January 31, 2013

Excessive international cricket mars Women's World Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The women folks have a reason to feel concerned about the marginal recognition and respect being offered to the ICC Women's World Cup 2013 which started in Mumbai, India, on January 31.

The Women’s World Cup has become a victim of excessive international cricket being played round the year. 

Even a country like India, where cricket is followed by the masses, has found it difficult to generate any kind of intensity for the event which should have created waves in normal circumstances. 

The Indian enthusiasts already have had more than enough of international and semi-international cricket. 

There have been various global competitions at regular intervals plus there’s that Indian Premier League (IPL) which is imposed upon the audience every year. The hosting of Women's World Cup 2013 in India has allowed their men team an unusual rest of three weeks which they might not have got, had the event been taking place in any other country.

With so much cricket taking place in India day in and day out there’s very little hope of the Women's World Cup coming to life although the top eight teams are playing for the trophy. 

Not surprisingly there’s very little awareness about the event even in the cities which are playing host to the event. There's no event branding or advertising of the Women's World Cup in Mumbai with the authorities not appearing keen to promote the event. 

The matches are being televised live but not much effort seems to have been made to bring in the crowds or involve the local communities in a big way. 

There’s a possibility that the organizers didn’t desire spending much on an event like this one whose broadcasting rights obviously would have brought them peanuts compared to the mega events for men. The entry to the stadiums in Mumbai and Cuttack will be free of cost throughout the tournament. 

It remains to be seen if the crowds get bigger as the tournament progresses. The ICC Women's World Cup 2013 is being contested by eight seeded teams who have been divided equally into two groups.

Defending champions England, hosts India, the West Indies and Sri Lanka have been placed in Group A for the league matches to be played in Mumbai while the Group B, whose matches will be staged in Cuttack, features Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa. 

The league matches will continue until February 5 after which top three teams from both groups will qualify for the Super Six stage. 

The teams finishing fourth and last in the two groups will be eliminated from the race for the title but they will take on each other in the 7th place play-off on February 7. 

The Super Six matches will be played from February 8 to 13. The top teams will be advancing to the final to be held on February 17 while the 5th place play-off as well as the 3rd place play-off will be taking place on February 15.

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January 30, 2013

Graeme Smith on verge of completing a unique hundred


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The South African skipper, Graeme Smith, is on verge of completing a unique century when he steps out to lead his country, the top-ranked team in the world, in the first Test against Pakistan in Johannesburg starting on February 1.

He is set to become the first cricketer to captain his team in 100 Test matches. It’s going to be a record that’s unlikely to be emulated in view of the growing popularity of the limited overs games.

Smith will, in fact, have dual celebration on February 1 as its going to be his 32nd birthday as well.

His family and friends are looking forward to the occasion and the Cricket South Africa (CSA) already has declared the first day of the opening Test has as 'Biff day' after the skipper’s nickname.

February 1, 2013 is going to be day which Smith and his teammates might not be able to forget in their lifetime. It’s going to be a momentous occasion for the South African cricket as well.

The CSA, joining in the celebrations in a big way, has also displayed a giant shirt, having the details of all of Smith's centuries printed on it,, on the wall of a popular sports clothing store in a mall in Johannesburg.

The cricket fans have been invited to write a personal message on the whites and some of them will appear on the scoreboard during the match.

It’s going to be a dream-come-true outing for Smith for he will be leading his nation for the 100th time, having made it the number one team of the world. He could not have probably asked for more.

The South African cricket authorities also deserve full credit for having reposed confidence in the leadership skills of a young Smith after the humiliation at home during the ICC World Cup in 2003.

The explosive left-handed opening batsman was only 22, having played only seven Test matches, when the captaincy was passed on to him with the mission to build a team that could rule the world.

He has proved to be the perfect guy in leading by example. He has scored 26 Test centuries and South Africa have either drawn or won the match. It is a record which should indeed make him proud.

Smith has taken on so much responsibility over the years and has delivered more often than not whenever his team needed him most.

