Author Archives: Hamza

Suppose it’s a cliche?

As a kid, not healing was not an option; it was a matter of survival. Being a serious asthma patient post-birth, healing meant completely different to me than most other kids. Now walking, talking, running … this is stuff you can probably ignore for a few hours or days, to give yourself enough time to heal if you’re sick or injured. I had to learn how to control my breathing pattern before I could even fully properly comprehend what patterns are.

As I grew older, sports happened. That part of the healing was actually fun. Getting scraped on the cement floors diving for a catch or ripping your trousers at the knees and bleeding from it was actually heroic if you wanted to be counted as a serious player (sports-wise). And I was regardless of incentives, a very serious minded sports player.

My evenings out of my house were pretty intense affairs. Had a car run over my foot once while I was avoiding getting hit playing pittoo-paari (a local street game in Karachi). Had a 60 kg marble slab fall on my foot as I attempted to fix a broken public bench. Had a hair-line fracture on the shin bone batting without a pad on the back leg playing hard-ball cricket; naturally I got hit. Now the healing process was painful, but heroic nevertheless.

As life got serious, what became quickly apparent was that physical healing wasn’t always THAT scary. Turns out life is all about dealing with mental scars. And who’s to say those scars need healing? Why can’t you and your scars co-exist? Does the clot really need to happen? And if the clot happens, does it really need to be gradually replaced by new skin? There’s a certain addiction in licking your wounds of memories gone by, good and bad alike. Even if there are some particularly bad memories, there’s some genuine ease and temptation in wanting to sink into THAT particular despair.

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Now I haven’t yet been able to decide whether that pool of despair feels sweet, but I’ll tell you this; I don’t hate it. I have been co-existing with it for many years now. I can’t say that I have healed. I can’t say that I have died.

Suppose this cliche is just that? A cliche? Maybe healing is overrated.

This is in response to today’s word: Heal

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Analysing how PSL squads could be better

This article was originally published on Cricingif here:

The second season of the PSL is in full swing, and once again the Sharjah leg has added more life to the competition. The teams have been constantly experimenting with their playing XIs and whereas teams like Islamabad have settled into their ideal combination early, others haven’t been so lucky. Let’s have a look at each side and what they could do differently.

Islamabad United

Islamabad’s plan has been simple. Stack the top with batsmen from the foreign players’ category and use quality local bowlers. This has resulted in Islamabad playing with Dwayne Smith, Brad Haddin, Shane Watson and Sam Billings in the top 5. What really works for Islamabad is that out of this top 5, they also get a genuine all-rounder, a part time medium pacer and their wicket keeper. This depth defines their team.

While their choice of replacing Sharjeel with Riffatullah might be questionable, his selection as opener increases the team’s batting depth with Watson or Misbah slotting in at 6. Alternatively, with Billings now gone, Duckett can easily slot in as an opener. For Islamabad to get the most out of Misbah, he should bat no lower than 4. With Watson at 5 and Asif Ali / Hussain Talat playing at 6, Islamabad are well settled.

Their bowling is strong enough that depending on the match details and Irfan and Sami having permanent spots, they can try a variety of combinations without weakening their playing XI e.g. choosing Ammad Butt or Imran Khalid for the lower order all-rounder; playing both Ajmal and Shadab for a spin heavy attack; or dropping a spinner and playing Rumman Raees to focus on pace.

Peshawar Zalmi

Peshawar can make a lot of changes to their side. Let’s begin by mentioning the elephant in the room – Mohammad Hafeez – who must be dropped from the top order. In 5 innings, he has scored just 29 runs! Instead of playing him, Tamim Iqbal and Kamran Akmal form a perfectly fine opening combination.

Zalmis have persisted with Sohaib Maqsood whose game is a bit lost right now. His tally is 35 runs from 4 matches, out of which 30* was made in a single innings. Stats aside, he just hasn’t looked like he belongs at this level. On the other hand, Iftikhar Ahmed’s playing too high at 3; it’s a position where they must look at Haris Sohail to beef up their batting. With Morgan gone, I would pick Andre Fletcher ahead of Marlon Samuels in a pure slogger role at 4.

With Shakib-ul-Hasan at 5, either Iftikhar or Hafeez can come in at 6, where they may or may not be required to bat dependent on whether Afridi or Sammy need to be given more overs. To maximize their batting potential, Zalmis who often get stuck in the middle overs, must give Afridi more overs to bat regardless of match situation. If Fletcher, Afridi and Sammy are given more time in the middle, they can turn things around. With Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali as easy selections, Asghar Ali can complete their bowling attack and must be played. If an extra pacer is required, they can replace Fletcher with Chris Jordan or one of Iftikhar or Hafeez with Junaid Khan; neither decision is likely to weaken their batting.

