By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The top management of Pakistan Customs has assured total support to the iconic Customs Cricket Academy (CCA), currently celebrating their 10th year of excellence.
Sher Nawaz, Chief Collector of Customs, South, declared in a recent function at the Karachi Gymkhana that the department was right behind the CCA and all their problems will be attended on an urgent basis.
He was speaking as the chief guest in the dinner reception hosted by the CCA in the honour of the 20-member Customs cricket squad representing the department in the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy Championship 2009.
“We take pride in owning the CCA whose accomplishments deserve recognition. It’s very heartening to note that a youthful Customs team is taking part in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy this season and we are confident that quite a few of the youngsters present here will go on to serve the country,” Sher Nawaz hoped.
He urged the CCA to concentrate on their good work of training and grooming the youngsters without worrying for the administrative matter that his department would be taking care of.
Nasir Masroor, Collector of Customs (Appraisement), also pledged support to the CCA and advised the young cricketers to work harder to bring more glories for the department and the country.
Khalil Masood, an ex-Collector of Customs, who pioneered the idea of supporting the cause of sports from the grassroots level, expressed his delight with the performance of the CCA in their first 10 years.
“Jalaluddin and his coaching and administrative staff at the CCA have done an exceptional job, having made the most of the available resources. Now it’s time for them to move on and produce a young crop of cricketers who could serve the cause of the country,” Khalil Masood remarked.
Two other Collectors of Customs, Fazle Qalbani and Shoukat Ali, were also appreciative of the efforts of the CCA.
The founder and the chief coach of the CCA, Jalaluddin, in his welcome address, pointed out that the presence of the top officials of the department was going to dispel the impression that the academy didn’t enjoy the departmental support.
While acknowledging the contribution of the top brass, he highlighted the achievements of the CCA and disclosed the plans of expansion.
The former Test fast bowler requested the Chief Collector to look into the possibilities of providing jobs to the cricketers playing for the department, emphasizing that it would help in retaining those gifted players who drift to other institutions offering them jobs.
Jalaluddin, who is often remembered for the being the first bowler to record a hat-trick in One-day Internationals, believed that the young lot of cricketers presently serving the Customs team would be coming of age in not too distant future.
The 20-member Customs squad for the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, who were present on the occasion, comprised of Mohammad Hussain, Hanif Malik, Tahir Mahmood, Rawait Khan, Jibran Khan, Mohammad Nabi Elskhil, Rameez Raja, Yasir Hussain, Mansoor Ahmed, Zeeshan Nadir Masood, Aamir Yousuf, Rashid Ali, Ammar Hasan, Hamid Hasan, Mirza Asad Baig, Asad Iqbal, Maroof Aziz, Iftikhar Khan, Rameez Aziz and Zeeshan Ali.
October 31, 2009
October 29, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Iqbal Qasim, the greatest left-arm spinner produced by the country now heading the national selection committee, sees no point in taking the New Zealanders lightly against whom Pakistan have had excellent record in all forms of the game.
He is a man of few words. He believes in maintaining a low-profile and refrains from unnecessary controversies. But he is one man who is focused and strong-headed who understands the game and its management better than many others. He has done wonders as the head of the sports division of National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) and now it’s the turn of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to benefit from his expertise.
“New Zealand could be considered as somewhat weaker opponents while taking on Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where the placid pitches and the hot weather would not be to their liking. But they would be a different proposition altogether in their own backyard,” Iqbal Qasim reckoned in an exclusive interview.
“New Zealand may not be having too many big names in their ranks at the moment but they are a hard-working side whose approach to the game is professional. They have a few outstanding youngsters who remain a threat to every opposition. Our team has to perform well to overpower them even in the UAE,” the chief selector felt.
Iqbal Qasim, who will be traveling to the UAE with the national squad for the upcoming limited overs series against New Zealand, expected his boys to play to their potential and emerge triumphant ahead of the Test series.
“Our boys will be put to real test in New Zealand where the playing conditions are entirely different to the ones in this region of the world. They could make life difficult for the home side if they continue performing consistently,” he believed.
“The average New Zealand teams more often than not pose a danger for the more fancied outfits because they have nothing to lose and it’s the pride of their opponents that’s at stake. Therefore our team will be needed to mobilize all its resources to tame them in their own den,” Iqbal Qasim remarked.
Talking further, the chief selector didn’t think of Australia, Pakistan’s next destination after New Zealand, as a weakened side despite the retirement of the likes of Shane Warne, Adam Gilchrist, Glenn McGrath, Mathew Hayden and Justin Langer.
“Remember Australia are one sporting nation who only believe in pushing forward. That’s the secret of their success. They don’t waste their time in counter-productive activities. They are focused about the job in their hand than worrying for the past or the future. Their agenda is to dominate and win,” Iqbal Qasim said.
“Australia are the only cricket team who try to give more than 100% even when playing in the comfort of their own grounds. They are mentally tough who don’t get carried away with odd hassles or too. They don’t mourn defeats like other nations. Neither do they get absorbed in long celebrations after a win. They lead life more professionally than anyone else,” he elaborated.
“The Australian think-thank is always on the move. They keep on devising strategies and have backup plans. That’s why they don’t get entangled into problems. They know exactly how to combat a crisis,” Iqbal Qasim complimented.
“Obviously Pakistan would be able to come to terms with Australia only if they deliver on a consistent basis. Our bowling has the penetration to check their batters. If our batsmen also get going we can offer tough fight to the Aussies,” he concluded.
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It was all about Mahendra Singh Dhoni at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur on October 28. He played the innings of his lifetime that enabled India to erect their highest-ever ODI total against Australia. Then he led from the front in the field until he himself whipped the bails off to run out the last man to signal the end of the match.
The skipper was the star of India’s most comprehensive win over Australia for quite some time. The Indians needed something as awesome as this one to stamp their authority over the Aussies whom they have been giving tough time for a number of years now.
The Indian cricket fans would remember the day for a long time as they watched the Aussies being floored decisively by a determined outfit who outplayed their fancied rivals in the two key departments of the game, batting and bowling.
