Pakistan Women now join world cricket's big girls
The Abbottabad-born Qanita Jalil, who triggered a Sri Lanka team collapse with the first three wickets, looks the part as a pace bowler with her good height and curly golden brown locks
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
Instead of boarding a flight on their return home, as they had been earlier booked for the journey back for Sunday (today), the Pakistan Women's cricket team are staying on in Australia during this entire week. They have now become one of the 'big girls' fraternity of international cricket, having qualified for the Super Six stage of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women's World Cup that's under way Down Under.

Optimism at its best or naivety at its worst?
Any amount of grief and concern that we express as a nation over this ghastly act cannot be enough. However embarrassed we might be feeling or sounding, the fact is that it will take a very long time before the cricketing nations will be able to wipe this incident off their memories
By Imran Farooqi
The third day of the second Test against Sri Lanka turned out to be, perhaps, the darkest day in Pakistan's cricket history. Not only did it cause unimaginable damage to the country's already plummeting reputation worldwide it also wrecked any chances whatsoever of Pakistan hosting international events on its soil in the foreseeable future.

Beware the Ides of March... this time in Lahore
Shame on you Mr Chris Broad, I fully sympathise with your trauma but your statements do not exhibit a cricketer's sporting spirit. The world might think that you had vested interests. Learn from the great Sri Lankans
By Malik Arshed Gilani p.s.n.
There is no such thing as perfect security. The cost of providing this makes it not feasible. That being said the events of 03/03 visible on all the footage one has seen and heard variously described by individuals who were present suggest that security on that fateful day was lax. The guards and police present on site and the drivers of the various vehicles acted heroically and prevented carnage.

Pakistan cricket: Conspiracy of its isolation
It isn't a conspiracy theory but it seems so. But conspiracies not only exist, they are widespread. Most people conspire some of the time and some people conspire most of the time. Furthermore, many events cannot be explained without appealing to a conspiracy
By Dr Nauman Niaz
People in Pakistan are outraged with so many things. The political dissonance, direct and indirect conflicts and discords, law and order situation, insurgency, militancy, the rising inflation and the ambush that killed at least eight people and injured seven Sri Lanka cricketers at Lahore on March 3, 2009. Their pain was furthered by contemptible responses from Chris Broad, ICC's Match Referee and the world's top umpire, Australia's Simon Taufel. But a little reflection reveals that Pakistan, though at time self-inflicted, doesn't deserve their bad reputation.

Cricket must go on... even if at neutral venues
If Pakistan is stripped of its right to be a co-host of the mega event then I believe slowly the other co-hosts would also be deprived of their chances and the World Cup would be put somewhere else away from South Asia
By Muhammad Asif Khan
With the halt in the cricket activities in the country in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team the Pakistan cricket management must be pondering upon the way out, and I like many others would also advocate a neutral venue because cricket must go on.

 

Pakistan Women now join world cricket's big girls

The Abbottabad-born Qanita Jalil, who triggered a Sri Lanka team collapse with the first three wickets, looks the part as a pace bowler with her good height and curly golden brown locks

By Gul Hameed Bhatti

Instead of boarding a flight on their return home, as they had been earlier booked for the journey back for Sunday (today), the Pakistan Women's cricket team are staying on in Australia during this entire week. They have now become one of the 'big girls' fraternity of international cricket, having qualified for the Super Six stage of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women's World Cup that's under way Down Under.

As the World Cup event includes only eight teams, the top three in either group were going to enter the considerably more prestigious Super Six leg of the competition. All Pakistan needed, in fact, was to win just one of their three Group B matches and move to the next level. They did and now they have got a new lease of life.

Of course, in the short period of some twelve years that the Pakistan Women have been active in international cricket, the 2009 World Cup in Australia has allowed them the elation of having reached some sort of summit in their own sphere. When a Pakistan team, basically when cricket here was run by a private bunch of individuals led by the indefatigable Shaiza Khan, last appeared at a World Cup tournament back in 1997, they were defeated quite brutally by the opposition in all their matches.

Although it's been a little over three years, when the ICC took over control of women's cricket from the now defunct International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC) and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) took the sport under its wing, this is the first time that the 'official' ladies cricketing outfit has made some real big waves.

Yesterday (Saturday), they played their first World Cup Super Six stage match against the West Indies. Over the next four days, they will be meeting defending champions Australia and New Zealand, another serious candidates for the title.

Pakistan moved to the next stage by defeating Sri Lanka Women in a Group B match by 57 rus, thus relegating the latter to the seventh-eighth places playoff against South Africa. The Pakistan Women, however, were quite overwhelmingly beaten by India, who bowled them out for a mere 57 runs, and another title aspirants England, who got rid of their batters for just 78 runs.

No one is expecting them to have a realistic chance of going the full distance in matches against teams like Australia and New Zealand, but these are simply only salad days for the Pakistan Women cricketers. They have yet to prove anything in the realm of the sport at the international level. But, if they have come this far, they'll surely go far ahead in the future.

How have they fared in the ongoing World Cup competition until now? The individual figures of the players would suggest that in actuality they don't stand anywhere yet. Including the highest score of just 27 runs made by the opener Nain Abidi, and another innings of 26 by her, only three other girls -- Sana Mir 22 not out, Sajida Shah 21 and skipper Urooj Mumtaz 20 -- have so far managed to reach the figure of 20 runs. Overall, they look like a bunch of novices still.

