cricket
Pakistani girls vow to excel in Asia Cup cricket
'No one should write us off as far as our chances for the Asian title are concerned'By Ghalib Mehmood bajwa
The fourth edition of the Women's Asia Cup is set to be played from May 2, 2008 in Sri Lanka where four teams -- India, Pakistan, hosts Sri Lanka and first timers Bangladesh -- will be vying for the top honours. It is pertinent to mention here that it is the first time that the Women's Asia Cup has four participating teams.

A journey of harmony through Pakistan
The Olympic torch relay in Islamabad has proved that Pakistan is safe enough to host an international event peacefully
By Waris Ali
It was a grand ceremony, a pride for Pakistan and a befitting answer to the exaggerated security concerns of Australia, when the Olympic torch reached Islamabad for its 10th stop. The torch was welcomed and then relayed at a ceremony attended by the highest profile dignitaries of Pakistan; Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and President Pervez Musharraf.

Shoaib Akhtar's case: A lesson to learn for both sides
As Nasim Ashraf handed the five years ban to the pacer, he became the centre of criticism for those who feel that Akhtar was innocent
By Khurram Shahzad
Although a comparison with Bangladesh is not a very healthy sign for Pakistan cricket, however, in the present circumstances we can say that the brilliant performance by Pakistan team proved that they were not affected by the Shoaib Akhtar controversy.

cricket
Pakistan cricket:
Shape up or ship out
As an aside, beware of your 'firefighters', they are probably your chief arsonists
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Why can't people at cricket's helm get their act together? I have to believe that the PCB's overall problems in decision making and implementation could be attributed to specific tools and techniques (and some appointments at Lahore are not helping matters). It is based on how important an organisation considers management and administration to be. Had PCB's much touted and a very specialised Administration and HR Department believed it to be a vital part of company's overall performance, it would have been more successful. The lights in the Bangladesh-Pakistan match wouldn't have gone off.

Pakistan laments dramatic ouster from AFC Challenge Cup
Pakistan should have got through the Taipei affair to book a berth in the final round, but it all remained a dream because of a lack of a strong combination
By Alam Zeb Safi
After a dramatic failure to get through the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round held in Chinese Taipei from April 2-6, the Pakistan football team has ahead another crucial assignment in the name of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship which would be jointly hosted by Sri Lanka and the Maldives from June 3 to 14.

Dhoni's India turn tables to square Test series
South Africa unexpectedly collapsed in the second innings and were bowled out for just 121 to give India an easy target of 62 runs for victory
By Khurram Mahmood
India levelled the Test series (1-1) against South Africa by winning the third Test at Kanpur. With the Test win India retained the second place in the ICC Test ranking.
It had looked difficult for India to maintain its position in the ICC table when skipper Anil Kumble missed the Test and Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost the toss on the opening day on a deadly track.

 

 

 

 

cricket
Pakistani girls vow to excel in Asia Cup cricket

The fourth edition of the Women's Asia Cup is set to be played from May 2, 2008 in Sri Lanka where four teams -- India, Pakistan, hosts Sri Lanka and first timers Bangladesh -- will be vying for the top honours. It is pertinent to mention here that it is the first time that the Women's Asia Cup has four participating teams.

The Pakistan women cricket team is scheduled to depart for Sri Lankan event on April 27 after completing a three-week rigorous training camp at Karachi.

Pakistan's 14-member women squad has already been announced for the Asia Cup tournament. All-rounder Urooj Mumtaz Khan has been retained as captain for the event.

Nida Dar is the only member of Pakistan's World Cup qualifiers squad, who has not been selected in the 14-member squad for the Asia Cup.

It is to be noted here that young Nida was not given any chance in the World Cup qualifying matches in South Africa and that's why she still could not make her international debut. However, three other newcomers -- Shumaila Mushtaq, Almas Akram and Javeria Khan -- have been given a chance to prove themselves in Sri Lanka.

In this regard, Secretary of the Pakistan Cricket Board (Women's Wing) Shamsa Hashmi, national women coach Umar Rasheed and assistant coach-cum-trainer Tariq Siddiqui while talking to 'The News on Sunday' (TNS) last week expressed their views regarding the Pakistan women cricketers' preparations, activities and chances in the upcoming Asia Cup.

Secretary of PCB (Women's Wing) Shamsa Hashmi said that the Asia Cup event would definitely be a useful activity particularly for the Pakistan girls, who recently have won a berth in the Women's World Cup to be played Down Under in 2009. "In the Asia Cup our team will play against world number two India and number five Sri Lanka, the two leading teams of the women cricket world," she said.

"Playing against such top teams would provide an ideal international exposure and preparation to our young side. It would also be a great opportunity to assess our team's weaknesses and strengths for the World Cup showpiece event," Shamsa added.

