Archive for the ‘ ICC Cricket World Cup ’ Category

Pakistan Cricketer Mohammad Asif Freed After Fixing Scam Sentence

As Reported by The BBC

Pakistan cricketer Mohammad Asif, one of three jailed for a fixing scam, has been released after serving half of a 12-month sentence, his lawyer says.

Asif, 29, the former world number two Test bowler, was freed from Canterbury Prison in Kent on Thursday morning.

In November, Asif and team-mates Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir were jailed for a plot to bowl deliberate no balls in a Test match against England in 2010.

All three players were also given five-year playing bans.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said it did not comment on individuals.

“Foreign national offenders released from prison on licence will be supervised by probation for as long as they remain in this country,” he said.

Undercover reporter
The fixing scandal came to light when an undercover News of the World reporter approached sports agent Mazhar Majeed, who was also jailed for his role, pretending to be a wealthy Indian businessman seeking players for a tournament.

Majeed promised him that Asif and Amir would deliver three no-balls at specific points during the Test between Pakistan and England at Lord’s on 26-29 August 2010, and claimed to have been fixing games for over two years, with seven Pakistan players working for him.

At Southwark Crown Court in November, ex-Test captain Salman Butt, 27, was jailed for two-and-a-half years for his role as the “orchestrator” of the plot.

Explaining why he had bowled a no-ball when Majeed said he would, Asif alleged that Butt had told him to “run faster” moments before his delivery.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Cooke, said there was no evidence that Asif had taken part in fixing before the Lord’s match but added: “It is hard to see how this could be an isolated occurrence for you.”

Asif took his 100th Test wicket during Pakistan’s 2010 series in England.

He had run into controversy before. He twice tested positive for the performance-enhancing drug nandrolone and was held in Dubai for 19 days in 2008 after opium was found in his wallet.

Mohammad Amir was released from jail in February.

Jacksonville Jaguars- Allah’s NFL Team?

By Manzer Munir for Pakistanis for Peace

The last few days have not been easy ones for me. I have had to watch as my adopted homeland, the United States, is accused by Pakistan, the nation of my forefathers, for being responsible for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers by “friendly” fire.

So it wasn’t hard to imagine that once again I would be hurting for being both American and Muslim as I was on 9/11, and now I am once again feeling the pinch of being both Pakistani and American as well. Believe it or not, you can love two countries; just ask Italian or Irish Americans. I am sure you know that this is not the first time and certainly will not be the last time that as a Pakistani American I will be reeling from news concerning Pakistan. Yet the covert attack and neutralization of Osama Bin Laden in May of this year in Pakistan, a country long suspected to be his hiding place, have all but shattered any remaining doubts to the American public regarding which side of the fence Pakistan finds itself. As President Bush so famously said “You’re either with us, or against us” to President Pervez Musharraf immediately following the attacks of September 11, 2011.

At least since Bin Laden’s killing on May 2, 2011, as far as the average American, John Q Public is concerned, it appears that Pakistan was against us all along, and merely only was paying lip service the last 10 years. However staffers at the US State Department, all the way up to Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Obama will rightly admit, that this simply is not the case. Pakistan has been a difficult ally to be sure, but the country has been an ally nonetheless and has proven time and time again to be invaluable not just in this current fight for the strategic direction of Afghanistan, but also was critical in the last great fight involving this land against the former USSR in the ‘80’s.

One can go even further back and talk about the historically strong US and Pakistan relations that go all the way back to at least President Eisenhower and the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO), a security pact similar to NATO, but for Asia and parts of the Pacific, it was an organization of which Pakistan and the US comprised membership, along with six other nations namely Australia, France, Great Britain, New Zealand, the Philippines, and Thailand. This was an eclectic bunch of nations to be sure, but a defense pact tying Pakistan and the US, this once brought the two together in a treaty of mutual defense and cooperation going back as early as 1954.

One would also be remiss if we forget that the famous US Air force pilot Gary Powers flew on a U-2 secret mission from Pakistan’s Peshawar airbase at the request of Eisenhower and at Pakistan’s acquiescence. He had been doing a reconnaissance mission against the Soviets at the height of the Cold War when his plane was shot down causing the then famous 1960 U-2 incident. Amazingly, it was less than just a couple generations ago when President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously called Pakistan America’s “most allied ally in Asia. Wow, as the old Virginia Slim’s cigarette ad tagline used to go “ You’ve come a long way baby!” Haven’t you, Pakistan?

I suppose before we get lost on another few paragraphs on US-Pakistan alliances of old and their longstanding history of cooperation and friendship, whether from the days of the Cold War or the far more recent war on terror, let me get back to the original purpose of this article. So, there I was, in my now seemingly regular funk, on account of all the rapidly downward spiraling US-Pak relations, and then, there it was, a glimmer of hope for a bit of positive news. Maybe a chance for something unrelated to terror, bombs, Taliban, Shiite-Sunni violence, blasphemy laws, honor killings or anyone of the myriad of utterly negative topics that so easily and regularly grace the top of the headline news on any cable news channel on any given day regarding Pakistan.

So here finally was some positive news regarding this nation. Initially I wondered if perhaps this feel good story would be along the lines of the usual sports filled beacons of hope for the otherwise unfortunate Pakistani masses such as in the form of when an Amir Khan gains world boxing glory or when an Imran Khan led cricket team of old wins a Cricket World Cup or maybe it was similar to the legend of the Khan boys, Jahanghir and Jansher Khan who were busy conquering the world of squash (racquetball) for decades. Perhaps this news I so eagerly awaited to get me out of this rut was related to a scientific or professional endeavor that highlighted Pakistani achievements and success stories such as that of Pakistani born neurologist Dr Malik M Hasan, the man who single-handedly helped change the medical industry in the US for the better, when over the course of a few years through a process of mergers and acquisitions, he helped eventually form HSI, a multi-billion dollar healthcare provider that in 1993, which was an organization with about 1.4 million members, 40,000 doctors, and nearly 400 member hospitals! His innovative and entrepreneurial management style led to the very first modern Health Management Organization (HMO) in the United States, and thereby brought more affordable healthcare to the vast majority of Americans in the 1980’s. Dr Hasan eventually grew the business to be worth more than $10 billion dollars and countless thousands jobs for professionals through many midwestern and western states.

