August 31, 2009

WANTED: A representative body of sports journalists in Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The first seed of the Sports Writers’ Association (SWA) in England was sown in November 1947 with that legendary statement: "It is desirable that an association of sporting journalists be formed.

Historically it were half a dozen representatives of the national sporting press who had made the historic decision over the lunch and five of them formed an exploratory committee that met in a Fleet Street about a month later.

The Association was founded on 15 April 1948 with 21 members on board. The first annual dinner was held in 1949 and the following year the first ballot was held among members, by then numbering nearly 100, to determine which six men had contributed most to Britain's international sporting prestige - still the criterion on which annual awards are made.

As they entered the 21st century, and after the Association merged with the Professional Sports Photographers' Association and began to represent an ever widening range of sports journalists across all media, the SWA changed its name to Sports Journalists' Association (SJA).

It’s the Britain's voice at the annual congress of the Association Internationale de la Press Sportive (AIPS). It’s also affiliated to the Union European de la Presse Sportive (UEPS).

Today the sports journalists’ fraternity of Pakistan needs a similar platform more than ever before. It’s high time for the working journalists of the country to rise above the self and join hands to lay the foundation of a body that could become Pakistan’s voice in international sports journalism affairs.

Regrettably the element of unity has been found missing in the ranks of the sports journalists in Pakistan and the efforts made once in while by a few individuals have not yielded the desired results.

How could one expect to get the results if the objectives are not clearly spelled out or when the people attending the meetings to form the Association are shy of reporting it in their newspapers or broadcasting it on air?

Not a single working sports journalist in Pakistan might disagree with the observation that a vibrant national body is so desperately needed now that could represent the national sports media on the Pakistan Olympic Association's press advisory committee, and offer advice to members covering other major events. The body, once formed, could also act as a consultant to organizers of major events who need guidance on media requirements.

The absence of a truly representative body is costing the working journalists dearly. A battery of journalists is sent to the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and South Asian Games by the POA but less than half of them actually go out there for the coverage of the event. The POA has its priorities and they don’t have a mechanism that could allow them to sponsor the genuine journalists only and discard those going for joyrides.

The proposed body should have an essential service for all sports journalists-writers, sub-editors, photographers, presenters, producers, cameramen and editors-working in national and regional press, radio, television and websites.

A few individuals have attempted to form a national body with the hidden and at times even not so hidden objective of furthering their own vested interests.

The Pakistan Sports Writers Federation (PSWF) was founded and run by S M Naqi, Farooq Mazhar and Ali Kabir who considered themselves above board and dared doing things in the manner they pleased. The body revolved around these gentlemen, two of whom have now passed away and the third one has been laid low by illness. Unsurprisingly the body has remained dormant for the past one decade.

It was in the late 1980s when another group, led by Anisuddin Khan, emerged by the name of the Federation of Sports Journalists of Pakistan (FSJP) and they held a couple of meetings at the YMCA in Karachi that were very well attended. But the FSJP could not take off, primarily due to the lack of vision of its leaders who just couldn’t set the ball rolling.

The most significant step yet towards the formation of a truly representative body was witnessed in 2006 when Ehsan Qureshi mustered the support of the majority of the working journalists to form the Sports Journalists Association of Pakistan (SJAP). He did a lot of running around to establish the Association on solid footing but the move was sabotaged by hypocrisy.

There have been a couple of initiatives of late but unfortunately neither of them might be able to serve the purpose and it’s an extremely unlikely to have anything like the SJA of England coming up.

Amjad Aziz Malik and Zahid Farooq Malik, who somehow made their way to Milan, Italy, earlier this year to attend the AIPS Congress, have set off to revive the PWSF, albeit in a controversial and undemocratic manner.

The Maliks mobilized their resources to organize a two-day seminar/workshop at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad on August 15 and 16 but they very conveniently omitted the open debate session that deprived the participants the chance of putting forward their suggestions about the election process.

Instead of discussing the matter out in the open, the Maliks deemed it proper to close deals with the persons of their own choice and they came on stage only to announce the names of the people having been nominated for various assignments.

It was a wonderful idea to have invited the sports journalists from every nook and corner of the country. But by sharing the key posts between themselves and not even bothering to seek vote of confidence from the house undid their own good work.

Fingers have also been pointed towards both the Maliks about their standing in the profession of sports journalism in particular. They have not won friends by avoiding elections and declaring themselves as the President and the Secretary of the self-proclaimed PSWF.

If they were sincere to the cause of the profession and serious in reviving the body they should have simply formed a committee of three to five members to carry out the nationwide membership drive after which elections could have been held.

Soon afterwards the ‘bigwigs’ of sports journalism in Karachi met over tea but they were unable to come to any conclusion either. The organizers were short of concrete ideas and one was unsure about the purpose of the hastily arranged meeting.

It was disappointing to listen to the remarks of the veterans of the profession, who appeared confused and double-minded. If they were unable to resolve whether to form a national association or restrict themselves to a city body it was a clear reflection of lack of homework or division of opinion.

Abdul Majid Bhatti and Shahid Akhtar Hashmi, who conducted the proceedings, were unclear about the issue either. Waheed Khan, for reasons beyond comprehension, was not prepared to look beyond Karachi while Anisuudin Khan tried to impose his thoughts in the usual manner of his.

Although quite a few big names of the profession were in attendance in the meeting at the Karachi Club, besides the young guns, a consensus could not be developed and by the look of things yet another opportunity was wasted.

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August 29, 2009

Salman Khan may or may not own an IPL team


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There are contradicting reports whether the Bollywood icon, Salman Khan, is going to own a team in the future editions of the Indian Premier League (IPL) or his recent meeting with the IPL Commissioner, Lalit Modi, was nothing more than a courtesy call.

It was reported the other day that Salman Khan had shown interest in buying a franchise in the IPL but brother Sohail Khan denied the news.

"It's not true. Salman is not buying any IPL team. Yesterday when he was shooting for Dus Ka Dum I called up bhai and asked him whether it was true and he denied it," brother Sohail was quoted as saying.

The speculation grew from the moment Salman had a meeting with Modi at a suburban Mumbai hotel and it was Modi who broke the news of Salman’s interest in owning a cricket team which he was going to introduce in 2011.

"He has been interested in buying a team for quite some time. Today, we had a brief meeting and I explained how to go about with the task. I can assure you that Salman is not the only star who is thinking of buying a team. I have had around 28 queries and the list will surely go up," Modi announced.

