Saving the soul of our nation
ICC's announcement that it couldn't find any compelling evidence of wrongdoing against Pakistani cricketers in The Oval ODI is just a crumb of comfort. Authorities are still investigating into a much bigger scandal -- a corruption case against three of the country's leading cricketers.
By Khalid Hussain
It sounds like a comedy of errors. Last month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) jumped the gun when it announced in a press release about launching a probe into claims that the third One-day International between Pakistan and England at The Oval on September 17 was rigged after The Sun provided what it claimed was evidence that illegal betting syndicates knew details of Pakistan's innings before it began.

A lost cause!
By Nabeel Hashmi
The recently-concluded Faisal Bank Twenty20 Cup 2010 was little more than a mere formality. It was another example of Pakistan Cricket Boardís sheer weakness when it comes to decision-making. After having announced the Pakistan squad for the Tests and limited overs series against South Africa in Abu Dhabi, the T20 competition became a lost cause since the outstanding performers of the event were never in contention for a place in the squad.

Ijaz Butt: Candidate for Pride of Performance or Hall of Shame?
By Dr Nauman Niaz
It is no wonder that the ICC has exhausted their last smidgen of patience. I acknowledge, in spite of their linked hypocrisies, India's prevailing mood at cricket's headquarters in Dubai and West's biased view of our cricket, there seems no rationality to disbelieve that Ijaz Butt has eroded the poise and the stateliness attached to the Pakistani game and it stands plummeted.

Little master just keeps on going!
By Khurram Mahmood
India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by winning the Test series against Australia 2-0. Australia's loss meant that they dropped to fifth position in the ICC Test rankings since they were introduced in 2003.
During the second Test at Bangalore, India's batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar achieved yet another landmark when he became the first batsman in the history of Test cricket to score more than 14,000 runs. He has also scored most (49) centuries in Test cricket.

Olympic dreams
Haroon Khan, a 19-year-old Briton recently clinched a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and has now vowed to represent Pakistan
-- the land of his ancestors -- at the London Olympics.
By Bilal Hussain
It's been just once that Pakistan have tasted Olympic glory in the boxing ring. It was back in 1988 that Hussain Shah fought his way to securing a bronze medal in the Seoul Olympics -- a feat that is placed among Pakistan's best individual achievements at the international sporting arena.

Yet another disappointment in Delhi!
By Arshad Shami
Pakistan's contingent put up yet another dismal show at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The causes of the dismal performance are not difficult to seek. I am reminded of the days when we used to reign supreme in Asia and the Commonwealth Games and even performed outstandingly at the Olympic Games.

Can Roberts be Pakistan football's messiah?
By Umaid Wasim
Finally Graham Roberts has arrived! Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secured a major coup when the former England international was signed on a two-month stint as a coaching consultant for the upcoming Asian Games and beyond. His job for now, is to assist Pakistan coach Akhtar Mohiuddin in the football event of the Guangzhou spectacle from November 7-26. The big question now is how could the Englishman help the Pakistan football team?

Pakistan's golden grapplers!
While too much attention was given to hockey, the country's wrestling squad wasn't even given a short trip to Iran for training by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) ahead of the Commonwealth Games.
By Alam Zeb Safi
Before going into the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan's wrestling authorities claimed that their wrestlers would be able to bag at least one gold medal in the Delhi affair -- a brave claim considering that the country had last won a gold medal in the mega event four decades ago. However, those claims were proved right when wrestlers Azhar Hussain and Mohammad Inam, instead of the favourites -- Mohammad Brothers -- won gold medals in their respective weight categories at the Commonwealth Games that concluded recently.

 

 

Saving the soul

of our nation

ICC's announcement that it couldn't find any compelling evidence of wrongdoing against Pakistani cricketers in The Oval ODI is just a crumb of comfort. Authorities are still investigating into a much bigger scandal -- a corruption case against three of the country's leading cricketers.

By Khalid Hussain

It sounds like a comedy of errors. Last month, the International Cricket Council (ICC) jumped the gun when it announced in a press release about launching a probe into claims that the third One-day International between Pakistan and England at The Oval on September 17 was rigged after The Sun provided what it claimed was evidence that illegal betting syndicates knew details of Pakistan's innings before it began.

