Saturday, 8 June 2013

ICC failed to spot the fixing?

By Muhammad Asif Khan

No society in the world is absolutely free of crimes and similarly no business in a society is entirely corruption-free however the custodians do put in place reasonable measures to curb the wrongdoing as much as possible.

Ronnie Flanagan - chairman, Anti-Corruption & Security Unit.
Mainly two aspects are important to put a lid – somehow – on the malpractices in any system. (A) Strict check and balance mechanism (B) Stern punishments.

So it would be safe to say that like other systems – where corruption exists – the game of Cricket, which is indeed not free from wrongdoings, could also be safeguarded to a larger extent with effective measures and here also, the custodian – the International Cricket Council (ICC) – claims to have put in place a formidable mechanism to counter the malpractice then where have we gone wrong?

The flurry of corruption stories in Cricket is narrating a different account altogether. The ICC will probably not admit it but the frequent emergence of the corrupt practice is indicative of the fact that the system to safeguard the game of cricket was not up to the mark.

The two counter measures mentioned above needed to elaborate further.

(A) Strict check and balance mechanism:
Keeping an eye on any affair starts from the education of the relevant individuals, here the ICC seems up to the standard as they have provided all the necessary material to the players and officials. Theoretically, all are aware of the crime but what difference does it make? This literature is like the penal codes present in various countries but still crimes are being committed everywhere.

So, if education doesn’t work alone then move on to the next step of vigilance. In this scenario the ICC, with the help of its Anti-corruption and security unit (ACSU), strives to keep an avid eye, however the ACSU has hardly unearthed any kind of fixing in a cricket match thus far. This service was either done by the Police or by a media organisation through sting operations.

Does it mean that the ACSU has failed completely? This can’t be said with certainty. They might have busted a number of such bids but I have no knowledge of it.

I have been told that they do gather information from legal betting houses to evaluate the betting trends and irregular fluctuations but again betting is not legal in most of the cricket playing countries, so this effort is not entirely worth it.

The option left for the ACSU is to keep a watchful eye on the players and their movements because in the absence of a mandate they can’t review the bank accounts of the players neither they can tap phone calls or monitor emails etc.

At the end of the day, the ACSU is left with their experts to monitor the game and try to pick any irregularity in a particular match. Here comes their weakness, since they are neither cricketers nor are familiar with the technicalities of the game hence a deliberate effort on the field can go unnoticed. What will the ACSU do if a bowler, after setting an on-side field, throws the ball on the off-side?

With the frequent emergence of the wrongdoings, the ICC needs to strengthen it’s anti-corruption unit. Apart from providing them with more powers, the inclusion of technocrats in the ACSU could serve the purpose in a better manner.

(B) Stern punishments:
After investigations the phase of handing out the punishments needs to be looked at as well. Whenever such unpleasant event occurs the axe always falls on the players and that’s it. For instance, the Pakistani trio – Asif, Salman and Amir – were penalised and the chapter was closed. Similarly, the runaway wicket-keeper, Zulqarnain Hyder was also dumped. He might be lying all the way, but where were the investigation? The ICC or the home-board must have carried out a probe but nothing has come to the fore as yet. After every inquiry only a player is seen as the sole culprit, it is about time that the associates within, should also be taken to task.

Danish Kaneria, is also in the news for all the wrong reasons, he recently uttered a name from within the Cricket board set-up and claimed that he was introduced to the alleged bookie by a team official during a tour to the West Indies but again ‘all is well’ in the house and no-one is bothered.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) claims to have put in place a foolproof mechanism to stop the recurrence of unpleasant events but again the entire focus is on the players. Have the other staff members been given the same warnings etc?

In the notorious 2010 spot-fixing episode or the fleeing of Zulqarnain Hyder nobody other than the players were questioned. If someone succeeded in escaping then it was the failure of the managers too. Why the player preferred escaping rather than informing the team official is also a question to be reviewed. It shows the lack of trust in the team management for sure.

Coming back to the penalties and the powers, the cricket boards or the ICC has in this regard? Again the answer is unsatisfactory and the reason is simple. There is no such legislation in the penal codes of majority of the cricket playing nations.

In England the Pakistani trio was jailed because there is a law there to safeguard the rights of the legal bookmakers. In Pakistan, India, Bangladesh or elsewhere there is no such law available to sentence the perpetrators of a fraudulent act. I am not advocating legal betting, but laws, in the name of cheating on the cricket field, should be framed to make the penalties worth.

The ICC member boards can work with respective legislators to form such laws to put some sort of fear in the players’ mind. Otherwise everyone knows that they would get away with a maximum penalty in the form of a life-ban or a hefty fine, but on the other hand, they would earn a lot of money too in quick time. This huge amount of lust must be canceled out with fearsome consequences. 

