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The Pakistan contingent came back with one of its worst performances at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia. Amid 45 countries, Pakistan remained 33rd, one position behind even to tiny state of Nepal.

Pakistan claimed four bronze medals, including one by an athlete Arshad Nadeem from Mian Channu, who secured bronze in javelin throw of 80.75 metres. Arshad made his mark despite the fact that he could not get full training before the event. Due to the month of Ramazan, the Pakistan Sports Board had given a break to the training camp and Arshad had to go back to his native town. As Arshad belongs to a poor family, during this break he worked as menial labourer on daily wages with his father. Had Arshad been given full training under the best coaches he could have done far better to clinch at least a silver medal if not gold. Two years back, Arshad had the distance of 79 metres while Neeraj Chopra of India had it 80 metres. But in the Asian Games, Chopra threw the javelin to 88.06 metres to claim a gold medal, bringing improvement of almost eight metres but Arshad could bring it to just one meter better during this period.

Other medal winners from Pakistan were Nargis Hameedullah (Karate), squash, and kabadi. In hockey, Pakistan gave one of their worst performances. In 1962, Pakistan had given its best ever performance in the Asian sports gala with a tally of total 28 medals. That edition was also held in Jakarta.

A contingent of around 350 plus athletes represented the country in the Asian Games. One is disappointed by the new government being led by a sportsman, Imran Khan, which could not give a single statement over the poor performance of the contingent or take action against those responsible. On the contrary, its reaction to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) regarding the change of its chairman Najam Sethi was quick. When one compares the PCB performance with the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), especially in the Asian Games, quicker action should have been taken to revamp the PSB to bring in better persons. The PSB bore the expenditure of 245 persons of the contingent while 100 plus went to Jakarta on their own expense.

Though federal inter-provincial minister Fahmida Mirza has called a meeting of the Pakistan Sports Board next week to review the poor performance of the contingent, considering her background in the field of sports, hardly anything significant could be expected. Unfortunately, there are no set selection criteria to be included in the Pakistan contingent for the sports gala. A less number of contingent but with maximum preparations could earn more respect and honour for Pakistan. But contrary to that, a big contingent with no appropriate training and no medal hope looks to be the priority of the stakeholders.

Ehsan Mani was elected as new chairman of the PCB last week. He replaced Najam Sethi who could complete just one year out of total three years term, mainly because of the political change at the federal government level. Though Mr Sethi has earned some significant achievements as he launched the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and the national team is also doing good at the international level, his post was in doldrums because Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is also the patron-in-chief of the PCB, was not behind him.

Ehsan also has good credibility in the cricketing circles and one can hope something from him during his tenure. He has led the International Cricket Council (ICC), making it more financially healthy and saving millions of dollars in taxes by shifting the game’s governing body head office from London to tax-free UAE in the early 2000s. In his first press conference, contrary to Imran Khan’s stance against the departmental cricket, Ehsan admitted that it was not possible to end the role of departmental cricket. It will not be easy for him to convince Imran Khan, who has a long stance against departmental cricket and in favour of regional one. Anyhow time will tell how Ehsan will convince Imran Khan.

Ehsan, however, is right in pointing out that around 900 employees working in the PCB is not fair and it is only because the board believes in the policy of centralisation instead of decentralisation. He is right that it is not the job of the PCB to run the stadiums across the country and it is better to hand them over to the regional bodies to maintain the stadiums and generate resources.

Ehsan has also promised to make the PCB open to the media as it is the right of everyone to get any information. In the past, almost every chairman of the PCB remained reluctant to share information, especially about finance with the media.

Besides the election of Ehsan, the national training camp of Pakistan team is also in progress at the Gaddafi Stadium. The national team is preparing in the camp for the forthcoming Asia Cup to be held in UAE from Sept 15 to 28. The clash of titans of Asia (India and Pakistan) is set to be held in Dubai on Sept 19.

For the first time, the football activity at the national level for U-15 started in Lahore last week. Two teams each of four provinces, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh and Balochistan and one apiece of Islamabad, Azad Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Fata are participating in this 11-day long tournament.

At the end, the best 45 players will be picked to get training for the first South Asian Under-15 tournament being held in Nepal in November this year.

Published in Dawn, September 9th, 2018