now aim to get the Asia Cup back
decline is no laughing matter
hockey players bring the country into disrepute
Pakistan were defeated by hosts West Germany by a lone-goal margin in the final of the 1972 Olympic Games held in Munich. They won the silver medal with Germany getting gold after breaking the stranglehold of the two Asian hockey giants -- India and Pakistan -- who between them had won every Olympics hockey title since 1928. India had claimed as many as seven gold medals and Pakistan the other two, at Rome 1960 and Mexico City 1968.
But what happened at the victory stand in Munich constituted the darkest moments in the history of Pakistan hockey. All the eleven players in the final were suspended for disorderly and unsporting behaviour during the medal ceremony.
A four-year suspension for the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) from international hockey activities and a life ban from the Olympics for the manager and the players involved in the incidents after the hockey final may have seemed a savage sentence but it did not come as a shock.
That ban was revoked in 1974 only after an apology from the highest level -- in this case, the then Pakistan President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and after the 11 players in the Olympic final had already served the ban for two years.
The players concerned were skipper Mohammad Asad Malik, his deputy Saeed Anwar and nine others -- goalkeeper Saleem Sherwani, Akhtarul Islam, Munawwaruz Zaman, Riaz Ahmed, Fazalur Rehman, Islahuddin, Mudassar Asghar, Abdul Rasheed Jr and Shahnaz Sheikh.
There are various accounts of what actually transpired after Pakistan's defeat in the Munich hockey final. At the end of the match, however, belligerent Pakistani supporters besieged the judges table hurling abuse at International Hockey Federation (FIH) officials. The victory ceremony was delayed while Pakistani players were persuaded to take part and when it did take place, there were a series of unfortunate incidents which led to disciplinary action by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
Pakistan were protesting vehemently about the umpiring of the game, saying that they scored a perfectly good goal and that Germany should not have been awarded the penalty corner from which they scored in the 60th minute.
The goal that was disallowed was scored by inside-right Mudassar Asghar on the half hour but two other Pakistani players were quite clearly in an offside position.
The penalty corner from which Germany scored was a controversial decision. The ball was deflected high over the goal at a long corner. Most people thought it was deflected off a Pakistani stick but the umpire indicated it was a foot and gave the vital corner.
The shot by Michael Krause passed into the Pakistan goal at about chest height and might well have been penalised by some of the Olympic umpires, especially so since the umpires were told before and during the tournament to be severe on rising shots.
Germany deserved their goal. There was nothing to choose between two very tight marking defences but the Germans showed more flair in attack especially in the closing quarter of an hour.
Generally, it was an unattractive match. Because of the tight marking, there were inevitable obstructions and several vicious tackles which prevented either side from developing any sort of rhythm. Three players were sent off during the game.
Pakistan captain Asad Malik and left winger Shahnaz Sheikh and Germany's left winger Peter Trump were the three. Four other players were shown the green 'warning' card.
Germany's victory was their second over Pakistan in the tournament. They beat the Olympic and world champions 2-1 in a pool game. They were the only team to go through the tournament unbeaten.
AFTER THE ACRIMONIOUS FINAL
Patrick Rowley, a noted journalist who was an eye witness to the post-match incidents, wrote: "Then followed the appalling demonstration. When the time came for the victory ceremony, one or two of the Pakistan supporters told the Pakistan team not to take part in the ceremony. The idea spread and before long there was even a threat by a supporter that if any Pakistan player went on the rostrum he would be killed.
"Such a suggestion, coming as it did just a few days after the gun battle in the Olympic Village, bore the stamp of insanity.
"After a long delay, three Pakistanis came forward for the ceremony; after a much longer delay, the Pakistan team emerged from the stand with the other two medal winning teams. They appeared truculent rather than frightened.
"When the Germans were presented with their gold medals, just one Pakistan player -- I think it was Shahnaz -- applauded them. Then it was the turn of Pakistan to receive their silver medals. The announcement was made and the Pakistanis climbed onto the rostrum.
"Immediately a man, identified as a Pakistani boxing official, Mahmood Butt, ran forward, apparently exhorting the team not to accept their medals; to climb down.
"A well-known German IOC member, Bernhard Baier, stepped forward to hang the silver medal over the shoulders of the Pakistan captain Asad Malik. Asad declined to bend forward and held out his hand to receive the medal. Akhtarul Islam did likewise and Baier merely handed the medals to the rest of the team.
"The players were extremely disrespectful of the IOC member. Several of them swung their medals about as if they were toys and Shahnaz, unaccountably, took off a shoe and swung the medal on that.
