November 27, 2008
Sehwag’s brilliance knocks England over at Cuttack
November 26, 2008
Pakistan’s controversial cueist Saleh Mohammad calls it a day
November 24, 2008
Will India make unnecessary changes to let England stage a comeback in ODI series ?
The Indians have sealed the seven-match ODI series against England by winning the fourth game in Bangalore. It’s not often that India have won four matches on a trot, let alone doing it during the course of a series.
The lads are making the most of the experience they have gained by playing the Indian Premier League (IPL) last season. The super-fit Indians are proving just too much for the England side lacking in class and character.
Manhendra Singh Dhoni is in the process of enhancing his reputation every day. He has turned out to be a great captain who passes the impression of having full faith in the ability of his teammates.
The boys, as well as the men in the squad, continue to deliver with smiles on their faces. The body language says it all. Their shoulders never drop even when they are being taken for runs or suffer a batting collapse. They have a settled team now that has the potential and eagerness to rule the world.
But it looks as if the Indian cricket administrators are getting ready to induct some players who have not played in the ongoing ODI series. It very clearly means that some of those players having performed exceptionally well in the earlier games will be made to sit out.
This policy could backfire because they would be taking the risk of disturbing the combination that has been clicking as a unit. One is not sure if the changes would be made to accommodate some players and please the office-bearers of their respective state associations.
Compromising on the interests of the team doesn’t sound a noble idea. The players who are delivering need not be rested unnecessarily. The inconsistency in the Indian selection can provide the window of opportunity to England who have been laid low by a highly motivated and proactive unit.
One fails to understand the wisdom behind derailing the winning combination. The changes should only be made when somebody is not fit to play or he is having a lean time in the middle. Dropping the high performers in order to accommodate some of the fringe players doesn’t make much sense.
The Indians should have learnt from history. In the past they have often been guilty of experimenting just a bit too much at home that has allowed the visiting teams to stage a comeback from nowhere.
Will England be the latest beneficiary of such a move we will have to wait and see. There is still a possibility that the Indian selectors may continue fielding more or less the same team in the remaining games to attempt a whitewash in the series.
But if the selectors are pressurized by the concerned quarters and some unnecessary mare changes are made the 4-0 scoreline could very well become 4-3 in a matter of the next few days.The momentum is with India. They have dominated the first four games decisively and the series has been pocketed. The big question however is: Will their selectors succumb to the pressures of some of their own people or better sense will prevail?
November 22, 2008
Lloyd justified in seeking ICL-IPL co-existence
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The statement of the legendary West Indian captain , who is currently heading ICC cricket committee, in which he has expressed his opinion that the ICL and IPL can co-exist, must have come as music to many ears.
It’s an open secret that some powerful ‘elements’ in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), have made the Indian Cricket League (ICL) a life and death issue.
Since the BCCI has been in a position to dictate terms with the International Cricket Council (ICC) for the past few years, even the apex governing body of the game has not been able to make decisions on its own.
The BCCI attempted to dilute the ICL by launching their own brand by the name of the Indian Premier League (IPL). It was a master stroke to create a bigger league with all the ‘official’ resources but it didn’t look fair on their part to try to isolate another league that was also serving the interests of the Indian cricket.
It’s rumoured that Malcolm Speed, a former chief of the ICC, was in favour of a settlement with the ICL and it cost him the high profile job.
In these circumstances the statement of Clive Lloyd has come as breathe of fresh air. But it remains to be seen how the big bosses of the Indian cricket react to it.
The former West Indian captain has gone a step further by suggesting that similar leagues be launched in the Caribbean to boost the game in the region.
Lloyd, whose inspiring captaincy was instrumental in transforming the West Indies into a world-beating unit, believed that the leagues like the IPL and ICL need to be set up in his country to revive the sport in the region.
"Leagues similar to the IPL and ICL will not only bring young talented players in the national team but will also make their basics .The standard of domestic cricket is poor in the Caribbean and hence there is a need to bring in leagues like these. They would not only improve the standard of the game but will also help players become experienced at a young age," Lloyd was quoted as saying.
Lloyd, who led the West Indies to title wins in the World Cup in 1975 and 1979, has expressed the optimism that the country would be soon in a position to bring back the trophy after the success of the Stanford Superstars.
"The team has not won any major trophy for a long time and lacks consistency. But I am sure they will be back in form and will bring the WorldCup home in the Caribbean soon. Apart from the money, players will gain experience with the right people to guide them from Standford Twenty20 Super Series," the West Indian reckoned.
"We need to get to make young players to understand that it's just not about money. Money is there to be earned, but they need to learn the rudimentary elements of the game," he warned.
November 21, 2008
Javed Miandad urges BCCI to join hands with ICL
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Javed Miandad had distinguished himself by battling it out against the deadliest of bowlers with courage, fortitude and solid technique. He was one batsman who was not afraid to take body blows. Neither was he laid low in the pressure-cooker situations.
He has arguably been the greatest-ever batsman to have played for Pakistan. He was a master tactician who outsmarted the opponents with his mind games.
The legend is back. He has recently taken over as the Director General of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). Just as he had to tackle numerous challenges in his playing career he is confronted with one serious issue right away.
The Indian Cricket League (ICL) has the presence of quite of a few players from Pakistan, who are not eligible to play for the home country because of the ban imposed on them by the previous regime of the PCB.
Javed Miandad, known for calling a spade a spade, has reportedly admitted that the PCB was under immense pressure from the public and the media to include ICL players in the national team.
According to reports the batting great, who is also renowned for his hard-hitting comments, did not mince words in stating that he supported the move.
"The BCCI is a very powerful body, but because of its bullying tactics, a lot of people are suffering. All the BCCI needs to do is join hands with ICL," he said in a newspaper interview.
