Pakistan’s masters of reverse swing a cricket ball have unanimously defended it as an ‘art’ which can be achieved without the tampering that ended in bans for Australia captain Steve Smith, vice-captain David Warner and Cameron Bancroft.
In Pakistan, an internet meme swept social media appearing to show legendary pacemen Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis smiling over the incident – with a caption that accused the Australians of being ‘amateurs’ in their efforts to create reverse swing.
Former Pakistan fast bowler Sarfraz Nawaz – widely regarded as the first bowler to discover and exploit reverse swing – refused to accept the implication that the skill requires ball-tampering.
‘This is ridiculous to say reverse swing is cheating,” Sarfraz said. “You can achieve reverse swing without tampering with the ball.
“There is a conventional swing which is done with the new ball and then there is reverse swing which is achieved with an old ball and it has been proved that reverse swing is a scientific phenomenon.”
Sarfraz took 177 wickets in 55 Tests, including an amazing nine for 86 against Australia at Melbourne in 1979 that included a spell of seven wickets for a mere one run in 33 balls.
To be honest it’s a bit sad to see @stevesmith49 like this Yes we all know he made a mistake and he is bearing the consequences for it but let’s not forget he’s been a great batsman and a good guy who’ got a lot of glory to Aus cricket also not the first person to tamper the ball— yuvraj singh (@YUVSTRONG12) March 30, 2018
“When I passed the art to Imran Khan he developed it and then taught Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, and in those times everyone called it cheating but when the Englishmen started to reverse swing it became an art,” said Sarfraz.
“It was and will remain an art, but resorting to tampering is cheating and that was what Australians did to beat South Africa and were deservedly punished.
“Conventional swing is simple – if the seam is angled toward the slip fielders it will swing away from the right-handed batsman, and if the seam is angled towards the leg side it will swing into the batsman,” explained Sarfraz. “Reverse swing is the opposite.”
Sarfraz passed the art to Imran, who achieved more success than his master but also confessed to ball-tampering by using a bottle top to roughen one side of the ball.
Asked in a 1994 television interview whether he would have got 362 Test wickets had he not tampered with the ball, Imran replied: “It’s a misconception that whoever scratches the ball can get wickets.
“The whole Sussex team knew I could reverse swing and I would swing at one end while other bowlers could not swing it,” said Imran, who played for the English county.
Imran passed the torch to Wasim and Waqar – regarded as one of international cricket’s most destructive new-ball pairings.
The two ripped through England’s batsmen on Pakistan’s 1992 tour, but were also alleged by British media to have tampered with the ball. Wasim excelled for English county Lancashire for a decade while Waqar starred for Glamorgan and Surrey.
“Those allegations were hurtful,” recalled Waqar. “Of course, reverse swing can be achieved without cheating. Nowadays most of the bowlers do that and get wickets and help their teams win.”
USE DUKE BALLS
While Wasim was never caught tampering, Waqar was slapped with a one-match suspension and fined 50 percent of his match fee in a tri-series in Sri Lanka in 2000.
Waqar suggested only one brand of cricket ball should be used in international cricket, saying it would lead to a fairer contest.
“Why do we use different brand of balls in different countries?” Waqar asked. “In my opinion the Duke ball (England) is the best and the SG (India) comes close to it. They are the best balls for swing so in order to have uniformity and better swing these balls should be used everywhere.
“This will help bowlers and this will also produce better batsmen. We should solve the problem and not indulge in the blame game.”
Pakistan will take another significant step towards the revival of international cricket as World Twenty20 champions the West Indies feature in three back-to-back Twenty20 internationals in Karachi from Sunday.
The Pakistan Cricket Board have put in place stringent security arrangements for the West Indies team, with 8,000 policemen and paramilitary personnel guarding the visitors in and around the hotel and stadium.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee David Boon will supervise the series while ICC general manager cricket Geoff Allardice and umpires’ manager Adrian Griffith will also attend the matches to oversee arrangements.
The series comes as Pakistan is enjoying guarded optimism over the return of international cricket, driven from the country after a deadly militant attack targeting the Sri Lanka team in 2009.
Earlier this month Karachi successfully hosted the final of the Pakistan Super League (PSL), becoming the second major venue to host international matches after Lahore hosted Zimbabwe in 2015.
Lahore also hosted the PSL final in March last year, three World XI matches in September and one against Sri Lanka a month later.
This year’s PSL final was the first major cricket event in Karachi since 2009. Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed said he was overjoyed at the return of international matches to his home city.
“This is a great occasion,” said Sarfraz, the only player in the squad who has played a limited over international in Karachi before.
A 3-0 victory will take Pakistan four points clear of Australia, who had closed in on them following a 2-0 series win over New Zealand last month. Pakistan and Australia are both currently on 126 points, with Pakistan ahead on decimal points #PAKvWI #Cricket— Saj Sadiq (@Saj_PakPassion) March 30, 2018
“We saw a big crowd in the PSl final so I hope they will come in big numbers for the Twenty20 series.”
