Posts Tagged ‘ Sri Lanka ’

India On Look Out For Ascendance Against Pakistan

As Reported By The Hindu

Their tails up after an easy outing against hosts Sri Lanka, India would like to keep the winning momentum going when they take on arch-rivals Pakistan in their second warm-up game in Colombo on Monday ahead of the ICC World Twenty20 beginning on September 18.

The Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led Indian team would, however, want their batsman to come good against a superior Pakistani bowling unit to maintain a clean slate ahead of their World Twenty20 opener against Afghanistan on September 19.

Though, India won comfortably against the hosts in their opening warm-up game, they certainly need to put up a better show with the bat against Pakistan, who boast of quality bowlers like Saeed Ajmal and Umar Gul in their ranks.

Injury to opener Gautam Gambhir, who hurt his wrist against Sri Lanka, would be a concern for the Indians but Virender Sehwag along with other top-order batsmen need to redeem themselves against Pakistan following their dismal show with the bat in the first match.

India, in particular, would like Sehwag to fire against Pakistan and get some runs under his belt ahead of the tough battle ahead.

Virat Kohli, on the other hand, has been a consistent performer, but the young Delhi lad would look to settle down and get battle ready with a solid knock against Pakistan at the R Premadasa Stadium.

Yuvraj Singh, who made a comeback to world cricket after recovering from cancer with a cameo of 34 runs against New Zealand in the second T20 game in Chennai, also needs to get some more runs under his belt.

And the match against Pakistan will provide the gutsy left-hander with an opportunity to prove that he is ready and looking forward to take on the world with the same zeal as he had left it a year ago following the critical illness.

While Suresh Raina would also look to spend some more time on the crease, Dhoni showed why he is still rated as one of the great finishers of the game against Sri Lanka the other day.

But against Pakistan tomorrow, the Indian skipper needs to be much more focused both with the bat and with his leadership skills.

Of late, Rohit Sharma has been erratic with bat which might prompt Dhoni to give Manoj Tiwary a chance ahead of their campaign opener.

The Indian bowlers led by Irfan Pathan, however, looked in good stead in the previous match and they just need to continue their positive run against Pakistan.

Pathan continued his fine run and scalped five wickets to guide India to a comfortable 26-run victory over Sri Lanka in the first practice match yesterday.

The only concern for Dhoni would be lack of wickets in pace spearhead Zaheer Khan’s kitty.

But comeback man Harbhajan Singh looked composed against the hosts and bowled a tight line, which definitely is encouraging for the team.

Pakistan, on the other hand have been a bit inconsistent in the run-up to the sporting extravaganza. They won two successive T20 matches against Australia, but their 94-run loss to the Kangaroos in the final T20 tie showed that their batsmen are vulnerable to quality bowling.

Pakistan’s batting line-up exhibits immaturity at this level, but with the likes of Abdul Razzaq, Shahid Afridi and skipper Mohammed Hafiz in the ranks they really have the necessary fire power to upset any side.

Young Nasir Jamshed has shown tremendous promise with the bat and the game against India would certainly test his temperament.

On the bowling front, Pakistan has a much settled line-up with off-spinner Saeed Ajmal and speedster Umar Gul leading their respective departments.

The experience of Razzaq and Afridi with the ball gives Hafiz plenty of options to dismantle any batting side.

With both the teams having tasted success at the big stage — India winning the inaugural World T20 in 2007 and Pakistan lifting the trophy two years later — an exciting battle awaits cricket loving fans of both the countries.

Teams (from):

India: M S Dhoni (captain/wicket-keeper), Gautam Gambhir, Ravichandran Ashwin, Lakshmipathy Balaji, Piyush Chawla, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh, Zaheer Khan, Virat Kohli, Irfan Pathan, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag, Rohit Sharma, Manoj Tiwary, Yuvraj Singh.

Pakistan: Mohammad Hafeez (captain), Abdul Razzaq, Asad Shafiq, Imran Nazir, Kamran Akmal (wicket—keeper), Mohammad Sami, Nasir Jamshed, Raza Hasan, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Shoaib Malik, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul, Yasir Arafat.

Jeremy Lin: Where’s The Indian Version?

By Palash R Ghosh for International Business Times

I am as excited and thrilled with the sudden meteoric climb of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin as anyone else. I am completely immersed in ‘Linsanity’ and hope he becomes a dominant superstar in the NBA over a nice long career.

Jeremy Lin is the greatest sports story I’ve seen in years, perhaps decades. As an Asian-American, Lin’s brilliant play has special meaning and significance to me.

However, I must admit, since I am neither Chinese nor Taiwanese, my appreciation of Lin is somewhat as an “outsider.” That is, I can’t quite reach the same level of excitement about No. 17 as my Chinese and Taiwanese friends have.

I have waited many years for an Indian boy in the United States to become a professional sports superstar. Thus far, such a thing hasn’t happened, and, sadly, I doubt it will in my lifetime.

