Akhtar: Ultimate verdict overdue
somebody tour Pakistan? Please!
central contracts: How were they distributed?
Ganguly unfairly dropped from India one-day squad
Our wonderful women of cricket
Sajjida Shah from Kotri, who started cricket at the age of 12 and is still only 19, stands on top of the list with best figures in a Women's One-day International
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
One has reached a stage in life where nothing really shocks. But one does feel a little dejected when questions like "does Pakistan really have a women's cricket team?" pop up from time to time. Even from those who profess to be die-hard sporting fans and appear to have a particular affinity for cricket. Perhaps, that's why the fact that the Pakistan Women's cricket team has qualified for next year's World Cup in Australia failed to create any visible ripples back at home. Even when our wonderful women of cricket had achieved something that would have been considered impossible when they left the air terminal here to fly off to South Africa earlier in the month of February.
Almost immediately, once it took the field in the opening game at Stellenbosch, the Pakistan Women's cricket team raised comparisons with the hockey-based storyline that the recent Bollywood blockbuster 'Chak De India!' had to offer. The otherwise rag-tag army of women -- cricketwise only, of course -- of the smartly turned out ladies in their uniform of various shades of the Pakistan green had most sports enthusiasts sit up and notice when they beat Ireland in their first match of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women's World Cup Qualifiers Series tournament.
The victory margin was a convincing 57 runs. Questions were bound to be asked. Has a Pakistan Women's cricket team ever won by a bigger margin? Has a Pakistan Women's cricket team ever won a cricket match? Well, whatever answers one had ready for the sceptics, just days later the Pakistani girls were involved in a triumph that beat all imagination. They defeated the Scotland Women in the same tournament by the whopping margin of 252 runs.
After having notched up a big total of 278 runs for eight wickets in their allotted 50 overs, Pakistan had Scotland dismissed for a mere 26 runs in 28.3 overs. This win took them into the competition semifinals, where they beat Netherlands Women by the somewhat smaller difference of 94 runs, an achievement that not only took them into the final but into the World Cup proper also, regardless of what the result was going to be in their match against South Africa.
Of course, the Pakistan Women, in spite of the fact that they have been active on the international cricket scene for just over a decade now, really are not familiar faces even in the context of their home public. Hardly anyone knew who the team's skipper Urooj Mumtaz was, until questions started being asked as Pakistan qualified for the Women's World Cup.
Urooj is an articulate, 22-year-old young woman from Karachi, who is preparing for her final exams in dentistry. Her parents are both dentists too. Moreover, she plays cricket in the manner of a professional, having scored a big knock of 172 in an international fixture not so long ago and bowls her right-arm leg-breaks with quite a bit of success.
In the World Cup Qualifiers, when the Pakistan Women defeated Zimbabwe Women by nine wickets, Urooj completed a hat-trick as she returned figures of three for 14 in 7.3 overs. Zimbabwe were bowled out for a poor 58 runs in 35.3 overs and Pakistan knocked off the 59 runs in just 13 overs for the loss of one wicket.
Unfortunately, only three of Pakistan Women's five matches at the Qualifiers enjoyed full One-day International status -- teams like Scotland and Zimbabwe have not reached those standards yet. Urooj's hat-trick thus doesn't become part of the women's cricket official records. But the fact remains that the skipper and her teammates' superlative efforts have got them through to the highest level of their sphere of cricket.
LET'S NOT IGNORE THE PIONEERS
Even with its short history, women's cricket in Pakistan can be divided into two distinct phases. The sport flourished in this country, even before the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) decided to institute its own women's cricket wing and take charge of the ladies at the official level. This happened not so long ago in 2005, when the Shaharyar M Khan-led PCB got geared up to organise women's cricket at the national level.
But a bunch of enthusiastic girls, under the tutelage of Shaiza Said Khan, the daughter of one of Pakistan's leading carpet manufacturers and exporters, made a tour of New Zealand in the year 1997 and played One-day Internationals which, of course, they lost quite miserably.