In the end, with the fear that the malpractices in the game of Cricket will not probably end, I wish and pray that just and substantial actions will be seen in the future.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif 

Monday, 20 May 2013

Tauqeer Zia calls for ad-hoc on PCB

Muhammad Asif Khan

Ad-hoc on PCB 'need of hour' - Zia
: At the time when the incumbent management of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is celebrating the democratic transition a few former and current players and administrators casting doubts on the mechanism adopted by the PCB. The latest to join the bandwagon is the former chairman of the PCB, Lieutenant General Tauqeer Zia (R), who demands the imposition of ad-hoc on PCB. “If the country is run under an interim setup then why can’t the PCB? Ad-hoc for at least three months is the need of the hour to fix issues”, said Tauqeer Zia while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“The recent election for the chairman [Zaka Ashraf] was also unconstitutional as major associations did not participate in the voting process”, added Tauqeer Zia, who headed the PCB in the early years of 2000.

Pakistan Cricket Board, earlier this month, held it’s first ever elections after which Zaka Ashraf took the reigns of the PCB as it’s first elected Chairman for the period of four years.

However, his [Zaka Ashraf] appointment was challenged by former captain Rashid Latif at the Sindh High Court and by the heads of the regional cricket associations of Faisalabad and Sialkot at the Lahore High Court.

Meanwhile, on Monday, The Lahore High Court allowed ad-hoc regional committees appointed by PCB to work till the election of regional cricket associations of Lahore, Sialkot and Faisalabad.

Legal adviser of the PCB, Tafazzul Rizvi said the PCB wanted to hold elections as per the constitution and it appointed ad-hoc committees for the purpose.

Tauqeer Zia also spoke about the recent spot-fixing scandal in the Indian Premier League (IPL), saying that the BCCI was striving to reach at the bottom of the event. He added, however, that the International Cricket Council (ICC) should play more active part in curbing the malpractice in Cricket.

On a question, the former chairman paid tribute to the incumbent PCB management for its efforts against corruption in the game. “PCB has put in place a mechanism, in an effort to tighten the screws on corrupt practices, which is appreciable. The policy of zero-tolerance will work well”, hopes Tauqeer Zia.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & Tweets @mak_asif

Saturday, 18 May 2013

PCB has come a long way after 2010 incident – Zaka Ashraf

Muhammad Asif Khan

Zaka Ashraf - The newly elected chairman of the PCB
KARACHI: The 2010 event in England indeed rocked the very foundation of the Pakistan Cricket structure however the incumbent chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is confident to have placed a concrete mechanism to avoid the recurrence of such disgraceful incidents. “We [Pakistan Cricket Board] have framed a formidable code of conduct along with a strict vigilance mechanism to keep an attentive check on such matters”, said Zaka Ashraf while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

Former Pakistan captain Salman Butt, fast bowlers Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir were jailed in London, while the ICC suspended the trio for their involvement in the spot-fixing scandal in 2010.
“The PCB has a separate anti-corruption code and all measures are also mentioned in the players’ central contracts”, added Zaka Ashraf

The chairman further said that before embarking on a trip to the England, to take part in the Champions trophy, the players were thoroughly briefed about all the aspects, however added that the policy of the PCB was firmly based on ‘zero tolerance’ in this regard.

Pakistan is touring England for the first time after the 2010 episode and this is worth mentioning here that to shield players from uncalled-for approaches, the PCB had deployed security & vigilance officers to monitor players’ activities.

On a question regarding the recent election in the Cricket Board, the PCB chairman while terming it legitimate, vowed to face whatever legal challenge comes his way. “Court cases are there but I am confident because the process of my appointment was in line with the PCB constitution.” said Zaka Ashraf, who earlier this month, was elected as the chairman of the PCB for four years.

“The process was carried out in a transparent manner and through election as prescribed by the PCB constitution”, concludes Zaka Ashraf

The election of Zaka Ashraf was challenged in the Sindh and Lahore High Courts a day after the PCB announced him as the first elected head of the board.

