cricket
Ad hocism has hurt Pakistan cricket a great deal
One has nothing against Salman, but the way Asif has been dumped just shows how inappropriately the PCB treat the players
By Imran Farooqi
The Pakistan Cricket Board does not let go of any opportunity of making a mockery of certain issues and thereby allowing people to keep making fun of them. Instead of learning from mistakes, they have learnt to make more mistakes it seems. Even professional bodies do get it wrong at times, but they learn from their follies and look for a quick and graceful solution.

Pakistan cricket: Bench strength is a must
We have been trying different opening pairs since the disastrous performance in the 2003 World Cup hence this is the area where the future should be taken into consideration
By Muhammad Asif Khan
A few changes in the Pakistan cricket setup have been made and a few are around the corner. I am talking about the appointment of Salman Butt as the vice-captain and the appointment of the third foreign coach for the Pakistan cricket team.

Will another foreign coach, post shuffle make any difference?
It looks like PCB wants to make everyone happy by giving them important posts in the team even if they aren't good enough to cement their place in the national squad
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
Team Pakistan has been undergoing complete overhauling for the last couple of months. Since the time when Pakistan lost out in the World Cup in the West Indies -- their poorest of performances were seen in the Caribbean when they lost the opening two matches of their campaign to West Indies and minnows Ireland and then lost their coach Bob Woolmer who died the other day in a hotel room -- the team has seen a complete change of set-up.

cricket
Inzamam-ul-Haq: A presence in one's life as a cricket fan
He (the PCB Chairman) must have realised people like Inzamam or Javed Miandad are like diamonds. There are so many facets to the diamond and you cannot tell why it glows on one side and why it doesn't on the other
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Inzamam-ul-Haq has been a presence in my life since I first fell in love with playing cricket as a Rawalpindi Division Cricket Association team's aspirant in 1986-87. For me, his appeal lies in verbal expression, the exuberance of his natural talent and the contradictions in his own nature are almost epic. He set himself a goal, to become one of the greatest batsmen in the world, and in the face of numerous obstacles-many of his own making-he ultimately achieved it and then just at the height, he lost it as Pakistan exited prematurely from ICC's ninth edition of the World Cup. His story didn't become rightly, the stuff of the legends.

Afro-Asian series a success but selection procedures not ideal
For Asia the hard-hitting Mahendra Dhoni, Mahela Jayawardene and Sourav Ganguly were the star performers. Mohammad Yousuf was average
By Muhammad Akram Chohan
The Afro-Asian cricket series, which concluded with the complete dominance of the Asian outfit over their opponents, has raised some questions particularly with regard to selection matters as a number of Pakistan players who participated in the said event did not get enough opportunities.

Pak women in squash: International exposure need of the hour
Last year in September, Pakistan staged the second $7,000 Women's POF Wah Cantt Open. Defending champion Carla Khan did not participate in the event due to a back injury
By Gul Nasreen
Though Pakistan remained the most dominant force on the world squash scene for the best part of the last fifty years, the country has yet to produce a top world-class female player. There is no denying the fact that women squash has made steady progress in Pakistan in recent years, but even then our players are lagging far behind at international level.


cricket

Ad hocism has hurt Pakistan cricket a great deal

One has nothing against Salman, but the way Asif has been dumped just shows how inappropriately the PCB treat the players

By Imran Farooqi

The Pakistan Cricket Board does not let go of any opportunity of making a mockery of certain issues and thereby allowing people to keep making fun of them. Instead of learning from mistakes, they have learnt to make more mistakes it seems. Even professional bodies do get it wrong at times, but they learn from their follies and look for a quick and graceful solution.

Professional bodies need professional people at the helm. People who could take care of every aspect of their areas of expertise and business and who could make sure they do not indulge in incidents that undermine their and their institutions' image in the eyes of those whom they serve.

But in this part of the world, very few people are prepared to admit their mistakes, and even fewer who feel ashamed.

Ad hocism has hurt Pakistan cricket a great deal. And it's because of this ad hocism that the governing body of the sport has become a laughing stock. Young Salman Butt has been appointed Pakistan vice-captain for the next six months despite the fact that neither he was a part of the squad that went to the World Cup nor was he picked for the preceding tour to South Africa.

Pakistan had picked a new captain in Shoaib Malik following a terrible World Cup, and Mohammad Asif was appointed his deputy. It's too early to say merit was the sole criterion behind these appointments, but what forced the PCB to replace Asif with Salman so soon is pretty difficult to comprehend. No doubt the PCB had looked short of options after Inzamam-ul-Haq had announced his retirement, and Younis Khan had made it clear that he's not willing to lead the side.

The short one-day series against Sri Lanka in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi was not supposed to serve as an ideal test for a new captain and vice-captain. To prove their skills these two players needed a good run at both Test and One-day International level. Both players did not have very good personal series, but that did not count as Pakistan had clinched the rubber 2-1. But then even Salman had an average series against Sri Lanka.

