Final nail in the coffin
For the last ten years, each and every chairman has created a mess before promising that he will do better. Needless to say, it never happened.
By Malik Arshed Gilani p.s.n.
The ultimate sign of bad management is when the top person begins to find ways and means to blame the workers whilst clearing the yard arm of his cohorts and himself. This is also a sign that signifies that the top man has run out of ideas and is desperate to extend his tenure at all costs. It does not take too many guesses to conclude that this refers to the PCB chairman.

The mother of all fiascos
Senior Board officials who felt that their position would be threatened perhaps thought that offence is the best defence and decided to come out swinging their bats by taking action before they were in a political soup in a bid to prove their administrative credentials.
By Asif Iqbal
For as long as one can remember, the administration of Pakistan cricket has been shambolic. But the happenings of 10th March redefine the term and leave everything that came before it far far behind. The alarm bells had been ringing. The quarterly change in the captaincy and the six-monthly change in the chairman of selectors were signs enough that worse was to follow. But even so, the announcements that hit the cricketing world last Wednesday surprised one and all. We had all been brought to expect action against Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved, Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers but the news of a life ban on Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan came as a bolt from the blue. What made it even more confusing was the lack of a reason to begin with followed by the wishy washy explanation that this was due to the fact that their personal differences had undermined discipline in the Pakistan squad. Now discipline is not a new subject in the context of anything that has to do with Pakistan but with reference to Pakistan cricket, it is almost an integral part of the game. Players have and should be fined when they breach discipline but to suspend them, and that too for life, was clearly miles over the top.

Reinforcing failures?
By Dr. Nauman Niaz
It's hard to believe that there isn't any vision of the PCB management to produce short-term and long-term developmental results. There seems no rationale word-bashing or criticising the top-tier of the PCB. Not only that they live in a world of self-denial they are also impermeable to valid disapproval, evaluations and insinuations. Ijaz Butt and his regime is a 'failure' is now an undisputed fact, not misconstrued or hyperbole. So, as Aamir Sohail, the former Pakistan captain in one of the talk shows expressed: 'Butt's statements shouldn't be taken seriously', I tend to agree to his satire. My aim through these weekly writings is to help people understand that Butt, though quite late in his government, should develop two aspects of good vision: grasping the underlying meaning of present conditions, and focusing beyond immediate circumstances. But from where does this kind of vision would come?

hockey
Delhi debacle:
 
What really went wrong?
Pakistan's hockey chiefs will have to take several sweeping steps to ensure that our team bounces back in future events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games to be held later this year.
By Khalid Hussain
When Pakistan went to India last month for the Hockey World Cup nobody really expected a miracle from a team that finished a disappointing eighth position in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing -- its last major international assignment.
But nobody could have predicted what would perhaps go down in Pakistan's hockey history as the "Delhi debacle".

Sporting challenges facing us
By Aamir Bilal
Discipline remains the hallmark of any sport and cricket is no exception. With the ageing Mohammad Yousuf, the out-of-form Younis Khan, the unpredictable Malik, the ball-biting Shahid Afridi, the roguish Rana Naved and the Akmal brothers facing different kinds of bans and fines on account of indiscipline, misconduct, creating player cartels and match-fixing allegations, the PCB finally decided to fix things once and for all and simultaneously appointed a new coach and chief selector to give a new look to the under-performing Pakistan cricket team.

England's hockey resurgence'
By Ijaz Chaudhry
The performances of the England hockey team have taken everyone by surprise during the ongoing Hockey World Cup. England, who since 1988 have failed to reach the semifinals of either the World Cup or the Olympics, as Great Britain in the latter case, have been the surprise package at the extravaganza in New Delhi. They were the only side not to have lost a single point at the end of the fourth round of league matches and were also the first ones to be assured of the semis spot.

 

 

 

 

Final nail in the coffin

For the last ten years, each and every chairman has created a mess before promising that he will do better. Needless to say, it never happened.

By Malik Arshed Gilani p.s.n.

The ultimate sign of bad management is when the top person begins to find ways and means to blame the workers whilst clearing the yard arm of his cohorts and himself. This is also a sign that signifies that the top man has run out of ideas and is desperate to extend his tenure at all costs. It does not take too many guesses to conclude that this refers to the PCB chairman.