Maybe a boldly similar idea or solution in today’s rapidly increasing costs of healthcare and lack of insurance for over 40 million Americans can come, if not from a Pakistani American like Dr Hasan, then perhaps from another of the world’s brightest who still yearn to come to these shores with their dreams and aspirations for success and achieving a piece of the American Dream that millions of their countryman from Europe had done years before them. Along the way, people like Dr Hasan employed hundreds and thousands of Americans and become a mega job creator, kind of like the ones that Republicans say they love.

It could be that the Pakistani American feel good story bringing much needed good news to the Pakistani global diaspora, and indeed by that realization, at the very least, to a Pakistani American like myself was going to be similar to a fellow Lahore born compatriot like Tariq Farid, the founder of the wildly popular Edible Arrangements, a US based international franchise that specializes in fresh fruit arrangements for special occasions and gifts. With nearly a 1000 locations in the US and a few countries abroad, I am sure many a Congressman from both Red and Blue states would love to attract job creators like him to their state and lure his growing and profitable company, during these economically depressed times, to their state from their Headquarters in Connecticut.

I suppose I could go on and on at the long list of distinguished Pakistani Americans from the renowned NASA physicist, Dr Bashir A Syed, to Gibran Latif Hamdan, the first person of Pakistani descent to play in the NFL. Other major contributions not in the field of science, sports or business, yet still as inspirational to Pakistani Americans could have been the story of the American hero of Pakistani descent, Sgt. Wasim Khan, the first Purple Heart winner from that nation who won the award for valor during Operation Iraqi Freedom, costing him numerous injuries while fighting for our freedoms.

Certainly no one to date has better demonstrated a greater sacrifice to this nation than the story of Cpl. Kareem R Khan, another Pakistani American, one who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his beloved country, the United States, when he gave his life for American freedom, liberty and ideals dying on Iraqi soil during combat there. He also earned the Purple Heart and has the honor of being buried at the resting place of fallen American heroes, the venerated Arlington National Cemetery. One can do their own Google search for a list of Pakistani Americans to find out that this list comprises far more accomplished and good citizens of Pakistani descent than the occasional delusional individual like Faisal Shahzad, of the Times Square bomb fame.

So you bet it was good news for me to hear a few days ago that a successful and hard working American businessman and multi-millionaire from the midwest, Shahid Khan, a Pakistani American owner of a large automobile parts manufacturer, Flex-N-Gate, had just bought an NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars! My rare good optimism however seems to perhaps been ill placed though because it seems that even a positive and notable news story like this can quickly turn into something far more twisted and sinister as witnessed by the scores of Islamophobic and racial comments being left on the Jacksonville Jaguars Facebook page and other sports blogs and boards, hours since the sale and the origins and national background of the new owner became public. The deal which still has to go to an NFL owner’s vote would only then be complete and final. Whether the NFL owner’s vote affirmatively on the deal or not, the rancid and clearly Un-American comments on the team’s fan page demonstrate that a majority of the local fans of this NFL team seem only to care about his Pakistani background and not of the fact that he is committed to staying and keeping the team in the small Jacksonville market and that he is a genuine fan of football and by all accounts would make a great manager/owner of the franchise.

The sad fact remains that there is a possibility that despite all the countless contributions to this great nation made by Pakistani Americans, many of these die hard football fans have no problem with risking losing their team to a different owner who would take the team out possibly west to the vacant Los Angeles market than to have a “Paki” keep the team in Florida’s small Jacksonville market and try and build a contender there.

Maybe its his IRS troubles that Shahid had a few years ago that prevented him from buying the St Louis Ram’s majority ownership stake last year or maybe it really is his very interesting moustache that scares people away. Regardless, I will gladly take either reason for his bid not being approved than anything that points to his national origin or racial makeup. Afterall, us Americans should never forget the words of the late great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr when he said that we should ”not judge a man by the color of his skin, but rather by the content of his character.” All I know is that this Pakistani American still keeps alive Dr King’s dream. So no amount of paranoia should let the die-hard Jaguar fans fear that Muslims and Allah are on their way to taking over their beloved NFL franchise. Now gentlemen, let’s play ball!

Manzer Munir, a proud American of Pakistani descent, is a former US State Department Foreign Service Officer Management Selectee, and the founder of Pakistanis for Peace. He is also an often tormented fan of the Kansas City Chiefs of the NFL as well as having the good fortune of being a lifelong fan of Kansas Jayhawk Basketball.

Players Get Prison Terms in Fixing Case

By John F Burns for The New York Times

The judge in London’s monthlong cricket corruption trial imposed prison sentences Thursday on the four men involved, including a 30-month jail term for Salman Butt, the captain of Pakistan’s national team.

The longest term, 32 months, went to Mazhar Majeed, the agent for the three players sentenced. Butt’s teammate Mohammad Asif drew a one-year sentence, and another teammate, Mohammad Amir, received six months. Amir, 19, is to serve his time in a institution for young offenders.

The judge, Jeremy Cooke, who admonished the men for “the insidious effect of your actions on the international game,” said that if they behaved they would be released under supervision halfway through their sentences. He ordered the players to pay compensation toward the cost of their prosecution, with the highest sum, about $49,600, imposed on Butt.

The scene in Southwark Crown Court, close to the Thames in South London, was tense. Butt, 27, and Asif, 28, appeared stunned as the judge read out the sentences. Afterward, security guards led the men to their cells. The lawyer for Amir said his client planned to appeal.

The trial, which rocked the cricket world, centered on a sting operation conducted by the now-defunct News of the World newspaper during Pakistan’s tour of England in summer 2010. It followed years of suspicions that powerful gambling syndicates based on the Indian subcontinent were bribing players to fix parts of high-profile matches, or even to throw them entirely.