"When the Indians received their (bronze) medals, they received tremendous applause but not one Pakistani joined in.
"Then the winning team's National Anthem was played. Everyone in the stadium stood and turned towards the flag posts as the flags of the medal winning nations were raised. Pakistan players have taken part or watched victory ceremonies yet at first not one of them faced the flag posts. I can only imagine that they were too stunned by the preceding events to realise they were insulting their own flag as well as Germany's.
"A Pakistani official eventually moved along his row of players telling them to face the flags. Two of them only turned as the final bars of the German Anthem were played.
"After the Victory Ceremony it was necessary for two Pakistani players to attend the doping control. They didn't appear so the German doctor in charge of the doping tests went to the Pakistani changing room and asked in English for the players to come for their test.
"Dr Jorg Gursky alleges that the players were rude and aggressive towards him. He told me that one player stuck his stick in his pelvis from behind, and another hit him on the shoulder.
"Fortunately, the players eventually did have their dope tests which was just as well as they could not have been allowed to keep their silver medals if they had not done so."
PAKISTAN'S HOCKEY FLAG WAS FLYING HIGH
At Mexico City four years earlier, Pakistan had won their second Olympics hockey gold medal after claiming their first at Rome in 1960. Under Khalid Mahmood, they won the 1970 Asian Games title in Bangkok for their third gold medal at this level in four attempts, one of them having resulted in a silver win. Then outside-right Khalid Mahmood led them to a memorable triumph at the inaugural hockey World Cup in Barcelona in 1971.
But Khalid and inside-right Mohammad Ashfaq had since retired. The captaincy went to inside-left Asad Malik, who was vice-captain at Mexico 1968 and at the World Cup, and was appearing in his third successive Olympic Games. Asad's deputy was right-half Saeed Anwar, also playing in his third Olympiad.
Former Olympian Ghulam Rasool, who was the new Secretary of the PHF, was named the tour manager. Also in the team was his 18-year-old son, Akhtar Rasool, a centre-half.
Taking part in their second successive Olympic Games were Fazalur Rehman, Riaz Ahmed, Jahangir Butt, Tanvir Dar and Abdul Rasheed Jr. Newcomers to the Olympics included inside-right Islahuddin, outside-left Shahnaz Sheikh, goalkeepers Saleem Sherwani and Mohammad Aslam, inside-left Zahid Sheikh, full-back Akhtarul Islam, left full-back Munawwaruz Zaman, inside-right Mudassar Asghar, left-half Iftikhar Syed and outside-right Umar Farooq, in addition to Akhtar Rasool.
Inside-right Khawaja Zakauddin, who played in two Olympic Games -- in 1960 and 1964, was the team coach to Munich. Incidentally, thirty-six years down the road, Zakauddin is again the Pakistan hockey team's chief coach as well as manager!
With several players banned from playing hockey, Khalid Mahmood was asked to come out of retirement for the second World Cup in Amsterdam in 1973, where he again led the team. A depleted Pakistn outfit only finished fifth.
Here's what Australian hockey writer and journalist Sydney Friskin had to say about Munich: "The story of ebb and flow in Olympic fortunes continued in 1972 at Munich, with West Germany defeating Pakistan 1-0 in the final to become the first European side to win the title since 1920. Unortunately, spectators reacted angrily after the match to mounting tension which, after a disallowed goal, seemed to have come to a head when Michael Krause scored the winning goal from a penalty corner late in the second half. The ball entered the net about chest high.
"The unseemly behaviour of some of Pakistan's players during the victory ceremony drew a severe reaction from the FIH and the outcome was a ban on the entire team from Olympic competition.
"However, wiser counsel prevailed back home and, after suitable disciplinary measures had been enforced and an apology tendered at high level, all was eventually forgiven. The Pakistan team was back in harness at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.
"The Munich final, however, was a sad end to an exciting tournament in which Pakistan defeated India 2-0 in the semifinals with goals by Fazalur Rehman from a penalty stroke and Shahnaz Sheikh from open play.
"In the other semifinal goals by Krause from a penalty corner and Ulli Vos enabled West Germany to beat Holland 2-0. On the way to the semifinal Pakistan had lost a pool match 2-1 to the Germans and had also drawn 1-1 with Spain. India eventually won the bronze medal with a 2-1 victory over Holland."
MUNICH DISAPPOINTING OVERALL FOR PAKISTAN
Apart from the hockey debacle, as always the other Pakistan participants at the 1972 Olympic Games performed poorly. The great athletics hope Mohammad Younus finished seventh out of 10 runners in his 1500 metres heat. His time was three seconds slower than his best in this event.