But the sources close to Salman indicated that it was just an informal meeting and the Bollywood star did not meet Modi with an aim to own a team, he just asked him what's happening with the IPL and some other details.

If Salman in indeed interested and does make a successful bid, Salman will join an impressive list of Bollywood stars who own IPL teams. Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla have a shareholding in Kolkata Knight Riders while Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty have invested in King’s XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals respectively.

The IPL, launched to cash in on the popularity of Twenty20 cricket following India’s conquest in the inaugural World Cup of the shortest version of the game, brought in huge sums of money.

The multi-million dollar Twenty20 series featured almost all top international players and it became an instant hit with the entertainment element and the overwhelming official support from the movers and shakers of the game.

Lalit Modi is the man behind the show and he remains eager to lure the celebrities to explore how they could join the bandwagon. Obviously the stars of Bollywood prove more than useful tool in selling cricket as well. The greater number of stars that the tournament attracts certainly helps in further boosting the profile of IPL.

It remains to be seen if Salman Khan, with his preoccupations, does decide to have a go at the IPL. Apart from Salman, Ajay Devgan and Sanjay Dutt are also reportedly interested in owning IPL teams.

"He (Salman) is aware of the price of a franchise, which will be between US $200 to US $300 million. He has been keen for some time now, so he was curious about the process of auctions and the money involved,” Modi claimed in a television interview.

The request for proposal and tender for the two new teams will be floated by December and the auction will take place in January 2010. This is done to give the new owners enough time to set up a team and participate in the auction for IPL 4 for the new players.

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August 27, 2009

Ponting may lose limited overs captaincy for good


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Ricky Ponting has become the first Australian captain since Billy Murdoch to have surrendered the Ashes in England two times. It was a closely fought series in 2005 and the hosts were in possession of a very strong and balanced outfit led by the inspirational Michael Vaughan.

Ponting had a younger outfit at his disposal when he returned to defend the Ashes, after having snatched it most emphatically at home in the interim period, in the summer of 2009. England too had a relatively inexperienced side with Andrew Strauss having taken over the reigns of captaincy only last winter.

Many experts rated Australia as the favourites to win the Ashes battle despite the fact that Ponting’s boys had not been all that inconsistent during the past one year. They were finding it difficult to regain supremacy in the absence of the stalwarts like Shane Warne, Matthew Hayden, Justin Langer, Adam Gilchrist and Glenn McGrath.

The Australians did possess a formidable bench-strength but their management probably overestimated the youngsters on the basis of their performance in the domestic competitions or in the limited opportunities at the international level.

Obviously Ponting would also have been a pat of the strategy to get the old guard replaced with new blood. But there is a thin line between confidence and over-confidence. The Australians were ruling the world because they had been blessed with an outstanding team and the captain didn’t have much role to play in motivating or guiding the tried and trusted campaigners.

I maintain that it was a blunder on part of the Australians to have let go all their champion characters so quickly. There was still a lot of cricket left in them when the impression was being created that they were over the hill.

Australia, I reckon, would have been a much stronger proposition if people like Warne, Hayden and Gilchrist were still around. Their outstanding performance in the Indian Premier League was a clear reflection of them being in fine shape.

Ponting should share the blame for fast-tracking the exit of the veterans. Being the captain he should have batted for them even if the management had the plans to replace them.

Now it’s Ponting’s turn to face the music. There are many people who desire his head to be put on the chopping block. Although the Board has come out in his support, besides some of his teammates, the feeling has frown that his days in office are numbered.

Ponting has said that he’s is open to the idea of handing deputy Michael Clarke the leadership responsibilities for the Twenty20 and one-day teams, and preserving himself for Test cricket. He has no other options either. He must have realized that the countdown has begun and it’s the beginning of the end for him.

Ponting himself got the one-day leadership in 2002 while Steve Waugh was doing the business in Test cricket. They shared the captaincy until Waugh quit the game 2004. Since then Ponting was the first-choice captain of Australia's Test, ODI and Twenty20 sides.

Now Clarke is most likely to be handed over the reigns for ODI and T20I with Ponting to lead the team in Tests only.

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August 26, 2009

Flintoff signs off on a high


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Andrew Flintoff’s Test career has come to an end rather prematurely. The versatile England all-rounder was having serious fitness over the past few years and he probably made the right decision to quit the longer version of the game.

He was a potentially great cricketer but somehow could not do justice to his talents. He couldn’t produce the kind of consistency which the champion all-rounders like Tony Greig and Ian Botham had done for the country before him.

Yet Flintoff was a colossus for the team and his presence in the field was certainly a source of encouragement and inspiration for his teammates. He was one of those tough characters who awed the opponents.

Andrew Strauss and his team could not have wished a better sendoff for the big all-rounder than the massive win over Australia in the fifth and final Test at The Oval that allowed England to regain the Ashes.

Ideally Flintoff would have loved contributing more substantially in his farewell Test but he would obviously be delighted with the end result. It was a comprehensive victory over the Aussies and more importantly it enabled England to lay their hands on the Ashes that has not stayed for long with them during the last couple of decades.

Flintoff, however, had a hand in bringing about the victory on the penultimate day of the decisive game. With Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey on song, the Australians were cruising in the afternoon session and there were hints of the contest getting tighter than was being anticipated at the start of the innings.

It was Flintoff’s brilliant direct hit that found Ponting short of his crease and ended the threatening partnership. The run out of the Australian skipper opened the floodgates and England cashed in to seal the fate of the game.

It was a magnificent piece of fielding that not only brought to an end the dangerous partnership but also boosted the morale of the side whose shoulders were beginning to drop during the onslaught.

Flintoff was a tough guy on the field but he knew the importance of human qualities. "I would rather be regarded as a decent bloke rather than any sort of cricketer I might have been. That is far more important to me. Whatever you do on the cricket field is one thing, but being able to face yourself in the mirror every day and say 'You're not a bad egg', that is far more important. Cricket is one thing, but I want some friends afterwards,” he observed rather modestly.

"I don't think I ever achieved greatness and I don't profess to. I was asked, 'have you been a great cricketer', and the obvious answer is no. That's the Bothams, the Sobers, the Imran Khans, the Tendulkars, the Ricky Pontings, who achieved greatness over a long period of time by playing Test after Test after Test,” he added.

"I have had an Ashes victory twice, I have had a Test career where I have played 79 Test matches, and hopefully I will go on playing one-day internationals, so from a professional point of view I am happy. For the bulk of my career I have played through pain and with injury, so to be out on the field was an achievement in some ways. But is that greatness? No," Flintoff conceded.