In Karachi Pakistan's former captain, Rashid Latif filed a petition through his lawyer at the Sindh High Court challenging Zaka Ashraf's election and the new constitution of the PCB, while the heads of the regional cricket associations of Faisalabad and Sialkot filed a similar petition in the Lahore High Court.
The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Basit Ali urges PCB to form think tank

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: At the time when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is trying to put it’s house in order with the introduction of a newly amended constitution, former test cricketer Basit Ali urged the PCB chairman to constitute a think tank for the betterment of Cricket in the country. “PCB should form a think tank consist of Javed Miandad, Wasim Akram, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Rashid Latif and Intikhab Alam. I guarantee that country’s Cricket would get better with their valuable contributions”, said Basit Ali, while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“PCB Chairman [Zaka Ashraf] has been sincere in his efforts, other departments should also put their differences behind for the sake of Pakistan Cricket”, added Basit Ali

The former test batsman, while spoke very highly about former skipper Rashid Latif, said that the former gloveman was not only qualified but also willing to serve Pakistan. “Rashid is a fitting person to take charge of PCB academies at all levels, the chairman should give it a serious thought”, suggests Basit Ali

Basit Ali, who is currently working with Pakistan’s women cricketers, further said that Pakistan was being through an isolation period due to the March 2009 attack on the visiting team and with the inclusion of internationally respected individuals, the PCB could build it’s case in a better manner. “People like Miandad and Wasim Akram command immense respect around the world. They can use their influence on foreign players and convince them to tour Pakistan”, said Basit Ali.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Monday, 29 April 2013

In talks with ECB for bowlers’ exchange programme: Zaka Ashraf

Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: The chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Zaka Ashraf has been taking numerous steps for the betterment of Pakistan cricket and in this regard, chalking out an exchange programme with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is one of the major strides in the future. “We are in talks with the ECB to finalise an exchange programme under which our fast bowlers will tour England, while young English spinners will come to Pakistan”, said Zaka Ashraf while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“Five or six young fast bowlers will be sent to the academies in England, and similarly their spinners will come here to get trained. This exchange will help both the countries”, hoped Zaka Ashraf, who took over as the PCB chairman in October 2011.

On a question, the chairman made it clear that whenever the PCB deals with another ICC member board, the interest of Pakistan cricket is kept supreme. “Nobody should take Pakistan for granted. We deal with everyone – including the BCCI – on a single agenda of benefiting the Pakistan cricket.” said Zaka Ashraf

“India has a huge economic market hence the cricketing world keeps strong ties with the BCCI. Pakistan is doing the same by keeping its own interest intact”

“India has also been very supportive, however we will do whatever it takes to benefit Pakistan Cricket the most”, concludes the PCB chairman.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Friday, 19 April 2013

With grants, Afghanistan need exposure too: Rashid Latif

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Former Head coach of the Afghanistan national Cricket team, Rashid Latif, while welcoming the recent grant announcement, urged the International Cricket Council (ICC) to create an opportunity for frequent international fixtures for the ‘passionate’ Afghan team as well. “Along with funds, they [Afghan cricketers] also need support to excel at the international level. The ICC should arrange international tours for the team”, said Latif while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“Afghan team is a bunch of passionate cricketers, who can be very good at test level too if provided with appropriate support”, added Latif

Earlier this week, the ICC allocated US$ 422,000 for Afghanistan, from the ICC's Targeted Assistance and Performance Programme (TAPP), which is aimed at developing more competitive teams among Full Members and Associate/Affiliate Members.

As per the ICC press release, this funding for the ACB was for the development of the National Cricket Academy in Kabul and is subject to the fulfilment of certain conditions.

Rashid Latif, while recalling his experience in the war-ravaged country, said that during his stint as coach he was highly impressed with the talent and enthusiasm for Cricket in Afghanistan.

“I was eyeing a Test status for them in two years time, and I still believe it’s not very far from reality. The more exposure they will get, the more confident they will become”, said Latif

“Matches against county teams as well with test playing nations will enhance their skills as well as confidence”, concludes Rashid Latif. 

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

What is next for Asif and Butt?

Muhammad Asif Khan

After the International Cricket Council (ICC), independent anti-corruption tribunal and the London court, the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) also upheld the penalties imposed by the ICC on Pakistani crickets Muhammad Asif and Salman Butt.

After ICC’s suspensions, during the January 2011 hearing in Doha, an independent anti-corruption tribunal handed Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif 10 and 7 years bans respectively, out of which five years were suspended on condition that, throughout that period, both would not commit any further breach of the code and would participate in anti-corruption education programmes.

Later in November 2011, Salman Butt along with Muhammad Amir – banned for five years - failed to reduce their sentences after the lord chief justice rejected their appeals, telling their legal teams that the pair had been guilty of "criminal conduct of a very serious kind".

The interesting aspect, during the hearing, was the statement of Salman Butt’s lawyer, Ali Bajwa who argued that Salman Butt's sentence was "out of proportion to the seriousness of the offence that was committed". For the first time Bajwa admitted that Butt had been involved in arranging the no-balls – something that emerged neither in the trial nor in his mitigation-plea hearing – and that this was a criminal offence, but he claimed that spot fixing of individual events was at the "lower end of the scale" of such offences, with result fixing the gravest. Bajwa described Butt as a broken man in a state of "ruin and disgrace".