The case hinged on a secretly recorded meeting at a London hotel at which Majeed took £150,000 in marked notes, or about $240,000, from a reporter posing as an agent for the syndicates. The three players were found guilty of a scam that involved bowling three so-called no balls — foul deliveries — at predetermined points in a test match between Pakistan and England at Lord’s, the London ground that is the spiritual home of cricket.

Majeed also boasted at the meeting that he could fix matches involving Pakistan outright in return for about $1.6 million.

Much of the concern has focused on Pakistan’s national team, but a special corruption unit of the International Cricket Council, the Dubai-based governing body of the world game, has been investigating the possibility that other teams have been involved in similar scandals.

Cricket experts have said corruption has the capacity to destroy the game unless policing is expanded, perhaps to the extent of posting officials from the unit, which includes former police officers, at all top international matches.

Amir, 18 at the time of the match, entered a guilty plea to the corruption charges early in the trial, a fact that was sealed on Cooke’s orders until the trial’s resolution. At sentencing, Cooke, addressing Amir through an Urdu interpreter, said that in determining his punishment he had taken into account Amir’s age, his vulnerability to pressure from the older players and his plea. “It took courage,” he said, to plead guilty, according to a BBC account. “You come from a village background where life is hard.”

Earlier this year, the players were barred from all forms of cricket for five years by the International Cricket Council, which had conducted its own inquiry. Cooke said he took that into account in passing sentence, but some powerful figures in the game have said publicly that the punishment, especially in Butt’s case, should be reviewed in light of the evidence at the trial and extended to expulsion for life.

Cooke scolded Butt at the hearing, saying he deserved the heaviest sentence of the three players because the evidence showed that he was “the orchestrator of this thing.” Cooke also said Butt had done “a terrible thing” in corrupting Amir, who was regarded by many as a natural successor to the legendary fast bowlers in Pakistan’s past.

In 1992, Pakistan won the sport’s World Cup, and it has continued to be an international power. For many of the nation’s 170 million people, cricket has been a source of pride in a society plagued by a history of military coups and political corruption. Pakistan has also been accused by the United States of conniving with the Taliban in mounting suicide bombings.

Inevitably, cricket fans will compare the penalties imposed on Butt with the fate of Hanse Cronje, the former South African captain who until now had been the most prominent player caught in a corruption scandal.

In 2001, after a lengthy inquiry in South Africa into match-fixing between South Africa and India, Cronje was barred from the sport for life. He died the next year, at 32, in a plane crash in Johannesburg. Two other South African players were suspended for six months but later resumed their international careers.

Pak Sailors Thank India, On Way Home

Mateen Hafeez for The Times of India

Five Pakistani hostages, who were held captive by Somali pirates for five months and rescued by the Indian Navy, will finally leave for Pakistan on Monday. The hostages had been languishing at Yellow Gate police station after their ‘consular access’ process got stuck in diplomatic channels of the two countries.

TOI was the first to report about the hostages’ plight and the problems in the consular access programmme. A team from the Pakistani High Commission then landed up at the Yellow Gate police station and completed the formalities. Earlier, this was scheduled to be done at Tihar jail in Delhi as the hostages were wrongly labeled ‘prisoners’. The men are Aurangzeb Balloch, his brother Sajjad, Farhad Aalam Khan, Mohammed Umair and Lal Bakhsh.

“We are excited to go home. There were some problems in our travel to Pakistan but the Yellow Gate police took care of us properly. We have no words to thank the Indian police and those who helped make our journey to Pakistan easy,” said Aurangzeb, a resident of Karachi. The other hostages were also jubilant when asked about their return to Pakistan. “In the last three months we saw the lanes and bylanes of this city. It’s very similar to Karachi. The people, places, food and roads here are similar to Karachi. Initially, we were afraid that we may be kept in India, but now we have a positive feeling about this country and its people who loved us,” said Sajjad, another hostage. “We watched the World Cup matches between India and Pakistan in the police station. When India won the final against Sri Lanka, we were happy. We never faced any discrimination here,” added Lal Bakhsh.

The hostages were part of an Iranian fishing trawler, Al-Murtuza. The ship was hijacked by AK-47 borne Somali pirates from the Ballochistan sea in November. “We would get insufficient food after we were captured by the pirates,” added Farhad.

The five men were provided food, chai and clothes. Sometimes they managed to get cigarettes. The policemen even gave their phones to the hostages so they could speak to their families in Pakistan. To speed up the process to send them home, Ansar Burny, former human rights minister in Pakistan, filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt and Abraham Mathai, state minorities commission vice-chairperson, worked together. “We spoke to Gurudas Kamat, the Union minister of state for home and he arranged consular access. The process was speeded up due to his efforts,” said Bhatt.

Afridi Asks Zardari For Help

As Reported by The AFP

Former captain Shahid Afridi appealed to President Asif Ali Zardari for help on Wednesday after his central contract was suspended when he announced his retirement from international cricket. “I have appealed to the president to intervene urgently, also deal with other issues and save the game from getting into more crises,” Afridi told AFP by telephone from Southampton.

Afridi confirmed that the England and Wales Cricket Board stopped him from playing after the PCB revoked its permission.
“The captaincy was not an issue as I have already played under senior players, but it was a matter of self respect and honour which was hurt,” said Afridi who refused to speak about the PCB sanctions.

The opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party has already submitted an adjournment motion in the national assembly against Afridi’s punishment.
Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan, who now heads his own opposition party, said the PCB was not run professionally.
“The board is not run like an institution,” Khan told a television channel. “Afridi feels injustice is done so he has taken a decision and you don’t change four-five captains in a year.”

“Just recently everyone was praising Afridi after he led Pakistan to the semi-final of the World Cup and then suddenly this happened,” said Khan. “The board is also run on ad-hoc basis like the country,” he added.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which belongs to the coalition government headed by Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party, also objected to the sanctions on Afridi. “President Zardari should take notice of the biased attitude of the board,” said MQM leader Farooq Sattar. “You don’t treat national heroes like this.”