Lahore Qalandars

Jason Roy’s departure leaves a big hole in the Qalandars’ side. Brendon McCullum will mostly likely return as opener alongside Fakhar Zaman. Following them should be Umar Akmal, Grant Elliot, Cameron Delport and Mohammad Rizwan to complete the batting. Umar is a natural choice at 3 regardless of the match situation. Elliot is a better batsman than given credit for and should bat at 4 for Qalandars.

Sunil Narine, Sohail Tanvir, Yasir Shah and Muhammad Irfan (jnr.) are expected to play each game unless Baz wants to see what the spinners Usman Qadir or Zafar Gohar have to offer. It’s a bit of a downer for Zafar who’s a talented spinner and looked good in the previous season but cannot find a place in the team with Baz preferring a leggie. Narine’s hitting form gives Baz a special edge & he might be content in playing Narine at 7 to include an additional spinner, or a seamer like Bilawal Bhatti. However, this has backfired at times for Qalandars this season, a problem which can be fixed by playing Aamer Yamin – a promising all-rounder who can bowl with the new ball and provide an additional batting option at 7.

Karachi Kings

It’s time to for the Kings to drop Chris Gayle and try other options. Kumar Sangakkara and Babar Azam seem to have clicked as openers. Ravi Bopara must come at 3 as he can bat aggressively against quality bowling, followed by Shoaib Malik.

Kieron Pollard’s being wasted down the order and can play a big role in Karachi overcoming the middle overs rut. He must play in a floating role, coming in at no lower than at 5 to make maximum impact. If Pollard feels like an unaffordable luxury as he isn’t bowling much, playing Mahela Jayawardena as opener would be an ideal boost to Karachi’s batting. Sangakkara can then move at 3, pushing Bopara and Malik one position lower.

Karachi should look to play Imad Wasim and Ryan McLaren – two high impact all-rounders – in the team. Karachi’s core bowling attack is now evident: Sohail Khan, Mohammad Amir, Usama Mir and Usman Shenwari. For slow pitches however, they can experiment with playing a spinner in place of Usman.

Quetta Gladiators

Quetta has done well again despite their selection which has been strangely muddled this season. They stuck with Asad Shafiq as opener for 4 games who’s done nothing in the past that inspires confidence in his T20 batting. In the 5th game, Saad Nasim, a promising middle order batsman and leg spin all-rounder played as opener and didn’t bowl a single over. This decision came despite the fact that Rilee Rossouw, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Luke Wright have all opened at the international level. In their last game against Lahore, they played 3 left arm finger spinners (Mohammad Nawaz, Hassan Khan and Zulfiqar Babar) and a right-arm finger spinner (Mahmudullah), and two seaming all-rounders.

Quetta must cement its choice of openers. Rossouw is well equipped to open with Ahmed Shahzad. Following KP and Sarfaraz, Saad Nasim can slot in at 5, a position that suits him more. If Sarfaraz is more comfortable with Rossouw in the middle order, they have an opener ready in Luke Wright, who also bowls medium fast. Umar Amin can play if either Saad or Nawaz fail to perform, however, Quetta must retain the afore-mentioned batting order for the top 4.

With Nawaz, Thisara Perera or Mahmudullah and Anwar Ali to follow, there’s enough firepower to play bowlers Hassan Khan, Tymal Mills and Mir Hamza / Zulfiqar. It is strange that a bowler of Mir Hamza’s caliber is yet to play this season. For the right balance, Quetta can play only one of Perera, Mahmudullah and Wright, as Rossouw, KP and Mills are undroppable. This gives Quetta enough bowling options to hide bowlers that aren’t having a good day. Though their bowling is weak, clever manoeuvring will ensure success.

Umpiring Blindspot – Why Ben Stokes was rightly aggrieved

There was much furore around the dismissal of Ben Stokes in the 2nd ODI of the post-Ashes bilateral series between England and Australia, where he was given out obstructing the field, a decision which proved to be pivotal in the game as England were never able to recover from that point.

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The 3rd umpire Wilson probably judged the decision using Law 37, which states that a batsman is out obstructing the field if he willfully strikes the ball with his hand, unless it is to avoid injury. The key part of the law if a decision is to be made in favour of field obstruction is that the contact with a throw must be deliberate and the ball must be judged as heading towards the stumps. I of course, feel that Ben Stokes was not out.

