Surprises galore at US Open
By Abdul Ahad Farshori
The 123rd US Open has finally come to an end -- a day later than it was originally scheduled. After a hectic two weeks, the courts at Flushing Meadows are done and dusted and have crowned their new rulers -- King of Queens, Juan Martin del Potro and the Queen, Kim Clijsters.

Cricket board chairman should resign!
By Dr. Nauman Niaz
Among the core issues over which Mr. Ijaz Butt's administration and its trumpeters are completely stalemated is evidence enough that they would soon be checkmated. Apparently, the current PCB top brass has survived largely due to their so called privilege of being politically well connected. The case of shifting of World Cup 2011 and the constitutional mess that followed illustrates the need for carefully balanced reforms during the next few weeks to mitigate Mr. Butt's privilege's harsh effects on deserving plaintiffs-and on the national image.

Is Pakistan better suited for the 20-over game?
By Waris Ali
At last, it is proving true that the temperament of Pakistan cricket team is most suitable to the slam-bang Twenty20 version of the game, the statement fairly supported by recent developments in the cricket world.How startling that Pakistan failed to qualify the main rounds of World Cup in South Africa 2003 and then in the Caribbean in 2007, but succeeded to play the final of the first Twenty20 World Cup tournament in South Africa and then marvelously won the Twenty20 Cup played in England last June. What a wonder! What a contradiction. Yeah, it is Pakistan cricket team, the team ready to surprise the cricket fans every time and on any front.

Old Trafford: Life after Ronaldo
The exodus at Manchester United in the summer that saw the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leave the champions of England for Real Madrid and Manchester city respectively, left a massive question mark on the future of a club that is recognised as the biggest sport franchise in the world.
By Nabeel Naqvi
The departure of Ronaldo was always on the cards. Even last season, he almost left United for Real but, somehow Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Manager, persuaded him to stay for another year.

I don't like cricket anymore, I like football!
By Asad Tajammal Hussain
As I recall, till six or seven years ago; when I was six or seven years old, cricket was somewhat life for us Pakistani kids. It was something that the Pakistanis were good at -- a game that was a source of honour and pride for a nation that is today somehow an ocean of prejudice, turmoil and commotion. Now, it seems to me that the love for cricket is lost; taken over, dramatically, by football. Today, my peers follow football more religiously than cricket.

 

Surprises galore at US Open

By Abdul Ahad Farshori

The 123rd US Open has finally come to an end -- a day later than it was originally scheduled. After a hectic two weeks, the courts at Flushing Meadows are done and dusted and have crowned their new rulers -- King of Queens, Juan Martin del Potro and the Queen, Kim Clijsters.

A tournament which can be termed as anything but predictable as it kept throwing up plenty of surprises and several storylines.

The ATP for a few years now, thanks to the exploits of its twin leads -- Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal -- with useful acts from its supporting cast has clearly been in the ascendancy leaving the WTA tour in its wake. But for the first time in a long time, the women's draw finally pulled off an act to arguably surpass what was dished out on the men's side. The feel good story of Clijsters, Caroline Wozniacki signaling her intent to be a top-drawer contender, Melanie Oudin's giant killing run and the surprising early demise of the 'ova' brigade all combined to make the women's side of proceedings an intertwined series of incidents that made an incredibly compelling following.

It took a drubbing on Sunday and an El Classico on Monday night to provide an adequate riposte for the men.

At the French Open two years ago, a first round match involving a tall guy against the clay court champ. Rafael Nadal was stretched to 7-5 in the first set hitting those jumping backhands that prompted to think of Marat Safin. After a year in the tennis wilderness, he broke through in the post Wimbledon period last year taking off on what has been a meteoric rise.

What is striking is that, even though the climb has been steep, it's been gradual. Del Potro's worked on his serve, his movement and on controlling that awesome power he possesses. He's moved step by step up the gradient of the slams, up the rankings and proved himself a potent contender at the Masters series events. That has meant his winning the US Open hasn't been a bolt out of the blue, but the natural culmination of a sequence of performances getting better and better.

