Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Actions speak louder than words


Former Australian fast bowler Geoff Lawson has finally been named as Pakistan cricket coach. Lawson who has played 46 Test matches and 79 ODIs for Australia is the eighth coach since 1999 of the national side while before him two foreigners -- Richard Pybus and Bob Woolmer -- have coached the Pakistan team.
As expected, mixed reactions followed the announcement, therefore we need to look at every possible aspect of the appointment. After the World Cup debacle, the job was advertised with challenging credentials, therefore among the short listed candidates, Dav Whatmore would have been chosen as he coached Sri Lanka to World Cup victory in 1996 and steered Bangladesh to the Super Eights stage of the World Cup this year, but he was snubbed, and Lawson with no international exposure, having only coached a state side in Australia was chosen.
Why was the decision not taken on merit as claimed while advertising the job? The World knows that Whatmore knows sub continental teams better than Lawson or the other short listed fellow, Richard Done.
Two possible reasons were reported, one -- former Sri Lankan skipper Arjuna Ranatunga had a word with Talat Ali which led to the decision of overlooking Whatmore. Since the Chairman PCB has negated this report, therefore, the other reported reason should be considered as valid that some senior players were of the view that Lawson would be a better choice, hence he was selected. If the PCB was to end up listening to the players then why did they advertise the job in the first place and waited for so long? Players could have been consulted earlier as well, but it's better late than never.
After going through the record of Geoff Lawson, it is quite obvious that his skill lies in fast bowling hence he would be beneficial for the fast bowlers only. Pakistan have had wonderful pace bowlers over the years and this is a reality that we lost most of the matches because of our batting not bowling, therefore, it goes without saying that a batting coach should have been preferred.
I know, the PCB Chief has said that a batting coach would also be hired. The PCB has money to burn I believe, otherwise these heavy investments would not have been planned (Lawson to get 80,000 pounds per year along with other perks). If a bowling coach has to be hired then why Waqar Younis was shown the door in the past.
In January this year, Waqar reportedly resigned in protest at only being asked on the South Africa tour for the Tests and not ODIs. This was the kind of respect a local and able coach got from the cricket management while on the other hand the services offer to foreigners is there to be seen. The statement from the board claimed that "The management feels that Waqar had very little contribution in the past as far as the shorter version of the game is concerned", well one can only laugh at this because Waqar served as the bowling coach from March 2006 to January 2007, and after going through the record it is quite evident that our fast bowlers were pretty disciplined as compared to the pre-Waqar era.
During the period under Waqar, Pakistan played 18 ODIs in total out of which two matches were rained out. In the remaining 16 matches our bowlers delivered only 44 no-balls (2.75 no-balls per match). This performance clearly shows their discipline and of course the dedication of the bowling coach. Therefore the claim of the PCB management regarding Waqar's performance was simply baseless.
I am personally not at all in favour of a heavy duty coach at the top level because if one has flaws after even qualifying for a national side then it would be very hard to get rid of them. What a coach can do with people having played over one hundred matches yet faulty in their techniques?
I have written it earlier and would like to reiterate that just before the final stage of representing the national squad a penultimate phase should be introduced for which young players should be selected and get trained under qualified coaches. For this stage I believe, qualified (foreign or local) coaches should be hired. Also, by doing so, we will always have a backup of injured or out-of-form players.
What went wrong in the recent World Cup? We actually had lost half the battle before even playing our first match, because Shoaib Akhtar, Muhammad Asif, Abdul Razzaq and Shahid Afridi were not available and we did not have quality players to back them up. Now Inzamam is about to go, who will replace him? This is a big question and no one can answer it, because simply we do not have a replacement for the great Inzi, thanks to our set-up. Coach, no coach, local coach or foreign coach, no one can alone turn the tables.
In the end, I would like to touch upon the issue of preferring foreign coaches over local. Two schools of thought are there, and one says foreigners are good managers. First of all we are looking for a coach not a manager and how can a person manage a bunch where the majority cannot even communicate with him due to the language barrier.
Recently, after Bob Woolmer's death, Talat Ali has been managing the team, and despite being not a foreigner, he did a relatively good job. Yes, a controversy reported on the issue of naming Salman Butt as vice-captain, but it was amicably managed. The second school of thought believes that a local fellow will politicise matters among team mates.
My question to them is that in which department of Pakistan, politics is not played? Therefore it's an endless debate. We should stick to the basics and strive for the betterment of the cricket structure in the country which will surely lead to a better combination at the top and subsequently a better and consistence performance.

