cricket
Cricketing lifestyles have changed with a bang
Twenty20 cricket is all about batsmen. Once they get on their act, it’s May Day for the bowlers. Though there have been good bowling performances as well they have been limited to a finger count
By Muhammad Shahbaz Zahid
It wasn’t long ago that Twenty20 cricket was termed as an absolutely ‘bizarre’ form of the game. When England and South Africa launched their domestic T20 leagues, many feared that the original format of the game -- Test cricket -- and One-day Internationals would be affected and the people’s attention would get diverted towards this shorter-form.

Mohammad Yousuf wins Test Player of the Year award
In the 1990s Pakistan produced two world-class middle order batsmen Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf. Both played a vital role in the Pakistan batting line-up for a long time
By Khurram Mahmood
Mohammad Yousuf was named international cricket’s Test Player of the Year at the ICC Awards in Johannesburg last week. It was the first time when any Pakistani player won this award. Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and England’s Kevin Pietersen were the other leading contestants for the Test player category.

cricket
Shoaib Akhtar: Banging
into a dead-end!
General Pervez Musharraf has also advised Dr Nasim Ashraf to take strict notice of Akhtar’s unwarranted behaviour. It seems now Shoaib isn’t going to get the leverage. It must be a hard-ball game, not the soft delicate reconciliatory approach
By Dr Nauman Niaz
Shoaib Akhtar is at it again; the tour management took a decision to discipline him and he has returned to Pakistan. His condition and actions are hypothesised to be mental adaptations which evolve to mitigate the dangerous consequences of social failure. Living in his own world, myopic and ecstatic, he has often used reactions and methods to combat social failure by closely mimicking conditions, such as self-possession, grandeur, external threats or illness where people were likely to cooperate and provide assistance.

Ahmed Iqbal: Promising Karachi youngster with lots of talent
The year 2005 brought further success his way when Lady Luck shone on him when he captained the Customs Cricket Academy team to victory in the Nissan Gulf U-15 Tournament in Sharjah
By Gul Nasreen
In the post-World Cup scenario, where the emphasis is on grooming new talent and polishing the youngsters into gems with a view to meeting future requirements in cricket, the activities by the Pakistan A team players as also the under-19 players are being attached great importance as it will be these players who will make to the national outfit in coming years.

Politicising the Beijing Olympics
China is facing problems being raised by outer forces to politicise the 2008 Games
By Waris Ali
The Beijing Olympics are just a year away and preparations, which started some six years back, for the 2008 mega sports event, are in full swing. But there are hostile forces also, who have been active in parallel, just out of rivalry and jealousy, to counter these efforts. In fact, it was a very painful decision for the sole super power America that the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics to its rival China.

 


cricket
Cricketing lifestyles have changed with a bang

It wasn’t long ago that Twenty20 cricket was termed as an absolutely ‘bizarre’ form of the game. When England and South Africa launched their domestic T20 leagues, many feared that the original format of the game -- Test cricket -- and One-day Internationals would be affected and the people’s attention would get diverted towards this shorter-form.

Perhaps they feared that Twenty20 would take over the other two cricketing chapters. And if they thought so, they might be true then; because Twenty20 cricket is here to stay.

The inaugural edition of the Twenty20 World Cup just started five days back and it got the perfect start it needed. The tournament, which was considered a big risk taken by the International Cricket Council as Twenty20 game hasn’t been played that much, got off to a flyer.

South Africa, the hosts of the tournament, took on the West Indies in the first match of the tournament and it turned out to be a cracker of a match. Twenty20 cricket, which has been touted to attract huge audience, was played at its best in this match where both the sides thrilled the crowd and dominated proceedings every now and then.

Chris Gayle displayed some breathtaking batting in the first match -- making a marvellous 117 off just 57 balls -- hitting ten sixes in his team’s total of 205. It was a daunting task for the Proteas but they had their tank full of ammunition as well. South Africa pulled the trigger right from the word ‘go’ and achieved the target easily with 8 wickets to spare. Herschelle Gibbs, a true masterblaster, cracked a 55-ball 90.

The Kenyans took on the Kiwis in the next match. Kenya, who had stunned the cricketing world after their performances in the 2003 50-over World Cup, didn’t pose a threat to New Zealand in this match and the Kiwis, under the captaincy of Daniel Vettori, romped home with a comfortable nine-wicket victory after Kenya had just made a paltry 73. Six of the Kenya batsmen were gone for nought -- a new record for Twenty20 cricket. Another record was made in this match -- with Mark Gillespie taking four wickets for just seven runs in 2.5 overs.