The term “Asian-American” is impossibly vague, broad and diverse, encompassing everyone who claims descent from the Philippines to Afghanistan. Indeed, it’s a rather meaningless phrase, but, for the sake of simplicity, it really means Americans whose parents or ancestors immigrated from a handful of major Asian nations.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census, there were 17.3-million Americans of “Asian” descent, representing about 5.6 percent of the total population.

I found a breakdown of that population for 2008, which indicated that the Chinese formed the largest group among Asian-Americans at 3.6 million, followed by Filipinos (3.1 million), East Indians (2.7 million), Vietnamese (1.7 million), Koreans (1.6 million) and Japanese (1.3 million).

In the popular vernacular, Indians are sometimes not even considered “Asian” since they are sometimes more associated with Middle Eastern peoples, especially since 9-11.

No matter, I consider the people of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Afghanistan as “Asians.”

So, with these large numbers, why are there no Indian star athletes in the United States?

To the best of my knowledge, no Indian lad has ever reached the NBA or Major League Baseball.

Sanjay Beach had a brief career as a wide receiver for the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers; Brandon Chillar (whose father is Indian) played linebacker for the Green Bay Packers; and Manny Malhotra (an Indo-Canadian), plays for the Vancouver Canucks in NHL.

And that’s it — and none of them are exactly ‘household names’ or superstars.

Part of the problem is that Indian parents pressure their children to succeed in academics and to shun ‘frivolous’ pursuits like sports, arts and music. Hence, the large number of Indian-American doctors, engineers, accountants, mathematicians, scientists, corporate executives, and, uh, underpaid journalists.

Indeed, Indians (like Chinese and Koreans) are among the highest-earning, best-educated people in the U.S. The residue of being a dreaded “model minority.”

This is all fine and dandy… but, frankly, I’m rather tired of Indians in America being pigeonholed into dull, safe careers. I would be much happier if an Indian boy could pitch a 95-mile-an-hour fast-ball, or slam dunk a basketball or throw a football with pinpoint accuracy for 60 yards.

Realistically, an Indian reaching the NBA and NFL is probably beyond the realm of reality. But what about America’s grand old pastime, baseball?

After all, Indians have excelled at cricket – a sport that requires skills similar to baseball.

If Sachin Tendulkar had grown up in California, perhaps he would now be the starting centerfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers. If Muttiah Muralitharan were raised in New Jersey, maybe he’d be a 20-game winning pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies. They certainly have the ability to excel in baseball.

What about U.S. football? Indians are pretty good at soccer — surely some NFL club could find place for an Indian placekicker or punter, no? NFL teams have, over the years, employed a number of former European soccer players for such humble (non-violent) duties.

Will we see an Indian-American athletic superstar in my lifetime (I probably have about 30 years left on this earth)? My guess is no.

Most Indian parents compel their children to study subjects in school that will lead to good, solid, stable high-paying jobs. Sports are fine as long as they don’t become an obsession or, worse, a career goal.

Indian parents likely tell their children that becoming a professional athlete is the longest of long shots (even if one has great talent) — and indeed, they are right. Consider that in the NBA there are 30 teams with a roster of 12 players each.

That’s just 360 players.

Thus, for every NBA player, there are about 850,000 people in the United States.

It makes no logical sense to pursue a career in sports – unless your name is Jeremy Lin, of course.

And let me add that if a young Indian man rose to the top of any American sports leagues, he would likely become the number one celebrity on the planet, especially if he is telegenic.

He would not only enjoy the fame and wealth that is bestowed upon those lucky few that reach the zenith of pro sports in the western world, but he would also have about one-billion people on the Indian subcontinent as rabid, devoted followers. He would be like a combination of Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Joe DiMaggio, Elvis Presley, John Wayne and Salman Khan.

It would be utterly incredible… but highly unlikely.

The Stars of Pakistan’s Resurgence

By Jamie Alter for Cricket Next

Pakistan’s 3-0 sweep of England, the No. 1 Test team, in the UAE was the most glittering result for a team that has managed to hold its own on the field despite facing a mountain of problems off it. Here’s a look at the key players in Pakistan’s resurgence as a Test team.

Misbah-ul-Haq

Ten months ago, Misbah-ul-Haq was a condemned man whose time as an international cricketer seemed over after he was made the scapegoat for Pakistan’s defeat to India in the World Cup semi-final in Mohali. Today, he is being heralded as an astute leader of a team bristling with pride and rightful claims to being a top-level Test side. Handed the captaincy ahead of Pakistan’s series against South Africa in the UAE in 2010, the soft-spoken, almost laidback Misbah has been hugely influential in steering Pakistan from a host of troubles and to series wins over New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England – not to forget a draw with South Africa – and just the anomaly of a 1-1 scoreline against West Indies.

