leading Pakistan cricket towards total destruction
union: Need of the hour?
Spanish glory, Mourinho’s master class and FIFA’s inconsistencies
cricket in an uncertain mould
Up against what many believe is a water-tight case, three leading Pakistani cricketers will be praying for a miracle in Doha.
By Khalid Hussain
To say that Pakistan’s suspended trio of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir will need a miracle to prove their innocence during a six-day full hearing in Doha starting from Thursday will be an understatement.
Signals coming from the International Cricket Council (ICC) as well as from within the players’ camps aren’t too reassuring for the trio, who will be up against what many believe is a water-tight case.
The three of them will appear before an independent tribunal in the Qatari capital from January 6-11 for a hearing that will become a focal point for the cricket world. In fact the story has the ingredients of a best-seller with three international sporting stars accused of having links with the underworld and has the potential to make the headlines even in non-cricketing nations just like it did last September following the NOTW exposé.
From the day when the news of spot-fixing allegations against the three players was first splashed by News Of The World (NOTW), most experts have feared the worst for the trio.
Four months on, things have only worsened for them.
It was like a comedy of errors from day one. Pakistan’s cricket chiefs initially sided with the players while their top diplomat in Britain publicly declared that he believes the trio were innocent in spite of what many thought was damning evidence against them.
The International Cricket Council (ICC), probably sick and tired of being labeled as a toothless body, decided to intervene and provisionally suspended the trio.
Butt, Asif and Amir were grilled by Scotland Yard detectives prompting speculations that they might be criminally charged. However, they were allowed to return home.
Later, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) proved again that it specialises in taking u-turns, when it pulled back its support for the players.
On their own, the players hopped from one lawyer to the other and in the process two of them -- Butt and Amir -- had their appeals against the provisional suspended denied by the ICC. Asif opted against filing an appeal.
Insiders privy to the proceedings of that hearing in Dubai told ‘The News on Sunday’ that Salman Butt’s case received fatal blows thanks to his lawyers. According to the insiders, instead of focusing on their client’s defence the lawyers were more vocal on how corruption is rampant in world cricket and that many others cricketers were let off the hook in the past though similar allegations of corruption were hurled against them. Unsurprisingly, the strategy backfired.
It would be a small wonder if the England-based Yasin Patel, Butt’s current lawyer, still goes to Doha with a few aces up his sleeves.
The players’ own attitude was also questionable, to say the least.
Take for example Salman Butt. He was Pakistan’s captain in the fourth Test against England at Lord’s -- the match at the centre of the spot-fixing allegations. He was accused of asking Asif and Amir to bowl deliberate no-balls on the orders of match-fixers. Many believe that he was caught red-handed as a big amount of cash was recovered from his hotel room in central London.
Butt has insisted right from the beginning that he is innocent just like Asif and Amir. That’s fine. But during the last few months, he has been damaging his own case by trying to prove his innocence ahead of the Doha hearing. He had been appearing on television talk shows, making an effort to portray himself as a victim. At best, his strategy has only complicated things for the young opener, who remains at the centre of the scandal.
Asif, meanwhile, has kept a low profile and seems to be working hard on preparing a solid defence. He has the required experience. During what is still not a long international career, Asif has fought quite a few courtroom battles over positive dope tests and processions of drugs.
The fast bowler’s tainted past could prove to be a big stumbling block because Asif comes across as a habitual offender.
Of the three players, Amir seems to be the only one with realistic chances of walking away with minimal punishment. He is young and regarded as one of the most exciting fast bowlers in international cricket. The teenager has received a lot of sympathy from almost all quarters since the scandal broke out. If the trio are found guilty of spot-fixing, then Amir lawyers will have to prove that his client was more of a victim than a villain in this story. It could make the tribunal show some leniency to the kid from Gujjar Khan --- a rags to riches story till just last summer.
In the end, one would stress that things could have been much better for the trio had the PCB handled the case in a better manner back in September.
