The current picture on the national
sporting scenario, with the sole exception of cricket, is of gloom and doom. For
a country which at one time boasted of being world champions in many disciplines
is currently without any of the titles or even in serious consideration for the
Pakistan, not long ago were the world
champs in hockey, squash, cricket and even in snooker. In athletics, it was
considered a force at the Asian level. Now all those achievements are a matter
of past history. A look at the current scene as to where we stand now would be
in order in various sports.
First the cricket: Pakistan after
touching great heights in 1992 under the captaincy of Imran Khan had steadily
gone downhill ever since. The closest they came was to reach the 1999 World Cup
Final in London but only to surrender tamely to the Aussies without semblance of
a worthy resistance. The subsequent events have been of great disappointment of
being weeded out of last World Cup in the preliminary rounds, consistently
losing even home series to Zimbabwe, England and India and being scared by the
lowest placed Bangladesh at Multan. Pakistan at the start of current season were
rated 7th in the ICC Test playing countries and 4th in ICC ODI rankings.
Their improved performance in India, as
their return visit progressed and subsequently on the current visit of England
team has been an uplifting factor. Pakistan under Inzamam were finally coming
together as a strong and more well knit side than of recent past. It was a good
sign to see the national team rid of its various faction to show their true
potential. With the winning of Test rubber Pakistan has already jumped up to
number 3 slot behind Australia and South Africa in ICC Test rating while in ICC
ODI ranking they now move up to number 4 spot behind Australia, England and New
Zealand. They have a crowded season ahead of then including the home series
against Indians. But their focus would be naturally on the next World Cup in
Pakistan has always been a formidable
proposition at home and under local condition but their real test would
naturally come while playing in alien conditions and on pitches with a bounce
and seaming nature.
Cricket, as we all know, is a great
leveller as we have seen with England learning after their great Ashes triumph
and much hype to flounder even under ideal condition against Pakistan. This also
serves as a warning to Pakistan to be not complacent in any way after their fine
However, despite the good tidings in
the cricket pertaining to the new-found resilience and form is growing sense of
malaise which had been gripping the PCB and its corridor of powers. PCB under
ad-hoc management is showing no sign of a status quo change as loaded with huge
financial windfall the management is determined to continue their stranglehold.
PCB has become virtually one-man show under a chairman, whose cricketing
knowledge and grip is suspect. More serious is the way he has been squandering
his vast resources on a bunch of cronies and unending "personal PR"
which are being continuously echoed in the media and the parliamentary circles.
PCB Cricket Academy at Lahore and some
of regional academies created at great expense and with so much planning have
been lying dormant for about one year now. There seems of late to be a brewing
crises among some of the top officials in the PCB and battle lines are clearly
drawn. This is not a happy sign.
While the whole country is moving
towardes the fruits of democracy, the one-man dictatorship in PCB must be
replaced quickly with a democratic setup. The legacy of PCB being run by the
President as also its queer system of Patron also needs to be changed.
This system has no parallel in any
other country and the game everywhere is run by the boards like independent
Corporate bodies. The authorities in Pakistan seem quite oblivious to this
reality as this present happy position needs to be consolidated and strengthened
by a strong cricket body. The days of one-man shows is no longer valid and it is
time Pakistan wake up to rectify this analomy before it is too long. The present
mega popularity, financial windfall and happy times are crying loudly for
necessary reforms. Senate Committee on sports has been in the forefront of this
move as also the prominent cricketers and national media. Some of the pertinent
question asked by them about the relevance, probity and competence of present
team running the game remain therefore largely unanswered.
The sport which had started off as the
most popular and rated as the national game has been in gradual state of
decline. Once a passion for every Pakistani, Hockey had brought moments of glory
and pride with its hat-tricks of Olympic Gold medals, memorable wins at World
Cup, Champions Trophy and Asian Games level. But alas, all this is now past
history. The latest edition of prestigious Champions Trophy ñ conceived by Air
Marshal Nur Khan ñ saw Pakistan at Chennai virtually hit rock bottom claiming
the dubious distinction of a wooden spoon" in the six-national contest.
With its cupboard empty of any worthwhile title, Pakistan Hockey once a World
super power, is now in shambles. This clearly calls for a serious evaluation and
above all rolling of heads of present "management team" who have been
found lacking in any innovative ideas to resurrect the game. There is need to
bring fresh faces and fresh ideas as also proper inputs from the known experts
and veterans who for some reasons have been sidelined for some time.
A lot of resources had been injected
into the game, thanks to generous assistance of FIFA and there has been much
hype about the uplift by the incumbent, Federation Chief, Faisal Saleh Hayat.
However, the way Pakistan fared in its latest outing and failing to qualify for
final rounds and tamely losing to Bangladesh, came as a rude shock to all soccer
fans. There was time when areas now forming Pakistan, used to supply soccer
stars to Dhaka and Kolkata for League Games but that too is part history. The
game needs a much more serious effort and restructuring than its present poor
Pakistan was once Super Power in squash
with the likes of Hashim Khan, Azam Khan, Roshan Khan, and then Jahangir and
Jansher Khan who ruled the world. Now there is no Pakistani among the top 20 of
the world and there seem no early solution to this drought on the national
scene. Some former stars and top organisers have been exchanging blames for this
sorry state but I would hold both equally responsible. These champions have been
duping the public as when they were recipients of huge sponsorships and
patronage they were always reluctant to give a helping hand to the young player.
PIA for year tried to do the needful through their ëcolt schemeí, of which
both Jahangir and Jansher are the proud products.
They should seriously ask themselves
whether ever they had realised their own responsibility to repay their
"debt" to the nation. Let us be honest for a change, Jahangir and
Jansher, you both have been equally responsible as you were keen to go for
greener pastures elsewhere like coaching children of Sultan of Brunei, rather
than children of Noakhli or Lyari. So what are you waiting for, please come
forward now if you failed earlier. You donít need any help as you can do it on
your own at least to short the ball rolling.
From the golden 50s when Pakistan burst
upon the Asian scene with a crop of fine athletes, Pakistan has gradually faded
out of athletics in recent year. Same has been the case in other sports, like
Badminton, Tennis, Wrestling and other disciplines. POA and PSB have been at the
loggerheads of late but the fact remains there is a serious problem and all
hands must join to think of way out. In Boxing, Pakistan has shown some promise
due to pioneering efforts of Prof Anwar Chaudhry, the Pakistani President of
AIBA. But he too seems to be giving up due to lack of support from POA, PSB and
the corporate world for proper support of the game.
That Pakistan has produced World
Champions in sport, like snooker, was a tribute to some high talent of local
sportmen rather than an organised effort of a body. But it did bring moments of
joy and delight to countless millions. What sport can do to rally the people, I
suppose, is the underlying message and epitaph for the national sports, which
needs far more serious consideration by our rulers than their present casual
approach. Uplift of sports can bring about a true revolution and solution to
many of our present day social evils, if one has the will to go about it.