A tale of two Etihad Stadiums

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Brisbane Heat piled on the misery over a lackluster Melbourne Renegades at the Etihad Stadium on Thursday with a 12-run win, that saw the home side’s hope of qualifying for the semis – mathematically and otherwise – being buried under the Pacific Ocean for another year. With global superstars like Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi, and the likes of Hodge and Nannes within their ranks, Melbourne were one of the favourites for this season’s Big Bash. However, patchy performances throughout the season, that has seen the Renegades lose four of their six matches, have resulted in Melbourne finding themselves at the foot of the table.
Afridi – captain McDonald’s go-to bowler – has bowled with typical menace throughout the campaign, and is the leading wicket-taker for his side with nine wickets. But his batting, like that of most of the team – including his flamboyant compatriot – hasn’t been worthy of writing back home (or any place else for that matter) about. Razzaq hasn’t quite stepped up to the plate in Australia, and has been struggling for form with both bat and ball, following a very lucrative summer with Leicestershire.
Knowing Razzaq, it’s only a matter of time before he gets his grip on the bat; however, his bowling has become a patched up locomotive of satirical contradictions. It goes without saying that Razzaq is not the same bowler he was 10 years ago, but that does not mean that he still can’t contribute to the teams he plays for, with the ball. The first thing Razzaq should do is that he should cut down on his run up. It is indeed ironic that Afridi with a three and a half step run up has the potential of bowling faster than Razzaq, who has a needlessly protracted run up to the bowling crease. Another thing that this long run up does is that 4-5 yards before bowling the delivery Razzaq actually slows down, instead of gaining more steam at the crucial time. And let’s face it, those legs aren’t getting any younger; they need to be protected and optimally utilised. A shorter run-up would not only conserve energy, it might result in a rejuvenated Abdul Razzaq; who’ll still have enough nip and seam to trouble the batsmen – even at 125 kph. Both Afridi and Razzaq will be pivotal in the limited-overs formats against England and need to be on their A game. The latter especially, is someone who breeds on confidence given by those at the helm, and Misbah must look to restore that in Razzaq – because even at the wrong side of 30 he still has a lot to offer to Pakistan cricket.
Meanwhile in the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, things do not look quite as rosy as they did a month back. Manchester City have lost three out of the last four games, including back to back home defeats – after going the entire 2011 unbeaten at home –, they are out of the Champions League and the F.A Cup and are on the brink of being eliminated in the Carling Cup as well. Couple this array of misery with the fact that despite going great guns throughout the season, they are only three points ahead of possibly the most mediocre Manchester United side for a couple of decades and a side managed by Harry Redknapp! And to round off all the gloom, Roberto Mancini’s Godfather-esque Marlon Brando like interviews smack of desperation and of at least 2280 mmHg of pressure on his shoulders – City are feeling the heat of being the favourites for the EPL title.
Roberto Mancini has blamed every single entity outside of Manchester City – from biased referees, Luis Suarez, his tailor and even the tea lady at Old Trafford – for the downfall of his side. And experience showcases that once a manager pulls out a barrage of accusations when things are beginning to crumble at the club; it means that he’s losing his plot – unless he is Alex Ferguson or Jose Mourinho. The team that Mancini put out against Liverpool, in the Carling Cup, was collectively worth 150 million pounds, with the bench costing around 70 million pounds; hence, when you’re playing real life ‘Football Manager 2012’ with a lot of oil money funding your shopping list, the expectation is bound to soar. Not winning the league, after everything that City have done – and more importantly everything that United have not done – in the first half of this season, would be disastrous for Manchester City and Roberto Mancini. Speaking of disasters, who came up with the “Thunder Down Under” slogan again?