It was Team Pakistan’s turn to put on the show in the next match of the tournament and they did it in style against Scotland. Pakistan piled up 171 runs for the loss of nine wickets. Shahid Afridi scored a seven-ball 22 while Younis Khan contributed 41.

Scotland, who had said before the match that they were targeting Pakistan as their opponents had fallen to minnows Ireland in the 50-over World Cup this year, in reply fell to lethal bowling by Umar Gul and Man of the Match Afridi with both bowlers taking four wickets apiece. Just a start new coach Geoff Lawson needed in his first match in charge.

Many cricketing pundits had said before the tournament that Twenty20 format would contain some surprises for the crowd and the followers could see some upsets being made during the course of the tourney.

Surprisingly, this happened soon enough. But the team that felt the consequences of getting upset, and that early in the tournament (just the fourth match), turned out to be hot-favourites and ranked No 1 in the world in Tests, Ashes holders, Champions Trophy winners, and four-time 50-over World Cup champions Australia.

Australia, in their match against Zimbabwe -- a team against which they had opted out of their away tour recently -- were completely stunned by the all round efforts by their opponents. The Aussies just made 138 after Elton Chigumbura ripped them apart taking 3-20. In reply, Zimbabwe wicket-keeper/batsman Brendan Taylor made 60 to get his team a memorable five-wicket win.

West Indies soon packed their bags for home after Bangladesh, who had sounded a warning before the tournament that quoted ‘not to underestimate them’, swept them aside. Though the Windies made 168 in their innings thanks to Devon Smith’s 51, Bangladesh proved too much for them and skipper Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed hit contrasting fifties to earn their side a deserved six-wicket win.

Zimbabwe after stunning Australia had their eyes on another win, this time against England. But they couldn’t cope up against a brilliant batting display by Kevin Pietersen, who made 79, and good bowling performances by Dimitri Mascarenhas and Paul Schofield, who took three and two wickets respectively. Zimbabwe lost the match by fifty runs after England made 188.

India, without the services of experienced campaigners such as Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Sourav Ganguly for this tournament, had their match abandoned against Scotland after rain interrupted the proceedings.

Till the filing of this article, yet another record had been made during the tournament -- for the highest innings score by a team. And that record was made by none other than the mighty Sri Lankan team.

Sri Lanka, who reached the 50-over World Cup final this year and had started the tournament as joint favourites, absolutely hammered Kenya in their match and piled up a record total of 260 runs in their 20 overs.

Sanath Jayasuriya, a star performer over the years for his team who is known for his big-hitting acts, scored 88 off just 44 balls. And if that wasn’t enough, skipper Mahela Jayawardene nailed 65 off just 27 balls while Jehan Mubarak, who almost broke the record for the fastest T20 fifty, made 46 not out off just 13 balls!

And the consequences of poor bowling were lethal for Kenya as they suffered the record defeat in Twenty20 internationals in chasing the target. They lost the match by 172 runs with Chaminda Vaas, Lasith Malinga and Tillakaratne Dilshan claiming two wickets each.

Piling up these details and portraying your mind, one feels that Twenty20 cricket is all about batsmen. Once they get on their act, it’s May Day for the bowlers. Though there have been good bowling performances as well they have been limited to a finger count. But that might not affect T20 cricket’s popularity.

The format of the game has risen so much that rivalries have started in a cricket-playing nation that who’s going to host a better Twenty20 competition -- the country’s cricket board or a media-powered rebel league.

India, the powerhouse of world cricket, has seen the Indian Cricket League emerging from the roots of a multi-millionaire group which has threatened the hold of Board of Control for Cricket in India.

The rebel league, which has attracted star players such as former Pakistan skipper Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf, Abdul Razzaq and Imran Farhat among other former internationals, is about to begin its campaign.

Seeing that, the Indian board has taken immediate steps to counter the rebel league and has announced its own, the Indian Premier League. This league has also attracted former superstars such as Glenn McGrath and Stephen Fleming.

Though it’s a fight between the ICL and BCCI, what is getting a boost is Twenty20 cricket. The more exposure the format gets, the more fame it gets, the more it is played. And the format’s recognition has increased so much that if cricket is included in the Olympic Games, Twenty20 would be the preferred choice.

 

The writer is a staff member at ‘The News’ Karachi [email protected]



Mohammad Yousuf wins Test Player of the Year award

Mohammad Yousuf was named international cricket’s Test Player of the Year at the ICC Awards in Johannesburg last week. It was the first time when any Pakistani player won this award. Australian skipper Ricky Ponting and England’s Kevin Pietersen were the other leading contestants for the Test player category.

