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Life is a journey

Archive for August 2001

Coming Dutch……… Going Dutch!

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That is in effect what the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Control Association cricketers ended up doing during the recently concluded One Day International series against the Dutch team, which they won comprehensively. They had invited the Netherlands cricket team, and now that the Dutch women were coming, they had to go Dutch to play host to them.

As far as cricketing prowess was concerned, , they were not playing and winning against the strongest team in the world, but a team that is about at par with them…… though why the chauvinists/skeptics want to judge them on that basis is beyond comprehension…… look what happened to the Pak. team at the Lord’s!. However, these lines are not just about the cricketing exploits of the women in flannels during the series against the Dutch………… those can be briefly described as under:

7 One day Internationals played. Pakistan won the first 4, Netherlands the last three. Captain of the Pakistan side, Shaiza Khan emerged as the best player of the series, having captured 22 wickets at 12.90 apiece. The Small Wonder” of the team, 13 year old Sajjida Shah topped the batting average by scoring 134 runs. Rival skipper, Pauline Te Beest was by far the best player from the opposition camp.

It was the manner in which this series finally materialized that makes for more interesting reading. From the time the Pakistani women cricketers have donned the flannels, they have had to face a variety of opposition……….. from the mullahs (as expected), from chauvinistic males who simply cannot figure out how and why a woman can do what a man does, and from rival factions trying to wrest control of the running of the game in the country…………. leading to court battles etc.

Not to be deterred, the group that had taken upon itself to fly the country’s standard high kept working on its efforts to gain national and international recognition, and was rewarded for its dedication by gaining life affiliation with the governing body of the game, IWCC. Credentials in place, these ladies proceeded to build an infrastructure, and accumulate experience by calling teams to Pakistan and undertaking tours abroad.

Now, for better or for worse, it has to be admitted that money is the name of the game….. and somehow, this element they were not able to inject into their game plan. They were stuck in a chicken and egg situation wherein they had to ensure success in order to get the sponsors nodding, but success without the support of sponsorship was a difficult thing to come by.
This meant that for each venture, they had to dig into their own, personal pool of resources, which meant that they could not organize tour on a scale that would generate enough interest and success so as to attract potential players, audience and sponsors. Hats off to the girls who still kept on trying to raise the profile of the game though the holding of camps, establishment of ground and publication of a dedicated magazine, along side their cricketing activity, which was acknowledged at he highest level, bringing for three of their senior-most members, Shaiza, Sharmeen and Kiran, the membership of the prestigious MCC, and a chance to play in the first ever match.

For all the opposition and difficulties they have had to face, they could simply have latched on to this international affiliation…. but they were not about to abandon the cause of Pakistan women’s cricket, and redoubled their efforts to promote the game in Pakistan, and planned to generate interest by holding a series of One Day Internationals and invited the Dutch team to visit.

Here, it must be acknowledged, that the PCB decided to remove the hurdles that it had put in their in the past, and agreed to offer them the National Stadium for the series….. which included two day/night matches. In Karachi, the media has always been supportive, guidance of former players like Hanif Mohammad, Waqar Hasan. This time, they were further helped through the assistance of Sikander Bakht, who urged, egged, coached the girls to victory in the series.

At the official level too, support and acknowledged was forthcoming, courtesy the enlightened Sindh Minister for Education, Professor Anita Ghulam Ali, and both the teams were even invited by the Governor, Mohammad Mian Soomro as a token of recognition of their efforts to promote the game. By and large, however, the series passed away placidly, especially as the promise from the official quarters about television coverage did not materialize.

Seemed that is what the entire sponsorship package hinged on, as the corporate bodies would have consented to dishing out money even if there was not a single soul inside the stadium, as long as they could get the TV camera to home in on their logo………. advertising hoardings etc….. after all that is what has been happening as far as ‘men’s’ cricket is concerned… advertising revenues keep pouring in despite pathetic play and empty stadia.

However, even after having all this support in place, they were faced with the million dollar question…. how to cope with the expenses of the series. Hence began a round of frenetic activity wherein they not only had to put all the cricketing arrangements in place, they also had to run after sponsors convincing them not only of their credentials, their intent, but also the fact that it made good business sense to support them, and take them to the stage of critical mass after which they would be able to generate positive response. On the merit of their own performance.

Many promises later, just on the eve of the tour, they literally had to go Dutch to see that the series takes place, as it was a matter of the country’s prestige. Except for the fact that the Sheraton Hotel made it possible for them to take care of the guest team in a proper manner, and their clothing and kit was taken care of, the rest of the expenses were, like so many times in the past, borne by the United Carpets Group of Companies, to which two of the team members, Shaiza and Sharmeen belong……. the reason why I call it going Dutch!