Just who constituted the Pakistan quartet for the 4x100 metres relay race surely didn't know anything about the sport. One sprinter, two middle-distance runners and one hurdler were bunched together. Thankfully, they simply didn't participate in the race and saved themselves humiliation.
The two boxers, both from Pakistan Navy, hardly stayed in the ring. The lone weightlifter Mohammad Arshad Malik finished last, his total being as much as 250 pounds less than the gold medal winner Yordan Bikov of Bulgaria, who totalled 485kg with his three lifts.
The wrestlers duo of Allah Ditta and Mohammad Yaqoob also produced yet another story of missed opportunities. Pakistan were, however, back at 'full strength' in Munich after having sent only the hockey team plus two wrestlers to Mexico City in 1968.
JOYFUL MOOD RUINED BY THE 'MUNICH MASSACRE'
A total of 121 nations participated in the XX Olympiad in Munich. As many as 7,170 athletes (6,075 men and 1,095 women) featured in 195 events in 23 sports. Munich had won its Olympic bid on April 26, 1966 at the 64th IOC Session at Rome, Italy, over the cities of Detroit, Madrid and Montreal.
The 1972 Summer Olympics were the second Summer Olympics held in Germany, after the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. The Munich Olympics were intended to present a new, democratic and optimistic Germany to the world, as shown by its official motto, "the Happy Games".
The emblem of the Games was a blue solar logo (the "Bright Sun"). The Olympic mascot, the dachshund "Waldi", was the first officially named Olympic mascot. The games also saw the introduction of the now universal sports pictograms designed by Otl Aicher. However, this joyful mood was ruined by the killings of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists in an event known as the "Munich massacre".
On September 5 a group of eight Palestinian terrorists belonging to the Black September organisation broke into the Olympic Village and took eleven Israeli athletes hostage in their apartment, killing two of the hostages in the apartment after fighting back; the subsequent standoff in the Olympic Village lasted for almost 18 hours.
During a botched German rescue attempt at the military airport of Furstenfeldbruck, where the captors with their hostages had been transferred by helicopter ostensibly to board a plane bound for an undetermined Arab country, all the surviving Israeli hostages were killed by a Palestinian who threw a grenade into the helicopter carrying the hostages.
All but three of the Palestinians were killed as well. Two of those three were supposedly killed later by the Mossad. Jamal Al-Gashey is believed to be the sole survivor, and is still living today in hiding in an unspecified Arab country. The Olympic events were briefly suspended but Avery Brundage, the IOC president, decided that "the Games must go on" and the games resumed a day later.
Mark Spitz, a swimmer from the United States, set a world record when he won seven gold medals (while on the way to setting a new world record for each of his seven gold medals) in a single Olympics, bringing his lifetime total to nine (he had won two golds in Mexico City's Games four years earlier).
Olga Korbut, a tiny Soviet gymnast, became a media star after winning a gold medal in the team competition event, failing to win in the individual all-around after a fall (she was beaten by Lyudmilla Turischeva), and finally winning two gold medals in the Balance Beam and the floor exercise events.
Lasse Viren of Finland won the 5,000 and 10,000 metres (the latter after a fall), a feat he would repeat in the 1976 Summer Olympics. The late United States middle-distance legend Steve Prefontaine finished a disappointing fourth in the 5,000 metres after swapping the lead multiple times with the victorious Viren.
Valeri Borzov won both the 100 and 200 metres in track and field. Also in track and field, two black American 400 metres runners, Vincent Matthews and Wayne Collett, acted casually on the medal stand, twirling their medals (gold and silver, respectively) and joking with one another as "The Star-Spangled Banner" was being played during the award ceremony. They were banned from the Olympics for life, as Tommie Smith and John Carlos had been in the 1968 Summer Olympics.
Australian swimmer Shane Gould won three gold medals, a silver, and a bronze medal at the age of 15. Dan Gable won the gold medal in wrestling without having a single point scored against him.
Soviet Union topped the medals table with a tally of 99, that included 50 gold, 27 silver and 22 bronze. United States were second with a total of 94 with 33 gold and East Germany (German Democratic Republic) third with 66 that included 20 gold.
The other nations among the top 10 were hosts West Germany (Federal Republic of Germany) with a tally of 40 (13-11-16), Japan 29 (13-8-8), Australia 17 (8-7-2), Poland 21 (7-5-9), Hungary 35 (6-13-16), Bulgaria 21 (6-10-5) and Italy 18 (5-3-10).
