Maximising national talent
By Malik Arshed Gilani
We are a Nation of 180 million people. The majority are Aryan in stock. Though not as big in size as the western races, we are blessed with good build and stature. Pakistan is thus advantaged in having a good physical and genetic pool from which sportsman can be produced. Nations of significantly less populations say New Zealand and Australia are able to produce more top level sports people, be it cricketers, hockey players, squash players or athletes than us and much has been written about the causes behind this reality. Experts have stressed lack of funds, lack of management, and lack of facilities etc. all of which have surely contributed to the problem. Today I would like to use squash and cricket being two games that one has been closely associated as case studies to see how we can maximise our national talents. Let me here categorically stake my judgment in stating that as far as raw talent is concerned in squash and cricket Pakistan is a world leader.

Exploring new horizons
Former Pakistan captain Moin Khan recently delivered a hugely successful T20 event in Karachi during Ramadan
By Qutub Mulla
It is amazing when people re-invent themselves to pursue new challenges after successfully mounting old ones. The ability to redevelop and reinvent yourself is a great trait to posses. It shows courage and ambition, especially if previous achievements have been accomplished at the highest level and can be measured by the most stringent international barometer.
Similar is the case of former Pakistan Test captain Moin Khan. Moin excelled as a top class international cricketer for a number of years. Debuting for Pakistan in 1990s as a teenager plucked out from the Under-19 set-up. Moin went on to establish himself as an integral part of Pakistan’s international Test and one day sides for the next decade and a half.

Complacent Pakistan
Our team was far from convincing in its seven-wicket win in the one-off Test against Zimbabwe
Umair A. Qazi
Last week Pakistan entered the Test arena after a long sabbatical with a young and hopeful side and without much hassle defeated Zimbabwe in the one-off match as expected. However, in spite of a comfortable win one ought to consider the manner in which the win was achieved. One would have expected Pakistan to restrict Zimbabwe to a small total in the first innings given our bowling prowess especially with the likes of Saeed Ajmal and company who later on proved to be menacing for the hosts. Nonetheless, Zimbabwe managed to put on an impressive total of over 400 in the first innings without much trouble thanks to the lacklustre bowling effort of Pakistan.

Lessons from international week
By Zain Qureshi
Domestic league football in Europe and most of the world was on a fortnight hiatus as European nations took to the qualification rounds of next year’s UEFA European Championships to be held in Poland and Ukraine. South American and African nations took the opportunity to play some friendly matches, with coaches wanting to try out whatever new strategies they could before the World Cup qualifying rounds begin. This round of matches will also have given a lot of club managers to see in action some of the signings made near the end of the transfer window, which closed just last week.
The Netherlands continued their unbeaten run to 8 matches, storming through the qualifying stages with a destruction of San Marino that was almost painful to watch. Van Persie’s burst of goals will go some way to assuage Arsenal fans worried where the goals will come from this season, but the counter point to this is that the Dutchman received excellent service from his countrymen against a team that defended appallingly. Wesley Sneijder looked in good form, scoring goals and dictating play as the Oranje made mayhem on the pitch. Inter Milan will hope he is back to his best for the rest of the season to provide their drive towards a title challenge.

Rain, rain go to Spain!
Wet weather and player injuries have rocked this year’s US Open
By Hasan Junaid Iqbal
US Open 2011 got plagued by disasters even before it was started. Hurricane Irene hit New York City earlier this month and then non-stop rainy season hit the last Grand Slam of the year. On the top of it players’ injuries also interrupted play.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal collapsed with cramps during a bizarre news conference while Andy Murray stayed on course for a semifinal clash against him.
Nadal, 25, was talking to journalists two hours after his third round win over close friend Argentinean David Nalbandian, when he grimaced in pain and slumped in the back of his chair. For sure it was not a ‘drama’, because he had already been suffering from knee aches and pains. It was not the first time injury problems have affected him. At the 2008 Wimbledon, he was unable to defend his title because of similar injury.

‘Most of our Davis Cuppers are hypocrites’
By Bilal Hussain
In what was refreshingly different, headlines were splattered on sports pages across Pakistan last September when the Indo-Pak tennis duo of Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna marched into the final of the US Open in New York.
Though the Indo-Pak Express, as Aisam and Rohan are known among their fans around the world, fell in the US Open finale their achievement was hailed by everyone associated with tennis.
It also served as tonic for a group of tennis officials in Pakistan who took charge of the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) soon after the pair’s US Open heroics.
Led by Kaleem Imam, then Islamabad’s police chief, the new PTF set-up announced some very ambitious goals and declared that it will lift the standard of Pakistan tennis to a new level.

