At the End of the Storm …

So, the much anticipated and eagerly awaited clash is over. I resisted myself from writing anything right away as the emotions were still running wild and there was a hint of anger and frustration that was bound to effect my immediate reaction.

This was indeed the MOTHER of all matches. And NO, it’s no where near Celtic vs Rangers or Manchester United vs. Liverpool. It’s beyond such comparison and the only way to understand the importance of this rivalry is to spend a lifetime in either of the two countries.

Anyways this match just proved what I have always believed in:

1- In a pressure match (and nothing comes near to a Pak-India clash in a knock-out stage) always bat first, put the runs on the board and let the other team cope with that pressure.

2- Pakistan is way behind in building a team of batsmen capable of chasing targets regularly.

Now I won’t be going into a match report as we all know what happened next and all of you must already be sick of reading those things. In-fact I will just highlight few points that I want to share and would love to get the opinion on it from the readers.

Bright Spots:

The player who impressed most was Wahab Riaz. He has all the elements of becoming the leading fast bowler. He is confident, he is aggressive, he is capable of reverse-swing and importantly he is a handy bat too and can become the next all-rounder in Michel Johnson mould. For me, Wahab was extremely unfortunate for missing out on the man-of-the-match award and the next few lines explain why.

The best part of the semi-final was the fascinating battle between Sachin and Ajmal. Now, first let me make it clear that for me Sachin has become THE batsman in the world and it will take one Herculean effort to even match his achievements let alone beating it. Even Bradman with those abnormal averages would have found it difficult to match the achievement this little master has got. I think the time has come that we should stop using Bradman as a benchmark and start using Sachin. Having said all that, this recent innings was one of the worst I have seen from him and all the credit goes to Ajmal. He completely bamboozled the master batsman who had no clue which way the ball is going to turn. And that’s where I also believe Afridi missed a trick by not having a continuous slip in for Ajmal. Regarding THAT lbw review I still think and will continue to stick with my view that something was seriously wrong with the hawk-eye as it looked absolutely spot-on to naked eye. Maybe even the technology fails against GOD, God of Cricket that is, before I am labelled infidel by the weak-hearted and feeble-minded.

It has been a long time since Pakistan found a talented and stable batting prospect but this tournament revealed one in the form of Asad Shafiq. I think he is the future of Pakistan team and for me he fills that one-down slot quite efficiently. That is at least one problem solved for Pakistan’s batting that has been the Achilles heel for quite a long time.

Last but not the least; we should not forget the handy contributions by Mohammad Hafeez with those faster sliders and quick-ish offspins. His spell in the last two matches was really brilliant and even if he has some weak points in his batting (what on earth he was thinking playing that paddle scoop from outside off-stump), he still is a useful all-rounder who can bring those vital breakthroughs and provide breathing space for struggling bowlers.

Lessons Learnt:

Although Pakistan progressed to the semi-finals against all odds and proved quite a fair number of cricket experts wrong (Ian ‘Biased’ Chapel for starters), there are still some valuable lessons learnt in this tournament that need to be addressed.

One of the biggest problems that Pakistan faces is the fielding that was horribly horrendous in the last match. 6 dropped catches, 4 of which of a single batsman who happened to be Sachin. You don’t deserve to win world-cup with that sort of fielding performance.

We also have a keeper who finds it extremely difficult to catch the flu, let alone some dollies he is offered. I believe we should play Kamran as a specialist opener and bring in a better keeper in the team. We also leaked some vital runs by not attacking the ball and giving out two’s where we should have restricted them to singles and that is more down to the age rather than something else. The other teams have worked out the weak links in our team and all of them incidentally are on the wrong side of 30’s.

The turning point during Pakistan’s chase in the semi-final started off with absolutely nonsense approach by two senior-most batsmen, Younis and Misbah.  Both of them thought they were playing to save the follow-on. It was one, correction, two of the most ill-planned and mindless innings I have ever witnessed.  And then they messed up the power-play to add the icing on a perfectly spoiled cake. I also believe that this was the perfect stage to surprise the opponents with a pinch-hitter. I bet India wouldn’t have planned for that and either Razzaq or Afridi would have been more than a handful early in the innings with a harder ball and field restrictions in place.