In spite of this setback, which was their inital foray into the realm of cricket, the Pakistan Women were invited to play in the Women's World Cup held in India later the same year. There were 11 teams in all in the contest and, needless to say, the totally inexperienced Pakistan team lost all its five group matches by heavy margins.
The Khan sisters, Sharmeen is the younger one who bowls right-arm fast-medium unlike Shaiza who is a leg-spinner, used generous donations from their father, money coming in from sympathetic supporters and rebated tickets from the national airlines to fund their tours abroad. The Pakistan Women's team had travelled to places like New Zealand, India, Sri Lanka, Ireland and Netherlands in just a few years' time.
Both Shaiza and Sharmeen played for Leeds University when they were studying textiles realted subjects in England. They also represented the MCC women's side and appeared for clubs around the area. One of their friends Kiran Baloch, a masterly batswoman, also joined the Khan sisters in their cricketing pursuits in England.
The Khan family looked after all the women cricketers as their own, providing them board and lodging in their own factory premises when they were attending camps and practice in Karachi. All expenses for matches and tours were also borne by them. Moreover, the girls survived court cases and death threats from fundamentalists and conservatives alike and, for a long time, no male visitors were allowed in grounds where the women were playing.
The Khan sisters formed their own Pakistan Women's Cricket Council which they got registered with the International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC), without getting official cover from the PCB. Once the PCB got control of women's cricket, the IWCC had also given way to the sport going under the wing of the ICC and the pioneering Pakistan women found it difficult to hold on to their exclusive standing as the lone representatives of women's cricket in the country.
THE KHAN SISTERS ERA COMES TO AN END
With the PCB organising a women's wing, with an independent chairperson and secretary, in addition to a women's cricket adviser, the team also had to be built anew. The Khan sisters were found to be reluctant to join in, as their hold on the affairs had slipped. They were found wanting fitness-wise too and discovered they had no place in the new-look line-up.
Several girls from the 'old team' would have gained automatic selection to the new team. But Kiran Baloch, showing solidarity with her mentors, refusing to move over to the official camp. Wicket-keeper Batool Fatima and all-rounder Sajjida Shah did, however, switch allegiance. Both were proud members of the squad that has just qualified for the 2009 World Cup.
Although most observers say that the Khan sisters' playing days were already over, Kiran's loss has been disappointing. She remains the record holder of the highest innings ever played in a women's international match. In March 2004, playing in a drawn Test match against the West Indies Women at National Stadium Karachi, Kiran scored a monumental 242, that saw her bat for nine hours 44 minutes, face 488 balls and hit 38 fours.
In the same match, Shaiza captured more wickets than any other woman in an international cricket Test, with her figures of 13 wickets for 226 runs. Sajjida Shah from Kotri, who started cricket at the age of 12 and is still only 19, stands on top of the list with best figures in a Women's One-day International.
In an ODI against Japan Women, in Amsterdam in the summer of 2003, bowling her off-spinners Sajjida had figures of eight overs, five maidens, seven wickets for only four runs!
Still, wins have been hard to obtain for the Pakistan Women in international cricket. Of their 57 one-dayers they have won just 10, with 45 lost and two abandoned. They have lost two of their three Test matches and drawn the other one.
Still, their overwhelming record at the World Cup Qualifiers has warmed a great number of hearts. They beat Ireland (8) and Netherlands (9) in South Africa, two teams placed higher than their own number 10 ranking in women's cricket. They lost to seventh ranked South Africa in the final but both have joined the big six -- Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Sri Lanka and West Indies -- in next year's World Cup.
The Pakistani girls may be in for a torrid time in Australia in much stronger company. But first, they are going to Colombo this year to take part in the Women's Asia Cup. They need our blessings and support big time. 'Chak De Pakistan' or, as we might say it in English 'Come On Pakistan', as our girls get ready to take on the cricketing world.
writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'
No doubt he is a match winner on his day but Pakistanis have been awaiting that fortunate day for a long time now, however it seems now that it may never come
By Khurram Mahmood
The Pakistan team are as good as any other world class team if they play as a team and they have proved it so many times, but inconsistency in their performance makes them the most unpredictable side in the world.
