June 30, 2009

Pakistan’s Twenty20 triumph to help in rapid cricket development


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqui, one of the most learned personalities to have taken to the field of cricket administration, firmly believes that Pakistan’s recent triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 in England will go a long way in the further development of the sport in the country.

“The nation desperately needed this kind of boost to revive our fortunes. The general feeling was that of disappointment and despair whenever breaking news appeared on the television channels. We were very reluctant to open the pages of the newspapers in the morning for the fear of coming across yet another heart-breaking headline. This has all changed in a matter of a few days and the mood of the nation looks positive now thanks to the accomplishment of our cricketers,” Prof Ejaz Farooqui, Chairman, Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA), Zone II, remarked in an exclusive interview.

He agreed that the youth in particular would be the major beneficiary of the conquest of the national team against the heaviest of odds.

“Now the feeling among the youngsters all over the country is that they are the world champions. I think that the spirit will remain the same until the next couple of years at least when the next World Cup or the ICC Twenty20 would be staged in 2011,” Prof Ejaz Farooqui reckoned.

“Already things are getting in motion at every level with more and more cricket tournaments being planned. Another notable change is the increase in the attendance in the local events. Now the organizers appear more passionate than ever before to set the ball rolling,” he said.

“The body language of even the club cricketers has changed. They are also enjoying the moment. They are demonstrating greater self belief. That’s why I say that this World Cup win is well and truly motivational for our youngsters in particular,” Prof Ejaz Farooqui emphasized.

He complimented the various institutions to have recognized the national team warmly upon their return home.

“The heroes deserve to be acknowledged and admired. Our cricketers have made the entire nation proud with their sensational performance. We are a lively nation and we know how to treasure the moment,” he remarked.

“The mood was terrific throughout the tournament and we were confident that something extraordinary was round the corner because our team had peaked at the right time after having endured the early hassles. We anticipated the boys to come good in the final at Lord’s although Sri Lanka looked the stronger outfit and they had also beaten Pakistan in an earlier game,” he recalled.

“Like quite a few other places in the country, we had set up a giant screen at the Arts Council of Pakistan where the final was being televised live and the atmosphere was electric. We thought ourselves of being at Lord’s cheering for our national team. It was a memorable evening,” Prof Ejaz Farooqui, who is also the Honorary Treasurer of the Arts Council, added.

“We celebrated the victory rather emotionally and we carried a procession from Arts Council to Karachi Press Club where we disembarked after sharing our joys with the media professionals the very next day. These were the moments to cherish,” he concluded.

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Grand Master Ashraf Tai partially burnt


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Grand Master Mohammad Ashraf Tai, having a great following all over the world, has received serious burns injuries when his house, located in the Old Exhibition area of Karachi, was recently gutted due to short-circuiting.

Ashraf Tai, a martial art icon, disclosed that all his belongings at the house were completely destroyed by the fire that also caused injuries to him and his family.
“The only thing we could save, besides our lives, was the dress we were wearing. Everything else was reduced into ashes within no time. It’s the most horrible accident in my lifetime,” the Grand Master of karate remarked.

“Thanks God I was spared of a fatal injury. It could have been much more serious the manner in which the flames were engulfing everything. The fire caused injuries to my legs as the lower portion has been burnt needing a dressing on daily basis,” he added.

“The sports fraternity has reacted promptly and they have come to my relief in my hour of need. I am particularly grateful to the authorities at the ANF for having helped me financially as well,” Ashraf Tai, a recipient of the prestigious Pride of Performance Award, acknowledged.

The Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) has donated Rs 50,000 as their contribution for the rehabilitation of the Grand Master.

It remains to be seen if he’s provided the much-needed support from the government or not. He has dedicated his life for the promotion of martial arts, having become a symbol of hope to the people. He’s one of the most revered personalities of the sporting area and he rich deserves to be taken care of by the concerned departments of the government.

He has temporarily moved to an apartment in the vicinity of the area where the Headquarters of the famed Tai’s Karate Centre is housed. His students are trying their level best to ensure his comfort but obviously he needs greater help from the powers that be to resettle.One of the major problems he’s faced with is the communication. Since he is now staying in an apartment located in the basement, his cell phones don’t always get connected due to the lack of signals and he doesn’t have the facility of a landline yet in the premises he has shifted to.

“Indeed the communication has become a hassle of late and the people trying to contact me are finding it difficult to access my number. I urge my friends, students and patrons to be a little patient. Please bear with me. I am grateful to all of them for having granted me so much courage,” the Grand Master responded.

Grand Master Ashraf Tai has proved once more that he is a man of courage and fortitude, having the nerves of steel. He was back at the Headquarters of the Tai Karate Centre just a couple of days after having received the injuries.

His reappearance at the Centre provided mighty relief to his large number of students who had been worried for him after learning about the accident. He was very much there in the ANF Championship organized with typical fanfare at the Tai’s Karate Centre.

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June 28, 2009

Customs Cricket Academy launches Emerging Players Development Programme


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Customs Cricket Academy (CCA), founded by former Test fast bowler Jalaluddin, can very rightly claim to be the second home to the enterprising all-rounder, Shahid Afridi, who turned out to be of the architects of Pakistan’s recent triumph in the ICC World Twenty 20 in England.
The founding chief coach of the CCA, Jalaluddin, who recorded the first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals, brought to light this fact while briefing the media about the one-month Emerging Players Development Programme at the Gymkhana Karachi Gymkhana less than 12 hours after Pakistan were crowned as the world champions in the latest version of the game at Lord’s.

“Shahid Afridi trains and practices at our academy whenever he is around in Karachi. He has also made a point to coach our camp trainees from time to time. His spectacular performance in the ICC World Twenty20 will greatly inspire the youngsters of our country who always look forward to him for motivation,” Jalaluddin added.

Giving details about the event, a part of the CCA’s first decade of excellence celebrations, Jalaluddin informed the media corps that a total of 24 promising youngsters have been selected for the Emerging Players Programme on the basis of their performance in domestic tournaments.