Then comes the latest CAS appeal hearing where Asif challenged the suspension by the ICC tribunal but on the other hand Salman Butt only requested that the sanction be reduced to less than five years. Why Salman only sough reduction? Doesn’t it mean he accepted the charge against him? Of course, because prior to him, his lawyer admitted that as well (as mentioned above)

Now Salman Butt is eyeing a return after serving the 5-year period out of which he had already served little over 30 months, but it is not that simple.

Both Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif have to complete the five-year period first and then as per the article 6.7 of the ICC Anti-corruption code, both have to go through a procedure to earn eligibility to hit a cricket ground again.

The article 6.7 of the ICC Anti-corruption code states that once the period of ineligibility – five years - has expired they (Asif & Butt) will automatically become re-eligible to play provided that they had

·        Completed an official anti-corruption education session to the reasonable satisfaction of the ACSU.

·        Satisfied, in full, any fine and/or award of costs made against them by any Anti-Corruption Tribunal or CAS panel

·        Agreed to subject them to such additional reasonable and proportionate monitoring procedures and requirements as the ACSU's General Manager may reasonably consider necessary given the nature and scope of the offence committed.

Now the scenario is pretty clear, unless Salman Butt and Muhammad Asif fulfill the above mentioned pre-requisites their return does not seem possible.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Umpires escape a much tougher ban

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: After a lengthy session of the integrity committee, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), on Saturday imposed four and three years ban on umpires Nadeem Ghouri and Anis Siddiqui respectively, however a source familiar with the development revealed that the two umpires had actually escaped a much server sanction. “The offence was of the serious nature and after thorough review of the hours long video evidence some members even suggested a life ban on the umpires”, said the source.
“Nadeem and Anis are educated and experienced umpires, hence instead of being involved in lengthy conversations, they should have given them a shut-up call straightaway”, added the source

Meanwhile the umpires are entitled to file an appeal against the ban within 30 days. Their appeals will be heard by PCB’s independent arbitrator.

Earlier commenting on the occasion Chairman PCB Zaka Ashraf said, "The PCB has a zero tolerance policy for corruption or indiscipline. We are committed on creating awareness amongst our players and officials with regards to the possible pitfalls, and are determined to adopt all vigilance and security parameters, which are in line with the laid out procedures of the ICC. Today's decision reiterates the commitment of the PCB to keep our great sport free of all corrupt practices", a PCB press release said.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

WICB is ready, but PCB is not

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Although the Pakistan tour to the West Indies in coming July was part of the International Cricket Council’s FTP, however the recent ambiguous signals from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) provoked the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to shift to a contingency plan.

“The WICB was planning to host India and Sri Lanka for a tri-nation series during the period, and wanted to reschedule Pakistan’s tour”, a PCB source revealed to this correspondent

“Now we have scheduled some of our old test series pending with Zimbabwe in this window”, the source added

The Pakistan Cricket team was due to play two Tests, three ODIs and two Twenty20 matches against Zimbabwe - in December last year - but the trip was postponed as the dates were clashing with the Indian trip.

On the other hand, a new development suggests that the WICB was still optimistic about hosting Pakistan. A statement on the WICB website says “WICB looks forward to the much anticipated visit of the Pakistan Cricket Team as indeed all cricket-loving fans of the Caribbean do”

“Once all arrangements are finalized they will be announced to the media and public in the usual manner and at the earliest opportunity”, added WICB

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Monday, 8 April 2013

PCB gears up for strict measures to shun 2010 like incident

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACH: The Pakistan Cricket team with embark on a trip to London to participate in the prestigious Champions Trophy with two worries. This time around, along with tackling with the tough oppositions, avoiding 2010 kind of incidents would also be in the back of everybody’s mind.

The trio banned, for spot-fixing in England, in 2010
Pakistan, in 2010, went to England to play a series against the home team but three of the players – Captain Salman Butt, Muhammad Asif and Muhammad Amir – were caught and later sent to jail for their involvement in the notorious spot-fixing episode.
Almost after three years of that unpleasant event, the new management of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), under Chairman Zaka Ashraf, is upbeat and hopeful that, with adequate mechanism in place, the 2010 like incident would be averted.

“We are taking strict measures on our team's visit to the UK after the 2010 incident”, a PCB source revealed to this correspondent.

On a question the source further said that, in line with the ICC directives, the players as well as the officials were duly briefed on relevant precautions.

“The players are well aware of this problem, and to make it more secure, the security department as well as a vigilance team would monitor the players etc”, concludes the PCB source.

