Posts Tagged ‘ Pakistani Cricket ’

The Khan of the Season

BY E. Shahid for The Khaleej Times

When Imran Khan is around, there are more jealous husbands than worried batsmen. The famous remark made about the handsome Pathan cricketer, who took the subcontinent by storm in the 1970s and 80s, is symptomatic of the aura of the man that transcended sporting excellence. Despite the fierce cricketing rivalry, Imran was admired both in India and Pakistan, and continues to be a revered figure across the world of cricket.
Intensity and self-belief stood out in his performances on the field and charisma and poise surrounded him off it. Imran added virtues of honesty and missionary zeal to his personality when he single-handedly launched a cancer hospital for the poor and, more recently, a rural university in Pakistan. With his coming of age in the world of politics, it appears that the same set of qualities will hold him in good stead. Or is it?

To an outsider uninformed about the intricacies and conspiracy theories of Pakistani politics, Imran brings a breath of fresh air. He offers a glimmer of hope to an embattled country and a much needed respite from its present set of politicians. He combines neo-liberal political thought with a comprehensive worldview, traditional approach and a clean image in the face of rampant corruption. As a package, he promises a political transformation that can be invested in.

It appears that Imran has managed to bring a fragmented country under one umbrella defying the politics of identity, regionalism, sectarianism and even feudalism. He appears to have appealed to all segments of the society at least across a large swath of urban population, especially the youth who hold key to the future.

Imran has lured into his fold senior statesmen, veteran politicians, some even controversial ones, artists and army men. If the grapevine is to be believed, Imran Khan’s biggest catch is going to be former army general and President Pervez Musharraf, who is also trying to make a comeback into Pakistan politics.

Imran’s political discourse has also matured. In his public speeches, he stresses on programmes and policies and seems to have prescriptions for most ills facing the country, especially its ailing economy. If all this is taken at face value, Imran Khan is a godsend not just for Pakistan but also for the neighbourhood and the region as a whole.

Interestingly, not everyone is willing to label this as genuine transformation. People who matter – namely Pakistanis in and outside the country – often take disparaging positions on the subject. An Abu Dhabi taxi driver who hails from Swat valley paints a completely different picture from that of a Karachiite IT professional working in Dubai Media City.

One such individual says the rise of Imran is ‘escapism’ on a mass scale. Expecting an ‘elitist’ like him to change things is superficial, even idealistic, way of looking at the state of affairs in Pakistan. The argument is that Imran only promises to be a messiah and doesn’t have the wherewithal to become one.

The bottom line is that a lot of Pakistanis still do not see Imran’s upsurge as change, a positive one at that, and unless a majority believes in this change, it is going to be a futile exercise. There are bound to be differences of opinion but stakeholders must see change as a necessity and not necessarily as a means to an end. Pontification apart, outside perspective on Pakistan will always be interesting because it will reflect what the country should be instead of what it really is and is going to be. Unfortunately, the response usually ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous and is seldom a balanced one.

Imran is not making waves as a run-of-the-mill politician. Far from it, he is promising change in Pakistan and change doesn’t come easy. There is a natural resistance to such transformation, especially in a country where change has meant military rule or martial law. Imran is bound to make mistakes in the process but by putting faith in him the country would have at least tried and failed instead of reposing faith in those who breed inequality and deliver squalor.

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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.

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.

New Zealand Thrash Pakistan in Cricket ODI

As Reported by The Associated Press

A five-wicket haul for Tim Southee and a blistering 55 by Jesse Ryder saw New Zealand shatter an 11-match losing streak in style with a nine-wicket win over Pakistan in their one-day match Saturday.

New Zealand were so dominant in the opening ODI of the six-match series that they took just 17.2 overs with the bat to wrap up the match after whipping Pakistan out for 124 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington.

Under pressure to perform after being whitewashed in successive series against Bangladesh and India, New Zealand rejigged their batting order with swashbuckling opener Brendon McCullum dropped down to number six.

The aim was to give New Zealand strength at the top and tail but McCullum never reached the wicket as his regular opening partner Jesse Ryder carved up the Pakistan attack in a whirlwind reply to an ineffective performance.

The only success for Pakistan was when captain Shahid Afridi won the toss and opted to bat, their day going downhill from there.
The Pakistan innings lasted just 37.3 overs and the outcome was almost inevitable once Ryder opened up in the fifth over of New Zealand’s innings, taking 17 off Shoaib Akhtar including two fours and a six.