Sports Minister Shaukatullah Khan lashed out at PCB chairman Ijaz Butt over the “injustice” and said he would discuss the matter with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi, who heads the sports committee in the upper house of parliament, demanded Butt’s sacking.
“A change in the PCB is imperative,” said Qureshi. “Butt has not allowed any captain to settle so it will be better to sack him.”

The 31-year-old all-rounder, dumped as one-day captain following a row with coach Waqar Younis last month, quit international cricket in protest at his treatment by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB).
In response, the PCB suspended his central contract and revoked all his no-objection certificates, meaning he will not be officially permitted to play overseas.

The move will stop him from playing for Hampshire in England’s Twenty20 league and in next month’s Sri Lankan Premier League.
Afridi said that he came to know about his removal from the team’s captaincy through media and the board did not bother to inform him about that decision.

India’s World Cup Cricket Victory: The Measure of a Nation

By Gethin Chamberlain for The Guardian

It is 3pm in a small British bar in the tourist state of Goa about 550km south of Bombay – where the country’s cricketers are harrying Sri Lanka’s batsmen in the early overs of the World Cup final.

It is 28 years since India last won this most cherished of titles in a nation so crazy about the game. There are fewer than nine hours to go until it does so again. But we don’t know that yet.

Mohinder Amarnath, the man of the match in the 1983 World Cup, is certain, however, that the moment has arrived to repeat his team’s success. Every Indian can realise their dreams through the 11 men on the field today, he says.

He need not have worried. Corrin, the eponymous owner of the Goan bar, is reaching for a brush, and dipping it into the pot of orange acrylic paint on the table in front of her. She holds the arm of the little Indian girl in front of her, draws the first rectangle of the national flag, hands the brush to Sonny, the barman, and watches him draw the white and green stripes. The girl, the daughter of the beautician who runs the shop upstairs, beams, delighted, and skips away to show off her affirmation of support for the home team.

In the street outside, a truck thunders by, horn blaring, Indian flags fluttering in from the cab. The picture is repeated across the country; millions are glued to their televisions or radios, donning their replica shirts, daubing themselves in the national colours. India is partying; each successful delivery from its bowlers greeted by a round of beating drums. The country that has made cricket its national game is certain that this year, finally, it will capture the ultimate prize, the World Cup.

India is certain that this is no more than it is due. It has already celebrated what many in the country regard as the real final, victory over its most reviled opponent, the notoriously unpredictable – unless you happen to be a friendly bookmaker – Pakistan team, which on Wednesday managed to throw away a magnificent bowling performance to lose ignominiously.

And India was desperate for this victory; the humiliation of the Commonwealth Games corruption scandal was still fresh; the country’s recent diplomatic successes – not least towards a permanent seat on the UN Security Council – has been overshadowed by fresh concerns about its aspiration to be regarded as a first world nation.

This is a nation demanding international approval: buoyed by the news that projections now show it will overtake China as the world’s most populous nation by 2030, there is a sense that its time has come.

As Saturday dawned, prayers were said, puja [offerings to the gods] were made, anything to give the Indian team an edge. Across the country, people painted themselves in the blue of the national team strip or in the orange, white and green of the flag, and prepared to party.

Bars and hotels hiked prices and charged admission to the more rarefied environments. In many places, TV screens were set up and even when the big screen was not an option, the nation gathered anywhere that a television was on, peering over each other’s shoulders to catch a glimpse of the match.

In Corrins’, even Sonny was applauding as Sri Lanka upped the ante in their final overs, smashing the ball hither and thither. Then a nation of – according to the new census figures – 1.2 billion fell silent as top batsman Sehwag fell to the second ball of the Indian innings.

Yet important as the game was, some felt that there was a sense of anticlimax after the Pakistan game. “The excitement among people is lacking,” Manoj Kumar, a hotel manager, told the Times of India.

Not so among the Sri Lankans, who had sidled into the final without the fireworks of the Indian progress. Captain Kumar Sangakkara pulled no punches when he explained what it meant to a country even more desperate for international approval after the end of three decades of bloody civil war: “It means everything. We have come through a very tough period. A lot of people have laid down lives for our country. In this new future, hopefully we can take home the World Cup, and that will be even more occasion for celebration.”

Gautam Gambhir, the Indian batsman who stabilised the nation’s innings after the loss of influential opener Sehwag, was no less compelling when he told a news channel that India had to win to honour the dead of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai: “For me it will be dedicated to the people who lost their lives in the 26/11 massacre.”

For India, the desire to be taken seriously by other nations in sport is perhaps more important than diplomatic point-scoring. Like its neighbour China, it has been unable to translate a mass of bodies into international sporting success. In terms of international trade, it has come on in leaps and bounds, yet still it is unable to project that power into other fields.

Such desperation for success was reflected in the way many in the country fell back on superstition in their desire to ensure success. One fan, Ritangshu Bhattacharya, from Delhi, assured journalists that he would be attempting to tip the odds in India’s favour by defying nature: “I won’t pee in the entire match… I feel whenever I go to the loo, a wicket falls or India drops a catch.”

Even his stoicism was outdone by one politician from the state of Madhya Pradesh, who stood from 10am to 10pm during the India-Pakistan match.

In Corrins’, there is no doubt about who should have won: “You have to support the team, don’t you?,” she said. “We live here, we have to support the local team, however it goes.”

It is 10.45pm, and MS Dhoni, the Indian captain, is hammering the ball to the boundary again. Six to win, two overs. There are fireworks going off everywhere, drowning out the commentary. India knows it has won. It is the Pakistan game all over again: victory from defeat, India defiant.

Six runs, and he smacks it over the boundary. The fireworks explode. In the cities, there is madness; in the villages, too, people are hugging and screaming. The firecrackers are exploding, the night a blur of colour. India wins.

India, Pakistan back to bickering after Mohali bonhomie

As Reported by IBN Live

India and Pakistan had a brief bout of acrimony with both complaining that a staffer each posted at their diplomatic missions in Islamabad and New Delhi respectively were detained by the host country and later let off.