His drubbing of Nadal was scary not just in the way he manhandled the physical Spaniard, but also in that he never seemed to be out of his comfort zone during that obliteration. In the final, Federer took the attack to him early outplaying him tactically. JMDP clearly was frustrated, but two forehand passes gave him a peek, and he grabbed the chance. Righting himself first mentally and consequently gamewise, he overpowered the most accomplished hard courter of our times. That was intimidating. Much like the rest of the towering Argentine's game.

The return of Kim Clijsters and her subsequent victory, has been well portrayed here during our two weeks of coverage of the Open, but bringing forth a more sobering aspect of this marvelous comeback. Clijsters when quizzed about her return to the international fold, remarked "I don't think there has been a huge change in the game for the past two years."

This can hardly be seen as a thumbs up for the tour. Even more unflattering was this statement from her former coach, "Apart from the Williams sisters, she doesn't have to fear anybody." More so when Kim following a layoff of two years, wins the US Open in only her 3rd tournament and beating a bunch of top 10ers along the way. Pessimistic point of view? Perhaps, but it is tough to see a similar scenario unfolding on the ATP tour.

On a more positive note, there is plenty that the up-and-comers can learn from Clijsters' game. In an age where most players work on the first strike concept, the solid defense and counterpunching is the first thing they could take from Clijsters more rounded game. One certainly hopes the Azarenka's, Lisicki's and Safina's are going back to the drawing board as a result. They have the power and the ability to strike the ball cleanly, a bit of work on the approach could make a huge difference to their results and to the standard of play.

One player, who made a real statement of intent by reaching the final here, needs to go the other way. Wozniacki is a counter-puncher very much in the Clijsters mold and there is much to like in her game. Her technique rarely breaks down, she shows a fair amount of anticipation and wheels that allow her to track down and get back a lot of balls. Importantly she also showed that she was mentally tough during her run at the US Open. The one aspect that would do her a world of good is Clijsters' skill at working the point, and to develop one shot that she could use to go on the offensive -- the absence of a real weapon made the difference in her final against Clijsters.

Wozniacki, after delighting the crowd with her comments after losing to Clijsters, delivered some additional comments in Danish and Polish. Serena after her semifinal loss couldn't properly explain herself in English.

At the age of 36, Leander Paes continues to have all the energy of a bounding 20-year old, as he showed by reaching the finals of both men's and mixed doubles, in spite of nursing a sore shoulder. Drawing on all his experience and the passion that still fires him, he turned around a seemingly lost cause with his partner Lukas Dlouhy to win his 2nd US Open doubles title and their second slam of the year. It's still a pleasure to watch the "fastest hands at the net" ply his trade, with a superb combo of delectable touch and fiery quickness. Kudos to Paes, and as the crowds in India used to scream during his improbable Davis Cup victories -- "Go Leander, Go".

There was some consolation for the Williams sisters as they were able to clinch the doubles title.

Major disappointments of the tournament can said to be for Andy Murray, Britons' only hope of getting a Grand Slam and Elena Dementieva, 2008 Olympic gold medallist.

World Number three Andy Murray went into this year's US Open as one of the favourites for the title, but the British Number one fell some way short as he was humbled in the fourth round by Marin Cilic of Croatia 7-5, 6-2, 6-2.

A surprise fairytale story of the Open was the American teenager Melanie Oudin, the giant-killer of the US Open. The 17-year-old on her way to the semifinals managed to out done and out smart the Russian lobby.

The rain-tormented second week brought the inevitable calls for a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium -- a monumental and expensive undertaking for a stadium that large. There's no question a roof would come in handy. It's also possible the tournament could enjoy a five-year stretch with no rain, meaning a $150 million expenditure for something that is never used.

