Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What is wrong with Sami?

If we look back at the history of cricket, it can be seen that talent alone isn't enough to succeed at the highest level which is test cricket, but a cricketer needs a good temperament as well. Over the years, we have seen numerous cricketers, who have shown enormous potential, but just couldn't make it big in international cricket. One such immensely talented cricketer, who hasn't been able to succeed at the highest level is Sami.  A few cricket fans may say that he has been a victim of the revolving door policy that Pakistan cricket is famous for, but  if a bowler averages over 50 after playing in 35 tests, then he too has to take some of the blame for not performing up-to his potential.

If I think about Sami, I would ask to myself what he doesn't have as a bowler? He has a bustling run-up and a whippy action, can be deceptively quick and can get late swing with both the new and the old ball. Sami  is more of a hustler, who can surprise the batsman for a bit of pace. Unfortunately though, in-spite of having the required skills to succeed as a quick bowler, he has flopped miserably in test cricket.

Sami's career

If I have to track Sami's early career, I would have to go as far back as 2000/01, when a wiry 20 year old burst onto the scene with a eight wicket haul in his debut test in the land of long white cloud and helped Pakistan to win that test. In-fact, when Pakistan toured England in 01, there was a lot of hype surrounding Sami and the feeling was Pakistan have unearthed another top quality fast bowler. Akram though, couldn't pronounce his name correctly as he talked about how much potential a young bowler called Mohammad Salim  has. Jokes apart, he didn't play in that series yet, everyone believed that a star was born.

Unfortunately for Pakistan, he has rarely ever performed for them since that debut test in New Zealand. Yes, against his favourite opponents the Kiwis, he once more got a five wicket haul in 03, but other than that he hasn't got any other five wicket haul to his name in test cricket! Recently in Australia, he produced one decent spell in the first innings at Sydney albeit in helpful conditions, but was back to his old ways in the second innings. I may defend him by saying that Sami was excellent when he played CC for Sussex in 03, but if I do that I must be scraping the barrel!  Pakistan's selectors though, haven't learnt their lesson as they have recalled him back for the series against South Africa. I realise that with Asif and Ameer suspended, they are struggling to find decent bowlers, but there should be someone, who has a bit of talent and can play for Pakistan. Pakistan's selectors  are just wasting their time by selecting a bowler who averages over 50.

It is hard to explain why would a bowler as talented as Sami averages over 50, but I would give it a try. 

1) Discipline- The greatest bowlers in the history of the game always have great control as they rarely lose their line or length.  Sami though, struggles to keep it tight and even maintain a modicum of pressure. Nowadays, I don't have to watch Sami bowl as I know that a particular over that Sami bowls would contain couple of good deliveries followed up by a few leg stump half volleys and a short and wide delivery. Sami always comes across as a bowler, who tries to bowl a jaffa. Every bowler loves it, when a ball pitches on the leg-stump and hits top of off-stump, but such deliveries can be produced once in a blue-moon. The lack of discipline in his bowling has meant that even in bowler friendly conditions like in England, he has struggled to take wickets. In-fact, modern day bowlers seem to lack the discipline to take wickets as most of them get frustrated as soon as they beat the bat a few times.

2)Trying to match Shoaib for pace- I also have a gut feeling that whenever Akthar plays, Sami tries his best to match him for pace and as a result lose his line and length. I can remember Sami trying to consistently hit over 90mph in Australia in 04/05 as Akthar was bowling at the pace of wind and even in a few series against England and India around that time Sami tried to bowl quicker and lost the plot. I have never thought of Sami as a out and out quick bowler. In my opinion, he is more of a hustler, who can surprise the batsman for a bit of pace. Sami is perhaps at his best, when he bowls around 87-88 mph as when he tries to bowl quicker, he loses his control, tends to bowl with a scrambled seam and can't get the late swing for which he is famous for.

Fans and experts may give about million more reasons for his failures yet, it would remain a mystery that a bowler of Sami's skills averages over 50 in test cricket. Finally, it again shows that to succeed at the highest level, just talent isn't enough, but it also requires temperament and sadly from Pakistan's point of view,  Sami doesn't have it.

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