It doesn’t really how many qualified coaches do they hire and how many youngsters do they blood, the standard of Indian fielding remained as dismal as it has mostly been over the years. Their batting and bowling has improved in leaps and bounds but fielding is an area that remains a cause of concern for them all along.
The Indians are fortunate to have been blessed by so many outstanding batsmen and bowlers at the moment. No other team possibly can be expected to win a game if they field as poorly as they do.
What a pity that they could still not raise their spirits in the field when in the driving seat. The Australians were always going to struggle while chasing a target of 355 against a potent bowling attack.
The Indians would have won the match by a much bigger margin if their fielding was upto the mark. The manner in which Praveen Kumar misfielded more than once was shameful of an international cricketer. He made a mess of a catch in the deep that should have been nothing more than a regulation catch near the fence. Instead he gifted a six to Shaun Marsh much to the dismay of left-arm spinner Ravindu Jadeja who was bowling exceptionally well.
The catching technique of Sachin Tendulkar and Harbhajan Singh in the outfield also left a lot to be desired. Even the schoolboys in Australia and South Africa are expected to take the catches that they dropped.
The Indians should be indebted to their captain for not having lost his cool even with those dreaded lapses in the field by the celebrated members of his team. He made near perfect bowling changes to ensure that the match was never opened.
Earlier in the day Dhoni entertained the crowd with one of the greatest ODI innings. Coming in to bat at number five he initially consolidated the innings with Gautam Gambhir and then cut loose in the company of Suresh Raina. He scored 124 off 107 balls to power India to their highest-ever total against Australia.
October 28, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The skipper of the Pakistan cricket team, Younis Khan, is a man of many moods. When he’s feeling down he can go to any limit in offending others. He presents a different look altogether when he’s in a positive frame of mind.
So you can never be sure what to expect next from him. His behaviour is more dependent on his mood or state of mind than on anything else. He has been found guilty of losing his cool far too quickly and his temperament has never made him popular in the media who prefer covering persons who are more stable and consistent temperamentally.
Younis, however, looked very happy and relaxed during the luncheon party hosted by the Customs Cricket Academy on behalf of the Islamic Relief at the Karachi Gymkhana on October 26.
Flanked by vice captain Shahid Afridi and former captain Rashid Latif, Younis appeared cool, calm and composed sitting at the stage. He delivered a convincing speech on the occasion in which touched about the subject of serving the humanity. He recalled his own experiences when he traveled to the disaster-hit areas of the country.
The hosts had urged the media to restrict themselves to community service and other activities of Islamic Relief and not to discuss cricket during the question-answer session that followed speeches by the Pakistan captains.
Once the proceedings of the Islamic Relief’s launch of Malakand Rehabilitation Programme were over the waiting media turned their attention and cameras towards the cricket stars and obviously there was no restriction of the subject to be discussed then.
Younis was surrounded by the media corps and the beaming Pakistan skipper was in no hurry to leave them. He took his time and answered every query rather convincingly. His selection of words reflected his peace of mind.
Younis was so cheerful that he even obliged the workers of the Karachi Gymkhana who had lined up to be photographed with him. It was one of the rare days when he went down himself to shake hands with people whom he recognized.
Not surprisingly his media briefing was being covered live by quite a few television channels and the viewers must have felt gladdened by his positive remarks looking into the future.
Younis did not waste the opportunity of acknowledging the overwhelming public support he had received when subjected to harsh criticism by the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Sports. It was his first public appearance after having taken back the resignation and resumed duties as national skipper.
He stated that he felt more confident now after having taken back his resignation and he was prepared to take on more responsibility to fulfill his ultimate ambition of making Pakistan the top ranked in Tests as well as One-day Internationals.
“I am looking forward to the upcoming engagements with renewed confidence. It’s my wish that we could overcome every opponent and win ever series and tournament that we play in. My ultimate desire is to take Pakistan to the top of the rankings in all forms of the game during my own tenure as captain,” Younis wished.
October 27, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
As many as four Pakistan cricket captains are proactively involved in supporting the cause of humanity by helping the Islamic Relief (IR) raise substantial funds for the under-privileged and displaced persons in the country.
The quartet of Rashid Latif, Moin Khan, Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi has been instrumental in generating funds for the IR to let them carry out their mission with renewed enthusiasm.
Three of them were in attendance in the IR’s launch of Malakand Rehabilitation Programme held at the Karachi Gymkhana on October 26. Moin Khan was unable to make it because he had to air-dash to Lahore to attend the funeral of Wasim Akram’s wife, Huma, who passed away on October 25.
Fateha was offered for the departed soul before the start of the proceedings and every speaker expressed condolences to Wasim Akram on the untimely death of his wife.
Haris Ahmed Khan, the former Pakistan Customs off-spinner turned qualified coach, has played the pivotal role in roping in the celebrated cricketers to join hands with the IR and take their noble mission forward.
Haris, in his brief speech, recalled that it didn’t take long for him to convince Rashid Latif and Moin Khan who readily agreed to be a part of the fund-raiser in the United Sates (US).
“Then we took Younis Khan and Shahid Afridi to the northern areas of the country devastated by the earthquake in October 2005. They realized the gravity of the situation after reaching there and immediately volunteered their services for the IR,” Haris stated.
Rashid Latif, a former Pakistan captain, shared his experiences at the IR, saying he’s touched after watching the destruction of the various towns by the earthquake.
“It was really very painful to walk on those rocky surfaces where hundreds of people had been buried alive just a few days ago. We took the responsibility of playing our part in helping the people in need,” Rashid remarked.
Pakistan’s Twenty20 captain, Shahid Afridi, announced that he believed in looking at life beyond cricket and it was the reason of him coming on board at the IR.
“When I visited the floods-affected areas of Balochistan I was dismayed at the sufferings of the people who were struggling for basic amenities. Even more depressing was the inaction of the government. Thankfully the IR was there and I made up my mind to contribute my bit in letting them accomplish their cherished goals,” the flamboyant all-rounder asserted.
