July 31, 2009

Twittering Hughes needs to learn lessons


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There’s absolutely no harm in using the social networking sites as means of communicating thoughts to a wider audience but one has to draw a line what’s to be shared publicly and what’s to be strictly avoided.

Even the celebrities, besides the stars in the making, now consider such sites being of some use to them but the wiser ones are selective in sharing their thoughts because the idea, more often than not, is to gain popularity rather than start a controversy.

I am not too sure what exactly was in the mind of Phillip Hughes, a 20-year-old Australian opener into his first year in international cricket, when he chose Twitter, one of the most popular social networking sites, to ‘break’ the news of his axing from the playing eleven for the third Test against England at Edgbaston quite a few hours before the start of the game in wet conditions on July 30.

What Hughes had probably overlooked is the fact that the matters discussed in the team meetings are for their own consumption only and the stories need not to be told outside the dressing room or the hotel wherever they assemble for the brainstorming.

Neither the decisions taken in team meetings are meant to be announced by the individuals. It’s the responsibility of the team manager or the media manager to take care of hassles. A cricketer is meant to concentrate only on his own game and contribute to the team in the best possible manner.

Hughes might have been a bit too upset by the decision of the Australian team management to sideline him after the failures in the first couple of Tests in the ongoing Ashes battle. With the Australians trailing in the series one can surely understand their eagerness to catch up before it’s too late.

Hughes has to learn his lessons quickly. He not only needs to improve his technique with the bat in order to regain his place in the team but he also has to acquire wisdom before he’s caught in even greater mess.

The premature disclosure of Hughes that he was being replaced by Shane Watson for the Edgabaston Test appears to have caused embarrassment to Cricket Australia as well and it remains to be seen if the enterprising left-handed opening batsman faces any disciplinary action or he’s just issued a warning.

His manager, Neil D'Costa, who looks after the Twitter for Phillip Hughes, has come out with an explanation that the time difference between the countries led to the confusion and created the controversy.

D’Costa clarified that he was in India while the Twitter matters were being handled in Australia and the Test match in question was being held in England. Well he should now exercise more caution not only in selecting the right contents but also crosscheck abut the timings.
Hughes has to improve as well with coach Tim Nelson not mincing words: "He does need to go away and work at his game. He probably exceeded our expectations initially with the success he had in South Africa, and the way he played.”

Hughes, who was being hailed as the new Mathew Hayden after the dream start to his career in South Africa, has to work exceptionally hard now to score the heaps of runs at the international level in the manner he had done for New South Wales and Middlesex.

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July 30, 2009

Dreamworld Cue Sports complete 10 years


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Driving to the Dreamworld Resort & Golf Club, located on the outskirts of Karachi in the vicinity of the Northern Bypass, has always been a pleasure. Even though the roads throughout the metropolis have been ruined by the one devastating spell of rain on July 18, there’s always a temptation to visit the Resort.

The finals of the 10th Dreamworld Cue Sports Championship 2009 were held on July 26 and as expected there was a sizeable crowd at the venue. Probably there was a bigger crowd at the Dreamworld Billiards Parlour than the one at the Karachi Gymkhana where the final of the Al-Haram Snooker Cup National Ranking Tournament was being played the same day.

The Dreamworld Cue Sports Championships, launched a decade ago, have been attracting good crowds since inception and it remains one of the showpiece events in their calendar. There has been greater coverage in the media for the last two years now since they have framed the policy of inviting them for the finals.

Shahid Nazir Minhas lived upto the billing in the 10th Dreamworld Cue Sports Championship by retaining the pool as well as snooker titles. 

The curtain on the 10-day event fell here at the club’s billiards parlour on July 18 with the snooker final and the prize distribution ceremony in which Mohammad Yousuf, a former world champion, was the chief guest.

The tall and well-built Shahid Nazir, having appeared in the national ranking tournaments for quite a few years in the recent past, continued to dominate the snooker as well as the pool events of the Championship being organized by the Dreamworld Resort.

Shahid, however, was given a run for his money in the snooker final of Mohammad Umar. The best of seven encounter lasted four and a half hours with Shahid having had to bring all his expertise into play to clinch the contest 4-3 with the frame scores of 71-44, 32-72, 53-41, 47-70, 76-41, 40-50, 51-40.

He was not all that stretched in the nine-ball pool final, played on a fast pace, in which he raced to 5-3 victory over Rashid Habib.

Saba Zubair Abbasi emerged triumphant in nine-ball pool for ladies as she overpowered Maliha Athar 3-1 in the final.

Syed Saud Hassan ran away with the top honours in the nine-ball pool for seniors, over the age of 45 years. He outclassed Abdul Sattar Shah 5-2 in what turned out to be a one-sided final.

The marathon snooker final delayed the presentation ceremony but the participants of the championship showed great enthusiasm that was acknowledged by Tournament Director, Abdul Qadir Siddiqui, in the welcome address.

The legendary Mohammad Yousuf, the only World and Asian champion to be produced by the country, was highly appreciative of the efforts being made at the resort for the promotion of cue sports. Cash awards of Rs 5,000 each were presented, alongwith trophies, gifts and certificates, to the winners of all the four events.

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July 29, 2009

Ijaz Butt on the way out


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There are some strong indications of late that Ijaz Butt, who was appointed the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) last October, may not be able to complete even one year in office.

Having promised much and delivered little, the PCB Chairman is likely to lose his job in not too distant future until and unless there are some dramatic moves and change of mind at the Presidency.

The ouster of Ijaz Butt will not come as a surprise. Neither would anyone feel hurt when he is booted out mainly because of his attitude problem that has cost him some of his nearest and dearest friends lately.

It’s quite amazing to find him ditching his trusted friends. He is not even sparing those mates who stood by him when he was not in power. He is believed to be misbehaving and annoying his closest of friends who have become increasingly fed up with him and might part ways soon.

Ijaz Butt may have committed blunders in his life but his latest act of humiliating his trustworthy friends could cost him much more than the job at the PCB. May be he considers the chairmanship of the Board as the most important thing for him but I am sure he has missed a trick here.

By the look of things one gets the impression that Ijaz Butt has an assurance from his brother-in-law, an influential leader of the ruling party, of his job being secure and he’s not afraid to overlook and ignore all others around him.