The spot-fixing scandal broke out just months after the Board punished several of its leading players in the aftermath of a disastrous tour of Australia. During that tour, Pakistan lost the second Test in Sydney from a seemingly winning position. The shocking result ignited rumours that the match was fixed. The matter did come up during a probe carried out by the PCB last February. But the case was closed after ICC’s anti-corruption unit gave the Test a clean chit. Things could have been different if the ICC had decided to carry out a proper investigation.
"PCB could have used it as a perfect argument when the spot-fixing case broke out," agrees Aamir Sohail, the former Pakistan captain. "Our Board chiefs should have questioned the ICC as to why they didn’t investigate the issue properly. There wouldn’t have been any corruption during the Lord’s Test had the defeat in Sydney been probed properly," Aamir told TNS. "It’s the ICC fault because as the game’s governing body it is its job to act as a watchdog and keep cricket clean."
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi.
By Dr Nauman Niaz
2010 was a year of conflicts of interests going out of control in Pakistan Cricket. The problems are endemic to the Ijaz Butt-led PCB, and dishearteningly he failed completely, to have recognized the core issues. Unfortunately the management ‘corruption’ (choice of people picked for important roles) in the year exacerbated the problems.
During his entire tenure, episodes of indiscipline and corruptibility and the complete erosion of PCB’s foreign policy absolutely alienated Pakistan. The BCCI, Cricket New Zealand, Cricket Australia, SACB, BCCSL, BCB and even the ECB evidently withdrew their support and Butt, instead of realising his inability to understand the political and diplomatic dynamics, tried looking myopically through the prism not seeing the changing world. He was required to comply with the evident transformation and the paradigm shift that had seen India exploiting its huge market base, attracting the West and also establishing a strong foothold within the ICC. PCB was needed to redefine the role of their government.
Within the Butt administration we knew that there were areas where we needed to improve policy-making and structural reforms to be put in place for good reasons. They should have known, traditionally in Pakistan if the team failed, so did the governments, and thus, they had to be careful about the impending ramifications. Precisely Butt’s regime so often failed it was more important for them to work in partnership with able and apt people rather to go round in circles and stuck up with people like Yawar Saeed, Intikhab Alam, Subhan Ahmad and Zakir Khan. Had Butt been slightly liberal and held onto Aamir Sohail or for that matter even Abdul Qadir et al, the strengths of each could offset the weakness of the other.
But although some in the Butt administration understood this, in too many instances, they succumbed to self-preservation, self-conceit and pretentiousness. Their mantra helped them expanding their careers but they never introduced the right regulatory system which would have meant more regulated decisions in some places, less in others; compromises should have been facilitated and not dictated as ICC had to provisionally suspend three Pakistan players for their alleged involvement in spot-fixing plus they had to coerce the PCB to accept their task force to implement and institute anti-corruption unit within the domestic structure. It wasn’t as painful for Butt who readily submitted to the ICC fearing that his directorship could be terminated.
Ironically Butt’s decisions were deplorably insensible such as promising Giles Clarke, the Chairman of the ECB to vote for John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia and subsequently betraying the trust of Cricket Australia, Cricket New Zealand and the England and Wales Cricket Board by submitting to the BCCI on a flimsy expectation that they could regulate the India-Pakistan series. More so, Butt first stood up to the ICC supporting the three players accused for spot-fixing ‘three balls’ on day two of the Lord’s Test on August 27, 2010 and then made a shameless u-turn to castigate and chastise his own pupil. He shouldn’t have been indecisive and had he analysed the problem beforehand and barred the players or imposed ‘suspended’ ban and held an in-house inquiry it could have lessened the shame that we endured? Self-harm he didn’t perceive levelling senseless accusations against the England team and then, as usual, retracted meekly. He had to travel all the way to England, hand in glove with his uniquely oblique legal advisor to tender a written apology. It was double shame!