Pakistan’s captain for Tests and One-day Internationals, Younis Khan, believed that they had to undertake the responsibility of serving the humanity, particularly those who are less fortunate, having been hit by disasters.
“As a human being it’s our duty to care for others. The IR has been doing a great job and I consider a privilege to be a part of their team. It has been hectic at times but we take pride in playing our part by participating in the fund-raisers,” Younis added.
Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler, has also been a motivating force in facilitating the Islamic Relief who had commenced operations in Pakistan in 1992 after having secured registration with the Security & Exchange Commission of Pakistan (SECP) as a company limited by guarantee (Local NGO). It is also registered with the Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Finance, Government of Pakistan.
October 24, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It’s an open secret that skipper Younis Khan and manager Yawar Saeed were not having eye to eye contact for a long time and the gulf between the two had widened to the stage that one of them had to quit.
The soft spoken Yawar, as everybody knew, had been brought in as manager due to non-cricketing reasons. His strong political connections and personal friendship with the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt, had earned him the slot that in the opinion of many he didn’t deserve in the first place.
Yawar has had the reputation of being a cool-headed gentleman who seldom talks nonsense. He had held managerial positions with the national cricket team in the past as well but that indeed was very long time ago.
The appointment of Ijaz Butt as the Chairman of the PCB last autumn opened the floodgates for Yawar and he was back in the thick of the things. Apparently he didn’t have problems working with Shoaib Malik who was the captain of the team at the time of his induction as manager.
The equation and the situation changed when Younis Khan was installed as the skipper during the home series against Sri Lanka. There was so scandal or drama initially but the observers had noted that Younis and Yawar were not on same wavelength.
The friends of Younis then reckoned that Yawar was associated with the team with the mission of toppling the skipper. The buzz was that Yawar was actually there to ‘spy’ for the PCB Chairman and report the movements of all the players directly to him confidentially.
The differences between Younis and Yawar started to become more obvious during the tour of Sri Lanka and it appeared a matter of time for one of them to bite the dust upon the return of the team.
Yawar was reportedly backing Shahid Afridi to take over the reigns that indeed infuriated Younis and it was about time for the showdown.
The fate of Younis was hanging in balance after the unexpected loss to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy and his injury was not helping matters either. Yawar was all set to accompany the national team as manager for the upcoming contests against New Zealand.
Ijaz Butt’s last one-to-one meeting with Younis changed the scenario and the PCB Chairman succumbed to the pressures of the skipper whom he delegated the powers he had been asking for.
Only time will tell if the PCB Chairman’s decision to empower Younis was a correct one or it would turn out to be yet another blunder. Yawar, meanwhile, has become a casualty, and he has been replaced by Abdul Raqeeb.
Younis has won the first round. In fact he has managed to kill two birds with a single shot. By having Yawar removed, he paved the way for one of his benefactors to be obliged.
Abdul Raqeeb, a former left-arm spinner, has been heading the sports department of Habib Bank for quite sometime. He must be feeling at the top of the world now as both the captain and the vice-captain of the national team are his associates at the bank and hold him in very high esteem.
October 23, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
By the look of things Misbah-ul-Haq has been jolted with his omission from the Pakistan squads for the upcoming series of One-day Internationals, Twenty20 Internationals and Test matches against New Zealand.
The Pakistan squads were announced on October 22 and it appears as if Misbah was simply unaware of the line of thinking of the members of the national selection committee. His ‘informers’ were probably caught napping. Otherwise he might not have reacted so sharply when he came to know about his exclusion.
If Misbah had any idea of the selectors ruling him out from every squad he might have been tempted to use political channels to stay in the team.
There’s also a possibility that the decision to drop him was somehow kept a secret or the selection committee received the go-ahead signal from the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) at the eleventh hour.
Whatever the reasons of his sacking, whether right or right, the selectors have certainly been embarrassed because on the same day Misbah scored an unbeaten 153 for Sui Northern Gas Company Limited (SNGCL) against Lahore Shalimar at the LCCA Ground in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy to dispel thoughts of loss of form.
I don’t think it’s going to be the end of the road for Misbah in international cricket as some of the commentators have passed the pressure. In fact I won’t be surprised if he regains his spot in the team even during the upcoming series against New Zealand.
The ball is in the court of Misbah and if plays his cards sensibly, besides scoring heavily and consistently in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the selectors might be prompted to recall him for the Test series later this year. If he could not be sent as replacement to New Zealand, he will be a strong contender for the series against Australia that follows soon afterwards.
There is plenty of cricket ahead for Pakistan in the next 12 months and Misbah can’t be written off so soon. He has the potential to stage a comeback. With Pakistan now playing even their ‘home’ matches abroad there’s greater chance of a vacancy being created in the batting department.
Misbah did have a poor run in all the three formats last year, after being so successful the year before, but he still has a lot to offer and there’s every chance for him returning to the national team sooner than later.
Misbah is a mentally tough character. He has shown his worth against strong teams after making a dramatic comeback in the international arena during the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007. He very nearly earned the crown for Pakistan almost single-handedly.
He then consolidated his position in the Test team by playing some fabulous knocks on Pakistan’s last tour to India in 2007-08. He became a permanent member of the team but with the return of Mohammad Yousuf and the advent of newcomers like Umar Akmal and his own form declining, the selectors now have given him a break.
Misbah would be hoping that this indeed is just a break and he could return with a bang in not too distant future.
October 22, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
For a change there’s no war of words on the eve of an important series. It was becoming a tradition to say something that provoked the opposition and then a debate ensued on irrelevant matters.
Thankfully Ricky Ponting didn’t fire any shots in the air and his carefully worded media briefing in Mumbai on October 21 reflected the maturity expected of a captain who must be feeling at the top of the world after sterling performances with a youthful squad at his disposal.
The Australians, having thrashed England 6-1 in the ODI series before retaining the ICC Champions Trophy in South Africa earlier this month, take on India on their turf in a series of seven One-day Internationals starting on October 25.
Australia, with their recent triumphs, have regained their number one status in the ODI rankings with India not very far behind at second position. So the series is actually a battle between the top two teams of the world at the moment.