"The PCB is under a lot of pressure from the public and the media to include players like Imran Nazir, Rana Naved and Imran Farhat in the team. If there is such talent, why not utilise it? As a cricketer, I would like to see these boys in the Pakistan squad," the former Pakistan captain was quoted as saying.
Javed Miandad’s views carry enormous weight. Many well wishers of the game have suggested to the BCCI in the past as well to take the ICL on board because they were also serving the cause of the game and its players.
The BCCI could find itself in an awkward situation if some of the other affected cricket boards reverse their earlier decision of banning the players contracted by the ICL.
With the Chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, Clive Lloyd, also coming out in the open just the other day suggesting the co-existence of the ICL and the IPL, the BCCI may be prompted to review its stance.
The BCCI should not lose sight of the fact that more than any other country it are their cricketers who are suffering because of the ban imposed of them.
The Indian cricketers competing in the ICL are not allowed to represent their respective states that automatically make them ineligible for selection in the national team.
There are many promising Indian youngsters who have made their mark in the ICL. Won’t it be inappropriate to ignore the outstanding performers of the ICL who have delivered in as competitive environment as the IPL.
The movers and shakers of the BCCI should review their policy and their aim should become an organ in the promotion of the game rather than doing the opposite.
November 19, 2008
General Arif Hasan optimistic about future of Pakistan sports
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
General Syed Arif Hasan, President, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Chairman, Pakistan Sports Trust (PST), did not mince words in stating that the country can produce better results in the field of sports provided the athletes were provided the desired training and coaching facilities.“We have already moved a summary to the Government of Pakistan in which the plans for the restructuring of sports have been outlined. We have mentioned that funds of Rs 400 million will be needed over the next couple of years if we are to achieve the desired results in the 2010 Asian Games,” the General remarked while addressing the media at the Karachi Club on November 18.
The General, flanked by the President of the Pakistan Table Tennis Federation (PTTF), S M Sibtain, and the President of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, shared the plan with the media corps of Karachi and looked positive throughout the briefing last over an hour. Colonel Mohammad Azhar Dean, Director Finance & Administration, PST, was also present on the occasion.“We desire to have more interactive sessions with the media based in Karachi who have done great service in promoting the soft image of country and they have been proactive throughout in playing their role in bringing glories for the country,” he acknowledged.
“I have come here just to share my thoughts with you. I have been in touch with the media professionals and sports administrators of Karachi on a regular basis and today I thought we should have a session to briefly discuss the ups and downs of Pakistan sports” the POA President added.
“As you know it very well the standard of sports in Pakistan has been on the decline. It has been very tough putting the pieces together and arresting the decline. We have tried our level best to do in the limited resources that have been at our disposal. We have been lending all out support to our affiliated federations to boost their confidence. The federations have the responsibility of raising their teams and keeping them motivated,” he pointed out.
“You are well aware of the fact that Pakistan stood no chance whatsoever of bringing home any medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. It would have been a miracle had we pocketed any medal in the given scenario. Let us put the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games behind us and look to the future now. We have some breathing time and we are working overtime to avail that,” General Arif noted.
“Our athletes have come up with heartening performance in the recent events like the Commonwealth Youth Games and Asian Beach Games that prove our point that we can accomplish our mission of bringing home medals if we continue to lay emphasis on training and grooming,” the General thought.
“The Pakistan Sports Trust (PST), which is the marketing arm of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), has spent millions of rupees on the training of the youngsters and the results are beginning to come. We need more resources, more funds and more time to deliver,” he continued.
“We know the future lies with the investment in youth. Besides facilitating the national sports federations in letting them work professionally, we are focusing on the junior programmes to provide the youngsters the platform to unfold their talents,” the General explained.
“Our target and mission at the moment is to claim medals in the Asian Games 2010 and other regional events. This would only be possible with the support of all our stake-holders, particularly the government,” General Arif believed.General Arif was bombarded with some unrelated and illogical questions but he didn’t lose his cool or composure. He listened to the observations patiently and gave convincing answers to the queries that indeed merited attention.
November 17, 2008
Yuvraj’s solo upstages Pietersen’s band at Indore
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It’s not often that an individual dominates a team game as decisively as India’s Yuvraj Singh did against England in the second One-day International of the seven-match series at Maharani Usharaje Trust Cricket Ground, Indore, November 17.
Yuvraj, we all know, is a special talent. But he has come up with amazing performance in the first couple of ODIs, pocketing Man of the Match award on both the occasions. More importantly he has contributed immensely to the cause of the team enabling it to double the advantage at Indore.
Yuvraj almost single-handedly won the day for India at Indore where followed up his superlative knock of 118 off 122 balls with the exceptional figures of 4 for 28. One could not have asked for better all-round performance in a single game. It would have made the likes of Ian Botham, Imran Khan and Kapil Dev proud.
England found themselves at the receiving end for the second time in a row at the hands of the devastating Yuvraj. If the versatile left-hander had demolished with mind-blowing batting displaying in the first ODI, his all-round performance caused even greater trouble for the tourists in the following encounter.
Unlike the opening game at Rajkot where India got off to a flyer, the hosts were in disarray in the opening hour and the bold move of Mahendra Singh Dhoni to bat first after calling correctly in conditions not ideal for free flowing strokes was starting to backfire.
Stuart Broad was firing on all cylinders and three top-order wickets had perished very quickly indeed. The bowling was on top and the runs were hard to come by. Enter Yuvraj Singh and the complexion of the match changed.
"We had a chance at 29 for 3. We lost ourselves to Yuvraj. He was fantastic,” conceded the sporting England captain Kevin Pietersen in the post match ceremony. He must be wondering how to cope with the Yuvraj factor in the remaining matches.
“Great performance by Yuvi and Gambhir. You've got to change the target every 5 to 10 overs. As the partnership between them grew we kept raising our target,” the jubilant Indian skipper Dhoni observed.