 

 

Maximising national talent

We are a Nation of 180 million people. The majority are Aryan in stock. Though not as big in size as the western races, we are blessed with good build and stature. Pakistan is thus advantaged in having a good physical and genetic pool from which sportsman can be produced. Nations of significantly less populations say New Zealand and Australia are able to produce more top level sports people, be it cricketers, hockey players, squash players or athletes than us and much has been written about the causes behind this reality. Experts have stressed lack of funds, lack of management, and lack of facilities etc. all of which have surely contributed to the problem. Today I would like to use squash and cricket being two games that one has been closely associated as case studies to see how we can maximise our national talents. Let me here categorically stake my judgment in stating that as far as raw talent is concerned in squash and cricket Pakistan is a world leader.

One little known fact is that in the seventies when Pakistan counted for nine of the top ten in the world, the Pakistan Open Championship had prize money of just Five Hundred Rupees! The author of this article as Secretary Sindh Squash and with the principal assistance of now Air Chief Marshal (retd) Farooq Feroze Khan, Admiral S Abid Mujtaba, Adil Ahmed and Munawwar Ahmad raised funds from sponsors like PNSC, ICI and Hamdard to turn this into a world level tournament. The noted squash and sports journalists Mr Abdul Majid Khan and Mr Anisuddin could provide any confirmation that may be needed. This reason behind this boast is to highlight the reality of pure natural talent that existed in Pakistan. All of our world leading players bar Allauddin Gogi hailed from Nawa Killi village just twelve kilometers outside Peshawar. They were fortunate that the Royal Air Force loved this game and constructed basic cement squash courts to employ the people of this village as ‘markers’. The genius was inherited by sons from their fathers and grandfathers over some three generations. If this kind of phenomena had existed in any other country in the world they would have bottled the water to sell it making a fortune. We on the other hand have in a space of just twenty years now even lose to the Danes. What can we blame this on? It cannot be lack of management or resources since the various chiefs of the Pakistan Air Force who have been in charge of administrating this game some forty years could hardly have lacked in these areas. It cannot be that there were no role models, the likes of Jahangir Khan, Jansher Khan, Qamar Zaman and so on live in Pakistan and the majority of them live in and around Peshawar. We thus need to look deeper to find the answer.

Let me move on to cricket. At its creation Pakistan did inherit some of the Sub-continent’s leading players like Mohammad Nisar but not enough to make a world level team. Popularity of this game in Pakistan was however sufficient incentive for every child to become avid about it. Sufficient nurseries existed in the form of clubs at every level using every possible open space to play the game with much spirit.

The universities and schools also played their part. To coin an old saying, “many a battle was won on the playing fields of Aitcheson College, St Anthony’s, Central Model School, St Patrick’s and Government and Islamia Colleges Lahore”. Having successfully made it to ‘Test’ level the likes of Fazal Mahmood, Imtiaz Ahmed, Nazar Mohammed and the great Hanif Mohammad gave every budding batsman or bowler some one to emulate. With the growth of population outstripping most of the other nations of the world we produced vast numbers of prospective great players. However when we correlate the cricket infrastructure in Pakistan to other countries and then relate it to its rapid success on the world stage it must support my premise that for raw talent Pakistan was and is unbeatable. Support for this theory is available in many a recording of top level cricket in which top analysts, commentators, sports journalists and players have waxed eloquent on this subject. I have in mind individuals like Ian Chappell, Geoffrey Boycott, Michael Holding, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, John Woodcock and Henry Blofeld. To produce players of the likes of Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Aamir Sohail, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Mohammad Yusuf and then ruin players like young Mohammad Aamir, Shoaib Malik, Danish Kaneria and such must have needed a very large ‘bank account’ to draw upon.

I ask myself, why is Pakistan not able to maximise the nurturing of these God gifted talents that our youth have been blessed with on a continuous basis? To seek out the answer one notes that in our past, in cricket, we had the late Abdul Hafeez Kardar who was able to not only nurture and develop our young to produce results on the field; he also gave us departmental cricket. This brilliant idea allowed many a needy player who would have other wise not been able to follow their talent due to sheer economics. They would not have had the staying power to achieve fame for their country. Air Marshal (retd) Nur Khan stands like a colossus in this field. As Chairman PIA, he developed and supported nine of our top squash players who numbered nine out o the top ten in the world. He was able to develop an Olympic medal winning hockey team and what he did in cricket apart from a few hiccups is the stuff that legends are made off.