Interestingly, the bowling attack is quite efficient and varied. Medium-pacer Sana Mir, with three wickets in the group league, has kept the opposing sides in check and conceded a mere 1.98 runs per over. Javeria Khan and Sajid Shah, both off-spinners, have also been stingy in giving away runs.

Right-arm Asmavia Iqbal and the left-arm medium-fast Almas Akram have given a good account of themselves, but haven't been very successful. The Abbottabad-born Qanita Jalil, who triggered a Sri Lanka team collapse with the first three wickets, looks the part as a pace bowler with her good height and curly golden brown locks.

The fielding looked very ordinary in the match against Engaland Women on Thursday. Hardly any Pakistani girl managed to make quick stops in the close-in positions or managed to prevent the ball from racing to the boundary. They did slightly better in the match against Sri Lanka and that's why they won too.

Of their first 66 One-day Internationals, the Pakistan Women have won only 11 since their debut back in early 1997. Incidentally, they only have to show just five half-centuries for their efforts since then. They certainly need to improve their batting considerably, because their bowlers have the capacity to bowl various oppositions out if they have enough runs on the board.

The fact that the bowlers are doing their job to satisfaction can be judged by the fact that Urooj Mumtaz, the skipper who has taken 33 wickets in her career as a leg-spinner, has not even needed to bowl in the group league round at the World Cup.

The Pakistan Women team coach Umar Rasheed, one of the seven first-class cricket playing brothers of whom the most famous is Pakistan representative Haroon Rasheed, had hinted at targeting the Sri Lanka team before going to the World Cup. He had said "we beat Bangladesh both times on this tour, first by seven wickets and then by nine. So we have proved ourselves above them at least and find ourselves somewhat at par with the series winners Sri Lanka."

Pakistan were finalists in a tri-series in Bangladesh in February this year and Umar said playing Sri Lanka three times had helped his side pick the opposition's weaknesses. "We know ourselves better too and have a definite plan for the coming eight to 10 days. Bowling tightly with line and length and avoiding getting bogged down while batting will be one of our aims."

The line-up for the Super Six stage of the Women's World Cup was completed on a day (Thursday) which saw some outstanding performances with the bat and the ball.

From Group A, New Zealand, Australia and the West Indies progressed to the Super Six stage with Haidee Tiffen's side taking forward four carry-over points, Karen Rolton's side two and Merissa Aguilleira's side none, while from Group B, England, India and Pakistan qualified for the next stage with Charlotte Edwards's side progressing with four carry-over points, India two and Pakistan none.

In the Super Six stage, the three sides in each group were to now play the teams which had qualified from the other group from Saturday to March 19. The top two sides from the Super Six will go forward to the March 22 final while the third-fourth and fifth-sixth position play-offs will be staged on March 21.

The top four teams from the ICC Women's World Cup 2009 will automatically qualify for the 2013 event to be staged in India while the fifth and sixth-placed teams will earn direct spots in the 10-team ICC Women's World Cup Qualifier 2011 where they will be joined by eight other sides -- two each from Asia, Africa and Europe, and one each from Americas and East Asia-Pacific regions -- who will qualify from their own regional qualifying tournaments.

So, Pakistan may still have to qualify for the next Women's World Cup to be played four years from now, even if they finish fifth or sixth in the ongoing tournament.

The writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'

[email protected]

[email protected]

Any amount of grief and concern that we express as a nation over this ghastly act cannot be enough. However embarrassed we might be feeling or sounding, the fact is that it will take a very long time before the cricketing nations will be able to wipe this incident off their memories

By Imran Farooqi

The third day of the second Test against Sri Lanka turned out to be, perhaps, the darkest day in Pakistan's cricket history. Not only did it cause unimaginable damage to the country's already plummeting reputation worldwide it also wrecked any chances whatsoever of Pakistan hosting international events on its soil in the foreseeable future.

What happened on the 3rd of March in Lahore was beyond imagination even from a rank pessimist's point of view. It's no secret we are fighting someone else's war on our ground, and are already paying a very heavy price for it -- a price that we can neither afford nor ever hope to recover. Our rulers' inability and unwillingness to check the growing violence in the country and act accordingly has made matters even worse. Now the spill-over has surrounded sport as well.

It's not, and may never be, clear what was the motive behind the attack: whether the assailants wanted to target the Sri Lankans or were they just out to disturb peace and create harassment in the Punjab capital. But one message they did succeed in getting across to the world was that foreigners, no matter from Asia or elsewhere, are not welcome here and it's not a safe place to be in, not even for sportspeople.

Is it possible to picture how the Sri Lankan players would have felt going through that traumatic experience which left a few of them injured, specially Thilan Samaraweera, who had to go under the knife to get removed a bullet from his leg? If we can't guard our guests despite providing them with an impenetrable security cover -- it did not turn out to be one though in the end -- what can an ordinary visitor expect from us?