The Pakistan cricket team has not been doing well for many years. For the last ten years, each and every chairman has created a mess before promising that he will do better. Needless to say, it never happened. There have been instances where some of the past geniuses have made attempts to pass the blame on their subordinates. But none of those efforts can carry a patch to the drama being executed by the present incumbent.

The disastrous outcome of the recent tour Down Under screamed for corrective action. I might add that the CEO of the PCB in a recent remark to this writer said 'we will fix things'. It wasn't even in my dreams that by this he meant that they would write off whatever remnant possibilities remained of reviving our cricket fortunes. That in their view they had to start from scratch with the hope that they could convince the Patron that they now really needed more time, say five years, to revive Pakistan cricket.

The vehicle designed by the chairman to execute this farce was an 'independent' committee created to examine the reasons that led to the fiasco in Australia. Let us just examine the credentials of the members of this body. It was presumably chaired by the CEO of PCB, a person who has served his masters but by and large never served Pakistan cricket, Mr Wasim Bari. If this was not ironic enough, the group included Zakir Khan whose test cricket past, it is said, was created as a reward for loyal services by Imran Khan and one who has survived with the many past chairmen due to the active efforts of the great Khan. If this did not suffice, the group was joined by Mr Yawar Saeed, reportedly the ace tactician of the present Chairman, an octogenarian who did not excel himself in his association with the teams that he managed in the past many months. He reportedly tried his best to destroy any good cricketer who would not bow to his machinations. He certainly created factions in the various teams with obvious bad results. The committee also included Mr Wazir Ali Khoja who as a member of the governing board of the PCB has not distinguished himself in any way. In all the chaotic decisions taken during his tenure, never once has he registered any kind of protest. This suggests that he was a part of the chaos. Then there is the ubiquitous lawyer Mr Tafazzul Rizvi and lastly Wasim Akram. In the case of Wasim, I can only hope that he attended limited meetings and contributed the least to the recommendations. This hope is voiced basically by the bias created by the incredible admiration I have for him as one of the greatest left arm pace bowlers of all times.

The first three of this group were or are paid employees of the PCB and cannot be impartial. The lawyer depends upon the PCB for fees and is unlikely to upset any apple cart, Khoja presumably was for decoration and I will not comment on Wasim's presence. Sadly it appears obvious that the independent committee checked with the boss to ensure all recommendations were in consonant with the aims that led to the establishment of that body.

Before I sum up the harm done to the game by the recommendations of this body with doubtful credentials, let me say that the individuals who created and bred the problems highlighted by the committee are the ones who should be held almost criminally responsible for total inaction required by their jobs to correct the players who are being defiled, are being rewarded. These are Intikhab Alam and Yawar Saeed. The actions of the chairman are totally in keeping with an attempt to shovel the entire blame on the players whilst diluting and cleaning it upwards to the chairman.

The recommendations of this committee added to the mess that the chairman created when he first involved the ICC in embroiling two players in match-fixing and then having realised his error made very weak cover-up attempts. It is a widely held view that the players that may have been involved in truly grievous actions have only been fined and those guilty of independence or just lack of form have been banned. Let us also consider that the loss of form was greatly due to the intrigues of the chairman and the manager. In one swoop, the team has been deprived of any kind of experience and their major talents. This must not be allowed to stand. The obvious message is; 'cross me at your peril, but if you are respectful to inept management it is all right if you indulge in activities that may shame the nation but cannot be proven because of lack of evidence'.

Cricket in the country has never been at a lower point, reportedly the BCCI do not want to attend a meeting with the present chairman of the PCB. The ICC must only be just recovering from the shock of the chairman divulging presumably highly classified telephone conversations and then making weak reversals.

To coin a statement made by Thomas Becket, "Who will save us from this awful situation. Are their no patriots left in our country?"

[email protected]

 

Senior Board officials who felt that their position would be threatened perhaps thought that offence is the best defence and decided to come out swinging their bats by taking action before they were in a political soup in a bid to prove their administrative credentials.