He hasn’t always been a proactive captain – his reluctance to push for a win against Sri Lanka in Sharjah last November attracted criticism – but his numbers as leader have been highly impressive: 15 matches, 1165 runs, average 64.72, with one century and 12 fifties. That one century – an unbeaten 102 in the second innings at Basseterre – played a big role in Pakistan leveling the two-Test series in the West Indies in May 2011. Innings of 99 and 70 not out earned him the Man-of-the-Match award in Wellington in January 2011, and those were clutch innings in a draw that gave Pakistan their first series victory outside the subcontinent since a triumph in New Zealand in 2003-04, and their first anywhere since 2006-07. In the first innings of the second Test against England in Abu Dhabi, Misbah top-scored with 84 on day in which the opposition dominated, and what a key innings it proved.

Saeed Ajmal

If there is one player who personifies Pakistan’s new-found aggression and fluency, it is the leader of their immensely proficient spin attack. Ajmal, 34, has been a constant threat to opposing teams with his accurate, nagging and attacking offspin, with his doosra causing batsmen much strife. His role as a strike bowler – he has bowled 696 overs in those 12 Tests, the most for any Pakistan bowler – has taken pressure off Umar Gul and meant he has been relied on to consistently take wickets. His success is staggering.

In 12 Tests under Misbah, Ajmal has reaped 77 wickets an average of 22.63 and strike-rate of 54.20 – significantly lower than career figures of 26.70 and 61.20. Along the way he picked up Man-of-the-Match awards for eight wickets in a nine-wicket win over Sri Lanka and in Dubai and 10 – including a career-best 7 for 55 – in a 10-wicket win over England at the same venue. He was the leading Test wicket-taker in 2011, and so far this year he has grabbed 24 wickets in three Tests against England.

In this recent series, the England batsmen were largely baffled by Ajmal’s variety. In the second Test, he became the fastest Pakistan bowler to 100 Tests, and to make his achievement more remarkable, he has not played a single of his 20 Tests at home.

Abdur Rehman

If Ajmal has been an expected success during Pakistan’s run under Misbah, then the 31-year-old Abdur Rehman has been a surprise package. In 13 Tests, this canny left-arm spinner – enjoying unexpected success in his late-blooming career – has been a constant threat with 64 wickets at an average of 26.57. With an almost immaculate line and length he has attained turn and dip while convincing batsmen to play back when they should have been forward. Nothing summed this up better than the series against England, when he made several reputed batsmen appear hapless against spin, none more so than Eoin Morgan.

However, it was Rehman’s Man-of-the-Match performance against New Zealand at Hamilton in January 2011 that really made him a certainty in the playing XI. His three wickets in each innings and a crucial innings of 28 helped propel Pakistan to victory in the first Test. This year, a career-best 6 for 25 routed England for 72 as Pakistan grabbed the series in Abu Dhabi, and in the final Test his 5 for 40 was decisive in Pakistan reducing England’s lead to 42. His 19 wickets in the series played a huge role in a 3-0 scoreline, and highlighted what a key ingredient Rehman has been for Pakistan.

Like Ajmal, he has bowled a lot of overs – 683.4 – while rarely allowing the batsmen to dominate. Rehman’s batting has been handy too, with an average of 13.s8 and a half-century offering some stability to the lower order.

Umar Gul

The only fast bowler to play consistently under Misbah, Umar Gul has carried himself with discipline all throughout. Ajmal and Rehman have hogged the wickets, but Gul’s 49 victims at 29.79 have been every bit as crucial in the team’s success.
The reliance on spin has eased Gul’s workload – he has bowled 452.5 overs in 13 matches – and this has undoubtedly led to the tall fast bowler not breaking down from injury, as he was prone to do so earlier in his career. His eight-wicket haul at Wellington was a stand-out effort in overseas conditions, and even on tracks in the UAE he has plugged away relentlessly, as 29 wickets from eight matches show.

In the first Test in Abu Dhabi, Gul responded to a flat surface with a hostile spell on the third day – during which he surpassed 150 Test wickets – as his new-ball incursions bagged him four wickets before Ajmal and Rehman wrapped up the rest. In the third Test in Abu Dhabi, Gul’s four wickets on the final day set the course of the match categorically towards Pakistan. The spinners have been the talking point of Pakistan’s success, but Gul’s role cannot he underestimated.

Mohammad Hafeez

At last looking like he belongs at Test-match level, Mohammad Hafeez has flourished in his latest avatar as opener and key ingredient in Pakistan’s spin-heavy bowling attack.

With the bat, he has offered solidity to a top order that has for too long been shaky, scoring 967 runs in 15 Tests at an average of 38.68, including two centuries and four fifties. With Taufeeq Umar – another cricketer enjoying a new lease on his international career – Hafeez has stitched together three century stands and four of 50 or more. For a side that used to regularly chop and change openers during the last decade, Hafeez’s pairing with Taufeeq over 15 Tests has been nothing short of solid.

