cricket
Never learn from mistakes, make a couple more
No doubt it was the Board's biased and unfair treatment of the players that forced them players to think about their future and take such an extreme step that has put Pakistan in a difficult situation
By Imran Farooqi
Hurricanes continue to rock Pakistan's cricketing coast with amazing regularity. Nowhere in the world are controversies generated as 'effortlessly' as they are in this country. Be it a political blunder or an economic crisis or a sport-related scandal, controversies chase Pakistan like a pack of hunting dogs bent upon tearing down their quarry. Similarly, nowhere on this planet is cricket as badly organised as it is in this part of the world.

Is the Pakistan Cricket Board untouchable?
Nationally, cricket is reigned by lawyers, doctors, diplomats and by former cricketers of lesser credentials and of greater 'PR skills'
By Syed Ahsan Ali
Cricket is played by players but run by administrators. Administrators, people who in our country are rare species who know everything and this uncluttered knowledge of things give them enough insight and power to run affairs in a manner which is unfortunately beyond sanity.

Roger Federer: A true sporting superstar
In 2004, the Fed Express became the first man since 1988 to win three of four Grand Slams in the same year – the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
Every sport has superstar(s). And there are a few (players) who go onto create such legacies in their respective sport that they become 'untouchables' and the history they create is forbidden to forget.

FIH President prompted
the idea of Asia Cup hockey
This year, Pakistan had initially decided to skip the Asia Cup for no logical reason. The 'argument' given was that the team is in a rebuilding stage so it would not participate in all the tourneys
By Dr Ijaz Ahmed
It is a strange fact that the continent which till the early 1980s had won more hockey Olympic golds and World cup titles than the rest of the world combined together had no exclusive hockey competition of its own. The Asian hockey nations met in a regional meeting only during the Asian Games which is of course a multi-disciplinary sporting event.

John Buchanan fails to impress Pakistan Cricket Board!
Player-power hasn't erupted from within the team, the board's inconsistent decisions and statements have gone miles into adding to problems. It is a question of credibility
By Dr Nauman Niaz
It is not, perhaps, wrong to say that corporate culture is often based upon the instinct of discipline and professionalism and loyalty, the spirit of co-operation and the fine sensitive honour which are essential to true cricket. This has been less clearly marked in the Ad hoc committees running the game in Pakistan.

'Irritating Cricket League' (ICL) testing PCB's nerves
The record shows that Razzaq was obviously off colour therefore he should not have taken a hasty decision of calling it a day
By Muhammad Asif Khan
The Indian Cricket League is the talk of the town these days and every one is trying to figure out the mystery behind it. In Pakistan the cricket set-up plunged into a crisis yet again after the events followed the announcement of the ICL league as few big guns decided to join the league and the PCB made matter worse by threatening the players that they would not be allowed to play for Pakistan again. The hostile statements did not help rather made a mess of the situation.

 

 

 

cricket
Never learn from mistakes, make a couple more

Hurricanes continue to rock Pakistan's cricketing coast with amazing regularity. Nowhere in the world are controversies generated as 'effortlessly' as they are in this country. Be it a political blunder or an economic crisis or a sport-related scandal, controversies chase Pakistan like a pack of hunting dogs bent upon tearing down their quarry. Similarly, nowhere on this planet is cricket as badly organised as it is in this part of the world.

Unfortunately, we seem to have mastered the art of blowing things out of proportions, and we, as a nation, never learn from our mistakes. Instead, we generally make a couple of mistakes to justify one! Anybody interested in learning the art must follow Pakistan or -- to be more specific -- the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Hardly do we recover from one crisis than we find ourselves in the midst of another.

As usual the PCB -- the body that is responsible for running the affairs of the game in our country in a professional way -- is taking things for granted and instead of making sincere and rational endeavours to deal with the thorny issue of the Indian Cricket League (ICL), is busy in creating more confusion among the players as well as the followers of the game.

What was required of the Board was to develop a comprehensive and effective policy to counter this genuine threat. But here we have a set-up wherein everybody has taken upon himself to defend every wrong that is perpetrated by the PCB regardless of whether such an effort is worth trying.

Normally it is the head of a governing body or the media manager who issues statements and holds press conferences to brief the media on a certain subject. In Pakistan everybody, be it the PCB chief, or director operations, or COO, or media director, all consider it their 'moral' as well as 'religious' obligation to speak on the issue having no idea what they are talking about.

A couple of days ago, COO Shafqat Naghmi had warned that any Pakistan player joining the ICL would have no place in the national team and would be banned for life. Ignoring the threat, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat accepted the highly lucrative offers. Abdul Razzaq followed his team-mates after announcing his retirement from international cricket.

And the same day PCB Chairman Dr Nasim Ashraf, negating the COO's remarks, told us that no decision had so far been made regarding closing the door of international cricket on those who did join the ICL. Too much for the unity of command!