The ICC Awards system was introduced in 2004, the awards are given for players’ extraordinary performance over a 12-month period in different categories. Mohammad Yousuf is the fourth beneficiary of the Test Player of the Year award. Rahul Dravid of India was the batsman who got the first ICC Test Player Award in 2004 while South African all-rounder Jacques Kallis was named for 2005.

During August 9, 2006 to August 8, 2007 Mohammad Yousuf played six Tests in which he scored 944 runs at an average of 94.40 with the help of five hundreds and two fifties. Yousuf finished a wounderful home series against West Indies in November-December 2006 in which he scored 665 Test runs with the average of 133 including four centuries in just three Test.

In the 1990s Pakistan produced two world-class middle order batsmen Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammad Yousuf. Both had played a vital role in the Pakistan batting line-up for a long time.

The year 2006 has been the most memorable year for the career of one of Pakistan’s most dependable middle order batsman Mohammad Yousuf. After scoring 124 runs in the second innings of the third Test at Karachi last year his tally gone up to 1788 runs and he became the highest Test run scorer in a calendar year. He surpassed Sir Viv Richards’s 30 years old record of 1710 runs in the year 1976. 

A record ninth century in 2006 was also his fifth in successive matches and he became only the third batsman to run up a streak of five hundreds in successive Tests after Don Bradman, with six, and Jacques Kallis with five hundreds. 

After his magnificent performance now Mohammad Yousuf has climbed to second place in the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen. Yousuf, 33, has got the highest rating of any Pakistani batsman in history, breaking the 900 barrier for the first time and surpassing Javed Miandad’s highest ranking of 885, achieved in February 1989.

Yousuf made his Test debut with fast bowler Fazl-e-Akbar against South Africa at Durban in February 1998. Though Pakistan won the Test by 30 runs but Yousuf failed to make his debut memorable. He scored just 4 and 1 runs.

Yousuf is known for his ability to score runs at an exceptional rate through his great technique and composed strokeplay. Although capable of hitting the ball hard, Yousuf likes to get his runs running between the wickets. 

Mohammad Yousuf has quickly established himself as a stylish world-class batsman. He is no sluggard, but gathers his runs through traditional, composed strokeplay. He is particularly strong driving through the covers and flicking wristily off his legs. He has shone in both versions of the game; he is quick between the wickets and in the field. Yousuf is an automatic selection. 

Yousuf’s major strength is his consistency. For the last few years he has been the backbone of the middle-order with Inzamam. He shows his talent against all opponents, he is a technically sound batsman.

He is particularly strong driving through the covers and flicking wristily off his legs and brings with him as decadent a high backlift as any in the game. He excels at both versions of the game, and in one-day cricket can score 20 or 30 runs before anyone notices. 

Unexpectedly Mohammad Yousuf was dropped from the Twenty20 squad, reason given by the management that they wanted to induct new blood into the shortest version of the game. But surprisingly they included Misbah-ul-Haq who is six months older than Yousuf.

After this disappointment Mohammad Yousuf joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL) along with Inzamam-ul-Haq and Imran Farhat.

Australian skipper Ricky Ponting was the luckiest player at the ICC Awards ceremony; he was not only named Player of the Year for the second consecutive year, but also won the Captain of the Year award.

For his consistent performance in both forms of the game Ponting was also named in both the ODI and the Test teams of the year. He scored 576 runs in five Tests at an average of 82.28, had an ODI average of 51.52 during the specified period while as captain he won the three massive series including the Ashes, the Champions Trophy and the World Cup.

Australian opener Matthew Hayden was not included in the Australian ODI squad in early years. Hayden returned in the one-day side and cemented his place with his outstanding performance. During the last year Hayden scored 1368 runs in 25 one-day innings and won the ODI Player of the Year award.

Another Australian, rising fast bowler Shaun Tait, won the Emerging Player of the Year award.

This year ICC introduced a new award "Associate Player of the Year" and Kenyan all-rounder Thomas Odoyo became the first player to get this award.

Not only as regards to their cricketers, Australia continued to dominate in the ICC Awards as Simon Taufel picked up the Umpire of the Year award for the fourth year in a row.

Sri Lanka with their best performances in and outside the field won the Spirit of Cricket award, beating off Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, the three other contenders.