The fact that Pakistan actually won that particular match because of a sensational England collapse triggered speculations that the ICC might investigate the home team's players. But The ICC swiftly confirmed that no England players were involved.

It prompted Ijaz Butt, the Pakistan Cricker Board (PCB) chairman, to score an own goal as he accused England of throwing the third ODI. Butt's insane comments created a storm in the world of cricket with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) threatening to slap him with a legal suit unless the PCB chief apologised for his comments. After refusing to do that, Butt finally retracted his comments.

Last Wednesday, the ICC closed its investigation into The Oval match failing to find any evidence of wrongdoing by Pakistan cricketers.

It should have been the end of the story.

But wait, there is more.

Hours after the ICC announcement, PCB issued a press release that sounded like a statement which a country's cricket board might issue after some major achievement like a title-winning World Cup triumph.

"Chairman PCB Mr. Mohammad Ijaz Butt has expressed his gratitude to President Mr. Asif Ali Zardari, who is also Patron Pakistan Cricket Board, for felicitating Chairman PCB, the management and players on the findings of the ICC that there was no evidence of match fixing in the Pakistan-England third One-day International match," read the statement.

"On behalf of the PCB management, players, and team management I would like to thank the president for his uplifting message to the Pakistan team. The president's message will be a huge morale boost for our players as well as for Pakistan cricket. We look forward to repaying the support of the chief patron by excelling on the field and winning laurels for the country," the statement quoted Butt as saying.

What are we celebrating for?

The ICC announcement that it couldn't find any compelling evidence of wrongdoing against Pakistani cricketers in The Oval ODI is just a crumb of comfort. Authorities are still investigating into a much bigger scandal -- a corruption case against three of Pakistan's leading cricketers. The ICC has imposed a 30-day deadline for the introduction and implementation of a raft of new anti-corruption measures or risk sanctions that could include Pakistan's suspension from international cricket.

By telling the PCB that it has to clean up its act or else, the world cricket bosses have made it clear that they believe something is rotten in the state of Pakistan cricket.

Now is the time to clean up the mess instead of celebrating what is just a small victory.

The 'spot-fixing' scandal has put cricket's integrity at stake and though they are just a part of the problem, Pakistan find themselves at the forefront.

It's like a war going on and the saddest thing is that our cricket administrators aren't even equipped to fight it.

Its not jut a question of competence. Even the will to clean up their act is missing.

Take for example the case of Pakistan's tainted trio -- Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir. They are under investigation for what are really serious accusations of corruption. Many fear that there could be damning evidence against the three players, who have been accused of accepting bribes from match-fixers during the fourth and final Test against England at Lord's last August.

Now, Pakistan's cricket officials argue that the trio is innocent unless proved guilty. There's nothing wrong in adopting that stance. But what if they are guilty, which is very much a possibility considering the circumstances surrounding the spot-fixing scandal?

Even though they are under a cloud, the three players have been allowed to stay and use the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Lahore to train as they await the outcome of an inquiry that is being conducted by Scotland Yard detectives.

Now an academy is an institution of higher learning. It is supposed to have a lot of sanctity being a place where you train young minds and bodies to excel in their respective fields. You can't open such a place for tainted individuals, who are yet to prove their innocence.

What sort of message are we sending to our youngsters? That we don't take the idea of fighting corruption very seriously? What sort of signals are we sending to the rest of the cricket world?

There is this clear and present danger that Pakistan could be suspended from international cricket. No matter what our cricket administrators might say or our fans might like to think, Pakistan is being more and more judged in the rest of the world as a place where corruption is rife everywhere including cricket and nothing is being done to curb it.

It's certainly one of the darkest periods in our country's brief history. In almost every walk of life, we as a nation are sinking towards rock bottom. Cricket is no exception. But the thing is that we can't afford to let it get destroyed. Cricket is not just a game in our part of the world. It's a passion, perhaps the only one which is shared by the entire nation -- from the rugged tribal areas to the shores of the Arabian Sea. If there is anything that can unite us, even in these troubled times, its cricket. It's the heartbeat, even the soul of our nation. And it needs to be saved.

Khalid Hussain is Sports Editor of The News, Karachi [email protected]

 

 

A lost cause!