Pakistan has the pride to produce world class fast bowlers regularly from its inaugural Test against India in 1952. In the spin department too, Pakistan bowlers proved themselves among the best.
Shoaib Akhtar, known as the "Rawalpindi Express" is one of Pakistan's fastest bowlers ever produced. He is a one-man demolition squad when he finds his rhythm. He is a big man, full of energy and keen to break the speed barriers and be recognised as the No. 1 fast bowler in the World.
There is a great deal of expectation from the speedster, when he marks his run up at about 35 yards from the stumps and runs in to bowl his express delivery. The sheer presence of Shoaib at the top of his bowling mark is an exciting thing to watch.
Shoaib always remains in the headlines whether he is in the ground or off the field. His fitness problems have kept him away most of the time from international cricket. He made his debut in 1997 at Rawalpindi against West Indies and after a decade he has played just 46 Tests taking 178 wickets and 138 One-day Internationals with 219 wickets. During that period Pakistan has played 92 Tests, which means Shoaib has missed as many as 46 Test matches, mostly on fitness grounds.
A question which he frequently faces is why he hasn't lost weight and shortened his run up, cut down on pace and made adjustments. Wasim Akram is an excellent example as he bowled six different balls in an over and generates pace with a shortened run-up, Surely, Shoaib can became more lethal for the opponents.
His career is full of controversies. His career was jolted when controversial Australian umpire Ross Emerson called his action as suspect in November 1999. Emerson also no-balled Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan in a Test match in Adelaide the same year. But then Australian Cricket Board (ACB) chief executive Malcolm Speed ended the Shoaib Akhtar chucking affair after watching a 20-minute video tape of his action sent by umpires Ross Emerson and Terry Prue.
But in December 1999 again, a nine member International Cricket Council (ICC) committee banned Shoaib Akhtar from international cricket over his bowling action. In January 2000 the then ICC chairman Jagmohan Dalmiya of India had cleared Shoaib to play in the triangular tournament against Australia and India.
In November 2002 Shoaib Akhtar was found guilty of ball tampering in the first Test against Zimbabwe, according to match referee Clive Lloyd. The former West Indies captain confirmed the umpires had reported the matter to him and after inspecting the ball they agreed that it had been scratched and Shoaib had changed the condition of the ball illegally during the match which ended with Pakistan's 119-run victory.
In May 2003, Shoaib Akhtar was fined 75% of his match fee and banned for two One-day Internationals for ball-tampering. He was hauled before Gundappa Viswanath, the match referee, after television footage showed him scratching the surface of the ball during Pakistan's 22-run victory over New Zealand.
In October 2003 Shoaib Akhtar was named vice-captain of the Pakistan team to play the home series against South Africa, and after just a few days was suspended for one Test and two One-day Internationals after being found guilty of using abusive language against Paul Adams on the first day of the first Test at Lahore.
Clive Lloyd, the match referee, found him committing a Level 2 offence. The penalty for that would normally be a ban of one Test or two ODIs, but since this was his second breach over the last 12 months, the punishment was upgraded to that of a Level 3 offence.
In October 2006, Shoaib Akhtar was banned from cricket for two years after found guilty of using the banned anabolic steroid nandrolone, by a three-man drugs committee formed by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) a day before starting the opening game of the Champions Trophy.
But Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, who was also slapped with a ban for the same reason, were acquitted by the new tribunal appointed to review their appeals against the drugs ban. After clearance from the ban for doping, Shoaib Akhtar once again came in the headlines when he was fined Rs 10,000 by the organisers of the Twenty20 Cup for refusing to wear a sponsors' logo during the event in December last year.
Last month PCB chairman Nasim Ashraf said that Shoaib Akhtar was not interested in playing for Pakistan. He has signed a contract with the Indian Premier League (IPL) without the permission of the PCB.
A few days back Shoaib Akhtar unconditionally apologised to the board for criticising them. Shoaib condemned the board during the Pentangular Cup on thepitch condition. The Board issued him a show-cause notice to clarify his statement. Initially Shoaib refused to submit his reply but later he apologised to the board.