So, moving on from what have been a promising tournament with a bit of a disappointing ending, Pakistan now needs to build for the future. Not many of the current team members will be around for the next world-cup so it’s logical that we get rid of the dead-wood now and build a team for the next episode. This will involve kicking out likes of Younis Khan, Razzaq and Misbah-ul-Haq. It is time to blood in the youth and let them play together for couple of years to gel together and form a team full of energy and exuberance. It is time to invest in Mr. Crickets and not UNCLE Crickets. Also we need much more attacking approach with these youngsters and even in the semi-final the result could have been different if we had an aggressive approach by having a slip in place when Ajmal was bamboozling the batsmen.

Last Words:

Afridi needs praise for the single fact that he not only got the team to play as one unit but also had the whole nation unite as well. A feat that the most recent Raymond Davis saga could not achieve.

I would like to finish this mammoth blog by highlighting one basic point; Sports have NO link whatsoever with religion. Its only to do with the effort the players put on the pitch and how effectively they plan for it. They wont be helped by prayers to hold on to the catches unless they themselves want to hold on to them.

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Things to know about King Kenny…

Things you should know about King Kenny:

1- King Kenny is still the only undefeated Roman gladiator in history.

2- Everybody takes Alex Ferguson seriously. Except King Kenny. If King Kenny had taken Fergie seriously, Fergie would have been history. Long ago!

3- When King Kenny enters a dressing room, it explodes. Not one building can hold that much Awesomeness!!!

4- God once tried to make a deal with King Kenny. He said, “You may rule all universe except for the Earth.,,Err, but that’s only if you’re okay with that.”.

5- Love does not conquer all. King Kenny does.

6- King Kenny is only afraid of two things… Two King Kennys’.

7- King Kenny declined the offer of England Job because it was too gay for him.

8- Time waits for no man. Unless that man is King Kenny.

9- When Obama said “Yes we can”, he did because he knew “we” included King Kenny.

10- King Kenny never actually retired from football. He just ran out of asses to kick.

11- King Kenny. That is the ultimate FACT.

12- King Kenny holds the patent for fear.

13- A picture is worth a thousand words. A King Kenny is worth 1 trillion words.

14- When King Kenny takes a break from something, it ceases to exist.

And FINALLY,

15- What is the scariest sentence in the world? : King Kenny is BACK.

 

Testing the Patience !!!

Somebody once said: Patience has its limits. Take it too far, and it’s cowardice.

I have to admit, and I will be very honest. I don’t like Roy Hodgson. And he is walking a very thin line not only with my patience but almost every other Liverpool fan’s as well.

I will not chant his name even if he wins the league, the cup and Europa league. I might give it a second thought but that is the closest he will come to any encouragement from me. The truth is, that the only thing keeping Roy in his job is “The Liverpool Way“. If this has been any other club with a top-four ambition at the least, Roy would have been shown the door by now. In fact, let me add to it, there is one more thing that is keeping him in the job; He is British too. We all know what Scolari got for Christmas? A Sack!

Well, back to our dear old (literally) Roy. Has he turned the corner? Is he transforming Liverpool finally? Did he just need time to come with the goods? Is he a genius? Lets see.

Liverpool won 3 on a trot in the league. At home against Blackburn (minus their first choice defence), we played quite well. In fact it was the best I have seen us play this season. But did I just mention Blackburn missing their first choice defence? For people pointing to that performance, I have to mention the term “Papering over the cracks”. Then against a spirited Bolton side, we managed just a scrappy win and were lucky not to concede atleast one penalty.