Answering a query regarding Pakistan's chances in the four-nation event, Shamsa was of the view that the Pakistan team is enjoying bright prospects in the event. "A couple of exceptional performances can lead Pakistan into the final of Asia Cup. No one should write us off as far as our chances for the Asian title are concerned," a determined Shamsa said.

Shamsa, who has been regarded as one of the leading female cricketers of the country, was quite confident about the encouraging results in Asia Cup event saying "Insha-Allah our girls would click in Asia's top cricketing event".Though India and Sri Lanka are tough and senior opponents the spirits of our girls are quite high after qualifying for the elite World Cup tournament. "Our side won't surrender without fight as has been happening in the past," she stressed.

To a question, Shamsa said that before the World Cup qualifiers, Pakistan's ranking in women cricket world was 10th but now we are enjoying the 8th position replacing Ireland which is great boost for Pakistan women team. While praising the Pakistan Women team's feat she said, "No doubt qualification for World Cup 2009 is one of the biggest sporting achievements in the 60-year history of Pakistan." She also admired young Sana Mir for being declared the joint best player of the World Cup qualifiers.

While informing about the Asia Cup event, Shamsa said, "The 10-day long Asia Cup will be played at Dambulla and Kurunegala, near Kandy from May 2-11. Pakistan will launch their Asia Cup campaign on May 2 against Sri Lanka at the Rangiri Dambulla international stadium. The four teams will play each other twice before the top two meet in the final at the Welagedara Stadium in Kurunegala," she further elaborated.

"Sri Lanka last hosted the tournament in April 2004, but it was in fact a bilateral series which India clinched convincingly 5-0. India also went on to win the next two editions as well," she further said.

When asked to comment on Bangladesh's entry in the event, she said that Bangladesh have been rewarded with a spot in the 2008 Women's Asia Cup following their victory at the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) trophy last year in Malaysia.

"Bangladesh, who didn't lose a single game in the ACC tourney -- their first major event -- are not ranked in the top 14 sides in the world. This means their matches in the Asia Cup will not be considered One-day Internationals."

Umar Rasheed, the coach of the Pakistan Women team, said "We know that the competition will be tough in the Asia Cup event, so we emphasised more on physical fitness, conditioning and accuracy in bowling during our preparations."

Umar, whose six brothers -- Haroon Rasheed (Test cricketer), Tahir, Farooq, Ahmed, Mahmood and Mohtashim Rasheed -- have all played first-class cricket, said "We discussed and rectified all our flaws and weak segments that surfaced in the final of the World Cup Qualifying round against South Africa. Now after undergoing tough training at the Karachi camp, our team has transformed into a fighting unit.

"We do have necessary ingredients in our squad to make it to the final of the event," he expressed his confidence.

Assistant coach-cum-trainer Tariq Siddiqui, who is also a former first-class cricketer, to a question regarding the preparation of the national women team, told that the best possible efforts have been put in to prepare our girls for the Asian event.

Tariq said, "At the Karachi camp, we trained our girls according to a plan. Firstly we emphasised on physical evaluation and mental strength," he explained.

Replying to a question regarding the girls' fitness level, Tariq said that in the World Cup Qualifying round, the fitness level of our girls was at its peak. "In the World Cup Qualifying round, our team played all the games with the same playing XI which shows that our all girls were in great shape both physically and professionally. Really that was a great combination of form and fitness," he explained.

"In South Africa, we left a good impression both on and off the field. The unity among our players was exemplary," he said.

When asked to narrate the feelings after qualifying for World Cup, Tariq said: "Really that was an emotional time and we all could not control our sentiments with a sense of fulfillment.

"The moment our team won a berth for the World Cup, our players offered thanksgiving with a combined 'sajda' in the ground and shouted the national slogan 'Sab say pehlay Pakistan' (Pakistan comes first).

"We are quite determined to continue the same level of fitness, form and discipline in Sri Lanka. Insha-Allah we will play Asia Cup final either against India or Sri Lanka," Tariq expressed his hope.

Pakistan squad: Urooj Mumtaz (captain), Tasqeen Qadeer, Sajida Shah, Bismah Maroof, Nain Abidi, Sana Javed, Sana Mir, Qanita Jalil, Asmavia Iqbal, Batool Fatima (wk), Sadia Yousuf, Shumaila Mushtaq, Almas Akram and Javeria Khan.

 

The writer is a staffer at 'The News' Lahore

[email protected]





A journey of harmony through Pakistan

It was a grand ceremony, a pride for Pakistan and a befitting answer to the exaggerated security concerns of Australia, when the Olympic torch reached Islamabad for its 10th stop. The torch was welcomed and then relayed at a ceremony attended by the highest profile dignitaries of Pakistan; Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani and President Pervez Musharraf.

It was a Journey of Harmony in Pervez Musharraf's words and a responsibility to share a universal vision of harmony in Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's words. The ceremony prevailed upon the world that Pakistan was safe enough to host the Olympic torch relay peacefully. There were a number of torch bearers, top among them hockey legend Samiullah Khan and unconquerable squash legend Jahangir Khan.

