cricket
Pakistan cricket: Shaken to the core
The Pakistan team's reforms are as visible as a thin wisp of mist on a winter evening and no one can really protect the falling grace and stature of the game
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Cricket's present face is an absolute tragedy and it has shaken us deep. There was a time, like a seasoned fool, I used to devour the rhetoric of the PCB government or the pages reading about the problems and their solutions. Almost everything in Pakistan cricket, unfortunately, is non-productive. This cricket government has allowed every like-minded regardless of their specialty, horticulturists, people from food and agriculture, the garment industry etcetera, taking over cricket's most specialised appointments.

Mohammad Yousuf:
Lost between the leagues
The PCB Chairman assured Yousuf that the board will provide all legal assistance if the ICL went to court for his cancelling the agreement
By Khurram Mahmood
In the 1990s Pakistan produced two world-class middle order batsmen Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf. Both had played a vital role in the Pakistan batting line-up for a long time. But after the retirement of former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq last year, Pakistan have only two regular dependable batsmen in the middle order -- Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.

Cricket against Bangladesh and Pakistan's record 11th ODI win
The fact is that irrespective of who won and lost during the last two cricket series in Pakistan, cricket has definitely won in the process
By Gul Nasreen
There is no denying the fact that the just-concluded Pakistan-Bangladesh five-match ODI series lacked real thrill and excitement as it was totally a one-sided affair, yet it was something to cheer about. At least the game of cricket went on at home grounds and before the home crowds, who were extremely disappointed after the world champion Australia declined to undertake its March-April tour of Pakistan amid security concerns.

olympics
Pakistan again look to returning empty-handed from Olympiad
No sports governing body in the country is ready to take the responsibility for the slump in Olympic sports. The POA blames the government for the poor standard of sports
By Alam Zeb Safi
The popular city of Beijing in China is waiting for the grand world sports festival in the name of the Olympics, and the celebrations for this terrific event have already commenced as its torch, which acts as a cohesive force to bring the Olympic countries close to one another, is being passed through 19 countries of the world.

It's all about management
There have been instances during the tenure of Mr Chairman when one or the other
player was given undue liberties. The example of Younis Khan is quite prominent
By Muhammad Asif Khan
After beating, rather crushing Bangladesh and creating a record of 11 consecutive wins, the Pakistan cricket management is ecstatic and why shouldn't they be? But in spite of this expected triumph, shortcomings should not be neglected. No one would argue that in comparison with the upcoming assignments, the wins in last two series (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh) should not be kept in our heads for long.

Twenty20 cricket: Entertainment redefined
Respect for the bowlers was nowhere to be seen; I mean, who could have expected one Glenn McGrath being smashed for six over point!
By Nabeel Naqvi
The Indian Premier League -- India's official -- started off in style last week. The much awaited cricket spectacle is acting as a catalyst in turning cricket into a 'batsmen only' game.
The shorter, or rather shortest version of the gentlemen's game, has no chance for error for the bowlers. And, against bowling attacks usually consisting of Ranji Trophy talent, batsmen are having the time of their lives.

 

cricket
Pakistan cricket: Shaken to the core

Cricket's present face is an absolute tragedy and it has shaken us deep. There was a time, like a seasoned fool, I used to devour the rhetoric of the PCB government or the pages reading about the problems and their solutions. Almost everything in Pakistan cricket, unfortunately, is non-productive. This cricket government has allowed every like-minded regardless of their specialty, horticulturists, people from food and agriculture, the garment industry etcetera, taking over cricket's most specialised appointments.

They have tried to run the game with an attitude that borders on apathy, insanity or ineptness and it has given real cricket priorities zero importance, which when the curtain finally comes down on Dr Nasim Ashraf, with or without the tailcoats, will be the sad epitaph that all will read.

The Pakistan team's reforms are as visible as a thin wisp of mist on a winter evening and no one can really protect the falling grace and stature of the game. Several issues show the PCB top-men in a different light, and they seem like wretches who eke out a precarious criticism as merely conspiracy theories and vested interest.

While people in the administration enjoy the cool breeze of their air conditioners in the office, this lopsided division has led to a huge backlog where thousands of young players queue up asking for their rights, without any chance of getting them. Of course many people should be hauled up for the neglect that has led to this current cricket crisis but nothing like that is going to happen.

In the National Assembly the question was raised about Shafqat Naghmi, the Chief Operating Officer of PCB being paid approximately 560,000 per month (they must have forgotten the three luxury cars, one of them a Mark II). Officially he is allowed use of only one vehicle. And more to it, the bill for fuel exhausted by Mr Naghmi and his family for the month of March 2008 cost PCB a soaring Rs 69,000. And the clarification registered was absolutely being na‘ve -- it was quoted that Mr Naghmi is getting only Rs 38,000 per month. Let us all randomly give a huge yawn. Are we fools?