WEEK: Pakistan at 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal
writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'
PAKISTAN AT 1972 OLYMPIC GAMES: ALL RESULTS
200 metres: 1st round heat 6 Nusrat Iqbal Sahi 22.07sec 5th out of 5
400 metres: 1st round heat 1 Nusrat Iqbal Sahi 49.47sec 8th out of 8
800 metres: 1st round heat 6 Mohammad Siddiq 1:52.6min 7th out of 8
1500 metres: 1st round heat 2 Mohammad Younus 3:44.1min 7th out of 10
110 metres hurdles: 1st round heat 1 Bashir Ahmed 15.38sec 8th out of 8
400 metres hurdles: 1st round heat 3 Norman Brinkworth 54.67sec 7th out of 7
4x100 metres relay: 1st round heat 1 Pakistan (Mohammad Younus/Norman Brinkworth/Mohammad Siddiq/Nusrat Iqbal Sahi) did not participate
Flyweight: 1/16 finals Jan Baloch lost to Georgi Kostadinov (Bulgaria) RSC in second round
Light Welterweight: 1/16 finals Malang Baloch lost to Graham Moughton (Great Britain) on points
Preliminary round Group A: Pakistan beat France 3-0 (half-time 1-0), drew with Spain 1-1 (h-t 1-1), beat Uganda 3-1 (h-t 2-0), lost to Germany 2-1 (h-t 0-0), beat Argentina 3-1 (h-t 1-0), beat Malaysia 3-0 (h-t 1-0), beat Belgium 3-1 (h-t 1-1). Pakistan ended at number two behind Germany in Group A 7 played, 5 won, one drawn, one lost, GF 17, GA 6, points 11. Semifinals Pakistan beat India 2-0 (h-t 2-0). Final Pakistan lost to Germany 1-0 (h-t 0-0). Pakistan won the silver medal
Middleweight (up to 75kg): Mohammad Arshad Malik press 117.5kg, snatch 107.5kg, jerk 147.5kg, total 372.5kg 19th out of 19
Bantamweight (up to 67kg): 1st round Allah Ditta lost to Jorge Ramos (Cuba), 2nd round lost to Risto Darlev (Yugoslavia)
Welterweight (up to 74kg): 1st round Mohammad Yaqoob lost to Mildos Urbanovics (Hungary), 2nd round drew with S Shakarsha (Afghanistan), 3rd round lost to Jan Karlsson (Sweden)
PAKISTAN WON A SILVER MEDAL
Effectively, Mr Akhtar's career is over. Akhtar's was a chaos, the sandstorm he created all by himself, allowing people to pile heaps of sand on his hanging cadaver once his back was against the wall
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Old people used to annoy me at weddings by pinching my cheeks and saying "you are next". They stopped saying this when I started doing the same to them at funerals. Pakistan cricketers, presumably agitated by terse comments from their very own Chairman PCB spurred their team to an unprecedented victory in the tri-series. It was a near spectacular performance; the attitude was just right.
Ironically, this title win brings us to yet another crossroads. Actually we have had to face so many crossroads that cricket is going cross-eyed and feeling quite confused, a state that has now been prevailing for quite sometime. It wasn't ideal previously and it's not going to be better unless we find solutions to the problems.
The Chairman's element was slightly lost in emotions. His team would need to do miracles to get his name on the honour roll. But Pakistan is at a loss. The Dr Nasim led PCB has failed to lend its weight to the players and the players are wary of them. The team has been politicised and the board's bewildering decisions not suitably camouflaged.
It is a defining moment now because cricket through bad decisions, unwarranted sackings and ineptness of the power-players has failed to determine its future direction. Whether they like it or not, the burden of history has now descended on the shoulders of Dr Nasim. What he decides today will live after him. Some among a breed of lapdog intellectuals actually want Dr Nasim to scrap even the fake veneer of 'everything is brilliant' he has created.
They think that he should rule by executive fist in a system focused around an all powerful Chairman PCB. I never thought that in this day and age, I would read someone singing the praises of 'guided' cricket reforms but it has happened in the newspapers and on television channels. The central argument is that people expected to replace Dr Nasim are not good or capable and we need him to guide cricket to prosperity for many more years.
Mohammad Asif was held up at Dubai airport for possession of a contraband substance (reportedly Opium), Saleem Altaf, an ex-Director Operations of the PCB and subsequently Director Special Projects has been sacked, Mushtaq Ahmad, General Manager Finance, was first coerced into a resignation and on resistance shown the door whilst Javed Zaman, another seasoned cricket manager, compelled into a resignation.