A cursory look at the reports published in the press makes it quite obvious that security provided to the Sri Lankans was not up to the mark. Though the Board and the Punjab government, which was supposed to oversee all the arrangements, have claimed otherwise, the Sri Lankan players and the field umpires have openly criticised the way things were handled in the aftermath of the attack. It's unbelievable that just two security vehicles were escorting the team bus to the stadium when it came under attack. And more mind-boggling is the reality that although the ordeal lasted several minutes and was caught on close-circuit cameras none of the attackers has so far been arrested.

Any amount of grief and concern that we express as a nation over this ghastly act cannot be enough. However embarrassed we might be feeling or sounding, the fact is that it will take a very long time before the cricketing nations, specially Sri Lanka, will be able to wipe this incident off their memories and come to this part of the world to play cricket.

As is the routine, the authorities concerned are seeing a 'foreign' hand behind the attack. But the upshot is that whether it was RAW's plan or something engineered by the Tamil Tigers, our security agencies blundered by overlooking the need for an extensive and flawless security plan for the visitors. It's an absolute shame that out of sheer ignorance we allowed things to get out of control and spoil all the efforts that went into bringing international cricket back to Pakistan after a lapse of almost 14 months.

The aborted tour will be remembered more for the attack on the Sri Lankan team and the killing of eight people than for the outstanding match-saving knock of 313 by captain Younis Khan in the first Test at Karachi and Samaraweera's run-feast against an undisciplined Pakistan attack.

Sri Lanka has always been a very good friend of Pakistan, and this incident has not affected the relations between the two states as much as it could have. All credit to the Sri Lankan government which has acted sensibly and did not openly blame Pakistan for the security lapse. Their foreign minister's statement, wherein he has hinted at the Tamil Tigers' involvement in the incident and has assured Colombo's continued support to Islamabad as far cricket is concerned, is a positive sign. After all Sri Lanka, too, faces a similar situation and understands that Pakistan itself is a victim of terrorism perpetrated from outside.

The cancellation of this series and those which were to follow in Pakistan may, unfortunately, spell a severe financial catastrophe for the PCB. By hosting a complete series against Sri Lanka, it would have been in a far better position to attract other teams to the region, but this latest development has further shrunk whatever chances the Board had of boosting its revenues.

Ultimately, the players, too, would be feeling the heat. With teams touring Pakistan totally out of question, the Board will have to rely solely on overseas trips to generate income. But this does not seem to be a very attractive option for the PCB -- the richest sports body of the country -- which is set to suffer a lot financially if Pakistan plays all its games at others' turfs.

The PCB bosses will have to come up with a strategy soon to counter this threat of revenue erosion and ensure smooth cashflows in future. The task is definitely a huge one and would require some serious, sincere and innovative thinking.

PCB Chairman Ijaz Butt's statement on the issue makes an interesting read. He does not see the recent tragedy ruining Pakistan's chances of hosting 2011 World Cup games. Rather, he thinks, teams will start landing into Pakistan, maybe by the end of the year. What should we call it: plain naivety or optimism at its best? Australia, South Africa, India, and the West Indies have cancelled their tours in past citing security reasons without ever facing anything like the Sri Lankans have just witnessed.

Does Butt think what happened in Lahore was merely a coincidence and will never happen again? The situation at the political and economic fronts in this country is getting worse with each passing day, and as things stand now we just cannot even have an international U-19 fixture let alone World Cup games. The ICC has already expressed its concern, and others may follow suit within no time. The Cup is still two years away, but not too far considering the preparations that are required to stage an event of such magnitude successfully. The PCB boss must take things positively, but without turning his back on reality.

However, one 'positive' that did come out of the aborted series is that from now on Pakistan will not have to beg to the Test nations for securing a home series! In the existing circumstances even Bangladesh and Zimbabwe would be thinking a thousand times before they agree to travel to our country.

It's unfortunate that the tour ended on a horrible note. The Karachi game could not produce an outright result nor did it serve as a perfect advertisement for Test cricket, yet it did throw up some records in addition to providing our cricket-starved players some terrific batting practice.

 

The attackers set off a grenade in one helicopter, killing all aboard and terrorists in the second helicopter shot to death the remaining blindfolded Israeli hostages after the rescue plan failed

By Ghalib Mehmood Bajwa

The International Cricket Council (ICC) Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat was right in his assessment last week when he said that no international athletes including cricketers were safe anywhere in the world.

It is an undeniable fact that any player or team could be a victim of terrorism any time. And we do observe such incidents from time to time in different parts of the world despite all high-level security arrangements even in European and American states.

In his statement following Lahore attacks, Lorgat said, "The ICC cannot guarantee the safety and security of any national teams."

It has been observed that in many parts of the world, sports activities remained to continue in spite of different kinds of murders, attacks and mishaps in the past. Crisis-hit Pakistan and its sports loving people also expected the same approach from the international community after the Lahore tragedy.

It may be recalled here that gunmen killed 11 Israeli athletes and officials during the 1972 Munich Olympics but even then the Games continued.

In the 2007 cricket World Cup, Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer was found mysteriously 'murdered' in his hotel room at Kingston after Pakistan's humiliating defeat at the hands of minnows Ireland but not a single match of the grand event was postponed or cancelled.

Similarly, the England cricket team returned to play a two-Test series against India immediately after the recent Mumbai attacks in which around 190 people were killed and 300 injured.

