April 29, 2009

World champions England eye Women’s ICC Twenty20


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

England’s women cricketers are on a high. Having won the World Cup in Australia earlier this year they are now eyeing the ICC World Twenty20 having retained their top guns for the showpiece event to be held in their own backyard this summer.

Charlotte Edwards, who led England to title victory in the World Cup, appears in a very positive frame of mind and she reckons that keeping the nucleus of the World Cup-winning squad intact will boost the chances of the hosts winning the World Twenty20.

England have made only three changes to the 15-man squad that carried the World Cup home from Australia, Georgia Elwiss, a fast bowler from Staffordshire, and two off-spinners, Danielle Hazell of Yorkshire and Sussex’s Rosalie Birch.

“We have tried to keep the nucleus of the World Cup squad together. We have got a good, sound squad there. We have prided ourselves on keeping consistency in selection. People are very clear on their roles, and I think it’s been one of the biggest factors in our success," the Kent all-rounder remarked in a recent interview.

England may have swept all before them in women’s cricket’s flagship event, but the their skipper feels that this summer’s World Twenty20, with a combined men’s and women’s finals day, will propel the women’s game higher into the public consciousness than ever before.

“This is the biggest occasion for women’s cricket so far. I know the team is looking forward to it, having the momentum from Australia. I enjoy Twenty20 - I average over 50 - no fear of failure comes into Twenty20,” Edwards said.

“A few days after the World Cup myself and coach Mark Lane had forgotten about it and were preparing for the T20. We can’t rest on our laurels because this could potentially be the biggest yet for England’s cricket team,” she added.

Meanwhile Taunton has been picked to host the women’s group matches at the ICC World Twenty20 in June 2009. The semi-finals of the women’s ICC World Twenty20 will be held at the same ground, on the same day and same ticket as the men’s semi finals, at the Brit Oval and Trent Bridge, and the women’s final will be a precursor for the men’s final to be held at Lord’s on June 21, 2009.

Taunton is a special ground for the England women’s team and has also impressed so many of the touring sides that have played here.

“Hosting such a major event is a great coup for Taunton and Somerset. Women’s cricket is now a major player in global sport and we look forward to welcoming the world’s best teams in 2009, particularly as by then we will have completed the first tranche of our redevelopment and will be able to provide a world-class cricketing arena to go along with our world-class pitches,” Somerset’s Chief Executive Richard Gould stated.

The warm-up games of the women's event will be held on June 8 and while the league matches will be organized from June 11 to 16. The semifinals will be taking place on June 18 and 19 with the final and the presentation ceremony scheduled to be held on June 21.

The women’s tournament of the ICC World Twenty20 2009 consists of eight teams with the group stage games hosted at Taunton. The eight teams that participated in the 2009 women's World Cup will not only play in the upcoming event but also the 2010 World Twenty20 in West Indies. 

Pakistan and West Indies have booked their place in the 2011 qualifiers already, by coming fifth and sixth at this World Cup, while the teams below them will have to earn their spot in the qualifiers. 

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April 28, 2009

Clarke rises to occasion to prevent further humiliation


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Isn’t amazing and unusual to find the mindset of the Australians being so negative? Although they did stage a comeback of sorts to win the low scoring third One-day International of the five-match series but their lackluster performance with the bat was terrible to say the least.

The pitch at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi was certainly on the slower side but it wasn’t all that bad where Shoaib Malik, who doesn’t bowl regularly anymore, could not be taken for more than 22 runs in 10 overs. Leg-spinner Shahid Afridi was yet again allowed the kind of figures that would have made the champion of champions proud.

The Australians seem to be playing pathetic cricket at the moment, despite having moved to 2-1 lead with two more to play. They are treating the Pakistan slow bowlers with incredible respect, passing the impression that they are not even interested to take them on.

It will come as little surprise if the other part-time spinners in the Pakistan squad would also have dream spells when pressed to service. It’s just a matter of the chance coming their way. Every slow bowler from Pakistan would be hoping to get a bowl against this Australian side that’s struggling to put bat on ball.

It has been an uncommon sight during the past one decade or so when the Australians have been in this frame of mind. How often would you watch them settling for a score below 200 in a 50-over game.

The Australian team management has missed a trick or two in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of their rivals. They have gone into a shell, having taken it for granted that the Pakistan slow bowlers need not to be attacked.

Skipper Michael Clarke came to the rescue of his side in the third ODI to prevent further humiliation for his side. The Australian batting has remained patchy in the series and it was mainly due to his knock of 66 that allowed his team to reach a total of 198 that was defended successfully.

Clarke also rose to the occasion with the ball, although his performance was not as sensational as he has had against India. His three-wicket haul allowed the Aussies to regain control and the job was finished clinically was the fast bowlers.

Pakistan appeared to be coasting towards an easy victory when the new opening pair of Salman Butt and Ahmed Shahzad exceeded all limitations by putting on 95 for the first wicket.

Things, however, changed quickly when the big partnership was broken. Runs became hard to come by and the Australians lifted their fielding standards to create more pressure on the batsmen.

There was hardly any element of surprise in watching the movements of the experienced Pakistan batsmen. They passed the impressed as if they were playing against Bangladesh or Zimbabwe not Australia. They didn’t consider the spinners as threat and kept on playing adventurous shots.

The dismissal of Misbah-ul-Haq clearly reflected the lack of respect for the Australian spinners. Shahid Afridi survived as many as close calls as the number of runs he scored. Shoaib Malik batted gallantly and the match was not over until was there. In the end it were the Australian fast bowlers who returned to run through the lower order.

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April 27, 2009

Battle of Pathan brothers, Bollywood queens


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The 15th match of the DLF Indian Premier League 2009 at the Newlands, Cape Town, featuring Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab had a couple of additional flavours besides offering the usual glamour and entertainment.

It brought head-t-head in the field two of the most talented all-round cricketers of the world who were brothers. Irfan Khan Pathan was playing for Kings XI Punjab while Yousuf Khan Pathan was doing duties for Rajasthan Royals.

Off the field it was a one-to-one contest between the two Bollywood queens, Preity Zinta and Shilpa Shetty, the owners of Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals respectively. The third Bollywood personality owning a team in the IPL is the legendary Shah Rukh Khan, who is right there in South Africa to support his Kolkata Knight Riders.

There was an early disappointment for the Bollywood idols as their teams had crashed in opening matches but things have improved as the tournament has progresses. Preity’s Kings XI Punjab, in fact, has now moved to the third position in the points table while Shah Rukh’s Kolkata Knight Riders and Shilpa’s Rajasthan Royals, the defending champions, are currently placed in the bottom half.