By Asif Iqbal

For as long as one can remember, the administration of Pakistan cricket has been shambolic. But the happenings of 10th March redefine the term and leave everything that came before it far far behind. The alarm bells had been ringing. The quarterly change in the captaincy and the six-monthly change in the chairman of selectors were signs enough that worse was to follow. But even so, the announcements that hit the cricketing world last Wednesday surprised one and all. We had all been brought to expect action against Shoaib Malik, Rana Naved, Shahid Afridi and the Akmal brothers but the news of a life ban on Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan came as a bolt from the blue. What made it even more confusing was the lack of a reason to begin with followed by the wishy washy explanation that this was due to the fact that their personal differences had undermined discipline in the Pakistan squad. Now discipline is not a new subject in the context of anything that has to do with Pakistan but with reference to Pakistan cricket, it is almost an integral part of the game. Players have and should be fined when they breach discipline but to suspend them, and that too for life, was clearly miles over the top.

The banning of two captains for life and the suspension of another former captain for one year also could not possibly have sent out the sort of message that needs to be sent out at a time when Pakistan is struggling to get foreign sides to tour the country. The only possible explanation could be that the ban was not for indiscipline or infighting but something far more serious and the obvious candidate is match fixing. But if that was the case, then clearly the second Test at Sydney which Pakistan lost from an almost guaranteed winning position was the most likely occasion when such a thing could have occurred; yet Younis was not in the side then, and not even in Australia, so that could not be the explanation.

As one searched without success for some solution that would explain what had happened in an adult context and one which would convince everyone that that the decision had been taken outside a mental home, the reaction to the Board's move began to grow. And as it transpired that there was no sensible explanation, the Chairman of the PCB came up with the bizarre explanation that the announcement of the ban on Younis and Yousuf had been made by the media officer and that no life ban had been levied on either of the players. If indeed the media officer or any other functionary of the board had made an announcement of such grave importance, one which was repeated virtually every minute from one or another broadcasting station somewhere in the world, without authority, then the Chairman's clarification should also have mentioned that the offending officer had been asked to submit his resignation within the hour and that indeed this had been complied with. If this was not a sacking offence, one does not know what would be. Surely the Chairman and other senior Board officials cannot but be aware of the immense damage such an 'incorrect' announcement has done not only to Pakistan cricket but Pakistan itself, keeping in mind that the only activity apart from terrorism which gives Pakistan an international profile is cricket.

The Board's subsequent explanation that the ban recommended by the inquiry committee was not time specific is laughable; no punishment should be as open ended as that. And if the bans on Rana Naved and Shoaib Malik could be made time specific, what was the reason for not doing the same with Yousuf and Younis? It was also nonsensical to ban them from international cricket for their misdemeanours, whatever they were, but to allow them to play domestic first class cricket and even county cricket while the supposed ban is in place. Either they are guilty of whatever it is they are charged with or they are not. If they are and their offence is serious enough ˝- and the offence given out in public is certainly not ˝- then they should be banned from all forms of cricket over which the Board has any control.

Pakistan cricket has been greatly politicized in the recent past and that may have been one of the reasons for this fiasco. Sensing that the political storm was about to break out over the dire performance in Australia, senior officials in the Board who felt that their position would be threatened perhaps thought that offence is the best defence and decided to come out swinging their bats by taking action before they were in a political soup in a bid to prove their administrative credentials. But since the Board's administrative abilities are somewhere between nonexistent and negligible, they fluffed it.

If indeed that is the case, it shows a set of priorities which does not have cricketing interests at its heart. Pakistan's bench strength is notoriously poor and with heavy fines imposed on virtually half the side weeks before an important international tournament -˝ the world Twenty20 Cup -˝ one wonders just how much confidence players taking the field for Pakistan in that tournament would have.

It is not for me to say what changes, if any, this debacle should trigger. But one of the things that should not be done is to bring more politics into cricket by making it more 'accountable' to elected representatives. That is not the way it works in countries where the sport is well administered and there is no need to go down that route in Pakistan. What needs to be done is for officials of the Board to recognize what their functions are and for appointments to be made taking into account those functions. The Chairman's job is not to tell the selectors whom to select and whom not to select, it is not to advice the touring party whether or not the wicket-keeper should be changed and it is not to oversee net practice. His job is administrative; he should be involved in the running the administrative system of the sport in the country, in representing the country at the international level, in fighting Pakistan's corner at the ICC and in facilitating arrangements that enable all other officials to carry out their responsibilities smoothly. He should above all try and make a solid infrastructure for the game in the country, something which has always gone by default as this aspect of the job has little by way of glamour. He therefore does not have to be a cricketer. He should have the maturity not to desire the spotlight by interfering in the work of the selection committee, the coach, the manager or the captain. Above all, he should introduce a merit based system in his own dealings so that this is emulated by others.

