- Funereal silence on Pakistan sports scene
The 18th Asian Games held in Indonesia recently, participated by 11,000 athletes from 45 countries, was essentially a celebration of youthful physical prowess and sporting skills, with the appropriate theme, ‘Energy of Asia’, but for the 358-member Pakistan contingent, it was the familiar waste of time and expense, as it returned with a grand total of four bronze medals, its final standing 34 in a field of 45. Embarrassingly surpassing it were Nepal, Macau, Qatar, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Turkmenistan, Lebanon, Cambodia, Jordan, Kuwait, UAE and Thailand, with only Afghanistan, Myanmar and Syria in the bottom-most rungs. In the 2014 Asiad in South Korea, Pakistan’s tally was no great shakes either, with one gold and silver each and three bronze medals. What a fall from the halcyon days when the country boasted of Abdul Khaliq, the ‘fastest man in Asia’ in athletics, field hockey squad regularly clinched the silverware, and even sailing was dominated from 1978 to 1994, thanks largely to Byram Avari-Muneer Sadiq duo.
Now, for the good news. The contentious Najam Sethi resigned as Chairman Pakistan Cricket Board on August 20 after four tightrope years, and as desired by the prime minister, who is chief patron of PCB, as indeed of Pakistan Hockey Federation, Ehsan Mani, enjoying intimate previous association with PCB, a former president of International Cricket Council, and possessed of laudable expertise in organisational and commercial aspects of the modern game, has replaced him. The right choice, for once. Radical restructuring of the primitive domestic cricket setup, bringing Pakistan Super League home in its entirety, and the $70 million in lost revenue due to India reneging from the agreed upon 2014 and 2015 bilateral series, which latter case is being heard by ICC dispute panel on October 1, will test Mani’s abilities to the utmost.
The patronage of the country’s sports federations by political figures should cease, giving way to fair elections of former international stars. The winds of change also need to blow roughly in the financially dehydrated Pakistan Hockey Federation, and with hurricane force in the Pakistan Olympic Association, where the only fixed common denominator since 2004 amid the always declining performances, remains the unfeeling Association president.