Preity has had more reasons to smile during the tournament and she must have felt on top of the world when her boys downed Shilpa’s team while defending a modest total on another noisy and fun-filled evening at the Newlands.

If Preity came out trumps in the duel of the Bollywood queens against Shilpa it was Irfan who overshadowed Yousuf in the battle of brothers on April 26.

Irfan displayed great maturity with bat and ball and he was very rightly adjudged Man of the Match for having made the most significant contribution to his team’s success. He proved once again that he’s an immensely gifted all-rounder who doesn’t lack in temperament.

It was his partnership with the vastly experienced Sri Lankan, Kumar Sangakkara, which rescued his team from a precarious 48 for four in the ninth over. The two left-handers batted very sensibly that allowed Kings XI Punjab to post a fighting total of 139 for six in the allotted 20 overs. 

While Sangakarra helped himself to yet another half-century, Irfan chipped in with a superb 39 off 33 balls laced with a couple of sixes and as many fours. He didn’t allow the fancied spin duo of Shane Warne and Yousuf Pathan to get on top.

It was Irfan back in limelight when skipper Yuvraj Singh handed him over the new ball. He responded straight away by picking up a couple of wickets in his opening over. It was a cracking delivery that totally caught Graeme Smith by surprise as he had moved forward to defend. It was a big wicket and opened the floodgates for Kings XI Punjab.

With Yousuf Abdulla, another devastating left-arm fast-bowler, also doing the damage from the other end there was not much the Rajasthan Royals batsmen could have done to change the course of the proceedings.

Even Yousuf Pathan, enjoying a purple patch, was unable to dominate the two left-arm quickies before being scalped by leg-spinner Piyush Chawla. With his dismissal vanished hopes of Rajasthan Royals for it was going to be the day of his brother Irfan whose team Kings XI Punjab were the deserved winners.

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April 25, 2009

Australia far from convincing


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Australia made heavy weather of chasing down the target of 208 in 50 overs and they survived a few anxious moments before finally been able to do it that leveled the ongoing five-match ODI series against Pakistan being played in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

It was amazing to find the Aussies struggling against Shahid Afridi, who is being accorded more respect than he ever gets even in domestic matches. As somebody pointed out he becomes more lethal in international games because of the luck factor coming his way.

Afridi does need more luck than anybody else while batting as well because he only plays the way he knows, discarding the other factors that ordinary mortals had to take into the consideration.

Afridi, who bowled Pakistan to victory in the previous game, very nearly did it again. He got a couple of wickets besides creating doubts in the minds of the batsmen who were unable to dominate him.

The mindset of the Australians was hard to understand. They are supposed to be the most ruthless side in world cricket having the best infrastructure and coaching academes back home. That they are unable to cope with the spinners brought to light some deficiencies in their most talked about system.

Isn’t it shocking to note that the Australian batsmen have lacked the aggression that’s so vital to counter the spinners? They did make some adjustments in their stance in the second game that only reflected weaknesses in their technique. They should have done this homework much earlier.

More mind-boggling is the fact that the Australians have been playing continuous cricket throughout the season but they are not looking a settled side yet. They are the team having ruled the game for a number of years primarily due to their bench strength. The loss of key players has never been an issue for them because they have adequate backup talent.

Michael Clarke’s captaincy has been uninspiring so far that raises doubts about him being the future leader of the great Australian team. Not sure if their management has alternate plans up their sleeves yet.

Australia’s performance in the first couple of games has been far from impressive against a team that has not played much of international cricket in the past. The manner in which Clarke batted showed the lack of punch in their attitude. They had decimated the strongest of outfits with consummate ease but they are now struggling to display that kind of intensity that had made them the juggernauts.

Andrew Symonds, however, had reasons to smile because he came good when the needed him most. His couple of wickets near the end of the Pakistan innings saved his team from further embarrassment.

More importantly it was his batting display that came handy in helping Australia level the series 1-1 with three to go. He scored a half century that sealed the fate of the match because the Australians were in danger of losing the game again after allowing the spin duo of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal were allowed to get on top.

The contest was very much alive even after the big partnership for the second wicket between James Hopes and Shane Watson. With skipper Clarke unable to bat in his natural style, it was left to Symonds to deliver and he rose to the occasion. The match was in Australia’s bag when he was finally undone by Afridi. 

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April 23, 2009

Boom Boom Afridi rattles Australia


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It has been the specialty of the Pakistan teams over the years, doing things that are hard even to conceive. They have had the unusual knack of accomplishing the impossible-looking tasks. There was not much element of surprise in Pakistan winning the first One-day International against Australia by four wickets but the manner in which the latter collapsed caused the drama.

What happened at the Dubai Sports City Cricket Stadium on April 22 was truly sensational. The Australians, understood to be one of the most powerful teams on the scene, crashed like novices against the Pakistan spinners who exceeded all expectations.

How often would you expect a team like Australia, who are known and feared for taking the fight to the opposition, collapse to 122 for nine after being so happily placed at 95 for one in the 19th over.

The duo of Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal was able to return the flattering figures after the Aussies, having elected to bat, had laid a solid foundation. The amazing turnaround was carried out by a couple of spinners neither of whom had the credentials or the skills to perform the giant-killing act of this magnitude.

Shahid Afridi, whose place in the playing eleven always remains in jeopardy because even the selectors and the team management are unwilling to gamble with him, returned the figures that would have made even the legendary spinners like Shane Warne and Mutiah Muralitharan proud.

Six for 38 in 10 overs are dream figures in any form of the game for any class of bowler. No doubt it was the career-best performance with the ball by the leg-spinning all-rounder. Not sure though for how long will it insure his place in the team in the future.

You certainly cannot blame the selectors or the team management for not having him in the scheme of things at all times because he prefers to play the game his own way irrespective of the demands of the situation. When the lady luck is smiling on him, he can turn into a most explosive of all-rounder but he’s equally vulnerable when he’s not deriving that divine help from the Nature.

Saeed Ajmal’s spell with the ball was no less dramatic. The young off-spinner gave away only 19 runs in his 10 overs picking up a couple of important wickets in the bargain. Together with Shahid Afridi, he tormented the Australian batsmen who looked clueless against them.

The Australians were expected to total much higher than 168 what they could manage even after the start their top-order had made in conditions not difficult for batting.

The unimaginative leadership of the stand-in captain Michael Clarke made Pakistan’s task easier when chasing the target of 169 in 50 overs. He was probably unaware of the fact that the Pakistan batsmen, having blunted the likes of Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis a few months ago, were not going to be tested by someone like Nathan Hauritz who understandably went wicketless.