Ponting, unlike the past, talked very positively upon his arrival in India and the message was loud and clear that his team was there to play cricket and avoid unnecessary controversies. It was a pleasant surprise to watch the Australian captain acknowledging the strength of their opponents instead of highlighting their weaknesses.
Ponting is obviously very keen for his Australian one-day side to continue their spectacular form into the Indian series.
"We have been playing very good one-day cricket for the last few months, beginning from the England tour, and we want to continue with that. We could not have done better than what we did in the last few one-day games. But we have a fresh set of challenges here," the Australian skipper remarked.
"India has a very good and strong one-day team and we are not underestimating them. We are the number one and number two teams in the world which points to an entertaining and good contest over the next few weeks. We just need to keep improving and be at our best right through the series," Ponting added.
He did not mince words in stating that he will have to shoulder additional responsibility in the absence of his deputy Michael Clarke due to a back injury. Also missing the ODI series are wicket-keeper Brad Haddin, batsman Callum Ferguson and left-arm quickie Nathan Bracken.
"The challenge will be how our middle-order batsmen cope with playing spin bowling over the next few weeks. Mike Hussey has played a lot of cricket here. Shane Watson and Tim Paine play spin well. I am confident the team will do a very good job," Ponting, in terrific form of late, hoped.
"I have played some of my best one-day cricket over the last few months. A lot of responsibility is on my shoulders as the number three batsman in the team," he conceded.
"We have always enjoyed playing in India and our rivalry over the last few years has been growing which is good for the world game," Ponting pointed out.
October 21, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It’s really unfortunately on part of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to have been a party to the exercise of minting money at the cost of their own players.
One could understand the eagerness of the BCCI in getting a major event staged on their soil after the shifting of the second edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa at the eleventh hour due to security concerns following the blasts in Mumbai late last year.
By the look of things the BCCI appeared determined to host the inaugural Champions League Twenty20 contest by hook or crook. They are believed to have pioneered the idea of holding a tournament among the national champions in the shortest version of the game in different parts of the world.
There was nothing wrong with the idea. But did the cricket world need to invent yet another tournament at a time when the international calendar is already packed with far too many events? Wasn’t excessive amount of cricket already going on in nearly every part of the world?
The leaders of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the movers and shakers in the BCCI must have thought otherwise when floating another international event in the middle of a crowded schedule.
Probably they don’t realize that the game of cricket is getting flooded with events and the players are the worst sufferers. The quality of the game would indeed decline if the cricketers are kept engaged in the field day in and day out. The administrators of the game need to draw a line somewhere.
The role of the BCCI has often been criticized for compromising on the interests of the game for the sake of commercialism. I think they have done greater damage to the cause of their own cricketers by holding the Champions League that could easily have been avoided.
The lackluster performance of the three Indian participating outfits, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Deccan Chargers and Delhi Daredevils suggested a certain amount of doubt in the minds of the cricket followers of the globe.
People having an insight of the game had a feeling the Indian teams were ‘pushed’ by certain quarters not to go beyond a defined line. In other words they were advised if not ordered to just play the tournament without making a serious attempt to win it.
It could not be mere coincidence that neither of the Indian teams could make it to the semifinals. All the three sides were pretty strong, packed with match-winners. Their below-par performance must have disappointed the crowds.
There’s also a feeling that the BCCI might have gone overboard in their pursuit for being generous hosts. They might have even given an assurance to the foreign Boards that their teams will not only be looked after well in India but they would also be obliged with inconceivable results.
It would look quite odd to have non-presence of a home team in the semifinal line-up. It may not be a cause of concern for the officials of the BCCI but the cricket crazy nation of one billion inhabitants would of course miss their stars in the knockout games.
October 20, 2009
Uncertainty and unpredictability go hand in hand with Pakistan cricket. Nothing could be taken for granted in this part of the world. A captain can still be removed from office even after having performed beyond expectations and people can still get away with it after having taken the laws in their hands.
There were indications that the head of Younis Khan was to be put on the chopping block after Pakistan returned from South Africa, having made it to the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy against all odds.
The conspirators became proactive and the impression was being given that Younis had become a spent force and he needed to be replaced by someone as enterprising as Shahid Khan Afridi.
Even a few of the members of the of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) were openly lobbying for Shahid and they were not afraid to publicly criticize Younis for his performance or the lack of it in the just concluded Champions Trophy.
With the PCB members seeking his blood, Younis must have been under enormous pressure when he confronted the National Assembly’s on Sports in Islamabad.
In fact he had arrived there ready in all respects. He had done his homework in the interim period. He appeared mentally prepared to face the criticism from the Standing Committee after the provocative statements prior to the hearing.
He might have been pleasantly surprised to be cleared of any wrongdoing after all that drama that surrounded the hearing but he still decided to submit his resignation to the PCB Chairman, Ijaz Butt, who was also present on the occasion.
It could have been a pre-planned move because this allowed Younis to hog the limelight once more and silence the guns that were being targeted at him. All of a sudden he became so innocent and the PCB Chairman acted according to the plot.
Soon afterwards Younis had a one-to-one meeting with the PCB Chairman in which he is reported to have demanded more authority and a long-term tenure in lieu of taking back his resignation.
The PCB bosses don’t have an option right now. They can’t be expected to pass on the Test captaincy to who might struggle to make the playing eleven all the time. Some quarters have pleaded for the reinstatement of but that would have been too early at this stage.
With so much of cricket to be played by Pakistan during the next 12 months there hardly is any need for the change of guard in any case. Sacking Younis only because Pakistan lost to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC Championships would have been ridiculous.
All seems well now with Younis having taken back his resignation. He is ready to lead the national team once more with the PCB lending him the much needed support. He has been confirmed as the Pakistan captain till the 2011 World Cup, subject to fitness.
"I am very happy right now. The faith that the chairman and the board has placed in me again, it's good to know. The support that I have received from the board and the country through this time has been fantastic," the Pakistan skipper acknowledged.