The other two matches will be played on Monday and Tuesday.
Pakistan have done well in the shortest format of the game, having won 14 of the 17 Twenty20 internationals since Sarfraz took over as captain in September 2016.
That helped them reach the No1 spot in Twenty20 rankings, having won 2-1 in New Zealand in January this year.
Sarfraz said he hoped his team would keep the momentum.
“Whatever team West Indies sends we have to play at our best because they have good shorter format players,” said the captain, whose team has only lost three of their 11 Twenty20 internationals against the West Indies.
Pakistan have included three newcomers in batsman Asif Ali, all-rounder Hussain Talat and paceman Shaheen Shah Afridi after the trio fared well in the PSL 2018.
West Indies will be without their regular Twenty20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, who opted out of the tour over security fears while openers Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis, all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, and spinner Sunil Narine were not available for selection due to their Indian Premier League commitments.
Middle order batsman Jason Mohammad will lead the side, which has four uncapped Twenty20 players in batsman Andre McCarthy, fast bowler Odean Smith, left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul and all-rounder Keemo Paul.
Pakistan: Sarfraz Ahmed (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Faheem Ashraf, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Amir, Hasan Ali, Rahat Ali, Usman Khan Shinwari, Shaheen Shah Afridi.
West Indies: Jason Mohammed (captain), Samuel Badree, Rayad Emrit, Andre Fletcher, Andre McCarthy, Keemo Paul, Veerasammy Permaul, Rovman Powell, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels, Odean Smith, Chadwick Walton, Kesrick Williams.
Two six-year-olds have become social media sensations in Pakistan with videos of their bowling “blowing away” the likes of Shane Warne and Wasim Akram, who have been giving the pair tips on improving their game.
Eli Mikal Khan, from the southwestern city of Quetta, has been nicknamed Shane Warne Junior after videos posted on Twitter of his astonishing leg break bowling attracted awe from fans around the world and drew tips and encouragement from the Australian legend.
Another six-year-old, an aspiring pace bowler named Hasan Akhtar, has meanwhile been dubbed Little Wasim Akram after the former Pakistani captain who also saw videos of him on Twitter and insisted on tracking him down and meeting him.
The two children have been widely feted by Pakistani media as the cricket-obsessed country celebrated the successful staging of the third Pakistan Super League final in Karachi.
Eli said he dreams of playing for Pakistan.
“I love cricket… I want to become a perfect leg break bowler,” he said.
He said he enjoys the adulation he has received, particularly from legends such as Warne who first tweeted encouragement to Eli after seeing one of his videos in March.
This week Warne retweeted another video of Eli, writing: “Absolutely fantastic, blown away on how good the ball comes out of your hand, especially at the age of only 6 — well done and keep up the great work. One tip — get that bowling arm a little higher!”
Eli, whose father and coach Abdullah Khan maintains his Twitter account, said he had been honoured by the tweet, adding: “I will definitely work on the given tip by Sir @ShaneWarne”.
Admiration of the two six-year-olds comes as Pakistan enjoys guarded optimism over the return of international cricket, driven from the country after a deadly militant attack targeting the Sri Lanka team in 2009. Last weekend Karachi became the second major venue to host international matches after Lahore hosted five international matches against Zimbabwe in 2015, as well as the PSL final in March last year, three World XI matches in September and one against Sri Lanka a month later.
If Eli’s dream of playing for Pakistan bears fruit, he could be joined by fellow Twitter sensation Hasan, videos of whom drew Akram’s notice in late February.
“Where is this boy???” he said, retweeting one of the videos and calling for a platform to discover such talent in Pakistan.
On Monday he tweeted images of himself with the six-year-old, who he called a “young sensation” with “unbelievable skills”.
“Really enjoyed spending quality time with Hasan,” he wrote, adding that the child’s knowledge is already unreal.
Hasan’s father Muhammad said that before he realised how talented his son was, he found the bowling habit annoying.
I just recieved this video and don’t know about this brilliant kid, want to know your thoughts abt this terrific bowling. @wasimakramlive @shoaib100mph @iramizraja @SAfridiOfficial pic.twitter.com/8JPRQNHlfj— Faizan Ramzan (@faizanramzank) February 27, 2018
“Our home floor is made of mud and Hasan would break the surface bowling all day,” he said in the village of Chichawatni, some 200 kilometres from Lahore.
One of Hasan’s seven older siblings posted the initial video of him, which the family did not know had gone viral until a cousin phoned to say it was playing on television and that news reporters were looking for him.
The meeting with Akram took place in Karachi, arranged by private broadcaster Geo, Hasan’s father said, adding that it was “beyond imagination”.
Hasan said Akram had been very kind, adding that other heroes include Pakistan’s Mohammad Aamir and Australia’s Mitchell Starc.
“We did not expect the amount of love and support he has shown to us,” Hasan’s father said. “He coached Hasan how to hold the ball properly, the importance of the run-up and how to deliver the ball and he insisted that Hasan should continue his studies.”