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August 25, 2009

Strauss made the difference


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

If anybody deserved to claim the coveted Ashes trophy at The Oval on August 23 it was Andrew Strauss. The England captain had only led from the front but he also contributed the most significantly to the success of his team.

Although there was a Man of the Series from either side, I have little doubt in my mind that Strauss would have edged out Michael Clarke if there were a single award. So awesome was the contribution of the England skipper who gave a perfect exhibition of leading by example.

Strauss was rewarded for his persistence and leadership qualities. He changed gear at will at top of the order to provide a stable platform for his teammates who must have felt motivated by the consistency of their captain.

Strauss was able to execute his plans nearly to perfection primarily because he was scoring runs in nearly every outing in the middle. Conversely it certainly becomes a different ball game when the captain of a team is unable to perform.

He scored close to 500 runs in the five-match series at an average of over 50. The second highest scorer in the series from England, Matt Prior, was way behind the skipper. Prior made 261 while Strauss aggregated 474.

England would have been in deep trouble without the contributions from Strauss, let alone coming anywhere close to Australia and they could have been in danger of facing another massive series defeat.

Strauss held the key to England’s fortunes in their bid to regain the Ashes and he rose to the occasion splendidly to engineer the most famous win of his career yet.

"For me, I suppose it is better than 2005, because I've captained the side. But we've moved forward from then, there are different personalities involved, and a different management team as well," Strauss observed.

"It's one of those situations that you can't prepare yourself for, and you don't let yourself think about that moment in case it never comes. We were all just running around like idiots, to be honest. That's as special a moment as you'll get on a cricket field - 2005 will live long in my memory, and these two moments are as special as anything I'll go through," he added.

“We went through so many emotions today. "Hope, frustration, worry... despair at times when we didn't look like taking a wicket. You don't realise how hard it is to get over the line until you do actually get over that line," he said while recalling the tension and excitement of the day when the Ashes came into his grabs.

"It feels pretty special to be standing here right now. It feels like a lot more than seven or eight months ago when I took over. There's been a lot of water under the bridge, because we were in a pretty bad state, to be honest with you. But it's an amazing day, and one that seemed a long way off after Headingley. But all credit to the guys, because they had to dig deep. An Ashes series forces a player to dig deep, and the guys have done that and come out fighting. It's a special moment for all of us," the England captain reckoned.

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August 24, 2009

England outclass Australia in decider to regain Ashes in style


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Andrew Strauss and his men proved me right by outclassing the once mighty Australia in the fifth and final Test at The Oval to reclaim the Ashes in style. With 197 runs separating the two sides in the all-important battle there could not be any argument who was better equipped to tackle the pressure.

The experts as well as the bookies firmly believed that the momentum was with Australia entering the fifth Test but I had concluded my write-up on August 11 having said: England, I feel, can still turn it around in the decider at The Oval because there’s not much to pick between the two sides.

I don’t think many people agreed with my observations as they were unwilling to England a chance after the debacle in the fourth Test at Headingley where Australia had registered a comprehensive innings victory.

The reason why I backed England even after their massive defeat in the previous game was my conviction of Strauss being an inspiring leader with the team right behind him. I had a feeling that the Australians would be found wanting if challenged by the scruff of their neck.

I expected England to post at a least 400 on the board when Strauss himself led the charge on the first morning. With just one wicket down and over a hundred runs in the bank in the first session the platform was set for the hosts to put together an imposing total.

It was a bit surprising to find Paul Collingwood take so many deliveries to get a feel of the pitch in at a stage when the Australian bowlers were looking ragged after being counter-attacked by Strauss and Ian Bell.

Australia pulled it back by dismissing Bell and Collingwood in quick succession. The run out of debutant Jonathan Trott didn’t help England cause either and they must have felt let down by the middle-order when bowled out for 332 early on second day.

Stuart Broad’s sensational spell later in the day destroyed Australia and the home side was in great position to seal the fate of the game. The ever-improving Broad swung the ball appreciably to bring about the collapse that literally ensured the return of the ‘urn’ to the Mother country.

It was the turn of debutant Trott to steal the limelight in England’s second innings. He scored a magnificent century to stretch the overall lead past the magical figure of 500. The youngster took the lead from his captain whose second half century of the game was equally crucial as the first one.

Australia had more than two days to get to the target and when they ended the third day at 80 without loss there were quite a few people who thought they could still rewrite history.

The records are meant to be broken and the history is ought to be rewritten. But with available resources it was next to impossible to anticipate one coming at The Oval on August 23.

Michael Hussey played his best knock of the series but never did he look in a position to change the course of the match. The run outs of Ponting and Michael Clarke were resulted by the alertness of the England fielders who sensed blood and meant business.

Steve Harmison operated at over 90 miles an hour to demolish the tail quickly to prevent the game entering the final day. Off-spinner Graeme Swann was rewarded for his good work and it was probably in the fitness of things that he took the final wicket.

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August 22, 2009

Mind Sports Association join hands with Chess players’ body


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) has moved a step forward by having signed an agreement with the Pakistan Chess Players Association (PCPA) on August 20 to carry out their mutual objective of further development of the mind sport in the country.

The agreement was signed by Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP and Shahzad Mirza, Secretary General, PCPA, with two former officials of the Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP), Shah Nawaz Khan and Mohammad Ibrahim Khan, being the witnesses.

As a result of the agreement, the MSAP and PCPA will now join hands in particular for the Inter-Collegiate venture besides carrying out other chess promotional events from time to time.

The agreement has been signed initially for a period of three years and thereafter it could be extended to tenure of three more years with mutual consent.

The MSAP has recognized the PCPA being, founded last August, as a national body of the top chess players and organizers.

The PCPA, on its part, has agreed to unconditionally place their resources at the disposal of the MSAP, having reaffirmed its commitment by signing the agreement. It has been clarified that separate Memorandums of Understanding (MOU) will be signed specific between MSAP and PCPA for future events.

Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, described the signing of agreement with the PCPA as a big step towards the further promotion of chess in the country.

“The longest of journeys commence with the first step. We are delighted to have on board the active chess players and organizers who could really make things happen on a fast track,” he reckoned.

Shahzad Mirza, one of the only two International Masters of chess in Pakistan, also believed that the MSAP support for the PCPA would be hugely beneficial in generating more activities from the grassroots level.

“The PCPA has come alive with this agreement. This was the impetus we needed to make our presence felt on the scene in a big way. Our joint efforts would certainly help in raising the standard of chess in Pakistan that’s very much on top in the list of our priorities,” he added.

