Mar 15 - 21, 2010

Sports in Pakistan are facing manifold challenges not only due to inefficient management but also due to lack of sponsorship that is of vital importance for holding regular sports events, which are necessary for promoting games at grass roots level.

Sponsorships are directly linked with promotion of business activities. When trade and industry progresses not only country's economy grows but also sponsorship comes for different games. In the absence of sponsorships, it is not possible for organizers of different games to hold events on regular basis. There is a dearth of refinements to talents in Pakistan. What we need is to pick and groom the talent in a manner that we could regain our lost glory in different games.

Pakistan was on the top position in the world sports, be it cricket, hokey, or squash. Where we stand today should be a point to ponder not only for the government but also for managers of these games. There is a perception that celebrated sports reeled in to the downfalls much because of their organizers and not any body else.

The country had not taken long to make its mark in various sports after the independence. Despite the rapid strides in the start, later it faced many obstacles such as poor funding, lack of infrastructure, the improper organization and support. But somehow, the country has managed to clinch the world champion titles in some sports. This was because of the firm resolve of the few very high-spirited people who had the vision to lead and bring moments of joy and pride for the nation.

Air Marshal Noor Khan was one of such creditable personalities. He had the vision to grasp laurels in hockey and cricket and some of his ideas have been recognized at international level.

Hockey and Polo are the national sports of Pakistan but cricket is the most popular sport. Traditional games like Kabaddi are also widely liked. The Ministry of Sports established Pakistan Sports Board in 1962 as a corporate body for promoting and developing uniform standards of competition in sports in Pakistan comparable to the international standards, and regulating and controlling sports in the country. At present, the board controls all 39 sporting federations in the country. The Pakistan Sports Board is supported by the Pakistan Sports Trust, which facilitates participation of players and associations in different games. Over recent years, there has been an increase in sporting activity in Pakistan, with Pakistani sportsmen and women participating at many national and international events.

However, due to security situation international tournaments are not taking place in Pakistan.

The founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had an immense love for sports. In a meeting with the Organizing Committee of the First Pakistan Olympic Games held at Karachi, he told the first President of Pakistan Olympic Association, Ahmed E.H. Jaffar: "Dedicate yourself to sports promotion, for when you and I are gone, leadership will go into the hands of Youth, and Youth is our wealth, a raw material, that must be hammered into shape, into burnished steel to strive in defence - the defence of the integrity and solidarity of Pakistan - the defence of the ideology of Pakistan."

Sports of Pakistan include hockey, squash, polo, football, athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, snooker, bridge, chess, cycling, gymnastics, karate, martial arts, motor sports, rugby, swimming, shooting, table tennis, lawn tennis, wrestling etc.

Over the years, sports have not progressed due to lack of funds. This has seen Pakistan fall behind other nations. However, since the late 90's, this trend has changed. Money is now placed into sports and many of the federations are now managed by people who are trying to push Pakistani sportsmen and women forward. There have also been restructuring of national tournaments, and new facilities and equipment being provided. However, a lot is still to be done to put in place a strong mechanism for running sports bodies in a professional manner.

Unfortunately, terrorist attack on Sri Lankan cricket team caused an irreparable loss to the game of cricket in Pakistan. The internal power politics, bad management and indiscipline are other gray areas for the game of cricket in the country.

Recently, Pakistan Cricket Board banned three skippers namely Younis Khan, Mohammad Yousaf and Shoaib Malik beside pacer Rana Naveedul Hassan apart from imposing heavy fines on Shahid Afridi, Kamran Akmal, Umer Akmal in the wake of dismal tour of Australia.

Pakistan Cricket Board, in its first ever major crackdown on players' power and in a firm resolve to enforce discipline, imposed ban on former captains Younis Khan and Muhammad Yousaf. Younis and Yousuf have been banned from playing for Pakistan in any format, while former captain Shoaib Malik and all rounder Rana Navedul Hasan have been banned for one year.

Twenty-20 captain Shahid Afridi has been fined Rs3 million and the Akmal brothers (Kamran and Umer) were fined Rs3 and 2 million, respectively. Afridi and Akmal brothers were put on six-month probation. "Younis and Yousaf keeping in view their infighting resulted in bringing down the whole team. Their attitude had a bad influence on the whole team and they should not be part of national team in any format," a spokesman of PCB said.

The cases of indiscipline have also led to one-year ban of Shoaib Malik and Rana Naveed and they have been fined Rs2 million each and they should not be part of national team for one year. A warning was issued to Shahid Afridi for ball tampering and Akmal brothers by the chairman PCB and they were put on probation for six months, during which their conduct be strictly monitored.

Cricket experts believe that the recommendations of the committee would go a long way to arrest the unrelenting decline in Pakistani cricket and improve the state of cricket. "It is a landmark exercise which is an outcome of labour and hard work of the members of the committee", they observed.

It may be mentioned that after the dismal tour of Australia, the chairman PCB, Muhammad Ijaz Butt constituted a committee to assess and evaluate the performance of players on the tour. The committee consisted of Wasim Bari (chairman), Wazir Ali Khoja, Yawar Saeed, Zakir Khan and Taffazul Haider Rizvi as members looked into team discipline, its performance during the tour, ball tampering incident involving Afridi and its possible consequences under the central contract. The committee conducted detailed interactive sessions with the persons appearing before it and confronted the officials and the players of Pakistani cricket team with the reports submitted to it and other materials available on print, internet and electronic media.

The transcripts and team management reports mentioned supra form an integral part of the committee's report. Former cricketers were of the view that such action must have been taken much earlier to ensure discipline.

It is alarming to note that the number of sporting events is rapidly on downward trend. Sad to say the country has been deprived of several billion rupees in sponsorships. For example, Pakistan was ousted from hosting world cup cricket matches. ICC has struck out Pakistan from the list of host countries of the cricket world cup due to security reasons. People who are connected to different sports view that the invitation of a foreign team or a player is currently similar to asking for the moon.

The image of sport in Pakistan has already reached low and urgently needs a concerted effort for spruceness. Pakistan should accept the ground realities and focus on increasing domestic sports activities in the larger national interest. On one side, competition will keep players in good form, while on the other side, they will be able to deliver the good in the global events. Hockey, the national sport, has lost the taste of the masses in the last ten years. The recent defeat in World Cup hockey should be an eye opener for the present PHF management, which raised tall claims about success of the team. In the matches, Pakistani hockey team was lacking fitness, game plan and urge to victory.

It may be recalled that National Bank of Pakistan has recently announced a fresh Rs 20 million sponsorship with the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) for the year 2010. This is third time in the last six years that the NBP showed generosity to the PHF and committed itself to provide new sponsorship to the national sport which was hit by lack of resources in the past. In the year 2003, the NBP first time signed a two year sponsorship with the then cash starved PHF and threw a life line to the national federation with a two year sponsorship agreement which provided a total cash incentive of Rs 20 million for the PHF. In this backdrop, we cannot blame lack of sponsorship for rickety hockey team. We just need a disciplined and motivated team.

Through commitment and devotion, we can put in place a system for promotion of different games, that is need of the hour. We need leaders like Noor Khan to restore lost glory in different sports such as hockey, cricket and squash.