A confidential e-mail from the Chairman PCB to the team manager Talat Ali Malik reached the press before it could get to Dhaka; more so, in one of the cricket websites, though incomprehensible and hard to believe, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik wrote: "Dear Mr Ashraf, since when did you become a pitch expert? Devising strategy, eh? What's the point of coach/captain? Now how about you concentrate on running the PCB, and let cricketers worry about playing; we might be pathetic but do not have a hiding place provided to yourself by Head of the State. You don't like Kamran Akmal, you want him out. Well, nobody likes you, why don't you take a cue? In fact nobody likes the person who hired you. Enuff said. You want to know why am I not bowling. Well people would like to know what you did with Rs 2 billion President provided you for Human Development, that you wouldn't let Auditor General of Pakistan audit? How about provide us all an example of transparency. At least Pakistani cricket team still consists of Pakistan players. We were not the ones who took a Pakistani theatrical production, Anarkali, to America and had it performed for the Westerners to project Pakistan's soft image, by the Indians."
This incident is an excurses into a philosophy of work-ethics instilled in the study of sport. If Malik really did that, sending comments, venting his feelings then what would become of him? Akhtar was banned for five years for breaching PCB's code of conduct; Malik would be severely banished. And why did Dr Nasim boot Saleem Altaf for the leakage of news items, when his own captain was rebelling against him. Pakistan cricket is a complete chaos.
Fact is that the intervention of the Chairman PCB and his presence at Dhaka had a spectacular effect, which is very obvious, could this model of governance in which the top man gives instructions on minor tactics be followed for good or permanently adapted by the PCB. Is there any other board in the world doing it so brazenly?
Strange people we are, expecting conscientiousness from unconscious, honesty from self-servers, and high merit from handpicked and backdoor entrants whose principal claim to fame are nepotism and cronyism. How is our cricket going to resurrect to dependability and progression? The horizon is pale with disappointment. We need a revolution, or another long march to remove someone who has now begun to sack and override people. There are people who think that cricket has been brokered. We need an intervention.
PCB has recently been stirred to the core by uncanny decisions. Chairman of the board wrote a nasty e-mail showing his disappointment after Pakistan lost to India by 140 runs in the preliminary match of the recently concluded Triangular Series in Bangladesh. That he wrote an e-mail and showed his dissent was absolutely justified but it came out in the media before it could cast an impression on the players.
Leakages from the PCB are a constant feature. There are two versions. Unconfirmed though, there are people trying to stress upon the fact that the mail was deliberately given in the press to avoid scathing criticism of the board, its chairman and the team he had evolved at Lahore. And then, there were reports that Saleem Altaf was sacked after the PCB picked evidence that he was consistently leaking news and talking against the top management, of which he was always a part.
And more agonisingly, it was told that the PCB had been bugging the rooms and telephones of people and one of the recordings was evidence enough to plunk Saleem Altaf. Altaf, though a perfect gentleman, highbrow and tenacious, is one of those who wouldn't mind taking the challenge to the core. It should be very interesting in the next couple of days.
And then how could we end our discussion on Pakistan cricket without discussing another lout, one held at Dubai for possession of contraband substance and the other seeing his five-year ban reduced to eighteen months plus a hefty fine of approximately Rs seven million. There was a suggestion that his ban could be completely expunged and a fine of Rs 20m could suffice but it wasn't agreed upon.
Effectively, Mr Akhtar's career is over. Akhtar's was a chaos, the sandstorm he created all by himself, allowing people to pile heaps of sand on his hanging cadaver once his back was against the wall. This kind of situation has emerged because the PCB has in the past not protected work-ethics and law. Now the intelligentsia and most of us, indeed the entire nation needs to rise up to fight those very principles that determine the supremacy of merit. It is up to the most respectable doctor sahib and his unending contingent of sycophants to reassemble the work-charts or sacrifice principles at the altar of pragmatism.
Asif Ali Zardari has proposed Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa's names to take over the Pakistan Hockey Federation. Wwhy shouldn't he look towards the PCB and ask quite a few questions?
Captain Shoaib Malik was not present at the launching ceremony due to his "more important" commercial shoot in India. How did the PCB management allow the skipper to skip an all-important event...
By Khurram Mahmood
The Pakistan cricket team once again confirmed its reputation of the most unpredictable team in the world after winning the title of the tri-series beating India in the final by 25 runs in Dhaka last week.