Samiullah, the Flying Horse, as he was duly titled, played as a left winger for Pakistan in the 1970s and 1980s and was instrumental in Pakistan's bronze medal win in the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, and won gold in Asian Games in Bangkok in 1978.

Jahangir Khan, the last torch bearer in the Islamabad relay, is considered by many to be the greatest player in the history of squash. "You know squash is not a sport of Olympics, so it has always been a dream for me to be an Olympian. It's a special way for me to be in Olympic Games," he said.

Jahangir had won the World Open six times and the British Open a record 10 times. Between 1981 and 1986, he was unbeaten in competitive play for five years, during which he won 555 matches consecutively. This was not only the longest winning streak in squash history, but also one of the longest unbeaten runs by any athlete in top-level professional sport. After retiring at the age of 29, Jahangir has been serving as the president of Squash Confederation for years.

Among other many top Pakistani athletes selected to carry the torch included Mohammad Younus, Ghulam Abbas and Farjad Saif. Mohammad Younus, Honorary Captain, was the national champion for consecutive 11 years in running events.

Pride of Performance Younus had represented Pakistan in the 1972, 1976 Olympics and 1970, 1974 and 1978 Asian Games. He won a gold medal in the 1974 Asian Games, and collected silvers in the other two Asian Games. He has been a national record holder of 1,500 meters and 5,000 meters for over 30 years.

Ghulam Abbas won a gold medal in 400 meters hurdles in the Beijing Asian Games 1990. He also won two gold medals in 110 meters hurdles and 400 meters hurdles in the fourth South Asian Games in Islamabad. Farjad Saif, a table tennis player and 13 times national champion, qualified for Seoul Olympics in 1988 and has represented Pakistan for more than 70 times abroad.

But there were no cricket legends: no Imran Khan, no Javed Miandad, no Zaheer Abbas, no Wasim Akram, no Inzamam-ul-Haq. They might be busy, or may not available for various reasons. Ironically, the most popular sport in the country could not present a single cricketer for the ceremony; that was painful. The argument that cricket is not included in the Olympic Games is a lame excuse.

Jahangir Khan was the squash legend who came up for the event despite the fact that squash is also not part of the Olympic Games. Further, Sachin Tendulkar was invited in India and Kevin Pietersen had taken part in the London leg of the Beijing Olympic torch relay. The cricketers are going to be more and more money-obsessed, I fear: the possible reason for why Inzamam and Wasim Akram were not available.

While the claws of terrorism have been spreading more and more in almost all the fields of life, the sports events have also suffered heavily. The strict security arrangements have become the main feature of every sports show. And this was what happened to the Beijing Olympic torch relay.

With the growing criticism of China over its alleged role in Darfur and the Tibet violence, Beijing was presented as a bad guy by the Western media under the patronage of the United States. This politicisation of the Olympic Games dented the image of China; a situation which badly affected the Olympic torch relay worldwide. While there was an overblown propaganda that the torch relay in Pakistan might fall prey to terror attack, the Pakistani leg of the Olympic torch relay passed off without any disturbance, though it had to be confined to closed doors of Sports Complex of Islamabad.

The deployment of heavy security and slashing of the planned open route was a result of pro-Tibet demonstrations and the presence of China's Xinjiang region's Muslim separatists in the Pakistani tribal areas. The fear was fairly backed by two militant attacks in Islamabad last year which targeted Chinese engineers working in Pakistan for different development projects.

Army contingents, paramilitary troops and elite police commandos guarded the flame as it arrived at Jinnah Stadium. The original plan was to parade the torch along Islamabad's leafy main boulevard which had to be changed at the last minute.

The torch which arrived in Islamabad after lighting the night of Muscat, after making previous stops in Buenos Aires, Dar es Salaam and witnessing protest demonstrations in London, Paris and San Francisco over the Tibet riots, left for the Indian capital New Delhi for a heavy guarded relay shortened from nine to three kilometres in view of the thousands of Tibetan protesting refugees.

Bollywood superstars Aamir Khan and Saif Ali Khan, tennis player Leander Paes and officials from China's embassy in New Delhi were slated to run in the relay. Indian cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, however, apologised for not attending the ceremony on health grounds.

Denting the image of China during the Olympic torch relay is a part of a broad plan to prove the socialist state incompetent for holding the international mega sports event. It is just in this perspective that a safe travel of the Olympic torch in Pakistan has further strengthened the Sino-Pak time-tested friendship. China has been facing for last four years hostile tactics of the Western powers, led by the United States, just out of rivalry and jealousy.