Even the Federal Sports Minister, Pir Syed Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani, who was not only one of the key figures in having him installed as the PCB Chairman but also defended him out way whenever he committed mistakes, appears to have quietly withdrawn the support.

Pir Aftab Jilani, who is such a thorough gentleman, has not expressed his displeasure openly yet but one can read between the lines that the Federal Minister has not been accorded the respected he deserved by the sitting PCB Chairman.

Everyone is not as forgiving as Pir Aftab Jilani and there are a few hard nuts to crack in the corridors of power reportedly moving against Ijaz Butt after being offended and shown disrespect.

The stories have started doing rounds that Ijaz Butt could soon face the wrath of the PCB Chief Patron and the President of President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, who is unhappy with his performance.

Sources in the sports ministry and the government have already confirmed that a comprehensive report on the performance of the PCB during Ijaz Butt's tenure would be submitted to the Chief patron soon.

The newspapers have started reporting that there’s a lot of disappointment in the Presidency and Ministry over the way cricket matters are being handled by Ijaz Butt.

The feeling in the officialdom is growing that Ijaz Butt is too old and does not have the temperament to represent Pakistan in international cricket forums or foster better relations with member countries. In simple words they are now convinced that he’s not the man for the job.

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July 28, 2009

Shoaib Akhtar’s international career yet not over


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I incline to disagree with former Pakistan captain Wasim Akram who has reckoned that fast bowler Shoaib Akhtar's international career is virtually over. In Pakistan cricket nothing could be taken for granted. His career would have been over many years ago if he belonged to some other country. 

Wasim was absolutely right in having pointed out that the warning bells had been sounded with Shoaib's omission from Pakistan's list of probables for the forthcoming Champions Trophy, to be staged in South Africa. 

But what Wasim has overlooked is the fact that Shoaib has had many such situations in the recent past when one thought it was all over for him. But he has this knack of being in the news for whatever reasons. Obviously this works to his advantage and prolongs his career without even taking to the field.

"I don't think he has got a chance, unless and until some miracles happen. Even though it depends on the captain and selectors, I think Shoaib has fallen out with the selectors and the board itself. The board still supported him and he went to Abu Dhabi and played two of the five games against Australia before getting injured again. We all saw that,” Wasim, arguably the greatest-ever left-arm fast bowler to have played the game, was quoted as saying in a recent interview.

Having been in the thick of things for so many years in Pakistan, Wasim should have known that logic is probably the last thing that’s taken into account in matters relating to cricket in particular in this part of the world where it’s about the clout and public relations.

He should rather compliment Shoaib for making the most of the system or the lack of it that’s kept the injury-prone fast bowler in the limelight despite having played negligible cricket for the last many years.

Shoaib has been surviving over the years primarily because of his rapport with the media and the weaknesses in the officialdom. He knows better than anyone else now as how to manipulate things from outside the ground. He has been in the limelight many times without having done anything of note, thanks to his new found abilities of hitting headlines.

Shoaib should have been a thing of the past many seasons ago, if merit was the sole criterion for selecting the national team. He was provided numerous opportunities even when half-fit and he continued deserting the team at will. 

Give credit to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) or hold them responsible for compromising on national interest the fact remains that Shoaib was never questioned as to why he took the team for a ride for his personal gains.

History is witness to the fact that Shoaib has been a great fast bowler in his prime youth but he has been found wanting as a team man. There’s also a feeling that the Rawalpindi Express could not do justice with the potential he possessed mainly because of fitness problems.

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July 27, 2009

Habib University Foundation’s I-Lead programme gets off to a flying start


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The launching ceremony of Habib University Foundation’s I-Lead programme organized at the Habib Public School’s Sports Auditorium in Karachi on July 14 was quite an outstanding effort.

Well begun is often considered half done. The management of the Habib University Foundation deserved credit for having got off to a flying start. If this was an indication of things to come then we can surely expect another great institution in the making by the name of Habib University.

It was quite a privilege having attended the launch of their I-Lead programme. The state of the art facilities at the Sports Auditorium of the famed Habib Public School came handy in providing I-Lead the platform for a perfect start. 

The exciting basketball matches between the school outfits, the thought-provoking presentations and the enlightening panel discussion highlighted the launch of the I-Lead programme.

The sporting icons very rightly pointed out during the panel discussion that professional management and sound planning held the key in arresting the decline and leading the revival in the field of sports.

Former hockey Olympians Samiullah Khan and Qamar Ibrahim and ex-Test opening batsman Shoaib Mohammad lauded the joint efforts of the Habib University, the provincial government and the British Council in having planned a comprehensive programme for the promotion of sports.

The other panelists, Nain Abidi, vice captain of Pakistan women cricket team, Yasir-ur-Haq, a power lifter, Rishad Mahmood, Sports Editor Daily Dawn, also appreciated the implementation of the visionary idea of integrating education, sports and youth. Ehsan Qureshi, the leading all-round sports journalist of the country, moderated the lively discussion.

Syed Faisal Ali Subzwari, Sindh Minister for Youth Affairs, who was the chief guest in the ceremony, expressed the resolve that his department was committed to make its contribution in projects aimed at the promotion of healthy activities in which sports was a major factor.

Syed Wasif Rizvi, Chief Executive Officer, Habib University Foundation, delivered a presentation on value of sports and physical education for a society while Yasmeen Bano, Manager I-Lead Project, deliberated on institutionalizing sports and physical education besides throwing light on the salient features of the I-Lead project.

Samiullah Khan, an architect of many hockey conquests, spoke about the importance of keeping the youth motivated by engaging them in sporting activities round the year and providing them the desired facilities at their schools and colleges.

He reckoned that the youngsters need guidance and counseling besides the motivation to excel in the field of sports that’s becoming increasingly competitive. He urged the athletes to keep working hard to accomplish their goals.

Qamar Ibrahim, one of the many hockey Olympians produced by the Habib Public School, acknowledged the role of his Alma Mater in letting him polish his skills and make it to the national team.

Shoaib Mohammad, the only Test cricketer to have been produced by Habib Public School, also saluted his sports teachers for having groomed him from an early age leading to his elevation at the international level.