By Dr. Nauman Niaz

Among the core issues over which Mr. Ijaz Butt's administration and its trumpeters are completely stalemated is evidence enough that they would soon be checkmated. Apparently, the current PCB top brass has survived largely due to their so called privilege of being politically well connected. The case of shifting of World Cup 2011 and the constitutional mess that followed illustrates the need for carefully balanced reforms during the next few weeks to mitigate Mr. Butt's privilege's harsh effects on deserving plaintiffs-and on the national image.

In Item 4.1- Chief Executive Report of the CEC (ICC) Meeting in London in June 2009, in para 3.1 of the (3) Key Messages & Activities, Haroon Logart states: 'As circulated to the Board, we have received legal notice from the PCB in relation to our last Board meeting to relocate matches and the CWC offices from Pakistan. I am startled by this course of action which has wasteful implications and I am also disappointed that we did not receive a sensible approach from the PCB to deal with this matter in a mature fashion before resorting to legal means. After all this is legal action between Member and its Governing Board and may have far reaching implications and in my view it is questionable whether this approach is in keeping with our values'. Indeed a sad reflection on Pakistan courtesy Mr. Butt.

As people in private gatherings talked, even Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, Federal Minister for Defence and Mr. Butt's close relative must have been irked by the bad press his brother-in-law has been able to acquire, so brusquely. It is widely known that Mr. Mukhtar besides being a richly successful business entrepreneur has also been a very steady politician and he has exhausted almost a lifetime building his triumphant political career.

As these people speculate, Mr. Mukhtar shouldn't be that eager to compromise in the wake of Mr. Butt's unremitting failures. It is up to Mr. Mukhtar finding out how ineptly cricket has been run and how poorly it has started to reflect not only on him but also on His Excellency the President of Pakistan and Patron of the PCB. As critics hypothesize, he mustn't tolerate the pandemonium that has triggered recently. It's time Mr. Butt resigns and leaves cricket to someone who is apt and steadier to make an impact. He should also calculate that while the dissent against his regime is getting intense-and the way people have left his government, this could translate into his automatic removal from power. He shouldn't resist resigning having a point before political forces predicate his removal, there has to be a mechanism which actually, physically, makes it happen. Mr. Butt's tenure so far has been like a dictatorship or a quasi democracy and it should end before he is metaphorically knocked down.

The much touted achievements of PCB's think-tank led by Mr. Ijaz Butt were actually contrary to their rhetoric. According to the minutes of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 (PCB/ICC Dispute) in paragraph 2.7 with reference to the June 20th meeting at Lord's in London it is stated 'we were disappointed and dismayed that despite assurances from Sri Lanka's Sports Minister, the Sri Lanka Cricket's President did not support us. We were also disappointed that Bangladesh Cricket Board's President also did not support us. They were clearly under the influence of India'. It is evidence enough of Mr. Butt's 'supreme' diplomatic skills and also the charges against India couldn't be substantiated; another show of abruptness and insolence.

Furthermore, as Mr. Butt has been vociferating that he has magically acquired the best deal from the ICC after they had decided to take away the 14 World Cup 2011 matches, Mr. Butt should refer to paragraph 3.1 of the pertaining document in which it is written: 'ICC confirmed to us in writing through their lawyer that PCB remained host and was entitled to receive ancillary income as per Host Agreement. No confirmation was given on Indian Government's permission and visa matters raised by the PCB. In this communiqu╚ ICC conveyed to PCB that if the dispute continues it may well lead to termination of the Host Agreement and PCB would lose the Host fees and other revenues', how bizarre it could be and still Mr. Butt showed to the world that he had beaten down ICC on the mat and managed to get PCB an ideal deal.

In para 4.2 of the minutes of the Meeting in Dubai with David Morgan on July 28th, 2009, it is expressed that: 'the meeting was conducted in a very cordial environment. David Morgan mentioned that he would have liked PCB to host at least some of its 14 matches of the World Cup 2011 in UAE but that the IDI Board did not agree with this view. Both ICC and the PCB agreed that legal process was a costly affair and that and out of court settlement should be sought'. If it was so, why at the first place Mr. Butt had created a stir threatening the ICC to take them to the Court of Arbitration, Switzerland (CAS). It seems that Mr. Butt must have been bloated with grandiosity until the time reality was revealed upon him.

