May 30, 2011

IPL threatens future of cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Whatever the ‘engineered’ polls on the partner television networks might broadcast, the just concluded fourth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) seemed to have created serious doubts in the minds of the people many of whom preferred to tune in to other channels for recreational purposes.

The general feeling among the masses was that the matches were being played according the whims of a few individuals and the cricketers in the field were merely dancing to the tune of their masters.

In other words it was being suspected that every match was following a set pattern and cricket was played just as an excuse. Far too many one-sided matches possibly made the people believe that nobody cared for the entertainment in the field which was the basic purpose of staging the tournament.

There’re a few students of the game who seemed convinced that the outfits in the IPL 2011 arrived in every match with an agenda of their own which necessarily didn’t mean winning the day.

The organizers succeeded in roping in crowds at the strength of the big names present in each of the 10 participating team but it could be felt that the intensity was lacking and the arrangements looked cosmetic.

I don’t think it had much to do with the number of teams or the matches. It had something to relate with the awareness level that seemed to be improving. Obviously the cricket enthusiasts cannot be taken for a ride day in and day out.

The cricket-crazy community might overlook or ignore a mishap or a mismatch once in a while as they had so in the tournaments like the World Cup but to expect them to absorb it every single day is definitely asking for trouble.

As somebody very rightly pointed out there have been no high-measures in the IPL. So has been the case in the opinion of many people about the foul play involved during the course of almost every match.

The cricket lovers of India in particular have more reasons to feel dismayed and hard done by the policies of their Board whose prioritization to the IPL at the cost of the game remains a source of annoyance.

Isn’t it criminal to rest or sideline the world-class performers like Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni for the international matches in order to let them concentrate fully on the IPL?

Isn’t it an injustice with the cricket fans of the Caribbean to deprive them from the pleasure of watching these top guns in action on their grounds? The Indians don’t visit the West Indies often and sending a depleted team there amounts to compromising on national interests.

The only peace of mind for every cricket buff is that the IPL is finally over. Very little did people seem to care about who won or who lost out finally! Just like the Indian selectors who didn’t take the performances of the IPL in consideration while picking up second-string squads to the West Indies for they must have known it better than the most about what really was going on.

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May 25, 2011

Generous West Indies let Pakistan square Test series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I agree with Ian Bishop, a West Indian speedster of yesteryears, that the hosts let slip a Test series against Pakistan they could have won and they will be disappointed with the final result.

Yet again it was the generosity of the West Indians that allowed Pakistan's to level the two-Test series. The hosts were guilty of taking their rivals casually and not giving the kind of performance they were capable of.

As much as the West Indian cricketers, their administrators also played a definite role by providing Pakistan the red carpet. When even a kid knew that the Pakistan batsmen were vulnerable to swing and pace there was absolutely no sense in preparing tracks that suited spinners.

The West Indians proved very generous hosts indeed by letting Pakistan play both the Tests on slow pitches to surrender the home advantage. We came across the kind of pitches in the Caribbean that the Pakistani cricketers love at home.

Pakistan's slow bowlers picked up as many as 32 of the 40 available wickets and they themselves were surprised by the amount of turn on offer at the two venues. It certainly was a pleasant surprise for the spinning duo of Saeed Ajmal and Abdul Rahman who were also assisted by part-timer Mohammad Hafeez.

"We have been surprised by the bounce and the spin that we have gotten from the pitches. This is why we are very happy. Spinners are happy when they get pitches that turn, but to also get the bounce is good, and the West Indies have struggled against the spin and the bounce. It would not be a bad idea to dig up this pitch, and carry it around with me, so that I can get plenty of wickets," an ecstatic Abdul Rahman observed.

Equally happy were the Pakistani batsmen like Taufiq Umar and Misbah-ul-Haq, who notched up centuries on the docile pitch that blunted the West Indian fast bowlers.

The home side had to pay very heavy price for having let the Pakistan tail-enders wag in the first innings. The last wicket stand between Saeed Ajmal and Tanvir Ahmed turned the tide decisively and Pakistan won the match by 196 runs after being in doldrums on the opening day.