Triple shame was because of the fact that the ICC had subjectively shown doubts about the corruptibility of Shoaib Malik, Kamran Akmal and Danish Kaneria. They weren’t cleared for selection and the PCB tried being ‘more loyal than the king’. On the domestic front, Pakistan’s Twenty20 line-up was announced before the RBS T20 tournament was held. Country’s Test team was named before the start of the Quaid-i-Azam Trophy and with six one-day internationals to be played in New Zealand and the World Cup 2011 hot over heels, still the domestic limited over championship wasn’t arranged. It seemed, as if the PCB were scared to give space to the talented cricketers to stake claims; it looked as if they were contended with only those players within the loop? This certainly left question marks against Butt’s intellectual honesty or capacity?
So in the light of the history of problems associated with mismanagement, collapsing domestic system and an evident erosion, the PCB might have been better advised to go about the process of their relations with the more developed boards and the ICC with greater caution. To be fair to them (PCB), even if the administration had designed the right policies (which seemingly they didn’t ever), it was unlikely it could have gotten them through in the aftermath of the ‘spot-fixing’ and ‘alienation’ disasters, their self-preservation mantra remained strong; since Butt didn’t make friends in other developed boards and the ICC, despite managing to hoodwink the Patron of the PCB and surviving, and keeping his position intact, wasn’t in a position to lobby for even more and faster compensation than what Pakistan Cricket had lost because of his irrationality.
In each of these areas, the world turned out quite differently from the way Butt’s sycophants’-- and even many of those with fewer interests at stake-had said it would. But Butt’s directors were saying one thing as those they represented went about his business on quite different premises: they were glaringly and clearly wrong about the speed with which competition in the ‘last mile’ with the developed boards would develop. They weren’t actually competing they were trying to survive by standing up on national cricket’s grave and growing tall.
We were right to be worried about how fast the disintegration and erosion of Pakistan Cricket would come. Some critics had faulted the Butt administration for not going far enough in introducing reforms without realising that his regime was virtually defunct and comprehensively paralysed amidst ineptitude and a tangling web of problems pouring in loads, though only the implications of what they had done at the start of 2010.
They complained and tried justifying that they had to forsake the three top players accused of ‘spot-fixing’ because of ICC’s intervention and also because of its Anti-Corruption Code and zero tolerance to corruption, in particular, impeded from offering support by the obligation of being International Cricket Committee’s full member and prohibitively glaring evidence that ‘The News of the World’ had produced.
This line of argument, too, ought to have been put to rest by now. While the evidence was conspicuously but not unreasonably against Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir, the fact was, there was nothing like sufficient demand to justify the means to the end, the calamity had already occurred.
Problems of periodic excess volatility and incapacity virtually left the PCB plagued with self-generated and shambolic administrative nous. Simplistic management theory could envision the cricket system in Pakistan as a self-regulating mechanism: when controversies exceeded rationality, demand fell, reducing opportunities to return to normalcy; and the converse. But while such adjustments didn’t occur, and it could never happen smoothly, nor without radical decision making? Most anticipated reincarnation of Pakistan Cricket could only be judged by the performance and growth, both were strikingly absent as Butt moved to 2011. Butt’s regime looked an overinvestment of the incompetent and resistant to new idealism.
By Nabeel Hashmi
At a time when the country’s athletes are facing uncertainty over their future, calls for a players’ association are getting louder by the day. In the past, such calls have been made but to no avail. This time, though, it has become a very serious matter especially after first-class cricketer Aamer Basheer lost his long and hard-fought battle with cancer.
But he was at least lucky that he had friends like Basit Ali, Rashid Latif, Shahid Afridi, Younis Khan and Haris Khan, who all supported him both morally and financially throughout his fatal illness. Even the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) gave his family a cheque of Rs500,000.
So his case was pretty different and unlike scores of players in games like hockey, squash, boxing, and football who do not have anybody to look for support in the time of need.
In Pakistan, great attention is paid to cricket while other sports are overlooked which is why there is always a huge difference in the earnings of a cricketer and other athletes.
