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

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Rehan Butt terms retirement a one time affair

By Muhammad Asif Khan

KARACHI: Despite being out of favour since long, the former Pakistan Hockey captain, Rehan Butt is in no mood to hang his boots anytime soon. Talking to this correspondent for New One TV the experienced forward applauded the younger lot which performed well in the recent international events.

“Dropping me was the decision of the hockey federation, but frankly the players performed exceptionally well in the absence of some senior guys, therefore should be highly praised”, said Rehan Butt

The Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) dropped a few senior players including Rehan Butt, following team’s dismal show in the London Olympics last year.

“I am pleased to see the team returning with Bronze and Gold medals in back to back events lately”, added Butt, who has recently monitored the trails to pick national U-16 outfit for the upcoming Asia Cup.

On a question about retirement, the former skipper termed it a one-time call, adding that he wanted to take the important decision after through deliberation.
“I don’t want to go and then come back. Retirement will come eventually but not till I am playing foreign leagues. I will hang my boots once and for all.” maintained Rehan Butt  

The PHF recently gave Rehan Butt the responsibility of coaching the junior outfit for the upcoming event. In the first phase he, along with other officials, has witnessed trials in various cities to pick a bunch of U-16 players.

Rehan Butt, 32, said he has been enjoying his new responsibilities and considers it as a way to give something back to the country.

“I have witnessed very good players at this level especially in Punjab and KPK, soon the probables be announced for the training camp in Karachi, where I will be working on them for the Asia Cup” concludes Rehan Butt

The U-16 Asia Cup is scheduled to be held in Singapore from April 4 to 7.

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

Friday, 22 February 2013

An interaction with Ehsan Adil

The interview was conducted after his selection for the South Africa tour.
By Muhammad Asif Khan

Hard work always pays, and EHSAN ADIL is an example:
Pakistan has been a fortunate nation when it comes to sports and especially Cricket. Despite of the fragile infrastructure the supply of the talented players continues at every level, however the transition from a lower to the top level has not been up to the mark lately and due to this very fact, a fair amount of talent fades away.

The younger lot is exuberant and recent showing is indicative of the fact the future of Pakistan cricket is safe provided the smooth transition is taken care of adequately.

Talking about upcoming players reminds the recent U19 Cricket World Cup, where Pakistan’s performance wasn’t impressive but a few youngsters caught everybody’s attention and 19-year old, Ehsan Adil was one of them, who finally made it to the National squad, Presently in South Africa, to take on the mighty hosts.

Very much like many others the journey to the top wasn’t that easy for Ehsan Adil either. Since childhood, the Mureedkay born all-rounder had a dream to wear the Green cap one day, and now he is on the verge of achieving this goal but his upward voyage has not been a smooth sailing.

Early days:
“Cricket was my passion since childhood and I used to imitate Waqar Younis and Glenn McGrath after watching them on TV”, recalled Ehsan Adil who started playing the game with a taped tennis ball similar to the majority in Pakistan.

In 2000, when he was only 7-year old, the family shifted to Gojra from Mureedkay, where Ehsan continued with his fervour for Cricket and kept on playing with the tennis ball.

First competitive level:
“I joined a local club – Gojra Friends – where the in-charge, Lala Ijaz Khan, advised me to concentrate on bowling more, which I did.” Ehsan Adil

Adil kept on performing and impressing not only his mates but the other teams in the area too. One day he was told by an opposing team member to try his luck at the Faisalabad region’s Under-15 trails.

Turning Point:
While terming his entry to the Faisalabad Under-15 outfit the turning point in his career, Ehsan Adil also shared an interesting episode attached to it.

“In the trials, I was provided with a few delivers, which I felt were not enough. In dejection I said something to my friend which was heard by one of the selectors passing by, who said that was enough for them. Later I found my name in the selected bunch”

Later, the inspirational show at the U-15 level brought Ehsan Adil to the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in 2007, where Aaqib Javed modified his action a little.

The next level – Pakistan U-19:
After U-15 and a stint at the NCA, Ehsan played for regional Under-16 team and then entered the Under-19 outfit of the region.

In 2011, Ehsan Adil captained the Faisalabad Under-19 team during the regional tournament. He performed very well throughout but his match winning performance in the final against Pindi was exceptional. With more than 500 runs and 46 wickets, Ehsan Adil was selected for the Pakistan U-19 team touring South Africa where he lived up to the expectations.

U-19 Asia Cup & a sensational match against India:
On the basis of his performances in South Africa, Ehsan Adil was chosen for the U19 Asia Cup in Malaysia. Pakistan and India played the final match which was ended in a tie, and both the teams were declared joint winners. Ehsan’s performance in the nerve-racking encounter was instrumental.

 India needed seven runs in the last over and I dismissed two players including the captain on 122”, Ehsan Adil.

The U-19 World Cup:
The lanky pacer continued his match-wining stuff and helped Pakistan win the away series against South Africa with his all-round performance. Later in the U-19 World Cup, the Pakistan team was below par, but Ehsan stood out and caught the eyes of the top domestic teams of the country.