October 15, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Yes that’s the root cause of all problems. Pakistan had been playing around with the New Zealanders so often during the past couple of decades in particular that nobody is now prepared to accept the fact that it’s cricket after all.
The Black Caps have had this tendency of crashing against Pakistan after performed exceedingly well against tougher oppositions. Their worst performances of the recent times have mostly come against Pakistan leading the people to believe that there was only one result possible when these two teams are pitted against each other.
It’s after nine years or so when New Zealand have managed to pull off a victory over Pakistan in an ICC tournament. It was way back in 2000 when the Black Caps had knocked over Pakistan in the semifinals of the Champions Trophy that was again considered an upset and there was suspicion of ‘hidden hands’ behind the unexpected result.
History has repeated itself as Pakistan have again lost to New Zealand in the semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy. Everybody, in Pakistan at least, appeared to have taken it for granted that only one team was to win the day.
There was hardly anything during the course of the game to suggest Pakistan players engaged in any wrongdoing. It was just another cricket match between two evenly matched sides.
As a matter of fact New Zealand had emerged as the Group B champions and Pakistan had actually finished runners-up in the Group A after having narrowly lost to Australia in their last league outing.
New Zealand were on a high and their bowling attack was as potent as possessed by any other side having entered the competition. They had overpowered teams like Sri Lanka and England after having gone down fighting against hosts South Africa.
So New Zealand were neither Ireland nor Zimbabwe, having got there by a stroke of luck. But yes their nerves were to be tested to the maximum in the semifinals because they were up against a side that had been shattering their dreams consistently over the years.
I don’t know how the so-called experts of the game anticipated New Zealand to succumb without offering any resistance to the Pakistan’s spin duo of Saeed Ajmal and Shahid Afridi after they had successfully negotiated Ajantha Mendis and Mutiah Muralitharan earlier in the competition.
If people expected Umar Gul to take another five-for just as he had done against them in the ICC Twenty20 a few months ago, I am afraid, they were expected far too much from the lion-hearted fast bowler who obviously cannot bring about a miracle every other day.
So more than anything it’s all about mindset. People in Pakistan had assumed even before the first ball was delivered in the semifinals that Younis Khan’s men were through to the final already.
In such circumstances it’s not easy to swallow the pains of defeat. Nobody is prepared to talk about the positives. How Pakistan reached the semifinals against the heaviest of odds is not mentioned anywhere. The only thing people are interested in talking about is how Pakistan lost to New Zealand. Nearly everyone seems convinced in Pakistan that New Zealand were the soft target and they could have been hammered.
October 14, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Resignation is nothing new to Younis Khan who has had this habit of treating the national captaincy as yet another assignment. Although he has been around in international cricket for nearly a decade now, he's yet to learn the basics of conducting oneself after having reached the status of a celebrity.
His latest resignation came on October 13 even after being cleared by a parliamentary sports committee on charges of match-fixing in the ICC Champions Trophy. He told the committee that he was upset over the charges and he was not prepared to continue leading the national cricket team.
Younis has been found vulnerable whenever coping with the pressure. He has become so predictable with his acts. He is just not able to put his acts together when he is confronted with a situation that demands one to be sensible and smart.
He talks big but he has been found wanting more often than not when it comes to delivering. He succumbs to the pressure far too easily and his opponents know it very well how to test him.
Be it the members of the National Assembly or the media corps, Younis probably treats everyone as his enemy who doesn't subscribe to his theories. He has repeatedly passed the impression of losing his temper far too quickly and thus committing mistakes that could easily have been avoided.
Younis possibly thought that his job was done when he handed his resignation letter to Ijaz Butt, the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who was also present in the hearing.
Not for the first time Younis ran away as quickly as he could, not even caring to explain to the waiting media if he was bidding farewell to the game for good. "I have resigned as a captain. I won't say a word more." That was all he said.
The PCB Chairman said he was stunned by the decision. "I had absolutely no idea that he had the resignation letter in his jacket and I was surprised when he produced it," Ijaz Butt was quoted as saying.
But the stories are doing the rounds that some elements in the PCB are conspiring against Younis and they desire Shahid Afridi to take up the national captaincy for the upcoming series against New Zealand.
"Younis Khan was mystified as to why vice-captain Shahid Afridi was called up to discuss the New Zealand and Australia series when the captain himself was available in the country and recovering from what was only a hairline fracture. He could not understand the reason for being left out of the loop for two very important tours," one of the unnamed PCB officials confided to a leading national daily.
Younis has been under fire even after his team had made it to the Champions Trophy against all odds. Even some members of the PCB have openly criticized his leadership qualities and they are believed to be lobbying for his ouster.
The PCB Chairman has refrained from accepting the resignation of Younis promptly but that doesn't necessarily mean that he's not a part of the conspiracy hatched against the short-tempered skipper.
October 13, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The top officials of the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) have expressed satisfaction at the successful launch of their Collegiate Programme at the Institute of Business Management (IoBM) in Korangi Creek, Karachi.
Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, who is also handling the Collegiate Programme, reckoned that the successful launch at the IoBM has opened the floodgates and quite a few other prestigious educational institutions have expressed the desire to adopt mind sports in the same way.
“The two-day activity at the IoBM was a dream come true occasion for the hosts as well as the organizers. It was very heartening to such an enthusiastic response that augurs very well for the future of mind sports in Pakistan. Among the students who enrolled themselves in the launch at the IoBM, as many as 50% participated in chess, 30% in scrabble and 20% in bridge,” he revealed.
The Students Activity Centre of the IoBM was flooded with the enthusiastic youngsters who were eager to be a part of history being made at the campus. It was for the first time when the college students were provided with a customized setup for the mind games.
In the welcome address in the inauguration ceremony Tariq Rasheed acknowledged the support of the various stakeholders who made the takeoff possible against the heaviest of odds.
“It’s always tough when you go about reinventing the wheel. We knew about the challenges when we embarked upon the mission of taking the mind sports to the educational institutions,” he observed.