The Federal Minister of State for Industries and Production, Dr Ayatullah Durrani, launched the programme formally at the Karachi Gymkhana on June 22. A football player himself, hailing from the hilly town of Mastung in Balochistan, the Federal Minister believed that Pakistan’s conquest in the Twenty20 will be helpful in lifting the morale of the whole nation having had to endure tough phases over the years.

Dr Ayatullah Durrani delivered an inspirational speech in which he touched about the subjects the ruling parliamentarians generally like to avoid. He complimented the CCA, founded in 1999, to have taken up the initiative of organizing the Emerging Players Development Programme with the collaboration of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA).

“It’s very heartening to note that Jalaluddin and his panel of coaches are carrying out such healthy activities. Their organizational capabilities is well known and I am confident that they hold all their upcoming events brilliantly as they have planned celebrate the 10 years of existence of the Academy in a grand manner,” he added.

Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bokhari, Secretary KCCA, in his rather brief speech, talked about the summer coaching clinics organised by the association over the years. He hoped that their joint venture with the CCA would yield even better results than the past.

The panel of coaches for the Emerging Players Development Programme will comprise of Jalaulddin, Azam Khan, Umar Rasheed and Shaukat Mirza, all of them having undertaken various levels of coaching programmes.

The 24 young and promising cricketers, selected for the one-month camp, are Rameez Raja, Rameez Aziz, Akbar Rahman, Jahangir Shah, Ali Asad, Talib Ali, Mohammad Hasan, Hafiz Asad Baig, Hasan Sajjad, Asad Shafiq, Babar Rahman, Daniyal Ahsan, Abdul Jabbar, Yasir Hussain, Maroof Aziz, Khalid Mahmood, Iftikhar Ahmed, Ammar Hasan, Khalid Nabeel, Javed Mansoor, Usama Basharat, Raza-ul-Hasan, Shahzaib Khan and Ahsan Jamil.

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June 27, 2009

Another Yuvraj classic gladdens hearts


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There’s hardly anything more recreational than watching Yuvraj Singh play a long innings. He has his own style of doing things. Since he is in complete control of the situation more often than not it’s always a great fun to have him at the crease. 

The cricket-crazy community of Kingston, Jamaica, witnessed the mighty full flow Yuvraj in full flow for the first time. The old-timers must have in their memory the dazzling stroke-play of the likes of Gordon Greenidge, Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd but they might not have witnessed the home bowlers at the receiving end at the Sabina Park.

In the past the Indian bowlers used to be at the mercy of the giant West Indian batsmen who had the capacity to destroy all varieties. Yuvraj’s magnificent knock on June 26 brought to light the fact once more than it has become a different ball game now and the balance of power has shifted from the shores of the Caribbean somewhere towards the other side of the globe.

One was getting reminded of the era when the West Indian master blasters toyed with the Indian bowlers and the speed merchants from the Caribbean gave no chance to any batsman to have a crack at them. Now it was completely the other way round as Yuvraj smashed spearhead Jerome Taylor to all parts of the Sabina Park at will. 

Hardly there ever had been a precedent when a genuine fast bowler from the West Indies was being attacked in such a decisive manner in the Caribbean when Yuvraj took on Taylor in the batting powerplay overs.

Yuvraj was looking good for many more when he glanced a delivery that would have most probably been declared a wide had he not made a contact. Dwayne Bravo could not believe his luck when the ball was collected by wicketkeeper Dinesh Ramdin to signal the end of one of the best one-day innings in the Caribbean.

It was a soft dismissal as well as an unfortunate one. Yuvraj could have hammered the ball anywhere but the leg glance landed in the hands of Ramdin instead. He made 131 off 102 balls but one knew that India could still lose their way after his departure.

That very nearly happened once more. With Bravo proving more lethal than Michael Holding and Andy Roberts, there was a feeling that the Indians might be bundled out well inside 50 overs even after the heroics of Yuvraj.

India played out their quota of overs without causing the kind of destruction that any other side would have done after raising 250 for the loss of only three wickets in the 37th over. They finished with 339, instead of posting something well past 350, and as it was discovered a few hours later they had to sweat it out to defend their eventual total.

The Indians, as usual, were up against it even against the lower-order batsmen of the West Indies, who otherwise have pathetic records. There were quite a few anxious moments for the Indian fans until the contest was finally over with 20 runs separating the two sides.

Yousuf Pathan, who had batted well in the closing overs to prevent a collapse, came to India’s rescue with the ball too by picking up three wickets. Left-arm quickie Ashish Nehra also picked up three wickets to complete the job in the penultimate over.

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June 26, 2009

Younis under fire for arrogance, misbehaviour once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Younis Khan has had this habit of being in the news for the wrong reasons. His talents as a free flowing top-order batsman have seldom been in doubt but he has left a lot to be desired when it has come to conducting himself off the field.

It’s really strange and mind-boggling as well that the Pakistan captain has chosen to behave so unprofessionally and even unreasonably after having returned triumphant from England where his team stunned everyone by clinching the ICC World Twenty20 title.

Younis has not only been guilty of misbehaving with his fans of late but his attitude with the local media has also been hostile and unworthy of the captain of the national cricket team particularly at a moment when the country was celebrating the unexpected victory.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that Younis is encountering problems in dealing with the media corps who had backed him out of way when he was appointed the Pakistan captain in place of Shoaib Malik during the home series against Sri Lanka earlier this year.

The recent episode has opened the eyes of the people who were treating Younis with the kind of respect that he probably never deserved in the first place. Even the media professionals, who generally have eagle eyes and sense things more quickly than ordinary mortals, not realize having erred in their assessment as far as the Pakistan captain was concerned.

Younis was being supported overwhelmingly by the media backed despite the fact that he had been a reluctant leader all along. They were misled by his smiles and some of his polite remarks. Even then some wise persons had warned not to believe him completely because, according to them, the skipper was very good at acting too.

Younis, by his recent acts, has proved that it was indeed a terrible mistake to have trusted him and flashed his headlines, photographs, footages etc to promote his image. He himself has now shown his true picture and embarrassed the people who were in the forefront in doing his image building.

There is little to suggest that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), to whom he is contracted, or the Habib Bank Limited (HBL), where he is employed, will take any action at this point of time or for that reason at any other time because no institution might muster the courage even to question the rampaging cricketers who are generally considered above the law in the country.

