Karim Janat would know the pain of being struck for sixes. The other night, Pakistan’s Asif Ali had smeared four in an over of his. But Janat knows a bit about hitting sixes too. In a lost cause against India, he struck arguably the most ferocious of all sixes. Shardul Thakur had just strayed into his body on a fuller length and he just moved his front foot away and whipped the ball over the leg-side with a furious flick of his bottom hand wrists. A semi-helicopter shot that was struck so high that it almost vanished in the flood-lit sky. Like Asif, he comes with a six-hitting reputation striking one in every 10 balls he faces in T20 cricket. Maybe, one night, he will find his night of retribution too by hitting sixes and not getting hit with sixes.
— T20 World Cup (@T20WorldCup) November 3, 2021
Ditching the knee
Both India and Afghanistan ditched the knee in their group league match in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday. India didn’t perform the gesture in their last match against New Zealand also, although the Kiwis took the knee.
In terms of taking the knee, India did it before the start of their first match against Pakistan. It came on the heels of the International Cricket Council giving every team at the T20 World Cup the opportunity to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement and send a message against any form of racial discrimination. Accordingly, Cricket South Africa made it mandatory for their players to take the knee before every game and after his initial reluctance to do so, Quinton de Kock, too, followed his cricket board’s directive.
India, meanwhile, asserted that their stance against racism and discrimination remained unshakable. “The Indian cricket team took a knee during their opening game of the (T20) World Cup and its stance against racism was well registered and documented. There’s no scope for racism or any form of discriminatory behaviour in sport,” a source close to the team told this paper on Sunday.
Hamid and chances of hopeful showers
Hamid Hassan, Afghanistan’s Rambo, still has the game. Age, surgeries, non-selection, nothing has diminished his thirst for the game. He bowled a great 6th over, the last of power play, giving just one run and having a lbw shout against Rohit Sharma. In his first over, he had given just five. In his pomp, a decade back, he was fast and furious but a severe injury when he crashed into the sight screen rod and tore his left leg forced him to re-look at his career. When the surgery was done, the story goes that he wept looking at his left thigh – “it was as thin as my hand, what have you done, doctor?”. Instead of taking his time, due to lack of proper medical advice, he started heavy weight lifting in a month and broke down again. This time, post surgery, he was on crutches for months and when no one gave him a chance to return to the field, he came back with a shortened run-up and reduced pace. He still had his yorkers and the whip-of-the-wrist release which make him quicker than he seems. He played the last game, his first T20 in five years, and already looks the best of Afghanistan’s seamers.
Naveen’s rough and turf lessons
Still taking baby steps as an international cricketer, Afghanistan pacer Naveen-ul-Haq’s internet footprints aren’t too overwhelming. But in the short period, he has caught the attention of clickbaiters because of his “viral video” launch last year. In the clip that allegedly “killed the internet” Naveen was seen giving a sheepish look and Pakistan legend Shahid Afridi had that look – one that can make even battle-hardened veterans quiver. In a Sri Lanka T20 league game, Naveen had a running battle with Mohammad Amir, who was Afridi’s team mate. At the end of the game while the players performed the “meet and greet” ritual, Afridi gave Naveen a piece of his mind. Later, when the Pathan’s anger had subsided, he would tweet that juniors should respect seniors. Naveen seems to have learnt his lesson. The other day he was all smiles during his intense battle with Shoaib Malik. And today against India, he was bowling to his hero Rohit Sharma. He would get pilloried in his first two overs, Rohit would hit him for 3 fours and a six. After his second over, where he conceded 16 runs, Naveen would stare at the Abu Dhabi turf and walk to his fielding position.
Shahzad’s princely pace of being
Mohammad Shahzad takes minimalism to its extreme. The Afghanistan wicket-keeper moves from his perch only when it’s utmost urgent. He has to, between overs — occupational rigour — or when pressed into receiving throws from the fielders. On both instances, it’s a stroll than a sprint. No urgency, no fuss, not even a faint attempt at lunging or diving. If another fielder can collect the ball, he always lets them be, even if he’s closer to the ball than they are. Even when the ball strays to the leg-side, he doesn’t move in sync with the direction of the ball. He just plants his foot and flails his arms. But he rarely fumbles or drops a catch. Why move when you needn’t, could be his logic. Just like his logic for not dieting. “Jitna lamba chhakka Kohli maarte hain, main unse zyadaa maar saktaa hoon, zaroorat kya hain unki tarah itna diet karne ki (I can hit bigger sixes than Kohli so why do I need to follow his diet?),” he said. Not that he has not made any attempt. But found himself in trouble, as a fat-loss supplement contained a banned drug. After that, he quit all his efforts to lose fat. “Dekhiye hum fitness bhi poori karte hain aur khaate bhi poora hain (I work a lot on my fitness but I don’t compromise on food).”
Ironically, the one time Mohammad Shahzad – he, of, ‘must I move?’ fame – moved considerably, to gather a ball in the penultimate over, he collided with Hardik Pandya who was haring down the ground for the second run, and the pair tumbled on the pitch in the most awkward manner. Needless to say, it took an eternity for Shahzad to drag himself back on his feet. And with a little help from Pandya.