In the context of the value systems that govern Pakistan today, this may be asking for the moon. But there is no magic wand which will set things right overnight and as with most other things, the task of fixing Pakistan cricket is going to be a long hard grind. The sooner it is started the better.

 

The writer is the former captain of Pakistan and Kent

 

Reinforcing failures?

By Dr. Nauman Niaz

It's hard to believe that there isn't any vision of the PCB management to produce short-term and long-term developmental results. There seems no rationale word-bashing or criticising the top-tier of the PCB. Not only that they live in a world of self-denial they are also impermeable to valid disapproval, evaluations and insinuations. Ijaz Butt and his regime is a 'failure' is now an undisputed fact, not misconstrued or hyperbole. So, as Aamir Sohail, the former Pakistan captain in one of the talk shows expressed: 'Butt's statements shouldn't be taken seriously', I tend to agree to his satire. My aim through these weekly writings is to help people understand that Butt, though quite late in his government, should develop two aspects of good vision: grasping the underlying meaning of present conditions, and focusing beyond immediate circumstances. But from where does this kind of vision would come?

Combining wisdom and overview in distant times, King Solomon preserved the following proverb for posterity: 'Where there is no vision, the people perish', (Proverbs 29:18, King James Version). The son of Israel's King David also wrote: 'Without a vision is a people made naked'. Word-for-word renderings do not, however, give the sense in everyday language. Over time our ways of expressing a given concept change, an alternative, non-literal translation of the original Hebrew text, the 'Tanakh' reads, 'For lack of vision a people lose restraint'. Here the concept of perishing has been interpreted as the loss of personal restraint, which leads to oblivion.

Critics waited for Butt to reveal his vision, his only input was a frazzled rhetoric, and cricket as a product slithered into disappointment. Let's supposed that Butt outlives his tenure and a new vibrant more dynamic and practical man replaces him, he would be required to attempt an analysis of the entire cricket's sphere from increasingly a rare perspective. It goes beneath the surface of our multilayered and complex cricket space to untie a knotted mass of motivations, wants and desires. It explains a challenge, come to terms with our too-easy acceptance of the present, and expresses solutions and forward momentum based on insights from the heaps of incompetence and not easily forgotten tenures of Shaharyar M Khan, Dr Nasim Ashraf and now Ijaz Butt.

Only recently, Butt made new appointments-a Chief Finance Officer, and more pertinent, Mohsin Khan was designated as the new chief selector whilst Intikhab Alam tagged for incompetence and complete management failure as coach of the Pakistan team, berated for his inability to devise strategies and modulate play, has been appointed as Director National Cricket Academy and Game Development.

The question of how new progressive teams are built in a modernised environment is not a new one. Answering it demands wisdom and a clear grasp of practicality. Butt, if he couldnÝt really break the shackles of nepotism adjusted his long-term friends Yawar Saeed and Intikhab in the cozy confines of PCB's ravishing offices, he needed to consider a sense of style-'you just do not reinforce failures'. He should know, even if he has been in a whirlpool of disparagement, 'style', 'public positioning' and 'packaging' could create the context in which we deal with others and how they respond to us.

Intikhab had failed miserably in his role with olden rusted methodologies as team's coach, and his appointment as Director of the NCA and Game Development is just contradictory to wisdom. Intikhab was a spectacular right arm leg spinner and a forceful hitter, but he retired from first class cricket in 1981, whereas the dynamics of the game changed in the 1990s, with human kinetics, changing nutritional demands, the sports umbrella, detailed study of physiology of movement, and muscle development; would he be able to introduce the phenomenal modules and evolving a high quality produce? He could really understand the changing mechanics of modern play? Why has he been given such a responsible job, at an age of 69? Contemptible still?