What these institutions might not realize is the fact that Younis is setting a bad example and his ‘adventures’ at a time when the entire nation was basking in the glory of the Twenty20 title win will make the people realize sooner or later that these guys are not worthy of the status being accorded to them.

What Younis is forgetting conveniently while rubbishing his fans that more than the talents of the team it were the prayers of the nation that helped them in annexing the title against the heaviest of odds. Will somebody stand up to tell the Pakistan captain where he’s going wrong or he will be allowed to bring about his own downfall only time will tell.

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June 23, 2009

Habib Bank trio does the trick for Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Cricket in Pakistan has flourished mainly because of the proactive role of a few financial institutions and corporations, who have braved the deficiencies in the system besides the recession to keep the game afloat in testing times. Their role needs to be acknowledged at the time of the glory because they are the ones who make it possible.

At a time when the Pakistan cricket team has made the entire nation proud by annexing the ICC Twenty20 World Championship in England we must not forget the contribution of the institutions and the individuals whose untiring behind the scene efforts helped in accomplishing a gigantic task.

It’s not mere coincidence that Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi and Umar Gul, who were the architects of the title win, belonged to one organization, the Habib Bank Limited (HBL) with whom they have been associated for quite sometime now.

Yes the skipper of the winning team, as well as the best all-rounder and the best bowler of the tournament are the proud products of one institution. The HBL management deserves the credit for having groomed the champion stuff.

The oldest as well as the biggest bank of the country, the HBL has been in the forefront as far as the development and promotion of sports are concerned for a number of decades now. They have not withdrawn their support to sports even when many of their competitors did it under the cover of curtailing costs.

In fact, the HBL management has strengthened its relations with sports during the last eight or nine years. Sports remained in their list of priorities and their President, Zakir Mahmood, himself a leading bridge player, withstood the pressures to sustain the support. Another person who was instrumental in keeping the candle lit was Zafar Aziz Osmani, who has had great passion for sports.

The duo of Zakir Mahmood and Zafar Osmani managed to ensure the desired support even when the bank was denationalized and a new board was constituted. The credit should also go to the new HBL management, particularly their Chairman, Sultan Allana, for not having compromised on sports.

The HBL management should now have the reasons to feel delighted because their persistence has earned laurels for the country at a critical time. They have invested heavily on the cricketer and the results have now been delivered.

The Pakistan cricket has been in turmoil over the years. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has been in the news for the wrong reasons more often than not in the recent past. In these circumstances the role of the departments and the affiliated units of the PCB becomes even more important.
The cricket boards over the years have not been able to do justice with the various departments who have been their all-weather friends. Some of the board officials, obviously with the vested interests, have also discouraged and humiliated the departments but fortunately they didn’t succeed in their plans.

It’s celebration time now. The mood of the entire country, from Karachi to Khyber, has changed and some positive vibes are coming for a change. Let us salute the heroes the ones who were visible and those who preferred to remain invisible like the HBL management. But their contribution was no less invaluable than those having done it on the field.

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June 22, 2009

MCG repeated at Lord’s


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Quite a few scenes witnessed at Lord’s on June 21, 2009 resembled to the ones at the Melbourne Cricket ground (MCG) on March 25, 1992. There was only a change of personnel besides the venue of course.

It was Imran Khan whose team had staged a comeback from nowhere to win the World Cup against all odds in 1992 and now it was the side captained by Younis Khan having exceeded all expectations by annexing the Twenty20 crown.

Younis had been talking of Imran from the moment he was handed over the leadership earlier this year. The enterprising right-handed batsman has tried himself to model on the legendary all-rounder who’s also considered the greatest-ever captain produced by the country.

But even Younis, an optimist of the highest order, himself had never spoken of claiming the World Twenty20 title in England in the summer of 2009. His cherished goal remained winning the World Cup in 2011.

This clearly reflected that Pakistan stood no chance whatsoever when they landed in England. Yet they would be returning home with the trophy in their baggage much to the delight of their countrymen who have had very little to celebrate over the years.

The final of ICC World Twenty20 at Lord’s looked like progressing on a predictable course from the moment Kumar Sangakkara elected to bat after winning the toss. It was the only thing the Sri Lankan captain could have expected to ‘win’ on a day when everything was destined to go Pakistan’s way.

It became evident from the very first over that Sri Lanka, the most consistent of all the participating teams, would struggle to find their feet in the final that they would have almost certainly dominated if their opponent was someone else.

Tillakaratne Dilshan, the tournament's most prolific scorer having played the innings of his lifetime in only the previous outing, must have discovered it’s a different ball game playing Pakistan in such an environment when everyone seemed to have taken for granted that Sri Lanka were bound to fail.

Dilshan was named the Player of the Tournament but even he couldn’t contribute a single run when it mattered the most. His early dismissal opened the floodgates as the Sri Lankan batsmen were unable to master the bowling. 

Sri Lanka’s average score in the six Powerplay overs leading to final was 53 for one but they had crashed to 34 for four in the final. The skipper tried his best to repair the damage that saved his team from the embarrassment of getting bowled out for a very low total.

Sangakkara’s fighting knock also ensured that the final would not be over quickly although the manner in which all the Pakistani bowlers were getting their acts together his effort was truly outstanding.

Sri Lanka, with the most potent bowling attack in the business, would have fancied their chances of defending the total of 138 against any team but mind you it was Pakistan who could have even surpassed 238 in the prevailing circumstances.

As it turned out, Sri Lanka’s bowling resources proved inadequate and they could never repeat their performance of the earlier games. The likes of Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Lasith Malinga were made to look ordinary as the day belonged to Shahid Afridi and his team. 

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June 20, 2009

Dilshan, master spinners earn Sri Lanka a date in final with Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Unlike the previous semifinal the previous day, the one at The Oval on June 19 followed the predictable course and Sri Lanka emerged triumphant over the West Indies by a comfortable margin of 57 runs to cruise into the final.

With Pakistan as their opponent in the final, the Sri Lankans must be aware of the fact that they can’t take any for granted although they remain the only unbeaten side in the competition now besides having downed them in their Super Eight clash.