The PCB should think about Shoaib Akhtar's consistent injury and behaviour problems as it has become a regular practice that Shoaib starts a series with a bang but leaves the side in the lurch, especially for the Test matches his fitness is still debatable.
Now the management should take a decision about Shoaib Akhtar. No doubt he is a match winner on his day but Pakistanis have been awaiting that fortunate day for a long time now, however it now seems that it may never come.
A few years back, famous broadcaster Harsha Bhogle wrote in an article that Shane Warne was a great cricketer but not a nice role-model to idolise for young cricketers. Now it appears that the case may not be too different with Shoaib Akhtar either.
writer works in the art department at 'The News on Sunday' in Karachi
Cricket hasn't been the only sport that has felt the consequences of political turmoil here in our country
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
The ongoing political and social crises in Pakistan seem to be running on a never-ending lane. They, supposedly, are further intensifying our already battered morale and instilling an atmosphere of fear in our lives.
People living here have been the most affected. They can't live freely in their homeland. They are mystified and need to find a path towards enlightening their future. Nobody is safe even in their own backyard.
And obviously, this lack of freedom and a feeling of terrorism wandering over people's head are also upsetting other issues.
Pakistan is meant to be governed by democrats. Anarchy is prohibited here. People like to do things their own way. If they are to see a person ruling over them, they want to select the premier by their vote of confidence.
In spite of that, there have been a number of events that have hampered the stability of the country. Not only has that affected the nation financially and socially, it has also blown up Pakistan's overseas image.
The field that has been an issue of concern because of these fragmentary problems is of sports. Since Pakistan's inception, the country has not made a lot of improvement in many departments other than sports.
These days, sports events to be organised here are being hampered at large. And cricket has been the most highly disrupted sport.
Pakistan were to host world champions Australia for a three-Test and five-match One-day International (ODI) series early this month. This was the most anticipated series of all this year for the hosts as Aussies always provide the stiffest of tests.
But circumstances have made a u-turn now. Pakistan's unhealthy political condition has made Aussies to change their minds. The series, which was a part of pre-defined Futures Tour Programme (FTP) pencilled in by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and approved by the concerned cricketing boards, is now in jeopardy.
Though Pakistan's national team boasts the services of former Australia pacer Geoff Lawson as their coach, who has also assured Cricket Australia (CA) that Pakistan is a safe place to be in, the best team in the world still isn't sure of making a decision. A few Australia players still think touring Pakistan would be a mistake.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), meanwhile, has assured the Aussies that they would be in safe hands when they tour the country. The Board has also confirmed that their tour will now be shortened and it is expected that they (Aussies) might only play a few ODIs.
But the Aussies still are unlikely to tour Pakistan. Sighting this move, the national cricket board started to sort out plans to fill in the gaps that are likely to be created by the Australian cricket team's absence.
It has been a long time since our national team played any sort of cricket. Pakistan last played international cricket in 2007 which was an away Test and ODI series against India. They lost both the rubbers there.
To counter that, PCB held talks with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) and invited them for ODI series. But both of them did not agree to the proposal.
They were right in their own way. Both India and Sri Lanka have had their share amount of workload and have been playing non-stop cricket. They said it would be impossible for them to add a new series to their already jam-packed schedule.
Then, the PCB made another move. This time they invited the lowly-ranked Bangladesh to tour Pakistan and play a few one-dayers. What a change of fate! At one side, the home team was gearing up to face the world's best and now they could be playing against the minnows of world cricket.
Poor Pakistan! Their team's future to play international cricket this summer on home soil still remains dubious until the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) makes a decision. They (BCB) might say 'No' as well to Pakistan's invitation as they themselves are busy playing against the visiting Proteas. Who knows!
Cricket, though, hasn't been the only sport that has felt the consequences of political turmoil here in our country.
Last year, Pakistan were deprived from hosting the Champions Trophy hockey tournament. Our national hockey team, one of the strongest forces in the game, had made all the arrangements to hold the coveted event.