In para 4.3 of the pertaining document, it is also mentioned that 'PCB also briefed David Morgan about the working of the COC and PCB's concern of its views being disregarded at the forum.

David Morgan reconfirmed that PCB's rights as Host of 14 World Cup matches had not been taken away. In fact in addition to the Host Fee of US$ 10.5 M, PCB was also entitled to the ancillary revenues as per the Host Agreement'. So why Mr. Butt was trying to take the credit for a thing that was already in black and white. It is an indicator that first he messed-up everything and then tried picking up the shreds.

In para 4.4 it is elaborated that 'in view of the current relations between PCB and other 3 co-hosts of the World Cup, David Morgan proposed that PCB consider an option of selling its other rights (over and above US$ 10.5 million) to the other co-hosts. And furthermore it is observed that 'David Morgan agreed to come back to PCB with a proposal after discussing the same with other Directors of IDI'.

Para 4.6 registered that: 'David Morgan informed that ICC will charge PCB for the legal costs incurred during this dispute. PCB advised ICC that it would be difficult for PCB to accept this and that there were precedence in the past when ICC had incurred legal costs but not charged back to other member countries'. And in para 4.7 it is expressed: 'Both PCB and ICC agreed to seek adjournment of the civil suit filed in Lahore regarding World Cup Secretariat for at least 4 weeks. This was subsequently done'.

Under heading 'Current Status' the following observations are made: 5.1- PCB has in principle agreed to sell its rights to ICC/IDI and it anticipates further income to PCB. And in para 5.3 it is anticipated: 'PCB now awaits a proposal from ICC. On receipt of the same we will attempt to sign a settlement with ICC and withdraw our legal claims'. So why there were plentiful rhetorical statements that Mr. Butt has become the champion of negotiations and cricket management?

What was so fascinating about the whole scene; from PCB's side it was a putrid representation of simple and evidence based facts.

With almost a year in office, from the face of it Butt didn't really touch the ground the variation of verbosity within networks of his 'trusted' people only spurred intolerance, genetic bias easy. Allegedly, such endeavours were like making the point that fanaticism, specially the practice of power-sharing was only a vicious form of discrimination as apartheid or segregation.

Mr. Butt, as the days have passed, a pattern has emerged in the public response to the taunting of cricket's soul by useless decisions and heavy-worded sheets of 'achievements'. These assumptions make it possible for us to explain the behaviour of Butt's regime away as a kind of unschooled brutishness that is unfortunate and iniquitous.

Mr. Butt's endeavours to resolve conflicts pertaining to international cricket significantly the World Cup 2011 have allegedly been obsessive, disorganized and lacked penetration. At times they were a source of diversion, or even too bizarre, and outright failures. His rhetoric, long-windedness and the condescension behind simple uttering and clutter were too over the top, coerced people into disillusionment, leaving them discouraged and unconvinced.

Such naivety provoked the critiques of cricket's present genre writing to condemn the ageing Chairman of the PCB and his few handpicked (ill) advisors. Mr. Butt's regime is hastily taking shape of a virtually dysfunctional, internationally compromised government and its time that he and his men in the inner circle are made the complicit in the violence and national cricket's complete destruction.

 

 

Is Pakistan better suited for the 20-over game?

 

By Waris Ali

At last, it is proving true that the temperament of Pakistan cricket team is most suitable to the slam-bang Twenty20 version of the game, the statement fairly supported by recent developments in the cricket world.How startling that Pakistan failed to qualify the main rounds of World Cup in South Africa 2003 and then in the Caribbean in 2007, but succeeded to play the final of the first Twenty20 World Cup tournament in South Africa and then marvelously won the Twenty20 Cup played in England last June. What a wonder! What a contradiction. Yeah, it is Pakistan cricket team, the team ready to surprise the cricket fans every time and on any front.