For the PCB, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) and Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF), the idea of a players association is not an easy pill to swallow. But these boards and federations need to understand that they are only looking after the current players. There are many athletes who are living an underprivileged life and they have nobody to look after them.
Former Test-batsman Basit Ali was a close friend of Late Aamer Basheer and believes that the players association is a necessity now.
"The unfortunate manner in which Aamer passed away shows that it is very important now that a players association should come into existence.
"This is the time when people should come up practically and support this call. The PCB should accept that it will not be a retaliation against the board but an organistaion which will work for the goodwill of players who are living a stressful life.
He added that he is ready to work in a joint association of all sports but the workers should be independent.
"The best people to run this association would be Majid Khan and Arif Ali Abbasi. I believe that this body should be kept independent of people who are working in the PCB.
"My door is open for all. I invite all, either they belong to cricket or other sports to come up and join hands in this noble cause."
This looks far from happening as chances are really slim that even our cricketers can sit down together and work cohesively. So the concept of collaboration of all sportsmen of Pakistan is realistically out of the equation.
First-class player Haris Khan believes accountability will be an issue.
"Whatever funds, should they be available to the body, should be in the knowledge of all.
"The check and balance would be really necessary and greed should be kept aside.
"The main aim of the body should be to defend the rights of players."
Meanwhile, former Olympian Kashif Jawad said he fears that the association will have a negative impact if in any case it comes into existence.
"No one will work positively and all would look to fulfill their vested interests.
"People working at the helm of affairs in the association would only work for the betterment of those who are close to them and will snub those against whom they have grudges.
"I think only favouritism will prevail.
"People working in the administration should not be sportsmen and the elections of the body should be conducted every year." Pakistan’s star footballer Mohammad Essa thinks that there should associations but only on a provincial level.
"It is enough if there is an independent association who can look after its players on provincial and city level.
"There are many players who have done enough for the country and its time to pay them back by looking after them. Our former players will get benefited through this cause."
Nabeel Hashmi works as a reporter at The News, Karachi
By Umaid Wasim
It was a memorable year for the ‘beautiful game’ but it did nothing to dispel doubts on favouritism in the FIFA’s hierarchy. The year in which the Dark Continent hosted its first World Cup also saw the 2018 and 2022 editions being awarded to Russia and Qatar; a move that FIFA President Sepp Blatter termed as "taking the spectacle to new lands."
On the pitch, it saw one spectacular group of players, arguably ‘Spain’s golden generation’, dominating the world game with a style incomparable to any of the greatest teams of the past while a certain Jose Mourinho proved just why he is the ‘Special One’.
And, in effect, the year started with a fairytale journey for Inter Milan. Inter had never won the European Cup since 1965 but with Mourinho at the helm, there was certain optimism that Inter could finally end their 45-year wait for continental glory.
And it was a journey that saw some spectacular European nights as Inter’s impeccable journey to the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid saw Mourinho undo his former employers Chelsea and Barcelona enroute to the grand finale where Diego Milito scored twice to give his side a historic treble whilst preventing Bayern Munich do exactly the same.
Inter met Chelsea in the Round of 16 and a classy 2-1 victory at the San Siro saw them in pole position for the second-leg at Stamford Bridge where a Samuel Eto’o strike gave Mourinho a perfect homecoming as the Nerazzuri progressed to the quarter-finals 3-1 on aggregate.
Next up for Inter were CSKA Moscow, the first Russian side ever to reach the last-four. A pair of 1-0 victories saw the Italians set up a reunion with Barca in the semis after playing them in the group stage. Mourinho’s side decimated the European Champions 3-1 at home in the first-leg before losing the nervy second-leg encounter 1-0 at the Nou Camp. Inter, though still progressed 3-2 on aggregate as Mourinho ran the length of the pitch in celebration against the club where he served as assistant coach during the late 1990s.
If that was the sign of intent from Mourinho, his hunger saw him beat his former boss Louis van Gaal’s Bayern in the final in Madrid as Inter stalwart Javier Zanetti lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy in his 700th match with the club.