Reportedly, Khawaja Asif, Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources with an additional charge of Ministry of Sports very correctly, in his own up-front style opined that PCB was being managed by 'someone's favourite', further adding 'this plunder and loot must stop'. It must. In one of the news items it was mentioned, with an element of surprise that the PCB Chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf was given US$1800 (DA) to travel twice to Dubai to appear in television interviews, and a handful of US$2700 (DA) for attending Pakistan's slain coach Bob Woolmer's funeral -- peanuts.

On August 9, 2007, PCB's Chief Finance Officer (CFO) Hasan Ahmad, who later on resigned was paid US$2250 to travel to Dubai to attend the ICC meeting. It was not only restricted to that. According to Voucher Number LBV 159, he was given an advance of US$1500 for the same meeting. Ahsan Hameed Malik, Director Marketing & Communications, now left with only one portfolio was given US$3600 for travel to Dubai to attend an ICC Broadcasters meeting. His travel cost PCB another US$7350.

On October 24, 2007, two days after PCB had given Rs 10m to Inzamam-ul-Haq (denied tenaciously by the PCB Chairman on a television show) though copies of the cheque no: RP 0602505 (0047-02900070) and a hand written receipt form Inzamam dated October 22, 2007 and voucher no: BP 000420 are available, PCB advanced £4350 @ Rs 124.09 to their CFO for travel to England.

According to details, Daily Allowance was £3150 and Taxi Fare two end from meetings £207. It also included another £200 given to Hasan on October 27, 2007. Heartening, he returned back a balance of £ 1193. During this tour, Hasan Ahmad had met the under writers, bankers and insurance brokers.

On November 11, 2007 US$4400 were again given to Hasan Ahmad for travel to Dubai. Another employee Salman Naz was provided US$2480 for accompanying the CFO. Here one must not forget that match tickets worth (approximately) Rs 1.8m were purchased by the PCB during the home series against South Africa in September-October 2007 to facilitate personal friends and corporate guests, a unique instance in the country's cricket history. In the rest of the world boards or their agents sell tickets, here we were incurring financial liabilities re-purchasing our own things.

Sanity in PCB's decision making is often scant. Recently, in a One-day International between Pakistan and Bangladesh at Lahore cricket plunged into darkness, the mirror image of what has truly happened to the game. Darkness was as a result of bad management. Couple of heads should have rolled (steam-rolling would have been a better option) but the same 'failed' contingent tried to redeem their pride by requesting PCB's hierarchy to purchase 600 KV generators, one for each tower at Lahore and Karachi.

Regrettably, there was another ambiguity when the estimated cost proposed by the 'giants' of PCB is approximately Rs 100m. Nonetheless, market surveys suggest that highest quality 600KV generators could be purchased (same quantity) for about Rs 60M.

Is it inefficiency or a deliberate slip-up? Or now PCB needs to employ GM Mathematics (for simple additions only). It's about having luxuries otherwise such facilities could be hired as and when needed. Nonetheless, if an organisation could be run like an aviation industry with hi-fi designations such as General Manager Special Initiatives, General Manager Supply Chains, Manager Inventory, Manager Infrastructure, Manger Procurement etcetera, why shouldn't it own its own back-up electric supply?

However, just to make things simpler what we know is that second hand machines are often available each costing approximately Rs 2,500,000 whilst brand new generator (600 KV) costs around Rs 4,800,000 (Perkins, United Kingdom) or another one (Caterpillar, United Kingdom) costs between Rs 4,500,000 and Rs 4,800,000. Cummins (United States of America) of the same quality is available in the free-market for about Rs 4,500,000. Now, 600 KV Korean (Pangyong) and numerous other Chinese machines are also available.

Korean brands are still workable, and Chinese as unpredictable and one-legged as the cricket management itself. One appreciates and acknowledge PCB's farsightedness still one sincerely hopes this time they'll not forget filling diesel in the generators.

PCB besides purchasing the generators may well also need a 'state of the art' lie-o-meter or a detector. Its requirement is becoming undeniably essential. Fudged figures were provided to the National Assembly regarding Chief Operating Officer Shafqat Naghmi's monthly salary.

Pakistan Cricket Board's overt legal cases against Shoaib Akhtar and another against the Indian Cricket League have shown them in a terrible light. What comes of it is something none of us is ready to predict since none of us is able to. Article after article continues to spread out and the thought of adding one more is something I didn't wish to do.