“I have been training hard over the last few months and it's paying off. At 29 for 3 I wanted to assess the wicket, spoke to Gambhir a lot about the target. There were some shots you couldn't play on this wicket," the man of the moment reckoned.What a fabulous series Yuvraj is having right now. He seems in the middle of another purple patch that should gladden the hearts of his millions of fan spread all over the globe.
In the first ODI, he hammered an unbeaten 138 off only 78 balls that included as many as six sixes and 16 fours. His blistering knock helped India in posting their highest-ever total at home. The score could have even gone to 400 had Yuvraj, batting with a runner, not mistimed a couple of big hits in the final over.
November 15, 2008
Iron-willed Dravid most likely to recapture form
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
As they say form is temporary and class is permanent. So is the case with Rahul Dravid, acclaimed as the technically the most correct batsman to have played the game for a long time.
Dravid has momentarily lost his touch. He looked a mere shadow of his own self in the recently concluded four-Test home series against Australia. He got the starts in a few innings but could not convert them into big scores.
He has been there for more than 12 years now. He has remained the country’s most consistent and the most dependable batsman in the majority of these years.
But let us not lose sight of the fact that Dravid is also a human being. Even the most efficient of machines also show variation in their performance if used for a longer period.
He has not scored heavily in the last few matches but there is nothing to suggest that his reflexes have slowed down or there is any lack of commitment on his part. He is a team man to core, someone you can look forward to.
Dravid is one man who has always given more than one hundred percent. He has not been afraid to switch his batting position in the interest of the team. He has delivered in the toughest of conditions. He has stood out where his illustrious colleagues have been found wanting.
Yes if look at Dravid’s phenomenal record of the past, we find his performance during the last one year as ordinary from his own high standards. He has managed to play the odd match-winning knock that he has been famous for even in this period.
Who will forget his innings at Perth earlier this year that allowed India to turn it around against Australia who had somehow won the first couple of Tests. A modest and unassuming person that he is, he had hardly smiled when reminded that he was the topscorer in the Perth won by India against all odds.
Dravid has played numerous match-winning knocks for India in his career. He has been the architect of so many victories recorded by India in the overseas Tests. He has had a very high percentage of runs in the Test match that India won.
The experts of the game have been unanimous in their assessment that technically he has been the most gifted batsman around. He has had the capacity of occupying the crease for a very long time and grind the bowlers for sessions.
Dravid still has a lot of years left in him. He has every chance to regain his top form. It looks a matter of time really. He has some time before the start of the two-Test series against England at home.
He may utilize this time in playing a couple of Ranji Trophy games to put some runs on the board. Or may be he can have some time off.
India cannot afford to be without him even though they have discovered quite a few outstanding young batsmen in the recent past. He is one batsman who anchors the innings. He provides the balance in the batting line-up having so many fluent stroke-makers.
November 14, 2008
Ashraf Tai: Pakistan's Martial Art Icon
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Famous martial artist, Grand Master Mr. Muhammad Ashraf Tai had introduced Bando, the Burmese style of martial arts, in Pakistan way back in 1971 but it were his accomplishments against top-notchers which earned him fame and recognition. He has become a martial art icon in the country and a large number of his students have spread his mission in different countries of the world making him an internationally renowned figure.
Grand Master Ashraf Tai had created a sensation by overpowering Stanley Michael of Malaysia in the final of the Afro-Asia Championship in 1978. He had confirmed his superiority in the continent by outwitting Japan's Koha Yash a year later.
After emerging triumphant in a tournament staged in Sri Lanka in 1980, he dared fighting the reigning world champion, Don Wilson of the United States, in 1981. The creditable performance against the world champion elevated his ranking to the ninth place in the world.
Grand Master Ashraf Tai then founded the Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) and succeeded in having the body affiliated with the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) as well as the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB).
Having received numerous awards in various continents of the world during his illustrious career, he was declared the International Grand Master of the Year in 2000 by an institution based in the United States.
The Tai's Bando Karate Centre, founded by him in 1971, has already trained thousands of martial artists. The branches of his centres have not only been functioning with great success all over the country but the students trained by him have also been operating the centres named after him in quite a few countries like the United States, England, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, France, Holland and Bangladesh.Grand Master Ashraf Tai, was conferred the coveted Pride of Performance award by the then President General Pervez Musharraf.
The pioneer of Bando in Pakistan, Grand Master Ashraf Tai holds the distinction of claiming the highest degree (8th Dan) in the martial arts history of the country. Only a handful of martial artists have matched his feat worldwide.
He had started karate at the age of 9 with my master Lee Phow Shin. He got his black belt at the age of 16. He started participating in a lot of local tournaments, most of which were professional.
November 13, 2008
Asghar Valika elected IBSF Vice President
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Ali Asghar Valika, a former President of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), was elected unopposed as the Vice President of the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) during its Annual General Body (AGM) held in Wels, Austria, on November 6.
Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, who attended the meeting as one of the delegates, informed this scribe the other day that the IBSF had not received any nominations for the post of Vice President and Asghar Valika, whose candidature was supported by the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS), was elected unopposed in the AGM.
The PBSA President further revealed that Pascal Guillaume of France, the sitting President of the IBSF, was re-elected after outvoting Jim Leacy of Ireland 27-17 while Mohammed Kammah of Egypt retained the slot of General Secretary by defeating Maxime Cassis of France. Sindhu Pulsivirung of Thailand and Syed Mahboob of Bangladesh retained their positions as IBSF Board members.
Asghar Valika was elected unopposed as the President of the ACBS for two successive terms in the 1990s. He has become the first Pakistani to hold an office in the international body of billiards sports.
Currently holding the position of the Executive Vice President in the ACBS besides being the Advisor to the United Arab Emirates Billiards & Snooker Association (UAEBSA), Asghar Valika had succumbed to the Pakistan government’s so-called national sports policy that prompted his resignation as the President of the PBSA during the month of September in controversial circumstances.