By Nabeel Hashmi

The recently-concluded Faisal Bank Twenty20 Cup 2010 was little more than a mere formality. It was another example of Pakistan Cricket Boardís sheer weakness when it comes to decision-making. After having announced the Pakistan squad for the Tests and limited overs series against South Africa in Abu Dhabi, the T20 competition became a lost cause since the outstanding performers of the event were never in contention for a place in the squad.

Keeping that in view, it was not only a foolish decision by the PCB's but there was a fair share of Faisal Bank's marketing department in this madness. The private bank jumped in to sponsor the event for the sake of self-advertisement without even caring about the future of the players whose performances went in vain.

The PCB had announced squads for the Asian Games, Pakistan A side's tour to the West Indies and Pakistan's series against South Africa, thus continuing on their tradition of organising the T20 event each year without any purpose.

If there is a method to madness then it doesn't look awkward but if there isn't any plan and method then it can make even the highly-educated of persons look amateurish in their approach. PCB should have waited till the conclusion of the T20 Cup before selecting the team because it would have given players an added impetus to perform well.

There are several players who have the potential to represent Pakistan but have been constantly neglected by selectors.

Faisalabad opener Asif Hussain has been the best batsman by a long way in T20 edition, scoring 858 runs with an average of 35.75 in 27 innings. His record speaks for himself but he is unlucky that he doesn't have a father-in-law in the selection committee.

Internationals Ahmed Shehzad and Nasir Jamshed have both been totally neglected by the selection committee but have been brilliant in the tournament. What about their places and who will fight for them?

The purpose behind highlighting this issue is that sponsors should spend millions wisely as just like their advertisement, the future of the players is also important and they should think before sponsoring any event.

There couldn't be better Twenty20 players than Imran Nazir and Shazaib Hasan but both of them have been overlooked for the team which will take on South Africa. Left-handed batsman Ali Asad who was a part of the U-19 squad that won the World Cup in 2006 has shown signs of being a potential star for the future.

In addition, Hyderabad's Faisal Athar who has played an ODI has impressed with his batting so much so that former Test cricketer Aamir Sohail has urged selectors to consider him seriously for the senior team. Another player from the same region, Azeem Ghumman, has silenced his critics with an outstanding innings against Lahore Eagles. Azeem was the skipper of Pakistan A team on the tour to Sri Lanka but now he has been demoted from A squad which will play in West Indies. Furthermore, Sialkot's talented opener Kamran Younis is yet to receive a nod from selectors.

The sponsors play a major role in staging any event so their approach should be well-planned and they should not follow the bandwagon. There are issues where you have to step in and take a stand.

[email protected]

 

 

 


 
Ijaz Butt: Candidate for Pride of Performance or Hall of Shame?

By Dr Nauman Niaz

It is no wonder that the ICC has exhausted their last smidgen of patience. I acknowledge, in spite of their linked hypocrisies, India's prevailing mood at cricket's headquarters in Dubai and West's biased view of our cricket, there seems no rationality to disbelieve that Ijaz Butt has eroded the poise and the stateliness attached to the Pakistani game and it stands plummeted.

It is a disgrace; it is a shame and I believe Butt, even if he is not replaced by the chief patron of the PCB President Asif Ali Zardari, he should show last morsel of dignity; he should resign.

It shouldn't be the resignation to preserve his own self-esteem, it should practically be done to alleviate Pakistan cricket.

What are Pakistan cricket's seeds of destruction? The first is Butt himself, a classic bubble, governance unrelated to the underlying values, not even of a kind familiar to sanity and mediocrity. Butt's times saw not only the controversies but stupidities soared to equivalent of none before; Pakistan cricket wasn't willing but paid the price. Butt's irrational exuberance and perhaps not since 1947-48 his mania had the irrationality of sorts not believing that his regime was the source of Pakistan cricket's extermination. Taking cognizance of the failures in the administration of cricket in Pakistan, the ICC has prepared not really the guidelines but an admonishment, a stern warning that it will 'monitor closely the running of the game in Pakistan'.

