The head-wobbling ghosts of Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah

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It can be hard to keep up with Pakistan’s playing staff. Mitchell Marsh gets a debut and great tracts of webspace are devoted to him, explaining what this decision means and why it’s such a monumental event. In contrast, Pakistan players ghost into the side and it’s only when they’ve become the top-ranked batsman or bowler in the world that anyone finally pays any attention to them.

For one reason or another, Pakistan’s bowling attack is particularly untested at the minute but they seem to be doing okay. Zulfiqar Babar and Yasir Shah, the two spinners, were the architects of Australia’s downfall and it’s tempting to wonder whether we’ve just seen the first steps taken by a duo that will one day rank alongside Wasim and Waqar, Lillee and Thompson and Ambrose and Walsh.

Then you look at them and this clearly isn’t the case. Spring chickens they are not. Zulfiqar Babar in particular is an old stewing chicken. He looks like an Indian Railways employee on his Cricinfo profile page. In fact we’re pretty sure we once bought a ticket off him. We remember him repeatedly answering our question about whether the train stopped at a particular station with the Indian ‘maybe, maybe not’ head wobble. Apparently there’s a version of ‘yes’ which is quite similar to that movement, but to Western eyes it was a decidedly unhelpful response. Yasir Shah is at least wearing cricket gear in his picture, but he could still pass for a ticket inspector.

As for Australia, where do they stand after this heavy defeat? We didn’t see the match, but apparently Alex Doolan looked out of his depth, while Mitchell Marsh is never a number six batsman. The two spinners were also strikingly ineffectual on what was clearly a turning pitch. You could perhaps defend Steve O’Keefe by saying it was his debut, but that rings a little hollow when Pakistan’s entire attack was pretty much new to Test cricket.

The whole Australia team probably just needs to be a little bit more aggressive. That’s the answer. That’ll sort it.


Mike Gatting wasn't receiving the King Cricket email when he dropped that ludicrously easy chance against India in 1993.


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  1. It is a little known fact, but Indians actually picked up that whole head-wobbling thing from the British. Back when you folks came in and told us all you wanted to do was trade and we said it was okay to crash on our couch and you kinda didn’t leave for the next hundred years and we kept asking and Queen Vicky just sort of just shook her head. It was an enormously successful tactic.

    1. Revisionist nonsense. It’s a well-known fact that the entire British Empire was set up for the purposes of finding cricket teams to play international matches against. The chaps at Lord’s had sold a pile of tickets for what was known at the time as The Gieves and Hawkes World Cup T20 Huge Bash, when someone realised that there were no other teams to play. So one of the members phoned a fellow he knew in the British Army Shooting At People Who Don’t Have Guns Yet Division (motto: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but you won’t get anywhere near close enough to use them). They piled into a boat with a cheery smile, a few bits of cricket equipment and an armoured division, and set off to spread the word about cricket. Beyond providing all the soldiers, weaponry and motivation, Good Queen Victoria the Peaceful had nothing to do with it.

      The rest, as they say, is history. Which if you think about it is always true for anything that is now in the past.

    1. Yes, we’ve actually seen that since, but it’s not much use to us in 2002. And as we say, the distinction between ‘yes’ and ‘maybe, maybe not’ isn’t that clear-cut to these eyes.

    2. I’ve always assumed it means general, vague agreement. In English the equivalent would be a gentle, unspecific vocalisation, like “ah hmm”, while someone is explaining something. Of course, that might just have been what my Indian colleague told me to make me feel better while everyone was actually suggesting I was a complete idiot.

      In Sweden the equivalent is a sharp vocalised INhalation. That, starting every sentence with the most drawn out “Wellllllle” conceivable, and Swedes generally, are properly weird.

  2. Maybe they should give him a job in British Rail or something, he could move to England and end up playing for you guys. You’ll need him in the Ashes.

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