Having led the PBSA for nearly a couple of decades, he is credited to have spearheaded the revival of the game of snooker in particular in the country.
Asghar Valika had joined Mazhar Iqbal Puri’s team of office-bearers as the Vice President when the PBSA was launched in 1986, succeeding the dormant Billiards Association of Pakistan (BAP).Thus initiated the process of reviving the cue sports that were on the way to extinction.
They worked with missionary zeal from the outset and in less than two years time the baton was passed on to Asghar Valika, who brought the game to life by bringing in the brand of Red & White that became synonymous with snooker for years.
It turned out to be a mutually beneficial relationship and the game of snooker progressed in leaps and bounds in every nook and corner of the country as a result of the long-term sponsorship deal.
The Asian Snooker Championship was first organised at Karachi in 1991 at Karachi and just a couple of years later the World Snooker Championship 1993 was held with great success at the same venue.
The World Championship 1993 went a long way in promoting the game in Pakistan and the very next year the country had its first world amateur champion in the shape of Mohammad Yousuf.
Asghar Valika, as President of the ACBS, was instrumental in having snooker and other cue sports included in the Asian Games. Pakistan, through Shaukat Ali, won a gold right away when snooker made its debut in the 1998 Asian Games.
November 12, 2008
Sourav Ganguly: End of an era
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Sourav Ganguly has played his last Test match. Unlike Anil Kumble, who announced his retirement rather abruptly during the course of the series, Ganguly had done it well in advance. He had declared before the start of the four-Test series home series against Australia that it’s going to be his last.
The left-handed Ganguly batted quite brilliantly throughout the series and his only blemish was a duck in his final outing in Test cricket. Even the legendary Sir Donald Bradman was dismissed without scoring in his last Test innings.
Ganguly, cutting and driving with ease, had a very good chance to register a century in his final Test. He was in complete control in the first innings of the Nagpur Test and another century for him looked round the corner.
But what happened in the post lunch session on the second day was a blot for Indian cricket where five wickets went down for literally nothing. It’s not often that a team having scored in the excess of 400 for the loss of five wickets is blown for less than 450 against a bowling attack short of inspiration.
Ganguly, so well set, also perished in that rush of wickets against the run of play. He was only 15 runs short of what would have been a thoroughly deserved hundred.
There were thoughts that he would like to make up with a century in the second innings of the game. But the misery of the second afternoon was repeated a couple of days later when India lost six wickets in a single session, after having amassed nearly a hundred runs without losing any wicket in the previous one. Ganguly, like the other batting greats, fell during what could be described as a ‘fateful’ afternoon session.
Ganguly could have earned the honour of scoring a hundred in his first as well as last Test match. He had scored a century not only on his Test debut but followed it up with another ton in the very next game during that memorable tour of England in 1996.
He, in fact, had appeared on course of emulating teammate Mohammad Azharduddin, the only batsman to have scored a century in each of his first three Test matches. Ganguly had gone past 50 in his third Test but couldn’t covert into another hundred.
Ganguly had a dream start to his Test career and he became recognized as one of the most flamboyant batsmen in the game right away. His aggressive style of play suited more to the one-dayers and he excelled there in the role of an opener.
Alongwith Sachin Tendulkar he formed the most formidable opening pair, laying the foundation of numerous Indian victories in the different corners of the world. Their positive approach from the outset demoralized the strongest of bowling attacks and together they posted big partnerships at brisk pace.
Ganguly turned out be an inspirational leader when the baton of captaincy was passed on to him in 2000. He led from the front and he was not afraid to take the risk. Bringing in new energy and zeal with him, he was instrumental in making India the world beaters.
It was during his tenure as the captain when India started winning overseas Tests frequently.The single biggest mistake Ganguly seemed to have committed in his long career was recommending Greg Chappell to coach India. It turned out to be a fatal mistake for him and his team.
Ganguly bounced back in style and his forceful comeback brought smiles on the faces of millions of his supporters. In the interim period he worked very hard to overcome technical deficiencies in negotiating the short balls and he finished career in the manner he had started it, on a high note. The Indian cricket will miss him for a long time.
November 11, 2008
Singh is King
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Harbhajan Singh has a knack of coming good in tough conditions. He may not the greatest off-spinner on the planet but he is the kind of bowler who can turn the tide of the matches as he did two times in the just concluded series against Australia which India won 2-0.
Consistency has eluded him during the last few years but he still remains a champion bowler who could rattle the best of batsmen. Ask Ricky Ponting, the most prolific batsmen of the recent times. The Australian captain has dominated all kind of bowling but it has been a different story altogether whenever he has been up against Harbhajan.
It was not at all surprising to note that Ponting became Harbhajan’s wicket number 300 in Test match cricket. The master off-spinner foxed the Aussie skipper in the first innings of the fourth and final Test at the VCA Stadium, Nagpur to reach the landmark.
Harbhajan had to wait much longer for his 300th scalp. He was on course of doing it on the fourth afternoon of the second Test at the PCA Stadium, Mohali. It was his terrific spell that had broken the back of the Australian top-order and he looked good for many more after striking three early blows.
As the luck would have it he couldn’t get any more success in the Australian innings as the remaining seven wickets were shared by Ishant Sharma, Zaheer Khan and Amit Mishra. India won the match a record margin of 320 runs and Harbhajan remained stranded at 299 wickets.
There was a big gap between the second and third Tests. But it was not enough to let the off-spinner recover from an injury and he had to sit out of the Delhi Test that ended in a tame draw in the end.
Harbhajan returned to the side in the fourth Test and it was on the third afternoon when he finally took his 300th wicket. It took him weeks to move from 299 to 300.
What next Harbhajan? With the great leg-spinner Anil Kumble having retired from international cricket, now Harbhajan becomes the number one spin bowler for his country in all forms of the game. He had to be sidelined in overseas Tests on numerous occasions when India had to take the field with just one spinner.