Would not it be better if the PCB chief asks his comrades to keep their mouths shut and let him handle this sensitive issue? No doubt the PCB had looked pretty serious when it said players signing up for the ICL would not be considered for national duty. However, the four players' decision to sign the contract has prompted a U-turn in the PCB's stance, which now states the matter will be discussed and decided in an ad hoc committee meeting soon.

From day one the PCB has mishandled the issue. Had it treated Inzamam, Yousuf, Imran, and Abdul Razzaq with respect and taken them into confidence regarding their future with the national team, the embarrassing situation it finds itself in right now could have been avoided. No doubt it was the Board's biased and unfair treatment of the players that forced them players to think about their future and take such an extreme step that has put Pakistan in a difficult situation.

The Board has no right to stop players from exploring other avenues of income as long as they are serving their country satisfactorily. After all, it's everybody's right to make every possible effort to increase his income.

Cricketers 'shelf' life is usually not more than 10 to 15 years. To make most of the time available they must be allowed to play wherever they want to provided they do not compromise on national interests. However, the PCB will be justified in stopping them from representing their country once the players' personal interests clash with that of the team's. But as long as they are discharging their national duties with sincerity and pride they must be allowed to participate in events of their choice.

With four having already joined the ICL, and some others considering the offers that look irresistible Pakistan cricket is faced with a tough situation that may take an ugly turn in the next few days. With skipper Shoaib Malik, all-rounder Shahid Afridi, and pacers Shoaib Akhtar and Muhammad Asif continuously in touch with the organisers of the ICL and the Twenty20 World Cup just a couple of weeks away, signs are looking pretty ominous as far Pakistan's chances for the inaugural edition are concerned.

To make matters worse, the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have ruled out any action against the breakaway League. The ICC's stance is quite interesting as it has refused to be drawn into dispute, saying that it was a matter between the ICL and the BCCI and it was up to the latter to decide whether it recognized the former or not. On its part, for the time-being at least, the BCCI, too, has ruled out any action against its rival.

The PCB chief has hinted at speaking to Yousuf, probably fearing the loss could be too much for Pakistan to bear and might produce disastrous consequences. Of those who've confirmed signing the ICL contract, the right-hander is the most valuable player. With Inzamam no more a part of the scheme of things and Younis Khan struggling to regain his touch at international level, Yousuf's subtle as well as calming influence is vital for Pakistan cricket's survival.

However, the issue warrants immediate attention and all players needed to be taken into confidence by the PCB chief. Holding meeting with one player won't serve the purpose. Dr Ashraf must consult all the players, specially those who have been approached by the ICL, and listen to their views. Such a practice though a bit time-consuming will give the PCB a better idea as to where it stands on the issue and what needs to be done to check the players' unwanted exodus. Whatever be the decision, Pakistan's interest is supreme. Any player interested in joining the ICL must be told in clear terms that his contract must not in any way block his participation for Pakistan in international competitions.

On the other hand, one must not forget that those who've already accepted the ICL offers have served this country for a considerable period of time providing priceless entertainment with their performances all over the world. They must get the respect they deserve, but that respect must not be bestowed at the cost of national pride.


Is the Pakistan Cricket Board untouchable?

Cricket is played by players but run by administrators. Administrators, people who in our country are rare species who know everything and this uncluttered knowledge of things give them enough insight and power to run affairs in a manner which is unfortunately beyond sanity.

Cricket is a sport which should be controlled by the faces that have played the game at some level to understand its nuances, complexities and technicalities. But nationally (Pakistan Cricket Board), cricket is reigned by lawyers, doctors, diplomats, and by the former cricketers of lesser credentials and of greater 'PR skills'.

So if cricket in Pakistan survives the chances of becoming another non-productive body then it would be nothing less than a miracle while looking at the game's national administrators finding novel ways to commit one mistake after another.

But generally 'exemplary' mishandling of the affairs by the board officials is credited to the cricketers who are dragged into the muddle. This trend of blaming cricketers for the crimes in which they do not embroiled themselves is bringing a bad name to the country, to the game as well and most importantly to the cricketers.

If some officials think that by defaming national cricketers they can continue with their merry ways then it is the rarest and most frivolous policy they can guard.

Since The Oval fiasco last year where things went horribly wrong, Pakistan cricket has suffered several jolts that can easily be traced on the 'Richter scale'. And if you dissect each and every setback faced by our cricket, you will find scapegoats.

Players have been used by the cricket board as old warriors, used their armour to shield every attack came at their way. Each and every time a committee is formed, appellate sits, tribunal probes, they find the culprits in the playing eleven as if our players are rogues than sportsmen of international level.