Mohsin Khan arrives with a not so spectacular record in management and also he takes up the position when the PCB had already announced 'thirty' for the Twenty20 World Cup. He would be given a restricted choice and if he could pick a 'champion' team it should only be an illusion. These sorts of decisions provide a compelling definition for the Patron of the PCB to consider as he faces today's challenging realities.

What Butt has been doing since October 2008 is completely opposite to a strong policy maker, and his inability to describe management as knowing how best to integrate and use every asset of strategic, diplomatic, intelligence, public, economic, or psychological tool he could have used or manipulated and share his purposes, and those who did not, he was one of them.

Nepotism and personal obligations could have been ignored and even Intikhab's appointment wouldn't have created such a stir, had Butt been involved influencing others-those who were already friendly and shared his purposes, and those who did not. But he should have known that successful management and developmental modules required more than orchestrating all the resources directly or indirectly at his disposal. It required putting his means into a broader context of goals and capabilities.

First Intikhab Alam, now once he is at a place where he shouldn't have been and it would have been much better that he celebrated his 70th birthday in a post-retirement family fanfare, but taken at a face value, he should dwell upon the fact that successful implementation of modernistic theories provide a template for the Pakistan Cricket Board to follow. There must be consideration and understanding of the common goals of the individuals who comprise a team. And these benchmarks need to be achieved after contemplating the shared values and resources that are fundamental to the interests of all.

The packaging or style presents the public face of these interests as the national interest and an organisation sets out to exert its influence on the world stage -- it's a huge responsibility. Are we conscientious, emotional or just filled with self-interest? Intikhab discovered himself picking his first wicket in Test cricket with the first ball he bowled, and subsequently saw himself on the world scene with performances like 7-52 versus New Zealand at Dunedin in 1972-73 or 138 against England at Niaz Stadium Hyderabad in 1973 but 2010 is a different millennium and he hasn't the ball in his hand.

Mohsin as chief selector he should know, in the present environment wouldn't be able to convince the world about his methodological cricketing insight, of what he was good for. But he could still do the things that could convince him. Mohsin like the new coach Waqar Younis should have known that the end of Butt's regime was in the fray, at last in sight, and they should have not tried entering a losing card game and malign their near brilliant cricketing profiles.

They would face the rigors of ratification by a chairman like Butt and even higher hurdle might be the direction that this new packaging of the PCB will lead.

The question of whether or not Waqar and Mohsin will use their considerable resources for the benefit of Pakistani cricket is in the process of being answered. The next step will be to see if Butt survives and provide needs to influence the game in Pakistan for the better. It is most unlikely and that Butt survives would only be a miracle or complete apathy of the powers that may well be? If history is a guide for us, the answer to this question may be far from promising. Pakistan cricket is dead and if Butt stays in power, it would soon be completely eradicated. He has, so far, destroyed Pakistan cricket and reinforced failures.

 

hockey

Delhi debacle:

What really went wrong?

Pakistan's hockey chiefs will have to take several sweeping steps to ensure that our team bounces back in future events like the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games to be held later this year.

By Khalid Hussain

When Pakistan went to India last month for the Hockey World Cup nobody really expected a miracle from a team that finished a disappointing eighth position in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing -- its last major international assignment.

But nobody could have predicted what would perhaps go down in Pakistan's hockey history as the "Delhi debacle".

Since winning the 1984 Olympic crown in Los Angeles, Pakistan have experienced numerous ups and downs on the world hockey stage but never has a national team performed as miserably as it did at the Major Dhyan Chand National Hockey Stadium in Delhi. The team hit a new World Cup low by finishing last in the 12-nation spectacle following a catastrophic 2-3 defeat against minnows Canada in the playoff for the 11th place.

Not many would have criticized Pakistan for losing against the reigning hockey giants like Australia or Germany but to succumb to lowly teams like South Africa and Canada is simply unacceptable.

Pakistan have won a record four World Cup titles and are still regarded among the leading hockey-playing nations in Asia. They went to India with a team that included accomplished international stars like drag flicker Sohail Abbas and strikers Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi. It wasn't short on experience while tens of millions of rupees were spent on its World Cup preparations by the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF). Several coaches and trainers were roped in to form a set of coaching staff that included foreign experts. The team featured in a series of internationals events in the lead up to the World Cup which is why nobody can complain of any lack of preparations for the tournament.