After the spot-fixing episode, the ICC imposed ban on all the players, but Muhammad Asif and Salman Butt later appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), on which the verdict is expected anytime soon.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Latif sees Younis more effective in coaching role

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: After getting dropped from the Champions Trophy squad, the one-day international career of the former skipper, Younis Khan has probably reached at a decisive juncture. The veteran batsman might be in a dilemma, but his close friend and another former captain, Rashid Latif is categorical on this matter, and feels that Younis Khan should call it a day in the ODI cricket.

“Younis has been a wonderful player for Pakistan, but has crossed his prime. It’s high time for him [Younis] to retire from ODIs”, said Rashid Latif, while talking to this correspondent.
“I see an ideal coach in Younis and there is no harm in appointing him as Pakistan’s assistant coach, who can take over when Whatmore leaves”, adds Latif

Younis Khan, 35, has already acquired a level-two coaching course, conducted by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) at the National Cricket Academy in Lahore a few years back.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is also in search of a full-time batting coach for national team and it is reported that the appointment was likely to be made before the upcoming Champions Trophy, scheduled in England later this year.

“I think Younis should be appointed as assistant coach before the Champions Trophy. His stature and experience would come handy for the team.”, concludes Latif.

The writer is a sports journalist in Pakistan, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Younus Khan was dropped, not discarded: Iqbal Qasim

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Younus Khan’s poor run of form has not only cost him a place in the Pakistan squad for the upcoming Champions Trophy but also put his ODI career in jeopardy. Some former cricketers have advised him to hang his boots however the chief selector, Iqbal Qasim feels that this important call had to be made by the veteran batsman himself. “Putting an end to somebody’s career is not the mandate of the selection committee. Whoever performs is considered for selection and Younus Khan is no exception”, said Iqbal Qasim while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“In view of the current form, Younus was not picked, but it doesn’t mean that he was sidelined forever”, added the chief selector.

The Pakistan Cricket Board’s selection committee on Sunday announced the preliminary 30-men squad for the Champions Trophy scheduled in England later this year, where Pakistan will face the West Indies in their opening match on June 7.

Younus, 35, only managed 116 runs in the recently concluded series against South Africa, while this year, he scored 132 in seven ODI innings.

Since his debut in 2000, Younus Khan has played 253 ODIs as yet with 7014 runs to his credit. In Test Cricket he is amongst Pakistan’s top batsmen of all times with 6749 runs in 82 matches.

The former skipper gave up the Twenty20 format following Pakistan’s World Twenty20 triumph under his captaincy in 2009.

While terming the initial squad a balanced one, the chief selector said that the upcoming domestic One-day tournament would help them in choosing the final squad for the Champions trophy. “The domestic One-day tournament is a great opportunity for the players included in the initial list. It will make our [selection committee] job a little easier as well”, concludes Iqbal Qasim

The departmental One-Day tournament is scheduled to begin later this week, in which stars like Younus Khan and Shahid Afridi etc will represent their respective departments.

The writer is a sports journalist in Pakistan, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Monday, 1 April 2013

Junaid snubs county offers, concentrates on CT

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: The recent tour to South Africa, where the batting line of Pakistan didn’t perform up to the expectations, but pacemen Junaid Khan and lanky Muhammad Irfan caught everybody’s attention including the English county teams, however, one of the duo, Junaid Khan said his entire focus is on the upcoming Champions Trophy.
“I have played for Lancashire, and recently got good offers from Durham and a few other county teams, however my entire focus is on the Champions Trophy at the moment, hence I turned down the offers”, said Junaid Khan while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“PCB also advised me to skip county offers to avoid possible injuries before the mega event scheduled in England later this year”, added Junaid Khan

The left arm fast bowler hurt his leg during the recently concluded tour of South Africa where he performed impressively.

Junaid Khan, who recently led his regional side at the domestic super eight T20 tournament, described his captaincy experience as a great learning curve for him.

“I was given the responsibility in Younus Khan’s absence, and I enjoyed the experience. I am eyeing at the upcoming departmental One-day tournament now”, said Junaid

The 23 year old was also ecstatic to know that the legendry Wasim Akram would probably appear at the training camp before the champions trophy.