Clarke would have been much better off attacking the batsmen with fast bowlers which he did realize after having gifted some precious runs by allowing Hauritz half a dozen overs.

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April 22, 2009

Spinners make their mark in IPL 2


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There was a time when the spinners were considered a luxury for the limited-overs games and the sides usually packed themselves with fast bowlers and medium-pacers as the emphasis was on containment.

It was the mindset of the 1960s and 1970s when the one-day matches were mostly held in England where the overcast conditions helped the seam bowlers considerably. Even the famous quartet of Indian spinners having engineered quite a few historic conquests in Test cricket were not rated highly for the one-dayers.

There was hardly a change of heart among the captains even when the version of the game was spread to other countries. They were unwilling to take the risk of tossing the ball to the slow bowlers, relying on the medium-pacers even when the surfaces they were playing on were dry and offered some purchase to the spinners.

It was Imran Khan, the most daring of all captains, who took the chance of playing a spinner as an attacking option. It was during the World Cup in 1983 and mind you the tournament was being in England. He had the guts to include leg-spinner Abdul Qadir in the playing eleven and the move paid immediate dividends.

Qadir, the great leg-spinner that he was, still vividly recalls those moments when Imran, having the conviction and self-belief, had set those attacking fields even though it was a One-day International and not a Test match.

Qadir’s success brought about a revolution and the other teams also started including spinners, not necessarily as an attacking option though. The over-rate factor also prompted the selection of slow bowlers in the one-dayers.

There was a question mark again about the future of the spinners when the latest and todate the shortest version of the game at the international level, Twenty20, was introduced. It was being debated whether the best of spin bowlers would be able to come good with those short boundaries and the batsmen using the bat as a sword every ball or their services may not be required in the T20 games.

The second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), being played in South Africa, has already proved that the spinners have a definitely role to play in the T20 cricket and they can be as lethal as in the longer versions of the game.

The pitches or the conditions in South Africa are not in favour of the spinners but the quality spinners have done the trick in the earlier games and they are likely to be a threat in the coming matches as well.

Shane Warne, acclaimed as the greatest-ever leg-spinner, has weaved his magic for Rajasthan Royals. India’s most successful spin bowler, Anil Kumble, returned the stunning figures of five for five for Bangalore Royal Challengers.

New Zealand’s premier left-arm spinner bowled Delhi Daredevils to victory in a match shortened by rain. He proved how effective the champion spinners could still be damp conditions and in even if it’s a game of just a few overs when the batsmen have the license to blast every ball.

Harbhajan Singh bowled beautifully for Mumbai Indians while the magician from Sri Lanka, Mutiah Muralitharan, made an impression for Chennai Super Kings right away. The young leg spinner Piyush Chawla did a fine job for Kings XI Punjab against Kolkata Knight Riders in the rain-hot fixture.

The success of the spinners in the earlier part of the IPL 2 takes the press off the shoulders of the faster men who were supposed to do the job for their respective franchises after the event was shifted to South Africa from India.

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April 20, 2009

Tendulkar, Dravid set tone in IPL 2


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

As they say form is temporary and class is permanent. Not surprisingly the limelight on the opening day of the second edition of the high-profile Indian Premier League (IPL) was stolen by two of the greatest batsmen the world of cricket ever has seen.

Yes it were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid who engineered the triumphs for their respective sides. It was Twenty20 cricket but it went down to the skills and technique in conditions not ideal for batting.

Tendulkar and Dravid don’t feature in the scheme of things for India in Twenty20 Internationals, having given way to the young master blasters, but their knocks for Mumbai Indians and Bangalore Royal Challengers respectively could bring them back in contention.

Who says that people like Tendulkar and Dravid have become a thing of the past? If cricket is played in a challenging environment of South Africa or England they still have a defining role to play. The ordinary mortals with quicker legs may do the job on the docile tracks of India but it becomes a different ball game altogether if the technique is being tested.

The IPL 2 has got off to a cracking start despite the threats of rain. All the eight participating teams were seen in action on the first couple of days and there was explosive cricket at the Newlands in Cape Town. What a weekend it was for the South African enthusiasts who flocked in high numbers to watch the high-voltage games.

The sell-out crowd was treated to some breathtaking stroke-play, classic spin bowling and acrobatic fielding at the start of the five-week tournament moved out of India because of security concerns.

On the opening day, Rajasthan Royals, the defending champions, were stunned by Bangalore Royal Challengers while Chennai Super Kings, last year’s runners-up, were surprised by Mumbai Indians. The following day, Delhi Daredevils whipped Kings XI Punjab in the rain-hit game and Deccan Chargers blew the whistle on Kolkata Knight Riders. 

The organizers and spectators could not have desired for a more absorbing opening match as the legendary Tendulkar came up with another gem of a knock to lead Mumbai to a thrilling 19-run victory over Chennai.

Tendulkar carried the bat 20 for his unbeaten 59 off 49 balls in conditions difficult for batting to help Mumbai Indians reach a competitive total of 165. The master batsman read the pitch extremely well and he executed his plans accordingly.

Tendulkar was in the thick of the things again as he led his team to the field to defend a not too formidable score particularly with so many big hitters in the ranks of the opponents. The field-setting and the bowling changes reflected his presence of mind that brought the last year’s runners-up under enormous pressure.

The pace duo of Lasith Malinga and Zaheer Khan was bang on target and the fall of wickets at regular intervals didn’t allow Chennai to get on top. Then came the spinning pair of Harbhajan Singh and Sanath Jayasuriya who brought all their loads of experience into play. 

Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni kept Chennai’s hopes alive but he didn’t get the support and it was time for Mumbai to celebrate.

The change in leadership brought instant results for Bangalore Royal Challengers who were able to overwhelm the defending champions Rajasthan Royals by 75 runs. Kevin Pietersen, having taken over from Rahul Dravid, made all the difference in the attitude of the star-studded that had struggled last year.

Dravid, who passed the impression of being in the comfort zone in the company of the flamboyant Pietersen, batted beautifully in trying conditions to help his side post a fighting total. 

Medium-pacer Dimitri Mascarenhas had put Rajasthan in the driving seat by taking two wickets in the very first over and the magician Shane Warne bowled superbly to contain Bangalore to 133.

Bangalore came up trumps while defending the total with the champion leg-spinner Anil Kumble claiming the most economic five-wicket haul in Twenty20s to complete the job for his side. 

New Zealand’s left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori returned the excellent figures of three for 15 for Delhi Daredevils to restrict Kings XI Punjab to 104 for seven in 12 overs after rain delayed the start by more than an hour and a half.