The early signs were looking good as Pakistan had reached the Asia Cup final in Malaysia, won a World Cup qualifying round in France and played a close title match in the Champions Challenge in Argentina. They beat England 2-0 in a Test series in England last summer. The result seemed all the more heartening a few weeks later when the same English team went on to record a stunning title-winning triumph in the European championship in Amsterdam that featured some of the world's best teams -- Germany, Holland and Spain.

Just weeks before the start of the World Cup, Pakistan looked impressive in a Test series against the Dutch in Doha. The Greenshirts drew both the Tests and it seemed that they were ready to take on the world in Delhi.

Team officials promised their charges will give their best in the World Cup and even claimed that a semifinal spot seemed within the team's reach. Experts, too, expected Pakistan to do well in the tournament.

But everything went horribly wrong for the Pakistanis. They warmed up with practice games against defending champions Germany and Canada and then took on old rivals India in what was a mouth-watering opening game of the tournament for the two former Asian giants.

Against all expectations, Pakistan crashed to an embarrassing 1-4 defeat against the hosts in front of a packed stadium. Pakistan did bounce back by beating fancied Spain 2-1 in their next match but never really regained their confidence. Defeats against England, South Africa and Australia relegated them to the match against Canada with only one thing to play for: Avoiding a last-place finish. Pakistan even failed to do that and took the World Cup wooden spoon for the first time in their history.

So what really happened that a team that promised so much went on to flop miserably in the World Cup?

Most experts have blamed the PHF and team management for the disaster, saying that the team seemed under-prepared for a major event like the World Cup. They have accused the team's managers of failing to come out with proper strategies or game plans during the event. Some have singled out the team's senior players for their inability to live up to expectations.

Most of the former greats have united against Asif Bajwa, the PHF secretary whom they accuse of running a one-man show. Ex-Olympians like Islahuddin Siddiqui, Hassan Sardar, Akhtar-ul-Islam, Mansoor Ahmed, Tahir Zaman, Naved Alam, Muhammad Saqlain have been calling for heads to roll and are of the view that the first to face the axe should be the under-fire PHF secretary.

So unexpected were the World Cup results back home that there were even these wild accusations of match-fixing from some quarters.

Barring the match-fixing allegation which I personally believe lacks truth almost all the other factors mentioned by the experts have contributed to what will be written as one of the darkest chapters of our sports history.

Firstly, the PHF has utterly failed in its goal which was to raise a strong team and ensure that it went to Delhi with the best possible homework. This means that the former Olympians are justified in singling out Bajwa as the main culprit behind the World Cup disaster.

Bajwa did get a free hand from PHF president Qasim Zia and has been at the helm of national hockey affairs even before the 2008 Olympics. He's been calling all the shots, something that can be proved from the fact that he even took a pre-World Cup training camp to his hometown -- Sialkot -- even though there are much better facilities in centres like Karachi, Lahore and Islamabad.

He handpicked foreign experts and was instrumental in the appointment of the other members of the coaching staff. According to Muhammad Shafiq, one of the members of the national selection committee that was dissolved in the World Cup aftermath, Bajwa fought for each and every player he wanted in the World Cup squad and got all of them selected in it.

Bajwa and other members of the team management including coach Shahid Ali Khan have been sacked by the PHF chief. After what happened in Delhi, there was no justification to retain them. But what former Olympians quite rightly question is the fact that Bajwa has been allowed to continue working as the secretary. He has played his innings and should make room for somebody else to pick up the pieces and put our team on the right track.

Pakistan will have to take several sweeping steps to ensure that our team bounces back in up coming events like next month's inaugural Asian Champions Trophy in the Malaysia.

The players have decided to step down after the loss against Canada but it shouldn't be difficult for the hockey chiefs to talk them out of it. Qasim Zia, the PHF president told 'The News on Sunday' that it's an emotional decision. He has hoped that the boys will change their mind.

The more difficult task for them would be to help the boys regain their confidence after what happened in the World Cup. Then there will be the appointment of coaches and trainers, who are good enough to help the team bounce back in events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to be held later this year.

The good thing about hitting rock bottom, they say, is that there is no way but up. Pakistan hockey will have to learn from the lessons from the Delhi disaster and make it sure that the players and officials don't repeat the same mistakes again.