The scenario has now been changed. With him becoming the front-line spinner there will be more opportunities for him on foreign tours now. He would be the obvious choice to make the final eleven when his team is not in a position to afford the luxury of two specialist spinners.
Harbhajan, however, will face challenge from the promising youngsters like Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra. He may be richer in experience but he will need to perform consistently to retain his status of being the number one spinner of the country.
There is no doubt about the talents of the off-spinner but he has been found wanting at times whenever he has not broken through early. He becomes much more lethal and destructive after picking up wickets early in spells. But he has been observed compromising on accuracy when he’s no rewarded. That’s an area he needs to work on. His shoulders should not drop even when he is being taken for runs or even there is no success for his hard work.
Despite controversies surrounding his action, he remains one of the best off-spinners in the business. He is match-winner in the truest sense of the word. In fact he has proved himself a worthy team man who relishes the challenge.
He takes his batting very seriously and can do serious damage to the opposing bowlers. He is a handy batsman to have at number eight. Four of his six Test half-centuries have come against Australia and it seems a matter of time when he would be a centurion as well.
November 10, 2008
VVS Laxman: Very Very Special indeed
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
What a joy it has been following the career of VVS Laxman over the years. To me he is the most stylish batsman of the present generation. There is no better sight in cricket than to watch him bat.
He is one man who has all the time in the world to play his strokes. He has been blessed with the gift of timing that adequately covers the deficiencies in footwork. He may not be technically the most correct batsman but he is the one batter who can bring the crowd to its feet with his artistic stroke-play.
The fastest of the bowlers pitching the ball on or outside his off-stump have never been sure in which direction they would be hit when Laxman has been at the crease. While every other great batsman in the world would be content in cover driving those balls but you don’t know which route Laxman would take.
He may put the ball in the gap between cover and extra cover with precision and there is an equal chance of him rolling his wrist and on-driving it past mid-wicket. He has that knack of playing his stroke late that allows him to pierce the field at will.
Laxman has perfected the art of keeping the bowlers as well as the fielders guessing. The captains have often been found wanting in setting field for him. One can only sympathize with the fielding captains because it’s certainly not possible to have a ‘safe’ field for someone who has the rare ability of flicking the balls pitched well outside the off stump.
If you understand cricket you have to admire Laxman for doing justice with his initials VVS. He is certainly a very very special talent who is a born artist.
More than the runs and the centuries that he has scored for India, it’s his grace and poise that has distinguished him. He is the one and only batsman in the world at the moment whose graceful stroke-play passes the impression of being poetry in motion.
Laxman has scored prolifically against the toughest of oppositions. Not surprisingly his greatest knocks have come against Australia that has undoubtedly been the leading side in world cricket for the last many years.
Who would ever forget his epic knock at 281 against the Australians at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in 2001. The Indians were looking down the barrel and a series defeat looked round the corner. They had been defeated in the first Test and were forced to follow on in the second Test.
India needed something out of extraordinary to change the course of the proceedings. The follow-on fightback was led by none other than the Hyderabad touch artist who stood against the Australians with courage and purpose. His stroke-filled innings turned it around for India and the series was squared against all odds. By clinching the third and final Test the hosts managed to win the series they were most likely to surrender in the previous game.
More than seven years later Laxman scored another magnificent double century against the Aussies in his 99th Test at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi. His defiant knock in the second outing saved the day for his team and earned the Man of the Match award for him.
He may not be a swift mover in the field, that has cost him his place in the one-dayers, but he still has fair amount of cricket left to him to delight the lovers of the game all over the globe.
He has played his 100th Test match at VCA Stadium, Nagpur. He would certainly regret his soft dismissal when in sight of another hundred that would have been a perfect gift for his fans in the landmark Test for him.
Asians dominate IBSF World Snooker Championship 2008
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The Asians have once again proved their mettle at the international level in the game of snooker and three of the four semifinalists belonged to the continent. Thepchaya Un-Nooh of Thailand was crowned as the new world champion at Wels, Austria, on November 8.
He overpowered the dangerous Colin Gilcreest of Ireland 11-7 in the marathon best of 21-frame final. Gilcreest, in fact, was the only non-Asian to have made it to the last four.Un-Nooh was in sparkling form throughout the tournnament having chalked up the breaks of 143, 139, 111, 96, 91, 89, 88, 86, 86, 83, 78, 73, 69, 69, 69, 67, 64, 62, 61, 61, 60, 54, 54, 53, 50, 50, 50 during the course of his title-winning act.In the semifinals, Un-Nooh had outwitted Chinaʼs Xiao Guodong 7-4 while Gilcreest had tamed Sohail Vahidi of Iran 7-5.
The Asian cueists proved the point once more that the standard of cue sports was on the rise in their part of the world and the future belongs to them. Thailand and China are particularly the two countries having progressed in leaps and bounds in the cue sports arena in the recent past.
With more glories coming their way, the cue sports is certain to move to another level in Thailand whose administrators have been proactive over the years. The other Asian countries should derive inspiration from them.
China has also emerged on the scene as a cue sports giant. The performance of Sohail Vahidi may go a long way in boosting the game in Iran now.
There was disappointment, however, for both Pakistan and India whose cueists could not force their way into the semifinals despite looking good in earlier matches.
Pakistanʼs last hope Khurram Hussain Agha was eliminated in the pre-quarter-finals. Yu Delu of China proved simply too good for him in what turned out to be a one-sided affair as he won the best of nine encounter 5-1 with the frame scores of 67-45, 75-42, 1-100, 69-23, 90-23, 69-45.
Pakistanʼs hopes of regaining the world title were resting on the shoulders of Khurram after the exit of the countryʼs premier cueist, Saleh Mohammad, in the round of last 32.Khurram, who had staged a magnificent comeback in his earlier game in which he trailed1-4 against Au Chi Wai of Hong Kong was unable to do it while facing Yu Delu who was in no mood to give it away.
