I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with a certain young man, Mohammad Asif at the home of a good friend. It's not often that I get the chance to sit and chat with someone of such huge potential in the world of cricket, so I was tremendously excited.
Some background first. Asif is the latest in a long line of prodigious fast bowling talent that is constantly being unearthed in Pakistan. Pakistani fast bowlers have been credited with inventing and then perfecting the art of "reverse swing." Rahul Battacharya in his book "Pundits from Pakistan" credits a version of cricket called "tape tennis" for keeping this conveyer belt of fast & swing bowling going in Pakistan. This version of cricket is played with a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape and more often than not played on concrete. Roads, pavements, parking lots, anything will do!

During these few hours, inevitably the discussion centered around the Pakistan cricket teams' poor performance at the current World Cup in the West Indies. It was here that Asif opened up. He began to talk about the professionalism, hard work, athleticism and mental preparation of the Australian team. Australia are to cricket currently what the Jordan Bulls were to 1990s NBA. The sheer desire to win and competitive spirit that is the ethos of Aussie cricket has never existed in cricket before, certainly in the modern era that I have watched the game. They do not care if their opponents are amateurs or the next best team in the world. They want to defeat, maybe even crush them all by the same margin!

For me, hearing a Pakistani player, especially the new vice-captain of the squad, speak of admiration for the professionalism of the Aussies was like manna from heaven. Is it possible that we have finally found home grown leadership that wants to develop modern attitudes in its approach to competitive professional cricket?

This discussion lead to discussions about Chelsea, the current English Premiership champions (soccer), Michael Jordan and the Bulls and eventually, Asif said the magic word: deception! He said when he was bowling, all he thought about was how was he going to get the opposing batsman out. What would he bowl, from what angle, how did he want the ball to approach the stumps, and what was the batsman expecting. He wanted to deceive the batsman into losing his wicket and would try anything to make it happen. Now, the Chair has written numerous times on deception and its role in markets, sport and even life. But here was a guy who had worked out that it was his primary weapon in attaining success. And he's only 25. I thought about mentioning the Chair's work to him, but decided it would be too far removed from Asif's world to appreciate. Better to direct him somewhere else.

So I mentioned Hashim Khan's book "Squash Rackets: The Khan Game" a first edition 1967 copy of which my university squash coach Peter Lyman gave me in my sophomore year (the reasons are another story). Everybody from Pakistan knows the legend of the Khans, so I figured he'd cotton on immediately and I wasn't disappointed. Chapter 7-9 read like a very early version of "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert. He's asked for my copy of it which I will loan to him, but I think I'll add Winning Ugly too.

I'm convinced that Asif will become a legend in the sport, not only because of his audacious ability to swing the ball, his simple and sustainable action, but also because he has already understood the game within the game. All he needs is to find 10 like minded individuals in Pakistani cricket, and we can win the next World Cup!

For those interested, the current Cricket world cup will finally end this week, and more than likely Australia will win for a record 3rd consecutive time. But the seeds of the future are being sown. What price Pakistan at the next World Cup?


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