Written by afiasalam

August 7, 2001 at 7:09 pm

Posted in Cricket

Ability versus Attitude!

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I will never ever forget the expression on Wasim Akram’s face during the semi final match in the World Cup in England a couple of years go when he took the final wickets that took Pakistan through to the final of the tournament …. he was so charged up, and firing on all cylinders…. as were the rest of the boys ….. but then what happened in the Final against Australia? Was it really the same team that took the field? Where had they left the spirit behind? They seemed to have given up before even trying.

Unfortunately, this has been a recurring theme as far as the performance (or lack of it) of the Pakistan team is concerned…. and is not a recent phenomena….. the past half century is replete with similar examples. It did a repeat of it in the recently concluded Natwest triangular series of One Day Internationals in England, where it had performed so brilliantly all along, only to go out of steam when it reached the Final,

Now, the predictable unpredictability of this team has become almost a cliché, but for a reason. The Pakistan team has been known to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat….. against the best of teams, most difficult of circumstances, under severe difficulties……… but then this very team has also been known, only too frequently, to squander away chances and almost present victory to the opposition on a platter.

So have the victories been mere flukes or have the defeats been that…………. Actually…….. no one has yet been able to figure that out. Throughout its history, Pakistan has boasted of some of the most outstanding players in the game. In the early days, in the times of Hanif Mohammed and Fazal Mahmood, it was a case of these two individuals carrying almost the entire burden of the team on their shoulders…….. early to mid-sixties was a time of mediocrity, and in the ’70’s, though we had a star-studded team, so to say, with luminaries like Sadiq Mohammed, Majid Khan, Asif Iqbal, Mushtaq Mohammed, Zaheer Abbas, Sarfraz Nawaz and later on even Javed Miandad and Imran Khan, the victories were still few and far between.

Why? It certainly was not for lack of ability…….. they were amongst the best in their fields………. was there ever a batsman better than a Zaheer Abbas in full flow, or could anyone match the elegance of Majid, or the courage of Sadiq, the wisdom of Mushtaq, the brilliance of Asif, the focus of Sarfraz, the intimidation of Imran or the cunning of Miandad? Yet, victories achieved during the times when they all formed a team together were not really due to team efforts but because of individual spurts of brilliance…….. we won the 100th. Test at Melbourne though that magic spell by Sarfraz where he annihilated the Australian team romping home to victory, we won in New Zealand because of Mushtaq’s determination, against India in 1982 through Imran’s thunderbolts etc. etc. etc.

Late 70’s and early 80’s saw team-work becoming the catch-word….. all over the world………. and senior players like Javed and Imran started to take the newer crop under their wings……….. and the graph started going up. However, the look on the chart has remained jagged up till now even into the new millennium, as players of supreme ability and tons of experience continue to play as novices in familiar situations. For example, the ‘Conqueror of Chennai,’ Saeed Anwar…. is a brilliant, elegant, powerful opener, with over two centuries of international outings………. but have you seen the manner in which he mostly gets out? One would get the impression that he was succumbing to the pressure of his first big match!

Then again, the best batsman in the world, Inzamam, again with tons of experience, still cannot get his act together when running between the wickets………. the best ‘all-rounder’ in the world…… having experience of all conditions and places and attacks….. Wasim Arkam…. skying the ball despite the team being in dire straits……… Mr. Sixer… Shahid Afridi…… young in age but having accumulated quite a bit of experiences… playing only in one style…. circumstances be damned… and the less said about the Rawalpindi Express, Shoaib Akhtar the better………. a bowler with the ability to bamboozle a batting icon of the caliber of Tendulkar (who actually is really suspect against genuine pace), sends down deliveries that go every which way and loose, aiming just to cross that elusive 100mph mark rather than trying to reach the 100 wicket milestone in the shortest possible time!

What does all this indicate?…….. nothing except that the malaise has more to do with lack of a proper attitude than any lack of ability. Pakistan has been churning out world class players despite the absence of any ‘system’, and these very players outshine those coming with the best of facilities and grooming opportunities. As individuals, and when forming a team, they have shown the world that they are a class act…. but when? Only when they have the right attitude.

This is a theme that some of us hacks have been harping on for sometime now but to little avail……. The boys need a psychologist… not a coach….. you cannot coach players who have already reached the top level of the game…. the need for the coaching, and corrective measures is at a lower, even up to the second string stage……. and a manager who can also be a co-strategist with the skipper is a bonus…. but the boys really need to learn how to keep up the pressure right till the end… how to resist it when the other side applies it…….how to put up a fight, or at least give the other team a run for their money.