Importantly in the Air Marshal’s case he was not a great player in any of the games. PIA was his only involvement in the corporate sector and thus not a commercially oriented individual. He was an outstanding Air Force officer and an outstanding administrator. Since then the PCB has had individuals who as chairman have brought honour to Pakistan and been responsible for the harnessing of talent to some degree. I believe notably in the departmental sector, the National Bank of Pakistan and PIA have proved good nurseries. The top person in the NBP has done creditable service to the game in Pakistan in supporting players and producing a good cricket ground.

In my view, the common factor responsible for the success of the individuals mentioned above was their ability to make a good working team of experts and delegate responsibility. It was their ability to withstand any pressure or interference in their task from any quarter. Even from their appointing authority. It was their ability to recognize quality and make that the sole reason for their support. Be they managers, players or assisting staff. They excelled in backing all whom they were responsible for whilst not sparing their faults or letting them get away with indiscipline. We thus need to choose wisely when selecting and appointing our top people to allow our God granted assets to blossom. I can only hope that the readers will be in agreement with my views.

 

[email protected]

 

Exploring new horizons

It is amazing when people re-invent themselves to pursue new challenges after successfully mounting old ones. The ability to redevelop and reinvent yourself is a great trait to posses. It shows courage and ambition, especially if previous achievements have been accomplished at the highest level and can be measured by the most stringent international barometer.

Similar is the case of former Pakistan Test captain Moin Khan. Moin excelled as a top class international cricketer for a number of years. Debuting for Pakistan in 1990s as a teenager plucked out from the Under-19 set-up. Moin went on to establish himself as an integral part of Pakistan’s international Test and one day sides for the next decade and a half.

Within two years of his debut, the former Pakistan Under-19 captain went on to help his country win its first and only World Cup title.

Moin went on the play 69 Test matches for Pakistan scoring 2741 runs with 4 centuries and 15 half centuries, he also held 128 catches and managed to stump 20 batsmen. In the one-day arena Moin’s record again can stand up to that of some of the best wicketkeepers that preceded him.

During the prime of his career he played in his and Pakistan’s only other World Cup final outside of that memorable day in Melbourne. Although Pakistan were humbled in the final by Australia at Lords in 1999, Moin reiterated his remarkable credentials behind the stumps and the ability he possessed to attack and counter attack from the lower middle order. He kept wickets through-out the tournament with a broken finger against the express pace of Shoaib Akhtar and Waqar Younis and the guile of Wasim Akram. Furthermore his improvisation to hit Glen McGrath for sixes over fine leg will long be etched in the memories of his fans for ever.

In 2005, Moin retired from International cricket to allow the emerging Kamran Akmal to take over the gloves for Pakistan. Moin retired with grace and dignity and carried on his duties for PIA as captain at the domestic level and later as a coach. He also coached the Lahore Badshah’s side in the now defunct Indian Cricket League. Moin obviously felt he had more to offer than just coach and manage cricketers.

In 2008, Moin embarked on an ambitious project to build a state-of-the-art cricket stadium and sports academy, with the best in modern day cricket training and coaching facilities -- the Moin Khan Sports Academy (MKSA).

The project is yet to reach completion but a hint of Moin’s vision for the development and progress of sports in this country was given earlier this Ramadan when Moin and his team launched a corporate T20 tournament. Although numerous tournaments are held in the metropolis of Karachi during Ramadan, Moin took things to another level to stand out amongst his peers. He negotiated sponsorship from international brands, negotiated live coverage with the top sports channel of Pakistan -- Geo Super. Furthermore to add credence and weight to the project Moin negotiated with eight grade-one and two teams from the Pakistani domestic circuit to participate in the tournament.

To add yet more appeal to this fantastic sports entertainment venture, Moin convinced three of the most successful domestic teams -- PIA, NBP and HBL -- to agree to play the T20 event and bring along their array of international star cricketers. Moin and his team also managed to structure the event in a manner that the cricket loving people of the city could witness top quality entertainment under flood-lights at absolutely no cost and most importantly in a secure environment. This was done at a time when the city is going through its worst crisis in terms of political instability and security of civilian life.