I have nothing profound to say, no astounding analysis to offer and no insightful gazing into Pakistan's tampered cricket management. I just know that this is the work of a society where nothing is of value anymore. I hate people who have mismanaged cricket and still sleeping oblivious of the harm they have done to the spirit of cricket in our country. Their ineptness, selfishness, paranoid states and eccentricities have made cricket only a tool of their personal triumph and financial well-being.

We can ask primal questions, but we can never stand near the beginning. Our questions and answers are in part determined by the sequence of recent events in which we find ourselves. We apprehend truth from our own source within current environment. The content of our truth depends upon our appropriating the historical foundation. Our own power of generation lies in the rebirth of what has been handed down to us. Dr Nasim's government has made cricket a pile of dead husks.

People who have been selling jeans or counting potatoes in the sacks were given high managerial appointments. This took life out of our most cherished delight. Where Dr Nasim extraordinarily went wrong, we cannot say. Is it that they were eternally inebriated on folklore they produced and then guaranteed, were served up daily to them by the regiment of do-gooders, the crawly flatterers, and or management's most deadly rats, or is that the intoxication of power and hangover of ineptness finally led to excessive damage?

It is now a matter of common knowledge that as the years roll by we are less and less equipped to acquaint with the ill-defined, topsy-turvy corporate culture. Whereas once Pakistan was fairly proficient in areas such as international matches, back-up resource development and a competitive first class cricket with departments providing space and opportunity to the best players, all that we seem to have added to that small but reasonable starts is to go steadily downhill.

As always, there is a whole lot of talking and almost always in the future tense-we will do this, we will do that-but no delivery. Readers may be forgiven for sniggering when Dr Nasim Ashraf had unveiled his grandiose plans about taking cricket to the grassroots, for fine-tuning the senior Pakistan team, for zero tolerance to indiscipline for all in 2006-07. Perhaps he had seven miracles in hand or maybe he was going to give a magic wand to everyone to turn everything into gold.

Top directors-all handpicked in the same manner as spring onions and tomatoes -- and a corporate team of magnificent technocrats have been yelling 'corporate', 'bright and beautiful'. Ironically, they haven't been able to make fool out of people, except themselves. We have only been able to get the banana peels, not even the fruit inside. Pakistan cricket is shaken to the core.





Mohammad Yousuf:
Lost between the leagues

In the 1990s Pakistan produced two world-class middle order batsmen Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf. Both had played a vital role in the Pakistan batting line-up for a long time. But after the retirement of former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq last year, Pakistan have only two regular dependable batsmen in the middle order -- Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.

But these days Pakistan's number one batsman Mohammad Yousuf is facing an uncertain situation regarding his future in the Indian Premier League (IPL).

His induction in the IPL is dependant on the decision of the arbitration panel. But Yousuf will have to wait till April 30 for the arbitration panel hearing regarding his clearance to play in the IPL. But till the decision comes (if in his favour) it will be too late for Yousuf to join the Indian Premier League as the tournament is going on and his name is not included in any team.

Therefore, according to news Mohammad Yousuf is thinking about rejoining the ICL after a disappointing response from the PCB for dealing his case with the ICL and being dropped from Twenty20 game against Bangladesh last week.

Initially, Yousuf signed a contract with the Indian Cricket League (ICL) after being dropped from Pakistan's squad for the first Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa in September last. But he took back his decision when PCB Chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf convinced him that if he cancelled his agreement with ICL he could represent Pakistan in the future and also sign with Indian Premier League (IPL), the officially authorised BCCI tournament.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) imposed a lifetime ban on all types of cricket in Pakistan on all players who joined the ICL. Former skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, Abdul Razzaq, Azhar Mahmood, Taufeeq Umar, Imran Farhat and Shabbir Ahmed were the other Pakistani players who participated in the inaugural ICL tournament earlier this month.

The PCB Chairman assured Yousuf that the board will compensate him and provide all legal assistance if ICL go to court for cancelling the agreement. Mohammad Yousuf accepted the PCB chief's offer and cancelled his contract with ICL and according to expectations the ICL management served him a legal notice for terminating his agreement with ICL.

Yousuf had gave his explanation for his withdrawal from the ICL that he wasn't aware of a certain clause which says that priority had to be given to the league instead of Pakistan when international matches were happening simultaneously. But the ICL management rejected Yousuf's clarification that there is no such clause in the contract.

Mohammad Yousuf through his lawyer filed an application in a Mumbai court against the Indian Cricket League (ICL), saying that he returned the money paid to him before cancelling his contract. Therefore, ICL can't take any legal action against him when they accepted their money back without any objection.