The stains of our World Cup humiliation might never disappear but to make them less visible, Pakistan will have to show the world that they didn't deserve to finish last in Delhi. Doing well in the Commonwealth Games to be held at the same venue as the World Cup could be one way to do it. A much-needed title victory in the Asian Games in China this November, which I believe is achievable for Pakistan, will certainly help overcome our World Cup hearbreak.

 

Sporting challenges facing us

By Aamir Bilal

Discipline remains the hallmark of any sport and cricket is no exception. With the ageing Mohammad Yousuf, the out-of-form Younis Khan, the unpredictable Malik, the ball-biting Shahid Afridi, the roguish Rana Naved and the Akmal brothers facing different kinds of bans and fines on account of indiscipline, misconduct, creating player cartels and match-fixing allegations, the PCB finally decided to fix things once and for all and simultaneously appointed a new coach and chief selector to give a new look to the under-performing Pakistan cricket team.

The challenges for Waqar Younis and Mohsin Hasan Khan are insurmountable and overwhelming. Waqar, with a salary of over Rs650,000 a month, has been entrusted with the responsibility of coaching the national team. This will be a real and a different sort of test of Waqar's abilities as he has to build a team from scratch that is low on confidence, high in waywardness and intrigues, poor in mental and physical fitness and may well be without some of its heavyweights in the near future.

Waqar may prove to be a satisfactory stop-gap arrangement provided he understands his prime responsibility of leadership. He will have to psych up the team which may have new faces and little international experience in a very short time to face the top teams in the forthcoming T20 World Cup, and align the demoralised team members to emerge as a cohesive unit of some worth. How he handles pressure from the board and the senior members of the team to inspire his team with that "little bit extra swing" through his motivation would be worth observing. Waqar's lethal yorkers will now be substituted by his coaching philosophy, and the game plan that he has to offer.

It would be interesting to note whether Waqar is well-equipped to handle the emotions during stressful times and does not draw daggers against Ijaz Butt as he did against Nasim Ashraf, whether he is able to accept the blame when things go wrong rather than passing the responsibility to someone else, would he be able to nail down the conspirators, and will he not repeat all those follies that were committed by his predecessors and brings in the much needed "coaching system" in the Pakistan team rather than proving to be another low-key, stereotype bowling "resource person" like Jeff Lawson.

The role of Mohsin as chief selector would be equally important and crucial. He enjoys a good reputation of being a gentleman and PCB has always been looking for "gentlemen" to be appointed as chief selectors. Iqbal Qasim, the former chief selector, was also a gentleman and how he crumbled under pressures coming from different quarters is no more a hidden story. Mohsin will be faced with the immediate challenge of bringing transparency in the selection process of Tests, one-day and T20 teams.

He will have to work in harmony with board, the captain and the tour management committee to offer the best possible combination in the interest of Pakistan cricket. Mohsin has already hinted the different combinations for different patterns of the game. This is not only the requirement of modern day Cricket but would also make Mohsin's life easier as he tries to adjust more players in national side.

Mohsin's "eye of the beholder" will be blocked by the pressure from the media, ex-Test cricketers and board members with stakes to select national team with vested interests. His safety valve lies in the transparency and methodology of selection process that he adopts. He must remember that team selection in modern day sport is a scientific process and not a whimsical pick and chose on personal likes and dislikes. With many mega stars shown the door by PCB, the cricket enthusiasts will critically evaluate Mohsin's ability to raise a young, formidable Pakistan eleven that may serve the country with pride, dignity and honour.

If the two gentlemen get their acts together and put their foot down to bring in the transparency and best practices of the game, the professionalism and good omen will automatically return to the Pakistan team. I am sure that cricket can't die in a country where it is played in graveyards, on the runways and footpaths. The real challenge would however be the emplacement of a much needed system, without which the individuals would fail to deliver.

Building Pakistan cricket from scratch would be the real challenge for the cricket management in which the coach and chief selector would hold key positions. Charity begins at home and discipline starts from self discipline. No coach, manager or selector can earn respect from players, management and general public if he can't discipline himself.

Self discipline will lay a concrete ground for working with players and their failures in setting up an environment where self discipline becomes contagious. The coach and management on one hand will be requiring firm handling while on the other should refrain from abuse of power and authority.