But the International Hockey Federation (FIH) then decided against hosting the tournament in Lahore and awarded the tournament to Malaysia.
If this remains the scenario in Pakistan, where suicide bombings and killing of important personnel is at large these days, one feels that the country won't be hosting any team, be it from the cricketing world or any other sport, in the near future.
And the fact remains that why should foreigners visit Pakistan when the situation here is crumbling day by day. When we, people living here, are running for our lives and are seeking a safe place for shelter, why should people from other countries risk their lives?
The authorities must now step up to counter these situations and provide a tension-free and better future to the country's residents and people who ought to visit it.
writer is a staff member at 'The News' Karachi
The fast bowler hasn't been steady, like most of the people in the PCB, in first making claims and then devastatingly retracting them
By Dr Nauman Niaz
From the current cricket regime not much can be ever expected and the see-saw of decisions and retractions or not, closed door meetings with shadowy emissaries of embattled and frightened administrators, denials and acceptance, formulas and deals -- we have been seeing all this and more.
It is not for the likes of me to make any comment being an outsider and not at all engaged in such matters, but what many of us do know is that there have been a group of directors including the PCB Chairman who remained steadfast in their stand from day one in ignoring sound advice and practical solutions to the problems. You may not agree with some of the things they say or the company they often have to keep, but they haven't wavered an inch.
Intractability, intolerance or stubbornness, it seems these qualities haven't made Dr Nasim Ashraf and his 'enlightened' directors Pakistan cricket's most loved and respected man-managers. It is equally disheartening, that the Director Cricket Operations (with experience of two Tests) and the Chairman PCB (three first-class matches to his credit) haven't been able to gauge the strengths and weaknesses of the administrative pitch where the ball has an uncanny way of trapping one unexpectedly.
They kept on masking the frailties and tried to show, we all who shifted and swayed with the winds of the day, that there was another way -- the route to stability and success was never determined, quite deliberately.
The time has come, the current PCB regime would be ditched soon, but my point is, so what? Dr Nasim's time is ending -- it seems he has at the end of the day sand inexorably drifting through his fingers. He wasn't able to stand tall and become part of the sterling stuff in a sham world.
Similar has been the case with Pakistan cricket's firepowerhouse Shoaib Akhtar. Puzzled, bewildered and though sporadically, he wallows in and then starts finding methods to spring out of the controversies -- he hasn't been steady, like most of the people in the PCB, in first making claims and then devastatingly retracting them.
It was made public that Akhtar refused to respond to the notice sent by the Pakistan Cricket Board, asking him to explain his critical statements in the media. Pumped-up and raged, he manfully decided to stand up to authority -- there were a handful of people ready to sympathise with him.
Akhtar went to an extent of believing that the board had no right to question him as he wasn't one of the centrally contracted players. "I am not contracted to them", Akhtar had told correspondents covering the Pentangular Cup game between Federal Areas and Punjab at Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium. "So I am not bound to respond to their notice. How can they seek any explanation from me?" he further added.
"They can send me as many notices as they want but I know my rights and when I am not contracted to them I am not going to answer them." He was furious because he had been treated contemptibly by the PCB. Primarily, on the evidence of team manager Talat Ali Malik's tour report (India 2007), Akhtar was overlooked for a central contract and subsequently relegated to a miserly retainer which he refused to honour, insisting that he didn't need money to play for Pakistan.
Burdened with insult, Akhtar slay the board's policy on player contracts, openly accusing them of double standards. Despite his refusal, he still had time until February 18th, 2008 to respond to the notice.
There were possibilities that if he rebelled failing to send a rejoinder, the PCB could impose a life ban. At one stage, it seemed Akhtar was completely charged, convinced to show his tight fists to the authorities, dismissing PCB's statements that he needed to sign up the retainer to get a NOC to get contracted by the multi-million dollar Indian Premier League starting in April 2008.
"Why do I need an NOC from them," he questioned. "I have no contract with them. So why this NOC condition and secondly this is a matter between me and the IPL and not the board."