Khurram did bounce back to clinch the third frame after having lost the first two but he could not do much to prevent the rampaging Chinese from pocketing one frame after another.
Khurramʼs defeat in the pre-quarters meant Pakistan returned empty-handed once more. Mohammad Yousuf remains the countryʼs only cueist to have won the world amateur title, having done it in 1994.
Saleh has come very close to accomplishing the mission on a couple of occasions but the world crown has somehow eluded him so far despite his big reputation in the international circles.
Indiaʼs former world champion Pankaj Advani was routed by Chinaʼs Xiao Guodong in the quarter-finals. Guodong toppled Advani 6-2 while the other three fiercely fought quarter-finals went to the full distance of 11 frames.
Sohail Vahidi of Iran edged out Marin McCrudden of Ireland while Colin Gilcreest outwitted Lee Page of England and Thepchaya Un-Nooh of Thailand outlasted Yu Delu of China in the other quarter-finals.
November 8, 2008
Pakistan’s national champion to miss Chess Olympiad
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The reigning national champion as well as an International Master, Mahmood Ahmed Lodhi, will not be taking part in the 38th Chess Olympiad, to be held in Dresden, Germany, from November 12 to 25.
Mahmood Lodhi, the country’s most prolific chess player having won the national championship 11 times, did not offer himself for selection in the squad in rather mysterious circumstances.
Although he has decided to skip the upcoming Olympiad having cited personal reasons but according to the sources close to him, he has had reservations with the policies of the Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP).
The Gujranwala-based Mahmood Lodhi has had problems with the CFP officials over the years. But it’s certainly not in the national interest to omit the best player of the country for an event as important as the Olympiad.
The functionaries of the CFP could have handled the matter professionally rather than emotionally and they should have persuaded the reigning national champion to proceed to Dresden where a record number of 152 countries will be locking horns.
Meanwhile the media briefing of the Sindh Chess Association (SCA) at the Karachi Club on November 6 meant to introduce the members of the national men and women squad for turned sour on more than one count.
The fiery speech of one of the officials, Mohammad Wasif, in which he openly ridiculed the policies of the CFP caught the media by surprise because the SCA was itself one of the affiliated units of the federation.
The men squad comprises of National Masters Wahid Hussain (Hyderabad), Aamir Karim (Lahore), Mohammad Waqar (Karachi), Khalil-ur-Rahman Butt (Lahore) and Hasib Ahmed (Karachi). All the five members of the women team, Zenobia Wasif, Nida Shiraz, Sharjeela Kiran, Arsalana Tanvir and Sabica Shiraz, belong to Karachi.
The SCA office-bearers could not give a convincing answer when questioned if the provincial body was sending the national men and women squad for the 38th Chess Olympiad on behalf of the federation.
It was revealed that the SCA, after having failed to get any kind of assistance from the CFP, had approached various government and private organizations for financial support by means of sponsorship.
We have been assured financial support from the Government of Sindh, the City District Government Karachi (CDGK) as well as a few commercial establishments. Their support will enable us to cover a part of the costs to be incurred in sending the men and women squads for the Olympiad,” Mohammad Aslam, President, SCA, stated.
He did not disclose the amount they were expected to raise for this event through sponsorship. Neither did he deem it proper to reveal the total amount needed to send the squads to Germany. When asked specifically, he said around Rupees one lac would be needed for each participant.
Aslam, who is also the Vice President of the CFP, clarified that the SCA had differences with the federation only in the matter pertaining to the women squad while all was well as far as the selection of the men team was concerned.
November 3, 2008
What role new coach Intikhab Alam has to play?
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The recent appointment of Intikhab Alam as the coach of the Pakistan cricket team has drawn mixed reaction. He has replaced Geoff Lawson, a former Australian fast bowler, whose contract was terminated abruptly by the new management in the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
Intikhab’s success or failure will depend on what kind of role he is assigned by the new PCB chief, Ijaz Butt. The buzz is that Shoaib Malik’s days as the captain are also numbered and that Intikhab may elevate someone else of his own choice to that position.
Obviously the captain plays the major role in implementing the policies of the coach in the field of play in the game of cricket. It’s the captain who has to take the decisions during the course of action. So it becomes vitally important to have the captain and the coach on the same wavelength.
Intikhab, if given the right to select his own captain, is more likely to replace Shoaib Malik rather than to retain him.
There is also a possibility that the PCB might not authorize the coach to have a captain of his own choice appointed at this moment. This is Pakistan cricket where everything and anything is possible. Shoaib Malik may lose the captaincy shortly or he may even continue for the next many years. Nobody knows. Nor can anyone predict.
Coming to Intikhab, he was known to be a defensive captain. Or in other words attack was never his forte while leading the team.
Only Ijaz Butt and his advisors in the PCB could know it best why a man of defensive mindset has been appointed the national coach at a time when the Pakistan team has been under fire for not playing positive cricket in the recent past.
Shoaib Malik has often been criticized for not having led from the front and not playing aggressive cricket. If aggression has to return to the Pakistan cricket there is very little chance of getting it with Intikhab Alam-Shoaib Malik combination.
Intikhab was certainly the coach of the national team that won the World Cup in 1992 under the inspiring leadership of Imran Khan. The entire world knows, however, what marginal role Intikhab was playing when Imran was at the helm of the affairs.
Imran used to call the shots throughout his stint as captain and the people he turned to for advice were believed to be Javed Miandad and Mudassar Nazar. Intikhab hardly ever came in the picture in matters relating to strategic plan.
Intikhab’s appointment as the coach has been greeted in some quarters more because of the exit of a foreigner than any cricket reason.
Lawson’s tenure didn’t last long. He had taken over at a difficult time for the team as well as the country. There was very little cricket played in his days and there was hardly an opportunity for him to unfold his talents. He had every reason to feel hard done by the PCB decision of not letting him complete the contractual period.
