After going seven months without seeing his family while living in a bio-secure bubble and travelling the world as Pakistan's bowling coach, Waqar Younis is finally getting to spend some time at home.
The 49-year-old Waqar has been kept busy, touring England before his team went on to host Zimbabwe and then visited New Zealand for another series of matches.
Pakistan played two tests in New Zealand but the former fast-bowling great was allowed to return home after his side lost the first game by 101 runs, in order to spend some time with his loved ones ahead of this month's home series against South Africa.
“I didn’t see my family for the last seven months and got permission from the cricket board to spend time with my family,” Waqar told reporters in the eastern city of Lahore on Wednesday.
“Cricket is not the end of the world. There are also other things in life which are important.”
Pakistan lost the recent test series to New Zealand 2-0 and the Twenty20 encounter 2-1, and Waqar said it was especially tough for the players to go through 14 days of quarantine which limited them to their hotel rooms.
“Medically it’s proven that if you are closed in a room for one day, you have wastage of two days' muscle,” Waqar said. “They are top athletes, they needed to be trained every day so these issues were also there, because of which we couldn’t win.”
Waqar and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq were summoned by the Pakistan Cricket Board on Tuesday to explain the team's results, but both men will be given another chance in the home series against South Africa before their performance is re-evaluated.
Pakistan lost the test series in England 1-0 before tying the Twenty20 encounter 1-1. It then beat Zimbabwe in both the ODI and T20 series.
“It’s a performance-based (job) whether you do coaching or play international cricket,” Waqar said.
“If you give good results, you will keep getting opportunities.”
Pakistan's fast bowlers struggled in the tests against New Zealand, losing both matches by heavy margins, with young pacemen Naseem Shah and Shaheen Afridi unable to generate the same speeds as New Zealand’s Kyle Jamieson and Neil Wagner.
But Waqar says taking 20 wickets in a test is more important to him than relying on the pace of a fast bowler.
“Pace is important, and I understand that if you have it, it’s good, but for me how to get 20 wickets is more important,” he explained.
“If he is bowling at 140kph and not getting wickets, it’s useless, but if he is bowling at 120kph and taking wickets, it’s good to me.
“We also had issues of no-balls and dropped catches. We didn’t perform the way we would have wanted.”
Mohammad Amir, who blamed the current team management for his shock retirement, on Monday, said he would be available to play for Pakistan again only after the support staff led by head coach Misbah-ul-Haq exits.
Having already hung his boots from Test cricket, the 28-year-old quit international cricket last month alleging mental torture by the board. He had also blamed Misbah and bowling coach Waqar Younis for spoiling his image.
"I would like to clarify that yes I will be available for Pakistan only once this management leaves. so please stop spreading fake news just to sell your story," Amir tweeted in response to rumours on his comeback.
Last week, he had also highlighted the need for a change in the environment of the Pakistan dressing room.
"Give players some space and freedom. Put an end to this scary environment in the dressing room, these very players will win you matches," Amir had told the media.
In 2019, Amir had quit Test cricket to focus on white-ball cricket as he felt his body could not take the load of playing all the formats. He bagged 119 wickets from 36 Tests after making his debut in 2009.
In 2010, Amir was banned from cricket for 5 years, having played his part in a spot-fixing scandal. He had announced his retirement from all formats after being dropped for the tour of New Zealand, last month.
The Virat Kohli-led Team India side is unlikely to take part in the Asia Cup 2021 as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is reportedly keen on pulling out of the marquee event. Following the postponement of several marquee series and events last year due to the ongoing coronavirus, the 'Men in Blue' have a pretty hectic schedule in 2021.
The Indian team pulling out of the tournament also means that the marquee clash arch-rivals Pakistan will not be taking place, at least for this year. Apart from the white-ball world cups, Asia Cup is the only marquee event where India and Pakistan take on each other on the international circuit.
Both team last met at the Old Trafford Stadium in the 2019 World Cup fixture, which India won by 89 runs (DLS) after the rain had interrupted the proceeding in Manchester. Notably, Rohit Sharma had scored a 140 in the match.
As per a report filed by the Times of India, it has been learned that the BCCI can make up for India's non-involvement in the Asia Cup by compensating the broadcasters with the bilateral series that were either cancelled or postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic.
If reports are to be believed, the Asia Cup is likely to clash with the inaugural ICC Test Championship final, and Virat and his men are one of the favourites to enter the summit clash.
"Further, the Asia Cup - even if it was scheduled - would've probably been played around the same time as the ICC Test Championship final. If India don't make the final, the industry would've preferred the Asia Cup instead. Now, the chance of such a thing happening looks bleak so it's a kind of catch-22 right now," a source close to the developments told the TOI.
The defending champions' withdrawal from the competition might also upset the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Pakistan was set to host the 2019 edition of the tournament and the PCB also opted to organise the Asia Cup at a neutral venue (UAE) before Sri Lanka were made the hosts of the tournament.
India pacer, Mohammed Siraj was the pick of the Indian bowlers on the fourth day of the fourth Test against Australia in Brisbane. Siraj, who made his Test debut in the second match of the ongoing Border-Gavaskar Trophy in Melbourne, picked up his maiden five-wicket-haul on Monday. Courtesy of Siraj's brilliant spell, the hosts were bundled for 294 in the second innings after scoring 369 in their first.