The 3rd game against Chelsea made every Roy Fan claim him to be some sort of a master tactician who overturned the fortunes of the club by winning that game. We forget that the team Chelsea put up was without Essien and Lampard. We were helped by the fact that Drogba started on the bench. We all saw how Chelsea was suddenly transformed as soon Drogba came on for second half. The stats after the game pointed to a 65% possession for Chelsea and more shots on goal as well. I dont want to take anything away from the Liverpool team as they were very good in the first half during which (point to be noted) they ATTACKED the opposition and won the ball in the final third. As soon they got the 2nd goal (which was almost the end of first half) Dear Old Roy suddenly reverted to that bottom-table team mindset that he is so used to. Two banks of four. Defend deep. Soak up the pressure and hoof useless long balls forward. We were lucky not to concede in the second half, but we did come very close to lose the precious points.

Now, the results might be saying Liverpool “Won” but the performance on the pitch was hardly something to sing about. And it was confirmed against Wigan. It turned out exactly the way I expected from Roy’s team. Defensive mindset, two banks of four and playing deep in our own half. For a moment i thought we were playing Brazil. The stats certainly pointed in that direction.  Then I had to pinch myself to reality. It was actually Wigan with 54% possession and 6 shots on goals compared to meagre 2 by Liverpool. Now, if anybody can help me, what should I call a manager who brings on an inexperienced midfielder (Shelvey, 3 games in the season so far) for the experienced Meireless and then to top it off, an ultra-defensive midfielder (a.k.a Poulsen the flop) for a hard-working CF (Kuyt) with the scores tied at 1-1? GENIUS is the last word i will use for him.

And that is where my problem lies with this manager. Absolute negativity. His mentality is a bottom-half team mentality. He continuously harps about his ways working for 35 years spent managing teams (err, from Scandinavian countries) and refuses to accept his own deficiencies when team plays badly. This is a very clear cut case of a manager who has accepted a job much bigger than him and therefore lacks the required mindset too. Managing mediocre teams (barring a care-taking stint at Inter) for 35 years doesn’t give him the capabilities of managing a top-4 ambition team. If that logic works, I might as well be allowed to drive a lorry as i have been driving a car for 10 years now.

Most importantly, a manager of any club has to become a part of the club. Roy Hodgson conveniently forgets that he has to Walk Liverpool, Talk Liverpool and Act Liverpool if he needs any genuine support from Liverpool Fans. E.g. Referring to the massive group protest against messers Hicks & Gillet as “Just a Portion of Fans” was ill-timed and careless. Also it seems he is more concerned with his own pre-historic image and his friendship with Alex Ferguson. I can bet my bottom side that if Roy would have accused one of Alex Ferguson’s player of cheating, he would have got a nice spanking from Ferguson. Similarly it would have been interesting to see what treatment would Roy have got if he had shown interest in Rooney for January transfer window. He also needs to learn that Rafa has left the team so any bad performance HIS team puts in just cant be blamed on Rafa. He needs to learn to stick to his statements. Classic example: When taking charge of Liverpool he openly criticised the massively OVER-STAFFED Liverpool team. Yet after Wigan’s game, he blames the loss at extremely THIN squad at his disposal. At his age, I am inclined to forgive him for this memory lapse!

And last but not the least. Whether Mr. Roy Hodgson has got the personality, experience, vision and charisma to attract a world-class player to Liverpool?

I think we all know the answer to that. (And NO, Poulsen is NOT worldclass!)

 

You Will Never Walk Alone

You will never walk alone ….

The worst start in 18 years..

The British media and pundits (so-called) have already chosen the prime candidate…

THE MANAGER …. of Inter-Milan

You will never walk alone Rafa. There will always be wise-guys chasing you with one stick or another to beat you with even when you were snapped up by the European and Italian champions without a thought.

An undeserving draw against Sunderland (a team that failed to score a single goal at Anfield in last 10 years) saved it from being a worse start in 56 years. A game where the away team played like the home team. No creativity, no fortmation, no commitment and certainly no tactics.

You will never walk alone Rafa because “Experts” still think of you deploying defensive boring football tactics.

Not to forget the most embarrassing cup exit since 1959 to a 4th division side and fielding a side with almost zero experience.

You will never walk alone Rafa. English media still spares no opportunity to slate you for disrespecting the domestic English cups.