There’s a worrying absence of street-smart thinking in the umpiring world these days. The whole affair occurred at very high speed, from the delivery to the straight drive to the throw to the sway out of line by the batsman. Everything that happened after the shot was essentially about instinct and reflex action. I can’t imagine the umpire not being swayed into the decision by the slow motion replays.

Using evidence from the slow motion action replays to assess the batsman’s intention (which is only indicative evidence anyways) is fundamentally flawed, considering Stokes had to evade the throw within a fraction of a second. In that fraction of a second, he used his hand to save himself. If you have a look at the replays in the video above, the ball was hurled at Stokes’ right shoulder. Hence he first moves his hands towards the ball to block it from hitting the shoulder, and instinctively also moves his shoulder out of the way by turning his body sideways. Starc’s throw was such that the ball swung from its initial line hence Stokes’ outstretched hands instinctively followed it. Stokes was already moving his head backwards when the ball hit the gloves. He was not in direct sight of the throw which to me is the most convincing evidence that Stokes’ reaction was evasion and self-protection and not obstructing the field.

I am guessing here that ultimately it was the still shot at the point of contact of the ball with hand that swayed the umpire’s decision towards giving it out. However, I believe still shots are never the solution for these cases. Viewed in isolation, it doesn’t show that the ball was hurled at the body initially and that the natural swing of the throw and movement of Stokes’ right shoulder made it look as if the ball was actually very far from Stokes’ body. As a reaction triggered by your stimulus, you generally follow the ball when you’re faced with a split second decision. It’s similar to when you are playing a ball that swings out late; you don’t deliberately follow the ball, the hand adjustment is pure instinct. Hence not out for me. The way I see it, there’s no deliberate attempt from Stokes to obstruct the throw. As a fellow cricket enthusiast put it, it is absurd to think he could obstruct a ball thrown at such pace and from that distance, with the objective to save his wicket in that split second. Adding on to his comments, there seems to be a serious mistrust of cricketers.

I think the umpire was too quick to reach a decision. If we only have to look at replays in black and white, for example where the ball is at point of contact, why do we even need an ICC umpire for this job? Surely in this case, the real umpiring skill should be to assess the body and ball movements that transpired before the contact to judge Stokes’ deliberation? In accounting principles, we are repeatedly reminded to use substance over form in making decisions related to the standards governing financial reporting. Surely the umpires who are highly trained should be exercising their judgement on the substance of such incidents? Surely they have a bigger responsibility than interpreting standards in black and white, especially when judging deliberate intent?

Remember this?

Remember this?

In my opinion, this decision has simply added to the increasing number of woeful decisions made by the 3rd umpires in recent times. The recent run out dismissal of James Anderson in the 2015 World Cup comes to mind. And who can forget that legendary 2005 run out decision given after Inzamam had involuntarily stepped out of the crease while taking evasive action against Harmison’s throw?

The Neural Connection with Wahab Riaz

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Ever had an experience where you are not really there, but you are there? A moment stuck in time where in the thrill of witnessing what someone is doing, the ‘why’ of that performance is lost in between? Let me rephrase the question, have you ever had the experience of watching a Pakistani fast bowler attempt to defend a small total?

At the biggest stage, in front of a large hostile crowd cheering on the home side, and in a country which truly values devastating fast bowling, Wahab Riaz came up with a performance so animalistic in nature, the players watching it in the stadium, the 30,000 plus crowd present in the stadium, and the millions watching it on the television will remember it for years to come.

Wahab’s bowling was filled with such undisguised anger, it was a near miracle he didn’t lose control of his bowling or his temper, either through the 6 overs of his first spell nor in 2 of the 3 overs he bowled in his second spell. It was difficult to ascertain what Wahab was angrier about. His bowling seemed a direct response to both, his team’s run-of-the-mill insipid batting and the sledging from the Aussies who had hounded him every minute he was on the crease. Perhaps the Australians sensed that in the absence of Irfan, disarming Wahab was the key, and continued their tradition of going for the head of the snake. In that, they ended up complimenting him, perhaps inadvertently reaffirming Wahab of his status and value to the opposition. And oh how the head of the snake responded.

The first 8 overs were captivating yes, but one felt a slight uneasiness, inevitability even, as if the real showdown which was to come was expected. When would Misbah introduce Wahab? What could he do? The tension Wahab brought with himself was visible in Warner’s first shot, a mistimed punch off the back foot off a short and wide delivery that went for three runs. Another wild bouncer followed and was called a wide. And then Wahab struck, a short rising ball which Warner could not control, caught ironically in hindsight, by Rahat at third-man. Enters Michael Clarke. Wahab is touching 90 mph in his first over. A short-leg fielder comes up to say hello. The fourth ball of the second over is venomous, it is a cruise missile aimed at the narrow length between Clarke’s neck and the top of his head. Wahab cruelly choses to exploit Clarke’s weak back. Clarke could only fend off the ball to forward short-leg. And Wahab had burst the door open. Angry. Fast. And hungry for more.