Siraj dismissed the likes of Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Matthew Wade, Mitchell Starc, and Josh Hazlewood to keep the Australians at bay.
His performance earned him a lot of praise from many fans and cricketers. Even the injured speedster Jasprit Bumrah applauded the 26-year-old bowler and gave him a warm hug for his achievement.
Taking to its official Twitter handle, the BCCI recently shared a video of Mohammed Siraj getting a standing ovation by Indian contingent after his magnificent 5-wicket haul.
Siraj has become the 5th Indian bowler to scalp 5 wickets at the Gabba. With figures of 5/73, he has now joined the likes of Erapalli Prasanna (6/104), Bishan Singh Bedi (5/57), Madan Lal (5/72), and Zaheer Khan (5/95).
Former India all-rounder, Irfan Pathan praised the pacer. “Having to toil in first-class cricket is so important. It shows in both, Siraj and Shardul Thakur’s performance. You could bowl spells after spells in test matches if you have done that regularly in domestic cricket. Well done to both of them!”
Having to toil in first class cricket is so important. It shows in both, #siraj and #Shardulthakur performance. You could bowl spells after spells in test matches if you have done that regularly in domestic cricket. Well done to both of them!— Irfan Pathan (@IrfanPathan) January 18, 2021
Australia could find themselves a pacer shot ahead of the final day of play of the ongoing fourth and final Test in Brisbane after Mitchell Starc walked away clutching his hamstring at the Gabba.
Having missed a chance to take a 2-1 lead in the third Test, Aussies need 10 wickets to win the series and regain the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. If Starc is restricted or unable to bowl, having walked off the pitch holding his hamstring, it won't do Australia any favours.
However, Steve Smith, during a chat with the Sydney Morning Herald, said that he's hopeful that Starc will take the field on the final day. "He was grabbing at his right hamstring, I think it was," Steve Smith said after rain forced early stumps on Day 4.
"I'm sure he'll get it assessed. But one thing I know about Mitchell is he's tough and he's played through some injuries before so he'll be good to go hopefully tomorrow," Smith added.
Starc's absence might also boost India's chances of taking an unlikely win, breaching the Brisbane fortress. Notably, Australia are unbeaten in 31 Tests at the Gabba. Nonetheless, the visitors have a huge mountain to climb on Day 5.
Moreover, Pat Cummins also didn’t take the field in the 2nd innings which left the Australian fans concerned. The No. 1 Test bowler was hit on the elbow by Mohammed Siraj but the injury didn't seem serious as he was seen sitting in the dugout.
Ajinkya Rahane and his men need 324 runs on the final day to win the Test and retain the prestigious Border-Gavaskar Trophy, which they won back in the 2018-19 tour Down Under. The visitors are currently 4/0 with Rohit Sharma and Shubman Gill in the middle.
Mohammed Siraj didn't go home in November when his father died, deciding instead to stay in Australia and try to fulfil a dream for his late dad.
In a matter of weeks, he's been elevated from backup bowler — picked for the tour as cover following some injuries to veteran pacemen — to leading India's injury-depleted attack in the series-deciding test match at the Gabba.
He snared his maiden five-wicket haul on Monday, helping to dismiss Australia for 294 late on the penultimate day of the fourth and final test, leaving India a target of 328 to win.
“If he was alive, he would’ve been so happy," Siraj said. “But I had his blessings and that’s why I took five wickets today. I’m speechless today, about this performance. I don’t have many words.”
Siraj said he recalled a conversation with his mother, who encouraged him to stay our tour in Australia and to do his father proud.
“I spoke with my people at home. I felt strong after talking to my family, talking to my mother, and I was also strong mentally about this. My focus was to accomplish my dad’s wish for me. Thank God, it got accomplished today. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.”
The highest successful run chase at the Gabba was in 1951, when Australia finished 236-7 against the West Indies. The Australians haven’t lost at the Gabba since 1988, but nobody is counting India out.
And it's because of the way the likes of Siraj and the other players drafted in to fill voids left by the absence of regular starters have taken on the game that makes the tourists so much confidence.
The openers faced 1.5 overs before rain stopped play and India was four without loss — one scoring stroke from Rohit Sharma.
Stumps was called shortly after 5 p.m. local time, giving India three sessions, weather-permitting, to try to get 324 more runs.
Siraj put down two catches before picking up the key wicket of Steve Smith for 55 in the middle session.
Australia were 243-7 at tea on day four — a rain shower forcing an early break — with an overall lead of 276 and a declaration seemingly imminent.
But the hosts continued batting when play resumed in gloomy conditions in the evening session, adding a further 51 runs for three wickets.
Pat Cummins finished unbeaten on 28. Nathan Lyon, in his 100th test, took Australia's lead past 300 when he hooked a six off Siraj but was out soon after for 13, giving Thakur his fourth wicket of the innings and seventh of the match.
Thakur took the catch off Siraj's bowling to dismiss the last man Josh Hazlewood (9). Siraj, leading the India attack in just his third test in the injury-enforced absence of Jasprit Bumrah and spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, returned 5-73 for his career-best figures.
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