This they have done on so many occasions that when they fail to even look alive like they did during the World Cup ’99 Final and in the Natwest Trophy Final, it is difficult to believe that this is the same team. So, at the risk of sounding repetitive, ability they have…. Loads of it…. But unless it can be combined with the right attitude……. The result in the score book does not make for very pretty reading does it?

Written by afiasalam

August 7, 2001 at 7:08 pm

Posted in Cricket

One Life, One Chance?

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There is usually an audible, sharp intake of breath when people first set eyes on them…. such is the magnitude of deformity due to severe burns…………… and that one ‘accidental’ glance is what people are usually willing to spare them….. in the hope that ignoring their existence would somehow make the reality disappear.

This seemed to be the fate for Saqlain, Fahim, Khurram, Sajida and Areeb……. victims of accidents that turned their lives into a painful, grotesque saga. Accidents that occurred either to the carelessness and callousness of adults or due to sheer bad luck. For instance, Saqlain Hussain Shah got up one morning and felt like frying an egg himself…….. but was soon engulfed in flames. He was totally burnt all over, and his neck became attached to his shoulder.

Fahim Shah, on the other hand, was a garage mechanic like so many other children of his age who have to earn to support themselves and their families. A careless cigarette smoker flung the butt, which fell on to his clothes which had petrol on them, resulting in extensive burns on face and body.

Little Sajida was travelling with her family on the train when a blast ripped through her compartment, killing her mother, sister and brother instantly, and she was left with the void of having lost her closest relatives, and scars all over her body.

Khurram Mukhtar was a playful young lad who liked to experiment…….. not realizing how dangerous they could prove to be sometimes. Taking the ingredients that go into making firecrackers, he decided to pulverize them further using a sil butta (Grind Stone)……… the entire thing exploded into tiny pieces, throwing him back with the impact……….. but not before completely damaging his hands… one of which had to be subsequently amputated.

And little Areeb’s story has such a familiar ring to it……… burnt when a pot of hot oil accidentally fell on him in the kitchen when he was just a three year old. He still suffers from the physical and mental trauma of the accident, which has left large, very visible burn marks on his body.

Like so many other children who have suffered similar misfortunes, these children would have been scarred for life, physically, emotionally and socially, because either the families simply couldn’t afford the specialized treatment needed to give them another chance at normalcy, or it simply wasn’t available here due to the severity of the accidents.

This is where the House of Charity, a Houston-based organization stepped in. being involved in similar assistance to a hospital in Lahore under the Heal the Children Programme, the organization decided to send its team headed by a renowned plastic surgeon Mahar Anous, who, with the assistance of the PECHS Trauma and General Hospital carried out extensive surgeries, assisted by the hospital’s plastic surgeon, Dr. Mazhar Nizam. He selected these five children for further treatment in the US.

Consequently, HASWA, Healthcare and Social Welfare Association was formed under the Chairman of Dr. Najam Qureshi, and led by Dr. Feroz Ismael, which took upon itself to ensure that this would not be a one-off thing, but an ongoing venture…. With an expressed aim of “Let’s put a smile on their face.”

HASWA would provide medical aid to those who have no resources, primarily focussing on children with congenital or injury related deformities, so they can get a second chance. Those who can be assisted here, will be provided medical assistance at the PECHS Hospital, and cases of those who cannot be assisted here will be sent for evaluation to the House Of Charity so they can be sent abroad for treatment not available here.

To give the above mentioned five children more than one chance to lead a normal life, Ghulam Mohammad Bombaywala, a Karachi-born American known for his philanthropic work in Houston, and Capt. Robert Ing, an American Airlines pilot who spends his spare time in helping out, flew here, spent time with the children and their families, got to know them, made the children comfortable with themselves, and flew out…… though not before some very prompt and sensitive assistance on part of PIA Operations Control officers, Mahmood and Ashqeen, and Capt. and crew of the flight PK. 712 to New York who made the journey possible, and comfortable for the children who were leaving everyone and everything familiar behind.

The children there will be kept as family members, will go to school, undergo treatment to the tune of 1 million UD$, and will be accompanied by their escorts back to their home and families.

Meanwhile, HASWA will be getting another batch of children ready here for them to take with them……. So more can get more than once chance in a lifetime.

Written by afiasalam

August 7, 2001 at 7:07 pm

Posted in Societal Issues