"He leads from the front and that's what you want in a leader. If he says something he'll be the first guy to go forward and do it. He's opening the batting, so he's getting out there first and setting the tone and the example. He's an in-your-face kind of guy who will take on challenges and never back down,” Jacques Kallis, the only member of the current South African line-up to have played under different leaders, reckoned.

“He doesn't ask any player to do anything he wouldn't do himself. There are times to be brash and there are times to absorb the pressure and that's what he's developed over the years. He's learnt when to be which character which has probably been his biggest improvement as a captain," Kallis, one of the greatest-ever all-rounders of the game, added.

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January 27, 2013

Foreign spinners continue to wreak havoc in India


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 30-year-old off-spinner, James Tredwell, had taken 11 wickets in nine One-day Internationals prior to his selection for the ODI leg of the tour to India. Given his ordinary track record, he might not have expected to be the most successful bowler from either side in the five-match series.

Little did he know about the generosity of the Indians! Their batsmen are understood to be the best batsmen of spin bowling but the fact and figures present an entirely different picture. 

Tredwell has emerged as the leading wicket-taker in the ODI series between India and England which concluded at Dharamsala on January 27. 

He captured more wickets than any other bowler from either side that included the home spinners who were also overshadowed by him. He was chiefly responsible for earning both the unlikely wins for England in five outings. 

The Indians won the other three games despite being unable to come to terms to him. He was considered the main threat for the batsmen, having grown up playing spinners of different kinds from childhood. 

Tredwell not only claimed 11 wickets but also mesmerized the batsmen. His bowling average of 18.18 and economy rate of 4.25 on the flat sub-continental pitches would make any spin wizard proud.

Yuvraj Singh, who has a knack of belting the fastest of bowlers to the farthest corners of the ground, looked like a schoolboy while confronting the off-spinner. 

No wonder he was dismissed by him four times in as many matches. It could have been five out of five if he batted long enough to face him in the fifth ODI. 

In the earlier part of the tour England came back to win the Test series after losing the first Test primarily because their spin duo of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar made a mockery of the Indian batsmen in their own backyard. 

Swann and Panesar returned dream figures on the same pitches where the Indian spinners failed to get the desired results while bowling at the English batsmen, less exposed to such tracks or slow bowling at home. 

In between the Test and ODI series against England, India hosted arch-rivals Pakistan and their batsmen struggled against the spinners as much, if not more.

Saeed Ajmal was able to return his career-best figures on a Feroz Kotla pitch which was more conducive to seam and swing bowling while Mohammad Hafeez was no less a terror in almost every outing. 

The Indian batsmen are having a miserable time against the visiting spinners and it’s not the first time when such thing has happened. 

A closer look at the matches held in India would bring to light the fact that their batsmen have allowed the spinners, many of them not having the desired class or caliber, to get on top more often than not. 

It seems to have become a tradition. Even the below-average or ordinary spin bowlers have been obliged with dream-come-true figures by the Indian batsmen, who are supposed to play slow bowling in the most assured manner.

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January 25, 2013

Pakistan’s highest qualified cricket coach deserves recognition, responsibility


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Jalaluddin, who is more famous for his accomplishment of performing the first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals three decades ago, has also carved a niche in the field of cricket coaching.

The former Test fast bowler, who moved the ball appreciably both ways at a lively pace, is considered as the pioneer of cricket academies in Pakistan, having introduced the concept of professional training and coaching after acquiring the necessary skills. 

It will be in the interest of the Pakistan cricket if the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) utilizes his services in the field of coaching in particular. He can make a world of difference with his proven track record and the level of commitment he has shown at various levels. 

Coaching has been a weak link of the national team for a number of years and it’s really surprising that Jalaluddin’s expertise continues to be ignored despite his credentials and experience. 

The PCB functionaries should involve him in the coaching affairs in a big way, whether it’s the National Cricket Academy or the national team. He could certainly prove to be a big asset and it would be a tragedy if such powerful resource was not utilized.

Jalaluddin, with the support of like-minded friends, founded the Customs Cricket Academy (CCA) in 1999, after having done the ECB Level I course a year earlier. 