The mercurial Indian opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir faced no problems whatsoever while chasing down the revised target of 54 in six overs. Skipper Sehwag finished the match with his fourth six in his blazing of 38 not out off 16 balls with his team winning by 10 wickets.

Deccan Chargers, who had finished at the bottom of the points table last year, got off to the best possible start when they downed the mighty Kolkata Knight Riders by eight wickets after the start to game had to be delayed by nearly an hour-and-a-half due to rain and a floodlight failure. 

The four-wicket haul from left-arm fast bowler Rudra Pratap Singh sent the star-studded Kolkata crashing to 101 all out in 19.4 overs. Deccan lost a couple of wickets in the process of reaching the modest target with Herschelle Gibbs and Rohit Sharma finishing it off in style. 

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April 19, 2009

Australia brighten South African summer


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Australia did what the South Africans had done earlier in the season. The inspired South African line-up had provided the Australian crowds cricket of the highest quality when they pocketed the Test as well as the ODI series against the reigning world champions.

The Australians couldn’t clinch the ODI series in South Africa, after having snatched the Test series, but their youthful side gave a wonderful exhibition of all-round cricket to entertain the spectators.

With back-to-back series wins over Australia, the South Africans are worthy to be rated as the strongest team in One-day Internationals and they indeed are the top ranked ODI side at the moment.

The contests between Australia and South Africa have often produced exhilarating cricket and the rivalry between the two evenly-matched outfits has remained fierce all along.

With proactive captains like Ricky Ponting and Graeme Smith leading from the front, the intensity of the game has to be on the higher side. Both of them are tough cricketers and they take pride in playing the game the hard way. Neither of the two has ever been prepared to take things for granted.

South Africa had done a fabulous job by closing the ODI series in the fourth game but the Australians came hard at their opponents in the fifth and final encounter even though the rubber was dead.

The consolation victory in the last match in Johannesburg allowed Australia to move to the second position in the ODI rankings. They showed great resilience in the field and thoroughly deserved to win the day.

South Africa appeared poised to take home the ODI series 4-1 against Australia for the second time running when Herschelle Gibbs and Jacques Kallis were milking runs at will in the middle of the innings.

The target of 304 in 50 overs under floodlights was never going to be easy against the spirited Australian bowling attack being backed by their fleet-footed fielders. But the hosts became the firm favourites when they raised the 150 of their innings with the loss of just one wicket and Gibbs and Kallis on top of the bowling.

Gibbs, having smashed a brilliant century earlier in the series, was trifle lucky to have been declared leg-before when in sight of another ton. His dismissal brought to the crease A B de Villiers who kept the momentum going in the company of the well-set Kallis as 118 more were needed off the 16 overs that didn’t look a tall order with eight wickets in hand.

The complexion of the game changed in the next few overs when Kallis played a loose shot. The Australian left-arm quickies Nathan Bracken and Mitchell Johnson delivered at the crucial stage of the innings and the spectacular catch taken by Ben Laughlin to send back the dangerous Albie Morkel allowed Australia to gain control. Laughlin then sealed the fate of the game by yorking de Villiers in the first over of the batting Powerplay.

Earlier in the day the Australians had overcome a middle-order collapse to post a total in the excess of 300. They were set for a much bigger total after the explosive start to their innings provided by Brad Haddin and Michael Clarke.

It were the slow bowlers again who derailed Australia. Even though the regular off-spinner Johan Botha was not playing even the duo of Roelof van der Merwe and J P Duminy did enough damage to keep the total in check. It was only a late flurry of strokes from Michael Hussey that took Australia to 300.

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April 18, 2009

Pakistan denied World Cup hosting rights


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Pakistan cricket suffered yet another major blow when the International Cricket Council (ICC) decided to restrict the 2011 World Cup to Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka. 

The ICC has decided to retain the World Cup in the sub-continent but Pakistan would not be one of the hosts, as was originally planned.

The ruling from the ICC was very much on the cards for two reasons. The shootout in Lahore on March 3 in which seven Sri Lankan cricketers were injured had meant that Pakistan would be out of bounds for the visiting teams for quite sometime.

Then the officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were found wanting in their damage-control exercise that should have been in full force to prevent further losses. Their approach was suicidal and they should not be complaining now.

The PCB functionaries could have fared much had they tackled the issue professionally. They went into a shell instead of making extra efforts to offset the tragic incident of Lahore.

There is not much any point in blaming the ICC in the prevailing circumstances for having stripped Pakistan of hosting rights for the next World Cup because of the "uncertain security situation" in the country as outlined in the handout issued after the board meeting in Dubai on April 17.

"It is a regrettable decision but our number one priority is to create certainty and deliver a safe, secure and successful event and the uncertainty created by events within Pakistan created a huge question mark over our ability to do just that,." the ICC President, David Morgan, said in the statement. 

It may not be easy for the ICC to stick to their plans of hosting the next World Cup’s matches in three other Asian countries. The security situation in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka has also remained alarming over the years and they had to move the events out of there.

Even India have been vulnerable and they had to shift their showpiece event, the Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa. Bangladesh could not host Pakistan recently because they had security issues. Sri Lanka have witnessed numerous terrorist attacks in the past.

One can argue in this context that the ICC could have deferred the decision and not denied Pakistan the hosting rights of the 2011 World Cup at this stage. The ICC should abstain from singling out Pakistan because terrorism is a global issue and the entire region has been volatile for the past few years.

One expects the ICC to be sympathetic to Pakistan’s cause because cricket is the game of the masses in this part of the world and the youngsters, in particular, are into it.

The ICC, working so hard for the globalization of the sport, should not lose sight of the fact that they must be considerate in dealing with the countries where cricket is the sport. It is a pity that the cricket enthusiasts are not getting the opportunity of watching international matches at home. They eagerly await the turnaround, the sooner the better.

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April 17, 2009

Focus on Shoaib Akhtar as Lee to skip UAE series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I am not sure if the Australians would classify this as a blow to their chances but Brett Lee’s absence from the upcoming limited-overs series against Pakistan to be held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will certainly disappoint the fans of the game.

Now the spotlight will be on Pakistan’s spearhead Shoaib Akhtar who is fired up to deliver for the country once more. It would have been a real thrill for the spectators to watch Shoaib and Lee in the opposing teams but the latter would not be a part of the action in the battle.

The contest between Shoaib and Lee, two of the fastest bowlers to have entered the cricket arena, would have been fascinating even though both of them were to be on a comeback trail.

The return of the injury-prone Lee in international cricket was being fast-tracked but he’s not in a position to do the job for his country right now. He will have to wait a little longer now as the medical staff deemed his surgically repaired ankle not yet ready for the rigours of bowling. 

Lee is a part of the Australian squad currently in South Africa and he will remain there for some more time for his rehabilitation but the chances of him playing for the Kings XI Punjab in the Indian Premier League (IPL) appear very remote. He still has a chance though of joining the squad in the UAE provided he makes a speedy recovery.

"The National Selection Panel (NSP) has been advised by Cricket Australia medical staff that Brett Lee is not yet fit enough to resume international cricket. While it's disappointing for Brett to miss the start of the Pakistan series, the NSP wants to take a careful approach to his return to the Australian team," Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, was quoted as saying. 

"Brett's ankle has recovered well from surgery in January this year. However, the rehabilitation process is ongoing and, to date, Brett has not bowled sufficiently to allow him to be fit to resume playing cricket. I will be monitoring Brett's progress to assess his availability for any part of the series against Pakistan in the UAE,” Alex Kountouris, the team physiotherapist, added. 

There have been rumours that Shoaib Akhtar is also not fully fit yet but it’s not clear whether he would still be played in the forthcoming matches. We have seen so many times in the past an unfit Shoaib taking the field and then returning to the dressing room on account of fitness.

Shoaib has had these problems for the last many years and he has been in and out of the national team in the recent past. His statements to the media on the eve of every major series suggest that he’s fully fit but why he breaks down more often than not is something he’s unable to explain.

The Australians do have the backup support for people like Lee but Pakistan have struggled to find a decent pace attack and Shoaib’s absence has hurt them badly during the last few years.

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April 15, 2009

Pakistan-Australia series could affect IPL 2


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The organizers of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have had to encounter problems of all kinds. They must have foreseen numerous hassles while launching the tournament of such magnitude last year but they might not have anticipated the change of venue.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), having so much influence in the International Cricket Council (ICC) of late, had ensured that the international cricket would come to a standstill when the IPL was in progress.

As the luck would have it, the postponements and cancellations of the various events prompted their change of dates that now clash with the second edition of the IPL, getting underway in South Africa on April 18.

Pakistan and Australia, two of the finest one-day teams in the business, would now be engaged in a limited overs series in the Middle East during the period when the South African grounds will be hosting the IPL. 

The IPL organizers may not admit it publicly but the fact of the matter is that they would not have desired another cricket event taking place during the course of their extravaganza. 

The ODI series between Pakistan and Australia in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has in fact dealt double blow to the IPL. Firstly a large number of viewers in different parts of the world will now have an alternate source of entertainment. Many people would prefer to watch the One-day Internationals between two of the most exciting teams in the world rather than follow an event not having much value in their eyes.

Since the television audience is going to be the key in the IPL 2 as the event being staged in South Africa will actually be targeting the huge Indian market, the telecast of the ODIs between Pakistan and Australia would cause a distraction.

Another cause of concern for the IPL organizers could the lack of presence of the stars of the two countries. While Pakistan’s players were unlikely to compete in the IPL 2 in any case, the withdrawal of the Australians due to national duty could result in substantial drop of audience in that country.

The IPL 2 will certainly appeal less to the Australian public because of the non-presence of their stars in the tournament. Secondly they could also be more interested to follow the fortunes of their national team in the ODI series against Pakistan.

All the eight participating teams in the IPL 2 have invested heavily by recruiting some of the most talented and skilled cricketers in the planet but they would miss the stars from Pakistan and Australia who had played their part in making the inaugural tournament so successful.

The shifting of the venue from India to South Africa has already prompted the teams to revisit their plans as the playing conditions in the two countries are quite different. The pullouts of the Australians in particular must have caused more concerns to them. Let us see how they make the last minute adjustments.

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April 13, 2009

IPL 2 to miss carnival atmosphere


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL), getting underway in South Africa on April 18, is likely to miss the carnival atmosphere that had taken the whole world by storm last year.

The mood of the fans in South Africa is certainly going to be different than the one possessed by the enthusiasts in India. The passion of the Indian public for cricket is enormous and it’s hard to imagine the same kind of passion in South Africa.

Although the majority of the top performers of the world cricket are expected to be there and the highest quality of cricket is also anticipated once more but the lack of the crowd participation may take some gloss off the event.

Another thing is that the games in the IPL would be held at mid-day that is not deemed an ideal time in South Africa. The timings of the matches, however, would still suit the viewers in the Indo-Pak sub-continent.

Meanwhile the teams and franchises have had to rework their plans and logistical details because of the eleventh hour shifting of the mega event from India.

The change of venue will bring about a change in the strategy of the participating teams as well because the pitches in South Africa would be different to the ones in India where the odds favoured the batsmen.

The batting-friendly wickets in India had allowed the batters to tear apart the bowling from the moment they set their feet in the ground. It could be a different story altogether in South Africa where the pitches are known to assist the quicker bowlers. So we are unlikely to watch far too many runs scored this time round and we are more likely to witness low-scoring thrillers.

The average score in the IPL last year was about 170-180 per innings. The figures from the domestic Twenty20 in South Africa reveal that the average score is 140. The batsmen will have to apply themselves for putting runs on the board.

The young Indian cricketers, who had played their role admirably in the inaugural IPL, may have to struggle on the bouncy strips of South Africa. The conditions in South Africa will also fluctuate quite a lot depending on the weather. The grounds around there are very different from centre to centre as well as the bounce.

So the conditions will be very different at different venues and life for the fringe Indian cricketers could be very tough in these conditions. It presents a big challenge for the average domestic Indian players in particular to adapt to the South African conditions.

In the IPL 2 the teams having stronger South African presence in their squad will obviously get the advantage for they are familiar with the conditions, they understand how they can change from morning to afternoon, or from first innings to second innings.

There are a number of different aspects that an experienced South African player will be able to pass on to his own team and will also be able to adapt to his own game. This factor puts Bangalore Royal Challengers at an advantage in that regard.

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April 11, 2009

India return triumphant from New Zealand


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Indian cricketers, having emerged triumphant in a Test series in New Zealand for the first time after 41 seasons, were accorded warm welcome upon their return home on April 9.

They returned home in batches in different cities after having done a fabulous job in New Zealand. The victorious skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Man-of-the-Series Gautam Gambhir, opener Virender Sehwag, fast bowler Ishant Sharma and leg-spinner Amit Mishra landed in capital New Delhi while the legendary batsman Sachin Tendulkar alongwith spearhead Zaheer Khan, off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, medium-pacer Munaf Patel and young Dhawal Kulkarni disembarked in Mumbai.

The batting stalwarts Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman flew into directly to their respective cities, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

The Indian cricket fans had the reasons to feel proud of their team who had overcome all the obstacles to record their first Test series win in New Zealand after Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi's team had downed them on their own soil in 1967-68.

The ride has been rough and bumpy for the Indian sides over the years having had to endure the cruelties of the nature besides taking care of their form. What happened in the third and final Test at the Basin Reserve in Wellington was so typical of their fate. It has remained so near yet so far story for them on a number of occasions.

Their win in the first Test at the Eden Park, Auckland, was their maiden Test triumph on the New Zealand soil for 33 years or so. They should have won handsomely the third Test as well to take the series 2-0. But the manner in which they were robbed of the win in Wellington suggested they might need decades if not centuries to accomplish it.

The Indians have won so few matches, despite having dominated decisively so many times, that they value their every win much more than any other team despite being in possession of the strongest outfit in the business.

That could be one reason why the Indians sometimes play cricket that looks unusual if not mind-boggling. They know how difficult it’s for them to complete a win. Therefore they adopt tactics that are different to other teams.

Sometimes you have to pardon them for not delivering because of their consistent hard luck. They should have aimed for a whitewash over the New Zealanders but their own performance was terrible in the second Test at the McLean Park, Napier, where they had to play out time save the game.

One is not sure how Dhoni has been labeled as a lucky captain. Yes he may be less unluckier than his predecessors but to expect the luck to go with him is something beyond my comprehension. That’s why he may not be able to have the success rate as high as that of Ricky Ponting or Clive Lloyd despite having the capacity of doing better.

Ponting and Lloyd didn’t have to fight the nature. They got the value for their performance. Not Dhoni. If he had just normal luck, his side would have won the Wellington Test.

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April 9, 2009

Prof Ejaz Farooqi making immense contribution to cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqi, an eminent educationalist, has also distinguished himself in the field of sports and community service. Hailing from Karachi, he is one of those very few proactive personalities, who believe in letting his work do the talking.
Having a proven track record in the field of education, Prof Ejaz Farooqui has made his presence felt on the cricket scene in a remarkably short span of time. He’s now recognized as one of the leading cricket administrators. His level of commitment for the cause of the game is commendable.

He was himself a cricketer in his younger days that seems to be the reason why he has been more towards cricket administration. He was elected as the Chairman of the Zone II of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) in 2006 and what a contribution he has made to the game since then.

He has been in the forefront in promoting and supporting the young cricketers not only of his zone but the entire city. He has been the motivating force behind the launch of so many tournaments that have taken place from time to time during the past few years.

The KCCA Zone II has been benefiting in particular under his leadership where greater number of tournaments are being held than ever before. He has himself volunteered to sponsor the majority of the tournaments to ensure that the cricketers of zone remained engaged in quality cricket throughout the year.

The results are also there to see as the KCCA Zone II has emerged victorious in the Under-19 tournaments a couple of times besides winning the Under-17 event once.
It’s very heartening to note that the KCCA as well as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) have recognized the services of Prof Ejaz Farooqui and he has been entrusted with key assignments recently.

He was appointed the manager of the PCB XI for the four-day match against the visiting Zimbabweans while he also the manager of the Patron’s XI in their two-day match against Sri Lanka last month.

The PCB and the KCCA should avail the services of a man of his caliber who has the expertise as well as temperament to do justice to the challenging assignments. Being a highly educated man, his attitude towards other is more humane. We need humble and unassuming people like him at the top who care for others.

Prof Ejaz Farooqui should now be playing a long innings in the field of cricket administration. One hopes that he will soon be getting bigger assignments in the larger interest of the sport. The game of cricket needs capable and selfless people like him.

He is particularly keen to serve the areas that were neglected in the past for one reason or the other. It must have been very heartening for the young cricketers of Surjani Town in particular to have welcomed the respected figure of Prof Ejaz Farooqi in a tournament held there.

It’s not often to find a personality his stature pay a visit to the cricket grounds of Surjani Town and it was a nice gesture on his part to have gone there to witness a game and distribute the prizes.

The occasion was the final and presentation ceremony of the Surjani Champions Trophy Cricket Tournament. His speech must have gladdened the hearts of the area cricketers and organizers.

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April 8, 2009

Ehsan Qureshi survives a scare


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Renowned sports journalist and author, Ehsan Qureshi, met with a horrible road accident on April 7 but fortunately he didn’t receive any serious injury. The car he was driving, however, was badly damaged.

Ehsan Qureshi, the Senior Sports Reporter of the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP), the premier news agency of the country, was driving towards the Civic Centre, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, on University Road at around 11.45 am when he ran into a coaster that had stopped abruptly at the edge of the pedestrian crossing near the PIA Planetarium.

“What I could remember is that the vehicle in front of me applied emergency brakes when the police signaled its driver to stop to facilitate people cross the road. Driving at around 40 to 45 km/hr I was not very far behind that coaster. The distance was so little that my car banged into it although I had also put my feet on the brakes right away,” he recalled.

“The intensity of collision was so ferocious and I lost my senses momentarily. I did hear faint voice of people who had gathered around me but I was unsure what exactly was happening. It felt for a while that my neck had been broken. The scores of people who rushed to the scene also feared serious injury after watching the condition of my Suzuki Alto car,” he added.

“Thankfully, with the prayers of my family, friends and well-wishers, I survived. It was indeed a major road accident, as the car had to be towed away, but thanks God I didn’t suffer any injury,” a mighty relieved Ehsan Qureshi said.

“I was touched by the caring attitude of the area people who demonstrated great human qualities to rescue me. We often complain of materialism and selfishness in society but the incident showed once again that the humanity is still alive. I will never forget the timely support of the people present on the scene who were instrumental in lifting my spirits and helping me stand on my feet quickly. Hats off to them, my unknown friends who stood by me there on the roadside,” he remarked.

“I am particularly grateful to my friends Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqui and Jamil Ahmed who promptly reached the spot of the accident and helped me recover,” Ehsan Qureshi stated.

Ehsan Qureshi displayed great courage and fortitude from the moment he was away from the scene. The first thing he enquired after depositing his car to his mechanic in PECHS was if the luncheon media briefing of Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, Sindh Minister for Sports, at the Karachi Gymkhana, was starting on time. He was not prepared to return home. Rather he wanted to spend the rest of the day as was originally planned.

He, however, agreed to relax for about half an hour at the office of Jumbo Infomedia before moving on. He didn’t sit for a moment longer and hired a cab to proceed to the head office of New Jubilee Insurance where he had an appointment with its Managing Director, Tahir Ahmed.

The HBL sports department was his next destination where he had his meal with old-time cricketer friends Abdul Raquib and Liaquat Ali, while recounting the tale of horror a few hours ago.

Phones from the concerned friends and family members kept on coming but he performed his duties normally at the APP office on I I Chundrigar Road, filing a good number of stories. He was not finished yet. He then reached the Karachi Golf Club to cover the bridge tournament and it was not until 10 pm when his mentor and senior office, Abdul Qadir Qureshi, finally dropped him at his residence on Rashid Minhas Road.

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April 7, 2009

Nature ditches India yet again


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India, seeking their 100th Test win, were ditched by the nature once more. The state of the match at the Basin Reserve, Wellington, was such that no force on earth could have denied the Indians a massive victory. 

But as it had happened on numerous occasions in the past the outside factors came into play to deprive India another thoroughly deserved win. They had been so unlucky in pressing home the advantage so many times and history repeated itself once more.

New Zealand were in dire straits throughout the third and final Test and they needed a miracle to save the game. The nature came to their rescue just when they were about to sink in the afternoon session on the fifth and final day.

The Indians had done reasonably well in the morning to pick up three wickets and they were closer to victory when they got another one soon after the luncheon break. The match could have finished in the same over, had Simon Taufel, the greatest umpire of the world, ruled Daniel Vettori not out when a ball from Harbhajan Singh, having pitched in line, was going to crash into the middle-stump. 

Had Taufel made the correct decision, Vettori’s departure would have brought to the middle last man Chris Martin, who didn’t possess the capacity to come to terms with the pressure or the deadly spin bowling. 

Martin would have walked to the crease in any case, if Ishant Sharma, standing at square-leg, not dropped a sitter in the very next over. Iain O’Brien had turned a full toss from Sachin Tendulkar straight into the hands of Sharma who was probably not anticipating a catch.

Vettori and O’Brien played or rather somehow survived the next few overs and skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni had to summon Zaheer Khan for finishing off the tail with the second new ball. 

The left-arm fast bowler delivered a couple of looseners with the old ball before collecting the shining cherry from umpire Darryl Harper. Before Zaheer could bowl the second delivery with the new ball the drop of rains caught the attention of the umpires and they ordered the groundstaff to rush with the covers.

With the strong wind blowing, it was generally being believed that it was just a passing shower and the game will resume shortly. There was no forecast for rain until the evening and it was appearing a matter of time for the players to return.

Anyone who is a student of sports history or well versed with the fate of the matches involving India, would have known that the match was unlikely to get underway. The umpires inspected the pitch a few times because the rains did stop for once in a while. But the game could not resume. It had something to do with destiny as India are one team who have been the unluckiest one in finishing off things.

At times it makes one wonder how have India managed to win 99 Test matches because they had to overcome so many other factors besides downing their opponents. They have to create much more opportunities for registering a win than any other team.

With the rains robbing India of a certain victory in the third Test, they had to settle with a 1-0 win the series which was not a true reflection of their dominance. They have taken 41 years to win a Test series in New Zealand. One can understand why after the events in Wellington. 

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April 6, 2009

Intikhab, Younis expect Pakistan to win Twenty20 World Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan’s coach Intikhab Alam believes that winning the ICC World Cup Twenty20 Tournament in England this summer would be a great way to restore lost pride to a distressed nation. 

Although Pakistan, who ended runners-up in the inaugural edition of the tournament about two years ago, have to take on Australia in a series of limited overs games in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) before the Twenty20 global event, Intikhab has called on his players to target the England tournament to lift spirits.

"Our cricket is going through a rough phase but we have to fight on and one way of doing that is to start winning titles like the World Cup Twenty20," he was quoted as saying.

Intikhab firmly believes that his team stands a very good chance of winning the World Cup. "There is no doubt that we can win the title in England. We have a very reliable batting line-up, while our bowlers are also very good for the shorter version of the game. Although it is a batsman's game, bowlers too can play a part by bowling accurate yorkers and mixing up their deliveries. We have enough talent to form a potent attack and we have to ensure they are in peak form for the tournament," he said.

"Twenty20 is a relatively new innovation, but enough games have been played around the world and they have all underlined the fact that the teams with a higher level of fitness and better fielding skills enjoy a clear edge. That is one area which we would have to improve on," Intikhab reckoned.

The Pakistan skipper, Younis Khan, is also very optimistic about Pakistan’s chances of winning the Twenty20 World Cup in England.

“The shortest version of the game suits our boys because aggressive cricket comes to them naturally. They are more at ease in going for the big shots rather than blocking deliveries,” he said in a recent chat.

“The same is the case with the Indian cricketers of late who just love to take the attack to the opposition. That was the reason why Pakistan and India had made it to the final of inaugural Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa and there is every possibility of these two teams sharing the spotlight in England once more,” Younis thought.

“Pakistan and India will be very hard to beat even though the other teams like Australia and South Africa have had the opportunity of playing more Twenty20 cricket over the last couple of years,” the Pakistan captain felt.

Pakistan, it may be recalled, had come very close to annexing the title. In fact they were just a stroke away from victory when Misbah-ul-Haq, who had been instrumental in taking the team to a winning position from a precarious one, tried that suicidal shot in the final.

The inaugural Twenty20 event had revived cricket in both the countries of the sub-continent who had met with disaster in the 9th ICC World Cup Tournament in the Caribbean earlier the same year.

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April 5, 2009

Steve Bucknor hangs his hat


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The famous West Indian umpire, Steve Bucknor, who also became controversial at times, has called it a day. Having stood in the highest number of Test matches, he will not be seen in action at the international level any more.

Bucknor was generally recognized as a most respected umpire all over the world. The Indians, however, felt hard done by his decisions and the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had reacted sharply after that fateful Sydney Test against Australia in which he was one of the umpires.
Some quarters believe that the displeasure of the BCCI functionaries, having a clout in the International Cricket Council (ICC), had a role to play in Bucknor’s premature retirement for he was supposed to be around until the next World Cup in 2011.

The BCCI, it could be argued, also showed a lot of patience with him because the Indian cricket team had been at the receiving hand in the past as well. It could be by chance only but the majority of the close decisions that Bucknor made in his long career went against India.

Yet the Indians didn’t complain until the second Test of the 2007-08 series in Australia where a record number of decisions went against them. It was amazing to watch nearly every decision go Australia’s way although both the umpires were from a third country. Besides Bucknor, it was England’s Mark Benson who appeared to have brought the game to disrepute by engaging themselves in something that was not cricket to say the least.

