November 7, 2020

Misbah led team of centurions; Sarfraz had to contend with failing prodigies

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Comparisons are drawn often between Misbah-ul-Haq and Sarfraz Ahmed as captains of the Pakistan team and a few so-called pundits and pseudo experts try to glorify the achievements of Misbah and they purposely undermine the accomplishments of Sarfraz. They are guilty of either twisting the facts or presenting only the half-truth. 

Now let me shed light on some the facts which are not highlighted or even discussed publicly. In other words let me try to bring to light the hidden half-truth. Misbah and Sarfraz captained the national cricket team in different eras and the circumstances were dissimilar. 

While Misbah was extended maximum possible support by the ‘establishment’ of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Sarfraz’s leg was being continuously pulled by the movers and shakers of our system. 

When Misbah was leading the Test team in particular, the players were mostly kept in a relaxed frame of mind and the batsmen in particular benefitted a lot with the peaceful mental state of theirs. 

Misbah himself amassed runs and centuries prolifically while ace batsman Younis Khan stroked century after century and the likes of Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Muhammad Hafeez and even Sarfraz literally made centuries at will. 

The scenario changed altogether from the moment Sarfraz took over. Younis and Misbah had retired leaving a big hole in the batting line-up. 

Then uncertainties were allowed to flourish as a result of which runs and centuries dried from the bat of those who were supposed to take up the responsibility and rise to the occasion. Asad and Azhar became pedestrian as batters while the newcomers, drafted in to replace the retiring greats, took their own time in settling down. 

In this transition period Pakistan’s batting became mediocre to say the least and even Sarfraz was unable to cope with the mounting pressure in Test matches. 

During the tenure of Misbah there were tons of centuries scored by the Pakistan batsmen in the Test arena while in the times of Sarfraz there were literally none. 

When you don’t have adequate runs to play with how could you be expected to win a Test match no matter how resourceful you may be in the bowling department. Babar Azam, who has now blossomed into one of the best modern-day batsmen, was also found struggling for runs in Test matches in the period when Sarfraz was leading the forces. 

Therefore Misbah was in hugely advantageous position when captaining the Test side than Sarfraz who didn’t get the desired runs from his batters and it reflected in the results too. 

The wicketkeeper-batsman, however, made amends for his own shortfall of Test runs and centuries as well as of his more established batsmen in his side, by leading the team by example in limited overs formats which, for some reasons, has seldom been mentioned by those who derive pleasure by highlighting every chink in his armour. 

Why do people are not reminded that Sarfraz remains the only Pakistani captain to have brought home more than one ICC trophy? Under him, Pakistan triumphed in the ICC Under-19 World Cup as well as the ICC Champions Trophy. 

Why do his critics fail to remember that Pakistan remained the top ranked team in T20 Internationals for a couple of years when he was calling the shots?

Sarfraz’s own batting strike rate in Tests and One-day Internationals, despite every criticism and eyebrows, remains much better than many of his illustrious contemporaries.

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October 24, 2020

PCB manipulating to install Rizwan as captain in all formats

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The key officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) seem currently preoccupied in their manipulations to get Mohammad Rizwan installed as the captain of the national team in all three formats. 

It can’t be mere coincidence that Rizwan was handed over a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa outfit for the just concluded National T20 Cup which was a virtual Pakistan team if one added Babar Azam to it. 

Rather predictably this team won the tournament and the PCB bigwigs have gone closer to achieving their goal of appointing Rizwan as the captain of the Pakistan team which will mean, in their estimation, closing all possible routes of comeback for Sarfraz Ahmed at least in the near future. 

The axing of Sarfraz from the leadership role, despite his glorious performances in not too distant past, had always been on the cards when the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis had been given the absolute powers to manage the affairs of the team. 

It should not be forgotten that Misbah, as captain, and Waqar, as coach, had done everything they could do in keeping Sarfraz out of action from the World Cup in 2015. It was only after the intervention of the then PCB Chairman, Shaharyar Khan, which allowed a chance to Sarfraz who grabbed the opportunity with both hands. 

