WEEK IN SPORTS – Pakistan’s sporting woes | Pakistan Today

WEEK IN SPORTS – Pakistan’s sporting woes

LAHORE: Cricket is a sport where, apart from physical attributes like hand-eye coordination and strength, emotional steadiness and maturity counts for just as much. Umar Akmal, for instance, has all the hand-eye coordination he will ever need, but is emotionally and mentally handicapped.
He can’t bat in a Test match to save his life. It is, therefore, left to mature players like Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq to steady the sinking ship and take it out of troubled waters.
It is safe to say that Younis is Pakistan’s only world class batsman at the moment. Yousuf, though at the fag end of his career, when fit is another. Younis and Misbah’s rearguard fight was a sight for sore eyes. Even on a shirt front wicket, where Kallis and Amla had made effortless hundreds and never looked like getting out, the Pakistani duo was hard pressed against some inspired bowling.
They also knew that should one of them stumble, the rest of the team would collapse like a sandcastle on a beach. This draw, as Misbah aptly stated, felt more like a win. Hopefully, this performance will build some momentum that can carry over to the second Test.
The banning of Younis Khan after the Australian tour remains a mystery, especially after his summary recall for the South African series. If the PCB takes the drastic step of banning someone for life, it should then stand by that step. It should also give specific reasons. It did none of the above. To then bring him back is a humongous climb down.
Rumours abound that Younis was banned because he did not fit into the match fixing mafia’s plans and reports were therefore sent out of his misbehaviour. Razzaq is another who has not been in the selectors’ good books of late. He is another who can turn a match on its head. Perhaps such players who cannot be controlled are anathema to the mafia.
Then take the case of Zulqarnain Haider. He made a defiant 80-plus in England and then was told, to his astonishment, that he had a broken finger. In Dubai, he received threats as reportedly did his family in Pakistan.
Zulqarnain promptly bolted to England. Apparently he was not sure as to whom in his team he could speak to about his predicament! What a disastrous state of affairs. To top it all, there have been persistent rumours that the father of some of our Test cricketers is a bookie and in league with the mafia.
Meanwhile, England is having a good lead up to the much awaited Ashes series. All their batsmen except Kevin Pietersen are in form, as is the bowling. The credit for the depth in the England batting should go to Andy Flower, their unobtrusive mentor. A master batsman himself, his influence can be seen in England’s tail which bats till the number nine spot.
Flower’s coaching style looks similar to that of Gary Kirsten, another coach who stays in the background. Both have done well for their teams in the recent past. This Ashes series looks like England’s best chance in a couple of decades, to win the Ashes in Australia.
Either way, this Ashes series promises a rare feast of Test cricket at its most competitive. The Asian Games are well under way. China, South Korea and Japan, the three economic powerhouses, are well in front, followed by Iran. India is at 11 with Pakistan brought up the rear until the surprise gold at women’s cricket lifted them to 17th. Pakistan won silver in wushu and a bronze in billiards.
It should come as no surprise that the economically endowed nations do well in sport. With huge financial reserves, it is no problem for these countries to send their athletes wherever they need to compete or train. Their populace is well fed and healthy and as a result there is a broad base of naturally strong and fit youngsters to choose from.
But, more than anything, it is the management of the available resources that can make the difference. Pakistan, in the 1950s and early 1960s, was an athletic powerhouse. It was because of an Englishman, Brig. Rodham, who discovered and nurtured his athletes till they were at par with the very best.
There is no such will, or desire to serve for the greater good, on view anywhere in Pakistan sport. Everyone seems to be looking at what they can milk from sport in the form of perks and benefits. One sees the same people always present on all international events, enjoying the ambience, with scarcely a thought towards their responsibilities.
The end of year Barclays Masters Championships are due to start in London over the weekend. Eight players will vie for the top prize of a few gazillions of dollars. But seriously, these players make so much money off the court that prize money is not a factor. Consider the fact that the reserve players, who do nothing but sit on the sidelines and will play only if one of the players gets injured, will earn a small fortune, perhaps over a hundred thousand dollars.
The total prize money at the ATP World Tour Masters is $5 million. For Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who get over a million dollars just to show up at a tournament and who make half a million in a couple of hours exhibition play, the money is indeed irrelevant. What is relevant is their personal rivalry against the best of the best, Mano a Mano, face to face. They are also keenly aware of their place in history.
Federer, widely regarded as the GOAT (greatest of all time) has 16 Grand Slam titles. Nadal is in a position to challenge Federer’s GOAT status, should he catch up with his Grand Slam numbers. But Nadal’s problem is his body. He uses up so much energy and punishes his body so much more than the silky smooth Federer.
As a result he has recurrent knee problems, which at times have threatened to end his career. And yes, Federer is not quite done yet. He should be good for a few more Grand Slam titles before he hangs up his racquets. The winner at London? Federer with Soderling as the wild card.

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