Messers, U Akmal and S Afridi,
Can I begin by saying that it is heart breaking that I am writing this letter. I could have chosen not to write this, however the disappointment has gotten to a point where perhaps a mirror needs to be held up. A big one too. I have supported you for far too long, argued and debated against your detractors, many my own family members, and have defended you in any and every way possible. My efforts unfortunately and disappointingly have gone wasted.
No country, I repeat, no country has gone through the trials and tribulations that Pakistan has. No country, I suspect will go through what Pakistan cricket is going through right now. We are running on the memories of the past. The greatest gift that Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram have given Pakistan cricket is their legacy, tonight, some of that was on show. I feel for you Wahab, like Wasim and Waqar of the yesteryears, you bowled your heart out. It was there for all to see. Your mates, especially in the fielding department, let you down. Misbah, thank you for a wonderful career, I’m sorry I doubted you on so many occasions, I was distracted by the so called performers of our team. You have been a rock amongst pebbles, and arguably, are one of Pakistan’s greatest captains.
Some will say the below is harsh, some will disagree, some will not like what I have to say, trust me however when I say this, you won’t find a more committed Pakistani cricket fan than yours truly, and perhaps, it’s even more important that I say this.
I hope that somehow this is shared enough on social media that it reaches you, because it’s time that a mirror is held up in front of both of you. Time and time again, you have been given the responsibility of the lower batting order, to bat through and get the team to a respectable total or to chase a total that seems to be within reach. Time and time again, you have failed. They say consistency is a good thing in cricket, unfortunately, you are consistent in failing at the tasks that are handed out to you. No, there are no more excuses, don’t bat at the right position? The reality is that people in Pakistan would give an arm and a leg to be in your position.
Let’s address both of you individually.
When you came onto the cricketing scene in 2009 you were being compared with Virat Kohli and we started believing and hoping that we had finally found a reliable lower order batsman. Boy, were we wrong. The truth Umar, is that you wouldn’t be selected in the starting XI of any international team. Perhaps, Zimbabwe or Ireland could use your services, but even then, you wouldn’t be their best batsman. I say that on results and consistency, not on talent. The tragedy and travesty is that I’m certain there are very talented batsmen in Lahore, Karachi and many other cities around Pakistan who haven’t been able to come through the ranks because even after multiple failures, your name is constantly picked in squads yet the results are the same.
When was the last time you actually batted for more than 15 overs? Can’t remember? Neither can I. See my point and dilemma? Truth is, you have wasted your talent, which you immensely are, but are you an international world beater? No. Maybe once, sure yes, but not anymore.
For far too long, you have led the fans to believe, and hope. To quote the greatest movie ever made, “Hope, hope is a dangerous thing, hope drives a man crazy” (Shawshank Redemption for those who haven’t seen it). We would like consistency, not hope, take a leaf out of Steve Smith’s book.
Rather than trying to be a hero and smash each delivery out of the park, you would be better served with some time at the crease, if you cannot do so, let someone else into the team who will. I was there in Auckland when you played that stupid shot straight to Superman himself, AB de Villiers. You had no one else to blame but yourself.
Utter and complete disappointment. Do you belong in the team? Not at all. You had your chance in this world cup to prove that it was correct to select you over Fawad Alam. You didn’t even come close.
The day you realise that you aren’t as good as you think you are, that will be the day that you actually become a better cricketer.
Now I come to the saddest part of this letter. Lala, Shahid bhai, Boom Boom, this world cup was to be your farewell. For so many years, you have been the connection for this generation to the 90s. To the golden era, you were that guy. The x-factor. You have played alongside legends such as Akram, Younis, Inzi and co. What happened bhaijaan? (elder brother).
What I cannot understand, alongside every other Pakistani supporter is that for someone who has played nearly 400 ODI games, can you not assess the situation of a cricket match when you are batting? A young child playing under 12s could assess the situation of the game better than you can. When you came out to bat today, did you not think to yourself, this could be my last time? The power play was an over away, and you couldn’t help yourself?
Can you please tell me the last time you actually won a game for us? I can’t either, the 2 sixes in the Asia up final were 2 shots that could have easily gone straight up in the air, and you know this too. Was it in the 2011 world cup? That was 4 years ago.
Since that time, everyone has argued (including me) for you to be in the team based on your bowling and on this false hope, that maybe, Lala will play sensibly. Again, how wrong have we been. You should be charged with misleading and deceptive conduct. For that is what you have done, for far too long, you have mislead and deceived your fans. I being your biggest one. It saddens me to have to write this, but the truth is always a bitter pill to swallow.
Lala, I don’t care if you score a 100 in singles, but just do it. Sixes, whilst they are great viewing, don’t mean anything if you get out the very next ball. They say the best cricketer is one that improves, why haven’t you? Every team knows that Afridi will hit one ball for six, bowl the next ball short and on the offside and he will hit it straight in the air. I was there when India did the exact same thing in Adelaide. It then happened in every other game in this world cup. I saw it happen in Auckland too. But when you did hit that 84 metre six, the fans again went into this false sense of hope. Do you feel that there is some pressure on you to hit sixes?
The fans would rather see 100s than sixes. For someone who has played cricket for 20 years, how can you not see or understand that? Or do you not care? Please do not let it be the latter. Perhaps the 37 ball hundred has been a curse on your state of mind. There is no better sight in world cricket than Afridi, standing in the middle of the pitch, with both hands aloft in the air, smiling. Lala, we just haven’t had on opportunity to celebrate with you, we would like more of those moments.
The PCB has stated that you are to be our captain for the T20 aspect of the game. Hand on heart, I cannot see how you will do anything different, except that your performance will continue to deteriorate. It’s depressing having to watch you try and hold onto something you no longer are.
I cannot but feel for Misbah, both of you on many occasions have left Misbah high and dry. Can you imagine his batting record if he didn’t have to come in at 4/45 knowing that after him it’s just Umar and Shahid. How many times have you batted with him until the end?
Tonight is the end of your ODI career, but I have a bitter taste in my mouth. The end of your career should have been one of celebration, but cricket, as Wahab is realising can be a cruel game, not even greats like Sanga and Mahela were given a scripted ending. The difference between yourself and the great lankans is that they have consistently performed allowing their fans to celebrate their great careers. Yours unfortunately, has been great in dribs and drabs and will be remembered perhaps for the most sixes.
I would have liked to remember it for the number of games you won for your country.
Regrettably, not as many as we, your fans would have liked.