The world community must keep in notice that the highly condemnable mishap in Lahore was not the first instance of terrorism in sports. There is a long history of militant attacks of different natures in sports world. However, the slaughter of the Munich Olympics in 1972, when 11 Israeli athletes were killed, remained at top of the table as far as most number of casualties in a single tragedy is concerned.

Here is a list of militant attacks on players in different parts of world.

It was September 5, 1972, when five terrorists wearing track suits climbed the six and 1/2 foot fence surrounding the Olympic Village in Munich, Germany. Within 24 hours, 11 Israelis, five terrorists, and a German policeman were dead.

On September 5, at 5.00am, the terrorists knocked on the door of Israeli wrestling coach Moshe Weinberg who opened the door, realised immediately something was wrong and shouted a warning. Weinberg and weightlifter Joseph Romano attempted to block the door while their members escaped, but they were killed by the terrorists. The militants then rounded up nine Israelis to hold as hostages.

After hours of negotiations, a deal was struck with German authorities and a trip to the NATO air base at Firstenfeldbruck, by bus and then two helicopters was arranged, in order to board a plane for Cairo. German sharpshooters were standing by with orders to simultaneously kill all the terrorists without harming the hostages.

The attackers set off a grenade in one helicopter, killing all aboard and terrorists in the second helicopter shot to death the remaining blindfolded Israeli hostages after the rescue plan failed.

The 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics were also jolted by bombs. The terrorists attacked the Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996. The Games were hit by four bombings in which two people were killed and 111 were injured.

Last year's Beijing Olympics also tasted terrorism though not in the players' area. On August 9, 2008, two American tourists and their Chinese tour guide were stabbed at the Drum Tower. One of the tourists was killed. The attacker then committed suicide by jumping from the tower.

Now it was Pakistan's turn to be a victim of a terror attack. It was February 12, 1998, when two members of the touring Pakistan cricket team, Saqlain Mushtaq and Mohammad Akram, were mugged near their hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Pacer Akram had X-rays and treatment of injuries on his hand. Due to severe pain, he missed the first Test match at the Wanderers.

The assault took place as the two players were crossing the street from the Sandton Sun Hotel to have an evening meal when a car stopped next to them and they were mugged by the occupants.

Former Pakistan U-19 cricketer Rahatullah, a right-arm seamer, was killed by unknown assailants in Peshawar while he was on his way to join the NWFP squad for a domestic tournament.

Rahatullah's body was found two days after he had stepped out of his house. He was 18 years old. Rahatullah, who played for Peshawar, claimed a match haul of 7-145 on his first-class debut against Quetta in the 2007-08 edition of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

Pakistan's first-class cricketer Haseeb-ul-Hasan was murdered by an unknown gunman in Joharabad, Karachi, on April 18, 1990. Haseeb, 25, had played 32 first-class matches since 1984-85. In all he took 59 wickets at 31.50 apiece while his left-hand batting produced 1,365 runs for an average of 31.02.

Former tennis star Monica Seles was stabbed in the back during her quarter-final match at Hamburg on April 30, 1993. The 19-year-old American was rushed to hospital with a wound half an inch (1.5cm) deep in her upper back.

The attack happened during the rest break in the match against Bulgaria's Maggie Maleeva. Miss Seles was leading 6-4, 4-3 when she took a rest on her courtside seat during the changeover.

Pakistan's hockey team was attacked with stones after they defeated arch-rivals India in the Asia Cup final in 1989.

In 1994 Colombian defender Andres Escobar was shot to death after the Football World Cup in the US. It was July 2, 1994 when the 27-year-old player was shot 12 times by three murderers in a Medellin bar. Most versions claim that the own goal that Andres scored in the World Cup game which Colombia lost 2-1 to US, was the main reason. They say that the murderers had probably gambled a lot of money for Colombia's win but an accidental own goal by Escobar became for them a reason of losing their money.

Brazilian soccer star Thiago da Silva was brutally tortured and murdered by hired assassins a couple of years ago. Da Silva, 25, died in a Rio de Janeiro hospital, six days after being mortally shot in an attack by three men on a soccer field.

Romanian handball player Marian Cozma was also stabbed to death in a fight at a Veszprem night club. Two of his team-mates -- goalkeeper Ivan Pesic and striker Zarko Sesum suffered serious injuries on skull and kidney, respectively.

Nezam Ahmed Hafiz, who was a Guyanese first-class cricketer, was killed in the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre. He had been working on the 94th floor of Tower One where he worked for an insurance company. The 32-year-old middle order batsman made his debut in the 1988-89 West Indian domestic season.

Former West Indies skipper Jeffrey Baxter Stollmeyer (1921-1989) was a Trinidad and Tobago cricketer and footballer. He died in a hospital in Florida after suffering wounds from invaders in his home in Port-of-Spain. He played 32 Tests for the West Indies, captaining 13 of these.

Prominent black activist and female soccer player Eudy Simelane, 31, was found lying in a weedy field in April 2008, in a town near Johannesburg. The body of the female player was riddled with stab wounds. She had played for the national women's squad, nicknamed Banyana Banyana.

Ms Simelane was returning home with friends in Kwatema, near Johannesburg, when she was targeted by a gang of youths.

Ashley Harvey-Walker (1944-1997), who was an English cricketer, was assassinated while attending a bar in Johannesburg. A gunman walked in, called out Harvey-Walker's name, and shot him when he responded.