The agreement between the MSAP and the PCPA augurs very well for the future of mind sports in general and chess in particular. Together they can certainly take the game to another level.

It’s indeed a pity that like many other sports, chess has also suffered due to the politicking by the national federation whose officials have actually done more harm to the game instead of having contributed anything for its development.

The emergence of the MSAP last year was a blessing as they arrived on the scene with some concrete plans and more importantly the idea was to ‘give’ rather than ‘take’ anything away from it.

Bridge and scrabble are the other two games being promoted by the MSAP who are fortunate to be having visionary leaders like Khurshid Hadi and Tariq Rasheed Khan. Both these gentlemen are from the sport of bridge but they are equally interested in promoting chess and scrabble.

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August 21, 2009

India on verge of becoming top ranked ODI side


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Indian team has had the habit of disappointing their fans with the most horrible performances against the run of play. For some reasons they have not been consistent enough despite being in the possession of a quality outfit.

At times one gets the impression that the movers and shakers in the Indian Board are quite content in watching their team take the second position when they appear quite capable of being on top of the three.

The Indians don’t really look all that keen to attain the number one position. It’s hard to comprehend their reluctance to occupy the top slot. Be it a tournament or the rankings of the International Cricket Council (ICC) they make others feel that they are more than happy to be placed among the top teams rather than being the leading outfit.

There have been numerous tournaments over the years when the fancied Indian outfits have fallen away in the final after being in the driving seat throughout. I think they have lost more one-day finals than any other team.

The latest ODI rankings issued by the ICC, following the conclusion of the recent Zimbabwe-Bangladesh series show India just one point behind leaders South Africa. It very clearly means that Mahendra Singh Dhoni stands a very good chance of taking his team to the top of the points table if his team plays to its potential in the upcoming triangular series in Sri Lanka.

That’s a million dollar question. Will the Indians aim for the number one ahead of the Champions Trophy being held in South Africa next month or will they remain contended with the second spot.

We have seen it so many times the Indians giving it away against unfancied opponents. Neither Sri Lanka nor New Zealand have that kind of powerful team as India but one can’t be sure if Dhoni’s men would be pushing hard for victory.

If the Indians do go hard at both their opponents there’s very little chance of them not accomplishing the goal of winning the tournament and taking the number one position in the rankings. We need to wait a little to know that.

South Africa currently occupy the top position in the ICC’s ODI ranking with 127 points while India are just a solitary point adrift at second position. Australia are placed third with 119 points while England are number four with 111 points.

New Zealand (110), Pakistan (109) and Sri Lanka (104) are not that far behind on the next three positions but the West Indies have only 78 points to be at the eighth position.

Bangladesh, on a high of late, are fast closing the gap having accumulated 55 points to be ranked number nine. The tenth position is taken by Ireland with 27 points with Zimbabwe having slipped to the second last position on the list with only 26 points. Kenya remain at the bottom, not having gained any point yet.

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August 19, 2009

Resurgence of bookies threatens cricket once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Anti-Corruption and Security Unit (ACSU) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) has to become more vigilant now in view of the recent ‘disclosures’ of the resurgence of the illegal bookmakers.

Sir Paul Condon, the Chairman of the ACSU, was absolutely right in having pointed out in the ICC meetings in Dubai and London during the last one year or so that the Twenty20 cricket posed the greatest corruption threat to the game since the dark days of the 1990s.

The Twenty20 tournaments, having been organized during the past couple of years, are believed to have provided the perfect opportunity to the bookmakers to renew their contacts in the cricket circles.

As we are discovering now, the bookmakers were not going to limit themselves to the Twenty20 events once they have re-established firm foothold in the cricket arena. The reports are filtering in, albeit very slowly, that attempts were being made to ‘fix’ the matches of longer duration as well.

The news has broken out the other day that the Australian team management filed a report with the ICC's ACSU after a player was approached by a man suspected of links to illegal bookmaking.

It was reported that the approach was made in the bar of the team's London hotel, the Royal Kensington Garden, following Australia's Ashes defeat at Lord's in July. The matter is reportedly under investigation.

The Australian player was believed to have informed the senior officials immediately and, following ICC protocol, team manager Steve Bernard filed a report with the ACSU.

Not very long ago there were reports that some of the Pakistan players had been approached by illegal bookmakers at their team hotel in Colombo during their recent tour of Sri Lanka. The matter was investigated by the ACSU. The ICC's Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, declared that there was absolutely no substance to those reports.

"The ICC and its members have a zero-tolerance approach to corruption and rightly so because the integrity of our sport with its spirit is one of its greatest assets. On that basis it is entirely appropriate that any suggestions in relation to that subject are always reported to and properly investigated by the ACSU. I am pleased those investigations have indicated nothing untoward has taken place on this occasion but it is a reminder that all of us - players, officials and supporters - must maintain our vigilance to ensure we remain on top of the issue of corruption,” he was quoted as saying.

Haroon Lorgat and his team at the ICC, however, cannot be expected to sit idle because the matter is very serious indeed and it threatens the future of the game once more. If strict measures are not taken the game could suffer even more than what was witnessed in the 1990s because of the presence of so many communication tools these days.

The ICC should not be making any compromises on this issue because this concerns the future of the game.

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August 18, 2009

Dravid doesn’t have any point to prove


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rahul Dravid is one of those rare guys having kept the interest of his team supreme at all times. He is a perfect role model for the young generation. He has performed exceptionally well over the years without ever having said or done anything close to boasting.

I don’t think anyone in the present generation has mastered the art of batting like him. He is a complete package. Because he is technically so sound he always has the freedom of changing gears.

Like any other human being he has had occasional his off days but never has one noticed any lack of application on his part. He has always given his best. The level of consistency attained by him in the highest form of the game is exemplary.

It was so typical of Dravid to have reacted modestly to his return in India’s ODI squad for next month's tri-series in Sri Lanka and the Champions Trophy. He didn't consider the recall as a chance to prove his detractors wrong.

"I have never played my cricket that way, wanting to prove a point. To me, it's about trying your best to be the best you can be, day after day, in whichever format you are playing and for whichever team you are playing," the former Indian captain was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview.

"It's nice to be back, I am very happy. I am looking forward to the Sri Lanka tri-series and the Champions Trophy in South Africa, to giving it my best. It will be nice to catch up with the boys once again," Dravid said.

"I will do my best for the team's cause. I have always believed in preparing well before a match or a competition and it will be no different this time," he added.