No doubt Asif looked a far cry from his former self and did not bowl as well as he was expected to. But that was something which was quite normal as he was returning after a long injury lay-off. Secondly fast bowlers need some time in the middle before they can regain their lost form, and Asif, if he was indeed the right candidate for the job, needed more time to present a strong case for a claim to the post of vice-captaincy. Unfortunately, he did not get a chance to prove his mettle.

One has nothing against Salman, but the way Asif has been dumped just shows how inappropriately the PCB treat the players. If Salman was a better choice why did the PCB opt for Asif in the first place? And what tools did they use to determine Asif does not fit well into the job? What forced them to change their mind after just three games? Tomorrow even Salman can be asked to step down or removed to accommodate someone else.

Nobody in the Board has come up with a suitable answer, only saying the decision has been made to groom the opener for future. Then the question is: with what purpose in mind had the PCB picked Asif for the job. Barring injuries Asif has played for Pakistan on a more regular basis that Salman, who has been dropped for lack of form on a number of occasions. Just imagine how a young player would feel in such circumstances where he has not been given a proper chance to show his worth as a leader. A fully-fit Asif is a certain selection, but the same does not hold true for Salman.

Pakistan cricket is already going through a difficult period and badly needs some consistency as far as the decision-making process is concerned. Even Shoaib Malik is yet to prove himself a good leader of men despite him being a very good all-round cricketer. Apart from his deputy he will also have to call upon his seniors to turn Pakistan into a strong unit that is able to take on the challenges thrown by better sides.

Pakistan are scheduled to play some very tough teams during the next few months that include Australia, South Africa and India. To do well against these formidable outfits, Pakistan need a very stable captain, who's not bothered about his own place in the team. A mentally- and physically-focused skipper will be the key for Pakistan.

The PCB are not helping things by making senseless moves and that too in a hurry. A captain, vice-captain, and coach require at least a year or two to deliver positive results. Judging them on the basis of their performances in a few matches would be unfair. They also need the backing of the players. One is not sure if the PCB had taken players into confidence before making their decision about Salman public. The opener must be happy, but what about Asif, who has got the boot and must be feeling utterly unhappy with the latest developments. It is not difficult to assume what Asif would be feeling after getting the snub.

Another serious and important issue that faces Pakistan is the selection of coach. The Board have already interviewed three aspirants including Richard Done, Geoff Lawson, and Dav Whatmore, and it's interesting to note that all of them are Australians and have expressed their eagerness to coach Pakistan. Whether Pakistan need a foreign coach or a local one is a debatable issue, but one hopes whatever the PCB decide is in the interest of the game and the team.



Pakistan cricket: Bench strength is a must

We have been trying different opening pairs since the disastrous performance in the 2003 World Cup hence this is the area where the future should be taken into consideration

By Muhammad Asif Khan

A few changes in the Pakistan cricket setup have been made and a few are around the corner. I am talking about the appointment of Salman Butt as the vice-captain and the appointment of the third foreign coach for the Pakistan cricket team.

The Lahore-born Salman Butt who is 23 years old and has four years of experience under his belt is probably a good choice, I personally raised a few concerns regarding Mohammad Asif's appointment for the post because he is still encircled by the WADA controversy, therefore keeping him aside (for a while, one hopes) is a good move. Salman's appointment will also provide him with the much needed confidence that was shattered due to his infrequent inclusions in the team.

According to Dr Nasim Ashraf, Salman Butt was the best choice keeping in view the future of Pakistan cricket, he is absolutely right, but, the future should also be kept in mind for other slots in the national side. We have been trying different opening pairs since the disastrous performance in the 2003 world cup hence this is the area where the future should be taken into consideration, by changing the combination frequently we saw the results in the 2007 World Cup, now coming to the middle order, in Inzamam's absence we frankly have no one to replace the great man.

Why?, the answer is quite simple we have not been able to prepare backup players, this has been our problem, and the Pakistan cricket management should take concrete measures to strengthen the bench strength.

Moving on to the all important slot of the wicket-keeper, after Rashid Latif and Moin Khan we have only had Kamran Akmal whose form and performance is not hidden from anyone, therefore, this department should be handled with extra care and former greats should be consulted in this regard, in the presence of Moin and Rashid we were not facing this problem in the 90s, thanks to the strong backup every time when one got unfit or lost his form.

The example of Australia is in front of us, did they miss Brett Lee in the recent World Cup, no they did not, but on the other hand, we badly missed Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq because our backup was simply not there, therefore to shun such a situation in the future, strengthening of the reserve lot is a must.

Apart from planning for the future, the PCB is also striving on another front of naming a coach for the national squad and till this script is written three foreign names have been finalised and the chairman PCB said that this all important slot would be filled by July.