Rajesh Peter (1959-1995), an Indian first-class cricketer, who played for Delhi in the Ranji Trophy, was found dead in his New Delhi flat in suspicious circumstances in 1996.

Adolfo Bresciano (1949-1993), who was a Canadian wrestler, was shot to death in March 1993. Bresciano was shot up to 10 times in the back of the head while watching hockey match in his Vimont house. He was best known as the world's strongest man.

Surrey batsman Percy Hardy was found in a lavatory at King's Cross in March 1916 with a slit throat and a bloodstained knife by his side. It was one of the most gruesome deaths in sports history.

Colombia's former professional soccer player Luis Jairo Calanche was assassinated by unknown gunmen in the Caribbean coastal town of Santa Marta. Calanche was shot several times.

The writer is a staffer at

'The News' Lahore

[email protected]

 

Beware the Ides of March... this time in Lahore

Shame on you Mr Chris Broad, I fully sympathise with your trauma but your statements do not exhibit a cricketer's sporting spirit. The world might think that you had vested interests. Learn from the great Sri Lankans

By Malik Arshed Gilani p.s.n.

There is no such thing as perfect security. The cost of providing this makes it not feasible. That being said the events of 03/03 visible on all the footage one has seen and heard variously described by individuals who were present suggest that security on that fateful day was lax. The guards and police present on site and the drivers of the various vehicles acted heroically and prevented carnage.

Some of these individuals laid down their lives in the line of duty serving Pakistan, their service and the PCB. Their memories need to be honoured by recognising their brave deeds and looking after their families both financially and psychologically. Above all else however their memories can best be honoured by making absolutely sure that all the facts connected with this tragic event are fully disclosed.

No one or no organisation should be allowed to cover up the truth. This is the only way that Pakistan, the Police, the Elite Force, the Intelligence Agencies, the PCB and its security can make sure that their friends and compatriots did not die in vain. It is critical that this specific incident should not fall into the big basket of 'terrorism' that confronts us.

Terrorism in Pakistan by and large also has many political ramifications and thus we find that a number of criminal, murderous acts which no doubt are being investigated do not see the light of exposure. In this case Pakistan and cricket cannot afford any thing less than full disclosure. Tragedies must not be compared and yet it may not be wrong to say that in the current case a line has been crossed which threatens Pakistan's image more than ever.

It is the first time in Pakistan that a sporting team has been attacked and that also from a valiant country that exhibited great friendship and courage in visiting Pakistan at this time. Cricket is our national game and involves the passion and love of the vast majority of some one hundred and sixty million people. Should we not exhibit credible disclosure our nation may be deprived of witnessing international teams in Pakistan for a long time to come? Mr President as Patron of the PCB it is humbly requested that you must ensure that the 'truth is out'.

I feel for all the visiting officials of the ICC who were present in Lahore during this Test match. It must have been a very traumatic period and must have caused much anguish to your families. I extend my fullest sympathies to all. Whilst 03/03 has highlighted some problems with our security it has also shown that the ICC has only concentrated on match fixing whilst ignoring physical safety of its employees and its members.

As the organisation that is responsible for the FTP and all International cricket surely this lies in their ambit. Further more since it critically involves their earnings which they most carefully safeguard they cannot pass the buck of responsibility to their member countries. It is also apparent that discipline and control of its employees is not a very high priority with the ICC. I would have thought that the first act of the CEO would have been to ensure that no freelance remarks were made by individuals whose very jobs require informed unbiased judgment, honesty, and self control i.e. the match referee and a match umpire.

Shame on you Mr Chris Broad, I fully sympathise with your trauma but your statements do not exhibit a cricketer;s sporting spirit. The world might think that you had vested interests. Learn from the great Sri Lankans. As an aside where was the PCB Official who is to interface with such people? Is not public relationing with such ICC persons his prime task? Is he not required to be on the job? Mr Simon Taufel has also spoken out of turn. I would certainly like to see Mr Broad banned from any future work with the ICC. In the case of Mr Taufel, he is a great umpire and cricket does need his services but he must be censured.

Before I go to other matters, I must air bits of information that some little birds have whispered in my ear. As they say 'no names no pack drill' but if this information is accurate the powers that be take note: some four days before the match a PCB official remarked "we have enough security no more is needed"! The Sri Lankan manager was reluctant to play the second Test in Lahore but happy to play in Karachi due to the political problems. He was coerced into changing his mind for the 'izzat' of Lahore by two senior PCB officials!

Saying "Be rest assured that there will be Presidential level Security", did the individuals even know what that entailed? Was this ensured? I fear for any President that is provided the kind of security visible on the day. This is serious enough to warrant some heads to roll.

I also read that a detailed security plan was agreed by the PCB with the authorities. It was obviously not put into effect in its totality as there were no sharpshooters on the roofs. This was not the first day of the match, so the questions arise; did the PCB point out the critical shortfall to the authorities in writing? If not, why not? They were in effect the end users and it was their duty to ensure that the planned security was in place.

What was the individual specifically responsible for international cricket in the PCB doing to look after the visiting team, the match referee and the umpires? All this fell into his purview. It is high time that the professional competent middle level individuals of PCB be given charge as else life will not improve. The Chairman must get rid of the chaff in his organisation. They have for too long been kept on the basis of 'goodwill' and PR. The right competent and able man for the right job must become the credo.