He made his 55 in only 34 balls in a batting display which complemented the bowling of 22-year-old Southee, who assumed the role of New Zealand’s senior quick for the first time and claimed his first ODI five-wicket bag.

New Zealand skipper Daniel Vettori said it was good to snap the losing streak and full credit had to go to man-of-the-match Southee.
“It was a good win for us after a long time. Tim Southee set it up for us with his swing,” he said, leaving Afridi to rue an ineffective batting performance by his side.
“I think the pitch was very good. I don’t think that was a bad decision batting first. We were missing partnerships.”
Southee destroyed Pakistan in three spells in which he ripped out the top order, came back to break up the middle and returned again to wrap up the innings.

His figures of five for 33 from 9.3 overs were backed up by three for 26 for Hamish Bennett, playing in only his third ODI and first at home, and two for 33 by the veteran Jacob Oram. Only Misbah-ul-Haq produced an innings of substance for Pakistan, reaching 50 before he was bowled by Southee to end the innings.

But the New Zealand openers Ryder and Martin Guptill showed there were no demons in the wicket as they put on 84 in 10 overs before Ryder’s departure. Ryder brought up his 50 edging Abdul Razzaq for a single and in the following over took a single off Sohail Tanvir before attempting to pick up the pace again.

He smacked another four and then went for back-to-back boundaries only to pull the ball straight to Asad Shafiq on the mid-wicket boundary.
Guptill, averaging almost a run a ball, made an unbeaten 40 but it was Ross Taylor, promoted to number three in the new-look New Zealand batting line up, who stroked the winning single, finishing on 23.

Pakistan’s innings was shaky from the start with Mohammad Hafeez dropped by McCullum in the first over, but falling soon after when he edged an outswinger from Southee.

It was the start of a penetrating period for Southee in which he took the wickets of Kamran Akmal (eight) and Asad Shafiq (four) to take three for 16 from his first spell of six overs, leaving Pakistan 32-3.

Younis Khan and Misbah-ul-Haq, who provided the backbone of each Pakistan innings in the Tests, set about repairing the situation but had added only 28 for the fourth wicket when Bennett struck.

He had Younis caught behind for 24 and then dismissed Umar Akmal with his next delivery, caught at second slip by Taylor. Shahid Afridi avoided the hat-trick but was dismissed by Southee in his second spell to have Pakistan 88-6 before the quick ended the Pakistan innings in his third turn with the ball by bowling Misbah. The second match in the series is in Queenstown on Wednesday.

Cross-Border Unions: How Indo-Pakistani Marriages Prosper

By Vinita Bharadwaj for The National-UAE

While relations between their countries may be at an all-time low, Indians and Pakistanis who marry each other often find extended family ties confound their nations’ mutual hostility.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that when two South Asians wed, they not only marry each other, they also marry into each other’s family.

And family matters between Indians and Pakistanis might be expected to be highly charged, given those two countries’ mutual antipathy for more than 60 years.

“When an Indian marries a Pakistani, it’s a loaded event that can only be matched by the energy of a cricket match between the two countries,” says Amra Hyder, a Pakistani.

The partition of British India into Pakistan and India is historically recorded as the largest human migration ever. It displaced millions and forced people of a common culture to choose a new geography and subscribe overnight to the idea of previously non-existent nations.

Most tragically, it split families. The ghosts of the 1947 partition loom large in the psyches of both countries’ modern histories that include three wars, a continuing dispute over Kashmir and terrorism.

Amra is originally from Pakistan and is married to Zulfiqar Hyder, who hails from India. Amra and Zulfiqar, now Canadian citizens, have lived in Sharjah with their four children since 2006.

In 1992, when the gregarious, romantic 23-year-old Amra married the 33-year old Zulfiqar, a studious man from India, she did not quite know what to expect – from married life, her in-laws and most importantly, her husband’s country. “I also never would have imagined I would be apologetic for both countries’ ridiculous obsession with ‘Shonia’,” she says of the media brouhaha over the recent nuptials of the Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik and the Indian tennis player Sania Mirza.

For long before the Malik-Mirza marriage, thousands of Indians and Pakistanis, mostly from families divided by the 1947 partition, have been marrying each other.

The difference is that now these marital alliances are formed outside the extended family circuit. Amra and Zulfiqar did not have an arranged marriage, and neither of them had any intention of settling in either India or Pakistan. They opted to overcome predictable visa hassles by initially residing in the UAE soon after their wedding, and migrated to Canada in 1996 to obtain citizenship, in the hope that it would ease their trips between India and Pakistan.