There is 51-year old Richard Done who is a former senior coach of the Australian Cricket Academy, one time member of the Australian Coaching Council and a specialist coach in Fast Bowling. Mr Done also worked with the National Academy for a brief period in Lahore in May 2001.

The statistics of his 10 first-class matches that he played suggest that he was primarily a bowler with 21 wickets. The other gentleman is Geoff Lawson who is a 49-year old Australian and has played 46 Test matches and 79 One day internationals. With 180 and 88 wickets in Tests and ODIs respectively, Mr Lawson also was a specialist bowler.

The third name in the run is 53-year old Dav Whatmore who has impressive credentials not doubt, as from 2003 to 2007, he had been coaching Bangladesh and under him, Bangladesh enjoyed relative success. Although he was born in Sri Lanka but Whatmore is a former international cricketer who represented Australia.

Interestingly, all gentlemen are related to Australia, which indicates that the PCB is very impressed with the Australian cricket setup, which is a very health sign indeed, as we all know that their setup is by far the best in the world. But my point is that this is not the right approach to follow the Australian, we should strive for the structure of Cricket in Australia. In the Australian national side anyone can be replaced from the strong group of backup players. This is what we should develop and the rest will simply follow and things will start falling in place for us.

Coming back to the claims that were made while advertising the job of the coach with a heavy-duty criterion, Chairman Nasim Ashraf said in a May press conference that Mudassar Nazar, Zakir Khan and Imtiaz Ahmed would choose the best coach from the applicants. Such a trend is good to have highly qualified people at every position, but why only coach is taken so serious why not every position right from the chairman to the ground man is filled with the same criterion?

I am personally not in favour of a heavy duty coach, because as I mentioned above, if a strong backup is available then even a smart manager can handle the affairs amicably.

Therefore, instead of investing heavily in a coach for the national side, high quality individuals should be hired to train youngsters in a reserve pool who can replace any out-of-form or injured player in the playing eleven.

 

The writer is a freelance contributor

mak374@hotmail.com


Will another foreign coach, post shuffle make any difference?

It looks like PCB wants to make everyone happy by giving them important posts in the team even if they aren't good enough to cement their place in the national squad

By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid

Team Pakistan has been undergoing complete overhauling for the last couple of months. Since the time when Pakistan lost out in the World Cup in the West Indies -- their poorest of performances were seen in the Caribbean when they lost the opening two matches of their campaign to West Indies and minnows Ireland and then lost their coach Bob Woolmer who died the other day in a hotel room -- the team has seen a complete change of set-up.

From the team captain to vice-captain, from the opening batsmen to pace attack, everything seems to have a new uplift. And as the time is running short, a new coach will soon be in the post (most assumedly in first week of July) and so will be his coaching team.

After Pakistan's early exit from the quadrennial event (World Cup) in March, their captain Inzamam-ul-Haq -- one of the greatest batsmen in world cricket and arguably the best batters in both forms of the game the country has every produced -- stepped down from the Test captaincy and in the process retired from One-day Internationals (ODIs).

His decision to retire from one-dayers completely changed the face of the national team. A new captain -- in the name of all-rounder Shoaib Malik -- was announced. Malik, whose place himself wasn't guaranteed in the national team -- at least in the Test squad --, was presumably given a lifeline to extend his career and he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

Some said he was given the post so that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) could have full involvement of theirs in team's matters because Malik is seen as a quite-looking and innocent-faced person who tries to keep mind his own business and doesn't interfere a lot in others matters. But whatever the reason was, his appointment has paid dividends until now as the team won a three-match ODI series against World Cup finalists Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi -- quite convincingly.

Mohammad Asif -- Pakistan's most lethal pace attack weapon these days -- was surprisingly then given the post of Malik's deputy for the Abu Dhabi series. Asif, who missed the golden opportunity of representing team colours in the Caribbean extravaganza due to an injury (some suggested he deliberately opted out of playing in the World Cup because he was afraid that a drugs life ban might be imposed on him if he was found guilty of any offence as earlier events before that had almost ruined his career where he was found of using nandrolone after he had also admitted of using it; he was banned for a year; later the ban was lifted and he was added in the World Cup-bound squad much to the surprise of every one), performed his duties well as the team's vice-captain in their 2-1 win.

But as the team had started progressing well, another shuffle was made in its posts few days earlier.

The PCB appointed Salman Butt as Pakistan's new vice-captain until December. According to some it looks like PCB wants to make everyone happy by giving them important posts in the team even if they aren't good enough to cement their place in the national squad and also have a poor record to back them up.

This change of post by the PCB, replacing Asif with Butt, doesn't explain anything in itself. Butt, who has featured in only 14 Tests since his Test debut in 2003 due to a combination of lack of consistency and poor performances, wasn't even the team's part in their dismal World Cup campaign. Though he played against Sri Lanka recently, it didn't suggest that he should be given another job to handle, which can be a tough post to deal with. The 22-year-old is already going through a lean patch and thrusting him with a pressure job can even further affect his already baffled career.