The highly successful tournament is an absolute credit to Moin and his team. Credit should also go to DHA for their unrelenting support in helping Moin to embark on this very ambitious and challenging project. The beauty of it all is that the success of the MKSA will contribute to the development of sports in the country; it will give much needed opportunities to our youth to utilize the facilities made available and hopefully excel in sports in years to come.

Moinís involvement at the top level of international sport for over two decades now also allowed him to experience the most modern training and development trends and facilities, which he is now bringing to Pakistan. Sports today is a very competitive and intelligent business. MKSA caters to exactly that need, where the coaching team is made up ICC qualified coaches, qualified psychologists, nutritionist and sports management professionals.

With a history of leadership from the days of his youth, including captaining the Pakistan test and one day teams, Pakistan Under-19, PIA and Karachi and that too from a very young age. Moin has naturally been groomed to lead throughout his playing career so it is no surprise that he seeks the same adrenaline after retirement by excelling in his other ventures and fighting to make his projects stand out from others.

It is great that an ex-cricketer is making such an effort to promote sport and give back to cricket a little of all that it has given him. Yet there is more that can be gained by Pakistan from Moin. The way sport in general and cricket in particular have fallen prey to lack of professionalism and leadership in this country -- there is an evident gap in the personnel required to manage and operate sports and related events and those who are actually taking responsibility for it currently.

It is high time that proven leaders like Moin are involved in the current set-up for the national side. People of Moin’s calibre with proven credentials will continue to excel in their own right, but Pakistan, especially the PCB can gain substantially by involving such people for its own betterment. Yet for some odd reason men of ability are being ignored by the Pakistan Cricket Board at a time when it needs them most.

Unless professional people with proven skills and most importantly history of proven leadership qualities are part of the cricketing set-up how will we ever bring international cricket here and climb back up into the top quartile of cricket rankings.

 

[email protected]

 

Complacent Pakistan

Last week Pakistan entered the Test arena after a long sabbatical with a young and hopeful side and without much hassle defeated Zimbabwe in the one-off match as expected. However, in spite of a comfortable win one ought to consider the manner in which the win was achieved. One would have expected Pakistan to restrict Zimbabwe to a small total in the first innings given our bowling prowess especially with the likes of Saeed Ajmal and company who later on proved to be menacing for the hosts. Nonetheless, Zimbabwe managed to put on an impressive total of over 400 in the first innings without much trouble thanks to the lacklustre bowling effort of Pakistan.

The three young fast bowlers from whom a lot was expected in terms of providing early breakthroughs and laying the platform for the spinners were disappointing apart from Aizaz Cheema who merits some consideration. Firstly, strict notice must be taken of the fitness of young bowlers before they are drafted in the side and asked to play at national level.

Sohail Khan who has performed at the domestic level is one such bowler whose fitness ought to be questioned. He looked out of sorts in both the innings, his delivery stride and run-up to the wicket seemed unmeasured at most times and one got the feeling that he was putting in more effort than was required on such a placid wicket. Furthermore, he is not express pace either and the solitary wicket that he got was a result of the batsman playing a loose stroke. Similarly, Junaid Khan who has been praised so often by on lookers hardly looked the part at Test level. He generated no pace irrespective of the pitch conditions and hardly seemed to bother the batsmen at any point in time with both the new and old ball. There was hardly any swing let alone an element of reverse swing and he at best looked like a medium pacer bowling line and length asked to contain the flow of runs. Aizaz cheema who looked the best of the lot managed to bag eight wickets in the match was also at times complacent. His eight wickets were mostly lower-order batsmen and he came to the party after the lion’s share was taken by the more influential bowlers. However, credit must be given to him for trying and succeeding given it was his first Test he did a decent job with the new ball and provided the much needed breakthrough at the top in the second innings which set the tone for the likes of Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.

Ajmal looked unplayable in the second innings owing to the crumbling pitch but was a mere credit card bowler in the first innings when he managed to secure four wickets for over a hundred runs more a case of batsmen tiring out then being foxed by deceptive spin bowling. It his reliance on the pitch and conditions which is the difference between him becoming a great bowler as compared to a good bowler. If only Ajmal was to focus on being a more effective first innings spinner he would be one of the best in the world today something what his predecessor Saqlain Mushtaq would do well.