 
Masooma Syed, from Lahore, met her Keralan husband Sumedh Rajendran at an artists’ residency programme in Delhi. ‘I knew he understood me perfectly.’ Charla Jones

The couple first met in Abu Dhabi at a mutual friend’s party, and married within a year. The wedding took place in Karachi, with Zulfiqar’s entire family flying in from the northern Indian city of Lucknow. “It was a lovely wedding,” Amra recalls, adding that the questioning – albeit, in jest – began soon after they were married. “It was like, ‘Now you’re an Indian daughter-in-law’ and ‘Who will you support in cricket’ or even ‘Who will you support in war’?”

Her response was simple. “I married an Indian, not India. Having said that, I have been welcomed so warmly and given unbelievable respect by Indians, whenever I visit. My relationship with the people, I cherish. The politics, I don’t care for.”

Amra grew up in Abu Dhabi and returned to Lahore for university. Her childhood perception of Indians was to lump them all as people from the Southern Indian state of Kerala. “It was so wrong,” she says regretfully admitting to an error of judgment on her part, “but I honestly never really gave it any thought.” Although her grandfather was an active political leader – initially in the Indian independence struggle and later in the Muslim League, which pressed for Pakistan’s creation – she was uninterested in matters of politics.

On numerous trips to Northern India in the last 18 years, Amra has returned amazed by the cultural similarities she has observed between Indians – including non-Muslims – and her community in Pakistan. “We speak the same kind of language, we appreciate the same food, we like the same clothes, we place the same importance on family values. We even share similar pre-wedding festivities. It’s hardly an alien experience,” she says.

The differences were more to do with class and little do with the country. “Compared to my husband’s childhood, mine was very privileged. He is a self-made man and has single-handedly contributed to his family’s success. If I had to get used to anything, it was holidaying in a home that would experience power cuts and water shortages.”

Amra and Zulfiqar’s children – Hira (17), Anum (13), Zahra (11) and Ali (10) – describe themselves as desi, a generic, originally sanskrit, term used by South Asian immigrants that loosely denotes their origins. They are an animated group and debate the definition of desi among themselves, as their parents look on proudly. The conclusion: among younger generations in urban settings, desi communities have spawned a culture bound by a fondness for Bollywood, cricket, South Asian food and fused elements of their upbringing at home with the globalised, western outlook they are exposed to outside.

Having said that, India and Pakistan enjoy enormous cultural riches – largely attributable to their ethnic, regional and linguistic diversity. Both countries together are akin to the European Union – with each of their provinces having their own quirks, tastes and sensibilities. These subtleties within communities are apparent when embedded among the people in their own land.

Shadab Raza, from Lucknow, India, his Pakistani wife Sana Zehri and their six-year-old son Ali have relatives on both sides of the border. ‘There’s never been this India-Pakistan mentality in our families,’ Shadab said. Siddharth Siva / Arabian Eye

Masooma Syed, an artist from Lahore, lives in Delhi with her husband Sumedh Rajendran, also an artist, but from the south of India. They were introduced to each other at an artists’ residency programme in the Indian capital Delhi in 2003. Following that, they would arrange to meet in Manchester, Sri Lanka and New York before finally geting married in July 2008.

Their cultural backgrounds could not be more different, as are their temperaments and artistic styles. “And yet, I knew he understood me perfectly,” says Masooma of the decision to marry across the border and step into the cumbersome world of visas, soon after exchanging wedding vows in Sri Lanka.

“We never thought about a third country [to live in]. Sumedh has lived in Delhi for the last 15 years and I’ve had absolutely no problem in adjusting to living here. It’s just like Lahore. Ironically, I find Sumedh is more of a foreigner in his own country’s capital than I am. We have discussed moving to a neutral country, especially if visa regulations became tighter, but then as artists all our inspirations stem from this region. Relocating would uproot those emotions and we wonder what impact that would have on our work.”

Kerala, where Sumedh is from, however, is an altogether different milieu. “The first time Masooma visited, she was stunned,” says Sumedh.

“I thought to myself, how lucky am I to be able to see and discover these different facets of India,” she says recalling her reaction to the abundant greenery, the aromatic spices, the swaying coconut palms and the simple people.

But since marrying Sumedh, Masooma has found herself saddled with the unexpected baggage of acting as an ambassador of sorts for both countries. “It’s annoying at times,” she says. “And really it’s all because of immature media reportage in one country about the other. So I end up having to either justify, explain or make excuses for India when in Pakistan or vice versa. I’m not used to being accountable to anyone and this new role is quite tiring, even if it does come with special treatment in some instances.”

