December 5, 2010

National Games or money-minting exercise?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), having done very little to promote the cause of sports eversince its inception and whose office-bearers have mostly been in the news for the wrong reasons to say the least, has to shoulder the blame once more for not having taken the desired steps yo take care of their showpiece event, the National Games, meant to be held after every two years.

The provincial Olympic Associations look forward to hosting the National Games primarily for the loads of money that comes with the package. It’s one event they cannot imagine to lose, no matter how many times they have to postpone it.

The 31st National Games, now scheduled to be staged in Peshawar later this month, would certainly have served greater purpose had it been held prior to the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.

In Pakistan the practice has been to hold the National Games in the four provinces by rotation. It’s no doubt the turn of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa, formerly Northern Western Frontier Province (NWFP), to stage the event but it had to postponed due to the security concerns in capital Peshawar.

The national Olympic body, POA, don’t do anything to annoy their provincial chapters for obvious reasons. The POA Executive Council had taken the decision to postpone the 31st National Games that was to be held from March 25 to 31.

The POA President, Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, had stated at the time of announcing the decision on March 16 that the foreign teams were already not willing to come to Pakistan because of the security issues and they didn’t want a situation where a domestic event is also affected by some incident.

“The relevant authorities in Peshawar were not willing to give security clearance for the games at this stage. We took the prevailing situation in the country into consideration and felt the best thing at this stage was to postpone the games. There was also pressure from parents and associations to postpone the games and obviously nothing is more important to us than the safety of our athletes and officials," he was quoted as saying.

The National Games, already been postponed once before last year due to security issues, was then rescheduled for December 26 to 31.

The President of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Olympic Association (KPOA), Syed Aqil Shah, who is also the KP Sports Minister, has maintained that the 31st National Games will be held in Peshawar on its schedule amid tight security.

”We have given the mandate by the house in which the office-bearers of all the affiliated associations ensured their support. Besides they have shown more spirit and zeal to hold the Games on its schedule,” he observed in the media briefing.

“We are ready to hold the Games and the grant is there. All appropriate measures would be taken and services of Police, Frontier Corps, and even if needed, Army would be taken to provide foolproof security to the teams and officials,” Aqil Shah stated.

It may be recalled that at least three people were killed and several others were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the main gate of Qayum Stadium after the closing ceremony of Inter-Provincial Games in Peshawar in November 2008.

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Will India opt for going ahead for a whitewash?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

That’s a billion Rupee question now. Having beaten the New Zealanders comprehensively in the first three games of the five-match ODI to take an unassialble 3-0 lead, the Indians are in total command of the sitiuation to complete a whitewash. But will they do it? Or will they succumb to the external factors?

The Indian cricket team over the years has had the habit of ‘accomodating’ their unfancied opponents by losing an odd game or two against the run of play when it comes to the One-day Internationals whereas in the Tests they appeared to have ‘obliged’ the underdogs by keeping it to a draw.

The latest example was the three-Test series against the Black Caps that preceded the ongoing ODI series. India’s full strength side stunned everyone by settling with a draw in the first two Tests. When they finally tightened the noose in the third and final Test the margin that separated the two sides said all with the game lasting just over three days.

Now the ball is in the court of the Indians again. They have lived upto the billing by winning the first three ODIs with big enough margins to just confirm that there is no competition at well between the two sides on these kind of surfaces.

The momentum is with India. They can easily win the remaining two ODIs, weather permitting. Daniel Vettori and his boys are at the mercy of the hosts. The expertise of the vastly experienced Duncan Fletcher cannot be of much help to them at this stage. They shall be happy losing those two games by less embarassing margin than the last couple of ones.

What about the Indian plans? Nobody knows. Will they go for the kill? The World Cup is round the corner and they cannot afford to be complacent. But there have been numerous instances when such interests appeared to have been compromised. Will history repeat itself?

Gautam Gambhir and his boys are on a high but will they be allowed to play without an advice they are not able to refuse?

Gambhir has done the job perfectly so far, in the absence of the rested Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The caretaker captain was delighted to have restricted New Zealand to 224 in their 50 overs after putting them into bat in the third ODI at Vadodara.

"When there is dew in Baroda it does a bit in the morning; it's red soil. It was a good toss to win but it was a great effort from our bowlers to restrict them to 225-odd. Zaheer Khan is the best left-arm fast bowler in the world now. Ravichandran Ashwin has a lot of variety and can bowl well during Power Plays and the slog overs. If he keeps doing that he will be a big asset to the team. Munaf Patel bowled great at first change. It's tough to get figures of 1 for 28 in 10 overs on a subcontinent wicket. Yusuf Pathan contributed with the ball, as well," the skipper complimented.

"It's good to have competitions for various places. If the selectors have a headache in this aspect, it's a very good sign for Indian cricket," he said.

He did not favour too much experiment with the side for the last two ODIs despite the series being won. "We should try and put our best team on the park as it is an international game and we are playing a quality side," Gambhir reckoned.

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