ICC Test Team of the Year: Matthew Hayden, Michael Vaughan, Ricky Ponting (capt), Mohammad Yousuf, Kevin Pietersen, Michael Hussey, Kumar Sangakkara (wk), Stuart Clark, Makhaya Ntini, Mohammad Asif, Muttiah Muralitharan. 12th man: Zaheer Khan.

ICC ODI Team of the Year: Matthew Hayden, Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting (capt), Kevin Pietersen, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jacques Kallis, Mark Boucher (wk), Chaminda Vaas, Shane Bond, Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath. 12th man: Michael Hussey.

 

ICC AWARDS WINNERS

Cricketer of the Year:

Ricky Ponting (AUS)

Other nominees: 

Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WI)

Kevin Pietersen (ENG)

Mohammad Yousuf (PAK)

 

Test Player of the Year:

Mohammad Yousuf (PAK)

Other nominees: 

Muttiah Muralitharan (SL)

Kevin Pietersen (ENG)

Ricky Ponting (AUS)

 

Emerging Player of the Year:

Shaun Tait (AUS)

Other nominees: 

Ravi Bopara (ENG)

Shakib Al Hasan (BAN)

Ross Taylor (NZ)

 

Captain of the Year: Ricky Ponting (AUS)

Other nominee: 

Mahela Jayawardene (SL)

 

One-day Player of the Year:

Matthew Hayden (AUS)

Other nominees: 

Ricky Ponting (AUS)

Jacques Kallis (RSA)

Glenn McGrath (AUS)

 

One-day Player of the year for

non-Test nations: Thomas Odoyo (KEN)

Other nominees: 

Ashish Bagai (CAN)

Ryan ten Doeschate (NED)

Steve Tikolo (KEN)

 

Women’s Cricketer of the Year:

Jhulan Goswami (IND)

Other nominees: 

Lisa Sthalekar (AUS)

Claire Taylor (ENG)

 

Umpire of the Year: Simon Taufel (AUS)

Other nominees: 

Mark Benson (ENG)

Steve Bucknor (WI)

Daryl Harper (AUS)

 

Spirit of Cricket Award: Sri Lanka

Other nominees: 

Australia

New Zealand

Ireland

 


cricket
Shoaib Akhtar: Banging
into a dead-end!

Shoaib Akhtar is at it again; the tour management took a decision to discipline him and he has returned to Pakistan. His condition and actions are hypothesised to be mental adaptations which evolve to mitigate the dangerous consequences of social failure. Living in his own world, myopic and ecstatic, he has often used reactions and methods to combat social failure by closely mimicking conditions, such as self-possession, grandeur, external threats or illness where people were likely to cooperate and provide assistance.

Shoaib’s attitude has been something like a response to within the team acceptability and his sense of grandiosity. His actions looked every bit of adaptations to social failure, onset when he faced social threats or unacceptability, functioning to elicit benefits-at least in the short term-and ceasing when the social threats receded to the background.

Such has been his grandiosity that in a press conference at Lahore he said: "Stop spreading false propaganda against me, stop selling my name in the name of news"; grandiosity, illusion or a reality? Reportedly the President of Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf has also advised Dr Nasim Ashraf, Chairman PCB, to take strict notice of Akhtar’s unwarranted behaviour. It seems now Shoaib isn’t going to get the leverage. It must be a hard-ball game, not the soft delicate reconciliatory approach.

Shoaib is definitely a very popular star. The mega marketing deals and his presence in international cricket have often coerced a few of his colleagues to discriminate against him indicating that social deficits and inappropriate handling played a significant etiological role. In Shoaib’s case his abrupt attitude, inclination towards aggression and physical hitting have been the positive variables and the important predictors of remission.

The recent episode where Shoaib lost his temper while talking to Shahid Afridi in the dressing room and then interrupting the dialogue by hitting Mohammad Asif’s mid-thigh who only party to the incident was as a bystander indicates that he has become paranoid, and his delusive outbursts are an effective adaptation to social failure.

He has become violent. In South Africa in 2006 Shoaib had tried to physically grasp Bob Woolmer, Pakistan’s late coach. Now, the tangle with Asif reinforces one’s belief that in his life, these incidents can predict violence and are arguably one of the most important impediments facing Akhtar today. His has been a bizarre presence. His has been something like a ‘threat/control override’ behaviour in which people believe that others are seeking to harm them or their minds are being controlled by outside forces.