The Oval furore came and went by with the team management bore the whole responsibility. Veteran cricketer Zaheer Abbas was axed as manager and the whole affair swept under the carpet. Nobody went deep in to find the real reasons. Then the doping scandal raised its ugly head; bowlers received all the innuendos and remarks about their credibility as sportsmen, Pakistan has been discussed with disgust all around the globe, but cricketing authority remained unscathed.

Pakistan suffered their worst defeat in the 2007 World Cup, cricketers were portrayed as 'assassins' after Bob Woolmer, an elderly coach, lost his life in Jamaica, somehow Inzamam's name became synonymous to Hitler.

But the cricket officials gave resigns and pulled them back immediately after receiving pat on their back for their commitment and vision in finding the scapegoat of everybodyís liking.

Mohammad Asif was appointed as the vice-captain and then dismissed from the post because the 'thinkers' sitting in the lavish lobbies thought a tentative and struggling young opener can bear the brunt of specialist job of an opener besides providing assistance to his skipper in managing the most volatile cricket unit in the world more efficiently than a confident, aggressive and shrewd fast bowler can do.

Two vital components of the Pakistan team -- a premier batsman and hard-hitting all-rounder -- were dropped from the side for the Twenty20 World Championship, merely on the whims and notions of the selection committee but no one raised an objection because the board 'knows what it is doing' most of the time without even a shred of doubt. The result of this is still to be seen.

Shoaib Akhtar, after being called to face the disciplinary committee for leaving the camp in Karachi earlier this month without anybody's permission but without hearing his side of the story, has been fined heavily. The bowler went against the fine and asked the reasons. The board felt pressure and took a U-turn to lift the fine unconditionally. But what happened to the people who took the first decision? We all can keep guessing.

Senior players have been feeling the pinch after some decisions of the board such as appointment of young captain in presence of some real senior pros. In spite of looking for solution of the whole ill-feeling in the seniors' camp, the board bent on doing what it felt like doing.Attitude of indifference and disrespect forced the players to opt for the Indian Cricket League (ICL) which is seen by general public as a lust for money and fame but it can be a retaliation of some shocking misdemeanour by the board officials who have been gaining a reputation of high-handed sergeants than listening colleagues. The ICL issue ignited once again the heat in the hearts of common Pakistanis that players are running after large sum of money than pride and patriotism.

But I believe it is the two-way traffic where behaviour of the board is equally responsible for creating this mess. We cannot only hold our players responsible for this whole issue. They felt hurt on their exclusion. The PCB should have talked to them than releasing statements through TV channels and newspapers. How would you run cricket safely when cricketers do not feel secure and respected?

Someone has to take notice of the ways of the board functioning without any proper and considerate feeling while stretching its excursions beyond its powers.

Players face all kind of trials, media trials to committees, tribunals and probing functionaries but the board officials get away with mishandling of the highest order. This is not done. Someone has to intervene to tell the board to mend its ways sooner than later.

But Pakistanis have to understand that it is not always our stars that are on the wrong side of the things, sometimes they have been pushed to the limits by faces who do not know a thing about running a sport governing body. Kindly seek the real culprits rather than just getting after hurt and mistreated cricketers.

 

The contributor is a freelance writer [email protected]

Roger Federer: A true sporting superstar

Every sport has superstar(s). And there are a few (players) who go onto create such legacies in their respective sport that they become 'untouchables' and the history they create is forbidden to forget.

As I recall my memory and every sport that I watch with generous interest and enthusiasm in some cases, there are not many sports that are dominated by a single person.

Few of the remaining sports that have or were one-man-show as I grew up were: basketball (in NBA), where Michael Jordan was the true icon of the game playing for Chicago Bulls in the last decade of the previous century; golf (both PGA and international), where Tiger Woods's name is synonymous to everyone as he is already considered to be one of the greatest players to have honoured the game; squash, where two names are destined to be mentioned forever. Jansher and Jahangir Khan (both from Pakistan) are the legendary heroes of the game and have numerous records to their names.

There have been other sports -- team sports -- that have seen famous players make their impression on the playing fields (courts/grounds/stadiums).

Football, the world's most played game, has seen the dominance of Brazil over the years with players like Pele, Romario, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka, to name a few, in their ranks.

Cricket has been 'totally dominated' by the Australians -- they have won the last three World Cups and have been ranked the number one side in Test cricket as well for a number of years. Superstars such as Waugh brothers, Ricky Ponting, Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were the fear for opposing teams whenever they played together.

Tennis is one such sport that has seen many players -- male and female -- pencilling in a lot of glorified history. And one such name in this era of ours that has totally blown apart his opponents and has single-handedly claimed all the fame of the game is Roger Federer.

The 26-year-old Federer is the top-ranked player in the world since February 2, 2004. And he holds the all-time record for most consecutive weeks as the top-ranked male player. His current lead in the rankings guarantees that on August 27, 2007 he will break Steffi Graf's record for most consecutive weeks (186) as the top-ranked male or female player.