It is really amazing that so far I have yet to read a single critical news piece on our new manager. I can bet, if it would have been Pellegrino or Deschamps (both linked with liverpool job before Uncle Roy got it) the English media would have been jumping up and down slating the poor foreign chaps for not understanding the ENGLISH football and not respecting the local cups.

In my last blog on my beloved team, I said that I will stick to the new manager because that is the Liverpool way. But with every passing game I am trying hard not to lose my patience. My heart says stick to the manager but my head just points to the last 10 odd games (league,cup, Europe) and highlights the complete lack of creativity in the midfield, lack of possession, lack of fight (occasionally barring Steven ‘Long-Faced’ Gerard), lack of shots on/off target and absolutely no team-chemistry. I am hearing from every nook and corner that we need to give our new manager some time before we climb on the bandwagon asking for a sack.

I have my reasons to think otherwise.

My question to them is How much time does Uncle Roy need? So far there is absolutely no sign of ANY improvement in the way we play and the body language of certain players is even worse than it was under Rafa during last season. But then Rafa had supposedly lost the dressing room and Uncle Roy is supposedly the best Man-Manager around the league. I wonder why then Torress never celebrated the equalising goal that he created for Gerrard in the last game against Sunderland.

You will never walk alone Rafa because there are players including Kuyt, Torress and Gerrard who have publicly appreciated how much they improved under your supervision.

My question to them is Why it took a Liverpool Manager almost a week to defend his star player unfairly slated by Man-United’s Manager for theatrics and play-acting while conveniently ignoring one of his own player giving an Oscar-winning performance in play-acting!

You will never walk alone Rafa. There are fans out there who still love you for getting under the skin of Ferguson.

My question to them is did we give enough time to Rafa after his first ever poor season? Why is it that only now that an English manager is getting the poor results, the focus have immediately shifted to ever-present Owner and Finance issue? Oh, I think I have already given the answer in the question!

My Question to them is Why every manager (read ENGLISH manager) in the league is finding it so convenient to drag Rafa and blame him solely for the hard times the club is going through?

You will never walk alone Rafa because the ENGLISH managers here still think about you.

My question to them is, Given everyone is sympathising with Roy for losing with a poorly disjointed team he inherited from Rafa, would they appreciate Rafa once this team wins a significant trophy ? Or would that be solely down to the so-far-invisible management skills of our beloved Uncle Roy?

I am sorry, this blog was never suppose to be a Roy Vs Rafa blog, simply because we know who is going to win it hands down. As I said earlier, I am bound by our Liverpool way to stick with my Gaffer, but I am on the verge of losing my patience and I cannot see my club managed by a mid-table mediocre mind-set manager who proudly announces that he never came with a winning mentality against Birmingham and considers the “Mighty” Northampton of the 4th Division to be worthy opponents even before the ball is kicked.

I am sorry but I never in my wildest dreams ever saw this low coming. I will be mighty surprised (and disappointed) if we have the same manager in January 2011. Watch this space, you read it here first!

No Ball …

Noooooooo …. was the loud call. An innocuous call that just adds a single run to the team’s score and another legitimate delivery to the over. But this particular one went one step further. Literally and figuratively. It added £150k to a shady “Agent’s” pocket and allegedly £50,000 to Salman Butt’s wallet.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the world of SPOT-FIXING!

For yet the umpteenth time we find the Pakistan cricket team making the headlines for all the wrong reasons. I just fail to understand, in fact I have completely given up, that why don’t this lot LEARN? What exactly makes them do all these stupid acts? Is it the Genes? Social Set-up? Whatever it is, it is about time we do something about it!

Pakistan cricket team and controversies go hand in hand since long time. Somehow they never cease to disappoint in this aspect. This team will continue to live up to its tag of “Unpredictables”. Credit has to be given to them. They find a different controversy every time. The list includes Wasim/Waqar ball tampering saga, Salim Malik’s infamous offer to Australians for Match-Fixing, Afridi’s pitch-dance, Inzi’s refusal to take field at Lords, Asif’s drug/dope charges, Afridi’s ball-biting, and now to Spot-Fixing. You just cannot think of what they will come up next.