“Since it was a new concept we needed to do presentations and convince the institutions about the virtues of the programme. It’s very heartening to note that the management of the IoBM, based on the feedback from the faculty and the students, took the lead and we are launching the programme now,” Tariq Rasheed added.
“It would not have been possible to do it without the support of the concerned quarters. We are grateful to our sponsors and the media for having lent us the desired encouragement. Our Board of Directors at the MSAP deserves compliments for having kept the ball rolling,” he said.
The Chairman of the MSAP, Kemal Shoaib, spoke about the aims and objects of the body that was formed under the leadership of Khurshid Hadi last year.
He praised the management of the IoBM for having adopted the MSAP Collegiate Programme at their institution and hoped that this would help their students in further sharpening their skills.
Dr Faisal Farooqui, speaking on behalf of the IoBM, expressed his gratitude to the MSAP for having launched the programme, which he thought, would be hugely beneficial for their students.
“It’s quite an amazing effort on part of the MSAP to have integrated the games of bridge, chess and scrabble. All these games are extremely popular among the students and they would gain immensely by playing them in an organized manner. We are confident that our students will make the most of this opportunity and enhance their capabilities in the mind sports,” he noted.
Azwer-ur-Haq, President, Karachi Bridge Association (KBA), Shahzad Mirza, International Master and Secretary, Chess Players Association of Pakistan (CPAP), Shah Nawaz Khan, an ex-Secretary General, Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP) and Abdul Wahid Bhalia of the Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) were also in attendance at the launch alongwith the MSAP officials, Kemal Shoaib, Tariq Rasheed Khan and Pervez Iqbal.
October 12, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
The incomparable Virender Sehwag has shown once more that his batting talents are second to none. He has had a layoff from international cricket for reasons beyond his injury but his critics should know that he has lost none of his skills that make him the most feared batsman in the world. He has probably become wiser now as far as shot selection is concerned.
Sehwag was close to his best while playing for Delhi Daredevils against Wayamba at his home ground, Feroz Shah Kotla, in the Champions League Twenty20 Tournament 2009 on October 11.
Delhi desperately needed to overpower Wayamba in order to stay afloat in the competition after having lost their opening game to Victoria a couple of nights ago. The pitch wasn’t conducive to free flowing strokes yet Sehwag was the man they looked forward to in the crunch game.
Gautum Gambhir won the toss for the second game running and he had to make sure that the advantage was capitalized unlike the previous match when Delhi couldn’t even post one hundred while batting first.
The state of the pitch was very much in the minds of the batsmen and it was truly reflected when the flamboyant Sri Lankan opener, Tillakaratne Dilshan, played out the first over without troubling the scorers. It was a rare sight watching a maiden over being bowled and that too inside the powerplay session. Chanaka Welegedara deserved the credit for having kept Dilshan quiet.
Sehwag, who opened the innings with Dilshan, didn’t take long to open his shoulders and once he was underway the pitch looked full of runs rather incredibly. That’s the magic of Sehwag. He can remain untroubled on the most difficult of strips for two reasons. He has complete faith in his eyesight and secondly the bowlers also don’t have the heart to attack him with the same intensity and purpose as they do with other batsmen.
Dilshan kept struggling in his 16-ball 10 while Gambhir was also short of confidence on pitch whose bounce could not be trusted. But Sehwag kept hitting boundaries and the run-rate didn’t dip.
The enigmatic Dinesh Karthik did his job of feeding Sehwag with the strike and their partnership took the match away from Jehan Mubarak’s side. The ease with which Sehwag caressed the ball to the various corners of the ground was a treat to watch.
A century for Sehwag was there for the taking but as it has happened many times in the past the entertainment for the crowd was cut short against the run of play. Karthik pushed one towards the point region and took off for the quick single. Sehwag responded but he was beaten by the flat throw from Mahela Jayawardene.
Sehwag was run out after scoring 62 off 42 balls with the help of a six and 10 fours. The score was already 112 when he departed in the 15th over. Karthik made up with three consecutive sixes off Ajantha Mendis and the Delhi total reached 170 in the allotted 20 overs.
Glenn McGrath, the Australian fast bowling great, appeared to have derived the inspiration from his teammate Sehwag as was right on the money while returning to the bowling crease after 18 months. Delhi were never in danger of losing the game after the blitz from Sehwag and they lived upto the billing by winning it by 50 runs.
October 11, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
If the recent statements by some of the Board officials serve as any indication then Younis Khan’s days in office appear to be numbered with the ‘establishment’ putting its entire weight before Shahid Afridi.
The manner in which Younis is being condemned with Shahid being promoted as a more proactive cricketer there’s ample evidence to suggest that a change is in the offing and it seems a matter of time for the decision to be announced.
Unfortunately the affairs of the cricket board in Pakistan have been run unprofessionally more often than not over the years and now it could be the turn of Younis to face the music.
Isn’t it funny to note that Younis has sought audience with the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt, in which he would discuss his fitness and availability for the one-dayers against New Zealand in Dubai in November?
Did the Pakistan captain need to approach the top official of the PCB just to let him know about his fitness? There is a whole army of managers to general managers in the PCB who are being obliged with salaries and perks worth millions of Rupees every month. Isn’t anyone of them capable enough to look into this matter?
What about Wasim Bari, the Chief Operating Officer of the PCB? Doesn’t his job description include keeping track of things as important as the fitness of the captain of the national team?
The whole world knows that Younis had fractured a finger on the eve of the ICC Champions Trophy last month. He had missed the opening game against the West Indies which Pakistan won under the captaincy of Shahid Afridi.
There are conflicting reports why Younis returned to side without regaining fitness. One school of thought believes had he had to fast track his return because he felt threatened to lose his job if the team continued its winning streak under the caretaker captain.
Younis is also reported to have prevailed over the team management who were not very keen to let him play before fully recovering from the fracture. On the positive side, he didn’t desire the team to suffer on the account of inexperience as his ouster would have definitely created a big hole in batting.
The decision of Younis to continue playing despite carrying the injury brought mixed results. He didn’t get many runs against India but his brilliant direct hit to run out Gautam Gambhir turned the tide decisively in Pakistan’s favour. The way the left-handed Gambhir was flaying the bowling only a freak dismissal could have brought about his demise and so did it happen.