The crisis went deeper when ICL refused Yousuf's claim that he had returned the advance payment to one of its agents in Pakistan. The spokesman said that Yousuf has not returned the advance amount to ICL or to an authorised agent of ICL. "The person to whom Yousuf claimed to have returned the money is not ICL's agent in Pakistan."

Yousuf was not presented for the Indian Premier League's auction because the ICL management sent a letter to the management of the IPL's eight franchises, that Yousuf's legal status was uncertain until the arbitration decision comes.

On the other hand the PCB through its media release says that Yousuf's name will be included in the IPL bidding process. But after all PCB assurance Yousuf not included for the IPL auctioned players.

Being a senior and most important member of Pakistan national cricket team, PCB must provide Mohammad Yousuf all legal assistance and they have to compensate him for his financial loss he faced after cancelling his contract with ICL and not joining the IPL.

Yousuf for the last two years has been included among the top 40 cricketers on the basis of his class and form shown. He was named international cricket's Test Player of the Year at the ICC Awards in Johannesburg last year. It was the first time when any Pakistani player won this award. Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and England's Kevin Pietersen were the other leading contestants for the Test player category.

In 2006 Mohammad Yousuf's tally went up to 1788 runs and he became the highest Test run scorer in a calendar year. He surpassed Sir Viv Richards's 30 years old record of 1710 runs in the year 1976. 

A record ninth century in 2006 was also his fifth in successive matches and he became only the third batsman to run up a streak of five hundreds in successive Tests after Don Bradman, with six, and Jacques Kallis with five hundreds. 

After his magnificent performance now Mohammad Yousuf has climbed to second place in the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Yousuf, 33, has got the highest rating of any Pakistani batsman in history, breaking the 900 barrier for the first time and surpassing Javed Miandad's highest ranking of 885, achieved in February 1989.

Yousuf's frustration is correct as far as his financial loss is concerned as lost millions of rupees for cancelling his contract with Indian Cricket League (ICL) and legal complications kept him away from the high profile Indian Premier League (IPL).

But he should not be disappointed for being dropped from the Twenty20 squad. The shortest version of the game is a game of young, energetic and fast movers and mostly all-rounders. Only batting or bowling is not good enough for selection. A batsman should also bowl and should be a good fielder too.

Without any doubt Yousuf is one of the most important players of the Pakistan Test and one-day squad. But he should accept that he is not a fast mover in the field and not a quick runner between the wickets who can convert singles into doubles.

Therefore, instead of losing heart he should concentrate on his batting in Tests and ODIs and vacate his place for a young player in the Twenty20 version.

 

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

[email protected]



Cricket against Bangladesh and Pakistan's record 11th ODI win

There is no denying the fact that the just-concluded Pakistan-Bangladesh five-match ODI series lacked real thrill and excitement as it was totally a one-sided affair, yet it was something to cheer about. At least the game of cricket went on at home grounds and before the home crowds, who were extremely disappointed after the world champion Australia declined to undertake its March-April tour of Pakistan amid security concerns.

In fact the whole process of hosting cricket events at home was in jeopardy in Pakistan following the Australian pull-out as it was feared that other world teams might follow the suit.

Thanks to Bangladesh cricket 'kids' as also the Zimbabwe cricket 'babes' for their tours of Pakistan in such testing times when not only the giants like Australia delayed their scheduled tour of Pakistan, but also our neighboring BCCI (Indian Board for Control of Cricket) declined a PCB request for arranging an Indian visit to Pakistan, citing busy international and domestic schedules as prime reasons.

In this backdrop when Pakistan was facing the danger of being left in the lurch for a while, the Zimbabwe tour of Pakistan in recent months, followed by the just-concluded BD tour is something which really made a difference for cricket in Pakistan. Had the duo not visited Pakistan at this crucial juncture of time, international cricket would have found it difficult to limp back to normalcy in this troubled part of the world in such a short span of period i.e. a few months.

In fact, Cricket Australia's last week's announcement to visit Pakistan twice within next two years can also be attributed to the positive effects of the 'safe and secure' visits of the two above-mentioned international teams to Pakistan.

The two successive successful tours of two international teams definitely sent positive signals to the world regarding the safe sporting environment conducive to international assignments in Pakistan. The fact is that irrespective of who won and lost during the last two cricket series in Pakistan, cricket has definitely won in the process.