SA vice-captaincy for Prince and Kemp

 KARACHI: South Africa on Monday appointed Ashwell Prince as their Test vice-captain for the rest of the season and opted for Justin Kemp to do the job in the one-dayers for this month’s series in Pakistan.
The Protease were left without a vice-captain after all-rounder Jaques Kallis resigned from the job following his axing from the squad for last month’s World Twenty20 in South Africa.
“He (Prince) has been appointed as the vice-captain for this tour and the rest of the season’s Test matches until March-April,” South Africa’s team spokesman Owen Smith told reporters. “Justin Kemp has been named vice-captain for the one-day series in Pakistan only.”
Kallis returned to the Test line-up with the opening Test of the current series against Pakistan by hitting an unbeaten century but has no plans to take up the vice-captaincy. The South Africans have opted for the 28-year-old Prince to take over as Graeme Smith’s deputy in Tests. Prince has played 29 Tests, scoring 1800 runs. He also has 1018 runs from 52 One-day Internationals.
Kemp, who celebrates his 30th birthday today, will take over as vice-captain in the one-dayers. The all-rounder from Queens Town has played 82 ODI, scoring 1461 runs and taking 32 wickets.

Amla rues missing ton but happy with fine start

 KARACHI: South Africa batsman Hashim Amla on Monday rued an opportunity to score his second Test hundred but was also happy that he and other team’s batsmen have given the tourists a solid start in the opening Test against Pakistan.
“We did well today and I’m confident we will capitalize on it tomorrow and score more than 500 runs which would be excellent on a track which I believe will deteriorate and will be difficult to bat on during the final two days,” said the 24-year-old batsman, who scored 71 and shared a big 170-run stand for the third wicket with century-maker Jaques Kallis on the opening day of the Karachi Test.
Amla, the only Indian-origin cricketer to play Tests for South Africa, enjoyed the batting-friendly conditions in spite of the hot weather. “The conditions were favourable for batting. It was certainly hot but thankfully there was a breeze that made things a bit better.”
Amla said South Africa were lucky that skipper Graeme Smith won the toss and the batsmen managed to put some runs on the board. He said that there is some turn in the wicket for the spinners but predicted that it would assist the slow bowlers a lot more on day four and five.
In spite of the fact that the National Stadium track has nothing for the fast bowlers, the Durban-born Amla was surprised over Pakistan’s decision to go into the opening Test with four spinners and just two pacers.
“It was quite unusual to face two pacers and four spinners,” he said.
Amla, who has scored 616 runs from 13 Tests at an average of 25.66, praised Kallis for his aggressive knock of 118 not out. “Kallis took the attack to the bowlers and by scoring at a fast pace he took pressure off the team.”

Cairns to play in Indian Cricket League

 WELLINGTON: Former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns is coming out of retirement to play in the breakaway Indian Cricket League, he said Tuesday.
Cairns, 37, who retired from international cricket last year, told Christchurch newspaper he had accepted a “lucrative'' offer to play in the inaugural Twenty20 competition, due to start in November.
“It's a lucrative deal,'' Cairns said. “It's something, which has brought me out of retirement and to do that it has to be worth it. “The competition is also a chance to have one last go playing in front of heaps of people.''
Cairns joins former New Zealand internationals Chris Harris, Nathan Astle and Hamish Marshall in the competition, which is due to run for about five weeks beginning Nov. 17.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Big Fight and Uproar

There is a big tug-of- war between the BCCI and ICL these days. The formation of the ICL is really a shock to the monopoly of the BCCI in India; which has been the greatest dictator in the Indian cricket. ICL is not going down so well with the BCCI. Though BCCI is a completely private body (technically), still it has been using our national flag and the term “Team India”: OK!! It has been representating Indian cricket for so many decades, but it does not mean that it is going to ban the cricketers who are going to play cricket for any other body. Being the richest board in the world it has been doing nothing for the development of the cricket in the grass root level, which is substantial. One can be sure that Indian cricket is standing exactly where it was before 25 years. By being hunted about the fear of exposure the board is not setting its own website. The board is getting 1395 million dollars in a year out of media rights and Ads but from that amount even 25% has not been spent on the developmental activities of Indian cricket. It has not been giving any extra amount of its own profit to the players. On the other hand it is imposing the gag order over the players. It does not give permission or recognition to players association. Even it is not accountable to the government of India. Now it is attracting the ICL contracted players by giving a pay hike and also applying different tactics such as: offering the captaincy of their state side. BCCI is also planning a counter league with the help of CRICKET AUSTRALIA. BCCI has already sacked the world cup-winning captain of India from the post of chairman of NCA, and even planning to put Sunil Gavaskar against him as the executive board of professional cricket league. This is all about dirty and murky politics going all over.