No one-not the BCCI, the ECB or the ICC can be blamed for this decision. Only Butt should be annihilated for not contemplating the ramifications and not dealing with the consequences, and in his case, for feeding senseless frenzy. There isn't any point spelling out what could and shove have been done by him, which, after a faint effort to let the air out of the bubble, simply added to the hype. ICC ridiculing the Pakistan Cricket Board is first such instance in international cricket. It didn't even happen to Zimbabwe since they had themselves conceded their full membership citing political turmoil and corruptibility in their government to withdraw from the Test matches.

A country that had led the ICC to work on equal footing registering protest against two votes each by Australia and England (they conceded to one vote each as the other full members), a country that eroded West's 'rule by right' dictatorship and pseudo-grandeur by establishing the Asian Cricket Council, the country that co-hosted World Cups (1987 and 1996) and the country that reached the pinnacle of glory triumphing twice, once in the Benson & Hedges World Cup 1992 and The Twenty20 World Cup in 2009 has been given a thirty day notice to sort out cricket's administration or face the consequences, presumably the undertones correlated to sanctions.

PCB is defunct and Ijaz Butt's regime should be instantly exterminated. Bad management provided bad image, and part of his irrational exuberance ICC's suggestions regarding a wide-ranging measures and stern warnings 'to carry out reforms which may be deemed necessary to restore confidence in the administration of the game' isn't just the rhetoric, they mean it to the full. ICC through its statements has amplified their irked predisposition, their implicit recognition and acknowledgement of Ijaz Butt's laughable two-years in office and his irrational presence in their meetings plus his ineptness are evidence to suggest that even world's governing body has had enough of him.

We know that Ijaz Butt and his regime have major flaws, and that the system of 'friends' compensation' provides incentives to take advantage of the limitations in the cricket systems. We know that Butt responsible for administering Pakistan cricket has faced conflicts of interest in providing direction and patronage. Butt should have known that he through his political links could influence Asif Ali Zardari but not the ICC; he should have estimated how stupidly he has governed Pakistan cricket and there had to be battles-battles waged by the ICC which is in charge of regulating international cricket and its associated security markets.

Butt should know ICC means business and they aren't functioning on both sides of the aisle. At the moment, they aren't eager the short term and special interests prevailed over the long-term and general interests. On the contrary Butt has stopped efforts at improving matters, actually making matters worse.

Butt during his shambolic presence at the PCB and a virtual embarrassment at the ICC meetings has tried outmoding regulatory systems, and didn't really keep pace with the changes and demands of administration of modern cricket, too trapped into the mantra of self-service and disbelieving his incompetence and fallibility.

While Butt is busy deceptively boosting his favoured lot, even if their gains have to come at the expense of the integrity of Pakistan cricket, in most cases undeserving and outdated people like Yawar Saeed or Intikhab Alam. ICC's task wasn't as simple as it seems since within their administration, they must have debated some of the so-called reforms which potentially exacerbated the conflicts of interests. ICC is shouting 'trust us' but the Patron on the pretext of having too much already present on his platter has tried being apathetic. Now it isn't about sacking Ijaz Butt, it is simply about preserving Pakistan's image.

Erosion of Ijaz Butt and his regime aren't the victim of ICC and it's linked hypocrisies but as evident, a sequel of the PCB not utilising its space well, are just the tip of a much bigger iceberg of Pakistan cricket's failure.

[email protected]

 

 

 

 

Little master just keeps on going!

 

By Khurram Mahmood

India retained the Border-Gavaskar Trophy by winning the Test series against Australia 2-0. Australia's loss meant that they dropped to fifth position in the ICC Test rankings since they were introduced in 2003.

During the second Test at Bangalore, India's batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar achieved yet another landmark when he became the first batsman in the history of Test cricket to score more than 14,000 runs. He has also scored most (49) centuries in Test cricket.

Tendulkar's double century at Bangalore was his sixth double-hundred, putting him fourth in the rank on the all-time list of players with the most 200+ scores.

Sachin Ramesh Tendulkar, 37, is setting near to impossible targets for other batsmen. He has reached a stage that others can only dream of.

Tendulkar has been in outstanding form in 2010, and the journey from 13,000 to 14,000 runs has taken him the fewest number of innings. He completed 13,000 Test runs earlier this year against Bangladesh in Chittagong. After that, it took him just 12 innings to reach the 14,000-run mark, scoring four hundreds and three fifties. He has already passed 1000 runs for the year for a record sixth time.