I am willing to forgive all the follies of the PCB management if it sticks to its decision and do not take a U-turn under any kind of political or media pressure, as this decision may well hold the key to the future of cricket in the country. The going will be tough and challenges intractable. PCB must have faith in the young cricketing blood which, if selected on merit and coached professionally, has the capacity to turn the tide.

The precedence set by the board may well send the much needed warning to young budding cricketers that no one is bigger than the game and they better wake up before it is too late for them. The young cricketers must remember that its not their cricketing abilities that lends respect to national side but in fact it is the green cap and the Pakistan star displayed on their chests by the board that gives them the status of an idol.

Aamir Bilal is a qualified coach [email protected]

 

England's hockey resurgence'

By Ijaz Chaudhry

The performances of the England hockey team have taken everyone by surprise during the ongoing Hockey World Cup. England, who since 1988 have failed to reach the semifinals of either the World Cup or the Olympics, as Great Britain in the latter case, have been the surprise package at the extravaganza in New Delhi. They were the only side not to have lost a single point at the end of the fourth round of league matches and were also the first ones to be assured of the semis spot.

Their overall strength is awesome. Even losing the services of vital players like Simon Mantell and Matt Daly on the eve of the World Cup and Richard Mantell during the third game, made little difference. Their team has the best penalty corner conversion rate without having a frightening name like Taekema, or Sohail Abbas.

The man who should be credited for this remarkable turnaround is their coach, Jason Lee. Among other things, he has given the team the all important self belief, "we can beat any team in the world".

The Olympic qualifier for 2008 Olympics at Chile could be termed as a turning point where, as Great Britain, they qualified by defeating India in the final; knocking out the eight-time Olympic champions out in the process.

At Beijing itself, Jason Lee's boys performed beyond expectations and the team GB finished fifth.

Though the team lost stars like John Brady and Marsden immediately after the Olympics, there has been no looking back. The side has gone from strength to strength. In 2009, England surprised every one by winning the European nations championships for the first time ever. That was a real confidence booster.

The transformation entails not only the results but also the style. Whereas at Beijing, it was dogged defence and determination, while at Delhi, attack and flair were the hallmark of the team.

The 1988 Olympics proved to be GB/England's finest hour, but that had taken eight years of planning and preparation. This time around, it took Jason Lee four years to make the side real world beaters. Lee has also been lucky as quite a few good things happened during this period, all contributing towards this cycle of success. With eyes on the Olympic 2012, in their own backyard, hockey is the biggest recipient of the government funding amongst the team sports, thus enabling the side to have training camps and tours.

Lee has a very talented lot of players at his disposal. The highly competitive and well covered EuroHockey League (for clubs) where the top three English clubs appear every year provides great exposure to the players. Likewise, the Dutch league, easily the best domestic hockey set up in the world with stars from all over the globe plying their trade there, has certainly made the England captain Barry Middleton, and the young star Ashley Jackson better players. Jason Lee's style emphasises fast play and recent rule changes have complemented his approach. England defender Ben Hayes rightly stated, "Self pass suits England team's style of play."

Interestingly, the 2009 European Nations Championships won by England was the first international competition to have the self pass rule. Lee's approach has multi-dimensional facets. He stresses on the role of individual players, variety in patterns, and adaptation to changing situations. The players' mind set, body language, discipline and team work have made this outfit something special, always aiming to achieve greater glories. But it has been a team effort as well. Jason Lee gives great credit to consistency in organisation, funding and structure. "For last six years, the team has been getting great support from all the quarters. I also consider myself very lucky in having such a rich pool of talent at my disposal."

There are also long term plans. The pyramidal 'single system' aims to spread hockey evenly among all the sections of the society across the length and the breadth of the country. At the top are the six National performance centres headed by the 1988 Olympic gold medallist David Faulkner, then are the regional performance centres and the system goes right down to club and school. Nick Catlin who is performing wonderfully in Delhi has been at the National performance centre.

As apposed to 1988, presently professionals are managing the GB/England hockey. Apart from David Faulkner, Richard Leman, the President of the Great Britain hockey, is also a 1988 Olympic gold medallist.

All this means that unlike post-1988, England can rightly hope to remain in the top echelons of the international hockey like Germany, Holland and Australia for times to come.



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