The finale itself had some great storylines.
Inter’s Wesley Sniejder -- a catalyst in the heart of their midfield -- and Bayern’s Arjen Robben, who had single-handedly taken the German Champions to the final with some fantastic goals, returned to the stadium which had been their home just a year back after being unceremoniously sold by Real Madrid in the summer.
The greater story, however, was that of Mourinho.
In tears, the Portuguese maestro admitted that it was his final match in charge of Inter.
And he was leaving for Real Madrid.
Mourinho’s signing seemed to be final piece in Real’s jigsaw as they looked to end their nine-year wait for Champions League glory. More so, it was a signing that reflected the animosity between Real and arch-rivals Barca. Mourinho had done his part in preventing the Blaugurana from reaching the final in Madrid enroute to his glory with Inter.
After having led Real to the top of the standings, Mourinho’s side was finally undone by none other than Barca in the first El Clasico of the season on November 29.
Barcelona ripped apart Real 5-0 in a spell-binding performance that saw just exactly where the World Cup was won four months ago.
On June 10, the global focus was on Africa; South Africa in particular. After months of uncertainty, the World Cup kicked off in a colourful ceremony at Soccer City in Johannesburg.
European Champions Spain came into the World Cup as favourites and they proved just that.
Spain’s squad contained a plethora of Barcelona players including Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Sergio Busquets, Carles Puyol and Gerard Pique. And the way the team played, it was very much reminiscent Barcelona’s style of play.
A month later, Iniesta it was who scored the winning goal in the final against the Netherlands -- a match which was titled as a clash between beauty and the beast.
Dutch aggression against Spain’s flowing football marred the final as a contest but when Iniesta fired in the winning goal in extra-time, it sparked wild celebrations in both Johannesburg and Spain. The World Cup also had its share of eccentrics and glorious moments.
Whilst Argentina coach Diego Maradona delighted the press with his sense of humour, Uruguay’s Luis Suarez took the ‘hand of God’ crown from him when hew scored with his hand to put his country in the semis. Then, there was Frank Lampard’s goal that did not stand against Germany in the quarter-finals and octupus oracle Paul who predicted each World Cup match correctly.
But while Paul, who passed away in December, had been good with his predictions during the World Cup, he proved that he was not that good after all as he predicted England to win the right to host the 2018 World Cup.
Instead, it was awarded to Russia after months of frenzy that saw FIFA members being caught selling their votes. Qatar was an even bigger surprise. Russia’s problems include travelling for matches in the World’s largest country with match venues situated hours apart. Qatar, meanwhile, has a greater obstacle to overcome -- soaring temperatures. With the mercury rising up to 40 degrees Celsius during the summer, there have been calls to shift the quadrennial spectacle to January. But that would require massive changes in the league structures around the world.
In the end, though, FIFA knows best and it is up to them to conduct the World Cup. But the fact that still remains is why take the risk?
Controversy again came FIFA’s way when they excluded Sniejder out of the shortlist for the World Player of the Year award. Instead, Barca trio of Iniesta, Xavi and Lionel Messi have been named. Sniejder had been the heartbeat of both Inter and Netherlands during the World Cup and his exclusion was certainly not justified.
Meanwhile, in his usual eccentric manner, Mourinho has come out and said that he should be given the award for the Manager of the Year. And what has happened with Inter at the end of the year, do justify his claim.
Although, the club won the Club World Championship in Abu Dhabi in December, his replacement Rafael Benitez was sacked as Inter plunged from one crisis to another. It was a true indication why the Portuguese is such a tough act to follow.
And while there has been a managerial merry-go-round in Europe, Pakistan too saw an Englishman come in as a coaching consultant with the football team. Former Tottenham Hotspur and Rangers player, Graham Roberts came to the country for a two-month stint during the Asian Games. The results, though, weren’t all that spectacular as the team was knocked out of the group stage.