The most runs he has scored in a calendar year in his career are 1392; which he made in 16 Tests in 2002. He played 26 innings that year, averaging 55.68 and scored four hundreds.

Tendulkar also holds the record of most runs in One-day Internationals, having scored 17,598. He is also the highest century-maker in limited-over internationals with 46 hundreds in 442 appearances at this level.

Tendulkar made his Test debut against Pakistan at Karachi in November 1989 and became India's youngest Test player at the age of 16. He scored his maiden Test hundred at the age of 17, against England at Old Trafford. He was named among Wisden's Five Cricketers of the Year in 1997.

In 1996-97 he was appointed as the captain of the Indian side, making him the second youngest captain in the history of Indian cricket after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi who was named captain at the age of 21.

Tendulkar, regarded amongst the premier batsmen of the world in the last decade, is ranked second in both the all-time Test and one-day lists prepared by Wisden, behind Australia's Don Bradman and West Indies' Viv Richards, respectively.

He has annihilated practically every bowling attack in the world and India's batting has revolved around Tendulkar for more than a decade. Huge expectations from the millions of fans, who do not accept anything less than a century from him, make him one of the most pressurised players in cricket -- and yet he continues to amass huge scores regularly!

 

Khurram Mahmood works for 'The News, Art Deptt' in Karachi [email protected]

 

 

 

Olympic dreams

Haroon Khan, a 19-year-old Briton recently clinched a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and has now vowed to represent Pakistan

-- the land of his ancestors -- at the London Olympics.

By Bilal Hussain

It's been just once that Pakistan have tasted Olympic glory in the boxing ring. It was back in 1988 that Hussain Shah fought his way to securing a bronze medal in the Seoul Olympics -- a feat that is placed among Pakistan's best individual achievements at the international sporting arena.

But in the last five editions of the Olympic Games, Pakistan have failed to even come near the podium and things continued to look bleak as the 2012 Games in London approached nearer.

However, Pakistan's boxing chiefs have once again started dreaming of an Olympic medal ahead of the quadrennial spectacle in London. For them, a 19-year-old Briton has brought a lot of hope. Haroon Khan clinched a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi and then vowed to represent Pakistan -- the land of his ancestors -- at the London Olympics.

Haroon is a younger brother of Amir Khan, the world famous British boxer. Even Amir, at one point in time, thought about representing Pakistan but later decided to play for Britain. He won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens before turning professional.

"If it is going to be 2012, I'll definitely fight for Pakistan," Haroon said after picking up a bronze medal in New Delhi.

Haroon has a point to prove. He was snubbed by the British boxing authorities, forcing the youngster to represent Pakistan.

Haroon said that he would not be following in his elder brother's footsteps by competing for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) President Doda Khan Bhutto told The News on Sunday: "Yes definitely Pakistan boxing received a boost with the inclusion of Haroon Khan in its team. He is a good boxer and should improve greatly before Olympics 2012. So obviously we are banking on him to win us an Olympic medal in London."

"Apart from Haroon, we also have other boxers who could also o well in the Olympics. Though we are highly focused on the upcoming international events but our major goal is winning medals at Olympics," he stressed.

PBF secretary Akram Khan said that the presence of Haroon in the boxing squad should have a talismanic affect on local pugilists. "His presence in the team is a very healthy sign for Pakistan boxing as he can inspire our local boys," Akram told this writer.

Akram said that Haroon would come to Pakistan after competing in Commonwealth Games for the training camp for Asian Games to be held next month in Guangzhou, China.

"The Asian Games campaign would be tough for our boxers in Asian Games as top nations like Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Mongolia etc would feature in the mega event. However, after winning medals at the Commonwealth Games, our pugilists would be in high spirits so we are hopeful of doing well in Asian Games," said Akram.

Ahram said that the PBF wants to complete the training of the boxers and formation of the team for Olympics a year ahead because they would have to feature in the World Championship to be held in Azerbaijan in August-September in 2011. "That tournament would serve as the first Olympic qualifiers and all the boxers, who qualify for the quarterfinals would subsequently make the cut for the Olympics. So we are focusing on the World Championship not only to make our presence felt there in Baku (Azerbaijan) but also to win Olympic berths," he explained.