Butt has a meagre average of 29.88 with two centuries and four fifties in his 14-Test career. His one-day average isn't that impressive either; he has scored 1072 runs in 36 ODIs at an average of 30.62.

Coming back to the hot topic, which surrounds the national team these days, is who would be the new coach?

Bangladesh's former coach, Australian Dav Whatmore, has been once again linked to the top post after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) didn't even select him for an interview.

Whatmore, who worked wonders with Sri Lanka -- he was in charge when they won the World Cup in 1996 -- and Bangladesh -- the former minnows were the movers and shakers of the 2007 World Cup where they stunned India and South Africa handing them painstaking defeats -- was seen as a possible replacement of Greg Chappell for India post but he was ignored by the BCCI. Bangladesh still wanted him back in the post but he didn't do so and now has been left with the last remaining option -- to coach Pakistan -- as Sri Lanka also have appointed a new coach in Trevor Bayliss -- another Australian.

Whatmore was interviewed by the Pakistan cricket administrators in Lahore last Thursday (when this article was written). But he wasn't the only candidate who was seen as a good, if not perfect, replacement to fill in Bob Woolmer's shoes.

Earlier the previous week, two more Australians -- Richard Done and Geoff Lawson -- were also interviewed.

Done, who is an International Cricket Council (ICC) high-performance manager and former New South Wales (NSW) bowler, was interviewed by a three-man committee that included PCB Director of Cricket Operations Zakir Khan, Director of National Cricket Academy (NCA) Mudassar Nazar and former Test cricketer Imtiaz Ahmed last Sunday.

Done, who also met the national team in Abbottabad where the squad was training under the supervision of Army instructors, previously visited Pakistan in 2001 on a coaching assignment in Lahore.

Done, who was not a Test cricketer in his playing days, can be a low-profile hiring by the PCB if selected which can somehow work in the team's favour. According to few pundits, if a high-profile coach such as Whatmore is appointed, clash between opinions would once again be seen between the players, the board and the coach as it had happened previously during Woolmer's tenure.

Another Australian who is the candidate for Pakistan coaching role is former Test player Geoff Lawson.

Lawson, 49, was interviewed on Monday in Bhurban. And he felt pretty honoured to be a candidate to coach Pakistan saying "it was one of the top jobs in world cricket".

Lawson, who played 46 Tests for Australia taking 180 wickets and 79 ODIs with 88 scalps, said he was initially reluctant to come but changed his mind after it was announced by the Jamaican Police that Pakistan's former coach Woolmer died of natural causes and wasn't murdered.

With only three Aussies in the frame and no other candidate, possibility of a local coach has once again been ruled out.

Many people suggested that the team, now, needs a local coach. Why, because it would be easy for him to communicate with the players, the board and its management. It would also help the players to express themselves in front of a local coach -- most probably an ex-player. And what could have helped the team a lot could have been the fact that a Pakistan-born coach would understand the psychic and temperament of local players more than anyone. He would have the know how of how the crowds react here, how the critics go on with the flow and how to handle pressure situations. And after the forgetting coaching chapters of Richard Pybus and Bob Woolmer, it would have been better if some former player, rich in experience, was hired for the post.

Though some ex-players didn't like PCBs idea of advertising the job on their website, others who didn't have any problem with that should have applied for the coveted post. Though it would remain a secret of who applied for the job and who didn't, only time will tell that another foreign hiring for the coaching assignment will prove worthy or not. We can only wish them best of luck.

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

shehnu@gmail.com

 cricket

Inzamam-ul-Haq:

A presence in one's life as a cricket fan

He (the PCB Chairman) must have realised people like Inzamam or Javed Miandad are like diamonds. There are so many facets to the diamond and you cannot tell why it glows on one side and why it doesn't on the other

By Dr Nauman Niaz

Inzamam-ul-Haq has been a presence in my life since I first fell in love with playing cricket as a Rawalpindi Division Cricket Association team's aspirant in 1986-87. For me, his appeal lies in verbal expression, the exuberance of his natural talent and the contradictions in his own nature are almost epic. He set himself a goal, to become one of the greatest batsmen in the world, and in the face of numerous obstacles-many of his own making-he ultimately achieved it and then just at the height, he lost it as Pakistan exited prematurely from ICC's ninth edition of the World Cup. His story didn't become rightly, the stuff of the legends.

Like most heroic tales, however, accounts of his life have always varied in the telling. It has therefore been one's aim to look beyond much of the current mythology that surrounds Inzamam and build a more balanced and realistic portrait.

Seeing what has been happening presently in the country's cricket, one tried to provide a deeper understanding of this flawed but compelling sporting personality. In particular, one is trying to place Inzamam in a wider context than just that of "will he return to the Test side", the subject that has dominated the cricket conversations of late.