No matter what the West Indian skipper, Darren Sammy, had to say in the post-match media briefing not many people were inclined to agree with him when he spoke about his team having taken plenty of positives out of the series.

It became a forgettable series for them in the end. They squandered golden opportunity to win a Test series for the first time in more than two years. All they needed was to exert some more pressure on the visitors which they didn’t do.

The young West Indian brigade had the momentum coming into the second Test and they had Pakistan on the run in the first innings but the last-wicket stand turned it around.

The lady luck smiled on Misbah-ul-Haq and his boys who made the most of the opportunities offered to them. They were more than happy to have squared the Test series, after pocketing the ODI series, with all those issues regarding selection and management.

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May 16, 2011

Pace, not spin, rattles Pakistan batsmen once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

No matter how much purchase the pitch was offering to the debutant West Indian leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo in the fourth innings of the first Test against Pakistan at the Providence Stadium in Guyana it was the pace that had to make to difference and so it.

Bishoo could have been a potential match-winner against any other side in the given circumstances but it was extremely unlikely for him to spin Pakistan out even though the batting was brittle and lacked experience or class.

Probably the weakest of all the Pakistani teams to have embarked on a tour of the Caribbean, Misbah-ul-Haq and his teammates must have been hoping for some more overs from Bishoo to take the fight to the West Indian camp.

The target of 219 in the low-scoring game was always going to be a challenging proposition with the uneven bounce of the track. It may have surprised a few self-proclaimed experts but all the 10 wickets were shared by the fast bowlers and the much talked about Bishoo went wicket-less even after 21 overs.

In fact the complete failure of Bishoo in the second innings must have been a cause of concern for the skipper Darren Sammy, who himself took the centre stage when it mattered most. It was his spell that sealed the fate of the match.

The West Indians demonstrated the rare self-belief and attacked their opponents with purpose, unlike the first three One-day Internationals in which they were found guilty of having lost it mentally.

Sammy returned a five-wicket haul to bowl his side to first Test victory for more than a year. The West Indies had not tasted a Test win after that sensational spell from Jerone Taylor had blown England away early last year.

“We as a team needed this performance. Lately, things hadn't been going well but I had the belief, this team had the belief," Sammy observed after grabbing Man of the Match award, which he narrowly snatched from teammate Ravi Rampaul.

"Rampaul looks fit and has worked really hard with Ottis Gibson. It was a tough decision to pick between him and Fidel Edwards," Sammy added.

"It was a difficult pitch. We found ourselves not playing the spin too well. But I commend the guys for the effort. They batted out time and put in a total which in the end was enough to get the victory,” he acknowledged.

Pakistan’s captain Misbah, who led the fightback in the company of Asad Shafiq and Umar Akmal, was sporting enough to concede that the better team had won.

“To lose this Test is disappointing, they played better cricket and bowled disciplined lines," he stated.

“We dropped so many catches and gave away so many runs to the lower order. We were a little disappointing from the batting point of view also. We fought well on the third day to recover after losing early wickets but most of our guys got out to good balls," Misbah believed.

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May 10, 2011

Wasim Hashmi’s initiatives take Judo to rural Sindh


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sukkur emerged triumphant in the first-ever SSB Rural Sindh Judo Championship will be organized by the Sindh Judo Association (SJA), with the collaboration of the Sindh Sports Board (SSB), at the Jinnah Hall Baldia Complex in Mirpurkhas.

Syed Wasim Hashmi, President SJA, and Vice President, Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF), played the lead role in taking the sport to the rural part of the province with the collaboration of the Sindh Sports Board (SSB).

Wasim Hashmi has remained passionate about spreading martial arts and he continues to spare time and resources for the promotion of judo in particular despite his preoccupations as a top income-tax lawyer of the country.

Judo has generally been organized in the urban centres of the province, notably Karachi and Hyderabad, and it was a novel idea to have an event exclusively for those living in the less privileged rural areas of Sindh.

Wasim Hashmi and other officials of the SJA were thrilled with the response to the inaugural edition of the SSB Rural Sindh Judo Championship and they remained confident about making it a regular feature.