The PBF secretary said that Pakistan boxing faced a drought of skilled boxers in 2008 because it had been revolving around four or five boxers since 2002. "In 2008 those boxers met the end of their careers and consequently there was no one else to replace them immediately. But now we have good boxers and we are now reaping the fruit of our efforts of the last two years.

"The PBF is trying to organise an international tournament before the World Championship in order to prepare a strong team for the important event. We will also try to stage a joint-training camp for the World Championship. Exposure is very important for our boxers to perform well in major international events," he said.

Akram stressed that competing in international tournaments is very important for our boxers as it boosts their confidence. "Whenever, a boxer punches his opponent, the crowd roars which makes life miserable for a new boxer. So a boxer should ample exposure to such atmosphere before they go on to feature in major tournaments, such as the all-important Olympics and the qualifiers before it," he concluded.

[email protected]

 

 

 

Yet another disappointment in Delhi!

By Arshad Shami

Pakistan's contingent put up yet another dismal show at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The causes of the dismal performance are not difficult to seek. I am reminded of the days when we used to reign supreme in Asia and the Commonwealth Games and even performed outstandingly at the Olympic Games.

Today, I dare ask where is Brigadier Rodham? Where is Air Marshal Malik Nur Khan and Brig. Manzoor Hussain Atif, where is Major Mir Abdul Rashid and Major Nawaz and above all where are athletes like Abdul Khaliq, Ghulam Raziq, Muhammad Nawaz, Jalal, Mohammad Iqbal, Sanghar Khan, Younis, Sharif, and the likes of those who used to bring medals in athletics and boxers who won gold and silver medals for Pakistan. Where are players like Anwar Ahmad Khan, Waheed Khan, Munir Dar, Atif, Hameedi, Rashid Junior, Islahuddin and wrestlers who remained champions in the Asian Games for several years? There were several other outstanding players like Habib ur Rehman, Samiullah, Shahnaz Sheikh, to name only a few.

Brig. Rodham was the man who was responsible for the world class athletes who reigned supreme in Asia and Commonwealth. Major Rashid was the best boxing coach Pakistan ever had.

It is ironic that in those days, athletes never bothered about money but they played for Pakistan and its glory. Today, however, athletes not only get publicity but their performances are dwindling with each passing day. The sportsmen and organisations are plagued with things like match-fixing, the use of forbidden substances, doping and what not.

Abdul Khaliq was the fastest Asian while Ghulam Raziq won several gold medals in high hurdles. Mohammad Iqbal broke the world hammer throw record in practice while Jalal Khan and Nawaz were the outstanding javelin throwers.

The recent Commonwealth Games have exposed our sports organisers and sportsmen thoroughly. It is strange that we failed to field a track-and-field team in the games but there was a silver lining when our wrestlers were able to win gold medals reminding that the wrestling art of Pakistan has not died out. The performance of our boxers was not that bad and indicated that with better planning and organisation, we can still regain our lost place in this game.

The worst performance, though, came from the very game we had anticipated would bring us a medal. The performance of our hockey team has not shown much improvement but one thing is certain that the team has now started to convert their chances into goals which previously they were not able to do. This time around, the team was able to score and come from behind though their performance against India was the worst. India handed them a 7-4 defeat which leaves one to think that though our attack has improved, our defence has failed miserably.

Australia have come a very long way and today stand out as the best outfit in world hockey. Australians have displaced both India and Pakistan from top positions but it is surprising to see India recover and coming very close to clinching the top slot. Indiaís performance in the final of the Commonwealth Games hockey was shocking as they conceded eight goals to allow the Australians to retain their title.

Much has been said about the Asian Games next month but there, will be facing a greater challenge from Malaysia, Korea and China.

The present PHF setup, especially its secretary, must be removed.

We need to revive our regional centres and teams and find more players to have a stream of youngsters for each position. It is also expedient that we revive our local clubs, schools and colleges and hold Inter-provincial and Inter-university competitions more often and with more zeal and vigour. That will help us achieve our target!

[email protected]

 

Can Roberts be Pakistan football's messiah?