Inzamam was mostly discovered as a laid back, happy-go-lucky top Pakistan player until he started to share power and dictated his terms while being the captain of country's team. He has become an enigmatic and contradictory personality. And the two events, Pakistan's ouster from the World Cup without moving to the Super Eight stage and also, the steamy press conference on return home.

Inzamam's autocratic maneuvers made him less favourite with the current Pakistan Cricket Board Chairman, Dr Nasim Ashraf, so it appears from the sequence of recent events. His last two stormy press conferences actually coerced people to encapsulate the different sides of Inzamam's character. On one hand, there is the brilliantly successful cricketing figure-in his time the greatest run scorer and, now a man who wants to play in Tests but isn't in demand anymore.

One also needs to clarify whether it's because of his diminishing ability with the bat, advance in age or PCB hierarchy's personal agenda. To some Inzamam has left a trail of social wreckage across the team. In a rare moment, one must think, Inzamam must have been baffled by his own contradictions.

Here Dr Nasim Ashraf, the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board in a television interview admitted that there was too much politics within the team. He must have realised people like Inzamam or Javed Miandad are like diamonds. There are so many facets to the diamond and you cannot tell why it glows on one side and why it doesn't on the other.

And it's also a fact, take examples of Ian Botham and Brian Lara or even Wasim Akram and Inzamam-ul-Haq, at times they even didn't understand themselves. Well, all of them, of course, had different, often conflicting aspects to their personalities. Yet for Inzamam, the contrasts are much stronger than for others. He is an intensely private man who has lived his entire adult life in the fiercest public gaze.

Indeed, almost two decades of playing international cricket, he is still probably the most famous batsman in Pakistan cricket, though many colleagues who have played with him say that they hardly know him. He developed an image of self-confidence bordering on arrogance, yet possessed a streak of almost chronic insecurity.

He craved respect yet, through his behaviour, continually alienated those who might have provided it. Even his admirers admit that his extreme moodiness and introspection made him something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. One must believe that his career was not littered with the debris of constant feuds and rows but his strong mindedness and the ability to tame powerful people or the decision makers using his weight as a reputed batsman irked one too many and once Pakistan lost in the World Cup, his end popped up couple of months earlier than expected. There were people who were not that keen to mourn Bob Woolmer's death but desperate to find reasons to see Inzamam's back.

Inzamam relinquished the captaincy it would have been taken away anyway. It was wise of him to quit One-day International cricket. He would have been wiser still had he retired from all cricket. He should have known that his days were numbered as a player. He was clearly impeded by a stiff back and run of low scores. He had pestered people and it was their turn.

To one's mind Inzamam also knew that he would not be part of the new central contracts and that the PCB hierarchy has already written him off. His recent form didn't get him the support he needed to make a breakthrough. Now, he must be waiting for the selectors, the PCB and the team management to ask for him in case if his replacements fail against South Africa.

It is also pertinent by the vision of it Inzamam is not going to be part of the Pakistan team at least for Pakistan's home series against South Africa. In case if they fail, for their gruelling next commitment, a tour to India they may well revert back to the experience and intrinsic strength of Inzamam. With Salahuddin Mulla at the helm of the selection committee, Dr Nasim giving us a new vision for the future and virtually no first-class cricket before all this happens indicates that Inzamam's great career, to all intents and purpose is over.

Yet through all these tribulations, Inzamam has displayed a remarkable fortitude. Lesser men would never have reached the heights he attained nor would they have been able to cope with the catastrophic lows. Even he has been, towards the end of his glittering career the author of his misfortune, he has never surrendered, whether it be in taking on the most fearsome board officials, selectors or the top bowlers in world cricket. He now has to overcome the sneers of critics to see his ambitions becoming reality.

Inzamam should be remembered as a burly man avoiding another hostile ball, one feeling the wave of admiration, tall, brawny, dedicated, a lonely man doing a lonely job all these years. What was it that compelled him to prove himself again and again among his peers? He proved his courage and it's time he shows a big heart.

Instead of showing dissent about not being included in the list of central contracts and having enough indications that he is an unwanted man, he should hang his boots. Inzamam was the greatest Pakistani -- that's the end point. For all his many faults, the game has been richer for his presence.

Temperamentally, few cricketers have been better equipped than Inzamam for the role of captain. Tactically, few can have been less suited to the job. Because Inzamam relied on flair rather than dedication to reach the top, he didn't think more analytically about the game.

His powerful persona, his amazing consistency with the bat (in the last two years of his career), a very weak chairman of the cricket board at the helm (mostly talking diplomatically living under the garb of all is well) and a coach more enthusiastic to forge and foster amiable relationship with him made Inzamam a power-sharer, not using the harsher word power-abuser.