In fact, it was a very painful decision for the sole super power America that the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics to its rival socialist state, China. Contrary to the Games' motto 'One World, One Dream', the mega international event was made into a platform to raise controversial and disputed issues, just to malign the host nation. While the Chinese government rightly sees the award of Olympic Games as a global acknowledgement of its economic rise and emergence as a world power, the rival superpower United States has always taken it to heart as an unpleasant development.

It is in this perspective that China has been facing day to day problems, being raised by outer forces which are active to politicise the games on the pretext of environmental pollution, human rights violations and the Tibetan independence.



Shoaib Akhtar's case: A lesson to learn for both sides

Although a comparison with Bangladesh is not a very healthy sign for Pakistan cricket, however, in the present circumstances we can say that the brilliant performance by Pakistan team proved that they were not affected by the Shoaib Akhtar controversy.

The team spirit shown by the Pakistan men especially in the opening ODI is encouraging and narrates the fact that national squad has the potential to perform against odds, and it is the management and attitude that matters.

It would be untrue that Shoaib Akhtar has never been a match winning bowler, he actually gifted many memorable victories to the country and it was admitted by all the PCB chiefs of his time. But it is also a reality that he has always emerged as the individual from out of the whole team.

And in his words, he never found a suitable environment in the team. He was not 'given' chances in Wasim Akram's team because he was a 'threat' for Wasim and Waqar, he was 'sidelined' in Inzamam's XI as he was a potential candidate for the captaincy and he is away from the Shoaib Malik outfit because he is too senior and brilliant from other guys, who don't know to 'respect' him. Above all every chairman of the board was 'against' him and so is Dr Nasim Ashraf.

But what Dr Nasim Ashraf, Shaharyar M Khan and even Shoaib's mentor and father figure General Tauqir Zia have been repeatedly saying is that he is a different guy to handle.

And he is. He bowls with a hundred miles per hour speed, he gets wickets... but he never behaves. And Tauqir Zia terms it as the aggression of a fast bowler.

When Dr Nasim Ashraf took over the cricket board, he was much optimistic to handle such 'aggression' on which Shaharyar Khan had given up in much before his resignation.

Nasim Ashraf started defending him on various crucial issues as much as the dope tests. But he too ended up with the indiscipline case and its punishment of a five years ban.

People who know both Shoaib Akhter and Dr Nasim Ashraf are aware of the fact that this is one of the most complicated cases of Pakistan cricket history, which very rightly jolted the whole cricket world. Shoaib Akhtar, a misunderstood and spoiled personality has no control over his sentiments while Dr Nasim Ashraf has no other option to correct this damaged and mistreated guy.

As Nasim Ashraf handed the five years ban to the pacer, he became the centre of criticism for those who feel that Akhtar was innocent. But very few know that Akhtar's personality and career was damaged by all the boards in past.

When Gen Tauqir Zia surrendered against his 'aggression' he fulfilled all his wrong demands. This prompted him to 'feel free' and force the board to accept his demands. That was the time when a strict action by the board could correct him. But then the one sided media trial of the pacer further spoiled him. He got habitual of reacting in an abusive and attacking manner to every action. 

The result is that we have today lost a much talented and precious pacer.

If the board had taken a severe action and treated him psychologically when the late Bob Woolmer reported about his incomplete personality, we might have saved him. Then we never needed to punish him on a series of offences and observations.

Shoaib Akhtar, on the other hand, claims that his offense was not as bad as to get the punishment of a five years ban.

One thinks that a player who is 32 years of age, plays 40% Tests and 27% ODIs in two years, gets unfit on every important occasion, physically beats his fellow players, coaches and officials, abuses teammates and board officials publically, enjoys night life even on the eve of crucial matches and is under observation for a series of breaches of code of conduct, what punishment or treatment he deserves.

It is true that the PCB has given a verdict against him in haste but at the same time Shoaib failed to prove these allegations false.

Now, when the ban has been announced and Shoaib has charged the PCB chief and fellow players with serious allegations publicly, the appellate tribunal has started the hearings on his appeal against the verdict and the Senate's standing committee has taken up the issue, it is better to let them decide the matter.

But, at the same time all these bodies should also sit together to evolve a system for future which should prevent players from turning into indiscipline members of the cricket community and also making the board able to handle such difficult minds.

 
cricket
Pakistan cricket:
Shape up or ship out

Why can't people at cricket's helm get their act together? I have to believe that the PCB's overall problems in decision making and implementation could be attributed to specific tools and techniques (and some appointments at Lahore are not helping matters). It is based on how important an organisation considers management and administration to be. Had PCB's much touted and a very specialised Administration and HR Department believed it to be a vital part of company's overall performance, it would have been more successful. The lights in the Bangladesh-Pakistan match wouldn't have gone off.

Reportedly, there was no diesel in the standby generators. It was not happening for the first time, twice in the match and three times at Lahore inside a year. Subsequently, the PCB's over-pampered administration giant was seen over-burdened with scathing criticism, pricking all his pulses.