The Indian cricket authorities may never be able to forget the bitterness of the Sydney Test where their team had fought back admirably after having crashed in the previous game. The series would have stayed alive, had the umpires not committed far too blunders to ensure a defeat for India.

As it turned out, the change of umpires in the following two Tests enabled India to dominate and bring Australia under enormous pressure. India won the third Test and Perth and it was mainly due to the injury to R P Singh that prevented them from squaring the series in the fourth Test at Adelaide.

Bucknor had announced his retirement earlier this season. He was given a standing ovation when his Test career came to an end with the third and final Test between Australia and South Africa at Cape Town that concluded on March 22. Exactly a week later there were more emotional scenes at Bridgetown on March 29 when he umpired in his last One-day International, between the West Indies and England.

He umpired in 128 Test matches, more than anyone else. He broke Dickie Bird's record of 66 in 2002, before in March 2005 becoming the first umpire to stand in 100 Tests. Only David Shepherd and Rudi Koertzen have umpired more than his 181 ODIs, while Bucknor also stood in five successive World Cup finals, from 1992 to 2007.

Pakistan would be having fond memories of Bucknor because he was the umpire who gave Javed Miandad not out in the final of the World Cup in 1992 when the master batsman had not even opened his account. Pakistan, under Imran Khan, had gone on to win the trophy.

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April 3, 2009

Money-minded Yousuf goes overboard


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Many people believe that the veteran middle-order batsman Mohammad Yousuf has gone overboard in his pursuit for money. He has not won many friends by taking far too many U-turns in his career. Like anyone else he is trying his level best to extract maximum possible bucks at the twilight of his career but he seems to have exceeded the norm and may have to face the music.

The entire world knew that he comprised on his international career when he joined the Indian Cricket League (ICL). Now he is passing the impression as if he had done a service to the nation by playing in the ICL. In reality he was doing just the opposite.

Yousuf seems to have crossed all limits by engaging himself in activities unbecoming of a sportsman of his caliber. What he is attempting to prove by misleading the people in general and the media in particular will only make him more unpopular.

Lately he has expressed his desire to cancel his contract with the ICL in a bid to play for Pakistan again. He may have to think twice now since the management of the ICL has also come out to issue a warning to him. They have said that they will not hesitate to sue him if he opts out of the present contract.

Yousuf has been very clearly communicated by the ICL that he would be taken to court if he violates the agreement he has signed. He’s a part of the Lahore Badshah squad that includes player like Abdul Razzaq, Imran Farhat, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Sami and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan who also can stake claims in the national team if they cut off ties with the ICL.

The attitude of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is mind-boggling to say the least. Why are they encouraging the ICL players, having betrayed the nation, to resume their career at international level?

Wouldn’t the PCB be better off supporting promoting the young talent instead? It’s a pity that even skipper Younis Khan is putting his weight behind those cricketers who had proceeded to the ICL fully aware of the consequences.

The PCB Chairman, Ijaz Butt, has frequently stated that Yousuf will be included in the national team the moment he cuts ties with the ICL. Well how can the chairman of the Board know if Yousuf is fit enough to play.

Yousuf, at the strength of his past accomplishments, can walk into the team but he has to prove his fitness. The PCB Chairman, who is not expected to be sentimental, should rather say that Yousuf will be considered for selection whenever available.
Talking of sentiments, people also think that Yousuf himself has been involved in emotional blackmailing. He was accused of twisting the facts in the Meet the Press Programme held at the Karachi Club a few weeks ago.

Yousuf was unable to come up with a convincing reply when asked to explain what was the difference between him and a mercenary. He was found wanting in tacking the ticklish questions, raising doubts about his integrity.

Some insiders indicate that Yousuf had rejoined the ICL last year after developing serious differences with Shoaib Malik, the then Pakistan captain and the situation has changed with the arrival of Younis Khan in the hot seat.

He has had a troubled relationship with the ICL after initially signing a three-year-contract with the league and then trying to pull out in favour of the IPL. However, he was not picked up by any IPL team and returned to the ICL on a fresh contract after both sides agreed to call off a legal case that had been lodged on the issue. Now he is threatening to pull out of the ICL. What next Mohammad Yousuf?

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April 1, 2009

Javed Miandad stages another comeback


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Batting legend Javed Miandad, who has been known and feared for his abilities to stage a comeback from the dead, has done it again. He has been reinstated as the Director General of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). He is all set to resume duties on April 1.

The former Pakistan captain had resigned from the PCB about a month or so ago in controversial circumstances at a time when the Chairman of the Board, Mr Ijaz Butt, was abroad.

It was being speculated that the PCB Chairman, upon his return home, would convince the legendary Javed Miandad right away to change his mind but he took far more time than anticipated for there appeared to be some elements in the Board who didn’t desire an amicable settlement.

As they say better late than never. The meeting between the two in Lahore on March 30 turned fruitful and Javed Miandad, who had left the office complaining about lack of powers, has agreed to return on board

The Human Resources department of the PCB, headed by Wasim Bari, another cricket great, had also come under fire during the controversy but there was a clear-cut statement issued late on March 30.

"I can confirm that Javed Miandad will be re-appointed director general of the PCB from April 1 after meeting the PCB chairman. All his terms and conditions have been settled," Wasim Bari was quoted as saying.

Javed Miandad himself was delighted to be back and vowed to help Pakistan cricket. "I never had any issues before, nor will I now. I am at the service of Pakistan cricket and will do that to the best of my abilities. I am thankful to the chairman who was kind and asked me to help him as his adviser also. I never had any terms and conditions before and there will be none now because I believe in the service of the game," he remarked.

Javed Miandad was acknowledged as a master tactician in his playing days. His fighting abilities in the field were object lesson for the teammates. Besides being an extraordinarily successful batsman at the international level, he had also proved himself an outstanding captain.

He is the only batsman in the history of game not have let his batting average drop below 50 at any point of his career. It’s something that even the likes of Don Bradman, Sunil Gavaskar, Viv Richards or Sachin Tendulkar couldn’t do. It’s a record that suggested his remarkable consistency over a very long period of time.

Controversies have also been the part and parcel of his cricketing life. He was appointed the captain of the national team at a very young and the man he displaced was none other than Mushtaq Mohammad.

Having retired from international cricket after playing his sixth World Cup on a trot in 1996, Javed Miandad has had stints as the coach of the Pakistan on a few occasions and he had to part ways bitterly almost every time.

But it was for the first when the PCB offered him a senior position and he started hitting headlines, not necessarily for the right reasons, from the moment he took over as the Director General. He had to resign in protest before he could settle down but now he has returned to the same position, hopefully for a longer innings.

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