This was almost the same side that lost to India by a record 140 runs margin in the league match. After their worst-ever defeat against the arch-rivals, the players, captain and coach received a harsh reaction from the PCB Chief Nasim Ashraf that worked as magic and a dejected bunch of individuals converted into a winning team.
In the final, Pakistan scored just 75 runs in the first 20 overs for the loss of one wicket while in the league match India were 143-0 at the end of the 20th over. Pakistan chose caution instead of aggression during the Powerplay overs in the final.
Salman Butt and Younis Khan applied the strategy of Imran Khan and Javed Miandad's era that win the toss, bat first, start the game cautiously, keep wickets in hand, accelerate the run rate in the middle and late overs, post a big score and keep the opposition under pressure.
Pakistan must continue with their tri-series final performance in the forthcoming Asia Cup. Now there will be a little bit more pressure on the Pakistan team as the Asia Cup is being played in Pakistan for the first time and after beating India in the last final the spectators' expectations are high.
Surprisingly, Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik was not present at the launching ceremony of the Champions Trophy, Misbah-ul-Haq attended the ceremony in his absence. Shoaib Malik was in India for his "more important" commercial shoot.
Asia Cup is an important event and especially for Pakistan because after a very long time any important tournament is being played in Pakistan. How did the PCB management allow the skipper to skip all-important event? This can happen only in Pakistan.
The Asia Cup idea was conceived by the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) in 1983 and the next year the first edition of Asia Cup was held in April 1984 at Sharjah in which only three teams -- Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka -- participated.
Pakistan under the leadership of Zaheer Abbas lost both matches against Sri Lanka and India by fair margins. Sunil Gavaskar's India eleven lifted the first Asia Cup by winning both matches.
The second Asia Cup was held in Sri Lanka in 1986. Bangladesh were inducted for the first time in the Asia Cup as defending champion India refused to participate due to a controversial series against Sri Lanka around one year back in which the local umpires allegedly made some decisions against India.
The Imran Khan-led Pakistan won both their league matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh but unfortunately lost the final against hosts Sri Lanka by five wickets.
Bangladesh hosted the third Asia Cup in 1988. In the absence of Imran Khan, Javed Miandad was the captain of Pakistan team. Pakistan won against the hosts by a huge margin of 173 runs, but lost against Sri Lanka by five wickets and India by four wickets. Sri Lanka won all three matches but lost the final against India by six wickets.
Pakistan did not participate in the fourth Asia Cup held in India in 1990-91. Azharuddin won the title for India a second time beating Arjuna Ranatunga's eleven in the final by seven wickets.
The fifth edition of the Asia Cup was held in Sharjah after four years in 1995. For the first time four teams -- Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh -- participated in the tournament. Wicket-keeper Moin Khan was the skipper of Pakistan. At the end of the league round India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan stood equally with two wins and one defeat each. But on a better run rate India and Sri Lanka qualified for the final where India, under the leadership of Mohammad Azharuddin, completed its hat-trick, beating Sri Lnaka by eight wickets.
After winning the World Cup in 1996, Arjuna Ranatunga also won the sixth Asia Cup for Sri Lanka on home soil in 1997. Pakistan under the captaincy of Rameez Raja again failed to qualify for the final. Hosts Sri Lanka won their all four matches including the final against India convincingly by eight wickets. Sachin Tendulkar was captain of the Indian team.
Finally, the dream came true for Pakistan in the seventh Asia Cup when Moin Khan's team won the Cup for the first time in Dhaka beating Sri Lanka led by Sanath Jayasuriya in the final by 39 runs. Pakistan remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. Sourav Ganguly led the Indian team who won only one game against hosts Bangladesh.
The eighth edition of Asia Cup was played in Sri Lanka and Marvan Atapattu lifted the trophy for the hosts. Pakistan failed to repeat its previous performance. Inzamam-ul-Haq's side beat arch-rivals India by 59 runs in the league match but lost badly against Sri Lanka by eight wickets. India on a net run rate qualified for the final against Sri Lanka. But the home side remained unbeaten and won the title by 25 runs. During the tournament Bangladesh won their first game in the Asia Cup, against Hong Kong by 116 runs.
Since 1984, eight Asia Cup editions have been played. India dominates the championship with four titles, Sri Lanka are just behind with three wins while Pakistan after all their talent and experience have won the Cup only once. Now the Asia Cup is being played in Pakistan and the hosts' morale is high with a win in the final against India last week.