Younis did fairly well in the last league fixture against Australia, the eventual champions. All the pressure was on the Australians and the Pakistan captain had every reason to smile throughout the game that produced a close result rather unexpectedly.
The New Zealanders, after a very long time, managed to put their acts together against Pakistan and there was not much Younis could have done. He did drop a sitter but that’s very much a part and parcel of the game and doesn’t merit suspicion or clarification.
If the movers and shakers of the PCB have already decided to bring in Shahid in place of Younis then the latter might be, for the purpose of face-saving, may be advised to declare himself unavailable for the upcoming ODI series against New Zealand.
October 8, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Intrigues and mismanagement have been part and parcel of Pakistan cricket for a number of years. In the absence of seasoned and committed administrators the affairs of the controlling body of the game have mostly remained in the hands of people with vested interests.
It’s not uncommon in Pakistan cricket to go unpunished after committing blunders and misdeeds. There are also examples of the cricketers having made scaegoats and penalized for the faults of others. The captaincy of the national team has never been a bed of roses and more often than not there have been uncalled for controversies.
I fail to comprehend how Pakistan’s performance in the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2009 in South Africa could be considered a debacle or even below par.
The defeat against New Zealand in the semifinals has been blown out of proportions and an impression is being passed by certain quarters that there was some foul play in it.
I don’t know how those learned members of the Governing Body of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), who are now crticial of the performance of Younis Khan in particular, had taken for granted that Pakistan would be returning home with the trophy in their baggage when the team was actually not even expected to enter the semifinals.
Australia and India were rated among the favourites for the title but these teams were placed in Pakistan’s group. It was nothing short of a miracle that Pakistan forced their way into the knockout stage of the competition against the heaviest of odds.
Pakistan never had an impressive record on the soil of South Africa where the ball seamed and bounced much more to their liking. Yet Pakistan defied all odds to cruise into the semifinals. Beyond that it was always going to be a bonus.
Similarly neither New Zealand nor England were expected to progress beyond the first round in the presence of the likes of South Africa and Sri Lanka in their group. England succumbed to Australia in the semifinals and the New Zealand crashed in the final against the same opponents. There was no hue and cry in any part of the world because that’s how life goes.
When England and New Zealand can feel relaxed after having performed beyond expectations why has Pakistan been denied this luxury? I think the movers and shakers of the game in the country should rise above petty interests and they should rather mobilize their energies in doing things that could lead to the resumption of international cricket in Pakistan.
This is not the right time to displace Younis Khan. Why should he be removed from captaincy when the team has actually come up with much better performance than anticipated. All his moves should not be taken negatively.
He is after all a human being and cricket is a team sport. He can’t be the only reason of the defeat at the hands of New Zealand in the semifinals. He should be given time to recover from injury.
October 7, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
In the end it was in the fitness of things that the best team having entered the knockout stage of the competition went on claim the trophy. Yes the Australians were the worthy winners of the title after having proved themselves the strongest of all participating outfits. Ricky Ponting deserved to be crowned again after yet another spectacular performance.
This title win should rank higher and feel sweeeter for the Aussies who managed to do it with a relatively young and inexperienced outfit. They were a much more formidable side when they had clinched the Champions Trophy in India for the first time in 2006 and there was hardly any element of surprise in Ponting having run away with the glittering cup.
Things were different in 2009 when Ponting returned to defend the title. Although they had demolished England 6-1 in the ODI series on the eve of the Champions Trophy they were expected to face tougher challenges with South Africa and India rated as the firm favourites due to a combination of factors.
Obviously nobody was foolish enough to write the Australians off but there certainly were not many people giving them as much of a chance as they had in the past when Ponting used to have the services of master blasters like Adam Gilchrist and Mathew Hayden and champion bowlers like Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath.
It was an opportunity for the Australian youngsters to come good on the international stage and they rose to the occasion under the able leadership of Ponting whose purple patch with the bat made the difference.
It’s nice of Ponting to have recognized the outstanding performance of the youngsters in helping Australia retain the Champions Trophy with hints of conviction.
"We have gone through some ups and downs in the last 18 months. A number of great players have left and we brought in a lot of young, fresh players. It was great to see some of them stand up and deliver," Ponting was quoted as saying after Australia completed a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the final in Centurion on October 5.
The Australian youngsters did not show signs of nerves and were not overawed by the occasion when New Zealand tried to make a comeback in the game. Fast bowler Peter Siddle and off-spinner Nathan Hauritz bowled exceptionally well at a stage when the New Zealanders were attempting to cut loose.
The Black Caps had opened up the game even while defending a modest total of 200 when they got the prized scalp of Ponting to reduce Australia to 6 for two. It was the 128-run third wicket partnership between Shane Watson and Cameron White that allowed Australia to regain control. "Two young guys at the crease at 6 for 2, it doesn't get any tougher and they did a great job," Ponting acknowledged.
"In the ODI series in England after the Ashes, we did well there to put ourselves in a position where we can give this tournament a little bit of a shake. We've played some great cricket over the last couple of weeks here," the victorious captain noted.
Ponting led from the front and his own batting form was instrumental in motivating his youthful side. His aggregate of 288 was the highest in the tournament earning him a golden. He was also declared Man-of-the-Series award, ahead of Watson, who scored unbeaten centuries in semifinal and final.
October 5, 2009
Syed Khalid Mahmood
Pakistan ’s Aleem Dar had been recognized as one of the best umpires in the cricket world for quite a few years and it seemed a matter of time for him to be declared the best in the business officially.
Arguably the greatest cricket umpire to have been produced by the country, the super fit and ever smiling Aleem has earned the kind of respect in every nook and corner of the globe that very few colleagues could come close.
Only Simon Taufel of Australia matches his brilliance. Both of them have a few rare qualities in common that enable them to come to terms with the pressure-cooker situations where ordinary mortals run the risk of faltering.