Shoaib developed into a self-publicist arming himself with illusions. Convinced that he was Pakistan’s greatest folk hero comparable to Diego Maradona of Argentina and Zinadine Zidane of France, despite the fact that public never marvelled even half as much as they were in a trance watching Imran Khan, Wasim Akram or Waqar Younis. Anyway, as all true hipsters know, his credentials for trendiness were severely dented by long hair fifteen years out of date and a preference for second-rate Springsteen copyists Midnight Oil.

Quite frequently, he is out of place. Once reprimanded for a dressing room outburst, he tried to justify hurling a bat on Mohammad Asif by comparing it with Zidane heading an Italian defender in the World Cup 2006. It’s a pity, Shoaib had forgotten the fact that Zidane was abused by one of the opposition in a heated, tensed-up soccer world cup final; here he was hitting his own man.

Shoaib’s has mostly been an attitude problem. This time, he has tendered well-constructed, nicely articulated apology terming his act as part of a human failing; one must commend Akhtar for being conscientious but his failings have gotten him in the news more commonly than his performances.

On his return, at Lahore he attended to a press conference in which he quoted controversies within the team during Inzamam-ul-Haq’s times as captain, also pointing towards Aamer Sohail etcetera. He also condemned Shahid Afridi for instigating him whilst Asif to Shoaib hadn’t taken any ill-effect. On the contrary, Asif has rebutted Shoaib’s claims of Afridi using impolite words for his family. Is it about power-share within the team?

Shoaib’s tantrums had started even before he fitted in the boots of a celebrity. He was left out of the Pakistan team for the Sahara Cup after manager on an A tour to England in 1996 had reported against his discipline. Riding high after his performances in South Africa in 1997-98 and India in 1999 and the subsequent World Cup in England, the lows were set when umpires Peter Willey and Darrell Hair objected to his bowling action. Match referee John Reid upheld the suspicions.

In 2000 Shoaib went to Australia to attend to biomechanics experts and got his action cleared. PCB’s ex-chairman Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia was the main force behind getting Shoaib’s career back on the rail; over-pampered and let off uninhibited even given a separate trainer, he started trudging on alleyways to disruption. Ironically in West Indies on a gruelling tour Shoaib failed to make regular appearances, playing in only one one-day international match at Queen’s Park in Trinidad. Contracted by Nottinghamshire, he was left bilking with a side-strain. There was skepticism about him having his rib fractured. The same year, knee and ankle injuries were also added to the list.

Recuperating privately, in 2001 Shoaib returned to pick a haul of five wickets at Auckland and in the fifth one-day international was once again amidst storm. Steve Dunne and Doug Cowie had suspicions against his action. Ironically, he broke down with a hamstring injury bowling only nine balls. Soon he was again let off based on the reports on his action from University of Western Australia; they termed his action a result of ‘unique physical characteristics’; however there was no mention of ‘unique mental characteristics’.

In 2002 he was again in the middle of another incident, hit by a brick from a violent Dhaka crowd. He returned in style virtually eroding New Zealand’s summer at home and abroad. During this period, he also delivered the fastest ball (100mph) and was given the status of the quickest in the world. Australia’s top order was also rattled but soon he had to confront another disciplinary committee, hurling a bottle into the crowds in Zimbabwe.

Clive Lloyd during the same series reprimanded Shoaib for an alleged act of ball tampering. By the time an important series against South Africa arrived he was out, down with another knee injury.

In 2003, Shoaib was also one of the sufferers when the PCB led by Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia decided to drop superstars in the pursuit to rebuild the team after the disastrous World Cup. He was recalled in May 2003 to tour Sri Lanka. Ironically, he was banned for ball-tampering.

Shoaib was appointed vice-captain for Tests against South Africa and was promptly served up a legal notice for attending a fashion show during Ramadan. Subsequently, he was banned for one Test and two one-day internationals for abusing Paul Adams in the first match of the series.

He missed a Test in New Zealand with calf and groin injuries. Though out of the side on fitness grounds he was photographed jet-skiing much to the tour management’s embarrassment. Like a Gladiator he returned to pick a haul of eleven wickets in the second Test helping Pakistan to an unprecedented win.

Frustrated Shoaib was hurt again, against India in the final Test. He refrained from bowling as Rahul Dravid posted an epic-making 270. Inzamam-ul-Haq, the then captain, publicly showed his reservations about his commitment and the PCB held an inquiry, cynical about Shoaib feigning an injury.

In Australia, he was sternly warned for misbehaving, showing Matthew Hayden the way to the pavilion before injuring his shoulder at Perth. By the time of the last Test in Sydney, he looked physically exhausted and rumours of disciplinary breaches and apathy towards the tour management also emerged.