Relied on heavily with the ball – he has bowled 250 overs – Hafeez has repaid the faith with 51 wickets at 26.36. His brisk offspin has helped Ajmal and Rehman take much-needed breaks in the field, and when tossed the new ball in Guyana he responded with wickets. The highlight of Hafeez’s run over these 15 Tests was a fine all-round performance against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo, where Hafeez followed a quick-fire 119 with four wickets and a brisk 38 in a successful chase.

Taufeeq Umar

Given an extended run as opener after a four-year hiatus, the 30-year-old Taufeeq has scored 1055 runs in 15 Tests under Misbah while averaging 39.07. His batting hasn’t always been attractive, as a strike-rate of 43.18 indicates, but the fact that he has been able to deliver platforms has been immense. Two fifties in New Zealand helped blunt the threat of the home team’s pace bowlers in seam-friendly conditions, and his 135 in the second innings against West Indies at Basseterre helped Pakistan level the series.

A career-best 236 followed against Sri Lanka in Abu Dhabi, as Pakistan drew the first Test. It was a marathon effort that helped grind Sri Lanka patiently through the second day, and Taufeeq was just pipped by Kumar Sangakkara for the Man-of-the-Match award. A seventh Test hundred would come against Bangladesh soon after.

Taufeeq’s form trailed off after a fifty in the first innings of the series against England, but his success in Pakistan’s resurgence merits further persistence.

Younis Khan

The former Pakistan captain has come back excellently from a ban imposed by the PCB after allegations that he had been partially responsible for infighting within the team. His 1138 runs at 66.94, including four centuries and four fifties, have been invaluable to Pakistan.
His presence in the middle order has steadied the team numerous times, not least when he scored centuries against South Africa and Sri Lanka to go with twin fifties against New Zealand at Wellington. But his most responsible innings came in the second innings of the third Test against England, as an out of form Younis took the game away from the opposition with a superbly crafted century. Yet again, he had summoned the resolve to produce a century when his detractors were gunning for him.

Azhar Ali

Of the younger players that have flourished under Misbah, 26-year-old Azhar Ali has been the most successful. His 1220 runs from 15 matches at 50.83 include two centuries and 11 fifties, and he has been a consistent performer at No. 3. Three consecutive half-centuries against South Africa got him going after an indifferent start to his career, and from there he ploughed on with fifties against each of the teams he played. His two centuries – 100 against Sri Lanka and 157 against England – were proof that Azhar has a long career ahead of him.

England crashes to defeat to Pakistan spinners

By The Sydney Morning Hearld

Left-arm spinner Abdul Rehman took a career best 6-25 to help Pakistan humble England by 72 runs in the second Test in Abu Dhabi, to giving Pakistan unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match series.
The 31-year-old twice took two wickets in successive overs to dent England’s chase after Andrew Strauss’s side was set a 145-run target on a weary fourth-day Abu Dhabi Stadium pitch.

England was all out for 72 – its lowest total against Pakistan in all Tests.
Rehman’s effort overshadowed Monty Panesar’s 6-62, in his first Test for England in 30 months, which finished Pakistan’s second innings at 214 in the morning.

This is England’s first series defeat after being unbeaten in its previous nine since a loss to the West Indies in early 2009 – a sequence which saw it rise to world No.1 in the Test rankings in August.
Pakistan won the first Test in Dubai by 10 wickets. The third Test will also be played in Dubai, from Friday.

Skipper Misbah-ul Haq said Pakistan wanted to make a match out of it after setting a tricky target.
“We knew that it would be difficult so we wanted to make a match out of it,” said Misbah, who has now won eight Tests with one defeat since taking over the captaincy in October 2010.

“Our bowlers, led by Rehman, responded well and this is a great win.” Strauss showed his disappointment at England’s woeful effort.
“It’s pretty disappointing,” said Strauss, whose side last lost two Tests in a row against South Africa in July 2008. “We must acknowledge how well Pakistan bowled and they thoroughly deserved the series win.”

Rehman was ably assisted by off-spinners Saeed Ajmal (3-22) and Mohammad Hafeez (1-11) in a match in which spinners dominated from the first day.
England lost its top four batsmen in the space of just 37 balls after an extra cautious start on a difficult pitch. Strauss top scored with 32 before he became one of Rehman’s victims during his maiden five-wicket haul.

In the penultimate over before tea, Rehman trapped Kevin Pietersen (one) and two balls later bowled Eoin Morgan (duck) to raise hopes of an unlikely win for Pakistan.

Sensing it could only upset its rival through early wickets, Pakistan opened the bowling with Hafeez, who responded well by catching Alastair Cook (seven) off his own bowling after England had edged cautiously to 21 by the 15th over.
Ian Bell, promoted to No.3 after Jonathan Trott was unwell, was all at sea against master spinner Ajmal and his tentative push went through his legs to hit the stumps. He made only three.