Sanath Jayasuriya is the highester run-getter in the Asia Cup so far with 842 runs in 20 matches at an average of 46.77 including four centuries and two half-centuries. India's little master Sachin Tendulkar has 799 runs in the same number of matches, averaging 49.93 with the help of one hundred and six fifties.
For Pakistan former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq is the highest scorer with 591 runs in 15 appearances at a high average of 59.10. He failed to cross the three figure mark but scored six half centuries. Younis Khan's 144 against Hong Kong in 2004 at Colombo is the highest score in the Asia Cup.
On the bowling side surprisingly Jayasuriya has also taken the most 20 wickets in the Asia Cup in 20 games at an average of 30.25. Former leg-spinner Abdul Qadir was the chief wicket-taker for Pakistan with 17 scalps in just eight appearances, averaging only 14.76. For India Tendulkar remains the most successful bowler with 17 wickets with an average of 20.70. Former Pakistan fast bowler Aaqib Javed's 5-19 are the best bowling figures in the Asia Cup so far.
For the coming Asia Cup as far as Pakistan batting is concerned it consists of talented and experienced players and has the ability to destroy any bowling line-up on its day.
But in the bowling department there is a need for a lot of improvement. In the absence of Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif only Umar Gul and Shahid Afridi are taking wickets regularly. Sohail Tanvir has improved himself quickly, but he still needs some more experience to become Pakistan's leading strike bower. There is no specialist spinner in the squad.
Coach Geoff Lawson who is also a fast bowler of his time should concentrate on bowlers more. Specially Pakistan bowlers giving too many extras in shape of wides and no balls means extra balls, free hits and more extra runs which can be a cause of their defeat.
writer works in the art department at 'The News on Sunday' in Karachi
decline is no laughing matter
The PSF chief Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed will have to take a personal interest and should head the campaign. Being the PAF chief, he may be a very busy man but squash cannot be ignored in its time of need
Pakistan squash is down in the dumps, there shouldn't be any doubt about that. Those who portray that everything is hunky dory in national squash are either fools or are insincere towards the cause of this sport.
Ask the great champions of world squash and they will tell you that squash is on its way to becoming a 'dead sport' in Pakistan.
The gloom is visible everywhere, from the junior level to the senior ranks. From the mood and morale of the players to the officials' apathy, you can find countless reasons why things are going down from bad to worse for Pakistan squash.
Pakistan's colts failed to impress much in the British Junior Open Championships -- the most prestigious annual event for youngsters -- in Sheffield (England) early this year. The seniors plunged to a new low by losing to Kuwait in the Asia Squash Championships -- a result that still sounds unbelievable.
On the world rankings scene, Pakistani players are not really making their presence felt.
At No. 32, Aamir Atlas Khan is Pakistan's highest-ranked player on the world circuit. There are around a dozen more of his compatriots on the Professional Squash Association (PSA) computer but almost all of them are barely there, courtesy a series of world ranking events that are organised in Pakistan on a regular basis.
Even Aamir, who shot up on the national scene as a bright kid when barely 15, will find it hard to keep a place in the top-50 rankings, if there are no tournaments at home.
Pakistan's uncertain political situation helps the cause of the national players. Not many professionals from the world circuit feel safe in Pakistan which is why world ranking events here seldom attract any good players. The net result is that in most cases an international ranking event is hardly much different from a national-level contest where most of the seeds are home-grown players.
But the biggest problem for the game in the country is not posed by poor results or rankings achieved by our players. It is the negative attitude of the people at the helm of national squash affairs that is causing the most fatal blows to our squash.
When players like Shahid Zaman, who I think is the most capable Pakistan squash player since the exit of Jansher Khan, used to complain about the 'attitude' of the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF), it seemed a bit untrue.
But I was in for a rude shock when the PSF officials gave me a taste of what they've been dishing out to most of the national players in recent times.
When, over the past few weeks, I wrote a few stories that raised questions on the PSF policies, its officials stopped taking my calls.
The PSF Secretary Wng Cmdr Shamsul Haq, who is paid to run national squash affairs, suddenly became too busy to answer my calls or even to call back. The reason for his displeasure was simple. Part of my stories exposed the various 'joy trips' Shams has undertaken since taking over as the PSF secretary.
Actually it wasn't I, who talked about those visits. Squash legends Jahangir Khan and Jansher Khan spoke about those 'joy trips', terming them a waste of precious funds.
But it seems the PSF officials believe that hiding from problems is the best way to deal with them.
It's hardly a wise policy.