Sadly from cricketing point of view, Misbah and Waqar joined forces again when Ehsan Mani took over as the new PCB chief and they resumed their efforts in removing Sarfraz by hook or by crook. They succeeded in putting Sarfraz under greater pressure and the wicketkeeper-batsman from Karachi was unable to come to terms with the growing intrigues inside the dressing room. 

If removing Sarfraz was their short-term plan, the appointment of Rizwan as captain in all formats may well be their long-term plan by the look of things. Misbah and Waqar, with the obvious blessings of the PCB CEO, Wasim Khan, may accomplish their goals but it will be at the cost of national interest. 

There’s no doubt in my mind about the talents of Rizwan either as a player or as a captain but the manner in which he’s being fast-tracked in the leadership role raises a lot of questions and it may not be good even for him in the long run. 

Misbah and company had replaced Srafraz with Babar for limited overs versions while Azhar Ali was picked as the Test captain. All the moves have backfired and the stage is now set for the appointment of Rizwan as the captain in all three formats. 

Although Shan Masood should have been the obvious choice to lead Pakistan in the Test arena as Azhar Ali was likely to be removed any time because of his poor show in England, there are strong enough indications emerging that the left-handed opening batsman may not be considered for the role he so richly deserves in my opinion.

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October 23, 2020

Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari demands justice for deserving Karachi cricketers

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari, the fatherly figure of Pakistan cricket, has regretted the omission of some deserving players from Karachi in the 22-member national squad announced for the upcoming home series of One-day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals against the visiting Zimbabweans. 

Having been the longest serving Secretary of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA), besides being a President for four years, Prof Siraj Bukhari, has in fact lodged a strong protest with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for ignoring the cricketers from Karachi and has appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the Patron in Chief of the PCB, to hold an enquiry for what he described as step motherly and biased action. 

He has strongly urged Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is himself one of the greatest-ever cricketers of the country besides being a highly successful captain, for including the deserving players from Karachi in the national squad for the Zimbabwe series. 

In an impassioned press statement, issued on October 23, Prof Siraj Bukhari, whose association with the KCCA lasted nearly four decades, observed that it was for the first time in the history of Pakistan cricket when such biased and prejudiced treatment has been meted out to cricketers of the city of Karachi, having a population of more than 25 million, which has given bulk of outstanding to the country. 

He pointed out that the non-inclusion of Danish Aziz, who came up with exceptional performances in the recently held National T-20 cricket tournament in which he earned Man of the Match award two times, Hassan Khan, Azam Khan and Zahid Mahmood of Dadu from the younger lot and Khurram Manzoor and Sohail Khan from the experienced hands who also performed consistently, amounted to injustice.

“I will like to make a fervent appeal to the PCB Patron in Chief to hold an enquiry and do justice to these deserving and highly talented cricketers,” Prof Siraj Bukhari concluded.

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Khost youths demand timely holding of cricket series

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Youths and cricket fans came out on roads in Khost city, the capital of Khost province Afghanistan, demanding the timely holding of the Million Cup Cricket League in their area. 

They also accused the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) of trying to cancel the hosting of the league in Khost province, noting that the grand Paktia zone had legal rights to host the league. 

The participants at the march also claimed that the ACB officials did not have the necessary ability and qualifications to deal with the cricket affairs in Afghanistan. 

The ACB officials, meanwhile, have stated that the league will be held after completing its legal procedures. 

The protestors urged the Afghanistan government to take action against what they described as the unprofessional dealing of the ACB officials with cricket in the country. 

“The Million Cup Cricket League should be held in Khost. All arrangements have been made, the necessary guarantees have been given,” the protestors demanded. 

According to reports, the Million Cup Cricket League, Chinar Media Consultancy Services Co. and Moby Group Afghanistan had signed an agreement earlier this month in Kabul formalizing the collaborative effort to hold the cricket league's fifth season competition and broadcast the matches. 

The league, in coordination with the ACB will, for the first time, meet international standards and follow the board’s guidelines. The matches will be broadcast live on Lemar TV and Arakozia radio. The event is scheduled to start on October 30 at the stadium in Khost province and will continue until November 13.

