Cricket: Living on borrowed time
hockey looks ahead to Asiad
pursuit of our glorious past
Life would be flat without dreams:
By Khalid Hussain
Pakistanís performance graph has been alarmingly down in both Test and One-day International cricket for quite some time. But for the majority of their fans, the fact that Pakistan emerged as the most successful team in the Twenty20 format in the last four years was a big consolation.
Not any more! Pakistan have crashed to big defeats in their last four Twenty20 Internationals Ė two against England in Cardiff last month and the other couple of defeats came at the hands of South Africa in Abu Dhabi more recently.
His teamís dismal performance in Twenty20 matches forced Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi to confess that his is not a good team when it comes to the shortest format of the game.
"We have a good one-day team at the moment but I canít say the same about our Twenty20 line-up. Itís a pretty ordinary team as it doesnít have many Twenty20 specialists," Afridi told ĎThe News on Sundayí after his team suffered a 2-0 defeat in the series against South Africa.
Itís a surprising statement considering the fact that till 2009, Pakistan were officially the best Twenty20 team in the world. With the best success ratio and the ICC World Twenty20 title under their belt, Pakistan were brimming with some exciting talent. With Shahid Afridi Ė
the most successful Twenty20 all-rounder and pacer Umar Gul in the line-up, the Greenshirts seemed to have the best talent for the slam-bang version of cricket.
So what has happened to our Twenty20 squad? The biggest problem, according to some insiders, is that the national selectors have failed to identify the players who are best suited to the Twenty20 format. With an eye on World Cup 2011 Ė which begins next February Ė the selectors have been picking players on the basis of their one-day and even Test credentials. Their decision to put faith in such players has affected the Twenty20 line-up.
It has also created a rift within Pakistan cricket. All is certainly not well in the Pakistan camp as one keeps hearing complaints from someone or the other that a power tussle is having an adverse affect on the teamís performance.
The way Pakistan succumbed against South Africa in back-to-back Twenty20 games in Abu Dhabi is a clear proof that the team is far from a well-oiled, well-drilled unit that can go on and make its presence felt in the World Cup.
The clock is ticking.
Pakistan will have to work overtime and put their under-achieving team back on track ahead of the World Cup to be played in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. They have a series of One-day Internationals Ė against the Proteas in the United Arab Emirates and against the Blackcaps in
New Zealand Ė before the World Cup and will have to make good use of those games. Too many losses in the lead up to the World Cup will only put more pressure on a team that is dogged by scandals and internal rifts.
Pakistanís cricket chiefs have chosen Afridi to lead Pakistan in the World Cup. They will have to show more faith in his leadership abilities and put an end to the speculations surrounding his captaincy. The morning after Pakistan lost their opening Twenty20 game in Abu Dhabi, rumours started circulating in national cricket circles that the Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to install senior batsman Misbah-ul-Haq as the new one-day captain. Such uncertainty might further lower the teamís morale.
The PCB will have to take a final decision about the team captain for the World Cup and then stick to it.
The selectors, too, should follow suit. The World Cup is just about 15 weeks away and there is no time for any more experimentation. They should be clear about the 15 men that will be representing Pakistan in the quadrennial spectacle.
At this point in time, Pakistan cricket needs a few shots in the arm. It will receive a big boost if the national team excels at the World Cup unlike in the previous two editions in 2003 and 2007 when it flopped miserably.
Unfortunately, signs are not good. Our selectors look confused, our cricket chiefs continue to repeat the same mistakes while the players are failing to live up to expectations. It feels like dťjŗ vu all over again.
Khalid Hussain is Editor Sports of The News, Karachi
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Pakistan Cricket has been living on a borrowed time, the management and the players arenít just more than doppelgangers; a spitting image. The people appointed to help Ijaz Buttís administration plot its operational policy are in the right place at the wrong time: their ineptness and intellectual dishonesty have combined doing much damage, and the situation now looks irreparable, and they have acted as forces not working in Pakistan Cricketís favour.