The Swiss has taken over the game by storm since he defeated then number one, Pete Sampras, in 2001 Wimbledon quarter-finals. Sampras, who was one a 31-match winning streak, was eyeing a fifth straight Wimbledon crown but the emergence of Federer on the world stage shattered his dream.

Federer, who won his first ATP title that very year, is believed, by many experts and many of his own tennis peers, to be the greatest men's singles player of all time.

And why shouldn't they think like that. Federer is on a hot Grand Slam winning streak at the moment. With only the French Open crown eluding him, Federer has won eleven Grand Slam titles in a record 17 consecutive appearances.

Federer, who just recently won the Western & Southern Financial Group Masters final in Ohio by beating American James Blake, chalked up his 50th tournament title and became the fifth-youngest player in history to reach fifty.

These fifty titles include the Grand Slams as well as three Tennis Masters Cup titles and 14 ATP Masters Series titles. And with the half-century of titles in the bag, Federer is eyeing the 51st when the US Open starts from Monday (tomorrow).

Federer is a down-to-earth guy. Always in a relaxed mood, which he wasn't in his early playing days, Federer even after achieving so much in his career remains modest.

After winning the fiftieth title of his career Federer said: "It's not a goal I set for myself in my career, but it's definitely a nice number to get to, especially in terms of titles. It's really a lot, you know, so it's great".

Federer has always been destined for glory. In 2004, the Fed Express became the first man since 1988 to win three of four Grand Slams in the same year -- the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open. And he repeated the feat in 2006 again to become the first and only male player. And Federer's dominance on hard-courts and grass-courts is so remarkable that he has won both the Wimbledon and US Open singles titles in three consecutive years.

And when he won the Australian Open title this year -- his third -- he became the only male player ever to have won three separate Grand Slam tournaments at least three times.

But Federer's play on clay hasn't been as dominating as on other surfaces. He lost to Rafael Nadal -- the world no two -- in the finals this year and the previous year as well. A year before that, he reached the semis.

Pete Sampras, who won a record fourteen Grand Slam titles, had the same bad luck in his career as well. He never won a French Open title in spite of winning a record number of Grand Slams. Many say that Federer would succeed where many have failed and would complete the feat of winning all the Slams.

Federer's record book fills up every time he goes to the court. At Wimbledon this year, Federer reached his ninth consecutive Grand Slam singles final -- an all time record in men's tennis. And when he won it, he tied Bjorn Borg's record of five consecutive Wimbledon championships.

Federer has an aura of his own. He is versatile. He is an adept volleyer and an excellent baseliner. Has a splendid one-handed backhand which has made even his critics to shower praise.

He has a serve difficult to read. He generally serves with placement and precision, but on occasion he will hit a powerful serve to keep his opponents off balance.

His footwork, balance, and court coverage are exceptional, and he is considered to be one of the fastest movers in the game.

Federer's relaxed, smooth playing style belies his aggressive and opportunistic tactics. He constructs points to get in a position that allows him to hit winners with his powerful groundstrokes.

And it is not only the game that Federer is known for. He also works voluntarily for different organisations to help out the poor and needy.

And with his personality gaining popularity by the day, he has been awarded for his achievements every now and then. In 2007, he was named Laureus World Sportsman of the Year for a record third consecutive time. These awards are also called Sports Oscars. And to go on with the theme, he is the first living Swiss to be pictured on a postage stamp. The stamp, which was issued this year in April, shows Federer with the Wimbledon trophy.

Federer is just three short of Sampras's all-time Grand Slam record and at just the age of 26, he surely has a lot of years ahead to achieve the feat. Federer, who cited Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker as idols, has his nearest counterparts a far way down.

And he is currently with out a coach and doesn't look like missing one either and he continues to overpower his opponents and bag more and more titles. He has his girlfriend, Mirka, by his side in most of the tournaments. Mirka, herself, is a former tennis pro.

And with the US Open title defence just around the corner, he has other important assignments as well coming up to cheer up his fans.

Federer will compete against Sampras in three exhibition matches in November. He has been a first-choice-athlete for different brands and his association with high-profile companies is second to none.

Federer has been involved in other exhibition matches as well such as playing against Andre Agassi at a tennis court built on a helipad of a Dubai hotel and against Nadal on a court built half clay and half hard.

 

The writer is a staff member at 'The News' Karachi [email protected]

 

FIH President prompted
the idea of Asia Cup hockey

It is a strange fact that the continent which till the early 1980s had won more hockey Olympic golds and World cup titles than the rest of the world combined together had no exclusive hockey competition of its own. The Asian hockey nations met in a regional meeting only during the Asian Games which is of course a multi-disciplinary sporting event.

This anomaly was noticed by a person no less than Rene Frank, the then president of International Hockey Federation (FIH) and he expressed his feelings in no uncertain terms.