Let us go on to matters that must also be considered by the PCB. All of crickets knowing people in Pakistan will back me when I say that Hanif Mohammed and Javed Miandad are two individuals who are highly experienced and knowledgeable in reading wickets. They must be involved in the supervision of square preparation in all our Stadiums. The technical staff employed by the PCB in this connection must have visible educational qualifications.

It is my experience of some forty years of our cricket that most of our people involved are simple gardeners. The person responsible for executing the requirements of the Hanif/Javed combine must have formal education in this subject with some experience in preparing squares; the right person or persons for the right task.

With much respect a cricketer of limited Test experience can neither have the knowledge or the personality to execute this vital task. The task plainly has much interference and it is obvious that this has prevented the job being done in the best interests of our team.

Moving on to team selectors; it is obvious that just choosing a name will not do the job. If we look at our experience of the last ten years, the selection of the Test squad has always ended up creating controversy. It is accepted that no selection can satisfy all the critics, however the selection committee must at least put up a unified mature front.

Surely it cannot be impossible to ensure a selection that at least has the committee, the captain and coach on board. Should there be differences it behoves the PCB to accurately advise the public with a clear statement about the reasons for the final decisions. This would put paid to any possible chances of controversy. Recent selections for the Pakistan team seem to suggest that the PCB Academy has played too much of a part in pushing their players. They were some selections that were premature and made to prove what a great job was being done. Too much too soon is not good for all budding cricketers. It bears repetition that it is still not clear why Sohail Tanvir was ignored. Something does not smell right.

Physical fitness of all our players is sadly and visibly lacking in the Pakistan team. Let me exclude the captain Younis Khan from this remark, his triple hundred visibly proved his physical condition. The rest of the team regrettably does not match up to the demands of international cricket. Even our young players are visibly under prepared by Aussie or Springbok standards.

We used to excuse our budding players because of their somewhat below standard nutritional intake but with so much controlled under 19s and Academy Cricket this cannot be blamed. I believe that we just set the bar too low and thus accept compromise in this department of the game.

Let me quote the example of two well known cricketers who are weak fielders; Danish Kaneria and Monty Panesar. In the first case his limitations are magnified by his lack of fitness, in the other case he makes up for his limited talent in this department by his fitness. It is suggested that the PCB Academy must draw up a year round program for our top 30 players so that they achieve the needed levels. Fitness camps however strenuous just before any series obviously do not work. Is it just possible that the physical condition of our coaches and managers around our top teams do not give the right message. They need to also measure up or be shipped out.

As I finish writing these lines it has been many days since that fateful day when we seriously damaged our cricket. The detailed report that was promised in three days is yet to be given public exposure that was assured. Please let this not be pushed under the carpet. Pakistan cricket cannot afford it

The writer is a freelance contributor

[email protected]

Pakistan cricket: Conspiracy of its isolation

It isn't a conspiracy theory but it seems so. But conspiracies not only exist, they are widespread. Most people conspire some of the time and some people conspire most of the time. Furthermore, many events cannot be explained without appealing to a conspiracy

By Dr Nauman Niaz

People in Pakistan are outraged with so many things. The political dissonance, direct and indirect conflicts and discords, law and order situation, insurgency, militancy, the rising inflation and the ambush that killed at least eight people and injured seven Sri Lanka cricketers at Lahore on March 3, 2009. Their pain was furthered by contemptible responses from Chris Broad, ICC's Match Referee and the world's top umpire, Australia's Simon Taufel. But a little reflection reveals that Pakistan, though at time self-inflicted, doesn't deserve their bad reputation.

It is a country of peace-loving people regrettably marred by their geo-political location. Pakistan had to play a role of a catalyst in the war between USSR and USA in the late 1970s and early 1980s. And once, Russia retreated out of Afghanistan, the regional dynamics changed as Mujahedeen tried using power and opportunity to reveal their ideology.

It didn't coexist or blend with America's philosophy. Pakistan was tricked into a situation from where it had often been termed as a 'safe haven' of militants. Being USA's frontline partner in their 'War against Terror', Pakistan has taken blows on its economy, political stability and internal security. At the outset, the cricketing country's nerve-root though recurrently incapably run was exempted.

Now Sri Lanka's team became the terrorists' prime target. Was the attack at Lahore really against Sri Lanka or was it another attempt to debase Pakistan, not only in the region but in the world at large. This is greasy. Regardless of local administrations and provincial government's trail off, this somewhat self-inflicted incident actually trounced Pakistan cricket's future to virtual oblivion. As the happenings insinuate, Pakistan is being isolated. And it should be a matter of grave concern.

Pakistan cricket's isolation and the latest ambush that rattled the world leave us quizzical. In the case of this hostility the question is who are the conspirators. The correct answer to this question is not so well established by now that nothing we could deduce.

It isn't a conspiracy theory but it seems so. But conspiracies not only exist, they are widespread. Most people conspire some of the time and some people conspire most of the time. Furthermore, many events cannot be explained without appealing to a conspiracy. The only question in such cases is which conspiracy theory is correct.