On the other side of this story ICL has filed a petition against the BCCI in the Delhi high court, in which the first round has been already won by ICL. In this war between the two bodies of cricket the players are going to be benefited; because they will have some choice and also they will be forming a strong players association once again. Kerry packer of AUS, Stanford of West Indies and Subash Chandra of India are the three different individuals who have different intentions also. One thing for sure that the cricket is a business for both BCCI and ICL, but they are pretending that they are developing cricket in the country. In this war of power and money, we should not forget that cricket is going to suffer a lot. Let us hope that cricket is not going to be compromised for the sake of money in the coming days.

Recently Lalu Jadav has been arguing for ICL and always telling that why BCC and its board officials are so worried about the ICL. Having said that he has also suggested that BCCI should take it as a challenge. But ironically enough Lalu’s own son has not joined the ICL. But Lalu was very recently offering railway grounds to the ICL.

Despite its tall talk, BCCI has not cared so much to nurture talent. It is only giving importance to those players who are in the limelight. Except those players there are so many budding talents in the remote areas in the country. But our five wise men have no time to go there and point out those talents. In India politicians run almost every state association who has no basic knowledge about cricket. Popular voice says that the ICL is the best thing happened to Indian cricket. It will induct a kind of competitive and sportive medicine in the mindset of the BCCI. The spirit of outshining each other will be very much there. Now each and every move of the BCCI will be under the scanner. We hope that some good will happen to cricket at last.

Williams advances in Korea

SEOUL: Top-seeded Venus Williams cruised into the second round of the Korea Open here on Tuesday, defeating American qualifier Abigail Spears 6-2, 6-3.In spite of warm conditions at Seoul’s Olympic Park tennis arena, the Wimbledon champion barely broke a sweat as she used her powerful serve to dominate the match.Spears, whose right arm was heavily strapped, failed to win a single point from Williams’s first serve in the opening set.In the second set, Williams broke again in the opening game and held off a late rally from Spears to complete a comfortable win.“In a competition where there are few Americans, I don’t know why I played against one in the first game,” Williams said. “I was happy with my serve as it got me through some difficult moments at break points,” she added.In other first-round matches, defending champion No 5 Eleni Daniilidou of Greece won a hard-fought match against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark 6-4, 6-4; Martina Muller of Germany beat local hope Han Sung-hee 6-1, 6-0; Ahsha Rolle of the United States made short work of Anne Keothavong of Britain 6-1, 6-1 and Mathilde Johansson of France defeated Junri Namigata of Japan 7-5, 6-2.Thailand’s Tamarine Tanasugarn rallied from a set down to eliminate Australia’s Casey Dellacqua 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, China’s Yuan Meng defeated New Zealand’s Marina Erakovic 6-4, 6-4 and Colombian Catalina Castano beat Hseih Su-wei of Taiwan, 6-3, 6-2.Another local favourite was eliminated as Agnes Szavay of Hungary defeated South Korea’s Lee Ye-Ra 6-2, 6-3.Williams, who won her sixth Grand Slam at Wimbledon this year, returned to the top 10 in the WTA world rankings the first time since April 2006 after reaching the US Open semifinals.

Geoff Lawson stoic over final dismissal

JOHANNESBURG: Pakistan coach Geoff Lawson defended batsman Misbah-ul-Haq after they lost the World Twenty20 final to India here on Monday.With Pakistan needing six from four balls to win the game, an unorthodox shot saw Misbah caught at fine leg as he stepped across to the off-side.“He’s played it well in this tournament and with a little more bat on it, it would have gone for four,” Lawson said. “I could see him playing it because fine leg was up, a yorker was coming so the shot was pretty much on the cards,” he explained.He added: “Having already had a tie with India, it was always going to be close. With five overs to go we were almost out of the game, but with four balls to go, we were well and truly back in it. But if Misbah had hit the last ball a little finer, we’d have needed two off three balls to win the whole tournament — that’s how close it was”.“He’s been terrific — he’s 33, he’s been the top scorer in Pakistan domestic cricket for five years in a row and he’s been great in domestic Twenty20. He’s got a terrific cricket brain and I think you’ll see him around in Pakistan cricket for years to come,” Lawson added.Lawson also saluted his side’s spirit after they bounced back from a disappointing World Cup campaign to come close to winning the tournament.“Results apart, I’ve been really happy with the consistency our guys have shown. They’ve shown fight when they’ve been under pressure, and today was no exception,” he added.“If they had a bowler of the tournament award, I think Umar Gul would have won that, as he’s been outstanding. Mohammad Asif was great, we found Sohail Tanvir from somewhere to come out as a replacement, so there have been so many positives to come out of the tournament,” he remarked.“But I’m a little bit tired of reading how disjointed and unharmonious the Pakistan team is, as people just don’t know what goes on in that dressing-room. They’re a terrific bunch of guys, and we’ve got all the ingredients to be a good side,” he added.