In between Akhtar was sacked from his regional team, the Federal Capital Area contesting in the Pentangular Cup and removed as captain. Nevertheless, he insisted that he had moved out of the league because of his sister's wedding falling in between. The decision to sack him was taken by the FCA team management, citing poor performance (18 overs without a wicket against Punjab), indiscipline and the negative influence he had on teammates. It was evident someone from the FCA was complying with the controversy-ridden PCB chairman.
Akhtar at one hand was taking on the PCB and on the other was virtually desperate to join the IPL. He had gone public stating that he had spoken to the IPL commissioner Lalit Modi and wished to play a big part in the league. Akhtar was expected to be in India by February 20th to hold talks with the IPL franchisees.
His agent David Ligertwood said that Akhtar had agreed in principle to the IPL contract and he was likely to sign by February 17th. This was one view. Now the other side of the midnight -- Akhtar despite his contradictory claims responded to the show cause notice issued by the PCB on February 16th, 2008.
Subject: Show Cause Notice
Dated: 16th February 2008
To the Chairman PCB
In the backdrop of the show cause notice served at my Lahore residence it is to confide to you as I have every respect for you as one good for an elder brother more so because you have been quite a helping hand throughout your tenure.
Being morally obliged prompted by the impact of the statements attributed to me as a gesture of reciprocity I am writing here to relate and define to you my position based on institutional facts. It is not my intent to be critical of the board without any substantial grounds as I have always complied with your able and prudent leadership and have every intent to comply with board decisions in future.
As for the media both electronic and print you might be aware are always prone to reporting news and showing snaps quite out of context with the actual statements emanated in peculiar situations in point of time and scenario... for personal gains and fulfillment of vested interest is the order of the day specially in this part of world.
It is my bold conviction that by the Grace of God Almighty I am physically fit and all set to play for Pakistan with a positive and open mind in a healthy and conducive environment free from lousy politics of mud slinging. With this resolve I would like to reiterate that if anything has gone adverse against the PCB as the result of misquoting my statements through a section of the press I withdraw my statements taken out of context otherwise were issued by me in good faith without negligence on my part. In spite of all this if the board considers that I have been critical to them then I deeply regret the inconvenience caused to them with due apology to the concerned authority.
We all know these are outdated values, but you still expect better. In Akhtar, the half-truths have been airborne for months, if you consider the immediate and latest disaster to strike it. In the case of the PCB, the decline has been there for years but for immediate purposes, it can be dated to when a moronic set of directors created what is now could be termed as complete 'chaos'.
PCB's prejudice or whatever will be forgotten. What will remain etched is that Akhtar abandoned his own reflections. His tarnished name linked forever with submitting to the PCB contrary to his persona and proclamations. It is also now a matter of grim record -- not that it really matters in Pakistan where black becomes white daily and vice versa, that both Akhtar and the PCB have long been deteriorating.
The PCB is a cauldron of nepotism and inefficiency and Akhtar has been running amok with enormous unchecked powers, no rule books to bother about, no accountability worth the name rising and falling.
It is not within one's knowledge or competence to do an analysis of what all is wrong with the PCB and why after so many years, all one hears is more and more bad news. It is not possible to analyse that this board, once the toast of the cricket landscape is now last week's left over stale bread.
Like all of us, who continue to live in the past, sipping on the nectar of great deeds that we once performed, the cricket board has basked in this self-serving, self-created glow of its illustrious nascent years. The board was something to be reckoned in those days. But life is cruel and reality always within slapping distance. Its decline has been unprecedented.
It is a cricket board where the basics have gone flying out of the window and where the wrong people sit on high seats causing havoc all around. Who can tell us how many directors sit on cushy jobs in the PCB when majority of the work is outsourced, like most things? What are their cricket credentials? Managers, General Managers and Directors have all failed.
The results are more shame and ignominy on what is still a symbol of cricket management in the country. But who's going to sort it out?
The central contracts: How were they distributed?