In 2005, during the VB Series in Australia, he backed-off with a hamstring injury. He was dropped from the India and West Indies bound Pakistan teams falling out with Inzamam, a powerful team captain. He was condemned by Worcestershire’s chairman John Elliott for being a disruptive influence. He returned to the team and readily picked 17 wickets in the series against England. In the last Test at Lahore an ankle injury again forced him out of action.

At Faisalabad in 2006, India’s Coach Greg Chappell showed uncertainty about his action. Another stress fracture ruled him out of the most important one-day series. Injury forced him out of Pakistan’s tour to Sri Lanka. He was diagnosed to have a degenerative knee condition. He returned to tour England in 2006, appeared in the one-day matches and had to miss one due to a hematoma in the thigh, though there were unconfirmed reports that he had had a long night out. In 2006, he was sent back from India before the start of the Champions Trophy and later banned for two years for having taken Nandrolone. The ban was overturned, a month later.

Shoaib missed ICC’s World Cup 2007 on fitness grounds though there were people convinced that he deliberately avoided going to the West Indies fearing that Nandrolone was still present in his system. On tour to South Africa before the World Cup, he was initially dropped and then sent to reinforce the injury hit team.

Disappointingly, he had a physical bout with Bob Woolmer after he had declined to bowl in the match because of a leg injury. He wasn’t allowed by the PCB to represent an Asia XI. Shoaib didn’t tour with the team to Abu Dhabi on the pretext that he wanted to be fully fit before taking his role as country’s main spearhead.

Ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup, he left a training camp in Karachi without prior information to the team manager. He was fined Rs 300,000. Sternly raising his voice, he appealed against the decision and was again let off the hook. Going through his career, it seems a story of self-destruction.

It seems that hitting Mohammad Asif in a dressing room spat, he has banged his head in a dead-end. Now, he’ll again be asked to appear in front of PCB’s disciplinary committee. Interestingly some of the members of the committee have had disciplinary problems whilst they were starting their careers and were severely punished. They, instead of questioning cricketing background of others, must concentrate on their job lest their requiem is sung once again with drums.

Trust such a committee is able to take the proper cognizance of the case.† Past decisions of a similar committee were partly responsible for aggravating the situation.

There were only two ways going about management of Shoaib; one masterly and psychological handling or he should have been dropped, not considered again. The ‘in-between’ attitude has simply spoiled both team’s balance and Shoaib’s future; his paranoia should have been dealt accordingly. Has this been PCBís failure or Shoaib’s own doing, a bit of both.

Shoaib had appeared in only a solitary Test and four one day internationals in 2006 and still he was placed in Category ‘A’ of the Central Contract that gets him US$100,000 bonus as signing amount besides the healthy Rs 3m per annum. What justification the PCB had in giving Akhtar such a massive contract; magnanimity or foolhardiness?

PCB is turning corporate; the constitution is being installed, mega budgets are being approved, people are talking about biomechanics etcetera. None from the management has tried to give solutions, just adding to the drag. They haven’t been able to identify three or four linked elements; selection on merit, full recognition of professional obligations, the adoption of what is called a professional approach to game’s management, and the conscious building of team unity; management choices does comprehend all the others but, for the sake of clarity, we must address the ambiguities.

Pakistan in the bargain has lost a world class bowler in Shoaib Akhtar, who just can’t blame people for his failings; he has been, to the extreme, suicidal.

 


Ahmed Iqbal: Promising Karachi youngster with lots of talent

In the post-World Cup scenario, where the emphasis is on grooming new talent and polishing the youngsters into gems with a view to meeting future requirements in cricket, the activities by the Pakistan A team players as also the under-19 players are being attached great importance as it will be these players who will make to the national outfit in coming years.

Right now, the spotlight is on the Pakistan Under-19s, who stole the limelight in England last month, by ending their month-long tour on a winning note by fetching the five-match ODI series three-one. They are awaiting a hectic season ahead as preparation for the Youth World Cup as they will be playing a series of assignments both at home and abroad during the next six months. The colts will feature in all of Pakistan’s Under-19 assignments till next February’s Youth World Cup in Malaysia where they will defend their title.

On the whole the performance of the youngsters, particularly bowlers and the middle order batsmen, in England was extremely well on green pitches as it was their first assignment in England. Karachi boy Ahmed Iqbal Khan, who was playing for the first time in England, also shone with the willow and the leather.