During a meeting of the FIH, Rene Frank told A I S Dara of Pakistan (who was the vice president of FIH) "not to talk about Asian hockey as only seven out of the 19 member countries of the Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) play regular hockey!"

When Dara and another heavyweight hockey personality of Pakistan, Brig Manzoor Hussain Atif, got elected as president and vice president of the AHF respectively, they planned to boost the hockey activities in Asia. This led to the birth of the Asia Cup. Mr Ramaswamy, the president of Indian hockey federation, announced to donate the trophy for the said tournament.

The AHF executive committee decided to hold the tournament in two phases to ensure the participation of maximum number of countries. It planned to hold preliminaries followed by the final round of the Asia Cup.

The preliminaries were allotted to Singapore and Sri Lanka for two groups of countries from two separate regions of the continent. The final round was scheduled to be played in Lahore (the venue was later shifted to Karachi due to persistent wet weather in Lahore).

The AHF executive committee very rightly dedicated the First Asia Cup to the memory of Dara who expired in January 1981 as a tribute to his invaluable contribution for the promotion of the hockey throughout the world in general and Asia in particular; in addition Dara was also the main brain behind the idea of the Asia Cup.

It is a strange coincidence that the first World Cup was also originally allotted to Lahore in 1971. But then there were political reasons for it to be moved out of not only Lahore but even Pakistan (it was staged in Barcelona, Spain).

Lahore eventually got the opportunity to host the World Cup after 19 years in 1990. Likewise, in the case of Asia Cup as well, Lahore was again named as the host for the fifth edition in 1999. However, the city was unlucky for the second time as once again it was deprived of the opportunity under bizarre circumstances: many of the participating countries refused to travel to Pakistan, citing security fears in the wake of the October 1999 takeover of the Government by the Army.

Resultantly, the 1999 edition was shifted to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. And by staging the next Asia Cup as well in 2003, Malaysia became the first nation to host this competition on two separate occassions. India is now poised to share this distinction as Chennai is ready to host the event this time (Delhi held the third Asia Cup in 1989).

This year, Pakistan had initially decided to skip the Asia Cup for no logical reason. The 'argument' given was that the team is in a rebuilding stage so it would not participate in all the tourneys. The federation justified the decision by saying that the other major hockey nations also pick and choose the events: Countries like Australia and Germany absent themselves from Champions trophy off and on.

It is ridiculous to equate an annual tournament like the Champions Trophy with a title tournament like the Asia Cup which is held once in four years like the Olympics, World Cup, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. And the winner of the Asia cup is bestowed with the title of the Asian champions for next four years.

 

FACTS & FEATS

*Pakistan's tally of 51 goals in the inaugural tournament(1982) is a record for a single edition of the Asia Cup for any team.

*Pakistan also shares with Malaysia the record for the highest number of goals in a single match. In the 1993 event, both Pakistan and Malaysia defeated Thailand by an identical margin of 20-0.

*Goalkeeper Shahid Ali Khan has the unique distinction of being a member of the Pakistan team in all the three Asia Cup victories.

*Centre-forward Hasan Sardar with 26 goals in two editions is the overall top scorer for any team in Asia Cup history.

*In a single edition, the record for the top scorer for any team is 16 goals which is shared by two Pakistanis: Hasan Sardar in the 1982 Asia Cup and Sohail Abbas in the 1999 edition.

*Hasan Sardar also has the distinction of scoring the first hat-trick in Asia Cup history (v Sri Lanka in 1982).

*Inside-left Hanif Khan scored Pakistan's first ever goal in Asia Cup (v Sri Lanka).

*Pakistan lost to South Korea 0-4 in the semifinal of the 1993 Asia Cup in Hiroshima, a city built on the nuclear ravaged rubbles. For Pakistan it was no less than a calamity as they achieved many dubious firsts:

1. It was Pakistan's first ever defeat in Asia Cup (after 24 matches). 2. It failed to finish in top two in a continental contest that is Asian Games/Asia Cup for the first time. 3. Pakistan lost to an Asian country by a margin exceeding three goals for the first time.

*In the 1999 edition, Pakistan had the Cup well within its grasp, as in the final against South Korea, Pakistan led 4-2 well into the second half. But the Koreans showed a remarkable recovery: they not only equalised but also retained the title by netting three quick goals to win the final 5-4.

*In the last final (2003), Pakistan and India were locked at 2-2 with a few minutes to go. All the four goals had been scored off penalty corners. However, India suddenly exploded and blasted two excellent field goals in the dying minutes to lift the Asia Cup for the first ever time.

 

The contributor of this article is a freelance hockey writer

[email protected]

ASIA CUP: ROLL OF HONOUR

Edition   Host                First                Second                Third

1st (1982)                Karachi (Pakistan)                Pakistan                India                China

2nd (1985)                Dacca (Bangladesh)                Pakistan                India                Korea

3rd (1989)                New Delhi (India)                Pakistan                India                Korea

4th (1993)                Hiroshima (Japan)                Korea                India                Pakistan

5th (1999)                Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)                Korea                Pakistan                India

6th (2003)                Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)                India                Pakistan                Korea

 

John Buchanan fails to impress Pakistan Cricket Board!