Pietersen, who has been woefully out of form with just 16 runs in the series, managed one before Rehman trapped him and in the same over had the equally out-of-form Morgan bowled to dent England’s hopes of a victory. Rehman then accounted for Trott (one) and Stuart Broad (duck) in the same over to leave England 7-68.

Ajmal dismissed Graeme Swann (duck) and Matt Prior (18) to reach 100 Test wickets in his 19th match, before James Anderson was caught off Rehman to give Pakistan a sensational win.

Earlier, Pakistan lost its last six wickets for 89 runs after resuming at 4-125, with all hopes pinned on Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq. Panesar took three of those wickets to finish with his eighth five-wicket haul in Tests. Azhar Ali (68) and Asad Shafiq (43) added 88 for the fifth wicket before Panesar struck.

India, Pakistan PMs Vow to Start ‘New Chapter’

As Reported by The Economic Times

The prime ministers of India and Pakistan said Thursday they expected to open a “new chapter” at future talks between the rival nations after they met at a regional summit in the Maldives.

India’s Manmohan Singh and his Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani said their often strained ties were improving, but they declined to give a date for their next meeting.

“The time has come to write a new chapter in the history of our countries,” Singh told reporters. “The next round of talks should be far more productive and far more practical-orientated in bringing the two countries closer.”

Gilani said that “all issues” had been discussed during their one-hour meeting including the contentious subject of Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region divided between the two nuclear rivals and claimed in its entirety by both.

“I am ready to discuss each and every issue,” Gilani said. “I think that the next round of the talks would be more constructive, more positive, and will open a new chapter in the history of both the countries.”

The leaders did not give further details of their discussions on the sidelines of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) gathering in the Maldives.

However Singh added that the two sides should push to make real progress as they had “wasted lot of time in the past in acrimonious debates”.

The two men emphasised their warm friendship and shook hands twice to oblige photographers at the start of closed-door talks at the luxury Shangri-La Villingili island resort.

After the meeting, the two men headed for the opening of the SAARC summit, where their host, Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed, hailed their dialogue.

“These developments are extremely welcome,” he said. “I hope this summit will be enthused with optimism.”

The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. Their previous talks were at the April 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.

Both countries, who have fought three wars since independence in 1947, struck an upbeat note ahead of the Maldives summit, with officials describing the cross-border atmosphere as “considerably improved”.

However the vexed subject of Kashmir and the threat of Pakistan-based extremism remain major obstacles to their ongoing peace process.

A full peace dialogue — suspended by India after the 2008 Mumbai attacks blamed on Pakistan-based militants — was resumed in February this year.

The process remains tentative with only incremental progress on issues such as trade.

Last week, Pakistan’s cabinet announced it had approved a proposal giving India the status of “most favoured nation” but there has been confusion about when it will be implemented.

Efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by concern over Afghanistan’s prospects as international troops begin departing after ten years of fighting the Taliban.

Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard.

Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai is also attending the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of other member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Trust Deficit with Pakistan Shrinking: Singh

As Reported by The Express-Tribune via AFP

 

 

The leaders of India and Pakistan will meet on the sidelines of a regional summit this week, as the nuclear-armed rivals seek to push a tentative rapprochement in their fractious relationship.

Talks between Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani counterpart Yousuf Raza Gilani will take place at the summit of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations that opens Thursday in the Maldives.

India’s foreign minister said Wednesday that a “trust deficit” with Pakistan was shrinking as he headed for a regional summit, in a clear sign of warming relations between the neighbours.

“The trust deficit with Pakistan is shrinking,” S.M. Krishna said on board his flight to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in the Maldives, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

He also said that it was necessary for Pakistan and India to develop a joint strategy to fight terror in the region, the agency reported.

Their meeting follows what Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai described as “positive indicators” from Pakistan in recent weeks that it is serious about reducing tensions.

An Indian military helicopter which strayed into Pakistani territory last month was promptly released along with its crew and returned to India, avoiding what in the past could easily have escalated into a diplomatic row.

And last week the Pakistani cabinet approved a proposal to grant India the status of “most favoured nation” in a move towards normalising trade relations.

“These are I would say indications of forward movement,” Mathai said, adding that “all aspects” of the India-Pakistan relationship would be discussed during the Singh-Gilani talks.

The two prime ministers last met in March when Gilani accepted Singh’s invitation to watch the India-Pakistan cricket World Cup semi-final. They last held formal talks at the 2010 SAARC summit in Bhutan.

Talks between the neighbours’ foreign ministers in July failed to produce a major breakthrough, but both sides signalled a warming of ties, with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani speaking of a “new era of cooperation.”

But efforts to reduce tensions have been complicated by the increasing influence of Afghanistan in the bilateral equation.