Hafeez merits special consideration; he is one player who has really improved his game in terms of being an effective batter and a more than useful spinner having a few surprise deliveries in his armory. In the last year or so he has emerged as a saviour for Pakistan cricket, filling in the roll of an opener successfully although belatedly but in the best interest and the right time for Pakistan cricket and playing the role of a spinner who gets through his overs very quickly and effectively.

However, like most Pakistani batsmen he was also given two chances by the home team who fielded pathetically. In total there were six dropped catches in the Pakistan innings which merits consideration that if all catches had been taken would Pakistan have been able to win the Test as comfortably as they did?

All top batsmen were given a chance or two which really merits the questions, are our top batsmen actually capable of playing long innings without being given chances or the lack of Test cricket has dealt a huge blow to their temperaments in terms of standing on the wicket. What also is of concern is the casual manner in which the senior batsmen, the likes of Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq have gone about their innings. Yes they were playing Zimbabwe but a total of 400 merits some caution especially as senior players, perhaps they ought to take a leaf out of Azhar Ali’s book in terms of defending and spending time at the wicket.

Misbah has had a dream run as a captain not only in terms of wins but also as a player as he has been on a run scoring spree since last year but his casualness at times makes one wonder as to his ability to lose concentration almost immediately. Azhar Ali looks one for the future as he is most calm and attentive in his approach at the wicket, good technique and technically sound player.

Taufiq Umar who has been given yet another chance to revive a failing career continues to disappoint and really Pakistan now ought to look at a youngster to solve problems at the opening level. Puzzling as it may be but comes as no surprise the axing or rather resting of Wahab Riaz for the tour. If sanity is to prevail one would wonder as to why needs the forced rest he has been given for this would have been an ideal tour to develop him and polish his skills to become a world class bowler but until and unless the PCB is governed by a constitution which holds the chairman accountable such mediocrity and senselessness in decision making shall prevail.

 

[email protected]

Lessons from international week

Domestic league football in Europe and most of the world was on a fortnight hiatus as European nations took to the qualification rounds of next year’s UEFA European Championships to be held in Poland and Ukraine. South American and African nations took the opportunity to play some friendly matches, with coaches wanting to try out whatever new strategies they could before the World Cup qualifying rounds begin. This round of matches will also have given a lot of club managers to see in action some of the signings made near the end of the transfer window, which closed just last week.

The Netherlands continued their unbeaten run to 8 matches, storming through the qualifying stages with a destruction of San Marino that was almost painful to watch. Van Persie’s burst of goals will go some way to assuage Arsenal fans worried where the goals will come from this season, but the counter point to this is that the Dutchman received excellent service from his countrymen against a team that defended appallingly. Wesley Sneijder looked in good form, scoring goals and dictating play as the Oranje made mayhem on the pitch. Inter Milan will hope he is back to his best for the rest of the season to provide their drive towards a title challenge.

One of the more astounding statistics is how Huntelaar, for a long time counted among those players who could not reach their potential, having failed to hold down a place at Real Madrid and AC Milan, has made his way into the list of top 10 all-time goal scorers for the Netherlands. With an impressive goals-to-games ratio of 0.62, the 28 year old, if his form when on international duty continues, is a good bet to overtake Patrick Kluivert as the nation’s leading goal scorer by the time he decides to hang up his boots.

Germany’s matches against Austria and Poland presented much to both cheer about and to cause concern, depending on who you are. Ozil was a fantastic presence against Austria, exchanging passes to set up and score goals as part of a dynamic front line which demolished Austria. Coach Joachim Low explained that the German national side had undertaken a project whereby there would be multiple players to step into the side without changing the dynamics of their style of play, and this showed in the way Schurrle and Gotze slotted in seamlessly when they came on to replace Toni Kroos and Miroslav Klose. Both players ended up on the goal scorers list within minutes of coming on.

In a month long tournament, suitable substitutes are as crucial to a team’s success as a strong starting eleven, as proven so regularly by the Spain’s domination of international football, powered as it is by a revolving door of talent between the pitch and the substitutes bench, where the only difference between two contenders for the same position appears scarcely more than their shirt number.