Sri Lanka’s win over the West Indies in the semifinals has ensured one thing in particular. The final between Pakistan and Sri Lanka at Lord’s on June 21 is unlikely to be a one-sided affair now. It could have been a no-contest that the West Indians entered the final instead because the islanders from the Caribbean have a consistent record of failing against Pakistan for the last many years.

The Sri Lankans have proved themselves the strongest team to have entered the tournament but it remains to be seen if they would be able to overcome who always remain a threat even though they have lost a couple games on their way to entering the final.

Younis Khan, soon after the upset semifinal win over South Africa, had stated that it won’t matter to him or his team which ever team took on Pakistan in the final. It reflected arrogance more than anything else. 

Pakistan are the most difficult team to beat for every opponent because they have the knack of bringing about miracles. The Sri Lankans are playing wonderful cricket of late, having dominated all their rivals but would they be able to tame Pakistan in the final is a million dollar question.

The Sri Lankans, as expected, proved too good for the West Indies even though some of their top-order batsmen failed to fire on a pitch where it was not easy to blast every delivery. Tillakaratne Dilshan played the innings of his lifetime to guide his team to total they were also capable of defending successfully with the strong bowling line-up at their disposal.

Dilshan batted brilliantly and his unbeaten knock of 96 allowed Sri Lanka to reach of 159 in the allotted 20 overs. It was far too many under the circumstances and they had become the clear favourites when the West Indians began their reply.

Chris Gayle was the man the West Indians looked forward to for doing the impossible. But the task looked beyond him also to be honest from the outset. The Sri Lankan attack was always going to prove lethal and there was only one way the match could have gone.

Gayle carried his bat but he was unable to change the course of the proceedings. All the five bowlers were bang on target and there was not much he could do with wickets falling at regular intervals after the nightmarish start to their innings.

Medium-pacer Angelo Matthews jolted the West Indians with a triple strike in the very first over and then came the mysterious spinning duo of Ajantha Mendis and Mutiah Muralitharan who bamboozled the middle-order with another exhibition of magnificent bowling. 

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June 19, 2009

South Africa choke again to let Pakistan enter final


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

History repeated itself at Trent Bridge on June 18 when South Africa crashed in the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 and Pakistan lived to the reputation of bringing about the downfall of the team of the moment.

South Africa, with their terrific all-round performance, had proved themselves the team of the tournament. They had remained undefeated and there was very little chance of them biting the dust as far as this event was concerned.

Pakistan, on the other hand, were banking more on the divine help and the luck factor because on paper South Africa stood head and shoulders above them in every department of the game.

Pakistan had done it to many fancied outfits in the past and now it was the turn of South Africa to face the music. It doesn’t really matter how strong and well prepared you are when Pakistan are on song.

People well versed with the Pakistan cricket or for that matter any other sport, know are aware of the fact that this team can never be written off. Irrespective of their weaknesses or the lack of depth they can still conquer the world.

Shahid Afridi, who appeared to have lost his ability to clear the field at the start of the tournament, has suddenly become the batting hero once more. He was being talked about as someone who hits the ball after closing his eyes but he went on to play a match-winning knock against South Africa of all teams.

South Africa also had a jinx to overcome. They have become infamous for running out of steam in the crucial matches. They could have been better off confronting any side other than Pakistan.

It was amazing how the South Africans lost the script. They had performed so consistently in the earlier games but they just couldn’t put their acts together in the do-or-die encounter. They conceded far too many runs to Pakistan considering the variety and punch in their bowling.

The only phase of the match when the South Africans appeared to be in the process of pulling it back was in the closing overs of the Pakistan innings. Not a single boundary in the last five overs reflected great discipline in bowling backed by very agile fielding.

But as it turned out the damage had been done earlier and the Pakistan batsmen knew that they already had enough. Younis Khan and Abdul Razzaq didn’t take undue risks even in the final over because the idea seemed to be to get whatever runs that were available without thinking of big shots.

Graeme Smith, while returning to the dugout, looked a relieved man thinking as if his team would get to the target of 150 without much hassles. But he himself was found wanting in coming to terms with the Pakistan bowlers and so were the likes of Herschelle Gibbs and A B de Villiers.

Jacques Kallis and J P Duminy fought gallantly but the battle was won by the Pakistan spinners and the South Africans were thrown out of the tournament one more time just when looking set to lay hands at the trophy.

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June 18, 2009

Khurshid Hadi quits, Tariq Rasheed takes over


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There is a change of guard at the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) following the resignation of three-time President Khurshid Hadi and the appointment of Honorary Secretary Tariq Rasheed Khan as Acting President till his formal ratification by the Board at their next meeting.

It has been officially announced by the PBF informed that Tariq Rasheed, having taken over from Ashfaq Yousuf Tola as the Honorary Secretary of the PBF four years ago, will be the caretaker President and he is expected to convene a Board of Directors meeting in a couple of weeks time.

There is not much element of surprise behind the move. Khurshid Hadi was having a quiet time from his own high standards of late and his last tenure didn’t bring about the kind of turnaround that was being anticipated.

Khurshid Hadi has had the reputation of doing things on a fast track but for some reasons he was unable to make things happen as far as bridge was concerned in the recent past. He’s not one man who was going to hang around without making a worthwhile contribution.

In fact he had made it clear to one and all at the time of accepting the office of the President of the PBF for the third time that he will only continue if he was successful in getting things done in a big way.

Khurshid Hadi, in the official handout, has cited his responsibilities as head of the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) as his main focus of attention and that the PBF needed someone who could devote focus and single-minded effort to promote the game and monitor the organization.

Khurshid Hadi himself stressed that Tariq Rasheed is unquestionably the right man to succeed him and that the head of all regional associations had fully endorsed his decision.

The PBF spokesman has announced that the continued collaboration with the MSAP for the development of bridge at college levels would ensure Khurshid Hadi's active involvement in bridge activities.

Khurshid Hadi, the spokesman revealed, is to be voted as President Emeritus of the federation in recognition of his contribution to the sport of bridge in particular. He had first become the President of the PBF in 1998 after having organized the landmark Golden Jubilee Independence Day International Bridge Championship in 1997.