Before I proceed, lets make one thing very clear. Match-fixing/Spot Fixing is an international threat. You cannot label this threat against sub-continental teams only. We have had confessions of Mark Waugh and Shane Warne for “selling” the information. We had Cronje and Gibbs confessing of throwing matches. Very recently the West-Indian batsman Samuels confessed his role in a betting affair and was banned for two years. There have been reports of players from almost every team being approached by book-makers and match fixers. But where other boards moved swiftly and placed a strict code-of-conduct, Pakistan’s board merely laughed off such incidents and never made a serious attempt to address this issue.

The allegations of Match-Fixing has been a part and parcel of Pakistan Cricket team for some time now. I am amazed at the naive reaction of certain officials and media in Pakistan where they have been denying these wrongdoings and presenting this issue as some mega-controversy master-minded by the British media and hold-on-to-your-breath, RAW (the indian intelligence services). I was almost rolling on the floor laughing when this one specific columnist on one of the Pakistan news channel came out with this “Genius” revelation. I would very much like to know what he has been smoking. I admit that on some previous occasions, there has been controversies that were created out of nothing but this time the evidence is as strong as it can get. A video featuring THE fixer who “incidently” happens to be the “Marketing Agent” of atleast 4 players. Ok, for a moment lets assume that this video IS fake and was shot AFTER the no-balls. But how on this earth can anyone explain the two most blatant no-balls you will ever see from an in-form bowler? I can expect that maybe from a Part-time bowler but not from a bowler who has been in the form of his life. You just cannot explain this massive over-step and that is where I am not in agreement with these over-patriotic columnists and officials. There certainly is something wrong in the camp and I strongly believe that its not only these 4 players that have been named by the fixer. I am 101% sure that the team management and the coaching staff is a part of this. How can a manager or a coach not know that 7 members (as boasted by the fixer) of his playing XI are in-fact under-performing deliberately? What makes me suspect this even more is that Ijaz Ahmed has been accused of match-fixing before. Waqar Younis has been found guilty in the match fixing probe as well and fined Rs. 1 Lac during the Justice Quyyum inquiry.

I believe that now is the time where everyone should leave their patriotism aside and look at this situation fairly in the light of evidence produced and the way these incidents took place. Salman Butt has been pictured with the Fixer (Mazher Majeed) on more than one occasion. Not all of these pictures can be fake. I have read some absolutely nonsense blogs dedicated to proving that pictures are fake. I can only say that those guys need their heads examined just like Ijaz Butt (PCB Head) and Wajid Shamsul Hassan (High Commisioner).

It is time to punish those involved in this shameful act regardless of the personalities. It is time for the Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK and the PCB Chief to shut up. It is time for Pakistan fans to stand up for what is right and not let their emotions get in their way. It is time to put down strict guidelines to avoid such incidents. and it is certainly time to save cricket from being tainted by such disgraceful elements. If only at the time of Justice Quyyum Inquiry, the guilty would have been banned for life, we might not have found ourselves in this mess.

I am hoping against all hope that PCB for once take the right step and put a life-time ban on anyone found guilty of fixing regardless of his reputation or personality or connections. Sadly, i have a strong feeling that this will be a false hope as the people heading this institution are all neck deep in corruption.

Finally The Football is Back!

FINALLY after so many boring dull days, weeks and months, we finally have one of the best leagues up and running again. We did have an odd part-boring, part-interesting cup of the world recently but somehow, i could not gather the same sort of excitement that i show for the league competitions. And this limited excitement almost vanished when my favorite team Argentina crashed out to the impressive Germans.  So that was the end of that. After the world-cup with those annoying mosquito-horns, i really thought hard and came to the conclusion that they should scrap these extravagant tournaments and just have these leagues. Come to think of it, what exactly is the point in having a world cup and that too after every 4 years. Any team winning it just cant boast it properly mainly because the players these days are more known through the club they play with instead of the national team. Talk of Ronaldo, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Real Madrid/Manchester United or whats-that-country-he-plays-for? See the point.