The prolific Dravid will now be making a comeback in the national one-day side after about a couple of years. He had played in the Test matches in this period but the selectors had not picked him for the limited overs games with the emphasis being on trying out the exciting crop of youngsters.

The Indian selectors obviously had an obligation to blood the youngsters at the international level after they had done wonders in the domestic competitions. Very few of them, however, managed to do justice to their talents.

There also was a feeling that the newly installed captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was not very keen to have the seniors in the line-up for the ODIs or the Twenty20 Internationals. Sachin Tendulkar, it’s believed, was also reluctantly included.

Dhoni had every right to back his boys who certainly raised the bar in the department of fielding but their batting technique was found wanting on pitched where the ball moved and darted.

Dhoni would also have realized after the recent failures of the young batsmen that it was about time to turn back to the tried and trusted campaigners for an event as important as the Champions Trophy. Dravid would be indeed be a trump card for Dhoni now.

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August 17, 2009

Welcome back Rahul Dravid


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
What a great move by the Indian cricket authorities to have recalled Rahul Dravid in the one-day arena! I think they did realize finally that life was not all about glamour and lights. The tough characters generally play the pivotal role in bringing about the results be it the entertainment industry or the field of cricket.

When we talk of mental toughness, the one man who comes to mind right away is Dravid. He was probably sidelined from the One-day Internationals in order to accommodate the enterprising youngsters who were knocking at the doors for some time.

The young guns like Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma have been provided the opportunity up the order but they have not been able to deliver consistently yet. The selectors have lost faith now in Sharma at least for the time being, after his run of poor scores of late, but the left-handed Raina has made the cut once more.

Dravid’s recall has been prompted by quite a few factors. Obviously the recent failure of Sharma and other young lads in challenging conditions must have created doubts about their abilities to cope with the pressure.

Dravid’s own performance in the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) staged in South Africa earlier this year was brilliant. He had proved the point that skills and experience were the vital elements even in the shortest version of the game.

Thirdly the upcoming Champions Trophy was going to be held in South Africa where the pitches would not be as flat as the ones in the Indian sub-continent. The selectors had to keep in mind the importance of grafters for conditions unfriendly for batting.

The selectors have done the right things by going back to Dravid instead of blooding another raw youngster and jeopardizing his future. It’s always a wise move to go back to the basics.

India would need the expertise of Dravid and Sachin Tendulkar for putting the big totals on the board. The likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh can do the business in the latter part of the innings but they would love to have wickets in hand when going for the acceleration in the death overs.

The presence of Dravid brings stability to the Indian batting that has been found wanting more often than not in conditions not ideal for batting. He can anchor the innings and more importantly his sound technique would allow him to weather the early overs when the ball does a little bit extra.

Dravid has been a class act throughout his career. He is a team man to the core who is always there to lift the morale of the side. He will indeed feel greater energy in his legs now for the selectors have reposed confidence in him for the big challenge ahead.

With the Indians having a lethal fast bowling attack these days, Dravid is more likely to remain stationed at the slips instead of doing the running around in the outfield. The stage is set for him grab the headlines once more.

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August 13, 2009

Sri Lanka present perfect Independence Day gift to Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The love and affection the Sri Lankans have had for Pakistan over the years were evident in the one-off Twenty20 International between the two friendly nations at the Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on the night of August 12.

Sri Lanka, having traditionally been generous towards Pakistan, gave a perfect sendoff present to Shahid Afridi and his boys. In fact it was a huge gift for the entire nation on the eve of the Independence Day falling on August 14.

Pakistan could not have wished for a better ending to the tour. As they say all is well that ends well. Who cares now for the losses in the Test series and the ODI series? Isn’t it a big bonus winning the last three games by imposing margins after having been outplayed in all departments of the game?

Now who can classify this as a disastrous tour when you win the last couple of One-day Internationals by over one hundred runs and the Twenty20 International by a whopping margin of 52 runs?

Well done Sri Lanka for having let the Pakistan team return with plenty of smiles. They proved themselves the most gracious of hosts for Pakistan once more. The only ‘cause’ of regret for them might be the Test series win because never in the past they had dared doing it.

There was plenty of noise and buzz at the ground when the two teams, who contested the World Twenty20 final in June, were up against each other. Little did the crowd know that they won’t be getting the chance to witness a close match!

The entire concept of a Twenty20 game is killed when one of the contestants is not on it with heart and soul. Obviously it becomes a one-way traffic when only one team is playing for win and the other win is there to fill in the numbers.

It was a pity that the Sri Lankans, otherwise such a talented and balanced outfit, gave such a poor account of themselves in the format of the game they are expected to excel more often than not while playing on their own soil.

How often would you watch an international cricketer drop a sitter as Lasith Malinga did in the second over of the game that allowed Pakistan to attack the bowlers after a quiet start? It was the simplest of chances but Malinga made a mess of it. It very clearly demonstrated the lack of focus on part of the Sri Lankans.

Mahela Jayawardene, a former captain and one of the best fielders in the world, ensured that Malinga wasn’t embarrassed by dropping even an easier catch on the last ball of the Pakistan innings. He had earlier let one go between his legs while fielding in the deep.

So there was plenty of amusement in the game and the Sri Lankans never really looked in the hunt. Shahid Afridi could not have asked for any ‘softer’ opposition in his first game as captain at the international level. 

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August 12, 2009

Younis Khan condemned once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Younis Khan is getting away with it in the international cricket with his imperfect technique with the bat for there are very few quality bowlers on the scene of late. Had he been playing in the era when the West Indian fast bowlers used to got batsmen out by terrorizing them, I don’t think he would have attained even half of the batting average he has in Test cricket or even One-day Internationals.

Yes the quality of bowling has gone down over the years and it hasn’t put the batsmen to the kind of examination we used to witness in the 1980s and even the 1990s. With the emphasis lately on limited overs cricket and the ultra-short versions of the game like Twenty20 making their way to the top, the world is fast losing the attacking bowlers who possessed the capabilities of cutting the batsman into halves.

Younis Khan has been installed as the Pakistan captain for the wrong reasons. He wasn’t appointed the skipper for having any leadership skills or any other quality that could be termed inspirational.

He has always been handed over the reigns of captaincy because there’s no other choice. He had messed up the opportunity in the past and he is doing it again. Everyone knows he’s not the man for the job. 