Of course it seems strange to think of the official explanation of the attack at Lahore as a conspiracy theory. We are accustomed to contrasting conspiracy theories with the official non-conspiratorial version of events, but quite often, the official version of events is just as conspiratorial as its rivals.

It should be clear what is wrong with using the expression in this way. It allows politicians, bureaucrats, and more generally defenders of officialdom the world over to abuse and ridicule anyone who doubts their truthfulness. Yet it is vital to any open society that there are respected sources of information which are independent of official sources, and which can freely contradict them and not be dismissed without argument. The widespread view that conspiracy theories are always, or even typically, irrational is not only itself irrational, it is dangerous.

It promotes complacency in the face of official or institutionally endorsed versions of events, which makes it easier for conspirators in positions of power to remain undetected. A coincidence theorist fails to connect the dots, no matter how suggestive of an underlying pattern they are. A hardened coincidence theorist can watch a plain twelve terrorists opening fire and moving around the busiest centres of the city of Lahore for almost half-an-hour, without thinking that there is any connection between this event and the prized Sri Lanka cricketers clay pigeons in the shooting game.

It was clearly not an attack against Sri Lanka's team most definitely Pakistan was the target. Though cricket becomes trivial in the magnitude of the problem still it hit the Pakistani game like a sledge-hammer. Who wants it to happen? Whosoever and here we shouldn't be acting like conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy or not, the sequence of events are really self-explanatory.

It starts with the forfeiture of the Pakistan-England Test at the Oval in 2006 and subsequently Bob Woolmer's untimely death in Jamaica while the World Cup 2007 was on resulted in open-bannered criticism of our team; so much was the hostility that a few of our cricketers were harassed and interrogated/ His natural death was labelled as a 'murder'. While the ICC was perplexed smelling the rat and most definitely there was some sort of racism against Pakistan cricket.

While the fire was not thinning out, first Australia followed by West Indies refused to tour the terror-stricken Pakistan mainly due to security concerns. India in their pursuit to revitalise their team that had gone down to Bangladesh in the World Cup 2007 smarten up their entire structure and using their huge financial market promoted the Indian Premier League. Though, their plan was pre-empted by the Indian Cricket League and it disrupted BCCI's plans still India's hegemony became intensely prominent.

Though ICL is still BCCI's greatest challenge, it has started playing out its role as the custodian not only of all Indian cricket but the world game and ignoring its more natural instinct to protect a smaller piece of turf, precisely the attitude that has given the ICL enough fertile ground to sow the seeds of secession.

The BCCI is a monopolistic institution that hasn't modernised and has, till very recently, focused its attentions on international cricket. However, not a thought was spared to the other major forces in the subcontinent and more prominently Pakistan saw being betrayed. Not a thought was spared for Pakistan that keeps the wheels of the subcontinent cricket moving along with Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Ironically, the ex-PCB regime virtually though wilfully were used as power-brokers and BCCI benefited. And when there was a time for Pakistan to be reciprocated, amidst the Mumbai attacks of 2008, BCCI stepped back. India left Pakistan high and dry as their team's tour in January 2009 was cancelled. Furthermore, when Sri Lanka decided to show signs of solidarity and agreed to send their team to Pakistan, BCCI tried adding impediments.

Sri Lanka were coerced not to tour the terror-ridden country and when BCCSL resisted they tried luring the cash-starved board by sending their team for a series of One-day Internationals.

And then Bangladesh were advised to defer Pakistan's proposed tour to their country. It seems to be a logical deduction. India needs to realise that they also have security concerns Bangladesh is seeing a rebellion and mutiny within their army and Sri Lanka are being marred by the Tamil Tigers. BCCI also needs to realise that ICC presently is dazed by the glitter of financial opportunities in India. Nonetheless, the West against the Asian block theory though dampened is still not out of the tier.

In case of another such attack whether in Bangladesh or Sri Lanka or in India and against one of the four teams, the Asian block would be made inaccessible and worst it could be that teams from this part of the world are not even allowed to play on neutral grounds or abroad being targets of the militants.

And the future of the BCCI backed IPL would also be jeopardised. BCCI's statement regarding shifting the World Cup 2011 from Pakistan to India is not really a practicable idea. Pakistan isn't Zimbabwe and it couldn't be excluded from the list of the top teams. BCCI's current vision is not only grandiose but overwhelmingly suicidal.

One believes Pakistan shouldn't worry extensively about international cricket not being played in the country. It is inevitable that unless the geo-political situation sees a paradigm shift or militants are neutralised through financial support and promises of prosperity or the country's foreign policy changes, most likely it is that the present circumstances would remain unchanged. Pakistan following South Africa's precedent that saw their cricket growing despite the 23-year isolation from the world game should institute reforms. This period of isolation should be taken as an opportunity to revamp our own game.

We must believe that Pakistan's is still a fractured team suffering from all manner of malaises. It has still plenty of talent but not the sense of service or the work ethic required to reach the top. Instead, present players wander around in a state of miserable bliss. The highest achievement possible for this team was to see their captain Younis Khan individually climbing to number one slot on the ICC rankings (Tests). Probably, it will be too much like hard work. A lot of easy money could be made from domestic Twenty20 and other such competitions.