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October 8, 2020

PCB holds talks with PSL franchises

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
A positive and constructive meeting was held between the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and all the franchise owners of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in Lahore on October 7. 

The PCB media release informed that the participants engaged in positive and fruitful discussions with a view to resolving outstanding matters, disputes and grievances. 

"Both sides held healthy candid discussions airing concerns and their respective viewpoints on outstanding matters,” the statement said. 

The PCB presented to the team owners a draft proposal which has been put together at the behest of the franchises who requested that the Board explore a more equitable model. 

Both sides, according to the PCB, have agreed to delve deeper into the proposed model with their respective financial and operational teams over the coming weeks and aim to resolve outstanding concerns and find a mutually beneficial position as soon as possible.

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Babar Azam not taking any opponents lightly

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Pakistan's T20 and ODI skipper, Babar Azam, has categorically stated that it’s out of question taking any international team lightly in this era.

"We have to apply ourselves in the home series against Zimbabwe to win it ahead of the tour of New Zealand later this year. If perform well against the tourists we would be oozing with confidence when tackling the Black Caps in their own den,” the celebrated batsman observed in a session with media.

“Efforts would be made to perform 110 percent in the series against Zimbabwe. We have to try to win these matches which would be helpful for playing tests and ODIs in New Zealand,” he added. 

“In New Zealand we have to play in different conditions, so if we play well here that would build up our conference to play against Kiwi. The ongoing National T20 Cup is an excellent opportunity for youngsters to impress and stake a claim for a spot in the team that will play Zimbabwe. The series against Zimbabwe will also serve as practice for the tour of New Zealand,” Babar Azam reckoned.

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October 7, 2020

Dean Jones farewelled at Melbourne Cricket Ground

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The historic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) was the venue where Dean Jones was privately farewelled by his family with a lap of honour on October 2. 

The public address system of the MCG played tunes by musicians Elton John and INXS, who happened to be friends of the former Australian batsman turned commentator. 

The memorial service was limited to just 10 attendees, which included wife Jane and daughters Isabella and Phoebe, because of Victoria's ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown. A public memorial service for Jones has been planned at a later stage when more mourners will be permitted to attend. 

"We have been deeply moved by the outpouring of love for Dean over the last week and can't thank everyone enough for their support and for sharing their memories with us," Jane Jones remarked on the occasion, adding that the family had been extremely moved by the way her husband's life and cricket had been remembered and revered by so many. 

"It has been an awful time to navigate as a family, but I could not have thought of a more fitting place to say goodbye to my husband than under the lights of his beloved MCG. What better way to honour him than with the music of his friends Elton John and INXS echoing throughout the empty stadium. We'd like to extend a huge thank you to the Melbourne Cricket Club and the MCG for their willingness to create our personal tribute to Dean and for Cricket Australia's support,” she said. 

"We would also like to extend a big thank you to the Department of Foreign Affairs for ensuring Dean was returned home to us as quickly as possible. We will forever miss Dean's energy, his zest for life, passion for cricket and his love for us as a family," she acknowledged.

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October 6, 2020

Afghanistan’s Najeeb Tarakai dies at 29

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By Masood Sattar Khan

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
One of Afghanistan’s top order batsmen, Najeeb Tarakai, has died at the age 29 after succumbing to injuries sustained in a road accident according to tweet issued by the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on October 6. 

“ACB and Afghanistan Cricket Loving Nation mourns the heart breaking & grievous loss of its aggressive opening batsman & a very fine human being Najeeb Tarakai (29) who lost his life to tragic traffic accident leaving us all shocked! May Allah Shower His Mercy on him,” the ACB tweeted. 

The ACB had earlier tweeted on October 3 that Tarakai had been severely injured in a car accident the previous day and had subsequently undergone a surgery. 

He was being treated in Nangarhar at the time and it was communicated officially that he would be shifted to Kabul or outside Afghanistan as soon as possible whenever allowed by health officials. 

Tarakai's, who represented Mis Ainak Knights in the Shpageeza Premier League last month, had represented his country in 12 T20Is and one ODI for Afghanistan, having made his international debut in 2014.

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