The Pakistan cricket team's recent tour of Sri Lanka from June 29 to August 12, comprising three Test matches and five one-day international matches followed by the only Twenty20 fixture, flashed all characteristics of the tourists.

The Pakistan team is known for its highly erratic character in the game of cricket; they are marvelous winners as well as they are shocking losers, they may pile up a huge score but may still be defeated. Some cricket critics consider it as a great thrilling sensation but some others reject it as a show of disappointing performance.

Showing this erratic character, the Younis Khan-led team lost the Test series in Sri Lanka by 2-0 and the one-day series by 3-2 followed by the victory in the only Twenty20 match under captaincy of Shahid Afridi, Pakistan's first encounter with Sri Lanka in the shortest version after snatching the Twenty20 world cup from them three months back in England.

This highly fluctuating performance glimpsed in the three-match Test series in which the Younis-led team had swung from as high as 425/9 declared innings to as low as 90 runs all out innings. In the first Test match, while Pakistan scored 342 runs in first innings, they were all-out for just 117 in the second innings. The second Test saw Pakistan falling for as low as 90 runs in the first innings and scoring as high as 320 runs. The third Test saw the highest total of the series 425/9 declared. Contrarily, the hosts Sri Lanka showed a far less deviation in their performance; they swung from the highest total 391 runs to the lowest 271 runs.

A similar picture was witnessed in the case of one-day series; Pakistan's 168 runs as the lowest score and 321/5 as the highest score show greater deviation than Sri Lanka's ranging from the lowest total of 147 runs to the highest 289/4.

The Pakistan team had proved themselves highly inconsistent cricket team in the world in the previous Twenty20 World Cup final against the arch-rivals India, who had scored 157 runs for the loss of five wickets only, a target which all the Pakistani team failed to achieve, as all the 10 players failed to play all the 20 overs. While the Indian total depended on the 75-run knock by Gautam Gambhir, none of the Pakistani players could score a fifty. While the 63-run partnership in the Indian innings speaks of stable batting by Indian players, the highest partnership in Pakistani innings was confined to 34 runs only. While Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Shoaib Malik and Shahid Afridi were the batting specialists and expected to lead the innings, they shocked the nation by returning to the pavilion by scoring only 10 runs collectively. The Pakistani innings shamefully comprised three ducks and two single figure individual innings.

The Afridi-led team's clear-cut victory against the hosts Sri Lanka proved that the Pakistan cricket team may win the best and lose the worst, something they did during this series by losing both the Test and one-day series but winning the only Twenty20 match.

The 172 runs target proved too much for Sri Lanka who were all-out at only 120 runs comprising five single-figure scores and no fifty. The Pakistani innings led by Shahid Afridi's 50 runs, comprising two sixes and four boundaries, was well-supported by Imran Nazir's 40 and Umar Akmal's 30 after Pakistan had lost its first wicket before getting off the mark. The emphatic 52-run win over the hosts proved the tourists as Twenty20 masters.

While Shahid Afridi did not play the Test series at all, he miserably failed to make headlines in the one-day matches because he could score only 76 runs with 40 as highest individual score despite playing all the five matches. Strangely, the same Afridi remarkably shined in the Twenty20 fixture, in third successive shortest version match, by scoring a fifty off only 37 balls. His earlier Twenty20 matches, against South Africa and Sri Lanka during the semifinal and final of the Twenty20 World Cup in England, were marked by his gracious fifties.

In fact, Pakistan could storm into the World Twenty20 final mainly because Shahid Afridi shone with bat and ball, smashing 51 from 34 balls and then grabbed 2-16. In the final match against Sri Lanka, his 54 runs knock presented a new image of Boom Boom Afridi, marked by patience and prudence. He proved himself a smash batsman by scoring 54 runs off 40 balls only and an experienced player by staying on the crease for so long time.