He was re-elected by consensus as the President of the federation following the resignation of Rehana Saigol soon after the BFAME Championship 2007 that was also very well organized.

Tariq Rasheed had earlier been appointed as the officiating President of the PBF last year in the absence of Khurshid Hadi, who remained abroad for quite a few months.

Tariq Rasheed has proved himself an outstanding bridge administrator in a very short span of time. His visionary project of the Pakistan Bridge University (PBU) has gone a long way in promoting the mind sport from the grassroots level. In fact the PBU has now become the lifeline for the Pakistan bridge.

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June 17, 2009

Dismal India squander yet another opportunity


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It’s very difficult to describe or assess India’s dismal performance in the ICC World Twenty20 2009. The tournament will conclude with the final on June 21 but it’s all over for the defending champions who couldn’t even find their way into the semifinals.

It’s beyond my comprehension how the free-flowing Indian batsmen got so much entangled against the South African spinners while chasing a low score of 130. It should have been a cakewalk win for the Indians, particularly after the brilliant start provided by the opening pair of Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma.

There was a golden opportunity for the Indians to have finished the tournament on a winning note even after being out of the race for the semis. It would have been just a consolation but it might have comforted the millions of their depressed and disappointed followers back home.

Cricket is indeed a funny game and it can’t get funnier when the Indians are in the self-destructing mode. Can it be a mere coincidence that they only win the title when they are the no-hopers?

"Everyone was new to Twenty20 cricket internationally in 2007 and India just had a young and very explosive team while everyone was finding their feet," Gary Kirsten, the India coach, said after the debacle in England.

"I think what's happened now is that other teams have got clever, they've worked out what they need to do, and we've been matched in all departments. There are definite holes in our Twenty20 set up which we are exploring," the former South African opening batsman was quoted as saying.

"We were not 100%, our performance was not up to the international standard. Your key players have to be in form for a tournament like this. That never really happened for us," skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni believed.

"I am not consistently clearing the park that is for sure. I am here to admit that and I am working hard on it. I feel cricket is not only about hitting sixes because there are quite a few players in our team who have to play different roles in Twenty20 or the one-day format,” he admitted.

"Gautam Gambhir is doing the job at the top of the order, and I am supposed to do it in the late middle-order. That was the plan but it never worked throughout the tournament. I would like to get back to hitting sixes but I don't think my cricket stops at hitting sixes," Dhoni said.

Obviously just as no captain can set a field for poor bowling no management can plan a strategy if the executioners are shaky in approaching things. No tutor would be able to teach these highly-rated Indian batsmen if they are unwilling to meet the challenge themselves.

They were found wanting in tackling the short-pitched bowling of Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor in their first Super Eight fixture against the West Indies. They failed to cope with the swing bowling of Stuart Broad and Luke Wright against England and it was the spin duo of Johan Botha and Roelof van der Merwe who did the trick for South Africa.

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June 15, 2009

India knock themselves out


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Curse the excessive betting, blame the infighting or hold the board officials responsible it can’t hide the fact that the strongest outfit to have entered the competition has been knocked out in an unceremonious manner.

India stood head and shoulders above any other side in the shortest version of the game and probably it was a combination of too many factors that prompted their early exit against the run of play.

It was not for the first time that the Indians have been knocked over far too earlier than anticipated. They have perished this way more often than not whenever they were installed as the favourites or billed as the most potent side.

Cricket has the kind of following in India that’s unmatchable. The credit goes to their cricket enthusiasts for having learnt to be so patient over the years. May be they have become accustomed to watching their team slide when least expected to do so.

The manner in which India have surrendered to the West Indies and England in the Super Eight matches makes one feel bewildered. No cricket fan can easily digest the fact that India have knocked themselves out of the tournament by losing to these two teams in succession.

Didn’t it seem funny that England needed the gift of so many extras to reach a total that could be described as fighting? Harbhajan Singh, the most experienced bowler on either side, had become literally unplayable for the England batsmen who don’t come across such high quality of spin bowling in their domestic tournaments.

Harbhajan fired not one but two deliveries far too wide down the leg side in successive overs that meant the addition of 10 runs to the England total besides the opportunity of having a go at two extra deliveries. It can happen once but to have done it two times in as many overs was incredible to say the least.

His act looked all the more perplexing considering the fact that he had taken two wickets earlier in the over and the England batsmen were clueless. Why did he need to target way outside leg stump when a straighter one was more likely to the job is a question that would remain unanswered for eternity!

By the look of things, Yuvraj Singh, one of the best fielders in the world, appeared to have ensured by misfielding at short fine-leg that Harbhajan’s act of sending the wide was not wasted. Yes of all people it was Yuvraj who misfielded and allowed the boundary to take the England total past 150 that had earlier looked unlikely.

Everyone watching the action at the ground or on television in the comfort of their homes believed that India would still face no problems in chasing down the target of 154 in 20 overs in the must-win game for them.

But it became all too obvious only a few overs after the start of the Indian innings that something else was written on the wall. Nobody could dare changing the script. It was all over for India.

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June 13, 2009

Pakistan, India jolted


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan and India, the finalists of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007, had to bite the dust in their opening Super Eight fixtures at Lord’s on June 12. The weather and the settings were about perfect but both the sub-continental teams jeopardized their chances of making into the semifinals by crashing to defeat after being in dominating position for sometime.

India, the defending champions and the hot favourites, were brought down to earth by the West Indies while Pakistan, the runners-up in South Africa, were laid low by the rampaging Sri Lanka.

India lived up to the reputation of choking in a game when they were expected to win quite handsomely. With every member of the playing being a match-winner in his own right they should have encountered no problems in disposing of the West Indies whose fortunes have depended entirely on skipper Chris Gayle in the recent times. Nobody anticipated Dwayne Bravo to come up with a performance that would have made even Ian Botham and Imran Khan proud.

It was extraordinary to find the Indian batsmen struggling against a bowling attack so low in confidence. Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni played out as many as 13 dot balls, a tactic that can be best described as mind-boggling.

He was not batting to save a Test match. Neither was he facing the likes of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft and Joel Garner who didn’t let the batsmen to come on front foot, so hostile and accurate they were.

In the present scenario it are the Indian batsmen, not the West Indian fast bowlers, who are feared for their aggression and ruthlessness. Yuvraj Singh showed glimpses of his prowess as did Yousuf Pathan but the others just faded away. It were Harbhajan Singh’s three boundaries in the final over that the total past 150.

Harbhajan was also chiefly responsible for plotting the dismissal of Gayle, the danger man. At this stage the match looked in India’s pocket but Bravo, having wreaked havoc with the ball earlier, played the innings of his lifetime to change its complexion.

History had looked like repeating itself when Sri Lanka went into the self-destruction mode against Pakistan after a typically blazing start provided by Sanath Jayasuriya and Tillekeratne Dilshan.

Any team having collected 80 odd runs in less than nine overs without losing a wicket would be expected to finish around 200 in a T20 game. But the Sri Lankans, as they had done so many times against Pakistan in the past, played some horrible cricket to limit themselves to 150.

The momentum was with Pakistan when they went on to chase 151 and even the early loss of the opening pair didn’t bog them down. Skipper Younis Khan got the support from Shoaib Malik and Misbah-ul-Haq to create panic in the Sri Lankan camp.

Ajantha Mendis, supposed to be the most lethal spin bowler in the world, was hit out of the attack. How often would you see him not getting the full quota of four overs in a T20 game. The champion off-spinner Mutiah Muralitharan was also blunted but he pulled it back with wickets on successive deliveries in his final over.

But the match was turned decisively in Sri Lanka’s favour by the express pace of Lasith Malinga who picked the crucial wicket of Younis immediately after the Pakistan captain had reached his half century.

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June 12, 2009

New Zealand, South Africa off to flyer


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Both New Zealand and South Africa got off to a flying start to their Super Eight campaign in the ICC World Twenty20 2009 crushing Ireland and England respectively at Trent Bridge on June 11.

The victory in the opening Super Eight game provides the much needed insurance to New Zealand and South Africa ahead of the knockout stage of the competition. They can still force their way into the semifinals if they lose one of their next two games.

New Zealand in particular appear have their work cut out with the remaining matches being against the powerful Sri Lanka and the unpredictable Pakistan. They have had a terrible record against Pakistan over the years in bilateral series as well as in various tournaments.

Pakistan might fancy their chances of overcoming the New Zealanders once more on the basis of their reputation and past record even though the Black Caps have been in great form of late.

South Africa, on the other hand, would be feeling a bit more comfortable after having overpowered England. They are expected to have a tough contest with India but they should not face many problems in whacking the West Indies, provided they don’t let Chris Gayle stay at the crease for long.

England, not surprisingly, were unable to come to terms with the mighty South Africans, possessing a far more balanced outfit for the shortest version of the game.

South Africa’s performance against England was as clinical as one would have expected. Much to the disappointment of the crowd, the hosts never got an opportunity to stage a comeback into the contest after a nightmarish start.

England’s celebrated batsmen, having scored heaps of runs in the other forms of the game, were unable to produce the kind of innovation that was needed to force the pace against a lethal bowling attack.

It must have been shocking for their supporters to find them bowled out for 111 inside 20 overs. The pace duo of Dale Steyn and Wayne Parnell devastated the England top order and the spinners, Roelof van der Merwe and Johan Botha, proved equally dangerous.

Kevin Pietersen threatened briefly while Owais Shah’s long vigil hardly ever worried the South Africans who didn’t feel hurt by his 38 off 33 balls. Their brilliant fielding and catching didn’t allow England any escape route.

South Africa played with a cool head while chasing the small total and another gem of a knock from Jacques Kallis helped them reach the target without any fuss with 10 deliveries remaining.

New Zealand proved once more that they are a team of the equals. In fact it was one of the replacements, Aaron Redmond, who stole the limelight by blast 63 off 30 balls in the game against Ireland. He was drafted into the playing eleven primarily because of the injuries to the key players.

Scott Styris and Martin Guptill also got going to help their team post a commanding total. Then their bowlers took over to seal an emphatic 83-run victory even in the absence of skipper Daniel Vettori, Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor.

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June 10, 2009

Pakistan’s Super Eight entry threatens fancied teams


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There were a lot of discussions and debates on whether or not Pakistan would be able to force their way into the Super Eight, after having succumbed to a humiliating defeat at the hands of hosts England in their opening game.

My reply to all the queries in this regard was simple and straightforward. I told everyone, on and off the record, that I would be surprised if Pakistan didn’t accomplish their goal. The assessment was not based on any cricketing knowledge or anything like that. It had to do something with history and past record.

People generally have short memory. The followers of the game conveniently forget the fact that Pakistan have achieved their objective more often than not in similar circumstances.

I had convinced the anxious supporters of the Pakistan team that they need not to worry because the lady luck was more likely to be on their side and not only the Netherlands but any other side would have had to face the music.

It was proved once more that Pakistan could never be written off no matter how terrible they may appear on the field or how much they might be lacking in depth or strength. Mind you if they are on song no team on earth can withstand them. They are the one team who defy logic more regularly than anyone else.

I had a gut feeling that the Netherlands stood very little chance of coming to terms with Pakistan although they had stunned England in their first game. Taming Pakistan is always the most difficult of propositions and the other fancied teams in the competition would soon get a feel of it.

Pakistan’s qualification in the Super Eight means a warning to all other seven teams. They have been drawn in the easier of two groups with Sri Lanka, New Zealand and Ireland. The other group is much stronger on paper with the quartet of India, South Africa, England and the West Indies making the cut.

If the past record has to serve as a reference again, Pakistan would be quite happy to be playing against Sri Lanka and New Zealand against who they have had exceptional record in all forms of the game.

Both Sri Lanka as well as New Zealand have been known for playing their worst cricket against Pakistan. Ireland, who had been instrumental in knocking Pakistan out of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, will be required to overcome a lot of outside factors to do it again.

In the prevailing scenario it looks very unlikely that Pakistan would not reach the semifinals. Once they are there it would be a matter of just two more good days. They could, however, be tested in the semifinals and finals should they reach there.