Anyone having interacted with the Pakistan skipper is aware of his shortcomings and the obvious lack of will power. He has lacked consistency in giving out statements to the media. One day he would say Pakistan would be lucky if they could come close to the Australians. Just a few days later he claims Pakistan would whitewash the Aussies.

More painful than his flaws in batting and the handling of the team has been his attitude while dealing with the media. He has been a media shy fellow all along and the only time he appeared to have come out of his shell was soon after getting a triple hundred in the Karachi Test against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

There was a brief period when one thought that he had learnt his lessons and would conduct himself much more professionally. Unfortunately he has not believed in learning from mistakes, believing that he would get away with it with everything as he does in the cricket field.

Younis Khan, I am afraid, is mistaken. He is probably unaware of the damage he would cause to the game in the country by his haughty attitude. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) cannot be blamed either because they don’t have any replacement for him at the moment.

One of the journalist bodies has come very hard at Younis Khan for his follies. The Sports Journalists Association of Sindh (SJAS) has strongly condemned the continued unacceptable rude attitude of the Pakistan captain towards Pakistani media. 

“It has now become a regular feature of Younis Khan that he does not talk to media up on his arrival from abroad when the media personals spend sleepless nights to wait for him at airport. He once again opted not to talk to media at airport after coming home from Sri Lanka,” Sardar Khan, President, SJAS, said in a statement.

“One has been seeing his immaturity as captain on the field but his rude behavior is now becoming a real issue with media who have to perform their professional obligation. Younis Khan should realize that with captaincy there come hosts of responsibility he should be able to cope with them,” Sardar Khan added. 

“The Pakistan captain was quite arrogant with the media while returning home after winning T20 world cup in June. He did not talk to the media at airport and then he lashed out at media who had gone to cover him at his residence in Karachi. He seems not being able to handle the responsibilities that he should shoulder as captain of Pakistan team. The SJAS has taken strong note of this routine and hereby requests Younus Khan to amend his attitude to behave and cooperate decently with the media to avoid any bitterness,” the SJAS President advised. 

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August 11, 2009

England can still do it after debacle at Headingley


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Australians have been rewarded for their persistence and positive approach that helped to wipe out England in a matter of two and a half days in the fourth Test at Headingley and the Ashes 2009 now stands at 1-1 with just one more game to go.

England, one up in the series, had to endure quite a few unforeseen problems at the start of the game and they couldn’t overcome them even after Andrew Strauss had won the toss and elected to bat.

The decision of Strauss to bat first reflected the confidence he had in himself and his boys. He appeared to be in aggressive frame of mind with an eye of sealing the series before the fifth Test. In normal circumstances he would have been expected to go into the game with four bowlers and playing an additional batsman.

There was certainly a temptation to bowl first but the England skipper with the great form he’s in chose to put runs on the board. Having included off-spinner Graeme Swann in the playing eleven he must have set his mind on a wearing track on the fourth and final day. Little would have he known that the match would be over inside three days.

It turned out to be a disastrous first morning for England and it was nothing short of a nightmare for them to have been bowled out for 102. It’s not often that the team could stage a comeback after being knocked over so cheaply.

The Australian bowlers made the most of the lively strip by pitching the ball up and the England batsmen were found wanting in coming to terms with the movement in the air and off the wicket. Peter Siddle turned out to be the star with a quick five-wicket haul.

With Strauss perishing early and no Pietersen or Flintoff in the middle-order the Australians knew they were in with a very big chance of routing the hosts. Someone like Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff would have driven those over-pitched deliveries to the fence but the ordinary mortals like Ravi Bopara and Ian Bell neither had the technique nor the heart to counterattack.

The fourth Test was actually won and lost on the first morning when England was bowled out for 102 in their second innings.

I am not sure what prompted the England think-tank to attack the Australians with short-pitched stuff. The half trackers were dispatched merrily by the Australian batsmen who are at home in pulling and cutting.

Skipper Ricky Ponting set the tone with attacking batting and Michael Clarke followed suit. Marcus North played another gem of a knock and the brisk scoring further demoralized England.

The Australians knew the match was in their bag with a monumental first innings lead. Mitchell Johnson reproduced his bowling form that eluded him in the earlier games of the series to further compound England’s problems.

There were some heroics in the later part of England’s second innings that certainly entertained people and also proved the point that their top-order batsmen were guilty of not having applied themselves.

England, I feel, can still turn it around in the decider at the Oval because there’s not much to pick between the two sides.

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August 10, 2009

Where’s ICC Anti-Corruption Unit?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) had informed the International Cricket Council (ICC) that suspected bookmakers were staying on the same floor as the Pakistan players in the team hotel in Colombo.
Salim Altaf, the PCB's Chief Operating Officer (COO), was quoted as saying that the Anti-Corruption and Security Unit of the ICC had a representative in Sri Lanka who was looking into it.

"He will obviously report back to the ICC and I see this taking some time. We will wait for his report," he was reported to have said.

The PCB had approached the ICC after Pakistan lost the three-match Test series as well as the five-match ODI with a couple of one-dayers still to be played during their ongoing tour of Sri Lanka.

Back home Pakistan’s successive defeats in Sri Lanka were being viewed with shock and suspicion because the triumph in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in England was fresh in minds of the people.

The ICC didn’t waste time in acknowledging the report being received from the PCB as one of their spokesmen, Brian Murgatrord, confirmed that the body was aware of the issue at the hotel.
"We can confirm the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit is aware of the matter and will deal with it as appropriate," he was quoted as saying.

The ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit would have hardly got any time to deliberate on the issue before the last two ODIs produced the most unexpected of results and there were people believing that there’s something fishy in the turn of the events.

Sri Lanka, having won the first three ODIs so convincingly to seal the series, lost the last two games with the heaviest of margins thus taking everyone by surprise.

Not sure if the Sri Lankan cricket authorities would be interested in pursuing the matter but it’s for the ICC's Anti-Corruption and Security Unit to have a re-look at the events of the last two ODIs in particular.

It’s hard to comprehend a team, having excelled in the earlier part of the series, playing so unprofessionally or loosely to bring about massive defeats upon themselves. Obviously it’s not easy even to lose a match by a heavy margin and a lot of effort is needed for this exercise as well.

The figures do tell a story. Sri Lanka won the first ODI by 36 runs while defending a total of 232. After routing Pakistan for 168, the hosts won the second game by six wickets with 38 balls remaining. Pakistan posted a total of 288 in the third ODI but Sri Lanka romped home by six wickets with 21 balls in hand.