Indian involvement in Afghanistan is sensitive, with Pakistan vehemently opposed to its arch foe meddling in what it considers its backyard. Islamabad’s suspicions were fuelled when Afghanistan and India signed a strategic partnership pact last month.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will also attend the SAARC summit, along with the leaders of other member nations Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Previous summits of the regional body have been largely overshadowed by the India-Pakistan dynamic — a fact that Mathai acknowledged with regret.

“We would like the focus to remain essentially on the common business of SAARC … and hope that the focus will not be diverted to one single event,” he said. The summit is being held in Addu, on the southern Maldives’ island of Gan.

Pakistan Struggles to Curb Dengue Fever

As Reported By Reuters

Pakistani authorities, already under pressure to help hundreds of thousands of flood victims, are struggling to contain dengue fever which has killed at least eight people, officials said on Wednesday.

Around 4,400 cases of the mosquito-borne disease have been reported in the central Punjab province over the past two months, forcing the provincial government on Tuesday to close down schools for 10 days.

Most of the cases have been reported in Lahore, the provincial capital, where about 2,950 people tested positive.

“So far, eight people have died of dengue. We are trying our best to control this epidemic,” Jehanzeb Khan, secretary of the provincial health department, told Reuters.

Health experts say the illness is spreading across the Punjab because of poor hygiene conditions, and heavy monsoon rain provides ideal conditions for dengue-carrying mosquitoes to thrive in stagnant waters.

The first case of dengue was reported in Pakistan in 1994.

Those who died included Ataullah Siddiqui, head of the provincial department of minerals and natural resources.

Khan said the government had launched a fumigation drive to kill mosquitoes.

Sri Lanka is sending a team of experts to Pakistan to help fight the disease, the Sri Lankan High Commission said in a statement.

Pakistan’s weak civilian government, struggling to deal with floods that have killed 266 people, has been criticised by the media for dragging its feet on the dengue issue.

“The response to dengue has been adhoc, ex post, and therefore reactionary at best,” The News daily said in its editorial.

The disease is a threat to nearly half of the world’s population. Of the estimated 220 million people infected each year, two million — mostly children in Latin America and Asia — develop a severe form called dengue hemorrhagic fever.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for dengue fever.

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.

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.

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.

Pakistan plan to spread the grief

As reported by Agence France-Presse

Pakistan are still reeling from the cricket corruption scandal that has dogged the side since last summer, but Shoaib Akhtar has warned that he and his teammates plan to take out their frustrations over the affair on their World Cup opponents.

Salman Butt, Pakistan’s then Test captain, and the bowlers Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer were banned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) last month, after being found guilty of spot-fixing, which depleted Pakistan’s bowling options just two weeks before the start of the World Cup.

But Akhtar said the loss of the trio has helped unite the squad and galvanised them to push for a second World Cup victory to replicate their 1992 success.

“We are a hurt side so we are here to hurt others,” Akhtar said yesterday. “It’s better that it happened to us because every time a controversy happens it gathers us together and what better situation than before a World Cup?”

Pakistan beat co-hosts Sri Lanka by 11 runs in their last match after seeing off Kenya by 205 runs in their opening game.

Akhtar, 35, admitted he was missing Aamer and Asif but said others have stepped up.

“Obviously without Aamer and Asif we have suffered badly, they were the best with the new ball, it’s unfortunate what happened to them. Had they been with us it would have been the most lethal bowling attack,” he said.

“But the way [Umar] Gul and [Abdul] Razzaq have been bowling, the way [Wahab] Riaz is bowling, we can still do a much better job as we have variety in our attack.”

Akhtar, who has taken 246 wickets in 162 one-day internationals, said he had changed his bowling style to maintain his fitness, concentrating on accuracy rather than the pure pace that in the past regularly saw him bowl in excess of 100mph.

“I left this race of bowling at 100mph a long time ago,” he said. “I am nearing 36 now and am more mature, so I am focusing more on getting wickets now than bowling fast. But I crossed 98mph the other day.”

He said he is enjoying the chance to perform on the world stage after injury and discipline problems left him sidelined four years ago.

But he warned his teammates – who next face Canada in Colombo on Thursday – not to be over confident after beating Sri Lanka. “We have to move on and we shouldn’t get complacent,” he said.

Perfect Pitch

By Sonal Srivastava for The Times of India

Tickets to most India matches have been sold out,” Priyanka Saxena informed her colleagues. Her co-workers were huddled at her work station, eyes fixed on the monitor, hoping to get premium tickets for the India Vs Netherlands Cricket World Cup 2011 match in Delhi. “We were disappointed, but then we decided to go for the South Africa Vs West Indies tie, instead. I’m going to cheer for the South Africans as they haven’t won the World Cup yet,” she says. Cricket is an amazing game; it originated in Great Britain, but Commonwealth countries have adopted it as their own. The game has not only transcended international borders, it has also managed to cut across fault lines, transcending race, colour, caste, community, class and faith.