It doesn’t really matter how seriously Younis Khan takes the T20 games once the Pakistan team gets into their grooves it’s almost next to impossible to derail them. That’s the special thing about the Pakistan cricket. They can conquer the world with any kind of ammunition and any type of leadership.

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June 9, 2009

Sri Lanka deliver knockout punch on Australia


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The body language of Ricky Ponting said it all. He knew it was curtains for his team as far as this tournament is concerned long before Mitchell Johnson’s wide down the leg side brought up Sri Lanka’s six-wicket win at Trent Bridge on June 8.

It was a must-win game for Australia, after having been thrashed by the West Indies in their opening game. Ponting must have been aware of the fact that the Sri Lankans were a more balanced outfit than the West Indians and their work was cut out against Kumar Sangakkara’s men.

As in their first game, the Australians didn’t get off to the kind of start that was essential to post a formidable total. In fact they lost a wicket in the very first over once more leaving Shane Watson to do the job of repairing the job with the skipper. The early departure of the explosive David Warner must have upset their plans of getting after the bowling from the outset.

Watson and Ponting did well to pull it back but the drama began with the introduction of the mystery spinner Ajantha Mendis, playing his first-ever game against the mighty Australians.

Even Ponting, arguably the greatest batsman of the world, was unable to come to terms with the deadly varieties of the magnificent Mendis. It was a cracker of a delivery that castled the champion batsman who was clueless whether to come forward to drive or rock back to defend.

Watson was even more confused while tackling Mendis and he was adjudged leg before after having survived a close shout earlier in the same over. Later Mike Hussey, the most accomplished of batsmen against spin bowling, was also foxed by Mendis.

The Australian innings was in disarray with the swinging yorkers of Lasith Malinga perfectly complementing the magic of Mendis. The great Mutiah Muralitharan was bang on target as usual, giving nothing away in his first three overs.

Australia, following the middle-order collapse, were in danger of being bowled out for a very low total. But a cameo from Johnson, who was particularly severe to Muralitaharan of all people, saw them reach a fighting total in the end.

The Sri Lankans were set a target of 160 in 20 overs and the Australians had to get wickets at regular intervals to stay afloat which they couldn’t. They did get rid of the experienced duo of Sanath Jayasuriya and Mahela Jayawardene cheaply but the half centuries from Tillakaratne Dilshan and skipper Sangakkara hurt them badly.

Sangakkara stayed at the crease till the end ensuring that was no panic near the end even though the asking rate had climbed to around nine an over. His presence in the middle allowed the young Jehan Mubarak to launch a murderous assault that settled the issue decisively.

Ponting tried everything he had up his sleeves. He rotated his experienced fast bowlers but the complexion of the game could not be changed. His face expression kept reflecting the pressure he was under.

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Ireland throw Bangladesh out of competition


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Ireland had stunned everyone by making it to the Super Eight of the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean and they have done it again in the shortest version of the game.

What a great start they have made in the ICC World Twenty20 2009, hammering Bangladesh by six wickets with 10 deliveries remaining. They have progressed to the next round of the competition, alongwith the defending champions India, from Group A.

Bangladesh, who had also made a surprise entry in the Super Eight of the 2007 World Cup, have been knocked out after losing their second game in succession.

It was a must-win game for Bangladesh at Trent Bridge, after having succumbed to defeat at the hands of India in their first outing. Their batsmen were unable to get going and their eventual total of 137 wasn’t testing enough for the spirited Irish side.

The Bangladesh batsmen were guilty of not applying themselves. The top three got starts but perished without making an impression. They needed to stay at the wicket for a longer time to lay the foundation for a big score.

Their top half was back in the dugout with only 66 runs on the board and less than 10 overs remaining. It was reckless batting that put them under enormous pressure and the Irish bowlers, more familiar with the weather conditions, didn’t let the batsmen score freely.

Ireland were in complete command of the situation having reduced their opponents to 117 for eight at the end of 19 overs. Bangladesh got a lifeline through the well-built Mashrafe Mortaza who helped his side collect as many as 20 off the final over. He remained undefeated on 33 off 16 balls to emerge the topscorer in the innings.

Ireland, who would have thought of chasing down something around 125, were suddenly set a target of 138 that wasn’t all that high but it demanded them to be little more focused.

Trent Johnston was the pick of the Ireland bowlers, claiming three wickets for only 20 runs off his four overs. The other bowlers pressed into service by William Porterfield also did the job, cashing in on the self-defeating approach of the Bangladesh batsmen who never thought of stabilizing the innings.

The target of 138 wasn’t a big but Ireland needed to stay positive to knock off the runs and get a head start in the tournament. They survived a few anxious moments before completing the job in the penultimate over. Their batsmen showed much more application and discipline to ensure that the great work of the bowlers earlier in the day was not undone.

The O'Brien brothers were brilliant once more and their resilience earned another famous victory for Ireland. Kevin O'Brien’s unbeaten 39 off 17 balls was another fantastic effort as he clobbered a couple of sixes besides five fours.

Earlier Niall O'Brien, coming in at number three, had struck three sixes and as many fours in his 25-ball 40 to keep his team in front. The skipper himself did the anchoring role and the tactics worked perfectly in the end.

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June 8, 2009

England get lifeline as Pakistan’s batters collapse


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan’s batsmen were found wanting once more in the conditions that were not ideal for batting. The extra bounce of the Kennigton Oval pitch undid the stroke-makers who are more comfortable in doing the business on the placid sub-continental pitches where they take things for granted.

No matter how batting friendly the pitches may be in England the ball is always going to do something in the air and the bounce can vary. The Pakistan batsmen have often struggled whenever the ball has moved and what happened on June 7 was reflective of their mindset.

It was a must-win game for hosts England, after having been shocked by the Netherlands in the opening game. They rose to the occasion magnificently and as skipper Paul Collingwood noted in his post-match comments it was one of those days when all the eleven contributed their bit to record an emphatic victory.

England made amends to their disastrous start to the competition and their 48-run win over Pakistan took them to the next round without worrying for the outcome of the last league game.