On the rankings chart, Pakistan dropped nine places to 171 at the end of the year.
And while ‘the beautiful game’ progresses worldwide, Pakistan is still looking to come out of the shadows.
On a brighter side, though, Pakistan’s ace defender Zesh Rehman moved to Thai Champions Muang Thong United from Bradford City.
And after difficulties faced by him to come and play for Pakistan during the English season, maybe, here he would be able to represent the country on a more frequent basis and power them up the FIFA rankings.
And if that is a ray of hope, maybe, just maybe, football in the country will show some signs of rebirth.
Umaid Wasim is a FIFA and UEFA accredited journalist and works as a sub-editor for The News, Karachi.
By Arshad Shami
Security concerns for foreign teams notwithstanding, the brittleness of our batting and waywardness of our bowling is not understandable. On occasions, the team clicks as a first rate outfit of world standard but on next occasion its performance becomes uncertain to say the least.
Several measures, we are told, are being taken to make it a fighting lot reminiscent of its past when a much weaker combination under a dynamic leader was able to turn tables on world’s top teams. The victory over Australians in the first-ever Test series in 1956 under the dynamic and able captain like Abdul Hafeez Kardar is a case in point. The Australians having the services of the world’s best all-rounder and my captain Keith Miller and fastest bowler of the world, Ray Lindwall, failed to deter Pakistan’s much weaker team and Pakistan romped home with a splendid victory at the National Stadium, where Fazal and Khan Mohammad reduced the best batting outfit to nothing.
Then under Imran Khan, Pakistan were able to beat the formidable West Indian team led by Vivian Richards in the Faisalabad Test and then drew the series.
Today we have a team which boasts off seasoned cricketers who have played throughout the world but their performance leaves one bewildered. The team played a series against Australia and South Africa in Abu Dhabi and Dubai and faced the challenge of the English team in England but their performance was below standard and certain players looked novices.
Their body language left much to be desired. The change of captains after every series and experimentation with new players not giving them sufficient time to settle down and perform to prove that the confidence reposed in them was not misplaced.
Today, we do not have a perfect opening pair and in every match, we try a new player. We do not even figure amongst the five best teams in the world and none of our players has achieved a place even in the first ten.
The Board’s polices are not understandable and there seems to be no direction. Ijaz butt was one our leading Test players and it was expected that under his leadership he will be able to evolve a setup which will be able to restore the game to the place it deserves. But he has failed miserably!
One wonders what is the reason for such a performance from a team which under Younis Khan was able to win the T20 World Cup before the skipper was forced to step down and remained out of international cricket for a couple of years before regaining his place in the team. It is equally disturbing that our leading leg-spinner Danish Kaneria has been sidelined without any charge though recently the Board has directed him along with Shoaib Malik and wicketkeeper Kamran Akmal to produce their wealth statements so that they may be considered for a place in the T20 team. Pakistan lost two of their three T20 matches to New Zealand.
In the second match, our bowling and batting flopped dismally and skipper Shahid Afridi was not able to hold complete sway over the proceedings. His own performances as a batsman were low and he has not been able to give the performance he is capable of giving. Pacer Umar Gul has lost his form and magic.
What has intrigued me the most is the way our fast bowlers have continued to bowl short. The field-placing is also not in harmony with the situation as well.
Javed Miandad has joined the team as batting coach but Waqar Younis, a former captain and fast bowler has failed to inspire our bowlers and there is nothing to suggest that he has instilled confidence and brought out worthwhile change in the bowling standard.
The team does not have the wherewithal which is the hall mark of any team. The players do not concentrate nor do they anticipate what is prerequisite for any team to win matches.
Afridi does not inspire the bowlers and changes made in the team fail to help build a match winning combination. Pakistan showed lot of grit and determination in the third T20.
It is heartening to see Mohammed Hafeez scoring runs but one fails to understand why he can’t play a longer innings. At least he has secured the slot as an opening batsman and hopefully he will try to dig in for a longer stay at the crease.