According to the results announced by the organizers, Sukkur won the championship by accumulating 55 points while hosts Mirpurkhas ended runners-up with 45 points. Nawabshah stood third with 25 points while Badin and Larkana shared fourth position with 20 points each. Umerkot and Sanghar could muster only five points each.

Sukkur clinched a couple of gold medals besides two silver medals and a bronze medal while Mirpurkhas also secured two gold medals alongwith one silver medal and as many bronze medal. Nawabshah didn’t get any gold but they compensated by winning as many as 10 silver medals.

The below 50-kg contest was won by Abdul Moin Khan of Sukkur with Azam Ali of Nawabshah finishing second and Imran Ali of Larkana and Bahadur Ali of Badin sharing third position.

Nusrat Hussain of Mirpurkhas won the below 56-kg event with Aneeq Khan of Sukkur taking second position and Mohammad Imran of Badin and Tariq Ahmed of Nawabshah being joint third.

Ghazanfar Ali of Sukkur clinched the gold medal in below 60-kg competition with Nooruddin of Mirpurkhas securing silver medal and Dilshad Ahmed of Sanghar and Mohammad Rafiq of Nawabshah taking home bronze medals.

The gold medal in the below 66-kg category by claimed by Sajid Ali of Larkana while Mohammad Alamgir of Sukkur earned silver medal and Farid Ahmed of Mirpurphas and Asif Khan of Nawabshah got bronze medals.

Aurangzeb Khan of Mirpurkhas was the winner of the Open weight contest with Majid Ali of Badin) ending as the runner-up and Malang Sami of Umerkot and Ishaq Ansari of Sukkur finishing third.

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May 8, 2011

West Indian mismanagement gifts Pakistan ODI series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The West Indians, unlike the past, proved to be very generous hosts. There was a time, not many decades ago, when the visiting teams used to be fearful of going to the Caribbean for a number of reasons. Not only the hosts used to be a dangerous side but the entire environment over there was intimidating enough to keep the visitors under pressure nearly all the time.

Pakistan have had successful tours of the West Indies even when playing in the Caribbean was the most challenging proposition. The teams led by Mushtaq Mohammad in 1976-77 and the one captained by Imran Khan in 1988-89 had overcome the pressures with true grit and resilience.

It’s quite amazing, however, how this inexperienced Pakistan outfit, with the enigmatic Shahid Afridi at the helm of the affairs, managed to win the series of five One-day Internationals in the West Indies.

In fact there must have been occasions when they must have even fancied their chances of whitewashing the hosts if they continued to take things so lightly. It was incredible how the West Indian Cricket Board was handling matters. They appeared oblivious of the fact that they had a duty to perform. I don’t think they have the license to do anything thing they like at the expense of the sport.

Cricket has been on the decline in the Caribbean for a long time but it will soon become a dead sport over there if their administrators continue having fun at the top. Whatever the reasons, wasn’t it a pity that the top West Indian stars were stealing the limelight in the Indian Premier League and the young ones with limited talents and experience were biting the dust back home.

Experimenting with youth at home is not a crime but discarding the seasoned campaigners for no rhyme or reason is criminal. You just cannot drop your experienced fellows on the basis an odd bad performance. Their reputation is not built overnight. They take years to mature. Throwing them out when they still have plenty to offer and their replacements are not there has to be branded as poor management.

Shahid Afridi and his boys must have been pleasantly surprised to find that the hosts would prove so soft. The West Indians, with meager resources at their disposal, were guilty of not applying themselves and the series was decided after the first three games.

The manner in which the West Indian batsmen handled the Pakistan spinners showed they were not prepared for international cricket yet. The home bowlers were short of confidence and experience as well which allowed the series to be settled so quickly.

As it turned out in the last two games, the West Indians could have kept the series alive much longer had they displayed some belief in the first three encounters in which they had batted very poorly indeed.

The West Indies salvaged some pride by winning the last two games to make it 2-3 which also made them realize that they could have pocketed the series quite comfortably if they showed little more discipline and firepower.

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