Wahab that day was in complete sync with the most quintessential of human instincts; that of the hunter. Wahab’s rhythmic run up and delivery was hypnotizing. Your pulse raced with the rise and fall of his own. As a spectator on TV, you felt your emotions spilling over, blood boiling and body temperature rising a few degrees as the force of Wahab’s aura overwhelmed everything else. In that moment, you felt a part of your soul had formed a neural connection of sorts with Wahab and the full impact of his anger, frustration, aggression and desperation hit you like a freight train.

Wahab - 50 fucking shades of crazy

Wahab – 50 fucking shades of crazy

As Wahab sent in bouncer after bouncer and Watson hung on for dear life, as he hushed the vocal crowd who must have sensed a slight element of fear, as he was delightfully reminding Watson about the bat he had come out with and bullying him in his strong zone, he transcended the match result itself, the runs needed, and the other players on the field. You were moved by one man’s barely believable confidence in his own skill to challenge and dominate an opponent. The bouncers were of such high quality pace and accuracy, for a moment you’d have thought this was Bodyline in Adelaide 1932-33, Harold Larwood at the bowling crease and Douglas Jardine his captain. With two close-in catchers on the leg side, Misbah certainly did what was allowed. Judging by Wahab’s accuracy, in hindsight, he could probably have had all others come around the bat at catching positions and Watson still wouldn’t have been able to get him away. Among the many that were there to watch the spectacle, it seemed there were only two. Then and there, the world must have been a lonely place for Watson.
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Australia v Pakistan: Quarter Final - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup


That Wahab couldn’t inflict more damage through the wickets column was due to fielding of such poor standards it should be termed criminal. Also, the resilience of Watson and Smith cannot be ignored. One can only imagine what would have become of the Pakistani batting unit had they faced such a ferocious spell of bowling. As Wahab returned for a second spell with the game almost lost, he gave Pakistan one more chance to make amends. Maxwell made an ugly attempt at a pull / swat that went high towards third man. Predictably, this attempt to catch the ball was even worse. Wahab, so visibly in anguish, let out another pained scream and the World Cup was over. The rest was just semantics, the last rites of one of those many ‘what-if’ games Pakistan has been a part of. Coach Waqar may consider putting an arm around Wahab, and let him know why he and Wasim only concentrated on LWBs and Bowleds.

With the chaotic management and injustice both prior to, and during the first 2 games of the World Cup, I had tried to disassociate myself from the team’s cricket, dispassionately declaring for a need to lose 0-6 in the group stages so that the disease which plagues Pakistan cricket does not remain covered. A friend asked me the day after the match that why was I so emotional about the result now, and I could only respond with a phrase fast becoming legend, courtesy of some very Pakistani cricket journalists and fans, “Kya karun yaar, Pace is Pace Yaar (What to do man, Pace is Pace man).”

Almost feels like a Wahab slow-clap -

Almost feels like a Wahab slow-clap –

You love Humanity? Not Enough!

I am posting another passage from Dostoevsky, one that explains or describes the feeling many of us often feel. Passionate love for humanity, and yet at times indifference for man. How we often dream of serving and benefiting humanity, and yet are unable to translate that passion when we deal with individual humans. This passage, my friends, is a self-castigation exercise. I want you all to give it a read. I really feel that Dostoevsky speaks to us all. Ingratitude is probably what drives people away from each the most. Not everybody wants materialistic returns. Some honestly, just want to be loved back in return.

‘In active love? There’s another question and such a question! You see, I so love humanity that — would you believe it? — I often dream of forsaking all that I have, leaving Lise, and becoming a sister of mercy. I close my eyes and think and dream, and at that moment I feel full of strength to overcome all obstacles. No wounds, no festering sores could at that moment frighten me. I would bind them up and wash them with my own hands. I would nurse the afflicted. I would be ready to kiss such wounds.’

‘It is much, and well that your mind is full of such dreams and not others. Yes. But could I endure such a life for long?’ the lady went on fervently, almost frantically. ‘That’s the chief question — that’s my most agonising question. I shut my eyes and ask myself, ‘Would you persevere long on that path? And if the patient whose wounds you are washing did not meet you with gratitude, but worried you with his whims, without valuing or remarking your charitable services, began abusing you and rudely commanding you, and complaining to the superior authorities of you (which often happens when people are in great suffering) — what then? Would you persevere in your love, or not?’ And do you know, I came with horror to the conclusion that, if anything could dissipate my love to humanity, it would be ingratitude. In short, I am a hired servant, I expect my payment at once — that is, praise, and the repayment of love with love. Otherwise I am incapable of loving anyone.’’