Accordingly Pakistan could retain the memories of Younis's triple century on the log, but it'd be a mistake to let a few bright days blur the picture. Pakistan cricket is in decline and an enormous effort will be needed to bring about a revival. Demoralisation is not far away, with players and management hurrying to cash in their chips and write point-scoring books, and callow and youthful cricketers suffering seasons of failure and taking scars into adulthood. Pakistan's most talented cricketers tend to start and finish too early -- a luxury small nation could ill afford.

The team must not be allowed to slide further; before 2005, Pakistan had been a respected, resolute, intelligent team. In those years it produced several superb cricketers and fielded a number of highly regarded sides. Often the players were caricatured as a craggy lot, inclined to chew gum and frustrate opponents, but they played a hard game and never gave up.

Now and then a champion emerged-Imran Khan, Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq etcetera, but mostly the Pakistanis lived on their wits. As a rule the sides were a distinctive mixture of dedicated professional and maverick. Always the characters-blockers or dashers, thinkers or toe-crushers, were writ large.

Pakistan has an identity and a strong history. Alas it also has an ability to lose focus. All sorts of arguments can break out, between players and the board, Lahore and Karachi, rural and urban, past and present, critic and cricketers, coach and captain; and most are publicly aired. Perhaps it is because the pool of talent is not deep enough to prevent heads swelling or differences growing.

Everything else shrivels besides this great tradition. Pakistan cricket lacks the powerful idea that scorns pettiness. And they could lose their way at the critical moments. In a small nation particularly, it is possible to want too much. Pakistan needs to implement policies dedicated to the task of restoring the national game. So many mistakes have been made.

Pakistan's most obvious mistake was to trust BCCI and play a role of a conduit; they now need to act independently, picking the right people to sincerely help developing cricket, the main product of the PCB. Anything else is an indulgence.

The writer is a Member of the Royal College of Physicians (UK) and official historian of Pakistan cricket

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Cricket must go on... even if at neutral venues

If Pakistan is stripped of its right to be a co-host of the mega event then I believe slowly the other co-hosts would also be deprived of their chances and the World Cup would be put somewhere else away from South Asia

By Muhammad Asif Khan

With the halt in the cricket activities in the country in the wake of the terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team the Pakistan cricket management must be pondering upon the way out, and I like many others would also advocate a neutral venue because cricket must go on.

England has already offered its soil and said that is so since many of the Pakistan players play county cricket there, but I think the United Arab Emirates is a much better option, as it is less expensive and the conditions are similar to Pakistan therefore the home-type advantage could be achieved, while in England mostly our bowlers represent counties therefore our batsmen would be surely uncomfortable on the seaming English tracks.

After the disastrous attack at the Liberty Chowk in Lahore the World Cup 2011 matches in Pakistan seem highly unlikely too. The World Cup is scheduled to be jointly hosted by Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh, and the statements given by some Sri Lankan players after reaching home that they had been witnessing violence in their country for the past 20 years could indeed put some fear in the minds of the players of Australia, New Zealand and England etc therefore this Lahore attack would not only have an impact on Pakistan's chances to host the World Cup 2011 matches but the whole South Asian region could be affected and to avoid this the heads of all South Asian boards should stand with Pakistan as it is not the only country in the region which is hit by terrorism.

If Pakistan is stripped of its right to be a co-host of the mega event then I believe slowly the other co-hosts would also be deprived of their chances and the World Cup would be put somewhere else away from South Asia.

In the meantime the PCB should strive for putting its own house in order and matters amongst the management should be resolved and to run the affairs as smoothly as possible a consensus approach should be adopted amongst the decision makers. Not only the management but the team combination should also be taken care of to meet future challenges because preparation of war is indeed done in peacetime therefore we should cash in on this lull to overcome the weaknesses and the biggest one I believe is the infrastructure.

By infrastructure I mean the establishment of academies and cricket facilities across the country, at the moment we only have one state-of-the-art cricket academy which is at Lahore. Wouldn't it be better to have academies in other cities too?

The status and number of cricket grounds in the country is another worrisome factor. How can we produce top quality fielders on rough surfaces as nobody would dare to slide on these violent turfs. Unless this issue is addressed, we should forget about fielding skills like South Africa or Australia.

A variety of pitches should also be considered, because our batsmen have been facing problems on challenging surfaces. Therefore the standard should be uplifted by preparing different kinds of tracks to give the youngsters a better change to cope with the conditions abroad.

By going through the past performances of the team, one eminent shortcoming is the lack of appropriate backup for a key player. We have not been able to produce another Waqar Younis, Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Inzamam and Yousuf. Backups of major players should be recognised on the domestic circuit and with due chances keep them in the game. By doing so, only the standard of the Pakistan cricket would improve by a competition among players for their position in the team, like Australian authorities do, in the 2007 world cup, nobody missed Brett Lee, on the other hand, Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq were missed big-time as their backup was not there.

Recently in the Test matches against Sri Lanka our fast bowling department looked ordinary because of the absence of people like Shoaib and Asif. Hence by thinking on different lines, strengthening of the reserve lot is a must to avoid such situations in the future. Furthermore a formidable opening pair along with a dependable wicket-keeper is to be sought as well.

As a keen cricket follower and a well wisher of Pakistan cricket, I along with millions of Pakistanis hope that the golden era of Pakistan cricket would be back, but sincerity and consistency is the name of the game

The writer is a freelance contributor

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