The most dramatic of turnarounds then began. Pakistan, helped by 29 wides, reached a score of 321 in the fourth game. It was a perfect batting strip of R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo and the hosts were expected to give a befitting reply. But they bundled themselves out for 175 in 36.1 overs to lose the match by a staggering margin of 146 runs.

The history of the previous game was repeated in the fifth and final ODI at the same venue with the hosts crashing to 147 all out in 34.2 overs while chasing a target of 280 to lose the match by 132 runs.

Cricket remains an unpredictable game but why it becomes so predictable at times is anybody’s guess. The ICC must ensure greater discipline and stricter laws should be enforced to counter such events that bring the game to disrepute.

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August 8, 2009

Zaheer to miss Champions Trophy due to IPL injury


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The priorities of the movers and shakers of the Indian cricket remain unclear. It’s not easy to judge what really are the objectives of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)? The element of clarity of thought looks missing.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) has probably done more disservice to the cause of the Indian cricket rather than bringing home glories. The massive commercialization of the game has severely hit their injury-prone cricketers and the performance of their team has declined in major competitions.

The BCCI had succeeded in holding the second edition of the IPL in South Africa earlier this year but it cost them the world Twenty20 crown. As was being speculated the IPL worked to India’s disadvantage and they failed miserably in defending the title they had annexed a couple of years ago.

Now India’s chances of reclaiming the Champions Trophy has taken a serious blow with their spearhead Zaheer Khan being ruled out due to the shoulder injury he suffered while playing for the Mumbai Indians in the IPL. He had fallen on his shoulder while fielding and was subsequently advised rest.

Zaheer, one of the most experienced fast bowlers in world cricket, is out of the Champions Trophy after having undergone a major shoulder surgery in South Africa a few weeks ago. It would come as little surprise if he’s also forced to miss the seven-match home ODI series against Australia in November-December.

The BCCI officials, however, maintain that Zaheer was responding well to the surgery and he was expected to return to international cricket by the end of the year and could play in the home series against Australia.

"Zaheer had an arthroscopic labral repair in his left shoulder on July 13 done by the Johannesburg-based Dr Mark Ferguson. He is undergoing rehabilitation in South Africa and is recovering very well. He is expected to return to international cricket by the end of this year," the BCCI media release revealed.

It was further announced that Zaheer would be arriving home on August 9 for about 10 days or so before returning to South Africa for further rehabilitation on his shoulder.

Zaheer aggravated the injury during the World Twenty20 and had to undergo surgery in South Africa in July, causing him to miss the four-match ODI series in West Indies.He has been advised a minimum of three months' rest. Ferguson, who carried out the surgery, has successfully treated Sachin Tendulkar and former India players Javagal Srinath and Anil Kumble in the past. 

The 30-year-old left-arm quickie has had fitness problems on quite a few occasions in the past as well. It goes to his credit that he has managed to stage a comeback successfully more often than not after a layoff.

He had looked at the peak of his career last season. In tandem with Ishant Sharma he formed the most lethal new ball attack in the world, setting up quite a few victories for India. His absence will be sorely felt.

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August 7, 2009

Tendulkar owes match-winning knocks more than runs


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Not many people would disagree with the fact that Sachin Tendulkar has not been able to do justice with the talents he possessed. He was capable of scoring more prolifically and more consistently than what he has managed to do in about two decades in the international arena.

In a recent interview the master batsman was quoted as confessing that he’s not satisfied with his achievements and hoped to accumulate 15,000 runs and win the World Cup in 2011.

"I am not pleased yet with what I have done. Sunil Gavaskar has told me that I have to get to 15,000 runs. He said he would be angry with me and would come and catch me if I didn't. I admire him so much and to score that many would be a terrific achievement, but that is not the only aim,” Tendulkar observed while mentioning victory in the World Cup in 2011 as his other big cricketing ambition.

Tendulkar, having scored 12773 runs at an average of 54.58 in 159 Tests, should face no problem in getting another 2,227 runs that will help him in cross the barrier of 15,000 runs. That how many games he would require to reach the landmark to be seen. If the form doesn’t desert him, he should be able to do it in less than 30 games.

But more than the runs flowing from his bat, his fans wish him to play more match-winning knocks than what he has done so far. They have cheered him all along, endured his lean patch once in a while. Now they expect him a late flourish from him.

Fitness has remained an issue with him for quite sometime now despite his claim that he has been consistently playing with pain.

"I always play in pain, all the time. I played with a broken finger for the last three months, but you know when pain is manageable or not, and most of the time I can do it. I can still do what I did when I was 25 but the body is changing, so your thought process has to change too. I have had to change how I think, which is about taking less risk,” he said.

Tendulkar doesn’t agree with the observation of John Buchanan, a former Australian coach, who thinks the ‘Little Master’ has now become susceptible to the short ball early in his innings because of a lack of footwork.

"It is only his opinion; John Buchanan doesn't have to be right all the time. If I couldn't handle short deliveries, then I wouldn't still be scoring runs. Maybe he needs to change his opinion. There must be something very wrong with all the bowlers around the world that they have allowed me to score so many runs,” Tendulkar contended.

The good news for Tendulkar’s fans is that he’s not thinking about retirement yet. "I will know when it is the right time, I won't have to be dragged away. I am the person who will make the decision and I will know whether I still belong," he asserted.

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August 6, 2009

England appear on course of regaining Ashes


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It’s always great fun watching encounters between the traditional rivals, Australia and England. With both the teams eager to give more than their one hundred percent the spectators get their money’s worth and the television viewers are more than happy with the recreational value.

One of the most fascinating features of the contests between the two nations is the involvement of the people. Although there are other avenues of recreation available there’s no love lost for the game of cricket.

The fixtures between Australia and England become even more exciting when the two teams are more or less equal in strength as is the case in the ongoing Ashes series. There’s very little to pick between the two sides and all the three Test matches so far have produced cricket of the highest class.

England lead the series 1-0 by virtue of their historic victory at Lord’s. With two more Test matches to go, the hosts cannot be sure of regaining the Ashes but in the prevailing circumstances the Australians will have to do something extraordinary to stage a comeback.

We are in the middle of yet another classic Ashes series. The Australians dominated the first Test but they were denied victory by the last England pair of James Anderson and Monty Panesar.

England called the shots in the second Test but the big partnership between Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin on the fourth day opened up the game and its fate was not sealed until Andrew Flintoff delivered that superb spell on the fifth morning. Believe it or not it had taken England three quarters of a century to register a Test win over Australia at Lord’s.