ICL-IPL cooperation in India’s interest
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
In the boom that followed the triumph of Team India in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup Cricket Tournament in South Africa last year, the Indian Cricket League (ICL) was launched to further promote the newest and the fastest version of the sport.
The ICL did not have the blessings of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and hence it was condemned as a ‘rebel’ affair. The International Cricket Council (ICC) took the word of the BCCI and the ICL was denied the official recognition. The other cricket boards were not in a position to annoy the BCCI either and the players participating in the ICL had to compromise on their international careers.
Only a few months later the BCCI came out with their own Twenty20 tournament by the name of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on the similar lines as the ICL.
If the ICL had proved a big success story despite the lack of support of the BCCI, the official IPL turned out to be a blockbuster.
What a season it had turned out for the Indian cricketers and their supporters. It was the perfect tonic to revitalize the game after the World Cup disaster in the Caribbean in early 2007.
The monumental success of both the ICL as well as the IPL from the outset made it clear that both these events were there to stay. The innovative idea of having Twenty20 leagues caught the imagination of the cricket-crazy India and their future looked secured.
It was being anticipated that the movers and shakers of the ICL and the IPL will settle their differences in the larger interest of the game in their own country but the same has not happened yet despite the mediation by the ICC.
The promoters of the ICL have been trying to convince the ICC to recognize their tournament but the governing body of the body has found itself in a very awkward situation.
The ICC, passing the impression of being an impartial supreme body, passed on the matter to the BCCI who were advised to get in touch with the ICL. From whatever little that has appeared in the media, the officials of the BCCI and the ICL remained deadlocked over the issue.
The cricketers contracted by the ICL are obviously concerned with the bans that have been imposed by their respective countries. These players can only be reconsidered for selection in their state or national outfits if the tournament is recognized by the ICC.
The BCCI, the IPL and the ICL have been doing a fantastic job for the promotion of the game. Their efforts have revived the game in India and the standard of cricket is improving every passing day.
It will be in their own interest to resolve the issue and let anyone promoting the game be encouraged not discouraged. The ICL is not organizing any baseball or rugby event. It’s cricket after all that’s benefiting. The lovers of the game are passionate about the Twenty20 League. Does it matter if it’s the IPL or the ICL.
India let Australia off the hook at Delhi
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
How often we have watched India coming hard at their rivals in the cricket field and then letting them get away with it. This has been a regular feature of the Indian cricket. They have dominated the games without accomplishing the desired result.
India had done exceedingly well to post a total in the excess of 600 in their first innings, after having lost Virender Sehwag and Rahul Dravid very early. In fact both of them were back in the dressing room within the first hour and there were fears of the hosts getting bowled out for a low total after having opted to bat first at the Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi.
Double centuries from Gautam Gambhir and VVS Laxman allowed India to get on top of the bowling and a little cameo near the end from Mahendra Singh Dhoni ensured that the total of 600 was reached well before the close of play on the second day.
India, having knocked Australia over by a record margin in the second Test at Mohali, found themselves in position to seal the series in the third Test. The batsmen had set the platform and the bowlers, having looked so good in the previous game, were left to complete the job.
But history repeated itself over the next three days and India lost the grip on the match. In fact they had to battle it hard in the end to save the game. It’s not often that a team having amassed over 600 in the first innings found itself in danger of defeat. But nothing could be ruled out when it comes to the Indian cricket.
Not that the pitch was a graveyard for the bowlers on the Indians didn’t possess the resources to bowl Australia out twice on the last three days of the game. Speedsters Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma, both of having bowled their heart out in the first two games, suddenly lost the venom and the intensity.
It was quite extraordinary to find the Indians bowling and fielding so leisurely. Coach Gary Kirsten had to concede that the dropped catches contributed as much as the unimpressive bowling in letting Australia off the hook.
Mind you the team India was playing against was Australia. They are a great side in all forms of the game even after the retirement of Glenn McGrath, Shane Warne, Justin Langer and Adam Gilchrist. They availed the chances that came their way and they must have been mighty pleased by the generosity of their hosts.
The Aussies, unlike the Indians, were proactive and they deserved the credit for having turned it around. Their batsmen applied themselves and their bowlers were bang on target. They did have a hole in the spin bowling department but the part-timers contributed their bit and skipper Ricky Ponting should not have any to reason to complain.
It’s staggering to note that Michael Clarke and Simon Katich, who bowl rarely at the international level, often find a way to run away with the prized Indian scalps.
Champion leggie Kumble bows out on a high
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Many eyes witnessing the fifth and final day of the third Test between India and Australia at Feroz Shah Kotla Ground, Delhi, had to shed tears when Anil Kumble came out to lead the home side for the last time in his career.
The news about the retirement of Kumble was broken only when India had inched closer to safety. And from the moment the news was confirmed all eyes and cameras were focused on the champion leg-spinner who had done his country proud with his exploits on and off the field for the past 18 years.
With the emergence of outstanding young leg-spinners like Piyush Chawla and Amit Mishra it was being speculated that the master would be considering calling it a day sooner or later. But nobody had expected the decision to arrive during the course of a Test match.
It didn’t look a hasty decision, however. Kumble, in fact, has made a wise move in the larger interest of Indian cricket. With his left hand stitched around there was hardly any chance left for him to regain fitness before the start of the fourth and final Test in Nagpur in just a few days time.
His decision to quit makes life easier for the team management who can still stick to the combination of two fast bowlers and as many specialist spinners with Harbhajan Singh looking fit to play again.
But no praise could be too high for Kumble, whose record as the highest wicket-taker for India in Test matches should remain intact for the next many years. It was an emotional moment to see him bowl his last few overs in international arena.
He was as accurate as ever, extracting uneven bounce and keeping the batsmen guessing. No wonder he didn’t pick up any wicket in that brief spell despite beating the bat on a few occasions.