By Umaid Wasim

Finally Graham Roberts has arrived! Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secured a major coup when the former England international was signed on a two-month stint as a coaching consultant for the upcoming Asian Games and beyond. His job for now, is to assist Pakistan coach Akhtar Mohiuddin in the football event of the Guangzhou spectacle from November 7-26. The big question now is how could the Englishman help the Pakistan football team?

During his playing days, Roberts was a tough-tackling, no-nonsense defender for both Tottenham Hotspur, Rangers and Chelsea. He won two FA Cups for Spurs and also helped the North London club to UEFA Cup success in 1984.

However, his managerial career isn't that glorious. In his last job as a manager for Scottish side Clyde, Robert's was sacked in acrimonious circumstances for passing racist remarks. A tribunal, though, later found that the allegations against him were exaggerated and awarded him £32,000 compensation for unfair dismissal. He has been out of work since then until the Pakistan job arrived.

Nevertheless, the acquisition of Roberts as a coaching consultant would surely boost football in the country. Not only is it a great help to improve the image of the country, his experience would also help improve the standard of the national team.

For a country whose sport has been marred by terrorism, Roberts' arrival is a message to the global sporting community that sports afterall are still thriving in the country and when a foreigner can work here, the foreign teams too can come and participate in sporting events in the country.

On a sporting aspect though, Roberts' services would be of a greater benefit. If Roberts could translate into his players the image of what he was in his playing days, then certainly Pakistan's weak defensive line could become really strong. For that, though, Roberts would have to overcome a language barrier that was a major problem for another foreigner George Kottan.

While Kottan did a lot technically for the team, he could not produce results on the pitch and that is what matters the most. What is done on the training ground should and must come out on the field of play.

Pakistan have a very weak defensive line and once under pressure, it is at sixes and sevens as players lose both their heads and positional sense. Roberts needs to instill that grit and mentality that was a trademark of his play during the 1980's.

Not only that, but it is the tactics where the team needs to improve and that his another thing at which Roberts could help out Akhtar Mohiuddin. In modern-day football, matches are won on paper rather than the field of play itself. The greatest example in recent times was that of Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan. En route to Champions League glory, Inter won most of their matches on the drawing boards with players being briefed about their individual roles in great detail.

That is exactly what Pakistan footballers need. There is a great need to make them realise that it is as a team that wins you matches rather than individual brilliance. Inter's run to the Champions League title had little flashes of individual brilliance and instead it was based on great teamwork and a winning mentality. A great example of that was how Samuel Eto'o played on the wing instead of his customary position as a striker. Can't we tell one of our strikers to do that for the team? If not that, then he should atleast try to track back and defend when the team loses posession; just like Diego Milito did for Inter so fabulously last year.

Or on a greater note, can't we do the proverbial 'parking the bus' trick when we face stronger teams like Thailand and Oman in our Asian Games pool? Inter did that ever so wonderfully against Barcelona in the semifinals of the Champions League.

All these things would be upto Roberts to instill into the minds of the players when the face Asian heavyweights in Guangzhou. Pakistan currently are 162nd in the FIFA rankings. With his experience, Roberts can help Pakistan football to grow in its stature, eventually helping Pakistan go higher in the rankings and become one of Asia's footballing powerhouses!

[email protected]

Pakistan's golden grapplers!

While too much attention was given to hockey, the country's wrestling squad wasn't even given a short trip to Iran for training by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) ahead of the Commonwealth Games.

By Alam Zeb Safi

Before going into the Commonwealth Games, Pakistan's wrestling authorities claimed that their wrestlers would be able to bag at least one gold medal in the Delhi affair -- a brave claim considering that the country had last won a gold medal in the mega event four decades ago. However, those claims were proved right when wrestlers Azhar Hussain and Mohammad Inam, instead of the favourites -- Mohammad Brothers -- won gold medals in their respective weight categories at the Commonwealth Games that concluded recently.

It was in 1970 in Edinburgh when Pakistan bagged four wrestling golds at the Commonwealth Games but twenty-year old Azhar Hussain from Bahawalnagar won gold in the 55kg freestyle wrestling along with a silver medal in the Greco-Roman style while Mohammad Inam, who is an MBA student, won gold in the 84kg freestyle wrestling to end that barren run.

