October 23, 2012

Recalling Wasim Bari’s pivotal role in Pakistan cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Wasim Bari has been one strong pillar on whose shoulder the destiny of Pakistan cricket rested for quite a while. He was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar behind the stumps. Seldom did anything elude him even if it was yards away from him either side. 

He was hailed as the greatest-ever exponent of the art of wicket-keeping by none other than Alan Knott, who himself was a master artist. He had complimented Bari in a BBC show hosted by the greats John Arlott and Fred Trueman, when asked to compare the legendary wicket-keepers. 

It was the greatness of Knott as well for having showered Bari, one of his illustrious contemporaries, with lavish praise. 

The Englishman also acknowledged other gifted wicket-keepers but he had no doubt in his mind about Bari being a cut above the rest. 

The summer of 1971 was the most memorable one for Bari when he had managed to eclipse Knott with his brilliance, a fact which was even acknowledged publicly by a man of the stature of Ted Dexter. 

The whole of the 1970s as well as the early 1980s belonged to Bari as he helped the Pakistan bowlers enormously by plucking catches out of thin air. 

His unblemished wicket-keeping allowed the speedsters like Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz to fire on all cylinders. His nimble movement behind the stumps encouraged the spinners like Abdul Qadir and Iqbal Qasim to do all kinds of experimentation. 

He was the pivot around whom the Pakistan team revolved for well over a decade. He was the unsung hero. He was hardly ever mentioned in the headlines despite contributing most significantly in Pakistan’s rise among top teams of the world. Wicket-keeping indeed is a thankless job. 

All their good work is forgotten on basis of a single missed opportunity. Yet Bari was one man who committed very few mistakes in a remarkably long career. One must not forget that he had to stand and deliver on the dusty pitches of Pakistan where the ball hardly rose above the ankle height more often than not. 

Bari has remained an unassuming soul all his life. He has not cared to worry about his accomplishments not getting the due recognition whereas the lesser gifted colleagues of his caught the media attention somehow. 

A firm believer of letting his work do the talking he proved his mettle in senior management positions at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), after hanging up his gloves. 

He also remained associated with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), having served as the chairman of the national selection committee for quite sometime, before joining the institution full-time. 

With enormous cricketing knowledge and experience allied with the senior management expertise, the soft-spoken Bari still has a lot to offer to Pakistan cricket. He is one man who can help tremendously in building bridges and closing the gaps. His role can be vital in lobbying with the other Cricket Boards at a time when the PCB is under pressure to revive international cricket in the country.

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Exemplary tolerance of Karachi crowd


Pakistan News & Features Services

The spectators who filled the National Stadium, Karachi, on October 20 and 21 for the T20 series between an International World XI and an All Pakistan Stars XI were the real heroes. 

The patience and endurance, besides passion for cricket, of the huge turnout on both evenings allowed the organizers to fulfill their dreams and accomplish their objectives. Just for the record All Pakistan Stars XI won the series 2-0. 

The stadium was packed to capacity in the first match with more than 35,000 people welcoming the return of international cricket of sorts. 

The attendance was slightly less the following day although it was a Sunday. The enthusiasts, who came along from the different parts of the metropolis, didn’t complain about the quality of cricket which was of poor standard to the least with the members of the International World XI looking rusty and totally out of form. 

How much the people of Karachi, particularly the youngsters, love the game of cricket was reflected from the big turnout in both the matches which were ‘unofficial’ and Pakistan’s national team was not playing. 

The crowds didn’t react to the dismal performance of the International World XI in every department of the game. 

There were signs, however, of their disapproval to the one-sided contests because the majority of them left the stadium well before the final ball was delivered. In normal circumstances they would have cheered the home team and celebrated the win rather enthusiastically. 

The only consolation for the spectators was having watched the foreign cricketers taking the field at the National Stadium after more than three years. 

The organizers, on their part, could have made greater effort in roping in better and fitter cricketers from abroad. They seemed to have compromised due to the financial reasons as the current players would have obviously demanded proper fees whereas the lot which came here, with the exception of a few, were well past their prime and anything offered to them must have been a bonus return for them. 

The presence of Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in the second game sent a clear message that the Board had finally recognized the initiatives of Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, the Sindh Sports Minister, who braved all obstacles to turn his dream into reality. 

It could have been much better if the PCB had extended support to Dr Shah from the moment the idea was floated about six months ago. 

The PCB bigwigs in Lahore had their reservations and they tried their level best to have these games scrapped. These matches would have taken place in May, had the PCB supported Dr Shah right away which they didn’t for reasons not declared publicly. 

Ultimately the PCB had to bow to the demands of Dr Shah and the permission was accorded reluctantly which didn’t please Ehsan Mani, a former President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), in particular. Having acted disgracefully earlier, it was heartening to find the PCB Chairman engaging into damage control rather than making another egoistic move.

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