At the World Cup in South Africa, Germany unearthed the class and talent of Mesut Ozil, but at the same time exposed the young playmaker’s susceptibility to fatigue. Ozil himself had come into the first time by virtue of injury to Michael Ballack, and this meant there was no genuine substitute for the lanky youngster to share the weight of creating chances in the opposition half. Ozil was worn down by the end of the tournament, and even in club football, has yet to prove he can consistently last an entire 90 minutes. Low learnt his lessons from the World Cup, and has fashioned a squad with interchangeable elements who, will bringing their own individuality to their position, maintain the balance of the side.

The negative side of the German side’s performance was in defence, particularly the defending of one Per Mertesacker; Arsenal fans take note. The veteran of 75 international matches is going through a very poor patch of form, and his ailing confidence would not be helped by the fact that he was kept on the bench against Austria while two younger defenders, Dortmund’s Mats Hummels and Bayern’s Holger Badstuber, played at the heart of defence. This was a solid pairing who held up well against an Austrian side which scored two genuinely good goals. The formation in use was a 4-1-4-1, a departure from the more defence minded 4-2-3-1 employed by Germany at the World Cup, in which Mertesacker shone alongside Arne Friedrich, the pair shielded by midfielders Schweinsteiger and Khedira. That Mertesacker would not suit the new German system should have been evident when looking at the horror that was Werder Bremen’s defence last season.

With inadequate midfield cover in the form of the aged Torsten Frings, and missing an ‘aggressive’ defence partner, Mertesacker had an awful time as part of a defensive line up which conceded more than two goals a game on average. The game against Poland ended with a score line of 2-2, and it was littered with one defensive error after another committed mostly by the new Arsenal man.

It goes from bad to worse for Arsenal, who are a side with a playing style similar to the current German setup in that there is more emphasis on attack than there is on defending, and the midfield are not known for playing close to the back line. Arsene Wenger will be hoping that Arteta can sustain box to box runs all season long, and that Vermaelen returns from injury swiftly to provide the kind of partner Mertesacker needs in order to perform well. Barring either of these requirements, one of the most experienced Arsenal signings of recent years will go the same way as the more ignominious of them. Arsenal fans’ bitter woes will have been done little good by Fabregas’ excellent form for club and country.

Mixed emotions were on order for Chelsea, with Mata succeeding with the national side while Torres was not even given a place on the bench and is now a long distance behind Villa, Negredo and even Llorente. Spain’s luxury of attacking options mean the once mainstay of the national side needs to hit peak form fast if he is to avoid being considered supplementary to requirements at the La Furia Roja camp.

 

[email protected]

Rain, rain go to Spain!

US Open 2011 got plagued by disasters even before it was started. Hurricane Irene hit New York City earlier this month and then non-stop rainy season hit the last Grand Slam of the year. On the top of it players’ injuries also interrupted play.

Spain’s Rafael Nadal collapsed with cramps during a bizarre news conference while Andy Murray stayed on course for a semifinal clash against him.

Nadal, 25, was talking to journalists two hours after his third round win over close friend Argentinean David Nalbandian, when he grimaced in pain and slumped in the back of his chair. For sure it was not a ‘drama’, because he had already been suffering from knee aches and pains. It was not the first time injury problems have affected him. At the 2008 Wimbledon, he was unable to defend his title because of similar injury.

“I don’t know what the problem is, I will get it checked out. I’m worried for sure,” the BBC quoted Nadal as saying at US Open last week.

“At one moment at the end of the first set I thought I might have to retire. To hit my forehand was very tough. I felt something really strange when it was at 6-5 in the first set when I called to the trainer. I pushed hard with a forehand and I just felt something crush in the back of the foot. I didn’t know what went on,” he complained. “I’ve changed the position of the foot so I was able to continue but with pain.”

Then Sania Mirza announced that she may not be able to play in the rest of the season in the WTA circuit as the Indian tennis queen has been advised rest for six weeks after suffering a knee injury during the women’s doubles third round defeat.

Sania has been diagnosed with a ruptured left knee ‘miniscus’ and has been initially advised a minimum six weeks rest by a specialist, who examined her in New York.

Like Nadal, the Hyderabadi starlet has been struggling with injuries in the last few seasons but she made a good comeback last year after a career-threatening wrist injury.

Belgium’s Kim Clijsters pulled out of the tournament due to a stomach muscle injury, effectively calling an early end to her season.

Clijsters, who also skipped Wimbledon this year with a foot injury, withdrew from her first match back during last week’s Toronto Cup with a partial tear of her left stomach muscle.