The 2011 Cricket World Cup is being hosted by three South Asian cricketing nations: India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. Teams from 14 countries are participating in the 10th edition of the World Cup. The event will be spread over two months and will be played in three different countries, starting off at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur, Dhaka, and ending in April at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai.

So much good cheer
“Sport brings communities together and helps release a lot of pent-up emotions,” says Ian Botham, former English cricketer. When you cheer for your country or any other favourite team of another country, you forget all your worries. If your team wins, it’s time to celebrate. Every time India or the team that’s being backed wins a crucial match, fans light crackers and distribute sweets; some dance to the beat of dhols. As a cricket-crazy country, we celebrate the success of Zaheer Khan and Yusuf Pathan, Harbhajan Singh and Dhoni, irrespective of their religious leanings. “People like to cheer for something; it’s a feel-good thing. If you are stressed, then watching a cricket match can bring relief; when your team wins, you feel on top of the world,” says former India cricketer Atul Wassan.

World Cup is the time for bonhomie: It’s when you can start a conversation with strangers without inhibition, exchange notes and discuss the outcome of the match. When a batsman hits sixes, you might spontaneously hug a complete stranger standing next to you — your passion for the game takes precedence over age, gender, and community. “You can play cricket even in a remote village with just a bat and a tree stump for wickets. That’s what makes cricket popular,” explains Wassan.

Ties that bind
Devoted fans of the game cheer for their favourite cricketers irrespective of the country they represent. Interestingly, even if India is knocked out, people like to see their neighbours — Pakistan and Sri Lanka — do well and bring the World Cup back to the subcontinent. The result? Fans get to see ‘some good cricket.’ During the 1996 World Cup Quarter Final, in Bangalore, Aamir Sohail hit a delivery from bowler Venkatesh Prasad for four runs. He looked at Prasad and pointed his bat towards the boundary where the ball had gone. In the very next delivery, Prasad bowled out Sohail and pointed the finger towards the pavilion. “There is traditional rivalry between India and Pakistan. The armed forces of our respective countries may have to defend borders, but cricket is something that helps people-to-people bonding. During matches, the atmosphere on the field is electric, but after the match, the cricketers hang out together like old buddies,” says former India captain, Ajit Wadekar. And so do fans!

Gentleman’s game
A one-day match is played over six hours and sometimes players do get carried away and tempers run high. But cricket is a gentleman’s game and players have to abide by the umpire’s decisions. Often there is friendly banter on the cricket field and humourous one-liners are exchanged to help lighten the mood. For instance, Inzamam-ul-Haq reportedly told Brett Lee, a fast bowler, to “stop bowling offspinners”. In another instance, when Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan came to bat, Afridi shouted twice: “O mera shehzada aaya!” — Oh! My prince has come.

Gods of cricket
Fans adore cricketers. Those for whom cricket is religion, Sachin Tendulkar and VVS Laxman, are gods personified. The little master has such charisma and skills that Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden exclaimed: “I have seen God; he bats at no 4 for India in Tests,” referring to Sachin’s position in the Indian batting line up. “When people watch their favourite cricketers do well, it gives them self-belief. They think that if Kapil Dev or Dhoni can make it, they can also do well,” says former spin bowler Maninder Singh. Fans also manage websites dedicated to their favourite cricketers. A site called ‘Sachinism’ runs forum discussions based on Sachin’s knocks, and fans post their views on the master blaster’s innings.

Playing field
A game of cricket is a lot like life. Just like a batsman faces googlies from the bowler, we too have to deal with what life throws at us. The batsman stands alone on the field, faced with 11 opponents; but with training, discipline and good reflexes, he does the best he can. However, in the game of life we are rarely alone. We have family, friends and others willing to lend a hand. Moreover, we have the benefit of access to ancient and modern wisdom that helps us train and discipline ourselves to deal better with life’s challenges and help each other.

The Cup That May Brighten Up Pakistan

By Nilankur Das for The Hindustan Times
For others winning this World Cup could be a matter of pride and glory for the country. For Pakistan, which has won a World Cup and hosted a final, a lot more is at stake. A terror attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in 2009 had put an end to Pakistan playing international matches at home an

d also taken away its rights to host World Cup ties. The country shredded by blasts and violence is now forced to host its international matches in Dubai.

Play to prove
Winning this World Cup, coach Waqar Younis feels, could change all that and pave the way to bring international cricket back to the country.

“It is unfortunate that we are not hosting. Yes, we are missing World Cup matches at home. But if we play as a unit, which we are at the moment and go on to win, I believe it will definitely help get international matches back to Pakistan,” Waqar said after Pakistan began their campaign with a win in a warm-up match against Bangladesh.

“Everyone back home is disappointed that the World Cup is not happening in Pakistan. But we are looking forward. Violence has taken international cricket away from the country but I am sure our cricket will bring cricket back,” Intikhab Alam, Pakistan’s first one-day captain who is the manager of the team here, told HT.