In fact, the trust deficit between the ICC, rest of the full-members and the Pakistan Cricket Board hasnít proven well for our game, not giving us the space, opportunity and the political leverage, to do something dramatic; dramatic is a word alien to Ijaz Butt, drama and other such sequels his reality. If he could bring his presence to a more reasonable level, from a reviled clumsy and erratic representative of the PCB in international forums to a more acceptable place, Pakistan cricket still could erase more than half of the deficit. Will he ever going to do it?
Pakistan isnít a team, a collection of players trudging on mediocrity, and their alleged corrupted activities exploited countryís face. Any of them seemingly havenít signed up jobs out of a deep inner urge to balance the equation. From Ijaz Butt on down, it seems that they have been in Lahore with a very different set of purpose, reflected in their bad decisions, averse to rationality. They all together are shame to Pakistan Cricket. Nothing has emerged from the pack.
That the trust deficit is not sustainable in the long run is clear. ICC has now become terse and ham-fisted, calling Ďenough is enoughí. And horrendously Pakistan cricket isnít growing so that their alienation worldwide could be manipulated; with a growing trust deficit, PCB has now been cornered, expected to pay higher price, and Ijaz Butt to President Asif Ali Zardari is indispensible, seemingly his being a case of an altered ego.
Hitherto, Butt has been feeble-minded about his handling of the blight. He has overestimated ICCís patience and grossly underestimated their apathy, proliferating junk in a hope that the deafening status quo and compulsive restrain of worldís governing body could help climb his way of the morass in which he has left Pakistan Cricket, imagining pulling himself, not countryís interest back from the brink, at no apparent cost to anyone! Pakistan cricket paid a huge price, its pride shorn into pieces and the shreds fully reflective of his incompetence.
Butt didnít realise that without method and vision, the PCB couldnít set aside reserves commensurate with the new risks that he needed to undertake, and his shameless repetitive stupidities reflected the higher probability of default; probability soon turned into reality, his blithe seeming indifference to the impact on Pakistan Cricket undermines his claims to affably retaining the directorship of the ICC. Butt must have known the power of the ICC. His defaults have also led to a weakening base of the Pakistani cricket system, and thus to a weakening future as well. Butt has been so unwanted in international space that he has not only reduced but eroded the likelihood of another bailout in the months to follow. His tenure has been filled with darker consequences, one that few people still foresee, as Pakistan cricket with Butt present as their Chairman works to get their balance back in order and conform to the new approach of the ICC, they are seen cutting their own Adam apples.
Now just pleasing the ICC means, of course, putting aside much of the development agenda that could have motivated a step in the right direction plus he has been completely apathetic putting aside qualms about whether the strategy would work: as I say, Buttís continuation would eliminate possibilities of recovery and intensify Pakistan Cricketís unemployment in the international space. Presently, Butt slithering into distress has gone on his knees in front of the ICC to backload his vote bank there, and as he is shambolic as he could be, the kneeling down would lead to even larger trust deficit.
It seems to be a risky policy, not for Buttís survival but trying to avoid extermination of Pakistanís cricket power, even in the future when the hostility in our environment mellows down. Seemingly under the pressure of politics and time, Buttís regime has only added to the spoils. Cricket just couldnít be in strong enough shape to withstand the impact. If the standard interpretation of history prevails, the answer appears to be yes. Buttís overaggressive management though all shots in the dark has led to deceptive information, faulty decisions, and serious consequences for the Pakistani game. The PCB is being forced to continue setting aside growth, preserving survival in order to protect the integrity of international cricket against the risk of a drop of its gentlemanliness in the wake of spot fixing allegations on three Pakistan cricketers and at least one player from India; they arenít and they arenít going to be.