The Indian cricket will certainly miss Kumble. He was one of the toughest characters around. He didn’t turn the ball as much as the legendary Shane Warne or Mutiah Muralitharan but he was no less effective. He was a fierce competitor whose never-say-die approach helped considerably in lifting the morale of the team whenever it was down.
One criticism on Kumble has been his performance rather the lack of it in overseas matches. It’s unfair to blame him for the inconsistency of the Indians abroad. He certainly made the most of the favourable conditions on home pitches but he was hardly ever found wanting anywhere.
Kumble, like any other spin bowler, became more lethal when attacking. He obviously didn’t get the opportunity of testing the batsmen when the Indians didn’t have enough runs in the bank. He did prove less effective in games where India had to adopt defensive approach but he was one weapon trusted the most by his captains.
Kumble looked a gutsy captain but he refrained from taking undue risks. He handled the team very well on that demanding tour of Australia last season. He has left the scene on a high note with India leading 1-0 in the home series and looking confident for regaining the Border-Gavaskar Trophy.
Pakistan’s glorious performance in Asian Beach Games
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Pakistan’s haul of seven medals in the recently held inaugural Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia, has gladdened the hearts of the sports administrators of the country in particular. It has come as a very pleasant surprise for the Pakistan sports fraternity in general. The tally of medals included two gold, two silver and three bronze.
The wrestlers in particular have made the country proud by bringing home as many as four medals. Ghulam Haider captured the gold in the 65-kg weight category by overpowering Pahmi Pami Ginawan of Indonesia in the final.
Mohammad Ali had to settle with the silver after losing to Yun Seok Lee of South Korea in the 75-kg final while bronze medals were clinched by Usman Majeed and Mohammad Taseen in the 85-kg and the over 85-kg weight categories.
Pakistan’s other gold came in the handball event when they edged out Kuwait 2-1 in the final. In the earlier games they had registered victories over Japan, Indonesia and Qatar.
Pakistan also featured in the gold-medal kabaddi match but they were downed by arch-rivals India and had to be content with the silver.
Mohammad Imran Qureshi earned a bronze medal for the country in the 75-kg bodybuilding event after Khalid Ali had failed to advance in the finals of the 70-kg event.
The heartening performance of the Pakistan’s athletes in the Beach Games has provided the joy to the country’s sports fans that had not been coming their way for years.
The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), whose President, General Syed Arif Hasan, has been proactive in bringing about the changes in the ranks of sports administration since taking over its leadership in 2004, deserves the credit for the success accomplished in the Asian Beach Games.
A firm believer in professional management, he has been particularly inclined towards training and grooming of the athletes, something that was non-existent or unheard of in the era before him. He has generated funds from the platform of the Pakistan Sports Trust (PST) to keep the POA and its affiliated units afloat.
His consistent policies are paying dividends now. He has been encouraging the innovative ideas and he was instrumental in facilitating the participation of the 41-member Pakistan squad in the first-ever Asian Beach Games.
The concept of Beach Games was new and it was quite refreshing to find Pakistan’s athletes adapting themselves better than their competitors. With the second Beach Games due to be held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in a couple of years time there is ample time at the disposal of the POA to work out a strategy that could yield even better results than the one in Bali.
The officials of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) are delighted by the success at Bali and they have planned to hold the Beach Games after every two years. In fact the venues of the next four editions have already been announced.
After Sultanate of Oman in 2010, the third Asian Beach Games will be staged in China in 2012 to be followed by one in Philippines in 2014 and in Thailand in 2016.
With the kind of success achieved in the inaugural event, should Pakistan not be getting ready to play host to the Beach Games in 2018?
Tendulkar looking beyond Mount Everest
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Sachin Tendulkar may have taken more time and matches than anticipated while surpassing the tally of Brian Lara to become the leading run-getter in Test cricket but the manner in which he has batted in the home series against Australia suggests that this genius will continue ruling the game for a few more years.
It’s so fascinating to note that he still has the same hunger for runs as the one he had at the time of starting what has a already become a fabulous career around a couple of decades. It’s never easy to stay motivated after all the major records have landed in your lap.
Talking about records Tendulkar richly deserves each of them having come his way. After having proven his mettle in every corner of the world and against the toughest of oppositions, he is now the worthy record holder of the highest number of runs and centuries in One-day Internationals as well as Test cricket.
His records in ODIs are expected to stand for a very long time but the same cannot be said with conviction about his two major records in Tests. The Australian skipper, Ricky Ponting, is not very far behind and by the look of things he is unlikely to be out of the game in the near future.
Tendulkar has no immediate plans for retirement either. But unlike Ponting, he has been laid low by injuries once too often in the recent past. If the Indian maestro can take care of his fitness for a couple of years Ponting may find it difficult to overtake his record of centuries or runs.
Since both Australia as well as India keep playing Test cricket more frequently than any other nation we have a good contest in sight between these two of the greatest batsmen of the modern generation.
Tendulkar, having become the first batsman in the history of the game to cross the barrier of 12,000 Test runs, looks good for at least 3,000 more runs, fitness permitting. It may not be easy for Ponting to chase something around 15,000 because the Australians won’t let him play only for the record if his magical form eludes him any time.
Tendulkar must also be aware of the fact that Ponting has the capability to overtake him sooner than later if he doesn’t set a stiffer challenge for the Australian captain who has now even scored heavily on the Indian grounds where he had failed miserably in the past.
The Ponting threat could be one of the reasons of Tendulkar’s not thinking in terms of hanging his boots yet.
Well there is no valid reason for Tendulkar to quit any form of the game at this stage. He has been scoring runs of late as well. He may have cut his attacking instincts with the passage of time but the passion to succeed in every outing keeps him going. India possesses enough attacking batsmen in their ranks to let him play his technically correct game.