handled and conducted himself during Pakistan’s impressive run to the world cup semi-finals.

I don’t mind admitting that prior to the start of the world cup, I thought that Afridi lacked the discipline and maturity to be captain, that he wasn’t responsible enough and couldn’t be taken seriously. Over the course of the tournament I am happy to say he has proved me wrong.

The pressure that Afridi must have been under in the build up to this game is probably like nothing he has ever experienced before. To have conducted himself in the professional manner that he has, shows just how far he has come as a cricketer and a person over the testing few months Pakistan cricket has just endured.

Afridi has shown maturity and has been very gracious and respectful. The most unexpected of all for me, is that he has been a great ambassador for his country, his complementary remarks towards India on their victory is a great example of this.

Also, to hear Afridi apologise for the defeat on Wednesday is a remarkable show of humility. I think he has gone beyond the call of duty there. Ok, so the fielding could have been better, as could the run chase. But to lose to India on home soil is no disgrace.

Pakistan can go home with their heads held high, I believe that as a team they have taken massive strides forward over the past 5 weeks. At the start of the competition I think they would have regarded reaching a semi-final as a great result, not many pundits would have given them much chance of achieving that.

Another fine mess for Pakistan

What a strange week in the world of sport, and in particular cricket and football. On Tuesday there was a 5 for, from Shane Watson, after that I didn’t think that there was much more that could happen this week that would surprise me.

Then on Thursday I heard the news that Emile Heskey saw fit to publicly announce his retirement from international football, the decision itself was no surprise, the fact that he made an official announcement was the shock.

Did he not think there would be a media backlash and that he would be a laughing stock? Surely a quiet word in Capello’s ear a week or so before England’s next game would have been sufficient.

Then came day 4 of this test match.

First I couldn’t believe my ears when the commentators on TMS said that Ricky Ponting was turning to Shane Watson (yes Watson, not Shane Warne) after only half an hour of play this morning because Australia were desperate for a wicket.

The only comparison I can think of for bringing on Watson because you desperately need a wicket, is the time when Fabio Capello brought on the above mentioned Heskey against Germany when he needed 3 goals in 10 minutes.

Back to the cricket, and Salman Butt, along with debutants Azhar Ali and Umar Amin all batted with discipline and for an hour and a half this morning made Pakistan look like a proper test team, there was even talk of a Pakistan win!!

Then normal service resumed after lunch as Pakistan hit the self destruct button with more style than they are normally accustomed to.

Figures of 6/55 from Marcus North now find themselves alongside Watto’s 5/40 on the newly created Lord’s neutral honours board. That board has now been devalued to such an extent in less than a week of going up that MCC officials must be looking for a dark room to hide it in.

The eleven wickets gifted to North and Watson in this test match summed up the state of Pakistani cricket these days. At times I thought the only things missing today was the sight of a Pakistani batsman slipping on a banana skin walking out to bat, or two of their coaching staff chasing a piano down the Lord’s slope.

Shahid Afridi’s resignation as captain after the match would appear to be the only piece of sanity to come out of this farce. He obviously quickly realised that he couldn’t throw the book at his team after his atrocious innings, both of his innings for that matter, leading by example it wasn’t!

The manner of his resignation wasn’t great either, but it must be for the better of the test team and the correct outcome that he goes.