Inzamam's problem was the fact that things were happening fast and he wasn't well-equipped to keep a dossier on other professionals, with notes on their weaknesses and strengths. He didn't give thoughts to the mechanics and tactics of cricket that he was such a brilliant batsman. Where Inzamam fell down was on the equally important management side.

Wrapped up in his own game, he was unable to inspire and motivate his players. A captain has to put the needs of others before himself but Inzamam's own mindset came first. One of the reasons Imran Khan was so respected by the Pakistan team was that he never let his regular crises of personal form and fitness interfere with his leadership. The same was certainly not true of Inzamam.

Instead of waiting for things to happen, Inzamam should start living in what he has achieved -- he'll still grow bigger. In a half-cooked corporate style of cricket management with billions of rupees being allocated for cricket development, the PCB chairman must be an ambitious man. One hopes he realizes that a post-Inzamam era has to be taken at par with the post-Kerry Packer or post-Wasim Akram times.

Relieving Inzamam must not have been difficult, living without him will surely give nightmares to Shoaib Malik and his nascent vice-captain Salman Butt. One hopes Dr Nasim sees his deeds turning into dexterity but one thing is very clear, playing against teams like South Africa, India and Australia will not be like winning against a depleted Sri Lanka in the UAE.

It's not about not having Inzamam -- no one is indispensable but what we need to understand is the philosophical paradigm of management -- having horses for courses or having ideal replacements for idols. Are we well-prepared to peek into our future or we will still need to travel to Bhurban to plan and execute. It's not about allocation of heavy budgets for cricket development, it's about utilising the resources diligently and having conscientious and capable people at work -- otherwise we will be losing both, our future and money.

 


Afro-Asian series a success

but selection procedures not ideal

For Asia the hard-hitting Mahendra Dhoni, Mahela Jayawardene and Sourav Ganguly were the star performers. Mohammad Yousuf was average

By Muhammad Akram Chohan

The Afro-Asian cricket series, which concluded with the complete dominance of the Asian outfit over their opponents, has raised some questions particularly with regard to selection matters as a number of Pakistan players who participated in the said event did not get enough opportunities.

The quartet of Shoaib Malik, Imran Nazir, Shahid Afridi and Kamran Akmal could get just a solitary chance of playing in front of the buoyant Bangalore crowd. This was unjust as they all are proven performers in the shorter version of the game and they should have been given a fair chance, but for unknown reasons they were restricted to just the Twenty-20 game.

Chairman PCB Dr Nasim Ashraf should have raised his voice during the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) moot over the treatment meted out to our talented lot of youngsters.

If we do not take strong notice of such issues this practice will continue which may result in greater unrest among the players. Apart from this, the absence of star players from this event undermined its importance. Also the spectators and sponsors' response was lukewarm.

From Asia the notable absentees were big names like Sachin Tendulkar, Shoaib Akhtar, Muttiah Muralitharan, Kumar Sangakkara and Chaminda Vaas whereas from Africa Graeme Smith, Jacque Kallis and Makhaya Ntini withdrew because of various reasons in spite of the fact that the ICC had granted international status to this event.

If one goes through the statistics of the series Shaun Pollock, who played as a batsman, performed exceptionally well while Thomas Odoyo and Vusi Sibanda put up an average show. In the bowling department Peter Ongondo and Morne Morkel, in spite of having limited experience, put up a good show despite facing a strong Asian batting line-up. For Asia the hard-hitting Mahendra Dhoni, Mahela Jayawardene and Sourav Ganguly were the star performers. Muhammad Yousuf was average.

Asia's bowling department saw mixed performances, but for us in Pakistan the matter for concern is that vice-captain Mohammad Asif was completely off-colour, as he was during the Abu Dhabi series against the Sri Lankans, as he succeeded in getting just five scalps in return of 201 runs at 40.20, which does not do justice to the great capabilities of this young lad.

So the people who are conducting the camp in Abbottabad should give this prime importance and work extensively with him to sort out the real reasons for this poor display.

As far as the appointment of coach for the Pakistan team is concerned there are still three names which are under consideration of the high-ups of the Board -- Dav Whatmore, Geoff Lawson and Richard Done, all Australians. For Pakistan it is very important to have a foreign coach because he never takes part in team politics and keeps his distance from players to earn their respect as mentioned former captain Wasim Akram.

Whoever gets the job, the PCB should first contact him formally and then make any announcement to prevent a re-occurrence of the situation which left the BCCI red faced after Graham Ford turned down their offer to coach India. Former England spinner John Emburey, too, has expressed his inability to take up the assignment.

Initially the Indian board had shown keen interest in roping in Whatmore for the coveted job, but dropped his name from the list abruptly. Anyhow it will be interesting to see how the top brass of the BCCI tackles this tricky situation. They may opt for a local coach for the time being as we saw during the Bangladesh series when Ravi Shastri stepped in. On the forthcoming England tour Chandu Borde will take care of the team.