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Sangakkara’s negative mindset denies his team clean sweep


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The decision of the Sri Lankan captain Kumar Sangakkara to go off the field when at a striking distance to complete a rare clean sweep in the Test series looked mind-boggling to say the least. It were the Pakistanis who were on the defensive on the fifth and final day of the third Test and they must have heaved a sign of relief at having avoided an embarrassment.

The Sri Lankans needed less than run a ball going into the last 20 overs. With six wickets in hand and two well set batsmen at the crease the platform was set for the home side to complete their third successive win in the Test series.

The pitch at the SSC, as the Pakistan captain Younis Khan and the recalled leg-spinner Deanish Kaneria stated after the game, had flattened on the final day and there was hardly any encouragement for the bowlers unlike the earlier days.

Only one wicket had fallen in the first couple of sessions and the Pakistan bowlers were obviously tired and disheartened. The situation was ideal for Sri Lanka to attempt the biggest chase of Test history. But they chose not to go for it and settle for a draw.

Sri Lankan could still have drawn the game had they lost a few wickets in the process of forcing the pace. It’s hard to imagine in these days of Twenty20 cricket any team disinterested in going for a target of less than run a ball in the last 20 overs of a Test match.

The explanation of the Sri Lankan captain didn’t make sense. Not many people would accept the excuse his decision to abandon the chase was largely dictated by the injury concerns over Tillakaratne Dilshan.

"If Dilshan was fit we could have tried a few things out. We could have gone for a few more runs after tea, although they [Pakistan] bowled wide off the crease to cut the run supply and set defensive fields. When the 15 overs came up, we were in a position where we couldn't say either way, so we took the option of drawing the match. We planned to bat out session by session," Sangakkara said.

"The closer we were getting to their total, time was also running out and it became slightly easier to manage. I am pretty happy the way everyone played. This whole innings of ours as a team showed that we were starting to play proper Test cricket. We weren't really thinking about going for totals, we were trying to bat and enjoy our time out in the middle. If you are batting to save a game you really can't go too negative, that plays into the opposition's hands,” he added.

What the Sri Lankan captain was forgetting was the fact that his team had won emerged triumphant in the earlier couple of Tests and the momentum was with him. He was in an ideal position to press home the advantage in the third Test to make it 3-0 but he opted to be content with a 2-0 lead.

Younis Khan must thank his stars because it would have been a much greater humiliation had his team been whitewashed in the Test series soon after the triumph in the ICC Twenty20 Championship in England.

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July 25, 2009

Azeem Sarwar delighted with accomplishments of his trainees


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Azeem Sarwar, without any shadow of doubt, is the greatest all-round broadcaster produced by the country. He has been equally versatile as a producer and seldom would one find so many outstanding qualities in a single person.

Azeem Sarwar has been blessed with a distinct voice that hangs in memory for a lifetime. That’s why people across the globe still talk of his radio programmes that echoed from every transistor set even decades ago.

His contribution to the media in Pakistan is unparalleled. Besides blessing the legendary radio programmes with his voice and also producing them, he has done a great service to sports journalism by having groomed a crop of youngsters who are now among the bigwigs of the profession.

Azeem Sarwar was the man who conceived the idea of producing a sports programme for Radio Pakistan on a daily basis in Urdu. He had visualized that having a radio programme that broadcasts the news and reports of the latest sporting action all over the world will catch the imagination of the listeners who otherwise didn’t have an access to timely information.

He was absolutely right. It turned out to be a master stroke. It was for the first time in Radio Pakistan’s history that such a programme had been planned. There had been odd radio shows on sports in the past but no one before him could envision having a daily sports programme of international standard.

The popularity of the programme ‘Alami Sports Round Up’ exceeded all expectations. Launched in 1985, the programme became an instant not only in Pakistan but all across the sub-continent wherever the transmission could be heard.

‘Alami Sports Round Up’ revolved around Azeem Sarwar but being a shrewd leader, he kept inducting the youngsters who had the passion for sports and possessed the talents to transcribe and broadcast. Being a hard task master, he never compromised on quality and kept his teammates motivated at all times.

Being a true leader of men, he instilled confidence in those youngsters and urged them to do better in order to make a name for themselves in the profession of writing and broadcasting. He himself was the role model for all his teammates who always looked forward to him for guidance and support.

Azeem Sarwar’s initiatives not only popularized ‘Alami Sports Round Up’ but a whole group of young and upcoming journalists received an early boost to their career. Almost all the members of his team have been occupying key positions in their profession for a number of years now.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of his team because I was able to learn a lot by getting an opportunity to work alongside him. He’s the man who provided me the confidence to improve my skills. It was after his training that I joined the mainstream journalism and the rest is history.

Azeem Sarwar is a thorough gentleman whose sporting spirit remains a source of inspiration. An enlightened person, he is not afraid to acknowledge the people, senior or junior, having worked with him. 

It was such a great pleasure to have him speak in the launching ceremony of ‘Cricket Fever’ on July 17. Besides sharing his views on the Indo-Pak cricket matches he recalled the glories of ‘Alami Sports Round Up’ and told the audience that he’s proud of the accomplishments of his members of the team, three of whom were sitting on the stage, including the author of the book.

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July 24, 2009

Younus Rizwani highlights Karachi Gymkhana’s sporting heritage


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The President of the Karachi Gymkhana for the current year (2009), the soft-spoken Younus Rizwani, takes pride in mentioning his more than a century old club as a hub of sporting activities.

“Karachi Gymkhana offers many other facilities with sports being an area that has made us proud in particular. We are thrilled to be recognized as the leading sports club of the country, having made significant contribution to national sports,” Younus Rizwani remarked in his speech during the launching ceremony of ‘Cricket Fever’ at the Banquet Hall of the Karachi Gymkhana on July 17.

“I am pleased that Karachi Gymkhana today is the venue of the launch of a historic book on Indo-Pak cricket. We have a history of promoting sports. Our club has been engaged in sports promotion for over a century now,” he noted.

“As you all know Karachi Gymkhana has a prominent place in Pakistan's cricket history. It was at our ground where Pakistan overpowered MCC to convince the ruling body of the game that we were worthy of Test status. The scorecard of that memorable match is prominently displayed at our cricket ground even today,” the Karachi Gymkhana President remarked.