Butt could have testified lacking a core of established people apt enough to hold Pakistan Cricket together in testing times. Butt has had profound issues to sort out. He should also have known that corrupt or chaotic management promoted weak institutions. And Butt, fortunately for him and complete disaster for Pakistanís game has stumbled back into the hands of a Patron not reluctant to accept him despite a sequence of disasters. With Butt in the Pakistani management, countryís cricket has been caught with snouts in the trough. Governance has been poor and Butt not at any level is a thinking philosopher. He has lacked the single-mindedness needed to tackle corruption in his ranks.
To the contrary he has tried to ignore it. Nor is it any use pointing a finger at the ICC. He needed to join the ICC to tackle the malaise with common intent, his was just a meekly response to their action; his wasnít even a reaction; just a timid acceptance. Even at the ICC level match-fixing has been condemned by word but not by deed. Butt hasnít even counted the cards in the pack, just blowing the sirens in all the wrong directions and confirming Australian claims of his buffoonery. The reasons for him being retained at Chairman PCB are just lame. Admittedly incompetent are clever. Buttís governance has just been a charade. Pakistan Cricket, as it seems has been betrayed by one Ijaz Butt and the other, the appointing authorities. He needs to be drummed out as Pakistan Cricket isnít a monastery. Itís time the Pakistani game should be rescued from the worst and given back the sanity, if not the best.
All conscious people, their thoughts and actions, are part reality. This fact, that our thinking forms part of what we think about has far reaching implications both for our thinking and for reality. It sets some insuperable obstacles to understanding reality and it also renders reality different from what we understand it to be.
Pakistan hockey looks ahead to Asiad
By Bilal Hussain
To say that Pakistan hockey is facing a major slump would be an understatement. A country that has won a record four World Cup titles crashed to a humiliating last-place finish in this yearís World Cup in New Delhi. A country which dominated world hockey for several decades ended up at a dismal sixth position in this monthís Commonwealth Games which did not even feature top teams like Germany, Holland, Spain, Korea and Argentina.
Because of the teamís poor track record in 2010, not many believe that Pakistan can bounce back in next monthís Asian Games in Guangzhou, China.
Former Pakistan hockey legends feel that young blood should be induced in the team in order to build a strong national side which is capable of reviving Pakistan hockeyís lost glory.
Former hockey star Samiullah is of the view that young players always have a passion to achieve and make their place in the team.
"This ambitiousness by the individual players certainly helps in lifting the overall performance of the team. However, this may also result in individualism, but there comes the role of the coach and the team management to conform the players with the team-spirit benchmark," Pakistanís former skipper Samiullah told ĎThe News on Sundayí in an interview.
"The hunger of individual players, when matched up with the requirement of the team, forms a lethal combination. The individual player and the team have one common goal ó victory. Better performance by the united team would certainly be the individual achievement as well," he added.
Samiullah criticised Pakistan Hockey Federation for recalling senior players who have reached the twilight of their careers.
"It would not help in lifting Pakistan hockey, it would only frustrate the youngsters thriving to make their presence felt to the selectors. Those players who have failed in World Cup and Commonwealth Games would not be able to pull worthwhile achievements at Asian Games, which is obvious," he said.
Samiullah said that the young players should be motivated and a sense must be created among them that if they performs extraordinarily, no one can stop them from representing the national team.
"However, by dragging the players who are well off their peaks would only frustrate and waste the young talented players. It is now time that young players should replace them."
"The young talent should be realised and should be given a chance. It is now their time to represent the country. By dragging the senior players, who have lost their gloss, would only discourage our youth," Samiullah explained.
He said that many talented players are losing their peak time and when they would be getting a chance to represent the national side, they would immediately join county hockey abroad, whenever they would get a chance.
Pakistanís FIH Grade-I coach and a former Olympian Qamar Ibrahim also said that the federation must take the challenge and induce young players in the team.
"I thought that Hanif Khan (Pakistan Hockey team coach) would bring some change in the team by bringing in the young players and sacking the senior who doesnít have much left in them to give to the national team. However, by selecting the same senior players who failed in World Cup and Commonwealth Games shows that he also has now become the PHF like ad-hoc style strategist," Qamar said.