It is not, perhaps, wrong to say that corporate culture is often based upon the instinct of discipline and professionalism and loyalty, the spirit of co-operation and the fine sensitive honour which are essential to true cricket. This has been less clearly marked in the Ad hoc committees running the game in Pakistan.

For organised decisions create a fellow-feeling amongst critiques, players and components of management; they promote good sense, good temper and good fellowship; they exemplify the principles by which an organisation may be knit together; and they are not the least important elements in the formation of moral character in a cricket board, while all other sports bodies have diminished and decayed, to maintain their own identity in its country-wide amplitude.

Ironically Pakistan cricket is following the same course. It seems that the PCB is being steered towards disintegration.

Dr Nasim Ashraf took over an ailing Pakistan Cricket Board in October 2006 and showed his desire to make it a prized entity. One imagined PCB realising its vital role in how Pakistanis imagine themselves and their assumptions attached to the high level of gamesmanship and character within cricket, respect for tradition and reverence for pastoralism. Almost ten months later, the structures of authority in cricket indicate much about attitudes underlying the exercise of power.

A highly confidential telephone call from Queensland left one startled. One discussed the future of the Pakistan team's newly appointed coach Geoff Lawson with the source who runs a cricket concern in Australia. One pointed towards the debate about Lawson overpowering Dave Whatmore.

To most of the critiques Whatmore would have been a superior choice in comparison with Lawson who hasn't been on the coaching center stage since his last assignment with New South Wales as an Assistant Coach in 1995-96.

Lawson's apprenticeship in coaching didn't seem getting better. He's a level 3 coach and presumably a shade lucky to have landed Pakistan team's job. The gentleman popped a surprise. He asked me to leave aside the debate between Lawson and Whatmore; according to him there was more to it.

John Buchanan who as per now is of world fame being coach of Team Australia from 1999 until 2007, taking over from Geoff Marsh, during which he helped the side win a world-record sixteen successive Tests and 22 One-day Internationals besides making a huge impact on two-back-to-back World Cup victories had intimated the PCB on August 1, 2007 offering his services to Pakistan in at least two capacities.

One he, as the source reveals, wanted to provide the high-profiled team with knowledge and strategies, to bring improvement in the performance also helping with the organisation and was keen to support the PCB to train the cricket coaches, expertise to train and bringing improvement in their performance. Now this was shocking coming from a real authentic source.

Out of all people, Buchanan, currently Director of the Buchanan Success Coaching, nicknamed 'Buck' who represented University Club in Brisbane and appeared in seven Sheffield Shield matches for Queensland in 1977-78 was willing to help develop Pakistan cricket. Buchanan holds a MS degree from the University of Queensland along with a PhD (honorary).

A philosophical gentleman who changed the concept of coaching during his association with Australia in over eight years has a strong desire to meet Jesus Christ. Keen to watch rugby matches, Buchanan stirred the corporate sector due to his skills as a trainer and a motivator. He has delivered hundreds of presentations to leading world organisations such as PriceWaterhouseCooper, KPMG, HSBC and Mercedes. One was dumbstruck to listen to what was being told; why Lawson should have been given preference over Buchanan.

Over the Buchanan story PCB decided to keep quiet. Was it deliberate PCB avoided leaking that Buchanan had approached them? One definitely understands the board's constraints to live up to their earlier commitment but apart from coaching, Buchanan was also ready to travel to the country to uplift the standards of local coaches.

When one talks about the National Cricket Academy and the local coaches one wonders Mansoor Rana drives a Toyota Corolla (2005) whilst very recently the car which had been left unattended after Bob Woolmer's death has gone to Haroon Rasheed; thanks heavens Haroon is not in Jamaica and he is still living; one wishes him a very prosperous life.

One needs to elaborate that the PCB's corporate fleet includes 47 cars, and at least 23 are luxury vehicles. Is it about making people mobile? As reported, at the NCA in the Administration Block's Room No.2 lives a retired colonel who is not an employee of the board; his only association with cricket is his brother-in-law, a top-ranking executive of the PCB.

Corporate culture was introduced but contrary to expectations, the defense of new changes it got intertwined with contradictions in decisions and their implementation. Discord between the players and the board management brought to the surface inequalities obvious as eruption of player-power and choice of team's coach and transformation of the PCB into a corporate body do much to explain the intensity and forms of criticism and inconsistency in its management?

Reportedly, it seems, to have a clearer view, the Chief Operating Officer has gotten installed a latest plasma-screen in his office at the PCB worth Rs 400,000.