Born on 28th March 1989 in Karachi, Ahmed Iqbal, who is a right-handed batsman and a slow left-arm orthodox bowler, scored 40 runs before being unfortunately run out in the second ODI in England, pulling the team out ofa  crisis after the top order had miserably failed.

In the third ODI, he scored useful 21 runs (not out) and also took two important wickets for 18 runs in six overs, which was not a bad show at all. In the 4th ODI, he scored 21 runs. His good show along with other players in the middle order also prompted praise from Pakistan coach Mansoor Rana ahead of the third ODI at Northamton.

"I am confident about my team’s performance in the remaining three ODIs. I hope the team will continue its winning spree," Mansoor was quoted to have said ahead of the third ODI.

Looking unhappy with the top order batting line up failure, he gave full marks to middle order player Ahmed Iqbal and tail-enders Mohammad Rameez and Junaid Khan for playing key role in the team’s victory in earlier matches of the five-match ODI series.

Ahmed Iqbal’s journey to the limelight is quite consistent. Last year, when the India Under-19 team was in Pakistan in September, he had batted satisfactorily in both the matches. At Sheikhupura, he was not out for 29 while in Lahore he made 12 not out. Then he shone in the PCB Regional Tournament as well. He took 22 wickets and scored runs at an average of 64 run ranking fifth in batting statistics.

Ahmed Iqbal stole the limelight in 2004, when he was adjudged best batsman of the NBP Inter-School Cricket Tournament, in which he piled up 292 runs in three matches including 155 runs not out. The then Board Chairman Shaharyar Khan had singled him a player of the future and presented him with an award.

The year 2005 brought further success his way when Lady Luck shone on him when he captained the Customs Cricket Academy team to victory in the Nissan Gulf U-15 Tournament in Sharjah.

He took seven wickets and was adjudged best bowler of the event. Six teams including Madan Lal Academy team from India had featured in the away event.

The Karachi colt has also been associated with the Asghar Ali Shah Cricket Club and Sindh police team for quite sometime.

Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul-Haq, Test cricketers Iqbal Qasim and Taslim Arif, who chanced to see the youngster at play on different occasions, have already showered praise on the youngster for his all-round talent and have tipped him a player of the future.

Right from school cricket down to under-19 international assignments, Ahmed’s is an impressive performance. His other major assignments include Pakistan Under-19s (Under-19 ODIs 2006-07 to 2007); Pakistan Under-19s (Under-19 limited overs 2006-07 to 2007); Karachi Zone I Under-19s; Karachi Zone II Under-19s and Karachi Urban Under-19s.

To conclude, one may agree with the cricket analysts, who term the Karachi colt’s England tour a morale-booster for him on foreign soil, where delivering good results against a solid home team has always been a difficult task for touring side’s members. His current runs average is over 61 which speak volume of his talent.

His left-arm spin bowling adds further significance to his performance. It may be mentioned here that since 1988 (after the Bangalore Test hero’s Iqbal Qasim’s departure from cricket) the Pakistan team is without the services of a good left-arm spinner, who is deemed a force to reckon with in present day cricket. On the contrary, all the world’s leading teams have left-arm spinners at their disposal. The fact is that this kind of bowler is considered to be lethal weapon at times in current cricket. It is hoped the PCB will look into this very aspect of the spin bowling.

One hopes that he will further polish his talent when he may make the Pakistani junior team, which will be playing five one-dayers against visiting Australia Under-19s at home next month and may also play a series of matches against England junior team. Pakistan will later host Bangladesh Under-19s for two Tests and five one-dayers before paying a return visit to play an equal number of matches in Bangladesh.

The way he has worked hard against the tough England squad indicates that the path of consistency can lead Ahmed Iqbal making a permanent place for him in the under-19s till the world Cup in Malaysia and then potentially to the national cricket squad in the future.


Politicising the Beijing Olympics

The Beijing Olympics are just a year away and preparations, which started some six years back, for the 2008 mega sports event, are in full swing. But there are hostile forces also, who have been active in parallel, just out of rivalry and jealousy, to counter these efforts. In fact, it was a very painful decision for the sole super power America that the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 Summer Olympics to its rival China.

Contrary to the Games motto ‘One World, One Dream’, the mega international event has been made into a platform to raise controversial and disputed issues, just to malign the host nation.

While the Chinese government rightly sees the award of Olympic Games as a global acknowledgement of its economic rise and emergence as a world power, the rival super power United States, and hence the Western powers, has always taken it to heart as an unpleasant development.

It is in this perspective that China is facing day to day problems being raised by outer forces which are active to politicise the Games. Thus the issues of environmental pollution, human rights violations and Tibetan independence have started troubling the Asian giant.