The challenges within an Indo-Pak marriage, according to Masooma, seem to be similar to any mixed-culture marriage. Except that among South Asian communities, tradition dictates the wife follows the husband to his home, or homeland. In the specific India-Pakistan context of the 21st century, the complications of visas and work permits make it harder for educated women to carve out an identity for themselves in their new environment. “It’s definitely much easier to be in a third country – either resident or citizen – when in an Indo-Pak marriage. Also, in today’s world, the younger generations of Indians and Pakistanis are meeting and interacting abroad, first as students and then as professionals. Marriages between different faiths among this demographic is on the rise and logistics is no longer a deterrent to falling in love.”

Masooma has been visiting India since 2003 and as an artist she has travelled, exhibited and worked in both countries. “I go through the same motions as all Pakistani nationals applying for an Indian visa. It’s a process and is easy or difficult depending entirely on how you want to look at it,” she says. In early June, the Indian government announced it was relaxing the requirements for granting the extension of long-term visas to four categories of Pakistani nationals, including Pakistani women married to Indian nationals and staying in India. The announcement was welcomed by individuals in her situation.

Her current visa is a ‘visit visa’ valid for nine months that is split into three visits of 90 days each. She has to exit India after each ‘visit’, but says it suits her work commitments that require her to travel abroad. “And I can visit my family in Lahore,” she adds.

Pakistani nationals issued visas to India are typically allowed to visit a maximum of three cities and must report to a police station on arrival and before leaving for their next destination. Masooma is now exempted from the police reporting, as she is a regular traveller between India and Pakistan and is also now married to an Indian national. “I’m allowed to visit more than three cities each time, but it will be a while before I am given complete freedom to travel like any other foreigner,” she says.

She could apply for a residence permit, but would be compelled to stay in India until the paperwork is completed, but it’s diffiuclt to predict how long that would take. Nationality, however, remains a touchy issue, particularly among the educated and liberal women of either country, who see no reason in giving up the passport of the country they originally belong to.

“Unfortunately, political relations keep changing and this spills over into visas and affects people-to-people relationships,” says Zulfiqar Hyder, a staunch believer in encouraging contact between the two countries. The Hyder family hold Canadian passports, but they still have to apply for visas to visit India and Pakistan.

In the wake of the David Headley arrest – a US citizen of Pakistani origin – over his alleged terrorist connections and involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attack, Zulfiqar says having the Canadian passport makes little difference towards easing the process. “I’m trying to get a PIO (Person of Indian Origin) card for the children,” he says of the document issued by the Indian government that functions as a long-term multiple entry visa. As things stand, the foreign spouse of an Indian national is eligible for the PIO card, but the spouses from Pakistan are not, effectively ruling out Amra and her two elder daughters, as they were previously travelling on her passport. “I don’t understand the logic that my children cannot get the PIO card, because their mother is Pakistani,” says Zulfiqar.

The national security argument does not resonate with him as much as it does with Amra. “Frankly, if my family can be assured of safe travel, I don’t mind a little more waiting or dealing with a bit more bureaucracy,” she says. He shakes his head furiously, looks at me and asks: “Did the 26/11 terrorists enter India with passports? Did they? How did they enter India?”

They arrived by night. Across the Arabian Sea, first on a small boat, then a hijacked fishing trawler and finally entered Mumbai’s waters on a rubber dinghy.

Visa-related policies in both countries are updated depending on the warmth or frostiness of the political relationship. Shadab Raza, a 35-year old Indian also from Lucknow, married Pakistani national Sana Zehri, who grew up in the UAE. They have a six-year-old son who has an Indian passport. The families arranged their marriage, as Shadab’s maternal aunts live in Pakistan. “There’s never been this India-Pakistan mentality in our families, because we have relatives on both sides of the border,” says Shadab.

Sana’s ancestry can be traced back to Lucknow, as her grandparents migrated to Pakistan at the time of the partition. On her first visit to the city after her marriage, she visited the ancestral home of her grandparents and filmed it to share with them. “I filmed the house, the neighbourhood and some of the people recorded messages for them. When they watched the video they were consumed by nostalgic sadness. I think partition hurt their generation the most. Our parents to a lesser extent, but they still feel the impact of it as they grew up hearing about it from their parents and visiting immediate relatives in the other country. For my generation, the degree of the trauma is even more reduced, because we haven’t experienced much of the consequences of it directly,” she says.

Shadab and Sana’s son, Ali, however, is quite clear about where he is from. “India,” he says firmly.