While Pakistan today claimed that a driver of its mission in New Delhi was “arrested” for unspecified reasons on Wednesday, the Ministry of External Affairs took up the matter of a ‘missing’ Indian High Commission official in Islamabad. “A driver from the High Commission was arrested. (He) has been released. We have protested,” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua told PTI in Islamabad, without giving details.

However, sources in New Delhi said that on Wednesday evening a Pakistani High Commission driver was seen near the Chandigarh cantonment area and when confronted, he tried to escape. “In the process, he sustained some bruises/injury on his knee and back. He was questioned and thereafter released.Before being released, a medical check-up was conducted which showed him in good health,” sources told PTI.

Just hours after the incident, an official in Indian High Commission went ‘missing’ in Islamabad, sources said, adding there was no immediate official confirmation on his whereabouts from the Pakistan side. However, the media reported detention of the Indian official, prompting Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to take up the matter with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir. “Apart from Indian High Commission raising the issue with Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad, the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi took up the issue with Pakistan High Commission seeking the safety, security and well-being of the Indian official,” sources said.

The official was later handed over to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, sources said. Though the sources did not divulge the name of the Indian official, some reports identified him as Anand Sharma, working in the consular section of the High Commission.

The incident involving the Pakistani driver occurred at a time when the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan were in Mohali, holding “extremely positive” conversation on the sidelines of the pulsating cricket World Cup semi-final between the two countries. The incident of the Indian official was being seen as a tit-for-tat to the Chandigarh incident.

Tendulkar leads India past Pakistan, to World Cup final

As Reported by The Japan Times

A lucky 85 from Sachin Tendulkar was followed by a disciplined bowling effort as India beat Pakistan by 29 runs in a high-stakes semifinal Wednesday to progress to the World Cup final against Sri Lanka.

Pakistan was dismissed for 231 in the last over chasing 261, sparking wild celebrations among the 28,000 people inside the Punjab Cricket Association Stadium and across the nation of more than 1 billion people.

Pakistan had done well earlier to peg India back to 260-9 after Virender Sehwag’s flying start, with left-arm pace bowler Wahab Riaz taking a career-best 5-46.

The victory continued a streak for India, which has beaten Pakistan in all five World Cup head-to-heads dating back to 1992.

The game was touted as a duel between India’s batting lineup and Pakistan’s bowling attack, but Pakistan’s shoddy fielding was eventually the difference between the two sides.

Tendulkar was let off four times, giving him the opportunity to knit together a challenging total for India and the bowlers then ensured a third World Cup final appearance for the 1983 champion.

“Going back to Mumbai, especially for this event, is a wonderful occasion,” Tendulkar said of playing a World Cup final on his home ground. “All I want to say is, we want to be calm, focus on our job and get the job done.”

India piled the pressure on a Pakistan batting lineup which failed to produce a single century in the tournament.

Pakistan’s early promise was slowed down in the middle overs as Yuvraj made early inroads and the bowlers slowly took control, marshaled well by captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni. All five Indian bowlers finished with two wickets each.

The only time Pakistan looked capable of the chase was when openers Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez were at the crease.

Kamran Akmal slashed a ball from Zaheer Khan straight to Yuvraj at point after making 19, while Hafeez went for an unnecessary scoop off Munaf Patel and was caught behind for 43.

Yuvraj then dismissed Asad Shafiq and Younis Khan and Pakistan was reduced to 106-4 by the 26th over.

Umar Akmal added some interest with a 24-ball 29 and Misbah-ul-Haq made a late charge of 56, but with the ball not coming on to the bat too well later in the day, it was always going to be difficult for them.

“I want to say sorry to my nation. We tried our level best,” Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi said. “I want to congratulate the Indian cricket and all of the Indian nation for this great victory. We wish them well in the final.”

In the first innings, Riaz exposed India’s traditional weakness against left-arm seamers, striking at crucial junctures. He accounted for a dangerous looking Sehwag (38) and an in-form Yuvraj for a first-ball duck, as the famed Indian batting struggled against his swing.

Pakistan also made Tendulkar wait for his 100th international century despite dropping the world’s best batsman four times. Tendulkar also had an lbw decision overturned on referral and survived a close stumping appeal in what has to be one of his luckiest innings ever.

Tendulkar faced 115 balls and hit 11 fours even as Riaz pegged back the Indian middle order with the dismissals of Virat Kohli (nine) and Yuvraj off successive deliveries.

Time For World, ICC To Realise Significance of Pak-India Cricket

By Ramiz Raja for Dawn

The stakes are massive, the pressure unbearable and Mohali is burning with Pak-India fever. As if the contest needed more spice, we now have the small matter of two prime ministers catching up with each other at the ground, looking to de freeze the bilateral dialogue over cricket diplomacy.

The world is seeing the power of India-Pakistan cricket. All those people in positions, who were cold and indifferent towards it, are now queueing up to use the occasion to cash in. The governments, the media and the ICC have been given enough evidence in the past also of the unfathomable strength of Indo-Pak match-up, to know that uncoupling the two can mean a turbulent world and a colorless cricket calendar. Yet, all of them allowed the most passionate cricket duel to get stuck by petty politics.

The game at Mohali can have significant repercussions for the players. A loss will be remembered like a tsunami aftermath. On the other hand, a win can, like a wedding video, linger on the minds for eternity. A performance against India is never forgotten and that’s such a strong point to motivate the players and deflect pressure. This game is all about nerves and who jangles them first. The greater the wait the higher the anxiety and it’s been a long break for both teams.

Listening to cricket pundits on channels, calling home to impress the folks that all is under control and filling the fans with high hopes must be taking a toll on the system. The players would be desperate to go out in the middle to settle the racket in the mind and settle the issue on the field.

People fear the Indian crowd and how their pressure will play up on the players. From playing in India I know that the one sided pro India crowd can in fact give you a high because you are fighting them against the odds, and draw from experience the moments when you have beaten them.

It’s such a great feeling when you box them into dead silence, stroke after stroke! I am sure most of our players have sampled that experience and will be motivated to repeat it for their fans.