The only 'irrelevant' is his presence. PCB's Director HR must have had done his piece of work, realising that arrangement of international matches was still an integral part of the Dr Nasim driven 'Corporate' culture, be it against the pedestrian teams like Bangladesh. Sports management or quackery? Experts or quacks?

PCB in 2006-07 had a little less than 400 employees and it seemed burgeoning with mushroom growth of non-technocrats. And now almost halfway through 2008, the number has risen close to 703 (as reported). As the Pakistan team slips lower in the ICC ranking table, the number of cars in PCB's fleet has risen from 48 to 63 within months (add three more brand new GLI Corollas (one blue and the other white, still not registered) -- at least we have seen some improvement, be it in the number of employees or the cars.

Clear it is that cricket has been held hostage to the personal ambitions of one man and to the antics of his wizardly directors. If there is a permanent establishment of cricket which goes beyond politics and individual interests and thinks about game's well being, why is it not taking a stand and putting an end to people who have failed to deliver. Despite intense pressure, it seems that Dr Nasim is hoping to ride out the storm. Presumably, he doesn't want to lose his public face.

A couple of sackings may well defuse the crises somewhat it would make Dr Nasim look bad. He may seek to pin the blame on bad advice but this will reduce his personal culpability. He is the one who enrolled his handpicked directors and whatever the form of people now surround him, he cannot escape responsibility. His is a failed regime. Why did Dr Nasim's government fail?

The PCB under Dr Nasim has suffered because of a) lack of knowledge, b) lack of organisational policy, c), lack of enforcement of policy and procedures and d) lack of consideration for the magnitude and complexities of cricket management and attacking it in piece meal.

Not really wary of his 'ultimate' directors, at the same time he should know that sports management is first and foremost a philosophy of management, not an elaborate set of tools and techniques, nor is it an administrative function. Rather, it is concerned with managing human beings towards the accomplishment of work (it is a people management function). As such, sports and event management will only be as effective as the people who use it. Ultimately, sports management represents a) Discipline, b) Organisation and c) Accountability; which are three areas people at the PCB seem to have a natural aversion to these days.

In our world, people tend to resist discipline because some believe it inhibits creativity and personal freedom. As a result, teamwork is often sacrificed in favor of rugged individualism. Pursuant to discipline is the problem of organization. Again, in our world, people prefer to maintain their own identity and organise themselves to meet their needs as opposed to the needs of the organization. There are also those who claim, "A cluttered desk is the sign of a brilliant mind' -- Hogwash!

In contrast, I am a believer of the Army's regimen whereby you work on something, file it, or throw it away -- This forces people to get organised. If we need more options, let's get them. One must be clearheaded. A cluttered desk is a sign of a disorganized person. Shape up, or ship out.

Accountability is an area people tend to rebel against the most. The approach to sports management, as advocated by 'pride', ultimately represents visibility and responsibility to produce according to plan. Unfortunately, some people shun commitments and, instead, prefer to hide their activity or weakness thereby they cannot be measured and evaluated. This is typically the reaction of people who are insecure. People who are confident in their abilities have no problem with the accountability issue. Regrettably, there hasn't been any accountability in the PCB.

The old adage "If you do not make the decision, the decision will be made for you", is valid. This also sums up the difference between an active and a reactive manager. True cricket management requires an 'active' manager, not 'reactive'. The active manager takes care of the problems before they happen. They plan on the future. The reactive manager deals with yesterday and waits until problems occur, then tries to take care of them.

Presently, PCB has been in a constant 'firefighting' mode of operation. Why? Because of a 'reactive' management style -- The 'reactive' manager never seems to get ahead, yet probably enjoys the highest visibility in the PCB. As an aside, beware of your 'firefighters', they are probably your chief arsonists. Why that PCB is often comes to a point of embarrassment, be it the stadium lights or implementation of plans because they don't have capable working teams. They haven't been making things happen; they have been waiting for things to happen.

Obviously in management, therefore in the PCB hasn't been viewed as a corporate philosophy as opposed to a technique used by a select few boards like Cricket Australia or even the BCCI. Only when a standard and consistent approach to cricket management is adopted by the PCB will it become an integral part of the corporate culture. We will then hear less about why management fails, and more of how the PCB is prospering.

Unfortunately, leaving aside 'forced' technocrats like in PCB's Administration & HR or Marketing Departments, even the Chairman PCB failed to employ the basic premises guiding the knowledge processes of the working machinery and his decision models, not surmising that the unconventional decisions taken by him lead to tears in all the management paradigms. He glittered, telling the world on television that everything was just fine barring the comments and suggestions coming from the conspirators.

Instead of masking his failures, the Chairman PCB could have devised methods to believe that impact of human and technology inputs can be determined with a safe margin of predictability and human inputs play a lesser role compared with technology inputs and financial capital inputs in the input-outcome equation.

During his tenure, Dr Nasim and his most unproductive team saw that bad news didn't reach on time and surely the sleeping giants have to stir and see which way the wind has been blowing. There is now unrest and uncertainty and it is frightening that there is a tight lid on all the ominous build-up.

Take it and feel bad -- the Younis Khan episode, the wide pockets of fermenting disasters such as Inzamam-Ul-Haq being paid a hefty Rs 10 million to retire 'honourably', appointment of the lesser kid Shoaib Malik as Pakistan's captain, defections of some top quality fringe players to the Indian Cricket League, the PCB acting as proactive powerbrokers for the more acceptable Indian Premier League, a horribly timed insurance policy with Australia deciding not to tour Pakistan, Shoaib Akhtar's career almost folding up and a hubris-ridden Chairman who created some kind of a sick world record by making appointments, mostly the likeminded and his handpicked wizards have all been telling blows. And mostly, the criticism against his government has been termed as figment of dirty minds, the vested interest or a conspiracy theory.

Cricket is asking for a funeral -- What these events like lights going off in the middle of an international match and that too under the nostrils of the Chairman PCB is that the last thing on his priority list is the development of the game in Pakistan. The conclusion of course is, they can because the fiddles are out and damn if 'Rome is burning'.

 

Pakistan laments dramatic ouster from AFC Challenge Cup

After a dramatic failure to get through the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying round held in Chinese Taipei from April 2-6, the Pakistan football team has ahead another crucial assignment in the name of South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Championship which would be jointly hosted by Sri Lanka and the Maldives from June 3 to 14.

In this 95,000 dollars competition, Pakistan have been placed in Group A with India, Maldives and Nepal. This is not an easy group for the Greenshirts, who have been demoralised by the unexpected 1-7 defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka in the AFC Challenge Cup.

India would prove to be a tough opponent and so would the Nepalese as they have recently thrashed Pakistan in the first match of the two-match friendly series held at Pokhara Football Stadium in Nepal on March 25. Though Pakistan fought back with a 2-0 victory in the second encounter, the Nepalese proved their worth against a team which had prepared well.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) will have to be vigilant not only to form a balanced side, but should also look into its building process before the SAFF Championship. The selection committee should choose the boys with great care as any injudicious selection will greatly affect the team's strength and so its performance like the one the Greenshirts showed in Chinese Taipei.

Pakistan should have got through the Taipei affair to book a berth in the final round, but it all remained a dream because of a lack of a strong combination.

For the AFC Challenge Cup, Shakir Lashari, a dashing striker from PIA, was made the scapegoat for his minor indiscipline when he had not reported for the camp which was held in Lahore for the preparations for the World Cup 2010 Qualifiers against the Asian Champions Iraq in October last year. Shakir is a type of forward, who, if properly supported by his fellow strikers, has the tendency to convert 90 per cent chances.

Moreover, the midfielder Abdul Aziz, who leads National Bank at the domestic level, and has enough international experience, was also not considered for the camp for the AFC Challenge Cup along with Yasir Afridi from Khan Research Laboratories (KRL), the cousin of Test cricketer Riaz Afridi, and the chap has marvellous potential.

On the other hand, the midfielder Zahid Hameed from WAPDA, who had not played a single match in the Premier league concluded early this year, got the selectors' nod, and so did WAPDA's veteran Tanveer Ahmad who was included in the side for the Chinese Taipei event in spite of his old age and contrary to his willingness to represent the side as he wanted to retire from international arena.

No doubt, Tanveer was a key defender, but the age-factor makes him a misfit for any further national duty. Moreover, the top scorer of the Premier League Arif Mehmood (with 21 goals) from WAPDA and his teammate Zulfiqar Shah, the second leading scorer of the Premier League with 18 goals to his credit and another talented midfielder from WAPDA Imran Niazi, were ignored.

Though the management cited lack of travelling documents as the main cause of the exclusion of the trio, but I would ask, whose fault was it? The management should have helped them to complete their documents well before the competition, and so that the services of the jewels could be safeguarded.

Well-built, sturdy German-born Atif Bashir also failed to find a place in the team for the AFC Challenge Cup because of problem in his identity card. These are really discouraging factors, and should be tackled diligently by the federation in future, especially ahead of the SAFF Championship in June.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) also takes more interest in foreign players, which does not seem reasonable. Because the foreign players would not be able to cope with the hard conditions here in the Asian zone. Moreover, who knows exactly what kind of football these British-based Pakistanis play in England.

These players are usually unable to take permission from their clubs in England as happened with the defender Zeeshan Rehman and Amjad Iqbal, who failed to arrive in Pakistan to accompany the side to Chinese Taipei for the AFC Challenge Cup despite their promises with the PFF.