Now coming up to Pakistan's much-trumpeted and much-boasted of 11th successive ODI win, it's something being exaggerated out of proportion. While those at the helm of the affairs are profusely praising their lads for performing 'par excellence', independent observers are of the view that Pakistan team might not be able to continue with their show when they face tougher teams.

One does not want to belittle Pakistan's improved performance, but it does count in cricket against whom the record was piled up. Establishing a record against cricketing giants India or Australia is one thing, and setting up one against cricketing babes like Zimbabwe or Bangladesh is totally another.

There is no denying the fact that Pakistan team recorded 11 successive ODI wins, breaking an earlier record of 10 consecutive wins by Pakistan under the captain of Imran Khan. They beat the opponents in almost all encounters in a 'convincing' manner and did not get 'complacent' in the process. But the question is whether they will continue with this newly-gotten 'form and approach to the game' in case of sterner competitions against strong opponents or will succumb to pressure at crucial junctures of the game as they most of the time.

It is also ironic to note that Pakistan captain Shoaib Malik too is exaggerating the record 11 ODI win to the extent of trying to belittle the earlier record secured under the captainship of Imran Khan, who had won 10 consecutive encounters against tougher teams and mostly in away series.

"Consistency put Pakistan team on the verge of an 11th win in a row. Credit for this record will go to the whole team. It doesn't matter against which team you are playing and achieving this record," Shoaib Malik was quoted to have said.

Shoaib must know that the Imran Khan-led team was a totally different composition and was a force to reckon with in international cricket. The most striking feature of the Imran-led outfit was the batsmen's adaptability to the requirement of the situation and the bowlers' ability to strike at right time, which is now missing from Pakistan's play most of the time.

Pakistan was not a struggling cricketing nation like the current national team. By showering 'extreme' praise on the team for their 'magnificent' performance, Shoaib cannot deny the fact that teams like Australia, South Africa and India might give his boys a tough time in the coming international season. Malik must also know that Pakistan has yet to find a consistent opening pair.

Even our prolific middle order batsmen have been vulnerable to pressure and resort to haphazard shot selection under pressure. Our fielders also find it difficult to remain unruffled in an adverse environment. The bowlers too deliver inconsistently at times. Indiscipline, Players Power and Politics have made inroads into Pakistan cricket after Imran Khan, who had curbed this menace within the team (if not within the cricket set-up) to a certain extent with his iron hand.

But Shoaib does not have the guts like that of Imran to fight out the menace and as such we have to live with it. As such, it remains to be seen whether the Pakistan current winning streak that heralded on 18 November 2007 against India at Jaipur by 31 runs and is in progress with the 11 consecutive victory on 19 April 2008 against Bangladesh at National Stadium Karachi by 150 runs is further stretched or halts when our team faces a tougher opponent.

Another record made during the Pak-BD series which is being exaggeratingly described and publicised by the concerned quarters is that by the left-handed opener Salman Butt who scored 451 runs at an average 90.20, which is the highest aggregate in any bilateral series of five matches. In this way he broke the earlier record set by the prolific Mohammad Yousuf.

But here again one must note that Salman Butt is no match for Mohammad Yousuf at present and that the left-handed batman will definitely falter on tougher outings as an opener.

All said and done, the Pak-BD series was 'cricket for the cause of cricket'.  Credit goes to Bangladesh cricket for letting the game go on in spite of adverse circumstances. We as a nation should extend special thanks to Zimbabwe and Bangladesh for visiting Pakistan in the time of need and help the country go ahead with its cricketing activities in spite of a 'volatile' political and security situation.

Both Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are low profile and weaker members of the ICC, yet both exhibited sportsmanship of a high calibre by opting to undertake tours of Pakistan brushing aside the security concerns in this troubled part for the sake of sports. They have set up an example which the so-called cricketing giants need to emulate. Hats off to the Bangladesh cricket team!

 
olympics
Pakistan again look to returning empty-handed from Olympiad

By Alam Zeb Safi

The popular city of Beijing in China is waiting for the grand world sports festival in the name of the Olympics, and the celebrations for this terrific event have already commenced as its torch, which acts as a cohesive force to bring the Olympic countries close to one another, is being passed through 19 countries of the world.

Being a time-tested friend of China, Pakistan also availed of an opportunity to receive the Olympic flame and to conduct a graceful Torch Relay in the federal capital Islamabad on April 16. The leading sports personalities and the top officials of the responsible sports authorities including the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and the national sports federations might be proud to have conducted a grand Torch Relay, but they must realise that Pakistan doesn't have any charm in the coming Olympics because of the poor stature of Olympic sports in the country.