“I heard Wasim Akram will also visit the training camp and that would the best opportunity for a youngster like me to learn from the master”, concludes Junaid Khan

The writer is a sports journalist in Pakistan, heads the sports department at News One TV & tweets @mak_asif

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Westfield’s absence to benefit Kaneria: Lawyer

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Danish Kaneria, the Pakistani leg-spinner has been under hot waters for more than two years now as the English Cricket Board (ECB), last year, banned him for life for his involvement in spot-fixing in a county game in September 2009. Kaneria has already filed as appeal, against the ban, which will be heard on April 22nd.
In the preliminary hearing of Kaneria’s appeal in December last year his Essex-county mate and the man who accused him of the crime – Mervyn Westfield - did not show up but the Karachi based lawyer of the banned leg-spinner, Farogh Naseem, is of the view that in case of Westfield’s absence from the upcoming hearing, Danish Kaneria would probably be cleared of the charge. “If he [Westfield] appears before the appeal panel, then we would thoroughly question him, however in his absence, the ECB will lose out on its star witness”, said Farogh Naseem while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

Kaneria, 32, was banned for life and charged £100,000 in costs by an ECB disciplinary panel in June last year for his part in the spot-fixing case. The lanky spinner was found guilty of luring his team-mate [Westfield] to under-perform and bringing the game into disrepute. Westfield, who was jailed for his role in the case, gave evidence against Kaneria at the hearing took place in June last.

Kaneria's appeal hearing was originally scheduled for December but, upon Westfield’s non-appearance, it was postponed until April 22nd.

The lawyer, Farogh Naseem further said that, in his view, the earlier given statement by Westfield would hold no weight if he fails to attend the upcoming hearing as well.
“I believe his [Westfield’s] old statement will have no weight, because he is not cross-questioned in an appeal as yet. As per the law, during the proceedings of an appeal all the evidences and statements are reassessed and we are looking forward to doing the same”, said Farogh Naseem.

“If Westfield would fail to appear before the panel again, then Kaneria would be benefited”, concludes Farogh Naseem

Kaneria, 32, is the fourth highest wicket-taker for Pakistan in Test cricket with 236 scalps to his credit in 61 appearances. He last played for Pakistan in July 2010.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

They can do but we can’t

Muhammad Asif Khan

The past week stated with a masala news of a rift between Pakistan Test and ODI captain Misbah-ul-Haq and his deputy Mohammad Hafeez and ended with an even bigger episode when the Australian Coach rocked the very foundation of his own team, beaten and bruised at the hands of the home side in India.

The four dismissed Australian players - Shane Watson, James Pattison, Mitchell Johnson and Usman Khawaja – failed to submit a report on the team’s and their personal performances with suggestions but there was another signal attached to the development which the coach – Mickey Arthur – wanted to transmit. He sent a stern warning across that nobody was above the system.

He further elaborated his decision on a blog to make his concerns and priorities absolutely clear.

Arthur said: "Being late for a meeting, high skinfolds, wearing the wrong attire, back-chat or giving attitude are just some examples of these behavioural issues that have been addressed discretely but continue to happen.

These are all the disciplinary issues. Do they have an effect on the performance of a player as well? But this is what Arthur believes and explains in the following way.

"If we're deadly serious about getting back to number one in the world, all players need to raise the bar and lift their game. If not, we must be content at being number three or four or five in world cricket because we won't get any better. The players won't learn and we'll continue a vicious cycle.

Here you go the mystery is solved, he has set some priorities for the team, he feels some players are not adhering to, and hence he pushed them aside and moved on. It sounds so simple but implementation of this unsympathetic philosophy and its likely impact in the longer run could be disastrous.

Fearless approach of Arthur and his muscles to swim against the tide are because of the confidence given to him by the system imposed by the Cricket Australia. Is it the first time they snubbed top-notch players? Absolutely not, as not so far back one of the best all-rounders of his time, Andrew Symonds was sent back from a tour only upon coming late for practice. All in all, penalising players is not a rare sight in the Australian Cricket setup.

Apart from the Board’s backing, another aspect should be highlighted to fully understand and digest the bold step taken by the incumbent Australia coach and that is their sound domestic structure which has been providing the team with quality backup of almost every player. This very tough and almost immaculate structure produces good players and that is the reason why even the star players keep their heads down in-front of the management, and that speaks volumes of their methodology to achieve excellence.

Excellence is indirectly proportional to compromises and here comes the difference between Australia and the Pakistan Cricket Board. I am comparing Pakistan and Australia because over the years the PCB has had a number of individuals from Australia to serve the national Cricket team. After Geoff Lawson, the current head coach, Dav Whatmore is also from Australia. It means that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) also acknowledges the competence of these men yet the excellence the PCB sought is still a far cry.

As far as the reported disturbance in the Pakistan team camp is concerned there is nothing in it to write about. If it has actually happened even then that was not unprecedented in the Pakistan Cricket culture.

What matters is the loose grip of the authorities over the matters related to discipline in the setup. Whenever the PCB tried to put its foot down, it failed one way or the other. Not so far ago, an inquiry into the miserable Australia tour resulted in bans and fines on a number of top players but gradually almost all had made their way back to the national team. We have also seen rift between a captains and cricket board chiefs in the past but the end result was always a patch-up between the two parties. What it indicates is that the players were treated as indispensable.