Recalling the previous Twenty20 World Cup memories, we are pained to know that Afridi could score only 91 runs in six matches with an average less than his one-day internationals average of 23 during that mega event. In the final against India, his Űdeed' of playing a nonsensical shot at a critical point when Pakistan direly needed a responsible but run-producing innings must be the abysmal point of his batting career.

But his failure in the one-day series is flashing another question in the mind; Is Afridi best for the shortest version? It must not be so; he is an ace batsman no matter whatsoever version of the game, and he must keep up this image.

The only Twenty20 game of the tour was memorable for another reason. It was the first game after retirement of skipper Younis Khan from the shortest version of the game. We missed him a lot. He is our second Imran Khan for being able to win a world cup for the nation. In fact, the cricket lovers will continue missing him for long. The controversy over his wisdom behind the retirement from Twenty20 cricket aside, Younis is after all Pakistan's second most successful captain in terms of winning a world cup for the country.

 

Old Trafford: Life after Ronaldo

The exodus at Manchester United in the summer that saw the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez leave the champions of England for Real Madrid and Manchester city respectively, left a massive question mark on the future of a club that is recognised as the biggest sport franchise in the world.

By Nabeel Naqvi

The departure of Ronaldo was always on the cards. Even last season, he almost left United for Real but, somehow Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United Manager, persuaded him to stay for another year.

However, a world-record offer of 80 million pounds, for the World Player of the Year was enough to tempt United to sell their prized asset to the Spanish giants. Ronaldo completed his boyhood dream of playing for Real, while his former club was left searching for a replacement.

Of course it was never easy to replace the best player in the world but United managed to capture the Ecuadorian winger Antonio Valencia from Wigan Athletic who will have to fill the boots of the flamboyant Portuguese; and only time will tell how far he manages to fulfill this mammoth task. On the other hand, the Carlos Tevez transfer Saga ended with the Argentinean forward leaving United for the blue half of Manchester as United's arch-rivals City became his new home.

Now, Antonio Valencia is an out an out winger and couldn't guarantee as many goals as his predecessor, Ronaldo, and with Tevez switching loyalties, United were in a desperate need of a striker who could share the burden at the front with Rooney and Berbatov. That was when Sir Alex Ferguson pulled the rabbit out of the hat by signing Michael Owen of all people. Owen, former Liverpool striker, came for free from a relegated Newcastle United side and Ferguson signed him on a 'pay as you play' deal.

In spite of the fact that Ronaldo is, indubitably, among the top players in the world, United could still survive without him. Indeed, Sir Alex Ferguson knows how to play his cards, there's no other reason why you would survive at one of the toughest jobs in sports for 23 years. It is when Ronaldo grew under Ferguson to become the best player on the planet, the latter capitalised on his skills and designed a strategy that revolved around Ronaldo. The whole squad played to his strengths and Ronaldo didn't let them down. He scored goals at will, but other players had to make the sacrifice by playing out of position. These players included the likes of Wayne Rooney who was often played on the left flank to accommodate the Portuguese wiz-kid. The plan was to allow Ronaldo a free role on the wings and make runs inside the penalty box during attacks. Ronaldo's brilliant heading abilities added that extra dimension to United's attacking philosophy.

Rooney, however, wasn't performing up to his potentials for obvious reasons. Now that Ronaldo has left, Rooney will have his chance to show what he can do if he's given the lead role in the team. There's no doubt in what the England forward is capable of doing, he is strong and fast, his stamina is brilliant and his work-rate and determination is unmatched.

The English season has just started and it is not a coincidence that Rooney has hit top form ˝- he is just playing in his preferred position. Meanwhile, the capture of Michael Owen could prove to be of pivotal importance at the business end of the campaign, when fatigue takes toll on players and squad rotation is the 'in' policy.

The English top four -˝ Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal -˝ are in for a big test this season as clubs like Manchester City and Tottenham emerge as a threat to their dominance; especially Manchester City, who have spent money like any thing during the summer.