For those Pakistanis who are anxious to learn about Pakistan's chances of winning medals in the Beijing Olympiad which would be held from August 8 to 24, I would like to say that they should keep their expectations down regarding medals because of the precarious condition of sports in the country. Till the time I pen these words, only in hockey Pakistan have confirmed its participation in the Olympics, and that is, too, by virtue of a sheer stroke of luck when they qualified in spite of finishing third in the 15th Asian Games hockey event held in Doha, Qatar, in December 2006.

According to the International Hockey Federation (FIH) rules, the two leading outfits of the Asian Games qualify directly for the Olympics, but Pakistan earned a ticket to Beijing as the event's surprise package China finished as the runners-up in Doha. As the hosts of the coming Olympiad, China, who stunned Pakistan in the Asian Games semifinal, had already qualified for the Olympics being the host to the prestigious affair.

Pakistan, who have flopped miserably in recent international outings, are seeded sixth in the 12-nation competition that is seen as the most prestigious in international hockey even ahead of the World Cup. As per draws the Greenshirts have been bracketed with the holders Australia and title contenders Holland in Pool B, the other teams being Great Britain, South Africa and Canada. Australia and Holland are number two and three respectively in the world ranking and the Greenshirts would have to show a miracle to reach the semifinals.

Keeping in view the ground realities and the slump Pakistan are experiencing these days, it would really be a difficult task for the team to spring any surprises in Beijing.

So far, out of ten Olympic medals Pakistan have claimed in the Olympiad history, hockey has a lion share of eight medals which includes three gold, three silver and two bronze. For the first time in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, Pakistan claimed a silver medal under the captaincy of Abdul Hameed, followed by gold in 1960 Rome Olympics, silver in 1964 Tokyo Olympics, gold in 1968 Mexico Olympics, silver in 1972 Munich Olympics, bronze in 1976 Montreal (Canada) Olympics, gold in 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and a bronze medal in the 1992 Barcelona (Spain) Olympics. But since 1992 Pakistan have been unable to win any medal in this inspiring event.

Apart from hockey, boxing was considered a potentially glorious sport and Pakistani boxer Syed Hussain Shah was the boxer who had claimed a bronze medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. But now like hockey this game too is fading away as it proved this year when Pakistani boxers failed to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in history.

If we go into the records of the Olympic medals of Pakistan, wrestling has a share in it, and it happened in the 1960 Rome Olympics, when Mohammad Bashir won bronze medal for Pakistan, making the country proud for grabbing two medals as Pakistan had also grabbed gold in the hockey event in those Olympics under the leadership of Abdul Hameed.

It was really something fantastic from wrestler Mohammad Bashir, who had left an example for his succeeding generation, but so far Pakistan has been out of colour in this sport of power. However, it would also be a great effort if the Pakistani wrestlers make it to the Beijing Olympics as they are yet to play in the last qualifying competitions which would be held in Poland from May 2-4.

In rowing, a sport of not high class, Pakistan are yet to pass through qualifying rounds before making it to the Olympics as three rowers including Mohammad Akram, Niamat Karim and Ali Hassan will show their skills in the Qualifiers which would be held in Shanghai, China from April 26 to 28.

In the same way, in athletics too the Pakistanis have failed to make it to the Olympics after using their potential in the First South Asian Athletics Championship held in Kochi, India the other month, but still a prolific athlete, the triple jumper Zafar Iqbal has a chance to qualify for the Beijing grand event as he is going to Malaysia in the coming few days not only to participate in a training session there but to try his luck to earn a ticket for the Olympics by competing in various competitions.

Similarly, the Pakistani swimmers, shooters, taekwondo players and footballers etc, have already failed to earn Olympic berths and the national sailors also don't have any hope of qualifying for the prestigious festival as they are yet to show their mettle in the Qualifiers which are expected to be held in Indonesia at the end of May or June as the schedule is yet to be announced. Now, for mere representation, the Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF), Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) and National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) have decided to send one or two players to the Olympics on wild cards, while Pakistan Rowing Federation (PRF) and Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) don't want to send any one on wild cards which are usually offered to the developing countries for mere participation.

All the above stated ground realities show the real face and standard of the Olympic sports in Pakistan. Now the question arises who is responsible for all this? No sports governing body in the country is ready to take the responsibility for the slump in Olympic sports. Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) blames the government for the poor standard of sports, while the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), which trickles money to the national sports federations, says that it will take a long time when Pakistan will be able to show itself as a vital force at the Olympic level.

In the same way, the real spirit behind the sports, the national sports federations, say that they don't have enough resources to promote the games. But these excuses would further tarnish the fragile entity of sports. No doubt, money is a problem, but presently, PSB have a good enough budget of around Rs 300 million along with a huge assistance being given by the Pakistan Sports Trust (PST) in the fields of equipment, and in arranging foreign trips etc.

Keeping in view such a positive sign, it is the foremost duty of the national sports federations to streamline their efforts for the promotion of their respective sports by putting aside personal interests, and only then Pakistan could bring improvement in Olympic sports.

 

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

[email protected]

 

It's all about management

After beating, rather crushing Bangladesh and creating a record of 11 consecutive wins, the Pakistan cricket management is ecstatic and why shouldn't they be? But in spite of this expected triumph, shortcomings should not be neglected. No one would argue that in comparison with the upcoming assignments, the wins in last two series (Zimbabwe, Bangladesh) should not be kept in our heads for long.

Going back to the Zimbabwe series when a flurry of changes was made, my concern is that against Bangladesh the same policy was neglected, why? Have we found a formidable combination to compete with the leading teams in the world?

In my opinion a few boys should have been given another chance in this series such as Khalid Latif, Khurram Manzoor and wicket-keeper Sarfraz Ahmed. They could have been called if not for the full series then at least after winning three matches at the expense of experienced players like Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Kamran Akmal etc as they would be in the team anyway in the future for big games. All in all, the selection committee actually has missed a chance to try out youngsters and subsequently a chance to strengthen the bench.

Moving away from on-the-field to off-the-field affairs where the management is to play a key role to keep the house in order, the Pakistan Cricket Board is doing all sort of things but their main duty is not taken care of in the manner it should have been.

Under the dynamic leadership of Dr Nasim Ashraf -- don't get confused readers, I only used the word "dynamic" because the chairman is physically quite active and keeps travelling here and there -- who took the helm of the cricket affairs in October 2006, has really nothing to show to justify his appointment. Expectedly a lot of criticism urfaced when Dr Ashraf was chosen and it was said that his choice was made due to his management skills.

I know what you are thinking at the moment. His performance to-date only lacks the skill which was attributed to him upon his appointment. To his bad luck since he took over he has not had a chance to sit in peace and he has hardly put a foot right.

Starting from the doping controversy when fast bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were banned for two and one year respectively, later on the World Cup debacle, Bob Woolmer's tragic death and so on, he remained encircled by criticism. People must be impressed when the chairman took the blame and stepped down after the World Cup in the West Indies last year, but Dr Ashraf came back "on the will of the President".

The point is that when a person can take responsibility of the defeat in which he was not directly involved, then why can't he think of stepping down on management failures which is his topmost responsibility?

There are instances during the tenure of Mr Chairman when one or the other player was given undue liberties. The example of Younis Khan is quite prominent when he refused to take on the leadership after Inzamam's departure and passed on reckless comments that "I don't want to be a dummy captain" and the latest controversy was again created by Younis over the questioning by the ICC anti-corruption team.

This time round he was unhappy and claimed that he was not properly briefed by the board prior to his meeting with the ICC anti-corruption team. The question is that were the other fellows (Danish Kaneria and Umar Gul) briefed by the board prior to their meetings with the ICC unit? If not then why Younis Khan is raising eyebrows and why the board is not stopping him from reaching out to the media. After all, such things do tarnish the image of the Pakistan cricket and of course of the management.

Things do not end here, later Younis for some reason announced not to go to India to participate in the IPL, and reviewed his decision later however. Something is said to be fishy in this matter as well.

Now turning to the cricket leagues in India, after the ICL the cricket lovers are watching the colourful IPL these days which is doing well thanks to the backing of all the boards. By mentioning these leagues I actually want to recall a statement from the board chairman that he had some reservations over the use of Pakistan's name for one of the teams in the recently concluded ICL competition.

I personally see no harm upon the use of Pakistan's name as after going through the line-up the name was justified. It shows that how patriotic our board is. If this is the case then why are great players being humiliated on a regular basis, starting from Javed Miandad to Waqar Younis and now Shoaib Akhtar.

This is not the only example, when Pakistan's name was badly tarnished in the West Indies in connection with the suspicious death of Bob Woolmer, did the board do anything about that? We should take a leaf out of the BCCI's book. In a manner they handled the case of Harbhajan Singh was nothing but true patriotism.

We have to think that where did we go wrong and it's high time to put our own house in order before pointing fingers towards others as to me it is a non-issue if the ICL used Pakistan XI as the name of a team. So instead of blaming the ICL the PCB management should ponder upon their own performance that why players are running towards the ICL, how many cricket grounds have they built to nourish cricket at the grass-root level and what were the flaws in their management skills etc. For the sake of the game finding the answers of these questions are indeed very important.