Why players are seen as indispensable because of a weak domestic cricket structure, which has not been producing quality backup of the star performers.

The onus is not only on the fragile domestic setup, the Cricket Board should take responsibility as well for not sticking to its stern decisions against the star players.

One great reason for the Board’s weakness is their political affiliation. Currently the Board chairman is directly appointed by the President of the country. We are hearing about the new democratic constitution which, the PCB says, will soon be implemented, however in the existing scenario the Board chairman is a fairly political personality. What change a ‘democratic’ constitution will bring about is a different topic altogether but what we have seen in the past is the lack of control over various matter and no accountability.

Lack of control over the players is, to some extent, linked with the weak domestic structure, but letting the ‘penalised’ players off the hook by being lenient with them indicates the lack of will within the Cricket Board. Individual brilliance is all-right but as a team, unless the mentioned issues are not overcome, sustainable excellence will remain a dream and team will be dubbed as ‘unpredictable’ for ever.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Pybus bails Whatmore out, feels lack of experience cost Pakistan

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: The Test series white-wash at the hands of South Africa instigated a debate in Pakistan and almost every other former Cricketer demands the dismissal of the head coach, Dav Whatmore, however one of the former foreign coaches of Pakistan, Richard Pybus thinks otherwise. “That's life at international level, and I am sure Whatmore is also aware of it. I think he [Whatmore] has done well. All you can do is prepare the team and hand over to the captain in the game time.” said Richard Pybus, while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.

“I popped in to watch a bit of the Cape Town test. Overall the [Pakistan] side disappointed in the Tests in South Africa but this is not new though. They lack depth in experienced batters for these conditions while the bowlers weren’t up to the standard even.” added Pybus, who coached the Pakistan team twice between 1999–2001 and 2003.

“If Whatmore was coaching South Africa with players like Smith, Kallis, De Villiers and Amla then he would be called a great coach”, maintained Pybus

Richard Pybus is the first amongst the four foreign coaches appointed so far by the Pakistan Cricket Board from 1999, followed by the Late Bob Woolmer, Geoff Lawson and the incumbent Whatmore. 

The former coach also acknowledged that the Pakistan Cricket was suffering from the lack of international events at home.

“It’s really tough if you take away a side’s home advantage but Pakistan have adapted reasonably well. I saw them prepare in Sri Lanka for the T20 and they looked a profession outfit. Pakistan needs to build on continuity of selection, trusting and challenging players to success”, concludes Richard Pybus.

On the upcoming ODI series against South Africa, Richard Pybus hopes to see competitive encounters, adding that with the inclusion of a few players, Pakistan look a more formidable outfit in the limited-over matches.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Modification in action saved my career: Anwar Ali

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: The U-19 Cricket World cup triumph of Pakistan in 2006 is still fresh in memories. Pakistan collided with India in the low-scoring final in Colombo where the magical spell of fast bowling by Anwar Ali spearheaded his country's 38-run win. The rookie paceman of that time has now become a force to recon with in the Domestic circuit and owes his recent success mainly to the modification of the bowling action. “After the World Cup I got to play my debut First Class season, where the lengthy bowling spell actually exposed the flaws in my action. Soon after I broke down with side strain.” said Anwar Ali while talking to this correspondent for News One TV.
“For the sake of my career I went on to modify my bowling action which turned out productive for me. Now I can effectively bowl both ways with much ease”, added Anwar Ali.

Anwar Ali, 25, said that he had been concentrating on his batting as well, and his performance in the past two seasons was evident of the improvement in his all-round abilities. “The selectors picked him as all-rounder for the India trip late last year, I couldn’t get a chance but I hopeful of getting a go in the future”, said the Karachi-born Right-hander

“After a good outing in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, now my focus is on the upcoming domestic one-day tournament, where I would strive to get the best bowler’s slot”, concludes Anwar Ali, who made his T20I debut against Zimbabwe in 2008, his only international appearance for Pakistan till date.

Anwar Ali was an important member of the Karachi Blues outfit, which won the recently concluded Quaid-e-Azam Trophy - Pakistan’s premier domestic competition - by beating Sialkot in the final match.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Accountability, but on every level

By Muhammad Asif Khan

What happened in Centurion a week or so ago was nothing but an old tale narrated by new tellers. The green caps succumbed to the mighty South Africa within only three days of a five-day encounter. Nothing fresh to write about the demolition mission of the Proteas and their overall dominance in the three-match Test rubber but still a few questions have risen again which should be sorted out once and for all to curtail the recurrence of such humiliations in the future.