After the World Cup 2007 debacle, the Chairman PCB decided to introduce corporate culture in the board. Seventy-six people were hired to infuse new spirit in an ailing environment. A Berkley graduate was brought to the seat of Chief Operating Officer demonstrating that those in power knowingly or inadvertently have invested the game with a unique worth which, unfortunately for them, has only been inculcated in their mind-sets; and their intents, seemingly has heightened the statutory problems, prejudices and parameters.

Turning corporate, the PCB saw an unprecedented growth of their marketing department. Apart from Director Marketing, General Manager Marketing, the PCB also incorporated business development managers, a trendy idea in a cricket set-up.

In 2004, to promote wider participation and eliminate arbitrariness, the PCB led by Shaharyar M Khan, amidst rumblings and India's historical tour hot on the heels used newspapers advertisements as tools for tendering. †

The Shaharyar-run PCB then synthesised another severely criticised policy of 'Bundling of rights'. Regrettably, PCB bundled the title sponsorship, co-sponsorship and in-stadia advertising rights of the following, at a much lesser price then what could have been fetched through resourceful and competent marketing:

(a). India to Pakistan 2006

(b). Zimbabwe to Pakistan 2006 (now rescheduled for January 2008)

(c). West Indies to Pakistan 2006

(d). South Africa to Pakistan 2007 and

(e). Australia to Pakistan 2008

Ironically, rights were given for Rs 488,719,800 to be received in installments between October 2005 and November 2007. Nimbus Sports International won the contract and would stay associated with the PCB until 2007-08. One is bewildered to see an unjustified expansion of the PCB's marketing department where cricket is their only selling product and that needs to rocket-science to be enthusiastically sold to a handful of bidders in the region.

During Shaharyar Khan's times the PCB devised ingenious plans to market their solitary product through mobile telephony, audio streaming on internet, audio streaming on mobile phones, FM Radio broadcasting and global radio broadcasting excluding Pakistan.

During 2005-06 PCB sold a title sponsorship of Rs 15,000,000, co-sponsor (Rs 7,500,000), in stadia advertising (Rs 15,505,430), radio in UK (Rs 21,044,447) and the total earnings levelled up to Rs 63,490,317 for the Ashes-winning England's tour to Pakistan. Similarly, India's tour in 2006 helped PCB earn Rs 266,435,632.

Two high-profiled series, to some couldn't get the PCB what could have been earned through high-profiled marketing. If one includes other rights sold including hospitality boxes, internet service provider, Twenty20 TV rights, Twenty20 Radio rights, Twenty20 inter-stadia advertising rights and of the official kit supplier for England's tour in 2006, the total revenue generated sums up to Rs 347,034,988.

If one adds the television rights for the England series in 2005, the Indian series in 2006, the ticket sales for both series, team sponsorship, official water, official courier, domestic lead sponsorship, regional cricket sponsorship, official cellular phone and sale of bid documents, the revenues earned are to the tune of Rs 1,717,006,212. Total income through marketing earned PCB Rs 2,064,041,110.

The PCB has now awarded the FM Broadcasting Rights and Global Radio Broadcasting to Project Implementation Managers Private Limited for Rs 37,000,000 and Rs 4,050,000 respectively. The Audio Rights on Internet and Wireless Mobile Telephony have been given to Conexture Private Limited for Rs 5,700,000.

PCB dispensed the rights for India's Under-19 tour to Pakistan for Rs 1,200,000 (contract given to M/S Transmedia Advertising Private Limited). The cricket board has also accepted Slazenger's offer for the kits for US $52,520 per year. Interestingly, most of the contracts were finalised by the previous regime and now PCB turning corporate and the marketing department being fed with plenty of highly-skilled people it seems that board's revenue-generation would skyrocket to mind-stirring figures in the next season.

Recent decisions of the PCB have stirred handful of controversies. These reflect, more clearly, the problems and uncertainty, and yet paradoxically uniting the estranged players and widespread acceptance of lucrative contracts offered to Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat by the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Shoaib Akhtar, Asim Kamal and Taufeeq Umar may well follow suit.

Mohammad Asif and Shahid Afridi have also been contacted by the ICL. To understand the recent image of cricket and how far it has endangered its future and to understand how hazardous it is going to be fielding the country's team in Tests without the masterly Yousuf and a utility all-rounder Razzaq it is essential to go through the recent incidents.

In recent times, most of the PCB's policies have been trumped and the half-baked corporate culture is not being able to find its feet on the ground. Shoaib's case was appallingly handled. A disciplinary committee including PCB's Chief Operating Officer and Director Cricket Operations imposed a hefty ban.

Later, as Shoaib resisted protesting against the decision, the case was referred to the Ad Hoc Committee members. Surprisingly, they revoked the board's earlier ruling. Now this brings one to contradictions. Either the PCB were wrong earlier or they are wide off the mark now.