I don't object to the foreign footballers' inclusion in the Pakistani team, but would rather say that only those foreign players should be given the chance, who could fulfill their commitments, and who could join the camp at the earliest as the British-based goalkeeper Iltaf Ahmad proved recently when he had joined the camp soon after its commencement for the AFC Challenge Cup.

Because, when a coach makes his mind that he will have the support of few good foreigners, and at the end the news comes that the said players will not represent the side because of their football activities in England, then this thing will certainly mar the whole planning of the coach. All these aspects should be kept in mind before finalising the team for the SAFF Championship which is yet to win by Pakistan.

As PFF plans to hold the camp for the SAFF Championship soon after the National Football Challenge Cup (NFCC) in Karachi from May 1-15, is also not a good idea. The federation should start the camp during the championship as this will help build the team in effective manner.

All the players will be here while representing their respective departments, and if the camp is held here from May 1, it will help the coach not only to supervise the camp, but will also be able to watch the competitions and so that any talented boy could also be picked, which could be inducted into the line up for the national duty.

In brief, I would say that the selection of the team for the SAFF Championship should be made by the selection committee after taking into consideration all the above aspects, and there should be no compromise on merit.

 

The writer is a staff member of 'The News' based at Karachi

[email protected]

 

Dhoni's India turn tables to square Test series

India levelled the Test series (1-1) against South Africa by winning the third Test at Kanpur. With the Test win India retained the second place in the ICC Test ranking.

It had looked difficult for India to maintain its position in the ICC table when skipper Anil Kumble missed the Test and Mahendra Singh Dhoni lost the toss on the opening day on a deadly track.

South Africa won the crucial toss and started well and at one stage were 152-1, but Harbhajan Singh and Ishant Sharma in the absence of Anil Kumble and R P Singh took over the responsibility and with the help of non-regular bowlers restricted the visitors to just 265 runs.

The tailenders again played a vital role in India's batting and Sreesanth and Sharma added a decisive 49 runs for the last wicket. South Africa unexpectedly collapsed in the second innings and were bowled out for just 121 and gave India an easy target of 62 runs for victory. India get there for the lost of two wickets. Veteran Sourav Ganguly (87) and VVS Laxman (50) also played an important role.

The first Test at Chennai ended in a high scoring draw. In reply to South Africa's first innings 540 India with the help of Sehwag triple century scored a mammoth 627.

In the second Test at Ahmedabad South African bowlers surprised the home spectators when India were bowled out for just 76 runs in 20 overs before lunch. In reply South Africa declared after scoring a big total of 494-7, thanks mainly to AB de Villiers (217 not out) and Kallis (132).

India fought back in the second innings with 328 runs but this effort could not save the home side from an upsetting defeat of an innings and 90 runs.

During the first Test, Virender Sehwag became the third batsman after Sir Don Bradman and Brian Lara who scored triple hundreds twice. It was also the fastest triple hundred in terms of balls faced (278). During his innings he shared record two double-hundred partnerships for the first and second wickets. It was also the highest Test score by an India player.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni became a lucky captain for India. First he won the first Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa, then under his leadership India won the Australian tri-series for the first time in their history. And in difficult conditions in the absence of regular skipper Anil Kumble, master batsman Sachin Tenulkar and fast bowler R P Singh, he led his side to win the Test and levelled the series.

With that Test win Dhoni became the eighth Indian captain who won a Test on his debut as captain. He used his bowlers very intelligently. On day one South Africa were in the driving seat when they were 152-1. But Dhoni's wise bowling changes paid dividend and the visitors were bowled out for just 265.

In the second innings too, when the Proteas started their innings with a 60 runs deficit Dhoni with his non-regular bowler Sehwag and Yuvraj restricted South Africa just for 121 and India reached their target of 62 convincingly.

The Kanpur Test win was India's second win at the same venue against South Africa and overll 22nd against the same opponent.

After the third Test acting captain of the Kanpur Test Mahendra Singh Dhoni surprised the Green Park curator Shiv Kumar by sending a note of thanks and Rs 10,000 for preparing a turning track that helped India to clinch the series-levelling win.

The recently concluded Test series was South Africa's first drawn series after six consecutive Test series wins since 2006-07. Harbhajan Singh's 19 wickets in three Tests was a record against South Africa. He surpassed the previous best bowling performances of Anil Kumble (1992-93), Javagal Srinath (1996-97) and Sreesanth in 2006-07. 

The second Test at Ahmedabad was the 50th Test in which Anil Kumble and Harbhajan Singh played together. In 50 Tests Anil Kumble was more productive than Harbhajan. Thirty-three matches in a half-century Tests appearances has been played in India in which India have won 14 while lost just six.

In the third Test former Indian captain Rahul Dravid equalled New Zealand's former skipper Stephen Fleming's 172 Test catches. Now he is in second spot after Australia's Mark Waugh's record 181 catches.