I don't blame Jahangir when he asks the government to take PSF away from the Pakistan Air Force and make it an independent body that is run by professionals.
A competent professional would never hide from problems. He would rather quit if the problem is too big for him to handle so that somebody better can do the job.
In an ideal world, PSF would have been made an independent body long ago. But let's admit that we don't live in an ideal world. PSF will remain in control of the PAF until somebody powerful enough bothers to save Pakistan squash. That is unlikely to happen in the near future.
So let's try to find ways to tackle the problem in the current scenario.
If the PSF wants a better future for Pakistan squash, then it will first have to admit that the standard of the game is going down rapidly. It will have to launch a major campaign to lift the sport with all out efforts to improve the standard of coaching and facilities across the country.
The PSF chief Air Chief Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed will have to take a personal interest and should head the campaign. Being the PAF chief, he may be a very busy man but squash cannot be ignored in its time of need.
A few years back, squash seemed to be on its way to a much-needed revival with the late Mushaf Ali Mir at the helm of PSF. Mir took an active interest in the development of the game and things were looking set for national squash. His tragic death in an air crash slowed down that progress as his successors mostly took half measures in the later years. Pakistan squash was back to square one.
Now what the PSF chief will have to do is establish a think-tank that can help diagnose the problems and come out with the right treatment.
I, personally, believe that the PSF will have to make efforts to change the entire culture of squash. It will have to somehow take the game out of the clutches of a few families and bring it to the masses.
But that is a long-term target. It would take ten years to achieve it and that also through a series of concrete steps like the establishment of squash courts and academies across the country, training of the players and training of the coaches.
As a nation, patience is not our virtue. So there is also a need for short-term measures that can be taken simultaneously.
One such measure would be to appoint a foreign coach. Most of my squash-playing friends might disagree with me, but I believe that a foreign coach can help in bringing about a much-needed positive change.
Pakistan have tried various home-grown coaches in the past ten years without achieving the desired results. There is no harm in trying out the option of having a foreign coach, who will come to Pakistan without any vested interests other than his pay cheque.
The PSF can also try out the idea of sending their top players to academies abroad. Nicol David, the reigning women's world champion from Malaysia, is a living proof of the fact that spending time at quality squash academies can really boost your career.
At the moment, Pakistani players are not really getting the right training. There are camps and then there are trials. Teams are selected and then sent for international events. Leading players train with national coaches before major events but fail to achieve any worthwhile results.
But in spite of the fact that there is no improvement, PSF continues to persist with the same arrangement. It will have to rethink its policies. It will also have to rethink the policy of isolating people like Jahangir and Jansher Khan, who can actually contribute a lot to national squash.
Many would argue that Jahangir and Jansher have done little for Pakistan squash after retiring from the game. That's true. But frankly speaking, it's not their job to run Pakistan squash. It would have been great had they established their own academies and produced champions but that's not the case. As I said, we don't live in an ideal world.
It's the PSF's duty to run squash and run it in a proper manner. It should go to our squash legends and seek their support for the revival of the game. Former greats like Jahangir, Jansher, Qamar Zaman, Mohibullah Jr and Gogi Alauddin can be a part of the PSF think-tank. They certainly know more about squash than the PSF officials. The PSF will also have to change its attitude towards the players. You can't have different sets of rules for different players. Such a policy will only add to the discontent which is already spreading among our squash players.
The federation should also rethink its policy about punishing or rewarding the players. One of the reasons why our past players were able to make it big on the international rankings was the fact that they got ample support from the authorities. They got free air-tickets and even daily allowances to play tournaments abroad. That facility should be provided to all leading players but there should be proper monitoring.
It's true that some of the players have misused that facility in the past but that only happened because the PSF was not vigilant enough. Just because some players abused a facility doesn't mean that other players are also deprived of it.
The PSF should also stop awarding big cash prizes to junior players. They should instead introduce scholarships for leading colts with the best of them getting training abroad. Paying the boys in cash on winning junior titles only tempts them to carry on playing on the youth circuit. There have been countless cases when overage players have played and won junior titles just for the money.
The PSF should also stop the practice of glorifying even the minor victories of our players. I mean to say that if Aamir Atlas wins a C-grade event in which he is the top seed is not a big achievement. But the PSF makes it such a bid deal and forces the player to believe that he has achieved something big.
In a nutshell, lifting Pakistan squash from its present plight is a gigantic task. To some, the state of Pakistan squash may seem like farcical but it is no laughing matter for the game that gave this country an identity when it needed one.
writer is Editor Sports