Qamar further said, "I hope that the team does well in Asian Games but the record of the team shows that they would find Korea, India and China difficult to overpower. And if the team fails in China, they would make the seniors scapegoat for that failure.
"So, it would be a win-win situation for the top brass of the federation as if the team do well, they would say Ďit was we who put faith in the senior players, and if the team fails, federation would say Ďit was seniors who let us downí. But this would not help lift hockey. They may save their face this way but I remind them that they are not doing justice to the national game," he said.
He said that there should be a proper way to show the senior players a dignified way out of their international careers.
Qamar said that by including young players in the team might not change the Asian Games result, but it would certainly predict a flourished team in times to come.
Meanwhile, another Pakistanís legendary skipper Islahuddin Siddiqui said that Asian Games is a very important assignment and a gold medal should be the top priority of the federation.
"The need of the team is that, they go with full strength in the important event. The best players, who could pull worthwhile achievement in the Games should be a part of the team, though it be senior or junior players," Islah said.
However, the experienced hockey analyst said that the form and fitness should be the top priority for the selection of the team for the Asian Games.
"Every player, who would be going in the Asian Games should be highly fit. If the senior players are fit and in good form; they should be in the team. But if they are not fit, then junior player should be given a chance," he added.
He concluded that when there should be a choice to make between a junior and senior player, when they are assessed to be equally in form, fitness and skills then a junior player should be given a preference as at the end of the day, they normally have a bigger haul.
In pursuit of our glorious past
By Arshad Shami
There was a time when Pakistan reigned supreme in track and field events. Our athletes were amongst the best in the world. They continued to hold complete sway in the Asian and Commonwealth Games for several decades and Abdul Khaliq even finished fourth in the Olympics. But that was long time ago. Deterioration set in as in other games and we were not even able to field a single athlete in the track and field event at the Commonwealth games.
Mohammad Iqbal, a world class hammer thrower made a world record in the heats of an international competition but then failed to follow it up. Like track and field, our boxers and wrestlers also showed great prowess and won medals in the Asian and Commonwealth Games, before the standard went down. Hopes to rejuvenate the game of wrestling holds great promise for the future and we hope with little more support our grapplers would be able to win back the lost prestige.
In boxing, our pugilists demonstrated great skill and promise and it has been claimed that in the coming Asiad we will perform much better. Unfortunately Pakistan Olympic Association has done very little to help boxers and wrestlers.
Similarly, very little has been done to improve the standard of track and field events. In the past, track and field events were held frequently at various levels. The Army had a devoted man in the form of Brig. Rodham, who lived in a small room but promoted track and field events; producing world class performers in the process.
Colleges, universities and provincial associations used to hold annual games which produced promising athletes. Today, however, we do not have players of that calibre thanks to the POA and its policies.
A Lot of funds are allocated for sports, yet the standard of games has not improved one single bit. Each year the number of athletes in various games reduces. The educational institutions have lost interest in the promotion of games and sports. Commercialisation has become the watch word with investors in education. In the past, schools and colleges used to run after sportsmen, offering them incentives.
Provincial Associations were also very active then. Each year, the associations used to hold their track and field events which formed the basis of selection to participate in the National Games which were an annual fixture. Today, the national games are not held as per schedule and are postponed for one reason or the other.
Majority of the athletes used to come from Pakistan Armed forces and Railways with Punjab and Sindh producing outstanding athletes. The role of the Army and Railways has diminished to an extent that we hardly see a prominent athlete coming from those institutions. For a while, WAPDA and KESC along with KPT stepped in but they too have not shown much interest in the promotion of these disciplines either. Is it because we do not have the talent? I am pretty sure that we still can emerge as leading contenders in Asia and the Commonwealth, if not the world.
We need to redouble our efforts in hunting down athletes and have to invest in them to harness their talent to earn laurels for Pakistan. During my days as a sportsman, I used to train for several days when the schedule for college games was announced. The competition was hard yet rewarding. Winning in these games earned for an athlete recognition from institution and made him prominent among the students.