Alright, this is also a valid argument that this was not the first time that green caps surrendered in South Africa or in Australia for that matter, but this is also a reality that such facilities include highly qualified foreign coaches and a sizable number of support staff as their helping hands were not at the disposal of their predecessors yet the Misbah-led outfit faltered and faltered badly. Their accountability will and should be done but will it happen in Pakistan Cricket for the first time? Not at all is the answer.

Haven’t we seen inquiries after inquires from the dismal 2003 and 2007 World Cup campaigns then very recently after the 2009-10 Australia tour? After all the probes only the players paid the ultimate price and the other responsible were ignored or let off the hook. Who can forget the saddest event of the Pakistan Cricket history when three players got convicted and banned by the International Cricket Council but again apart from the players nobody from the team management was taken to task. The manager on that infamous England tour of 2010 went unquestioned.

Will the same happen this time around as well? If this is the case then such performances would keep on coming I am afraid. Yes, the players should be questioned and taken to task but the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should also give a review to its decisions in the recent past.

Pakistan, not so far ago, beat the then number one team of England in the United Arab Emirates, however that winning combination was rattled by the PCB chairman himself. Even before that tour he put the fear in the mind of coach Mohsin Khan that he [Mohsin] would be replaced come what may. Imagine how a man, who is on the verge of embarking an important assignment, would feel with such a threat. The reason given by the chairman was that Mohsin Khan was not duly qualified for the job, fine but why this ‘golden principle’ wasn’t taken into consideration while appointing other key individuals for various slots in the Cricket board or with the team?

Is the Director of the National Cricket Academy is duly qualified? Nothing against him at all because he knows the game inside out, but rules are rules and should be adhered to in every aspect. Moving on is the incumbent bowling coach of the Pakistan Cricket team meets the criteria mentioned in the advertisement posted for the job? Also when the batting consultant was appointed, prior to the India series, then was the qualification of the great Inzamam-ul-Haq taken into account? No, is the answer and rightly so because a man of Inzamam’s caliber doesn’t need any recognition to his credentials.
Modern day game is changed and why other teams are inclining towards qualified coaches is a separate debate. In short, in view of the culture in Pakistan, I am a firm believer of having someone with reputation rather than a certain level of qualification to impart in a better manner. For instance if Wasim Akram and Muhammad Akram tell something to a young Pakistani bowler, then who would have the greater impression on that youngster is not hard to guess to make. Not maligning Muhammad Akram at all, he might be a successful man, but before joining Pakistan, he worked in a different culture all together.

How the players were prepared for the South African trip is evident in their performance over there, but what facilities did the board provided them with is also a matter of concern. Why the batting consultant was appointed for the trip of India only? Does the PCB think-tank believe conditions in India are tougher then in South Africa? They also sent a physiologist with the team to India and that practice was discontinued on the African safari, they were either wrong earlier or put a foot wrong this time around, only the people at the helm could solve this puzzle.

I am also convinced that the able people who are  running the cricket affairs are well aware of the fact that which nature of Cricket balls are being used abroad these days, therefore shouldn’t the same be provided to the players in the domestic circuit too? If it’s a costly business then should limit it to the premier tournament to gauge the true potential of a bowler.

I would like to come back to the point mentioned earlier that players did perform badly no doubt, but they were not the only answerable for the recent debacle. The way a few players collapsed during and even before the Test series raised question on the medical panel of the PCB which is responsible for the final clearance on players’ fitness. Will they be questioned?

After every series only the team is bashed for the lack of consistency, and rightly so, but who is responsible for bringing consistency in the decisions taken by the PCB officials.

It has not been a culture where a person either takes responsibly of a mistake or doesn’t feel free to work accordingly and steps down with pride. Last such resignation was from Muhammad Ilyas, in March last year, for the post of chief selector. It was reported that he reached to the decision upon Pakistan team’s poor performance against England in the ODI and T20 series – followed by the famous Test white-wash - and meddling of the PCB in the selection affairs. In either case or both Mr. Ilyas deserves credit for his bold stance.

Who is responsible for sending half-fit players to South Africa, who should be blamed for not appointing the batting consultant or the physiologist, who should be asked upon the use of cricket balls at the domestic circuit? These and a lot of other questions converge to one person only, the PCB chairman, who is considered to be the man running the show alone.

Anyway individual shouldn’t be either targeted or praised overwhelmingly but Zaka Ashraf cannot enjoy this distinction because of the fact that he is directing every matter. From the appointment of a Director General to the Coach, captain and vice-captain for the national teams his consent is a must.

With the management experience under the belt, Zaka Ashraf seems to be a man who can do it. Unluckily most of his initiatives have backfired lately, which should be enough for him to realise and revisit the strategy he is drafting with his team. The PCB Chairman is no less than a General, but even the best General can’t win a war on his own.

The writer is a Pakistani sports journalist, and tweets @mak_asif