It’s in the fitness of things that Aleem has replaced Taufel as the best cricket umpire in the world. The Australian was crowned as the ICC Umpire of the Year for the past four years but now the award has been clinched by Aleem.
A beaming Aleem received the coveted award from the ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Logart, in the recent ceremony in Johannesburg . He was as cool and confident as he’s standing in the middle when Ravi Shastri asked him a few questions at the stage.
The modest and unassuming character that he always is, Aleem mentioned the contribution of his family and friends in his rise to fame. His only ‘regret’ appeared to be living away from his wife for about six months every year.
Well Aleem should not mind this brief ‘separation’ because the sacrifice has earned him the kind of fame and fortune that many of his colleagues may not even dream of it. One has to pay the price for everything and in his case there’s loneliness.
Aleem, who started his career in cricket as a middle-order batsman and leg-spinner, also might not have imagined going this far in the game. How could he have known, at the time when he took to the game as a youngster, that he would be hailed as one of the greatest umpires one day?
It must have been a blessing in disguise for him that he didn’t score too many runs or took too many wickets to be considered for national selection. Rather he diverted his energies by standing as an umpire and didn’t look back after finding a firm foothold in the arena.
He proved an instant hit in the field of umpiring and his confidence level belied his age. He was in complete control while making decisions and his standout nerves of steel caught the imagination of the movers and shakers of the game.
He was only 32 when he stood in his first One-day International at Gujranawala in February 2000. He made it to the ICC panel in a matter of just a couple of years. He impressed everyone with his outstanding abilities and went on and on. He made his World Cup debut in 2003. He had the honour of standing in the final of the World Cup four years later.
Now he has traveled to every continent of the world having supervised Test matches and ODIs regularly. He is one of the busiest umpires in the game today.
October 4, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
It was after ages when New Zealand finally managed to overpower Pakistan in any form of the game. At times it had looked as if the Black Caps would never be able to do it because they were often found wanting in putting their acts together against Pakistan.
I don't know how Daniel Vettori mustered the courage to keep his team motivated in the semifinals at the Wanderers in Johannesburg on October 3 because Pakistan seemed to have taken them for granted.
Although New Zealand had emerged the Group B champions after the league matches, Pakistan, having ended as the runners-up in the Group A, would have preferred taking them on in semifinals rather than England if they were given a choice.
Because New Zealand are one team having been at the receiving end while encountering Pakistan for so long now. There is a long list of matches in the ICC tournaments where New Zealand have been undone by Pakistan after having looked so good before the game.
Martin Crowe and company might never forget the double disaster against Pakistan in the 1992 World Cup when they had crashed after being the only unbeaten team in the competition for weeks. They had overpowered every other team and were through to the semifinals before taking on Pakistan in their last league fixture.
Although it didn't matter much in the context of the tournament for them but it certainly was a warning bell for the hosts because they were blown away by Pakistan in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
The New Zealanders discovered only a few days later that they had actually dug their grave by losing the league encounter to Pakistan, who stunned them in the semifinals as well much to the disappoinment of their fans who anticipated them running away with the crown after seven successive victories against different nations.
New Zealand's hopes of snatching the title were dashed by Pakistan in the 1999 World Cup in England as well. Most recently they were whacked by Pakistan in the ICC World Twenty20 semifinals in England.
History was against them when New Zealand took the field against Pakistan even though the venue was more suited to their team in the Champions Trophy semifinals against Pakistan. The decision of the Pakistan skipper, Younis Khan, to bat first after calling correctly also passed the impression that they were least impressed by the credentials of their opponents.
Vettori marshalled his troops as shrewdly as he always does. He led by example and his team rose to the occasion. They might have been jolted by Pakistan's last wicket stand but they didn't lose heart and successfully chased down the target that wasn't all that big.
October 1, 2009
By Syed Khalid Mahmood
India ’s fate in the ICC Champions Trophy hinged more on the result of the Australia-Pakistan game at the Super Sport Park in Centurion than their own against the West Indies at the Wanderers in Johannesburg .
Both the matches were taking place on the same day (September 30) and it was to India’s advantage that their encounter was a day-nighter, meaning it started a few hours later than the other one being played entirely in sunlight.
Pakistan had already qualified for the semifinals with the blessings of the Nature as the washed out tie between Australia and India allowed them this luxury even before taking the field for the final league outing.
Australia and India were the two contenders for the single semifinal slot that remained vacant. India were to get a lifeline only if Pakistan managed to defeat Australia . In other words India ’s fate was lying in Pakistan ’s hands.
Pakistan had all cards in their pocket entering the game against Australia and their peace of mind was reflected in body language. Younis Khan and his boys were absolutely relaxed while playing pressure-free cricket.
Australia had everything to play for but Pakistan were not supposed to be pushed about it. The manner in which Pakistan batted had made it clear that they were more interested in going through the motions rather than making efforts to do anything sensational. The idea of conserving energy for the upcoming knockout games might also have been in their mind.
Pakistan , who are known for making the most of the death overs even with tail-enders make hay, scored only one run in the penultimate over of the innings with specialist batsmen at the crease. The batting powerplay overs were hardly utilized.
Australia were cruising towards a cakewalk victory when suddenly the match opened up with the departure of Michael Hussey. There was tension in their camp and the wickets kept on tumbling as soon as the Pakistan bowlers applied pressure.
The pace trio of Mohammad Asif, Umar Gul and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan bowled exceptionally well in their final spells and the Australians were absolutely clueless. It was happening at the same time when India were in the process of wrapping up the West Indian innings.
Obviously the Indians must have become interested but their excitement was short lived because the Australians somehow got the winning run on the final ball of their innings. That meant the end of the road for India as far as the tournament was concerned.
Had Australia succumbed to defeat, the Indian would have been in a rush to chase their target of 130 against the West Indies . Since that didn’t happen they had full 50 overs at their disposal to register a consolation win, their first in the competition.
The Indian captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who himself got a wicket against the West Indies, very right pointed out that it was the defeat to Pakistan that crippled their chances of qualifying for the semifinals. The road had to be bumpy afterwards and so it turned out.