The pull-out of Ford at the eleventh hour was the result of the Indian board's condition of linking the coach's future with the performance of their team. In the presence of bowling and fielding coaches and the possible arrival of a batting coach or consultant, for which Sunil Gavaskar is utilising all his power to get Gundappa Vishwanath appointed, Ford would have found himself in a pretty uneasy position. This would also have put at stake his reputation as a great thinker of the game. Ford also ignored the fact that he was recommended by Indian skipper Rahul Dravid, who worked with the South Africa while playing for English county Kent.

Ford and Emburey's refusal will not only harm Indian cricket but will also create a difficult situation for BCCI chief Sharad Pawar as he is contesting the presidential elections of the ICC. It is evident from the current state of affairs that the coming days will be tough for them as problems like pay structure for players, the coach's appointment, and ICC elections remain unresolved.

The PCB have recently introduced a performance-based pay structure. The notable omission from the list of those players who will be in contention for having central contracts from the board are Inzamam-ul-Haq and Abdul Rehman. Anybody can have a difference of opinion with Inzamam over the procedure adopted by the former captain to run the team affairs but nobody can question Inzi's stature as a player and this type of shoddy treatment by the board is an act which needs rectification and by no means it is serving Pakistan cricket.

This is contrary to what Younis Khan is enjoying these days despite turning down the captaincy offer and withdrawing from the Abu Dhabi event citing county commitments. The PCB are keen to have him in the team for Scotland despite his mediocre performance in the World Cup and consistent ego problem. Whether Inzamam gets another chance to represent his country at international level only time will tell, but chances of this becoming a reality look very dim.

The final report about the mysterious death of the former coach of Pakistan team is out and as per its findings the death cause of Bob Woolmer was natural and our cricketers are very rightly demanding the PCB to take appropriate action against the Jamaican police and its James Bond-type chief Mark Shield, who let no stone unturned in defame the team in particular and Pakistan in general after Bob's death. But what a pity that PCB have decided to close the matter for good despite millions of cricket lovers' wishes.

Inzamam, with the support of some players, demanded to sue the Jamaican police officials and the PCB must listen to the grievances of the players as they were the main sufferers when this happened as they were mentally tortured and treated as they were the murderers. It is a matter of national integrity and prestige.

A very sad aspect of this whole affair is our former players' irresponsible attitude, and in this regard one can mention Sarfraz Nawaz who from day one have exploited the situation and raised suspicions over the manner in which Pakistan were ousted by Ireland from the World Cup and our legendary cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan appealed to PCB to take people like Sarfraz to task.

Sarfraz linked the defeat to match-fixing and by doing this he opened a Pandora's box and the Indian media took full advantage of this and made every attempt to malign all our national heroes and Pakistan itself.

The state of affairs between Senator Enver Baig and Chairman PCB Dr Nasim Ashraf is not a very ideal one and they are blaming each other in national dailies for one reason or the other and it's worsening with each passing day. These two gentlemen must settle all issues behind closed doors and not in public as their differences are not serving Pakistan cricket.

If they are sincere in their claims of being the well-wishers of Pakistan cricket they must respect each other's views and sort out their differences in a cordial way so that we could move forward and lay foundations for a bright future of Pakistan cricket.

 

Pak women in squash:

International exposure need of the hour

Last year in September, Pakistan staged the second $7,000 Women's POF Wah Cantt Open. Defending champion Carla Khan did not participate in the event due to a back injury

By Gul Nasreen

 

Though Pakistan remained the most dominant force on the world squash scene for the best part of the last fifty years, the country has yet to produce a top world-class female player. There is no denying the fact that women squash has made steady progress in Pakistan in recent years, but even then our players are lagging far behind at international level.

This could be gauged from the major slump experienced by our women in the new world women's rankings announced by the Women's International Squash Association recently. Pakistan's leading squash player Carla Khan, who is out of the international circuit because of fitness problems, has fallen from No. 84 to 91 in the new June rankings. Four more Pakistani women -- Maria Toor Pakay, Muqaddas Ashraf, Saima Shaukat and Anna Batool Kardar -- also fell in the rankings.

Current national champion Maria from Peshawar slipped 15 places down to No. 134 while Muqaddas and Saima fell from a joint No. 155 to joint No. 169.

In this back drop of continued slump in world rankings of our women, the Pakistan Squash Federation's decision to opt against sending girls to the 2007 World Junior Women's Squash Championships to be held in Hong Kong in August is not justified.

The matter of the fact is that PSF organises tournaments for female players regularly at the junior and senior levels and also sends the top players to participate in international events abroad. As such one could not understand the reason behind opting against fielding their girls in the Hong Kong event, which would be played from August 1-11. Obviously, the tournament is of much importance for Pakistani women, as it might provide them with an opportunity to gain international exposure.

The irony is that while Pakistan has opted out of the biennial event, several new nations would be making their maiden appearances in the championship. They include China, South Korea and Zimbabwe.