“Besides cricket we have been extending support to the promoters of nearly every sport in the national interest. It’s probably for the first time in history that a couple of national ranking snooker tournaments are being hosted by our club during the year. We had played host to the National Snooker Championship 2009 earlier this year and now we are staging the Ranking Cup Snooker Tournament with the collaboration of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA),” Younus Rizwani informed the audience.

“We endeavour not only to provide the best possible sporting facilities to our members but we remain committed to play our part proactively in the promotion of national sports,” he added.

“The mood of whole nation changed with the success of our team in England where we won the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. It was after 17 long years when we have become the world champions in cricket again. We look forward to such triumphs much more regularly so that the nation could keep celebrating more often,” he hoped.

“The cricket matches between Pakistan and India have always been of incredible interest. The people in both countries are crazy about cricket and every cricket match is treated as special. Despite the long breaks, the Indo-Pak series are the ones the cricket followers look forward to. Cricket comes alive whenever these two teams are pitted against each other in any corner of the world. There is indeed something magical in Indo-Pak matches,” Younus Rizwani reckoned.

“Syed Khalid Mahmood’s Cricket Fever is a nice effort. He has thrown light on every series between the two countries during the last 57 years. He has written a chapter on every bilateral tour and they are 16 in all. I congratulate him on writing the book. I am really delighted to note that this actually is his 10th book,” he concluded.

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July 23, 2009

Dr Mirza Abrar Baig proposes Ashes-like series between Pakistan and India


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

“I have a feeling that the Indo-Pak Test series could be planned on the pattern of ‘The Ashes’ series between Australia and England. There should be a bilateral series after two years. I am sure there would be even greater buzz around the world if Pakistan and India start playing each other regularly for a trophy.”

Dr Mirza Abrar Baig, Senior Executive Vice President & Group Head, National Bank of Pakistan, made these observations while speaking in the launching ceremony of ‘Cricket Fever’ held at the Karachi Gymkhana on July 17.

Dr Abrar Baig, who presided over the book launch function, went on to add that since Pakistan had last toured India in 2007-08, now the Indians should be persuaded to visit Pakistan in 2009-10 and Pakistan should go there again in 2011-12.

Although he’s a banker by profession, he has great passion for sports in general and cricket in particular.

He delivered a thought provoking speech on the occasion in which his deep insight for cricket was very clearly reflected. 

“Cricket, in fact all other sports, have come alive with the recent triumph of our team in England where they emerged triumphant in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. I am sure the odd defeats in the subsequent Test series in Sri Lanka is not going to dampen the spirits and our boys would be back to the winning ways in the very near future,” Dr Abrar Baig remarked.

“National Bank is proud to be associated with sports and we take pride in promoting the healthy activities in the society as a responsible corporate citizen. We are delighted to have produced the sporting heroes having made the nation proud,” he added.

“Coming to the subject of the book, the sporting contests between Pakistan and India have had a history of fierce rivalry. With cricket being the number one sport in both the countries, every series between them is considered something very special. Unfortunately there have been deadlocks for non-cricketing reasons more than once and we have been denied the pleasure of regular cricket between the two neighbours,” he pointed out.

“The book in your hands ‘Cricket Fever’ has recaptured the excitement and glories of all the series played between them during the last 57 years. All the16 bilateral tours have been comprehensively covered and it’s quite an accomplishment on part of the author to have penned as many as 10 books,” Dr Abrar Baig complimented.

“On personal front the memories of the Indo-Pak matches always remain fresh in my mind. How can one never forget the tension, the joy and the pains that have come with the package,” he said.

“The large number of cricket enthusiasts in both the countries look forward to the cricket matches between Pakistan and India. I believe that there should be a regular series between these two nations that would have greater global following than any other cricket event,” he reckoned.

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Federal Sports Minister hints at early revival of Indo-Pak cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan’s Federal Sports Minister, Pir Syed Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani, has hinted at the early resumption of cricket ties with India, announcing that the nation would soon hear the ‘good news’ in this regard.

“The recent meeting between the Prime Ministers of Pakistan and India could break the deadlock and I am quite optimistic that we would have the revival of cricket series very soon,” he told reporters after launching a book on Indo-Pak cricket titled “Cricket Fever” at the Karachi Gymkhana on July 17. 

“Let me assure you that the government of Pakistan is very eager for the resumption of sporting ties but our Indian counterparts have yet not reciprocated in the same manner,” he pointed out.

“Cricket is the most popular game in both the countries and to be it doesn’t make any sense to deny the peoples of watching the two most exciting teams in the cricketing world in action on their own soil. It’s indeed a pity that the Indo-Pak cricket series have been deadlocked in the past as well,” the Federal Minister regretted.

“It is, however, very heartening to note that contacts are being revived in other games and we are hoping cricket’s turn will come sooner than later,” he believed.  

“The Federal Ministry of Sports and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) have recently allowed a few sporting outfits to travel to India on case to case basis. We hope that our initiatives will be welcomed and the Indian sports authorities will reciprocate with the same spirit of goodwill,” Pir Aftab Jilani hoped. 

“Sometimes we are baffled by the cold response from our Indian counterparts because we understand that the sporting contacts could be very helpful in improving the relations between the two neighbouring countries,” he thought.

Sharing his views on the Indo-Pak cricket matches of the part, Pir Aftab Jilani said he has always been thrilled by watching these games.

A former cricketer himself, he lauded the contribution of sports writers and journalists in preserving the history. 

“Sports writers have made the country proud by producing informative and historic books which reminds us of our glorious past in sporting arena. Cricket Fever authored by Syed Khalid Mahmood is a welcome addition to the quality sports brought out from the country,” the Federal Minister said. 

“The performances of our athletes may have suffered over the years but our authors are doing a service to the nation by recalling their accomplishments of the past,” he commented. 

“Cricket Fever takes me back to those golden years when Pakistan’s cricketers performed exceptionally well to conjure up victories against the heaviest of odds. Pakistan’s performance in the formative years had exceeded expectations as they downed every team they came across in their first-ever series, India included,” the Federal Minister recalled.

“Some of Pakistan’s greatest conquests in cricket have come against India. The innings victory at Lucknow in 1954-55, in only their second Test. Then the series win in 1978-79 when the Indo-Pak cricket resumed after 18 years. Pakistan’s first-ever series win in India in 1986-87 is also fresh in my minds,” he concluded.