So, just a couple of agonizing weeks after this cup of the world finished, its back again to the rivalry of the Catalans or the London Derby or the Mersy-side Derby. The football fans are more passionate for Real-Madrid vs Barcelona as compared to Holland vs Spain. They are more riled up with Manchester United vs Liverpool compared to England vs Germany.

For those who doesn’t know, i am a die-hard fan of Liverpool. I do not call myself a glory-hunter mainly for two reasons. First, i started supporting this club in late 90’s when it was lying somewhere in the middle of the premiere league table rather than winning trophies. A convenient excuse for today’s fans to support any club. Second, it was a book i read about English Premiere League that had a whole chapter on the great Shankly. It was the actual start of this never-ending love affair with Liverpool. Shankly’s way of football was something that was completely out of the world and it was he who laid down the foundation for this club to become one of the dominating force not only in English football but the whole Europe.

Anyways, the new season has started finally. And what a big season it is for this wonderful club! Not that i am all geared up for winning the title as that is one thing that is still a few high-profile players and a shrewd manager away. It is the season that will define the future of Liverpool. We have had enough of the lies told to us by those fraudster yanks and it was about time that they were booted out of this esteemed club as it has no place for such con-men. There are a few worthy bids in for Liverpool and as i write, one specific Chinese bid is making all the good news. I really hope it goes ahead but only after proper checks have been made on the source of financing as not only the Liverpool fans but the Premiere League cannot afford a similar episode of fake owners with more lies spoil yet another football club.

The last season was a disappointing one and things could only get better. Or so was what i thought. I admit, i was never a huge fan of Rafa but the way he was dealt with by the club at the end made me a big-time pro-Rafa. It was the same manager that helped the club to finish a close second with a record points tally a season before. A season that included a thrashing of star-studded Real Madrid and a complete destruction of Manchester United in their own backyard. All it needed was a bit of investment in high-profile players and of-course getting rid of the Yanks. Instead, it was deemed suitable to sack the manager while he was away on a holiday. The yanks never had the courage to tell Rafa on his face and dealt another low-blow to the club.  The fact that the reigning European and Italian champions wasted no time in appointing Rafa says it all about the pedigree this guy carried.  My best wished are for Rafa not only because he was once our Manager but for the way he reacted to such a shameful selfish yank act. Being someone who closely monitors Liverpool news, i know of things Rafa has been doing for the local community and he is continuing them at this very time as well. You will never walk alone Rafa!

Anyways, back to the new season. For the second season running, Liverpool were handed a tricky tie against the young Gunners at home. It was not only this mouth watering tie that i was looking forward to but the new-look Liverpool as well. The new manager Roy and the new signings including Joe Cole and Jovanovich. And all three did not fail to impress. Although Cole got shown a first-ever-red of his career for a foul that was never intended but looked reckless, the other new signing Jovanovich looks the bargain. The way he completely owned Sagna shows that he is one hard nut and not someone who will be dropping like a dead wood after every foul. The game was hard-fought and the way we responded after going down to ten men really got me feel good about this season. The determination and hard-work was back. The ever-improving Ngog yet again showed his promise and only improved on his goals-per-game ratio that is in-fact better than heavyweights like Berbatov. The push for a winner after Arsenal luckily equalized was refreshing and it was certainly a one-point gained rather than 2 points lost.  Reina made a very rare and uncharacteristic mistake but he is still the world’s best in my eyes. The game was there for the taking but Arsenal could not capitalize on a one-man advantage. Infact Liverpool were down to 9 men in the last moments due to Agger’s injury but Arsenal just could not find a way through a very determined Liverpool side.

Up next is the Heavy spending Man-City away, promoted WestBrom at home, tricky Birmingham away and then the visit to the other (read smaller-spending wise) club of Manchester. The footballing God was clearly not in a happy mood when the fixtures were decided.

Regardless of my lack of satisfaction over the appointment for the new manager, I like all Liverpool fans, am completely behind our new gaffer and will stay that way for the rest of his tenure!