Captains, at times, worry in normal situations about lack of effort and skill from the team. Afridi will not have any such issues at Mohali. The game gets raised by the players who tend to play above themselves against India. The captain has to remain cool and, in any eventuality, remain dignified. At the end of the day it’s only a game of cricket.

We may or may not win this but our team has certainly won the hearts of the people. Whether they go to Mumbai or Karachi, we need to give them a heroes welcome for they have bonded us together as one!

— The writer is a former Pakistan captain.

How Can India Beat Pakistan?

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

It’s the million dollar question that a billion people are asking: How can India beat Pakistan? Setting aside the obvious answers such as score more runs and get more wickets, there are some key areas where India can gain an advantage over its fiercest rival.

Indian and Pakistani cricket fans with a replica of the Cricket World Cup trophy. Unsettle Shahid Afridi – Pakistan’s captain has been an inspirational presence at this World Cup. He is the tournament’s leading wicket taker, with 21 scalps already to his name, comfortably ahead of the second-top bowler, India’s Zaheer Khan on 17. Afridi oozes charisma but he is prone to tantrums – it’s not uncommon seeing him shouting at teammates when things go wrong in the field, as is all too often the case with Pakistan – so India should try to frustrate him. Afridi is the nerve center of the Pakistan team, and if he is exasperated then negativity will spread to the other players.

Nullify Umar Gul – Afridi may have taken the most wickets, but Gul has been Pakistan’s most lethal pace bowler and looks on top of his game with 14 wickets (joint fifth with South Africa’s Imran Tahir in the tournament rankings). Gul has been so important to Pakistan’s campaign, particularly bearing in mind the team was stripped of two key bowling assets – Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir – ahead of the World Cup. The track at Mohali should favor pace bowlers over spin (will this mean we’ll see the Rawalpindi Express Shoaib Akhtar?), so the Pakistanis will be heavily reliant on another good showing from Gul, who has been effective with both the new and the old ball. If India’s excellent batsmen can nullify the ever aggressive Gul, Pakistan’s armory will be significantly weakened.

Silence Younis Khan – The big-hitting middle-order batsman has had a relatively quiet World Cup by his standards, scoring 172 runs in six innings, though that includes a 72 against a very fine Sri Lanka. He often saves his best for India so the co-hosts should be on guard if or when he comes to the crease. Out of his six career centuries, three have been made against India, including one at Mohali, the venue for Wednesday’s semifinal. India will do well to keep him contained.

Bat to Potential – India has a wonderful batting lineup but there’s a nagging feeling we haven’t seen the best of it at this World Cup. Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Yuvraj Singh are among the tournament’s top 10 run scorers, but India’s other batsmen haven’t consistently backed up the trio’s good work. Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni hasn’t done much at all with the bat – his top score so far is 34 – though he has often come to the crease when his only option was to have a bit of a slog. All the batsmen in this star-studded lineup will need to play at least one great innings if India is to beat Pakistan and go on to win the World Cup final in Mumbai on April 2.

Support Zaheer Khan – India’s bowling was seen as a weakness at the start of this World Cup and it remains a concern. Zaheer Khan has been a revelation but the other pace bowlers need to give him better support. Munaf Patel was targeted by the Australians, particularly Brad Haddin, and it will be interesting to see if India’s coach Gary Kirsten selects him for the semifinal. Shanthakumaran Sreesanth and Ashish Nehra could get a call-up, but both have had their problems this tournament. Left-armer Nehra was hurt in the match against South Africa when he failed to defend 13 runs in the final over, while Sreesanth hasn’t featured since the opening match against Bangladesh when he returned disappointing figures of 0 for 53 from just five overs.

Kamran Akmal – It’s harsh to single out the Pakistani wicket-keeper, but he is prone to lapses that make him look like he has smeared his gloves in butter. Akmal put in a much improved performance in the quarterfinal against the West Indies, but India will be hoping he has another bad day at the office and gives the hosts a few reprieves.

Ignore the hype – Ok, that’s like telling a skydiver to relax and enjoy the view after his parachute has failed, but India must try to focus on the task at hand and not get carried away by the enormity of this match and the weight of expectation from a billion or so fans.

And how can Pakistan beat India?

Hide Sachin Tendulkar’s bat.

Also, Pakistan needs to silence the home crowd. The stadium in Mohali is small, with capacity for only 27,500 spectators, but they’ll be so loud it’ll seem like there are 10 times that many people. If Pakistan gets some early wickets or an early batting partnership, the home crowd will become restless and that will put India under pressure. Pakistan has the quality and talent to beat the best in the world, but it’s the kind of side that needs momentum and confidence. That will come if the team unsettles India early in the match.

Still, hiding Tendulkar’s bat wouldn’t be a bad tactic. And while they’re at it, they should probably take Sehwag’s and Yuvraj’s too.

India vs Pakistan – much more than just a game

By Anand Philar for Sify

With one stroke, India banished the ghosts of the 2003 final and the fantastic win at Motera virtually ended an era of Aussie dominance. Earlier this year, Ponting’s men lost the Ashes and now the World Cup, but like all great players, Punter left an indelible mark on the tournament with a century in what probably was his last CWC game.

While we rejoice the Indian win, let us show some grace and salute the Aussies for their achievements on the field that, sadly, has been sullied by the behaviour of some of the players. The sheer outpouring of emotions by Yuvraj and Raina after the winning boundary hit was indicative of the value the Indian team attaches to any win against the Aussies. Yes, it is always special to beat a top side even if it is on its way down.

India vs Australia: Turning point and Top performers

If anybody thought Australia are the favourites to win the Cup, then such presumption was based on the team’s track record of three consecutive triumphs, two of them under Ponting’s captaincy. As it turned out, pace, hitherto Australia’s biggest weapon, was unable to deliver and the absence of a quality spinner, much less a pair of them, eventually hurt them far more than their opponents.

On a Motera pitch that was on the slower side and assisting spin, the Aussies went at the Indians with a bevy of fast bowlers hoping to exploit the well-known weakness against the rising delivery. It was a ploy that boomeranged on the Aussies whose lone specialist spinner Krejza was just about club standard.