Ricky Ponting, in the post-match interview, conceded having been outplayed by the determined England side showing great character and resilience after the narrow escape in the previous game.

Australia took to the field in the third Test with fierce determination to square matters at Edgbaston. They made the bold move of dropping the out of form young opener Phillip Hughes, who was being compared to Don Bradman not very long ago.

Mitchell Johnson, having performed so consistently against South Africa in the home and away series last season, too must have come perilously close to losing his spot because of his indifferent form in the first couple of Tests. The Australian team management could not dare dropping Johnson for the third Test.

The indecisiveness in the Australian camp due to the loss of form of two of their key players was understandable. The injuries didn’t help their cause either and they couldn’t enter the Edgbaston Test in the attacking frame of mind that used to be their hallmark in the past.

Although the match was drawn in theory England won on points in the rain-affected third Test., even in the absence of their star batsman, Kevin Pietersen, who will not be in action in the last two Tests either due to health problems.

England, in fact, were pushing for second successive victory on the fifth and final day and it was Michael Clarke who prevented the Aussies from dipping further. It would have been harder for Australia to retain the Ashes, if they were blown away in the third Test as well.

Having escaped with a draw at Edgbaston, Australia will have to lift their game in order to turn the tide in the remaining couple of matches. The momentum is with England and Andrew Strauss is in no mood to give it away.

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August 5, 2009

Wasif’s lively presentation provides I-Lead a head start


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
I-Lead, a joint venture of the Habib University Foundation and the Ministry of Youth, Government of Sindh, looks an ambitious project at the takeoff stage. The launch ceremony at the Habib Public School on July 14 allowed the two partnering organizations to share the salient features of the programme with an audience that comprised of brilliant young athletes, sporting icons, seasoned sports journalists and stakeholders in the sports administration.

The panel discussion featuring the sporting greats was to be the showpiece event of the launch ceremony and it indeed was but the lively presentation by Syed Wasif Rizvi, Chief Executive Officer, Habib University Foundation, was no less brilliant. In fact the presentation was a perfect prelude to the panel discussion.

So the I-Lead project was actually launched with Wasif Rizvi’s presentation on Value of Sports and Physical Education for a Society. The wealth and depth of knowledge on sports possessed by the presenter allowed him to keep the audience involved in the proceedings and trust me there was not a single dull moment in it although the topic he was speaking on was rather dry.

A couple of things stood out in the presentation. One was the well-drafted script rather the resource material using their definition. Secondly it was the wonderful delivery punctuated with anecdotes. 

It’s never a straightforward task keeping the audience involved or absorbed while describing the stuff that’s not very exciting or entertaining. That’s one of the reasons why very few lecturers, professors or teachers are remembered by the students.

Even the presenters well versed with the art of keeping the audience glued to their seats occasionally lapse when confronted with a subject not having much recreational value. So hats off to Wasif Rizvi for having taken the responsibility of doing the tough job on behalf of his team and rising to the occasions. This was a classic example of leading by example.

Now let me turn to the presentation itself in which I-Lead was explained as Inspiring Leadership, Empowerment and Development in Youth Collectivism and Sharing and Togetherness. It was pointed out that Broadening Horizons from Healthy Individuals to Healthy Society was the objective.

Wasif Rizvi threw light on the usual perceptions of sports. He described the virtues of playing sports. He very rightly observed that sports is more than useful tool for enhancing national unity and he cited the recent example of Pakistan’s triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 event that resulted in celebrations in every nook and corner of the country with every segment of the society, not necessarily enjoying the most cordial of relations at other times, took out to streets to share the moment of glory together.

He spoke about sports bringing sense of belonging, pride and commitment. He believed that sports provided a way to promote sense of a cohesive community and it was a mean towards active lifestyle.

Wasif Rizvi made the point that sports was a medium to learn life skills with the athletes getting the opportunity to come across teamwork, goal setting, hard work, sense of responsibility and conflict resolution. He added that sports was also a medium to attain emotional maturity as one learnt winning and losing being the part of the game.

He emphasized that sports was a tool to revive the spirit of a healthy society among youth with 4Es, Educate, Engage, Enlighten and Empower. 

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August 4, 2009

Immediate sacking of Intikhab Alam, Yawar Saeed demanded


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

A senior official of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Dr Muhammad Ali Shah, has demanded the immediate sacking of coach Intikhab Alam and manager Yawar Saeed who are presently in Sri Lanka with the national team.

"In view of Pakistan team's pathetic performance in the ongoing tour of Sri Lanka, I demand sacking of Intikhab and Yawar with immediate effect," Dr Shah, who is also Sindh Sports Minister and President of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA), said in a statement issued to the media the other day.

“The combined age of the two gentlemen (Intikhab Alam and Yawar Saeed) is 150 years and they have failed miserably to deliver. They must be called back home and new coach and manager should be sent to Sri Lanka before the next ODI to revive the spirit of the team," he remarked in the strong-worded statement.

Younis Khan's Pakistan team, having suffered their first-ever Test series loss in Sri Lanka, and are now trailing 0-3 in the ODI series with two more games to play.

The recent reports of the presence of some bookies at same floor and having dinners and teas with unnamed players of the Pakistan team have caused more controversies back home.
Dr Shah, a member of the PCB Governing Board, has also demanded investigations into the alleged presence of unwanted elements in Pakistan team's hotel.

He charged that both Intikhab Alam, a former Pakistan captain, and Yawar Saeed, have failed to exercise control over the team that has resulted in the disastrous performance with both the Test as well as the ODI series having been conceded. 

Dr Shah did not mince words in stating that the same Pakistan outfit could have performed much better and the outcome of the series had been different if they were managed professionally.

Meanwhile Yawar Saeed, Pakistan's manager in Sri Lanka, has denied reports that the players were "approached by suspicious characters" at their team hotel during the two Colombo Tests earlier this month. He was quoted by a newspaper saying that some of the players had complained to him about the presence of undesirable people in the team hotel. 

"Yes we were told by some of the players that a few suspicious people approached them during the Colombo Tests. We lodged a complaint with the hotel management, and they immediately shifted all of us to another floor of the hotel,” Yawar Saeed was quoted as saying.
"No such thing happened. There are usually many other guests at the hotel, who want autographs and photographs with the players, and then maybe invite them for a coffee or something. I just instructed the players not to go out with people they didn't know from before. And that is the usual protocol,” he clarified later.

"No bookie has approached me. If ever one does, I will catch him and hand him over to ICC because these people have destroyed the game," Pakistan captain Younis Khan asserted in a television interview. 

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