It is often said for players that it is better to play for Pakistan rather than playing with Pakistan, why only players are targeted on every occasion, whether it is a World Cup defeat or a disciplinary matter always players are encircled by the board keeping aside the fact that the money earned by the board is because of these players so they should be given the due share both in terms of finance as well as respect.

The present board has evolved a good system to award central contracts to players on the basis of their performances but why the performance of the players is reviewed, why the performance of the PCB officials can't be reviewed periodically.

Can someone recall if there has any committee been constituted to review the performance of the board officials. We saw a committee to review the performance during the 2003 World Cup which eventually maligned captain Waqar Younis, then again after the 2007 World Cup another committee was formed to declare Inzamam-ul-Haq as a dictator.

Later on a team was formed again to choose the coach for the national side which short-listed three individuals and out of them Geoff Lawson was picked by snubbing the more suitable Dav Whatmore, why? How would I know? There are so many issues other than the players so come on for a change let's constitute a committee to review the performance of the present board.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor

[email protected]

 

Twenty20 cricket: Entertainment redefined

The Indian Premier League -- India's official -- started off in style last week. The much awaited cricket spectacle is acting as a catalyst in turning cricket into a 'batsmen only' game.

The shorter, or rather shortest version of the gentlemen's game, has no chance for error for the bowlers. And, against bowling attacks usually consisting of Ranji Trophy talent, batsmen are having the time of their lives.

As expected, hard-hitting players started to dominate the proceedings right from the word go. Kolkata Knight Riders' wicket-keeper batsman, Brendon McCullum of New Zealand, wreaked havoc on the first day of the mega event. Respect for the bowlers was nowhere to be seen; I mean, who could have expected one Glenn McGrath being smashed for six over point!

Twenty20 definitely is attracting cricket fans all over the world and it is of course good for the game, the players and the fans alike. But in my opinion, the real essence of cricket would be lost somewhere in the middle.

The Indian Premier League is bent on giving a one word definition to the word cricket; i.e. entertainment.

Cricket mad Indians are having a great time with the biggest names in the game gracing the land of the Ganges.

Leading business moguls of the country are letting their purse do the talking. Players are creating an aura of ecstasy and the Bollywood stars are matching this euphoria off the field.

While India is busy basking in the glory of the IPL, the other side of Wagah is becoming the battle field of Troy, where Agamemnon is inevitably in a frenzy denying Achilles his deserved glory. Shoaib Akhtar is getting the taste of his own medicine now as Dr Nasim Ashraf bowls one bouncer after the other to the fastest bowler in the world.

His absence has not only affected the national bowling arsenal but Shoaib's unavailability also caused a minor hiccup for King Khan's Kolkata Knight Riders. Although they made easy work of their rivals in the opening matches, still Shoaib's presence would have added a different dimension to the Knight Riders' star-studded lineup.

Whatever the case may be, the biggest beneficiary of this whole setup is Indian first-class cricket and the players who ply their trade in the top tier of Indian local cricket. The opportunity to bat alongside Ricky Ponting and Jacques Kallis or sharing the new ball with Shaun Pollock is something never experienced before by players in the subcontinent at least.

The inception of a premier club cricket event was always on the cards after the advent of Twenty20 cricket, and it has opened new horizons for cricket lovers especially those young players who are beginning their careers and are knocking the doors of international cricket.

But all this shine and glitter of the lucrative IPL and the sudden rise of Twenty20 cricket has some bleak aspects to it.

Firstly, the traditional form of cricket, especially One-day Internationals are fast moving towards extinction. People who were already losing their interest in the 50-over game, found this new (read: shorter) version of cricket more attractive and entertaining. It is exactly the scenario faced by Test cricket during the late 1960s and the early 1970s when one-day cricket was starting to catch root.

Test cricket managed to survive but the same cannot be said about ODIs that are facing a tougher challenge thrown by Twenty20 cricket.

And it won't stop here as now, with the help of Sir Allen Stanford, England are dreaming about starting a Twenty20 league of their own. It has to be mentioned here that Sir Allen Stanford is solely responsible for staging a Twenty20 league in the Caribbean. The aim of this Texas based billionaire is to promote the game of Cricket in the United States.

Now that he has ECB's support, the time is near when cricketers would come at par with European footballers. But, just like football players there is a chance; cricketers would be willing to give up their national duties in favour of the lucrative leagues. Although IPL's organisers have categorically said that they have no place for rebels; yet, it remains to be seen what steps the BCCI would take when one such case comes to life.

 

 

 

 

 

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