“Two weeks of rehab was not enough to heal this injury. Obviously I’m very disappointed. I trained very hard this summer and felt I was in good shape to play the US Open,” said the 28-year-old, and the three-time US Open winner.

The Belgian beauty has played only five matches over the past five months, during which she has nursed shoulder, wrist, ankle and foot injuries before suffering her latest setback.

Russia’s Maria Sharapova, who has suffered her fair share of injuries during her career, sympathised with Clijsters.

“It’s probably one of the most frustrating feelings for an athlete just sitting there knowing that even before the tournament your name is not going to be in the draw,” Sharapova said.

“It’s tough, but I think, Kim, like many of us knows what it’s like to deal with tough moments like this.”

 

[email protected]

‘Most of our Davis Cuppers are hypocrites’

In what was refreshingly different, headlines were splattered on sports pages across Pakistan last September when the Indo-Pak tennis duo of Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Rohan Bopanna marched into the final of the US Open in New York.

Though the Indo-Pak Express, as Aisam and Rohan are known among their fans around the world, fell in the US Open finale their achievement was hailed by everyone associated with tennis.

It also served as tonic for a group of tennis officials in Pakistan who took charge of the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) soon after the pair’s US Open heroics.

Led by Kaleem Imam, then Islamabad’s police chief, the new PTF set-up announced some very ambitious goals and declared that it will lift the standard of Pakistan tennis to a new level.

More than nine month after those bold promises, PTF officials are of the view that they have started to achieve their goals.

Irshad Bhatti, who in Imam’s absence has been serving as PTF’s acting president, believes that with proper support from all stake-holders, the federation can give Pakistan tennis its rightful place.

In an interview with The News on Sunday, Bhatti gave some candid views as to why tennis never really took off in Pakistan. He also spoke about the future of the game in the country, saying that it has vast resources of talent and just needs a proper system to transform talented youngster into world class players.

“Kaleem Imam is a tennis buff and an inspiration to all of us in the PTF,” said Bhatti. “Under his leadership, the PTF has formed a four-year programme for the uplift of the game and I’m sure that we will achieve most of our goals.”

Bhatti said that since day one he and fellow PTF officials have been dogged by paucity of funds. But he was quick to add that with a series of fund-raisers, the PTF has managed to carry out a series of steps aimed at the betterment of the game.

“We inherited just 300 dollars when we took over the PTF around nine months back.

“We had to send a team comprising of our top women players for Fed Cup after ten years. Kaleem Imam asked a friend who donated Rs200,000. Former sports minister Jakhrani gave Rs500,000.

Bhatti lamented the fact that sports like tennis are treated in a step-motherly manner by government authorities.

“Hockey gets money because of Qasim Zia (PHF President),” he said referring to the fact that Zia is a key leader of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

“Cricket gets billions. But sports like tennis get peanuts. We get a grant of Rs1.85 million per year. We had to spend almost two million just on sending our Davis Cup team for an international assignment. How can you run a sport properly if you have no money?”

Bhatti said that in spite of lack of funds, the PTF has sent Davis Cup teams to Hong Kong and Korea. They have sent players for the Asian Championship and the Fed Cup apart from sending colts abroad. “We even had an experienced Indian coach here for a camp besides staging a couple of umpiring courses,” said Bhatti.

Bhatti revealed that the PTF is now holding regular talent-hunt programmes besides taking tennis to the district-level.

Bhatti said that a lot of former Davis Cup players in the country are causing more harm than good to Pakistan tennis.

“Many of our former Davis cuppers are hypocrites. They have vested interests. They don’t want to work,” he said.

The PTF is also unhappy with the roles played by parents of most of the country’s tennis players.

“Then there is the parents’ mafia. They just care about their own kids. They are selfish. There is so much leg-pulling. We also have a lot of paper tigers in the PTF. They have no vision.”

Bhatti also took a swipe at the affiliated units of the PTF, saying that only a few of them are active.

“Nine of 14 affiliated units are dormant. There is this clear need of activating them,” he said.

Bhatti claimed that Pakistan is brimming with tennis talent. He even compared a Lahore-based tennis player Ushna with Indian tennis queen Sania Mirza. “Ushna can be a better player than Sania if she gets proper training and exposure,” he said.

 

[email protected]

 

 

 


Home
|Daily Jang|The News|Sales & Advt|Contact Us|


BACK ISSUES