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