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Do we write the epitaph of Pakistan sports post 2006

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There were several occasions in the year 2006 when one was tempted to write the epitaph of Pakistan sports.

It was a year that witnessed the roller coaster ride of our cricket team that saw one of its members rising to dizzy heights but most of the others spending their time in the zone of mediocrity. During the year, Pakistan earned the unwanted tag of being the first team to officially forfeit a Test in the 129-year history of the game and later went through a series of disasters.

It was a year when our once mighty hockey team was made to bite the dust by minnows China in the Asian Games, the 15-day spectacle in Doha that brought the worst out of a 146-member Pakistani contingent.

It was also a year when it became evident that the people at the helm of Pakistan sports were incapable to run it and, at best, were experts at passing the buck.

The statement of Gereral Arif Hassan, the most influential sports chief Pakistan has ever had, was a clear proof of how things work in the seamy world of Pakistan sports.

Just a day before the final dawn of 2006, the president of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), who also holds the distinction of being the chairman of Pakistan Sports Trust (PST), blamed sports federations for the dismal Pakistani showing in Doha.

He promised that in future, action would be taken against under-performing officials of national federations but probably the General forgot that the main responsibility to lift Pakistan sports lay with him. Does he think that putting the blame on others would absolve him of all his responsibilities?

More money was injected into Pakistan sports in the last five years than ever before but they only suffered more embarrassments at the international arena. And that was visible everywhere.

In hockey, Pakistan’s most important Olympic sport, there should be no more false hopes after the Doha disaster.

Pakistan did win an Asian Games bronze medal and made the cut for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, but for a team that has won a record seven titles in the quadrennial event it was a catastrophic result and gives the true picture of where we stand in international hockey.

Pakistan’s 1-2 shocker against China in the Asian Games semifinals is a clear indications for the things to come. In 2006 it was China, this year it could be some other lowly side like Japan, whom we barely beat in the third position playoff in Doha.

The downslide would continue unless drastic measures are taken to make things better.

At the moment, there are no signs of revival. There was a regime change in the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) in 2006 but hockey’s decline seems to have only accelerated in recent times.

The new set of ‘trigger-happy’ officials took satisfaction in getting rid of half a dozen senior players without sparing a thought to the fact that there are simply no second string players to fill in the shoes of the likes of Sohail Abbas and Mohammad Saqlain.

Pakistan reached the final of the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne to make a promising start to 2006 but went on to flop in the Champions Trophy in Spain and later finished at a disappointing sixth position in the World Cup in Germany.

Their high point came in August when a second string team beat India in the final to win the South Asian Games title in Colombo.

In cricket, the corridors of powers were similarly occupied by people trying to learn through the trial-and-error method and rarely showing that they were good at it.

Dr Nasim Ashraf, who took over from Shaharyar Khan as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman in October, thought he could put Pakistan cricket back on track after The Oval fiasco. He began his tenure by controversially reinstating Younis Khan as the Pakistan captain for the ICC Champions Trophy just days after the batsman had thrown a public tantrum that led to Shaharyar’s ouster.

Younis, widely regarded as the best man to succeed Inzamam-ul-Haq as the next skipper, flopped both as a batsman and captain in the Champions Trophy where Pakistan bowed out at the first hurdle.

Ashraf reverted back to Inzamam and appointed him Pakistan’s World Cup captain though there are still doubts whether the aging batsman, dogged by a bad back and unconvincing form, would be able to shepherd the 1992 champions back to the coveted title in the Caribbean islands next spring.

Plenty happened before and after Ashraf was handpicked by President Pervez Musharraf to put Pakistan cricket back in order.

At The Oval, Pakistan were labelled cheats by Australian umpire Darrell Hair after which Inzamam’s men staged a dressing room sit-in in the final Test against England in August. The incident snowballed into one of cricket’s most sensational controversies and led to a historic forfeiture. Inzamam was banned for four matches after ICC found him guilty of bringing the game into disrepute.

The fiasco also boomeranged for Hair who was later sacked from ICC’s Elite Panel of Umpires.

Pakistan were in for more shocks in October when top strike bowlers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif tested positive for banned anabolic steroid nandrolone and were subsequently banned. Later, they won appeals in December and were cleared to play for Pakistan. However, the doping controversy flowed into the New Year after Pakistan’s U-turn was challenged by World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

There was no cause for celebration in squash as Pakistan’s leading players continued to under-perform in even second-grade international events.

The worst news of the year was Pakistan’s poor tally of just four medals in the Asian Games and not a single gold.

However, there were some sportspersons who were good enough to shine in spite of all the gloom.

Topping that small list was Mohammad Yousuf. The Lahore batsman was in sublime form throughout the year in which he broke several records by amassing 1,788 runs with a help of an incredible nine tons. He was easily Pakistan’s sportsman of the year.

At a smaller level, Syed Maratab Ali showed big things can happen to those who work hard for them. He won a surprise bronze medal in the Chinese martial art of wushu at the Asian Games last month.
Source:The News

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This entry was posted on Monday, January 1st, 2007 and is filed under General.

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