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July 18, 2009

Pleasures of launching a book


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I am feeling mighty relieved after the launch of my book Cricket Fever: A History of Pakistan-India Tours at the Karachi Gymkhana Banquet Hall on July 17.
I am delighted to have delivered as there were only 96 hours at my disposal when the Federal Sports Minister, Pir Syed Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani, had consented to be the chief guest in the ceremony. 

He had an unusually busy schedule for the weekend and it was not possible for him to come over on July 18 as suggested by me. Since I had to rush to Islamabad on July 19 for a few days, I was eager to have the book launched before my visit to the federal capital.

The Minister was willing to grace the occasion on July 17, if I agreed. I looked towards Ehsan Qureshi who was with me when this discussion was taking place and we thought it was worth making extra effort to launch the book a day earlier than scheduled.

From 5 pm on July 13 to 5 pm on July 17 were probably the busiest 96 hours of my life. That was definitely at the back of my mind when I declared in my speech that the evening of July 17 was the memorable one in my career yet.

The writing and publishing a book in Pakistan in particular are considered an arduous task. The launching of a book is not a straightforward proposition either. It’s probably tougher that’s why not all the books that somehow manage to see the light of the day in this part of the world are launched.

I consider myself fortunate to have been blessed with a few loyal and trustworthy friends who are also there for me. My mother’s prayers keep me inspired as do the smiles of my two little daughters, Javeria and Beenish, who always urge me to do justice with my talents.

These motivating factors prompted me to accept the challenge of organizing the book launch at a notice of just four days. Trust me I would have never mustered this courage to host a full-fledged function had Ehsan Qureshi not been around there with me all along. He inspired me to mobilize all our resources with a cool head and not to press the panic button.

Well the seating capacity in the Banquet Hall of Karachi Gymkhana was for 120 guests, besides the space for 12 dignitaries on the stage. Wasn’t it a wonderful sight with just a few chairs in the entire hall being unoccupied. It was nearly cent percent attendance. With drizzle having caused traffic jam on many roads and the threat of more rains it was really great to have watched guests assembled in time.

The chief guest, Pir Aftab Jilani, also reached at the designated time, as did Dr Mirza Abrar Baig, who was presiding over the ceremony. All the other distinguished speakers, Ehsan Qureshi, Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqui, Azeem Sarwar, Younis Rizwani, Aziz Memon, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui and Shoaib Mohammad also arrived in time and Sardar Khan called the meeting to order at half past six.

I don’t know if I deserved all those praises or now but trust me it was music to my ears. So many stalwarts of their respective fields showering me with praise publicly in the presence of the media was something I might never imagined when I had started writing for cricket magazines as a teenager some 29 years ago.

The speeches lasted around 75 minutes and it was thrilling to be the focus of attention sitting comfortably on stage. Sardar Khan and Ehsan Qureshi took upon themselves the responsibility of handling the stage management to take pressure off my head. 

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July 15, 2009

Sri Lanka finally clinch a Test series at home against Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It was an extraordinary Test match and so typical of one involving Pakistan. You can be rest assured that nothing could be taken for granted when one of the participating teams in the duel is Pakistan.

The match would have been considered won and lost inside the first couple of sessions on the opening day when Pakistan had crashed to 90 all out in their first innings. But remember it were Pakistan and their opponents were none other than Sri Lanka, an otherwise healthy and hearty team that had often failed against them in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

It appeared that the history would repeat itself once more when Sri Lanka surrendered the initiative after been in the driving seat for the whole of the first Test. Their poorest cricket for quite sometime was witnessed on the second day and the match had become wide open when the stumps were drawn.

Sri Lanka had to engage in the throwaway mode to generate interest in the game that they should have sealed by playing normal cricket. It was amazing to find them losing the focus when in dominant position.

Sri Lanka were in complete control of the situation when the play had started on the second morning and one expected them to consolidate their position by accumulating runs rather comfortably. But they shocked their supporters by their shot selection and casual approach to get bowled out for a mere 240.

If the batting collapse in the first half of the day was not enough, the hosts came up with an ordinary bowling performance in the latter of the day to let Pakistan wipe out the deficit of 150 for the loss of just one wicket.

It went to the credit of the Sri Lankans to have allowed debutant opener Fawad Alam to play a big knock of 168. He became the first Pakistan batsman to have scored 150 in an innings on Test debut.

The left-handed Fawad took full advantage of the friendly bowling and he was involved in a hugely productive second wicket stand with skipper Younis Khan, who made up for a duck in the first outing with a solid 85.

Fawad and Younis added exactly 200 runs for the second wicket to snatch the initiative from the home side. With Pakistan 135 in front and nine wickets standing they were in an advantageous position as Sri Lankan had to bat last in the game.

But a sensational batting collapse that saw Pakistan crash from 285 for one to 320 all out brought the home side back in the reckoning and the target of 171 was unlikely to test them on a pitch that was still good for many runs.

Sri Lanka made the wise move of going after the bowling instead of waiting for things to happen. Their positive approach paid dividends as they succeeded in completing the victory before the close of play on the third evening.

Sri Lanka have finally won a Test series against Pakistan at home. But they have yet not been able to give an impressive account of themselves. The victories in both the Tests have been unconvincing and they need to improve in many areas to enhance their reputation and ranking.

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July 13, 2009

Test cricket at its best as Panesar, Anderson hang on


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There could not have been a better Test match than the one between England and Australia at Cardiff in which the last pair of James Anderson and Monty Panesar displayed great composure while negotiating the final overs after Paul Collingwood and Graeme Swann had shown them the way.

Who says that Test cricket is dead or a thing of the past? Twenty20 matches certainly provide entertainment to the spectators over a short period of time but the kind of excitement and tension that a classic Test match like the one at Cardiff offer is simply unparallel.

The Cardiff Test was a timely reminder to the movers and shakers of the game, who looked like being concerned at the future of the five-day games, to get single-minded and be assured that there’s no substitute of a Test match yet.

The trains have existed even after the success of the aircrafts. People have a choice now. There are folks who derive greater pleasure in traveling by trains, mind you not the bullet trains but the conventional ones, for commuting purposes. 

The publishing industry has not collapsed after the advent of the internet. Neither has the newsmagazines closed down after the influx of e-magazines. Landline phone is still a more than useful mean for communication even though the market has been flooded by cell phones.