As many as 18 nations will participate in the tournament and would be led by hosts and title-holders Hong Kong along side five-time champions England, three-time champions Australia, two-time champions Egypt and New Zealand, Malaysia, the Netherlands, USA, Canada, South Africa, France, Germany, Switzerland, India, Japan plus championship newcomers China, South Korea and Zimbabwe.

By opting out of this championship, which is being hosted by Hong Kong for the first time, the PSF has denied women a healthy opportunity. Our squash women need maximum international exposure and our female players too are aware of this need. Pakistan's top female squash player Maria Toor Pakay in one of her recent interviews was quoted to have called for urgent need of international exposure for the improvement in their game.

The Peshawar-based female squash player, who joined WISPA in 2006, had said that to play in couple of international tournaments in a year was not enough to make an excellent international debut.

"I have been playing at the professional level for the last three years but how much tournaments I get abroad and the answer is just two tournaments in a year. I do not know about the standard of foreign female players then how can I compete against them. They (foreign players) are participating in number of international competitions throughout the year but here we just play the two to three tournaments per year," Maria, 17, had said.

Coming back to Pakistan's female squash-friendly steps, Pakistan hosted a Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) tournament worth around US$5000 in September 2005. The WISPA-sanctioned event, which was held in Wah near the capital, was the first of its kind in Pakistan.

Players from five countries including England, India and hosts Pakistan participated in that four-day Women's International Squash Players Association (WISPA) tournament. Although it had a small-prize money event of $7,000, this was deemed as the beginning of international women's squash activities in Pakistan. England-based Pakistani Carla Khan, who was then number 23 in the WISPA rankings made her mark by winning the tournament in style. She led the 16 players in the main rounds, which also featured number two seed Sharon Wee of Malaysia, Line Hansen of Denmark and Jenna Gates of England. India's Joshna Chinappa also took part.

Staging such a mega event then was by no means a small achievement for a country where women sports still lag far behind and where women's mixed marathon made headlines in Gujranwala the same year prior to that event.

Afterwards, Pakistan hoped of gold medal in the 10th South Asian Games in Colombo last year, but Pakistan received a major blow as Pakistan's Carla Khan was out of the event due to back injury after winning her initial matches of the SA Games.

Last year in September, Pakistan staged the second $7,000 Women's POF Wah Cantt Open. Defending champion Carla Khan did not participate in the event due to a back injury. She was injured during the 10th South Asian Games and was then advised to rest for at least three months.

However, Unseeded Maria Toor Pakay maintained local interest through to the last four of the Women's POF Wah Cantt Open when she overcame Pakistani compatriot Aliya Sarfraz to claim her maiden appearance in the semifinals of a WISPA World Tour event. Reaching the semifinal was not a bad show at all keeping in view the very little international activity of our players.

After that the PSF has continued to hold national level events. The federation also came with special coaching assignment for the female players. Our women have continued to shine in those events at local level.

Maria Toor is currently national champion as she beat fellow Wapda player Muqaddas Ashraf in just 13 minutes in the final to win the title of National Women Squash Championship in April last at Asif Nawaz Squash Complex, Karachi.

Top seed Maria Toor claimed the National Women Squash Championship title after outclassing Muqadas Ashraf in straight sets in the final at the DHA Asif Nawaz Squash Complex.

Maria, the pre-tournament favourite representing Wapda in the Rs 100,000 event had lived up to expectations and had played aggressive game to thrash her colleague with a 9-4, 9-0, 9-5 scoreline in only 13 minutes. Maria Toor also shone in the 30th National Games which were held in Karachi in April this year, WAPDA pair of Maria Toor and Muqaddas Ashraf clinched the team squash gold of the 30th National Games when they dethroned Army 2-1 in the final at PN Roshan Khan/Jahangir Khan Squash Complex.

In addition, Maria had also grabbed individual title by beating fellow WAPDA player Muqaddas Ashraf. The purpose to say is that our female players are willing to participate and improve their skills. What they lack is the international exposure, devoid of which, it would be a futile exercise to hold a single international tournament for women in year in Pakistan.

The PSF should look into the idea of in crease in exchanging women's competitions with a couple of regional countries. The federation should see whether Pakistan could arrange matches against countries like India or Malaysia on a home-and-away basis.

As far as the coaching of our players is concerned, recently, the PSF had also promised a big change in the game of women players, saying Coach was working hard on them. Besides, the training on part of the coach, it's also the quality of a player that how much they can get the useful tips from their trainer or coach.

To conclude one may make it a point that along side coaching stints and other female squash-friendly measures, international exposure is a must for our squashy ones as without it we will not be able to produce world class players.

The PSF should take the women's side of things much more seriously and work on the lines of the success story of the Egyptian and Malaysian women's programs and we are sure that the campaign's results will be positive as we have a galaxy of girls in squash.

 

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