Virender Sehwag remained the highest scorer of the Test series with 372 runs of which 319 runs he scored in the first Test. His average was 74.40. From South Africa Neil McKenzie scored most (341) runs at an average of 85.25 with the help of one hundred and one fifty.

In the bowling department Man of the Series Harbhajan Singh was the most successful bowler with 19 wickets, averaging 26.10 while Dale Steyn took 15 wickets at an average of 20.20.

 

The writer works in the art department at 'The News on Sunday' in Karachi

[email protected]

 

SOUTH AFRICA IN INDIA TEST SERIES 2007-08

India Batting Averages

Player     Mat                Inns                NO                Runs                HS                Ave                BF                100                50                0

V Sehwag                3                5                0                372                319                74.40                362                1                0                0

SC Ganguly                3                5                1                211                87                52.75                327                0                2                1

R Dravid                3                5                1                178                111                44.50                493                1                0                0

Yuvraj Singh                1                1                0                32                32                32.00                57                0                0                0

V V S Laxman                3                4                0                127                50                31.75                219                0                1                0

MS Dhoni                3                4                0                114                52                28.50                241                0                1                0

W Jaffer 3                5                0                126                73                25.20                278                0                1                0

S Sreesanth                3                4                1                50                29                16.66                75                0                0                1

P P Chawla                1                1                0                4                4                4.00                12                0                0                0

Harbhajan Singh                3                4                0                11                6                2.75                47                0                0                1

A Kumble                2                3                0                8                5                2.66                32                0                0                1

R P Singh                2                3                0                8                8                2.66                30                0                0                2

S R Tendulkar                1                1                0                0                0                0.00                5                0                0                1

I K Pathan                1                2                2                64                43*                -                94                0                0                0

I Sharma 1                1                1                14                14*                -                38                0                0                0

 

India Bowling Averages

Player     Mat                Inns                Overs                Mdns                Runs                Wkts                BBI                Ave                5                10                Ct                St

I Sharma 1                2                22.3                3                73                5                3-55                14.60                0                0                0                0

V Sehwag                3                4                47.5                7                122                6                3-12                20.33                0                0                0                0

Harbhajan Singh                3                5                172.5                26                496                19                5-164                26.10                1                0                1                0

P P Chawla                1                2                20.0                3                84                2                2-66                42.00                0                0                0                0

Yuvraj Singh                1                2                12.0                1                46                1                1-39                46.00                0                0                0                0

A Kumble                2                3                98.0                15                241                4                2-106                60.25                0                0                1                0

S Sreesanth                3                5                81.0                13                274                4                2-87                68.50                0                0                0                0

V V S Laxman                3                1                10.0                2                19                0                -                -                0                0                2                0

S C Ganguly                3                3                8.0                1                25                0                -                -                0                0                3                0

I K Pathan                1                1                21.2                3                85                0                -                -                0                0                0                0

R P Singh                2                3                53.0                4                235                0                -                -                0                0                2                0

MS Dhoni                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                3                1

R Dravid                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                6                0

W Jaffer 3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                6                0

SR Tendulkar                1                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                0                0

 

South Africa batting averages

Player     Mat                Inns                NO                Runs                HS                Ave                BF                100                50                0

ND McKenzie                3                5                1                341                155*                85.25                670                1                1                0

AB de Villiers                3                5                1                304                217*                76.00                498                1                0                0

HM Amla                3                5                0                307                159                61.40                551                1                2                1

GC Smith                3                5                0                246                73                49.20                393                0                2                0

JH Kallis                3                5                0                180                132                36.00                409                1                0                0

MV Boucher                3                5                1                136                70                34.00                310                0                1                0

AG Prince                3                5                1                68                23                17.00                238                0                0                0

M Morkel                3                4                0                53                35                13.25                86                0                0                1

PL Harris                3                4                1                26                12                8.66                76                0                0                1

DW Steyn                3                3                0                22                15                7.33                36                0                0                1

M Ntini  3                3                2                1                1*                1.00                20                0                0                1

 

South Africa Bowling Averages

Player     Mat                Inns                Overs                Mdns                Runs                Wkts                BBI                Ave                5                10                Ct                St

DW Steyn                3                5                85.0                7                303                15                5-23                20.20                1                0                0                0

M Ntini  3                5                72.2                14                242                10                3-18                24.20                0                0                0                0

M Morkel                3                5                71.0                8                254                8                3-63                31.75                0                0                0                0

PL Harris                3                4                116.0                18                408                8                3-101                51.00                0                0                1                0

JH Kallis                3                3                33.0                4                120                1                1-26                120.00                0                0                4                0

HM Amla                3                1                2.0                0                6                0                -                -                0                0                1                0

AG Prince                3                1                3.0                0                16                0                -                -                0                0                2                0

MV Boucher                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                5                1

AB de Villiers                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                4                0

ND McKenzie                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                1                0

GC Smith                3                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                -                4                0

 

 

 

 

 

 

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