Mohammad Ali, Mohammad Umar, Sarmad Afaq and Mohammad Salman were the other wrestlers who took part in the event, featuring 71 countries. Although, Pakistan also claimed two bronze medals in boxing through Britain-born Haroon Khan and Quetta-born Mohammad Waseem but it was the historic effort of both Inam and Azhar which took everyone by surprise.

Had Pakistan not won those golds in wrestling, the country would have been ended rock bottom in the medals table as its athletes flopped miserably in hockey, squash, tennis, and shooting events.

The two golds in wrestling, however, take centre-stage since they were won after a long period of time. Undoubtedly, in the past, Pakistan had a say in wrestling in both the Asian and Commonwealth Games. As per statistics, Pakistani wrestlers have come up with the goods at the Commonwealth level as they won 31 medals at this platform from the 1954 Canada Commonwealth Games to the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Games, which included 18 golds, nine silver and four bronze medals. National wresters also ended on high note in the 1962 Perth Commonwealth Games when they finished with seven golds and one silver.

However, after missing five Commonwealth Games on the trot, the country resumed its once commanding position in a rather disappointing way as they won only two bronze medals in the 1994 Auckland Commonwealth Games. Four years later, Pakistani wrestlers returned empty-handed from the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games before they picked up their last bronze in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games.

Muhammad Bashir is the only wrestler who made the country proud when he picked up a surprise bronze in the 1960 Rome Olympics, the only medal which Pakistan have picked so far in wrestling in the prestigious show.

Similarly, in the Asian circuit, from 1954 Manila Asian Games to the 1986 Seoul Asian Games, Pakistan were able to grab six golds, 14 silver and 14 bronze in wrestling. Of the achievements, the fourth Asian Games held in Jakarta in 1962 proved good for the country's wrestlers as they captured 14 medals including three golds, seven silver and four bronze.

The achievement of the wrestlers in the New Delhi Games shows that the country has talent in this traditional sport but there is a dire need of facilities, international exposure and media support.

Pakistan should learn from India who emerged as a mighty nation in individual sport in the Commonwealth Games. While too much attention was given to in hockey, the wrestling squad wasn't even given a short trip to Iran for training by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).

Passion for wrestling could be felt in Punjab in particular where not only general public but millionaires are also involved in the sport. In the rural areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there is enormous talent and so is the case in Sindh and Balochistan. But it needs a proper plan to hunt, trim and groom the talent from different areas of the country.

Ask the president of the Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) who is also the Sports Minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Syed Aaqil Shah, and he tells that the game could be further streamlined in order to make the country a world-beater in the discipline.

"Two golds and a silver is not a joke at the Commonwealth level. It is a great honour for the country. Therefore, I urge the Prime Minister of Pakistan to announce at least one million rupees each for each wrestler who put the country in the gold medals list in the discipline after four decades," Aaqil Shah told 'The News on Sunday'.

"Without proper preparation and international exposure, the wrestlers showed a miracle in India. Now it is high time for the government to change its strategy and concentrate more on the individual sports disciplines. Look at India, after they lost their grip in hockey in international circuit, they turned towards shooting and picked a gold even in Olympics. On hockey, the government is spending in millions but there is no output while we gave the state two golds in spite of meagre resources," Shah said.

"Pakistan is replete with talent but we need proper infrastructure. We need at least five wrestling arenas and academies, two in Punjab, one each in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Sindh. The cream of the available lot should be sent abroad for training and competitions before every international tournament under a foreign coach. If the government extends its helping hand, then no one would stop national wrestlers from becoming world-beaters," he said.

"I also promise on behalf of the Pakistan Wrestling Federation to hold two international events every year. By doing so we will also be able to attract sponsors but media role in our efforts would be vital," Shah said.

I have already pointed out in my other articles on wrestling in 'The News on Sunday' that Pakistan could turn out to be a big market in the discipline because it is not only the traditional sport of our country but we can also find precedents of the game in Islamic culture. When an Indian team lands in Lahore for competition, thousands of supporters throng the venue. As Aaqil Shah said that if international competitions of wrestling are regularly held in Pakistan, not only the media will start taking interest in the game but as a result sponsors will come into the field. The profit could then be spent on the promotion of the game and the wrestlers.

[email protected]



Home
|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|


BACK ISSUES