City bought some of the finest players in England and their demolition of Arsenal last week showed that they are not to be underestimated this time around. The emergence of these teams is good for the game, however, otherwise people would come and watch the inevitable, but, there's no inevitability about this one.

It is times like these, however, when great teams show why they are at the top and have been there for so long, like Manchester United. And with all the pressure surrounding them since Ronaldo's departure, this is the perfect time for them to prove their mettle.

 

I don't like cricket anymore, I like football!

By Asad Tajammal Hussain

As I recall, till six or seven years ago; when I was six or seven years old, cricket was somewhat life for us Pakistani kids. It was something that the Pakistanis were good at -- a game that was a source of honour and pride for a nation that is today somehow an ocean of prejudice, turmoil and commotion. Now, it seems to me that the love for cricket is lost; taken over, dramatically, by football. Today, my peers follow football more religiously than cricket.

But what is the reason of the loss of interest in cricket? In my opinion, it is that the Pakistan team has not achieved lots of success over the past few years to win the hearts of young Pakistanis. The team has not been consistent in any way whatsoever, there being a series of ups (not to undermine our 2009 T20 World Cup victory), and downs, with mostly downs to be honest.

Let us consider the fact that we have not found good enough replacements for the gems like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and even Inzamam-ul-Haq. But is that a good enough excuse for the underperformance that we have seen in our recent past? Should the PCB be held accountable for the lack of experienced coaches or maybe the lack or scouts, if there are any, for the recognition of emerging cricketers?

Apart from this, there have been incidents amongst the team that have been a source of humiliation for the nation. It was utterly disgraceful when Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammed Asif tested positive for a banned drug. That is just one of a long list of controversies Akhtar has been involved in. He has been one of the most controversial and undisciplined players that the team has seen. There was a time when he was the pride of the nation; today he makes the head go down with shame.

Apart from this, a major factor why the team does not perform well is that the PCB's selection committee does not give players a chance. We have had so many players who have been selected for the team, dropped, recalled, dropped again and so on. Even accomplished players like Younis Khan, Shoib Malik and so many others have had an uncertain place in the team. A performance-based selection was not always the chief criterion.

Another factor, which I believe has caused us to lose interest in Pakistani cricket, is the lack of fixtures. So many countries like Australia, South Africa, England, New Zealand and India have stopped coming to our country because of security reasons. But despite this, what is stopping us from playing fixtures on away soil. It has been a long time since we toured England or New Zealand. If the team is not given exposure to the world cricket how do you expect it to improve?

The 2011 World Cup was expected to be hosted by Pakistan alongside India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. This was good news but now Pakistan has been disbanded of this honour -˝ purely for security reasons. The Champions Trophy was also to be hosted in Pakistan last year. It was postponed and the venue was shifted from Pakistan to South Africa for the same security concerns. As far as security is concerned, I believe that the government of Pakistan has to play its part to ensure that it is safe for visiting countries to come and play.

Hence, with the game of football becoming ever more popular, players becoming international stars, the youth have new-found interest in the game. The Barclays Premier League, with teams like Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool or even Manchester City now, with some of the best footballers of the world has definitely been a source of entertainment. The competitiveness it poses grasps the interest of viewers as football itself has its own charm.

These days the gossip is more or less the transfer of Ronaldo to Real Madrid or the fact that Manchester City has overspent to now have one of the better teams of the premiership. The talk these days isn't about ŰBoom BoomÝ Afridi's sixes but it's rather about whether Messi's a better player or Ronaldo or Real Madrid a better team or Barcelona. Cricket has more or less been forgotten.

With competitions like the FIFA World Cup 2010, the UEFA Champions League, the FA Cup along with so many others coming up it seems like cricket doesn't have much of a chance against football.

Well, now we can only hope that Pakistani cricket rises once again to achieve certain heights, which I believe can be done if the team displays a show of consistency, hard work and discipline.

 

The writer is a grade X student in Lahore



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