The CCA, under his leadership, has gone from strength to strength over the years, setting an example for others to follow. 

The quest for excellence and the eagerness to pass on the skills to the next generation have enabled Jalaluddin to stand out and deliver. No wonder today he stands on top of the tree. 

After having passed the ECB Level II course in 2000 and the ECB Level III course in 2001, he has now done the ECB Level IV course which is the highest degree of qualification for a cricket coach. He is an also a CA Level III qualified coach besides being ECB Tutor Level I. 

Having made the CCA a model institution, Jalaluddin has succeeded in mobilizing resources to spread his services to the other parts of the ever-expanding metropolis of Karachi, believed to be having population in the excess of 20 million.

The CCA, housed in Block 15 of Federal-B-Area, celebrated its 10 years of service in 2009. The same year he established the Jalaluddin Cricket Academy and followed it up by founding the Vital Five Cricket Academy in 2010. 

He is managing all these cricket academies professionally and contributing in the development and promotion of the sport from the grassroots level in the truest sense of the word. 

Before setting up the cricket academies Jalaluddin had devoted all his energies in building the Pakistan Customs cricket team whom he led to glories with limited resources. 

He is credited to have played a pivotal role in grooming the raw youngsters with Rashid Latif, Mohammad Sami, Hasan Raza, Asim Kamal, Azam Khan, Naved Latif, Shadab Kabir, Ali Naqvi, Rana Naved-ul-Hasan and Ali Hussain Rizvi having gone on to play for the country.

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January 7, 2013

Dhoni’s boys give a befitting birthday present to Kapil Dev


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Sunil Gavaskar, while commentating in the third and final One-day International between India and Pakistan at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground in New Delhi on January 6, was lamenting the fact the Indians, more often than not, had let the World Cup winning captain, Kapil Dev, down on his birthday. 

Sunny, himself a former captain, was referring more towards the New Year Tests in which the Indians were generally found wanting while playing on the hard and bouncy surfaces in Australia and South Africa. 

Although he didn’t say it but the position in which India were in at that moment, a whitewash at the hands of Pakistan in the three-match ODI series was very much round the corner on another birthday of Kapil Dev. 

Obviously Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who was out in the middle defending a very low total, would not have heard the ‘on-air’ conversation between Harsha Bhogle and Sunil Gavaskar but he seemed to have got it somehow. 

The Indians, for a change, played much better cricket than they had been doing for the past few weeks and quite unexpectedly to say the least turned it around to win the match against all odds. 

Their victory in the 3rd ODI was as much surprising as the defeat at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata in the 2nd ODI just a few days ago where they had collapsed while chasing what looked a modest target in conditions nearly ideal for cricket. 

Dhoni, who had emulated Kapil Dev by leading India to World Cup triumph in 2011, ensured that the champion all-rounder’s birthday party was not spoiled this time round. 

Under fire for the losing streak, Dhoni was a doubtful starter for the third and final game with the rumours that he was being removed from the job. He was being criticized despite coming up with fighting performance in every match. 

The unlikely victory on Kapil Dev’s birthday could help Dhoni in regaining his control over the team and the boys are more likely to perform against England in the upcoming ODI series. His case has been helped by the omission of Virender Sehwag who was just not in his elements. It’s surprising that Gautum Gambhir has still been retained despite his ordinary performances in the recent past. 

More than the Indian team which has been floored frequently of late their selection panel headed by Sandeep Patil should also be held responsible for the debacle. 

The inconsistency of the selectors has been hurting the team badly. While India, after having lost the first two games of the series, struggled to register a come from behind win in the third ODI against Pakistan, India ‘A’ got the better of England in a limited-overs contest the same day. 

Didn’t it reflect poor selection? If India ‘A’ possessed the firepower to dominate England then how come quite a few members of Team India looked like passengers if not novices. Won’t India be better off fielding ‘A’ team against England in the ODIs instead of taking a chance on the tired legs and buttered fingers of those having looked jaded and demoralized? A food of thought certainly!

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