Entry to the top domestic circuit:
After the Under-19 World Cup, Ehsan Adil was offered a place by Pakistan’s top domestic teams but he opted for Habib Bank Limited (HBL) on the advice of Sabih Azhar.

Magical words of the Sports Head:
“Senior guys like Younus Khan and Imran Farhat were very encouraging but the words of Abdul Raqeeb elevated my confidence to a different level”. “He [Raqeeb] said I could play for Pakistan in one year’s time”, said Ehsan Adil.

In the President’s Cup matches, Ehsan Adil lived up to the expectation and showed a lot of promise with both bat and ball. He scored 121 runs and took 53 wickets.

Almost there:
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) organised a T20 tournament just before the Indian trip, and in view of the heartening performance in the event, Ehsan Adil became the talk of the town. With the notable run of form, Adil was seen as certain for the India-bound squad however his luck didn’t favour him. The younger was unmoved upon the non-selection but his family, he said, was a bit depressed.

“Hopes of my family were very high therefore they were understandably disappointed, but I have no complaints whatsoever. My job is to keep on performing and leave the rest to the selectors”, said Ehsan Adil

Finally there:
The selectors left him out of the India tour, his family was dejected but the youngster showed big heart and accepted the decision.

“God must have thought something better for me, now my focus is on the upcoming tour of South Africa."

And God granted his prayers, and the selectors expressed faith in Ehsan Adil for the tough tour of South Africa.

The all-rounder is aware of the importance and delicacy of the chance he got, and upbeat to retain his hard-earned place in the National team. 

“My past experience on South African track would come handy; I will try and perform to the best of my abilities”, concludes Ehsan Adil.

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

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

ICC: International or ‘Indian’ Cricket Council

Muhammad Asif Khan

To run a business adequately the existence of a competent governing body is a must, however only the competence would be of no use if the system is not followed in it’s true spirit.

This is a universal rule, hence also applied on the bodies responsible for running the affairs of any sport including Cricket.

Converging on Cricket where the International Cricket Council (ICC) is the supreme authority which, with the help of it’s member Cricket boards, works for the betterment of the game worldwide.

The game of Cricket also requires a system like other walks of life but before the system and it’s effectiveness firstly to understand the system itself is a must. By definition, the system is consist of a set of components work in coordination or harmony to perform a certain job, and if it’s Cricket than the ICC has the system and the member cricket boards are it’s components.

Over the years, with the harmonious work of the components – Member Cricket Boards – the ICC has been able to introduce a lot of innovations to the sport and transformed it into a much better spectacle at the moment.

But, in recent times this harmonious love affair between the system and it’s components seems to have jolted. Not so far ago the ICC introduced the Umpires Decision Review System (UDRS) to minimise the element of error as much as possible but contrary to other members, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has been tenacious and not willing to adopt the UDRS. The BCCI has it’s reading to the situation and it does not consider the UDRS as an immaculate methodology hence is not favouring it.

Not blaming India because a system needs to have all it’s components working properly, while in case of the UDRS, the major component is the Hot-Spot which should be present everywhere, also the hawk-eye needs to be spot-on to produce error-less conclusion however these aspect have not fully satisfied all the stakeholders.

What can the ICC do in this situation? It can not put it’s foot-down the way FIFA did on the implementation of the goal-line technology in football.

Before moving further, the role of FIFA, rather the difference between the mechanisms of ICC and FIFA needs to be understood. We can’t compare both the governing bodies because FIFA is the federation – which has the power to impose it’s decision on it’s affiliated units while the ICC, being a council could not go all the way against a member.

So, it’s come down to the ICC again, India does not like the UDRS and it’s fine they have a right to do so but what the ICC is doing with the members who are happily willing to implement the review system?  As per the existing regulations, if two boards playing a bilateral series then the expense for the UDRS system would be their responsibility, however in an ICC sponsored event, this will be the responsibility of the ICC. Again, a confusion arises, wasn’t the last year’s ODI world cup the ICC event? Then why the UDRS was not installed there? The answer is the descent of the BCCI.

Okay, if the BCCI has a right to object then why other cricket boards can’t enjoy the same liberty in other matters? When the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) says that they could not entirely implement the ICC directives regarding a democratically elected Cricket board then why the PCB is given a cold shoulder by the ICC?

This is not the only case. In the ongoing women world cup, the ICC is acting as a spectator only. India says matches to be held in Mumbai or Cuttack or elsewhere, the ICC says okay, India accommodates one cricket team which is participating in the mega event at a stadium, which is indeed against ICC’s own regulations but again the International Cricket Council kept mum. This strange rather partial behaviour of the ICC puzzles the followers who wonder who is actually calling the shots?

If the BCCI is strong, then it also means that the ICC is weak. Can’t right much on the dichotomies and just want to leave you and ICC with a question.

Since the BCCI has set a precedent of accommodating a national cricket team at a stadium during the ICC World Cup then why can’t Pakistan be given the same liberty to host any of the teams with the same condition? Yes Pakistan can organise a bilateral series if allowed to put the visitors at the stadium all the time, can ICC or the BCCI do PCB this favour? 

Tweet @mak_asif