The Ashes 2009 could not have been to a more sensational start. After five days of absorbing cricket in which the fortunes fluctuated the end result was a just one I think. It was in the fitness of things that England managed to save the game after the rearguard action of their tail-enders.

Australia obviously looked the stronger team in the game but England’s refusal to give up spoke highly of their commitment and the fighting grit was commendable. Andrew Strauss may not be as inspirational leader like Mike Brearley or Michael Vaughan but he commands respect from his boys who stand right behind him.

The last couple of hours of the Cardiff Test will hang long in our memory with every defensive shot being cheered by the knowledgeable crowd. Trust me there were millions of cricket followers all over the world who remained glued to their television sets until Anderson and Panesar shook hands with the Australians to signal the end of the match.

Life has become fast they say. But ask Anderson, Panesar, members of the England cricket team and their large number of supporters. Each and every passing second was feeling like a century. The time had stopped, it looked like. The clocks had become rusty one thought.

Not many people would have given England a chance of saving the Test once Collingwood, who had battled out for more than five hours, was removed from the scene. With the last pair in everyone thought it was all over for the hosts. It looked a matter of a few balls really how Panesar played the first couple of balls he faced. 

But he grew in confidence and Anderson played as solidly as it was needed. They batted magnificently under pressure to deny Ricky Ponting the final wicket. The England tail-enders rose to the occasion, playing every ball on its merit. They cracked the loose ones too that allowed them to get nearer to safety. Their faces told the story. The tension was mounting but they were upto it.

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July 11, 2009

West Indian cricket in shambles once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The West Indian cricket authorities have had this habit of hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons for a number of years. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has had numerous management problems in the past as well and they are facing the music once more.

There has indeed been something rotten in the state of their affairs causing controversies of various kinds from time to time. Lately they have been engaged in a tussle that has led them to field a second string outfit in the first Test against Bangladesh having started on July 9.

One has to understand the gravity of the situation and take into account the ground realities before blasting them for the unforeseen incidents that have brought the game into disrepute more than once.

It’s obviously not easy to have synchronization of thoughts when people from so many different countries sit on one platform. We must not overlook the fact that the WICB is a representative body of quite a few sovereign countries having kept this entity of the West Indies in tact for so many decades purely for the sake of cricket.

One has to recognize the passion of cricket these countries from the Caribbean have had. It’s the game of cricket that unites the nations and they are more than glad to play under the umbrella of the West Indies.

Yes it’s only cricket in which the independent sporting nations like Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana have joined hands. In all other disciplines they have their own identity and the athletes represent their respective countries.

Keeping in view these basic facts one can feel for the West Indian cricket administration that must be tough than running an organization like the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) or the Cricket Australia (CA).

The WICB officials, however, need to improve their working and develop a consensus in dealing with the problems as sensitive as the wages of their cricketers. They should be more rational in their approach and keep the interest of the game paramount at all times.

Whatever the administrative problems they should have tackled it and the matter should not have gone out of hands. Obviously fielding a second string side is not a good reflection of their capabilities in coping with the crisis.

There are disagreements and arguments everywhere but some cool heads are more likely to settle the issue rather than the hawkish elements prone to aggravating the problems by throwing caution to the wind.

The saner elements in the WICB should reassess the problems and make efforts to mend fences with the cricketers having boycotted the ongoing series. They should not allow the people with vested interests to dominate and fulfill their agenda of further destabilizing the West Indian cricket.

The West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) should also adopt flexible approach and they should not challenge the authority of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) that indeed remains the supreme body of the game in the region. The rigidity is not going to help in any way. Both the parties should reach a sort of agreement that doesn’t deprive their people the pleasure of watching their star players.

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July 9, 2009

Pakistan bridge squad to be recognized for BFAME glories


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) has decided to recognize the national Open, Women and Seniors teams by holding a reception in their honour shortly for having performed exceptionally well in the recently concluded 15th Bridge Federation of Asia and Middle East (BFAME) Championship 2009 staged in the Jordanian town of Amman.

The Acting President and the Honorary Secretary of the PBF, Tariq Rasheed Khan, has announced that in order to fete the seniors team for emerging triumphant and the Open and women teams for having ended runners-up in their respective events, a programme would be organized to celebrate their success at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, sometime next week.

Pakistan, having had an excellent record in the Zonal Championship since its inception in 1985, lived upto the billing once more with the standout performance of the seniors outfit being the highlight of their trip to Jordan.

Tariq Rasheed Khan was the Team Leader besides being the captain of the Seniors team that brought glories for the nation in what has been acclaimed as the major regional bridge event.

The other members of the Pakistan Seniors outfit were Parvez Mirza, Rashid-ul-Ghazi, Khalid Javed, Saeed Akhtar and Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi. They came up with magnificent performance to win the trophy besides qualifying for the Seniors Bermuda Bowl World Championship to be held later this year in Brazil.

Pakistan’s Open as well as Women teams also accomplished the objective of qualifying for this year’s World Championships but both of them crashed in the final and had to be content with the runners-up slot.

The Pakistan women squad comprised of Rubina Agha, Zeenat Azwer, Fizza Adamjee, Qudsia Doosa, and Najam Abid who will now be representing the country in the Venice Cup World Championship in Brazil.

Pakistan’s Open team, featuring Masood Mazhar, Mirza Shouq Hussain, Hasan Jawwad Nawab Muhammad Yousuf Talpur, Khalid Mohiuddin and Mubashir Puri, earned the right to contest this year’s Bermuda Bowl World Championship but they could not prevent India from equaling Pakistan’s record of clinching the BFAME title six times.

The Jordanian Bridge Association (JBA) hosted the BFAME Championship, with the collaboration of the Bridge Federation of Asian and Middle East (BFAME), for a record fourth time.

Besides Pakistan and Jordan the other participating teams in the 15th BFAME Championships were from Bangladesh, India Kuwait, Palestine, Sri Lanka and Syria.

It may be recalled that the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) had played host to the 14th edition of the BFAME Championships in 2007 and they were held with great fanfare at the picturesque Carlton Hotel in Karachi. The duo of Rehana Saigol and Tariq Rasheed Khan in particular had worked tirelessly to ensure the monumental success of the event against the heaviest of odds.