The fact that the three Aussie slow bowlers Krejza, Clarke and Hussey, sent down only 17 overs as against 33 by their Indian counterparts accurately reflects the difference in approach of the two teams. I feel that proved to be the decisive factor.

I am sure, Ponting would have given his arm to have a Shane Warne bowling during the Yuvraj-Raina partnership that eventually turned the game around for India or for that matter a Hayden or Gilchrist to light up their fragile batting.

India end Australia`s 12-year reign to reach semis

So, having lost to the two top sub-continental sides, Pakistan (in the league phase) and India, the Aussies return home well and truly beaten, leaving the two neighbours in a face-off at Mohali next week.

Although the Pakistanis also have beaten the Aussies, the Indian win came under far greater pressure and in a knock-out situation that offered no safety net. As such, I would rate the Motera win much higher than the one in Colombo where the Aussies fell for 176 to Pakistani spinners.

Of course, all that is history now that India and Pakistan clash at Mohali in a game that can be equated to a Brazil vs Argentina football game in terms of interest, rivalry and of course, the immense pressure on the teams to deliver.

For all that, I will still back India who I feel are better equipped than Pakistan, be it in batting or bowling with the teams being on par at fielding. The spin quotient virtually gets negated since it is a staple diet for the rival batsmen while it is not as if the two teams have a Lee or a Tait or a Johnson in their ranks to trouble anyone with searing pace. It is India’s superior batting line-up that could well tilt the scales.

Further, it will also boil down to the collective character and resilience to withstand the pressure of expectations. I have covered more than my share of Indo-Pak sporting encounters in some of the major sports to say that the levels of passion and emotions among the rival players defy words. You have to be in it to know it.

Since the rivalry between the two neighbours transcends sports and given the historical political enmity (never mind the diplomatic mumbo-jumbo to the contrary), even a sporting victory or defeat that is a mere pinhead in the big picture of life, triggers mass euphoria as if it were a Kargil.

The players themselves might not admit it in public, but the irrefutable fact is the adrenaline rush is greater and the emotions are on the boil among the contestants. It will never be ”just another game” regardless of at what stage the two teams meet and it being a World Cup semi-final, one can imagine the pressure on the players.

World Cup 2011

Under the circumstances, the saying that cricket is played more in the mind than on the field cannot be any truer in an Indo-Pak contest. We have said this before, but needs to be reiterated that ultimately, the team that blinks first will lose. The cricketing aspects such as team combination, technique, strategy and what have you, are secondary.

In effect, the stakes, like it or not, admit it or not, are much more than cricketing gains or losses. So, tighten your seatbelts and on to Mohali!

Pakistan Destroys the West Indies

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

So much for close contests in the World Cup quarterfinals. In the first knock-out match Wednesday, Pakistan thrashed the West Indies by 10 wickets thanks to an inspirational bowling performance spearheaded by Mohammad Hafeez (2 for 16) and captain Shahid Afridi (4 for 30).

The West Indies batsmen were simply unable to cope with Pakistani spin, slumping to 111 all out – the team’s third-worst batting performance in World Cup history.

In one dramatic spell, the West Indies went from an already troubling 69 for 4 to an utterly disastrous 71 for 8 as Afridi & Co. showed no mercy (much like the dreaded advertisements on television after every wicket).

Afridi’s bowling at this tournament has been phenomenal. He is easily the top bowler with a handsome tally of 21 wickets, and his trademark celebration – arms outstretched with his two index fingers pointing to the heavens – could very well be the lasting image of the 2011 World Cup.

The West Indies team looked out of the game as soon as danger man Chris Gayle was caught by Afridi for eight. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, recalled to the team for the quarterfinal, was the only player to offer any real resistance, but he still couldn’t score fast enough and was left stranded on 44 not out at the end of the innings.

It took Pakistan just under 21 overs to reach the West Indies’ meek total, without the loss of a single wicket. Fresh from his great bowling performance, Hafeez clubbed 61 runs, while much improved wicket-keeper Kamran Akmal notched up 47. The two simply poured buckets of salt in weeping West Indian wounds.

It was humiliating for the West Indies. Not only did it mark the end of the team’s World Cup campaign, the abject performance could also have tragically hammered yet another nail into the coffin of Caribbean cricket. Despite its gloriously rich history, the sport there has been in rapid decline for more than a decade and the team’s latest efforts won’t have helped a bit.

But credit must go to Pakistan. If the team continues to play like this, Pakistan will win the World Cup. These players have to contend with so much more than other sportsmen – from the security situation back home to the involvement of former teammates in betting scandals. So while Wednesday’s match was depressing for the West Indies, for Pakistan, it was truly inspirational. And what better a day for it than March 23 – Pakistan’s Republic Day – which commemorates the signing of the Lahore Resolution back in 1940.

One more thing: If Australia loses tomorrow, we can look forward to the mother of all World Cup semifinals – India vs. Pakistan in Mohali on March 30.

Whisper it, but it’s surely destined to be.

Pakistan Snaps Australia’s 34-Match Unbeaten Run

By Shihar Aneez for The Los Angeles Times

Australia’s 34-match unbeaten run in the Cricket World Cup dating back to 1999 was finally broken by Pakistan on Saturday when Ricky Ponting’s team were beaten by four wickets.

Australia, who have won the last three World Cups during the run and were unbeaten in five matches in Group A in this tournament, were skittled out for 176.

Pace bowler Brett Lee raised hopes of an Australian fightback when he got rid of opener Mohammad Hafeez in the third over but his haul of four for 28 could not prevent Pakistan from cruising to victory with 54 balls to spare.

“We certainly had a tough game today. We didn’t do ourselves any favours. I thought our batting effort was particularly ordinary,” said Ponting, who suffered his first World Cup defeat as captain.

“We stuck at it really well with the ball. I thought the guys bowled really well and gave ourselves a bit of a sniff when we got them six down but not enough runs on the board.”

Saturday’s result threw the tournament wide open as there is no undefeated team left in the competition heading into next week’s knockout stages.

Australia had already qualified for the quarter-finals but will now finish third in the group rather than top, a place now occupied by Pakistan.