The inter-collegiate games were contested as well. This would then become the criteria for selection for the inter-varsity games which were held at different centres each year. The next stage would be the provincial games which would culminate in the national games.
Steps have to be taken to popularise the same system and hold these games at regular intervals to enable more and more sportsmen come in the reckoning as it would ultimately lead them to national and international levels. There is also a need to reactivate the national coaching centers in Lahore and Karachi.
There is a need to have boxing rings at all main centres in the country and local clubs have to be encouraged to hunt for new talent. It is not a tall order and we can easily achieve it!
Let us make the educational institutions the hub of sports activity along with academic excellence. There can be no short cut to success and if we take these steps we can ensured of achieving our past glory!
Life would be flat without dreams: Tendulkar
In an extract from his exclusive interview with Donald
McRae, Indian cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar stresses that rather
Sachin Tendulkar, who made history earlier this month by becoming the first batsman to score 14,000 runs in Test cricket, has stressed that his desire to improve remains as intense as it has ever been. In a rare interview, to be published in full in Saturdayís newspaper, Tendulkar says: "Iím really focusing now on how I can get to the next level as a batsman. How can I get even more competitive? How can I get even more consistent? How can I get better?"
Tendulkar has had the most prolific year of his Test career, which began in November 1989 when he was just 16, and he has returned to the top of the world batting rankings for the first time since 2002. In February he scored centuries in successive Tests against South Africa before, against the same opponents, becoming the first man to reach 200 in a one-day international. He was the highest run scorer in the IPL and also made a Test double-hundred against Sri Lanka, and two half-centuries, before his remarkable performances against Australia Ů which saw him reach the 14,000 landmark in the second Test at Bangalore while scoring 214 and an unbeaten 53 to complete Indiaís 2-0 series victory.
Describing 2010 as his "sweetest year", Tendulkar has also won the ICCís Player of the Year and earlier this week in London he was feted with two more prizes at the inaugural Asian Awards. But he insists that, rather than considering retirement at the age of 37, he has many more goals to fulfil. According to Tendulkar: "Life would be flat without dreams. I think itís really important to dream Ů and then to chase those dreams. I really believe in this because itís this dreaming that makes me work so hard. I want to continue doing that because Iíve worked very hard the last couple of years on my batting. Gary Kirsten [the former Test opener for South Africa who now coaches India] has been instrumental in this. Together weíve worked hard in the last couple of years to improve my batting. Heís given me the freedom to express myself, and to pace my innings as I see fit. I can slow down occasionally. Gary has helped me do this and itís because heís more a friend than a coach."
Conceding that his form subsided a few years ago, prompting critics like Australiaís Ian Chappell to call for his retirement, Tendulkar says: "There was a little dip for me, around 2005 and 2006. But I had a lot of injuries then. I had finger and elbow injuries, and then a back injury. All these upper-body injuries may have altered my back-swing a little. But, fortunately, all that is behind me now and Iíve been able to put in the hours of practice that I need."
In a wide-ranging interview, Tendulkar reflects on the influence of his late father, a novelist and poet, as well as his brother, Ajit, who remains his closest cricketing confidante. He relives the "big moment" when he passed the 14,000-run milestone and considers the difficulties of the life he leads as the idol of over a billion people.
India will co-host the 2011 cricket World Cup Ů with the final to be played on 2 April in Tendulkarís home city of Mumbai. "Itís going to be massive," he says. "Everyone in India is already looking forward to hosting a mega tournament and although people havenít started talking yet about 1983 [the last time India won the World Cup] it will happen soon. But, given our recent form, people have a right to be excited and have extremely high hopes for us. There are going to be big expectations."
Tendulkar explains why he favours England over Australia in the Ashes Ů and identifies Eoin Morgan as potentially the key man of the series. He also reveals the surprise identity of the bowler who has troubled him most in Test cricket and reflects on the day he and Shane Warne visited Don Bradman on his 90th birthday.