Sana laughs and recalls an incident of him wanting a carrom board specifically ‘made in India’. “My father-in-law had to get the lettering customised because the shop, where they bought it didn’t sell carrom boards with a ‘made in India’ label,” she says. In the meantime, Ali brings out his carrom board and empties out the coins from their container. He then calls out to Shadab to come and play with him.

“There’s never been this India-Pakistan mentality in our families, because we have relatives on both sides of the border,” says Shadab sitting down at the board, across from Ali, who flicks the large striker coin towards the arrangement of smaller black and white coins stacked by colour in the centre of the board. The two towers collapse, some of the coins disperse in four directions, but none of them is pocketed.

“What a mess,” exclaims Ali.

Pakistan Are Over Here But Thinking About Home

By Stephen Brenkley for The Independent

Pakistan are here to win. Anybody who thought that they were in England this summer to make up the numbers, licking their wounds, grateful to be given a temporary home, would be misguided. 

They may indeed be the refugees of world cricket, unable to play in their own country because teams refuse to go there, but they will be nobody’s fools. It is the most bizarre of tours they have embarked on. Starting on Tuesday at Lord’s, they play the first of two Tests against Australia, which will be considered as home matches.

 They then play four Tests against England in which they will be the touring side. Such have been the ramifications of the terrorist activities at home. Pakistan have been forced to play where they can. “It’s a big tour. It’s not easy to get hold of 17 boys, a lot on their first tour here, and I don’t think we have ever played six Test matches in two months,” said Yawar Saeed, their wise, veteran manager.

 “We have a young side here and it was important to keep them together. There is plenty of talent in this team. The one sitting there, Umar Akmal, is just a bundle of talent, God is so kind to him. I have told him, if he doesn’t use his talent I will beat him one of these days. I see him as a future Vivian Richards. Look at his confidence at his age and look at the way he’s playing. He’s a very good kid and I’m trying to help him and the left-arm fast bowler, [Mohammad] Aamer, who’s only 18 and can also do great things.”

There is, of course, no physical intent by Yawar towards the precocious Umar, he merely makes the point to reinforce his desire not to waste his gifts. There has been precious little sign of that so far.

Yawar is on his 26th or 27th tour – he really has lost count – as manager. At 75, he thought he had unpacked for the last time but with the shifting of officials yet again in the Pakistan Cricket Board he has returned as a safe pair of hands. He is an Anglophile who was educated at Millfield, played for Somerset for three seasons in the mid-Fifties and whose father, Mohammad Saeed, was the first captain of Pakistan post-partition and pre-Tests.

At the core of the thinking of those who run cricket in Pakistan is the day when they can play at home again. Somehow, cricket is being sustained despite the lack of international competition but Yawar and the PCB hierarchy know that cannot last while understanding the virtual boycott.

The memory is still raw of the Sri Lanka team being attacked on the way to a Test in Lahore last year. Yawar and the Pakistan team were in a coach 40 yards behind. “The whole thing is dependent on the conditions and security within the country,” he said. “You have to ask: Yawar, if you were an Australian or an Englishman, would you go there? It’s very difficult, I don’t blame any of the people who are hesitant to come there. But all I can say is it’s not as bad as it looks from here. I’m not saying it’s perfect.”

Pakistan have taken a big risk by appointing as captain Shahid Afridi, who has been in regular trouble for ill-discipline. He has not so far shown diplomatic tendencies when they may be needed. In England four years ago, Pakistan’s tour was almost derailed when the Fourth Test was abandoned amid allegations of ball-tampering.

On the tour of Australia last winter, disharmony led to a whitewash and a series of disciplinary actions later on. Shahid himself was penalised for being spotted biting a ball. “We had problems about the captain,” said Yawar. “I can see in Shahid the one who can get them all together, mould them into one team. People who matter have had a chat with Shahid. I am very confident he’s going to be OK. Even this ball-biting thing, it’s just that he’s so keen, he’s keen to win like a lot of people, so he does lose control at times. I don’t think he will as captain.”

So to Australia on Tuesday. “Playing Australia you have got to be mentally tough. That’s where I’m working on them. I have seen Australia play, I have seen these boys play, I know their psyche. I can’t say that overnight we will become X, Y, Z, but you will see a graph going up by the Test match.”

But nobody in Pakistan will rest until the next touring team arrives to play this attractive, gifted young team. “It has to be reintroduced. I can’t put a date on it but I think that something should happen within the next three or four years. I would love to see cricket being played in Pakistan again. Before I say goodbye to this world, I would love to see that.”

 

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