She was in a very paroxysm of self-castigation, and, concluding, she looked with defiant resolution at the elder. ‘It’s just the same story as a doctor once told me,’ observed the elder. ‘He was a man getting on in years, and undoubtedly clever. He spoke as frankly as you, though in jest, in bitter jest. ‘I love humanity,’ he said, ‘but I wonder at myself. The more I love humanity in general, the less I love man in particular. In my dreams,’ he said, ‘I have often come to making enthusiastic schemes for the service of humanity, and perhaps I might actually have faced crucifixion if it had been suddenly necessary; and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone for two days together, as I know by experience. As soon as anyone is near me, his personality disturbs my self-complacency and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I begin to hate the best of men: one because he’s too long over his dinner; another because he has a cold and keeps on blowing his nose. I become hostile to people the moment they come close to me. But it has always happened that the more I detest men individually the more ardent becomes my love for humanity.’

‘But what’s to be done? What can one do in such a case? Must one despair?

The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky

Anonymity in Abu Dhabi

It is the end of February. I am new here. This is my first week. I am sitting on a public bench in front of ‘Le Meridien’ and ‘Dana Hotel’, enjoying the surprisingly cool breeze of the dying winters of Abu Dhabi.

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The shade and the sun over here are starkly different. They do not seem to blend seamlessly into the other; there’s no gradual integration there. You step into the sunlight away from the comforting shade and you realize how bad it’s gonna get when summer arrives. in truth, I’m a little scared. I mean, me and excess heat just do not function that well. Add to that the three layers of clothes, tightly bound neck and a stifling suit, boy am I in for a shellacking.

The buildings around me are tall; cars around me slick; and the people around me confusingly minding their own business. Why is that? Why isn’t anybody staring at me? I don’t get it! I mean, I’m so used to it. All kinds of staring. Pakistanis love to stare. It isn’t just women as some people profess, no! It’s everything! Everything is our business.

It’s as Ali Gul Pir would say, ‘Bakri bhi taarunga, kutta bhi taarunga, building bhi taarunga, family bhi taarunga, gaari bhi taarunga‘.

We are a genuinely curious people. Everyone is interested in everything that you do. You, unwittingly, are a goddamned celebrity! And when your business becomes unimportant, you long for that attention. OK, maybe just a little bit. So yea, I am struggling a little bit with this anonymity in Abu Dhabi. I liked it better when everything was everyone’s business.

Don’t Waste Food!

Food_Waste

It happens in weddings, in restaurants, in cafes, and even at home.
The poverty levels globally are sickening. Please, stop wasting food people!

Most inspirational sentence read in 2013? I’d quote Dostoevsky …

Here’s what I replied to a post by The Book Club of Karachi on Facebook, “The most inspirational sentence you read in 2013?”
I could choose once sentence from this passage maybe, but this whole passage is too brilliant to ignore. This stunned me probably like nothing else this year. A wonderful book and a wonderful writer, from which I hope to share more passages in the coming days.

‘Ofcourse, when Alyosha was in the monastery he believed entirely in miracles, but I dont think miracles ever confound a realist. Nor is it miracles that bring a realist to religion. If he is an unbeliever, a true realist will always find the strength & ability not to believe in a miracle, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact, he will rather disbelieve his own senses than accept that fact. Or he may concede the fact and explain it away as a natural phenomenon until then unknown. In a realist, it is not miracles that generate faith, but faith that generates miracles. Once a realist becomes a believer, however, his very realism will make him accept the existence of miracles. The apostle Thomas said he would not believe until he saw, and when he saw, he said: ”My Lord and my God!”. Was it a miracle that made him believe? Most likely not. He believed only because he wanted to believe, and possibly he already believed in the secret recesses of his being.’

Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov.

An exploratory MHB fan …

So I’ve been listening to Mekaal Hasan Band for some years now. It started with a wierd private website that doesn’t even exist now, where I found a very very raw audio feed of a Mekaal Hasan Band jam, labelled ‘Late Moon’. And that song was enough to make me fall in love with its music.

Mekaal-Hasan-Band-1

THe song that I’ve shared is ‘Sampooran‘- here’s to hoping you love the baansri (flute) on this one as much as I did. This song is beautiful, and eternal …

So, what do you think?

So I have been thinking ….

So I have been thinking … and it has been a while. I think I must start blogging again : )

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