In fact the PBF had organized the event so successfully that they were approached to do it again out of turn in 2009. The BFAME officials were eager to hand over the hosting rights to the PBF once more but the deal could not materialize. The PBF, however, had volunteered to extend the technical support wherever the Championships were held.

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July 8, 2009

Sri Lanka’s rare comeback victory over Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sri Lanka have had their worst moments in cricket history against Pakistan. No wonder the Sri Lankans, having floored the toughest of opponents in their backyard, have yet not won a Test series at home against Pakistan.

Although the Pakistanis were far too short on experience going into the first Test at Galle with three debutants they appeared the obvious favourites to go one up in the series when they took the field on the fourth morning with just 97 needed with eight wickets standing.

In theory Sri Lanka also stood a chance and with the history of the ground on their side they could have been expected of stretching the tourists on the weary track. But with Pakistan’s reputation of doing the improbable most frequently against Sri Lanka, not many people thought of anything else except a Pakistan win within the first couple of hours of the morning session.

But the fourth morning of the game witnessed a drama that brutally exposed Pakistan’s brittle batting. The match was certainly over before the luncheon break, as was being anticipated, but the roles were reversed. It was the home side that picked up eight wickets inside the morning session to earn a famous victory.

It was not for the first time when the Sri Lankans had fought back from the dead in an international cricket game but there hardly had even been such an instance of them doing it against Pakistan.

Left-armers Thilan Thushara and Rangana Herath turned it around for the hosts with superb spells as Pakistan lost their last eight wickets for just 46. Sri Lanka won the first Test by 50 runs, a margin that looked quite substantial in the context of the game.

Although Pakistan have lost the game, it would be the hosts who would be asked more questions. The failure of their established top-order batsmen against an inexperienced bowling attack would certainly make them concerned as they prepare to close the series in the second Test.

Kumar Sangakkara, captaining his country for the first time in a Test match, was found wanting with the bat in both innings as was his predecessor Mahela Jayawardene, who had an outstanding record at the ground. It’s not often that both these great batsmen fail twice in a match.

The Sri Lankan think-tank may also have a re-look at the composition of their side that narrowly escaped defeat at the hands of a team playing a Test match abroad after more than a year and a half. The hosts will also be wondering if to consider Ajantha Mendis an attacking option against the Pakistan batsmen who have treated him as another ordinary spinner.

Pakistan, although jolted on the fourth morning, might not need any sessions or drills because they could derive pleasure for having pushed the fancied hosts to the wall on the first three days, exceeding all expectations.

Mohammad Yousuf staged his comeback in the national team with yet another century that allowed Pakistan to take the first innings lead. The trio of debutant bowlers, Mohammad Aamer, Abdur Rauf and Saeed Ajmal performed exceptionally well. Even skipper Younis Khan excelled in his new role of a medium-pacer, claiming no less than four wickets in the game. 

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July 7, 2009

Yet another unimpressive series win for India


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It were the rains, for a change, that allowed India to clinch the ODI series in the Caribbean. Although India were in the driving seat when the torrential downpour brought an early end to the fourth and final one-dayer in St Lucia but going by their past record they could have easily lost the focus and settled for a drawn series.

It’s not often when the rains have brought joys in the Indian camp but after having watched them surrender in the second game at the Sabina Park, the rainy weather of St Lucia certainly seemed to have proved a blessing in disguise for them.

The Indians had landed in the Caribbean soon after their miserable campaign in the ICC World Twenty20 in England where they had not only been dethroned but also humiliated in a most disgracing fashion.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys had very little time to regroup after the debacle in England but they were still the overwhelming favourites to prevail over the West Indies, who had gone on to reach the semifinals of the World Twenty20 event against all odds.

The Indians had arrived in the Caribbean with even bigger reputation in the past but failed to deliver with the 2007 World Cup being their worst outing in a major competition for quite sometime. They had fared miserably in the ODI series there in 2006 as well even though they were in possession of a formidable outfit under the command of Rahul Dravid.

The Indian fans, therefore, must not have taken anything for granted when Dhoni, a known aggressor, arrived with a very strong combination at his disposal. They knew that they would have greater pains to endure if they were to expect the Indians to translate their dominance into emphatic wins.

Yuvraj Singh’s dazzling knock in the first game gladdened their hearts even though the heartbeats must have stopped occasionally when the West Indians, more famous for choking under pressure than bringing about heroics, came perilously close to the Indian total.

The second game of the series was yet another classic example of India’s self destruction. As we have seen so many times in the past the ordinary mortals came up with the performance of their lifetime against India. It was the turn of Ravi Rampaul to steal the limelight at the expense of the fancied Indians.

After watching the events of the second ODI at the Sabina Park one had become completely unsure which way the series would be going. Nothing could have been ruled out if the Indians decided to play for fun and not for glory.

The Indians were in complete command of the situation in the third one-dayer at St Lucia that was hit by the weather but their supporters didn’t know until Dhoni struck a six in the final over if they would actually win the contest. One would not have been little surprised if India lost because they have had this rare quality of throwing it away when least expected to do so.

The Indians got off to a flying start in the fourth and final game too with Ishant Sharma producing lethal deliveries first to unsettle and then to remove Chris Gayle for a duck. Ashish Nehra was also bowling very well from the other end and the West Indian batsmen were barely surviving before the rains came to halt the action.

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July 6, 2009

Record breaking Federer overpowers Roddick in epic Wimbledon final


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It’s quite extraordinary how the sport of tennis keeps producing great characters who win the hearts of the millions with their artistry. Almost every era has had a living legend having charmed the followers of the game.

It was the turn of Roger Federer of Switzerland to rewrite the tennis history on July 5. By overpowering Andy Roddick in the Wimbledon 2009 final he has now become the greatest men's champion. It was his sixth Wimbledon crown and also a record 15th Grand Slam title.
The Swiss master broke the record of Pete Sampras who was watching the action in the Royal Box along with fellow legends Bjorn Borg and Rod Laver.

When Sampras had set the record in 2002 by winning the US Open final, not many people expected it to be bettered. But the emergence of the hugely talented Federer changed the course of history and it had appeared a matter of time for the record to be broken and it finally has happened.

