Pakistan administrators help Proteas

Hashim Amla’s assertion after the first day’s play in Karachi that the pitch “started deteriorating quickly in the final session” will be music to the ears of the South African bowlers – provided another 200 runs are scored by the batsmen on the second day.

South Africa finished the day on 294-3 with Jacques Kallis unbeaten on 118. A total of 500 by tea on the second day could achieve three very desirable objectives: make the game safe, allow Kallis to rid himself of the double-century ‘albatross’ which has hung around his neck for nearly a decade, and then win the game.

Amla said he was “very disappointed” not to reach a century but only in the team context, not personally. “Jakes and I were supposed to be there at the end, then we could have really dominated,” Amla said. Nonetheless, his stand of 170 with Kallis was far more important than his own score of 71.

The toss certainly helped towards South Africa’s day of dominance, as did the individual efforts of Smith, Gibbs, Amla and Kallis. But there were a couple of other factors beyond the control of the tourists which may well be the difference between victory and a draw, if not even defeat.

Shoaib Akhtar is, by most accounts, the fittest he has been for a decade and bowling as well ever, too. Yet, instead of lining up against South Africa in Karachi, he was facing a disciplinary hearing on five, yes five, counts of misdemeanour and insubordination.

Leaving a national training camp without permission to attend a charity match in England was one of them. How can that possibly happen? Slipping out of camp to attend a friend’s party, sure, maybe even staying the night…but flying to England?!
The final straw came in South Africa, of course, where Shoaib belted Mohammed Asif with his bat so hard the bruise lasted three weeks. The script went something like this:

Shoaib and Shahid Afridi sitting alone in the Pakistan change room:
Shoaib: “I have the same status in Pakistan cricket as Imran Khan…”
Afridi: (convulsive laughter)
Enter Mohammed Asif:
Afridi: “Listen to this (laughter) he says he has the same status as Imran Khan!”
Asif: (muffled giggle)
Shoaib chases after Asif and swings his bat as hard as possible hitting Asif on the thigh.

Pakistan’s administrators deserve no criticism for the action they have taken now. They deserve criticism forever allowing Shoaib’s ego to become so hopelessly out of control, for allowing him to make his own rules for so many years and to get away with serial misbehaviour before it ever came to this.

If they couldn’t control him or didn’t want to, they should have delegated that responsibility for the sake of Pakistani cricket. And if he really was uncontrollable at least they would have known six or seven years ago.

Secondly, what is it with Mohammed Yousuf? You could tie Jacques Kallis up in a wooden box for three months and feed him stale bread but he’d still have enough muscle memory and cricketing nouse to make runs on this wicket.

But Mohammed Yousuf, scorer of nine Test centuries and over 1700 runs in 2006 decided he lacked “match-fitness” on the eve of the Test?

He warmed up with the rest of the squad, caught his catches, threw the ball and ran when he needed to. But the most prolific run scorer in the world last year didn’t feel up to playing in a Test match – and was simply allowed to walk away?

Sorry, Sir, but that’s soft. No, that’s Soft. (And if the real reason was that the ICL was breathing fire at him via e-mail and fax, then it’s even softer not to tell the truth.)

Oh, and by the way, Kallis has played three one-day matches in the five months since the World Cup. Not exactly a strenuous build-up to this series.

Fortunately for the host nation’s decision-makers the Proteas have had a problem finishing off teams in recent years so there’s every chance Pakistan could escape here and fare much better in Lahore. But if Pakistan do falter in Karachi, the men in suits should hang their heads in shame every bit as much as the men in whites.

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