Ccricket Buzz
Back in Pakistan which is celebrating Id-e- Milad-un-Nabi, the birthday of Prophet Mohammad, cricket, it was learnt, is the buzz now.

“I think the people of Pakistan have already come to terms with the World Cup not happening here. Tuesday’s match was not on TV and so very few people could follow it. But people are keeping track and everywhere I went I heard cricket being discussed,” spokesperson of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Nadeem Sarwar told HT from Lahore.

“What Waqar said is right. But it will not happen overnight. Winning the World Cup will surely have a unifying effect on the country and if that means law and order is restored, the other boards too will not have problems sending their teams to Pakistan.

“We are making progress in this regard. The Afghanistan team was here. And now the Nepal women’s team is playing a T20 and one-day series here,” Sarwar said.

It’s still early days but a motto like this can definitely keep the team together. But sport has its share of such instances. When Spain, with a majority of Catalan players led by a man from Real Madrid, went on to win the football World Cup, a month-long euphoria blurred all differences.

Pakistan Consider Pitching up in China

As Reported by Reuters

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is considering using China as a neutral venue for its international cricket events, Chinese state media said today. The official Xinhua news agency cited sources as saying that the board’s director Javed Miandad had submitted a report to the PCB suggesting its management “take special steps to finalise China as a neutral venue.”

“We should take immediate and solid steps to decide this issue soon before the time passes away,” Miandad was quoted as saying.

Pakistan became a no-go area for cricket’s leading nations after an armed attack on the Sri Lanka team bus in Lahore in March last year killed eight people, and injured seven Sri Lankan players and their assistant coach.

Pakistan was due to host matches in next year’s World Cup. But the attack on the Sri Lanka bus saw the tournament restricted to the three remaining Asian Test nations of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

Even before the Lahore incident, countries such as Australia had refused to tour Pakistan, where thousands have died in a decade of conflict.

The security situation led Pakistan to play its “home” series against Australia in England this year. In the last two years, the nation’s “home” games have also been staged in the United Arab Emirates and New Zealand.

According to Xinhua, Pakistan will support China in its bid to host the 2012 Asia Cup in the southern city of Guangzhou, where the Asian Games recently concluded successfully with their first-ever cricket tournament.

Pakistani authorities say China’s hosting of its first major international cricket event would pave the way for making it a neutral venue.

Afghan Coach Says He Used India Example To Inspire Team

As Reprted by ESPN CricInfo

Afghanistan coach Rashid Latif has said he inspired his team for the Asian Games final against Bangladesh by narrating how underdogs India beat the all-conquering West Indies to win the 1983 World Cup. “The Indians were not as fit as their rivals, nor was their skill superior to the West Indies, yet on that day they played better and won,” Latif told AFP. “My team here was the fittest and they had good skills too, but I warned the boys not to take Bangladesh lightly.”

Having stunned favourites Pakistan in the semi-final yesterday, Afghanistan proved worthy opponents against Bangladesh, taking the final to the last over before losing by five wickets.

Latif, the former Pakistan wicketkeeper, said Afghanistan’s ultimate aim was to play Test cricket. “The result proved me right, but I am happy we are on the right path. We will improve further if we play the big teams regularly. The aim is to be a Test nation soon and play against the best. I want to bring youngsters into the game so the sport continues to grow in Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan have made rapid strides, rising through the ranks from the lower divisions of the World Cricket League. They played in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean earlier this year and narrowly missed qualifying for the 2011 World Cup.

Mohammad Nabi, the Afghanistan captain, said passion for the game kept the players going. “The war has been going on for three decades, but we have been playing cricket there for the last 10 years despite the lack of proper facilities or grounds. Cricket has caught on back home. More people are playing the game or following it on radio and TV.”

Nabi was disappointed to lose the final, but said the silver medal had buoyed his team for the five-day Intercontinental Cup final against Scotland in Dubai from December 2. “We want to play as much as possible, wherever possible. The aim is to join the big league.”

Afghanistan received backing from Bangladesh, who won their country’s first ever Asian Games gold medal. “We are celebrating, but I hope Afghanistan will celebrate too because they deserve the silver medal,” Imran Sarwar, the Bangladesh coach, said. “They are a very good side and I am sure they will become a top team in the near future. Their rise has been remarkable.

“This was not an easy win at all. We expected them to make around 100 or 110, but they went to 118 and then kept us under pressure till the end.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteCongratulations to the Afghan Cricket team for winning the Silver medal at the Asian Games in China. Along the way, they beat traditional cricket playing teams such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka and proved to be worthy competitors. In a country ravaged by over 30 years of war and conflict, the Afghani people should be proud of the accomplishments of their team and build upon this success in uniting their fractured nation.

%d bloggers like this: