Mar 05 - 11, 2007

In a way, popular sports deliver the noblest task of bringing people from all walks of life together and infuse a spirit of love and attachment to the country, which is actually expected from a true national leader. However, the former ignites spark of what is called nationalism while the latter generates long lasting impression and that is the difference between the sports and the national leaders, yet both are important in the life of a nation.

Zaheer Abbas, generally known as the Asian Bradman who earned a name for himself and the country in the comity of cricket-playing nations, looked a little bit disappointed over what he said the composition of Pakistan cricket squad send to the arena of World Cup-07.

Talking to Pakistan & Gulf Economist prior to his departure to India, where he will be official commentator at Zee TV, Zaheer remarked that the officials responsible for developing, constituting and selecting a strong team well equipped to deliver the goods more professionally during the encounter watched all over the world, have miserably failed to rise to the occasion.

" If wishes were horses, beggars might ride" exactly translates my feelings regarding Pakistan team's chances of lifting the cherished World Cup-07."

However, exceptions always prove the rules and that would be a miracle if the team succeeds in the World Cup.

While talking about the formation of Pakistan's team such as the openers, batting strength and the bowling side, he regretted that up to the last moment the board was not sure about the composition of the team.

It is the height of whimsical approach on the part of the selectors, manager and even the skipper that either the out-of-form players were picked up or those were given the chance who showed performance just in one or two matches. On the other hand the boys like Salman Butt and Yasar Hameed having great potentials were dropped. " I feel sorry for them and the team as well for such a poor selection," he remarked.

Expressing his concerns over bowling strength, Zaheer observed that the fast blowers Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif were ruled out of the World Cup in the Caribbean due to reasons best known to the selectors, however, it was a nasty blow at the last moment. Pakistan would now be joining the tournament under tremendous pressure on March 13. The ouster of the two pace men was attributed to the injuries as the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has denied the new-ball pair were withdrawn to save them from possible life bans if they came up positive for steroids in mandatory pre-tournament drugs tests. The two fast bowlers have been replaced with Yasir Arafat and Mohammad Sami," let's hope for the best.

It may be recalled that in November Akhtar was banned for two years and Asif for one year after they tested positive for the drug, but the bans were later overturned on the grounds that they took the substance unknowingly.

Zaheer was of the view that Pakistan like other contestants of the tournament had enough time for preparing a strong team. In any case, Pakistan has no dearth of talent and world-class cricket potential but there is a need to infuse the feelings that they are playing for Pakistan and they have to safeguard the interest of the country and the people. Contrary to that most of the players play outside Pakistan and their absence from the country erodes their attachment and feelings with the country, he remarked.

On the batting side we are again in a vulnerable position because except Younus Khan and Mohammad Yousaf, no other batsman has the stamina to stay at the wicket for a longer span. As far as Shahid Afridi is concerned he is out for early two matches and when he comes to join the team his temperament again makes him unpredictable, Zaheer said.

Pakistan is to play with the hosts West Indies in the opening match at Jamaica on March 13. According to Pakistan's skipper Inzamam this is not an ideal situation for us. We are leaving for the West Indies under tremendous pressure.

Apart from Zaheer's feelings about the team, one should not lose the hope as we have shown in the past that through team spirit we can overcome any crisis situation. Mohammad Sami and Arafat may not be as good as Akhtar and Asif but like any other Pakistani player they will try their level best to make up for the loss. It's up to the available players now to show their mettle so that we can achieve the best possible results in the World Cup.

Coming on to the coaching side, Zaheer was not happy with the performance of Bob Woolmer. Actually it is not personal, the benchmark to test the performance of anybody is to look into what he has delivered. Looking at the composition of the team sent to face the world teams, it is easily discernable that right from the opening pair, to the wicket keeper, besides the two major departments of bowling and batting, they all give a faint look. In fact, there is a need for massive reforms in all corners of the cricket in Pakistan, right from cricket control board, to coaching and managerial sides of the team. In the given circumstance we as Pakistanis naturally have the desire to succeed, yet Zaheer reiterated his remarks: "If the wishes were horses, beggars might ride"!