On the political front, China is facing protests and threats of boycotts from American, Taiwanese, Tibetan forces. Pro-Tibetan independence groups, such as Students for a Free Tibet, have started a protest campaign for Tibetan independence and have objected to selecting Tibetan antelope (chiru) as one of its five mascots. The Tibetan People’s Movement has demanded Tibet’s representation under its own flag.

Hollywood actress Mia Farrow, NBA athlete Ira Newble and Sudan researcher Eric Reeves organised a campaign Olympic Dream for Darfur to urge China to use its influence for persuading Sudanese militias head Omar al-Bashir to allow UN operation in Darfur to end the violence.

Some activists in Taiwan have declared Beijing Olympics as the Genocide Olympics to refer to China’s close ties with Sudanese regime. Renowned Hollywood producer Steven Spielberg sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao in April this year to end its involvement in the African country while a group of 106 US Congressmen have urged the Bush administration to boycott the Olympics over Darfur issue.

Top among other rights groups, Amnesty International reported, at one-year countdown to the Beijing Games, that human rights defenders and journalists face intimidation while authorities continue to use detention without trial to ‘clean up’ the city for the Olympics. In its report, "China: The Olympics Countdown -- One Year Left to Fulfill Human Rights Promises", noted that several Beijing-based activists and dissidents remain under a form of house arrest while the media is increasingly stifled, most recently by the closure of a number of publications.

It was allegations by the Brussels-based International Trade Union Confederation that prompted the host government to launch an investigation and ultimately a crackdown against the Chinese factories which were making the official Olympic merchandise by employing children as young as 12 years old, and using forced overtime, ordering workers to lie about their wages and the working conditions.

The IOC claims its commitment to being a socially responsible leader of the Olympic Movement that took care of the Olympic brand in the best possible way. It mattered to the movement that sourcing was done ethically.

"It brings shame on the whole Olympics movement that such severe violations of international labour standards are taking place in Olympics-licensed factories," said Guy Ryder, general secretary of the federation, in a statement.

Meanwhile, Beijing police detained about a dozen foreign journalists, including an AFP reporter, for an hour, only because they were covering an unauthorised protest by Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. And a Canadian activist who is campaigning to end Chinese rule in Tibet, said she was being followed by suspected security agents. Though the press freedom organisation, Reporters Without Borders, has ended its boycott, it is still concerned over the abridgment of press freedom.

On the environmental front, the Chinese capital is being declared one of the world’s dirtiest cities. Smog is spreading a toxic haze over hopes that the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be as superlative in sporting achievement as it will be in spending and glitz. A miasma of ground-level ozone, fine dust and volatile organic compounds, spewed from factory chimneys and the tailpipes of cars on Beijing’s congested roads.

Experts in sports medicine say that air pollution will cloud prospects for record-breaking in many disciplines. Fine particulate matter can lodge deep inside the lungs, the result can be asthma attacks, bronchitis and impaired lung efficiency that, when combined to Beijing’s traditionally high heat and humidity levels in August, are bound to wreak a toll.

It was just for this reason that some of the 10,500 elite athletes expected in Beijing have expressed concerns over the air quality of Beijing; the Australians and British Olympic athletes have said they will stay away from Beijing as long as possible and leave the city as soon as their events are over.

Australia’s 500-plus athletes will be urged to complete their training at home or elsewhere in Asia before arriving in Beijing. An asthma specialist will be part of its 50-strong medical team. A similar plan is being made by Britain, whose swimmers will prepare in Osaka, Japan, rather than in Beijing.

To counter this problem, the Chinese government prepared a plan to remove one million cars from the Beijing roads. The implementation of this plan in mid-August resulted in a four-day driving ban that took 1.3 million cars off the road each day in Beijing when the city’s air quality hovered between 91 and 95 points compared to the target of 51 that is considered fairly good.

Olympic officials said they were winning the war against pollution and all preparations were on track, even though Beijing remains shrouded in heavy smog. Past Olympics -- notably in Los Angeles in 1984, Seoul in 1988 and Athens in 2004 -- were also preceded by smog scares but schemes to suppress traffic, using voluntary or restrictive measures, were effective.

The city has already spent around 15 billion dollars on a massive pollution clean-up in the run-up to the Olympics, which has included moving steel mills, power plants and coal-fired furnaces to the suburbs or beyond. The government says the efforts are having an impact, with the city last year enjoying 241 blue-sky days.

 

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