The 27-year-old Federer, however, was made to work extremely hard to earn the sixth Wimbledon title and his duel with Roddick lasted no less than four hours and 16 minutes as it went to the wire. He had to bring all his expertise into play to overcome his threatening rival with the scores of 5-7, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 16-14.
Victory always tastes sweeter after such epic contests and Federer had every reason to feel on top of the world after having finally floored Roddick who had simply refused to give up. He ensured that there was no repeat of the last year’s final when he had been edged out in five-set final by his nemesis Rafael Nadal.

Federer must have become accustomed to withstanding the courageous fightbacks from his rivals. He has been engaged in numerous close battles and quite remarkably he has emerged triumphant more often than not. 

Federer was certainly tested to his limits by Roddick and the tennis fans were kept glued to their seats wherever they were because the outcome was in doubt. History of sorts was created as Federer and Roddick fought it out what became the longest fifth set in Wimbledon's history.

Federer, like a true champion, kept his cool even at the tightest and tensest moments. He was observed motivating himself with a quietly growled Come-on. His Come-ons were not as loud or as aggressive as many of the past legends but there was no lack of intensity as he went for the kill.

“Tennis is cruel sometimes. I went through some five setters in Grand Slam finals too and ended up losing. It's hard. He [Roddick] did great. He's not going to let his head hang down. He's going to come back strong and play great in the States. I think it's one of the best matches we played against each other. I really thought I had to play my very, very best to come through,” a visibly exhausted Federer observed after completing the most significant triumph of his illustrious career yet. 

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July 3, 2009

Chief Justice approached for taking note of PCB irregularities


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Chief Justice of Pakistan, Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhary, has been approached for taking suo motto action against the former officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) having been found guilty of massive financial irregularities by the Auditor General of Pakistan.

Razaullah Khan, the longest serving council member of the PCB, who has been known and feared for calling a spade a spade, has once more taken the initiative of bringing to book the people having been engaged in malpractices of the highest order.

“Yes I have submitted a request to the Chief Justice for taking a suo motto action against Dr Nasim Ashraf, Shafqat Naghmi and others who have been found involved in the embezzlement of funds to the tune of Rupees seven billion,” Razaullah Khan remarked in an interview recently.

“Alongwith my application to the Chief Justice I have submitted a copy of the report of the Auditor General of Pakistan that details the corrupt practices of the PCB officials. I have also brought the matter to the notice of Chaudhary Nisar Ali, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly and Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, by sending him a copy of the same report,” he added.

Razaullah Khan, who has been associated with the game of cricket in various capacities for nearly half a century now, did not mince words in stating that he has had to approach the Chief Justice after having failed to get any response from the government agencies.

“I have communicated to the Chief Justice that I have approached him after having knocked at the various doors without any response. The people in the government have their own reasons of not initiating action against the former PCB officials even though the report of the Auditor General of Pakistan has found them guilty,” Razaullah Khan said.

“The Auditor General of Pakistan has compiled the report after they had been assigned the task by the President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, who is also the Patron of the Pakistan Cricket Board,” the former PCB Council member revealed.

“Now when the report has come out and it has been very clearly pointed out that the former officials of the PCB were guilty of financial embezzlement there is no reason why they should not taken to task. I have appealed to the Chief Justice to take suo motto action and register a case against them,” Razaullah Khan stated.
“Exemplary punishment must be given to the PCB officials for having misused the public money and having derived huge personal benefits besides having obliged their near and dear ones,” he pleaded.

“It was a common belief that Dr Nasim Ashraf and Shafqat Naghmi were running the affairs of the PCB at their whims. The recent report by the Auditor General of Pakistan has only confirmed that they have deprived the nation of billions of rupees,” Razaullah Khan believed.

He didn’t expect the present officials of the PCB to move against their predecessors because in his opinion there still were quite a few employees in the Board having sympathy with their former masters.

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July 1, 2009

Cricket will never be same without Vaughan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The game of cricket will never be the same with the former England captain, Michael Vaughan, who announced his retirement from all forms of professional cricket on June 30.

Vaughan's poise and grace both on and off the field were legendary and he has won more friends by quitting the game in the larger interest of England cricket. The timing of his decision showed once more that he’s a team man to the core. He has been hailed for making the decision before the start of the Ashes series.

England's most successful Test captain was not selected for the upcoming Ashes squad due to the loss of form and he could have taken a chance of reviving his fortunes by playing for the England Lions against the visiting Australians in the game starting at Worcester on July 1.

The 34-year-old Vaughan resisted the temptation of extending his international career and chose to hang his boots instead because he didn’t wish to increase the pressure on England's current Ashes squad gearing up for the big occasion.

 "It was always going to be a long shot to get me back in. There's some excellent players and, the likes of Ravi Bopara, the last thing that they needed in an Ashes series that is going to be so high profile is someone like myself getting a hundred and the media building up my chances of getting in the team,” a very sporting Vaughan said.

"Those guys need the confidence to go out and play. I had great opportunities and all the younger players and the guys in and around the team need that confidence to go out and express themselves now. I could have had the opportunity to play for the England Lions but it would have been based purely on the past and you have to move forward,” he added.

"I hope by me moving on now it gives a great opportunity for the guys to go and recreate history. The Ashes win of 2005 will be irrelevant over the next few weeks. Hopefully the team can move on and create their own piece of history," the man who led England to an Ashes victory after ages observed.

"I always like us on our home shore; I like the job Andy Flower and Andy Strauss are doing in building this unit. I'm enjoying the fact we've got bowling options that look like wicket-taking options. Yes they bat deep, but I do think we've got 20 wickets in the tank in the Test series. That's why I'm optimistic,” Vaughan reckoned.

"I haven't strategically looked at the Australian players because I haven't had to, but Straussy knows that we're good friends and if any time during the series he wants to ring me up and have a yarn, my phone will always be on. I want England to be successful. I want to be at the Oval in August with everyone celebrating a great Ashes victory,” he wished.

With the retirement of Vaughan the career of one of the most technically correct England batsmen of all time has come to an end. He remained a class act ever since making an impressive Test debut against South Africa at Johannesburg in 1999. Allan Donald and Shaun Pollock were firing on all cylinders but the debutant showed remarkable composure while contribute 33.

He made an even bigger impression in the role of a captain having been compared to the likes of Peter May and Mike Brearley. He commanded respect and was accorded respect from every other opposition captain and player. 

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