Kaneria should have been handled with a bit of respect, as he is only behind Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir with over 200 Test wickets
By Muhammad Asif Khan
After the new central contracts mixed reactions came to the fore, but the reactions from fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar and leg-spinner Danish Kaneria caught everybody's attention and as soon as these bowlers showed a bit of resentment, the axe of disciplinary action fell on them big time.
To get an idea of the PCB system to award contract let's go back to the previous contracts that were awarded in July last year in which Shoaib Malik (cCaptain), Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul were placed in Category A, Salman Butt (vice-captain), Danish Kaneria, Mohammad Sami, Kamran Akmal, Imran Farhat, Yasir Hameed, Mohammad Hafeez in category B while category C included Faisal Iqbal, Rao Iftikhar, Imran Nazir, Misbah-ul-Haq and Yasir Arafat.
The interesting bit was that Inzamam-ul-Haq was not found good enough for any category, was not it strange? Not at all, because the PCB chairman at that time said "It doesn't mean that Inzamam's career is over. If the selectors find that Inzamam meets the criteria of selection and still has something to offer to Pakistan, he can still play." So this time around, Mr Kaneria and Mr Akhtar should not be dejected because if it can happen with someone like Inzamam then it can happen with anyone.
While keeping in view the criteria for the last contracts, this time around the situation surely seems a bit fishy as a few mates were either retained or promoted despite of their not-so-satisfactory performances, such as wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal, whose form behind the wickets has not been even close to a satisfactory one, yet he was retained in Category B.
Another fellow is fast bowler Muhammad Asif who is no doubt a good bowler but in view of his performance in the last six months if he is retained then this is a question for the PCB to answer. He played only two Test matches (the home series against South Africa), bowled 70 overs and claimed two wickets.
On the other hand, the people who were demoted (Danish Kaneria and Shoaib Akhtar) have had a reasonably good last six months of the year 2007. The leg-spinner played five Test matches and claimed 22 wickets, while the Rawalpindi Express took nine wickets in the four Test matches that he played. In Shoaib Akhtar's case many would recall his reported behaviour, but I feel for Kaneria, he should have been handled with a bit of respect, as he is only behind Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Imran Khan and Abdul Qadir with over 200 Test wickets. One more thing goes in favour of Kaneria is that he has never breached the code of conduct in the past, this latest move definitely followed the pain he might have felt after the demotion.
Now coming to Shoaib Akhtar whose case is a bit bleak as he is currently on a two-year probation period, as part of the punishment he received after a notorious bat-hitting event. During this period, any act of indiscipline or breach of code of conduct could result in an automatic life ban.
On Shoaib's recent statements, the board sent him notice, and Shoaib refused to respond, saying since he is not contracted to the PCB therefore he will not respond to the notice. This statement of Shoaib really opened up a new front and the outcome is likely to be against the speedster. My question to the authorities is that if Shoaib Akhtar is not managed properly then was it not the fault of the manager also?
contributor is a freelance writer
BCCI has taken a great risk as not only the Indian team's reputation is at stake as true competitors, the careers of youngsters are also on the line
The India cricket team has taken part in the triangular cricket tournament also involving hosts Australia and Sri Lanka. Before this tournament the Indian team had taken on the Australians in a closely contested four-Test match series.
For this triangular one-day series, the Indian think tank had opted for youth in the batting department rather than experience thus excluding the experienced duo, former captains Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly, from the squad for the competition.
During the said one-day series it has been observed with great intensity that the inexperienced and over ambitious Indian middle order has not succeeded in getting the desired results.
Despite this very fact that they are talented and having the dream opportunity at their disposal to perform at a very appropriate platform to get recognition at international level, their casual and adventurous approach has resulted in a real sorry state of affairs for the Indian team.
It is true that the experiment of trying too many youngsters in one go during the Twenty20 cricket tournament had paid dividends but in comparison the 50-over matches are a different ball game altogether.
This sort of cricket definitely requires a lot of acute planning, tolerance, experience and continuity.
The number of overs in Twenty20 cricket are much less than the original one-day cricket, that's why in this type of cricket one has to hit the ball from the word go, never having the time to get settled in the middle.