“It’s a different sort of enjoyment playing against Australia. They may be World Champions but there was no pressure on us so we pulled it off today,” Umar Akmal said after finishing unbeaten on 44.

Ponting’s men struggled for momentum through out their innings after opting to bat first.

Pakistan’s pace and spin attack, backed up by sharp fielding, never allowed the Australian batting to settle down.

A 63-run second wicket stand between Brad Haddin (42) and Ponting (19), who failed once again with the bat, was the only notable partnership in the Australian innings.

Michael Clarke (34) and Steve Smith (25) were the only other batsmen to make any worthwhile contributions on a difficult surface that offered spin and some uneven bounce which the Australian batsmen failed to cope with.

Paceman Umar Gul (3-30) bowled superbly with both the new and the old ball for the 1992 champions, who were the last team to defeat Australia in a World Cup match in 1999.

Gul made the first breakthrough by bowling Shane Watson for nine and returned to clean up the tail by taking the wickets of Jason Krezja and Lee.

Can Pakistan Tame Australia?

By Will Davies for The Wall Street Journal

Saturday’s Group A match between Pakistan and Australia is a tough one to predict, as is generally the case when Pakistan plays. One team – Australia – epitomizes consistency and solidity, while the other – Pakistan – is about as well-adjusted and reliable as a moody teenager.

On its day, Pakistan is one of the best sides at this World Cup, but on other occasions the team looks disorganized and uninterested. That’s one of the reasons why Pakistan is such a fascinating team to watch – you never quite know what you’re going to get.

This unpredictability can work in its favor as opponents struggle to form and stick to a game plan. Of all the sides at the World Cup, Australia is the most capable of dealing with Pakistan’s maverick approach, but it will have to tread carefully and blow off the rust that has tinged its performances thus far.

If the likes of Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Akhtar – two players who are such fun to watch – perform well, then Pakistan is in with a chance of upsetting Australia in Colombo and ending its incredible 34-match unbeaten run in World Cup cricket.

Australia has been prowling quietly but menacingly on the verges of this tournament, snapping up victims, while other teams – particularly in Group B – struggle to gain momentum and avoid upsets. But the Australians aren’t the threat they once were, and their World Cup record looks more vulnerable than in previous tournaments when the team boasted superstars like the Waugh brothers, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Adam Gilchrist.

Australia’s captain Ricky Ponting is out of sorts with the bat and angry in the field. It looked like he was ready to thump Steven Smith when his teammate bumped into him as he took a catch in Wednesday’s match against Canada.

Smith is looking increasingly at ease in the Australian squad, but he’d do well to tread a little carefully, particularly when near Ponting’s toes. The Sydney-born youngster is a player of great promise and is now a regular in the Australian team, but he is yet to really shine. He needs a big performance, otherwise he risks slipping into nearly-man territory.

Pakistan has had its ups and downs this World Cup, from the heights of beating Sri Lanka to the lows of collapsing against New Zealand and a Ross Taylor batting onslaught. Australia beat New Zealand convincingly, while the match against Sri Lanka was cut short by a huge thunderstorm, an unfortunate outcome as the game was shaping up nicely and Australia, for once, looked like it had a tough opponent to deal with.

The weather forecast for tomorrow isn’t promising, but hopefully the rain will stay away from Colombo as matches between teams like Australia and Pakistan are the big occasions that make the World Cup so special.

Bangladesh Stun England in Chittagong Thriller

By Azad Majumdar for Reuters News Agency

Two unheralded Bangladeshi tail-enders with ice in their veins played the innings of their lives to subject England to yet another giant-killing act on Friday.

Shafiul Islam (24) and Mahmudullah (21) defied the nerve-jangling pressure to forge an unbeaten 58-run ninth wicket stand to complete a two-wicket Group B victory that even their captain did not think they could pull off.

“I never believed they can win it for us. It’s only after hitting the winning run that I believed they have done this,” said Bangladesh skipper Shakib Al Hasan, whose house was stoned by irate fans after the team’s defeat by West Indies last week.

At 169-8, Bangladesh’s chase for a 226-run victory target on a tricky track looked so doomed that even some of their ardent followers exited the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium shaking their heads, not realising the drama that was about to unfold.

Aided by England’s profligate bowlers who conceded 33 extras, including 23 wides, in the see-saw contest, both the tail-enders kept going before Mahmudullah drove Tim Bresnan through covers to seal the match with one over to spare and trigger wild celebrations.

Tamim Iqbal (38), Imrul Kayes (60) and Shakib (32) chipped in with useful cameos but Shafiul and Mahmudullah were the toast of the nation.

Wary of the dew factor, Shakib won a good toss and opted to field and he had reasons to feel vindicated when the English bowlers struggled to grip the wet ball in the evening.

England’s batting was also inconsistent and if it had not been for the knocks by Jonathan Trott (67) and Eoin Morgan (63), they might not have even scored 225 all out.

They looked completely shackled by the home team bowlers, managing just four boundaries in the first 20 overs.

Once again, they could not make the most of their batting powerplay either, managing just 33 runs and losing two wickets.

MISSED OPPORTUNITY
Defending a below-par total, English bowlers seemed to have turned the table on their hosts before being thwarted by Bangladesh’s spectacular rearguard resistance.

“We are very disappointed, it was a missed opportunity for us,” rued England skipper Andrew Strauss, admitting problems both in the batting and bowling departments.

Consistency has been a real problem for the team which narrowly escaped an upset against the Netherlands, tied with India, went down to Ireland before losing to Bangladesh here.

“These defeats hurt, there’s no doubt about it,” said Strauss, whose side could have sealed a place in the last eight if they had won Friday’s match.

“But you’ve got to channel that frustration and make sure you channel it the right way and come out and beat the next side you’re playing against. It’s a big game for us (against the West Indies) and we’re going to have to win it.”

England now need to win their final match against the West Indies on March 17 to be sure of a quarter-final place while Bangladesh next face Netherlands on Monday and then South Africa on March 19. Wins would take them through.

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