Not very long ago, the board's Chief Operating Officer had gone to the newspapers ensuring that the senior players who were delaying signing the central contract could be reprimanded. He also set the deadline. Later the deadline was extended and eventually the time bar was eliminated.

Now, he has sternly talked about banning players who have signed up with the ICL. He also told AFP that he hoped Mohammad Yousuf will not join the league as he was a great player and Pakistan needed his services. Yousuf has already signed geared up to play in the ICL Twenty20. Player-power hasn't erupted from within the team, the board's inconsistent decisions and statements have gone miles into adding to problems. It is a question of credibility.

The paid selectors tried to break into the senior players' network of power, creating an apparent division between them and the PCB. Abdul Razzaq, visibly distressed and unhappy, decided to retire from international cricket. Instead of creating channels to ensure institutionalisation, dampened by ill-equipped people, the corporate and cricket based decisions have truly been revealing. Instead of implementation of Dr Nasim's plans, it seems his team at the PCB has only been able to add to the drag.

There seems a palpable disharmony between the players, team and the board administration. All the indicators are pointing towards a conflict between the senior players whose presence is still considered essential in the rebuilding process. Let's hope unlike the recently seized engine of the brand new Toyota Mark II (2007) driven by the Chief Operating Officer, Pakistan cricket continues to function efficiently, though it looks most unlikely; the reason is the deficiency of structured decision-making.

 

'Irritating Cricket League' (ICL) testing PCB's nerves

The Indian Cricket League is the talk of the town these days and every one is trying to figure out the mystery behind it. In Pakistan the cricket set-up plunged into a crisis yet again after the events followed the announcement of the ICL league as few big guns decided to join the league and the PCB made matter worse by threatening the players that they would not be allowed to play for Pakistan again. The hostile statements did not help rather made a mess of the situation.

The question is that why a person should not join a league when a lucrative offer is made to him. Everyone has a right to earn a better living for himself and his family, after all people go abroad for work and come back when needed by their families, therefore the PCB should not cast doubts on the patriotism of those players who are willing to join the ICL. We read a flurry of statements from Dr Nasim Ashraf, Shafqat Naghmi and Zakir Khan that players should give national duty a priority.

Let me remind the board officials that so many Pakistani players have played and are playing county cricket in England and some of them in the past have skipped the national duty because of their county assignments.

Did the PCB take any action against them to date? No is the answer, then why this issue is being raised with this intensity now? Another statement from Zakir Khan caught my attention when he said "We believe Pakistan have a solid bench strength and if some [national] players want to sign up for ICL then they can do it. We believe that nobody is indispensable."

Don't you find this statement extremely unrealistic? We lost the recent World Cup because people like Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi did not play the first two matches for one reason or the other. The gap created by these players which led to Pakistan's defeat should be filled then with the "solid bench strength" when Pakistan team was in need, but it was not done because we simply did not have the backup to replace these players.

If the ICL is not allowing anyone on his payroll to play for his country then strict action should be taken against a player for ignoring the national duty, but the ICL is not barring any player to play for his national side when required.

I personally spoke to the president of the ICL's Executive Board, Kapil Dev who made it absolutely clear that the league would release a player to perform his national duty therefore for the sake of cricket in Pakistan the PCB should think over its stance and take into consideration the reservations of the players, otherwise it will dent the Pakistan Cricket more than anything else. This matter should have been tackled in a manner that the Pakistan cricket setup would remain intact.

Now coming to the issue of the team selection for the Twenty20 World Cup which is scheduled to the held in South Africa next month for which people like Mohammad Yousuf and Abdul Razzaq were snubbed and they reportedly showed annoyance over it and tilted towards the ICL. Mohammad Yousuf no doubt is a world class individual but considering his age he should not prefer this fast-paced cricket and concentrate more on Test and ODI cricket, having said that, if the selectors were to overlook Yousuf then he should have been called for the training camps for the Twenty20 probables.

As far as Razzaq is concerned, the point of view of the chief selector, Salahuddin Sallu seems correct that Razzaq was not considered on the basis of his recent performance in the ODIs. In the last 15 ODIs in which Razzaq appeared he scored only 173 runs at an average of 10.73 and he claimed 12 wickets at 39 runs each.

The record shows that Razzaq was obviously off colour therefore he should not have taken a hasty decision of calling it a day, because missing the Twenty20 World Cup squad was definitely not the end of the road for him.

Now turning to opener Imran Farhat, who in his last 15 ODIs scored only 337 runs at an average of 24.07, should not be dejected at all and concentrate on his game rather than getting involved in undue debate.

Time and again these kind of issues do disappoint cricket followers in Pakistan. To shun this practice the board should consult with players on a regular basis to listen to their reservations. The players should also handle their affairs in a professional manner and before going to the press try and resolve issues internally.

 

The writer is a freelancer

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