This cricket is ideal for players like Rohit Sharma, Robin Uthappa and other youngsters as this requires a carefree nature, an enthusiastic approach and power and not too much brains or technique.
But in 50-over cricket, a player being overambitious can prove costly for the team in testing times.
Indian cricket is going through all these circumstances these days as their younger lot is not coming up to expectations of the nation, team and the Board. In this scenario one does feel that there is still great need of a reliable experienced middle order batsman to come good when the chips are down and for that slot The Prince of Calcutta Sourav Ganguly is the most suitable and ideal person.
Sourav Ganguly, who had departed for home after the conclusion of the Test series, has recently shown his eagerness in becoming an integral part of the Indian one-day squad once again.
By introducing quite a few youngsters who are still in their early stages of international cricket careers against the two most formidable one-day outfits, the BCCI has taken a great risk as not only the Indian team's reputation is at stake as true competitors, the careers of youngsters are also on the line as a long queue of talented youngsters in a populated country such as India are waiting for being considered just once.
This nerve wracking competitive cricket can end some promising careers as Australians are quite famous in exploiting a youngsters emotions thus making it easier to get his wicket if he is a batsman or making him off the line and wayward if he is a bowler.
So the need of the hour is that there should be a mixture of youth and experience as both are very essential and undeniable component of any setup.
If one goes through the Indian bating line up who is battling out in the middle during the competition, except Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag, and keep this in mind very clearly that both these are playing as openers in this competition not as middle order batsman. The rest are quite young including the talented duo of Yuvraj Singh and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
All these young players are having this habit of losing their wickets on crucial junctures of the game due to rush of blood.
Sourav Ganguly, who has over a decade's experience of international cricket, can prove much more productive with his gentle medium paced bowling too along with his batting.
Since his return to the Indian one-day squad in early 2007, he has succeeded in gathering 1240 runs in 32 matches at a remarkable average of 44.28 and had performed par excellence with a bang just before the World Cup 2007 to take the man of the series award against Sri Lanka upon his rebirth as an international player.
But one can't say or do much as the reins of the Indian cricket board are in the hands of none other than Sachin Tendulkar who is calling the shots these days in the board set up.
BCCI president Sharad Pawar, who also hails from Mumbai like Tendulkar and also heads the Mumbai Cricket Association, has a soft corner and great regard for the little master.
It is also worth mentioning here that Pawar and Ganguly's one time mentor former ICC and BCCI head Jagmohan Dalmiya was involved in a fierce battle for the presidenship of the BCCI some time ago.
Jagmohan Dalmiya, who had played a significant and pivotal role in Sourav Ganguly's progress as an international player, is a harsh critic of the BCCI's current management.
It is also a life long tradition in our part of the world, that after coming into power one does try to finish all his opponents and their supporters and the same is the case with Jagmohan Dalmiya and Sourav Ganguly, who are facing the wrath of the BCCI.
They are from the city of Calcutta and have worked collectively and positively in the past with great amount of understanding and respect for each other. But after the arrival of Sharad Pawar as BCCI President, now Sachin Tendulkar is dictating terms in the corridors of power i.e. the BCCI headquarters.
Sachin Tendulkar has decided to take revenge from those while remaining behind the scene who were instrumental in his sacking as skipper some years back. Among them Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly were the most notable ones as they both were nominated vice captain and captain respectively after the removal of Tendulkar.
But to the sheer bad luck of both of them, they could not go a long way and misunderstandings erupted after a short span of time and the result is that both of them are out of the one-day squad despite having the record of scoring thousands of runs in this form of the game too.
Anyhow, considering the poor form of Rahul Dravid in recent times, his exclusion does seem a bit correct but the omission of Sourav Ganguly is not one which one can digest easily.
So the BCCI should immediately look into this matter on an urgent basis as this matter is of great importance and a piece of advice for the newly crowned one-day captain of the Indian team Mahendra Singh Dhoni to keep distance from politics and elephant war otherwise he will have to hear the music in the near future which will be really painful to see as he is really a star in the making.
He needs to concentrate just on his game and team affairs to become more acceptable to the other members of the Indian team.