England looked the better side and more significantly they were able to translate their supremacy into a resounding win. Pakistan appeared jaded and their batters were at sea while forcing the pace against a spirited bowling attack that possessed the variety as well as the punch.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson swung the ball appreciably and hitting them out of the park was always going to be laden with danger. The spin duo of Adil Rashid and Graeme Swann also bowled exceptionally well to create more pressure on the batsmen.

Collingwood proved himself an impressive leader. His proactive captaincy kept the batsmen guessing and there was not a single moment during the course of the game when the England captain passed the impression of losing the focus.

England, put into bat by Younis Khan, didn’t get off to a flying start as Shoaib Malik brought off a spectacular catch to dismiss Ravi Bopara in only the second over of the innings.

The runs were hard to come in the initial overs and it needed the brilliance of Kevin Pietersen to wrest the initiative. Luke Wright also chipped in with a cameo but it was the knock from Pietersen that laid the foundation for a huge score.

England denied themselves the chance of posting an imposing total with their inability to go after the spinners. Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi were allowed to return the kind of figures they might not succeed in achieving while playing domestic T20 tournaments in Pakistan.

England finished at least 15 to 20 runs short of what had looked likely after the impetus provided by Pietersen. They had to settle with a score of 185 for five in 20 overs.

The England bowlers came on striking at regular intervals to prevent any onslaught from Pakistan at any stage of their innings. The asking rate kept on mounting with every dot ball and the pressure of finding boundaries nearly every ball was too hot to handle.

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Yuvraj, Ojha prevent catastrophe of 2007


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Bangladesh may be a soft opposition for other teams but they have always been a formidable opponent for India, who have had the knack of failing against the weakest of outfits.

Bangladesh had spoiled India’s party in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean and Rahul Dravid’s team, rated as one of the favourites to lift the trophy, was back home even before the second round.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s lads are the firm favourites to annex the ICC World Twenty20 title for the second time running and there are very few people who’ll dispute India being the strongest team to have taken the field in the competition.

By virtue of being the defending champions, the Indians have been placed alongside Bangladesh and Ireland in a Group that’s not the toughest. Two of these three teams will advance to the second round and in probability India had to one team with a fierce tie expected between Bangladesh and Ireland for the other slot.

But you can never be sure about the Indian team, who are yet to win a major international event after having entered as the favourites. It can’t be mere coincidence that their most memorable performance has come when they began as underdogs.

Kapil Dev’s team that lifted the World Cup in 1983 was hardly billed to proceed to the semifinals. They won the World Championship in Australia in 1985, under Sunil Gavaskar, after a poor season at home. Similarly India hardly had any chance of laying hands at the trophy when Dhoni’s outfit went to South Africa for the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in 2007.

India are head and shoulders above any other participating team in this particular event. Yet one can’t really be sure how far will they go, given their unpredictable and inconsistent record in the past.

Bangladesh was the first hurdle again and there were quite a few moments in the game when it appeared that history would repeat itself at Trent Bridge and India would be biting the dust yet again.

Yuvraj Singh and Pragyan Ojha, with their sterling performances, avoided the mishap for India and Bangladesh, who threatened to create yet another upset, was silenced to submission in the end.

It’s looked quite strange the manner in which India went about their business. Gautam Gambhir and Rohit Sharma provided them a solid start but the middle overs were consumed in consolidation rather than making effort to take charge.

India, being the superior side, should have dictated terms rather than waiting for the final overs to put their feet on the accelerator. The tactics could easily have backfired and it was the sheer belligerence of Yuvraj saving their face. His fantastic stroke-play at the fag end allowed India to collect 59 runs from their last four overs. It was his 18-ball 41 that helped India post a fighting total.

Bangladesh were very much in the hunt and it was a brilliant spell of left-arm spin bowling from Ojha that derailed them. The Twenty20 international debutant dismissed the dangerous duo of Junaid Siddique and Shakib Al Hasan in his first over to bring relief for his captain. He took two more wickets to earn the Man of the Match award.

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Gayle the magnificent


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The West Indies have had the habit of throwing it away after promising starts and even the brilliance of Chris Gayle at times has got undone by the follies of his teammates. But the story was little different at the Kennington Oval on June 6 when they bulldozed Australia by seven wickets with as many as 25 balls remaining to kick start their campaign in the ICC World Twenty20 2009.

Gayle produced yet another sensational knock and more importantly he left at a stage when the job was as good as done. There were just a few runs to get with far too many balls at their disposal when he holed out probably in pursuit of a personal landmark.

He was batting on 88 and the West Indies were 13 runs away from victory. The only way he could have reached his hundred was to deal in boundaries. Brett Lee was the bowler, having had a nightmarish day. Gayle’s eyes lit up when Lee pitched another one up but the stroke got more elevation than distance and the catch was taken in the deep.

Gayle left the field to a standing ovation by the crowd who had been treated to some of most brutal strokes. Mind you he was toying with the Australian bowlers who were experienced and knew their job. The West Indian captain deserved full credit for having come up with something exceptional to guide his team to a most emphatic victory.

Obviously Gayle was the man who did the job but it would be unfair to ignore the contribution of his young opening partner, Andre Fletcher, who lent him perfect support in the big chase.

It was Fletcher, not Gayle, who began the onslaught in pursuit of a target of 170. They had a plan to make the most of the first six overs and Fletcher was assigned the task of starting the carnage. He showed great confidence in his abilities and was not overawed by the big reputation of the bowlers he was facing.

Fletcher’s unorthodox strokes provided the West Indies an exhilarating start and for a moment Gayle looked content to play second fiddle. This allowed the tall left-hander to get the feel of the proceedings and once he got into the top gear there was nothing that went unpunished.

Ricky Ponting tried every option he had up his sleeves but the breakthrough didn’t come until it was too late. The Australians might have regretted not having a specialist spinner in their side as the part-timers were unable to stem the flow of runs.

Earlier in the day, the West Indian fast bowlers had done a wonderful job by rocking the Australian top-order. Jerone Taylor got his team off to a cracking start by scalping the dangerous Shane Watson and Ponting in the very first over of the game with the neither of the two managing to open their account. Michael Clarke also perished early forcing them to look towards consolidation rather than force opponents to submission.

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