Build Up to Old Trafford

July 21, 2016 | By

Please consider this quotation directly taken from a report: “During the Kuala Lumpur-to-Perth leg of British Airways Flight 9 on 24 June 1982, volcanic ash caused all four engines of the Boeing 747 aircraft to fail. Although pressed for time as the aircraft rapidly lost altitude, Captain Eric Moody still managed to make an announcement to the passengers: “Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress. “This a typical example of English understatement which is an integral part of English traditional culture. When the Americans want to say “good” they usually say “fine”; the traditional English translation of this is “not too bad.” And “not bad “is high praise and “not bad at all” positively euphoric…..

Panic has struck in the English cricket circles after their humiliating defeat at Lord’s at the hands of a resurgent, well prepared, united, happy and inspired Pakistan touring squad. But the press reports, articles, radio and television do not indicate these feelings; they sound like the Commander of Flight 9 in 1982 of “not being in too much distress”. They jolly well are.

The team management and the players are a bit depressed, a little worried, slightly concerned, quite thoughtful and a wee bit troubled (my understatements!) about the disaster at Lord’s and are doing their “damnedest” to solve this “small problem.”

Steps are being taken to rectify the mistakes made in selection of the squad for Lord’s where it was 12 member line-up including the Middlesex pace bowler Toby Roland-Jones; and it was obvious who the playing eleven will be. James Anderson was not even in the squad. Had he been he could have gone through a fitness test and maybe played instead of Jake Ball. As it turned out he turned up for his county Lancashire against Durham and proved he was fit. Ben Stokes (also left out of Lord’s squad) played an important role in his county Durham’s win yesterday at Southport.

Needless to say both Stokes and Anderson are in the squad of 14 as is Adil Rashid the right arm leg spinner from Yorkshire. Finn and Ball have both been retained although it is doubtful if either will play. The only casualty is Toby Roland-Jones.

As happens in all countries there are certain disagreements (I refrain from using the word infighting) among those who manage the Cricket for England and Wales Cricket Board ECB. I must hasten to add that the top hierarchy is not involved at all or so it appears. We hardly hear of, or from, Colin Graves, Giles Clarke, or Tom Harrison the Chairman, President and CEO of the ECB. No statements or interviews involving them have been read, heard or seen unless of course I have missed them.

The discord is between the Selectors – James Whitaker, Angus Fraser and Mick Newell; and the coach Trevor Bayliss and the Director of Cricket Andrew Strauss. Bayliss Captain Alastair Cook and probably Strauss both wanted Anderson to play at Lord’s but were overruled by the other three. In fact the selectors as stated earlier announce only 12 and neither Anderson nor Stokes were even in the frame. It has been reported that Strauss is not pleased with the situation (in plain words he is hopping mad!) and is contemplating disbanding the selection committee and replacing them with himself, the coach Trevor Bayliss, Paul Farbrace the Assistant Coach and the Captain Alastair Cook. There is also a possibility that Andrew Flower now the Technical Director of Elite Coaching which role also encompasses coaching the England Lions may be appointed in an advisory capacity. Andy Flower is one of the most intelligent and shrewdest minds in international cricket. How the events unfold only time will tell.

Meanwhile England have announced their 14 man squad. The riddle remains whether they will play two spinners or go with a pace quartet and either Moeen Ali or Adil Rashid as the spinner. To be fair to Moeen he is basically a batsman who can also bowl a bit of off-spin – he is no Saeed Ajmal, Muttiah Muralitharan or Graeme Swann. He is a willing learner and have received some useful tips from experienced off spinners including the present ICC Elite Umpire and former Sri Lankan off-spinner Handunithige Deepthi Priyanka Kumar Dharmasena.

At Lord’s he did nothing wrong except that one moment of rush of blood against Yasir Shah at a most crucial moment. It happens to the best of them including the maestro Misbah-ul-Haq but he led the victors. Moeen should and will get another chance. As old reputed according to the pitch gurus can turn a trifle England will be tempted to go in with the spin brace of Moeen and Adil Rashid. They could drop James Vince who has had enough chances without much success. Ian Bell deserves a comeback but currently seems to be out of favour. Gary Balance deserves another look in.

The England final line-up could be: Cook, Hales, Root, Ballance, Stokes, Bairstow, Moeen, Woakes, Rashid, Broad, Anderson, Ben Stokes inclusion gives the batting strength to the middle order and the bowling will have a pace quartet and spinning duo. Let us wait for the final XI till Friday.

Another step England have taken to bolster up their preparations for the Old Trafford Test is “recruit” Saqlain Mushtaq the Pakistani (and now British as well) off spinning wizard for 10 days (why only 10 days/ why not a longer period?) to give advice to Moeen and Adil Rashid; and also yes hang on —-tell the English batsmen how to deal with the wile, guile, spin, wrong uns, sliders of Yasir Shah. It is good to know that young Saqlain arrived in Manchester last night.

Javed Miandad would have been more suited for the latter part of the assignment. Why did the English batsmen not learn the art of facing leg spin from one of the best Pakistani “leggie” Mushtaq Ahmed who was on their staff for a number of years before crossing floors.

Pakistan have been basking in the glory of their famous win and also in the hot sunshine and 30+ degrees C. temperature which is gripping England these days. 19th July was the hottest day with the temperature in London soaring to 34 Degrees C and health advisories about keeping hydrated and being in the shade being announced even in underground train stations.

Pakistan should be happy, calm, composed, confident and united as they have been since the training at Abbottabad. Complacency must not be allowed to set in. Pakistan will go all out to win at Manchester and ensure that they do not lose the series.

Yasir Shah that ebullient and chirpy 30-year-old leg spinner from Swabi following in the line of some great Pakistani leg spinners like Intikhab Alam, Abdul Qadir, Mushtaq Ahmed (with Mushtaq Mohammad also thrown in) Danish Kaneria, is now ranked as the No. 1 Test Bowler in the ICC rankings. He has broken a few records so far and we hope and pray that he reaches the 100 wicket mark in this series.

Pakistan team management and selection panel do not have a problematic job. They can play the same winning combination. If Old Trafford is really a turner they may be tempted to include Zulfiqar Babar (unless they want to burden Azhar Ali to bowl some leg spin/googly). Since they do not have an all rounder in the same category as Stokes, Woakes, Moeen Ali, it may be a pace bowler (perhaps Wahab Riaz) who will have to don the pink bib. It will be unwise not to give Hafeez and Shan another chance. Their XI could well be : Mohammad Hafeez, Shan Masood, Azhar Ali, Younis Khan, Misbah-ul-Haq, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz/Zulfiqar Babar, Rahat Ali.

After Manchester, if Pakistan wins, we would like many many more messages from all over the world for our team. And hopefully, this time the English print and electronic media will be sporting enough to publish/ broadcast/ telecast them.

Chishty Mujahid

Chishty Mujahid is an author at ScoreLine and has written numerous articles published at

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