The Asia Cup proved to be a nightmare for both Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The strong teams of Asia - India (the ultimate winner of the cup for the seventh time), Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh - and new entrants Afghanistan and Hong Kong participated in the tournament. Pakistani players did not give a perfect welcome to new Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Ihsan Mani. Though Mr Mani can hardly be blamed for the poor show of the team, there should be soul-searching on what happened with the change of command of the PCB.
Lower-ranked team Afghanistan and lowly-rated Bangladesh showed, however, marvelous performances. Bangladesh also played the final against ultimate champions India and lost it after giving a testing time to India in all departments of the game.
India wrapped up the victory with only one ball to spare while chasing a modest target of 223. India braved many tense moments before knocking off the target. Afghanistan played like a mature bunch as it not only defeated Bangladesh in the pool match, but it also played a tie game against India in the Super Four stage where it also looked like a hard nut to Pakistan before losing the game by three wickets in a close finish.
Overall, Afghanistan deserves lots of applause for their stunning performances throughout the contest. They finished at the top in the pool stage and then played a tie match against India. This gives them a cause to celebrate their graceful entry to the Asia Cup.
In contrast, Pakistan failed to win even a single creditable achievement in the event. No one was expecting such a pathetic performance from Pakistan in the UAE, which has been its second home for the last nine years.
A three-wicket win against Afghanistan in the Super Four stage and an easy win against the minnows Hong Kong in the pool match are two wins to Pakistan’s credit. No one from the selectors or team management could give a strong reason for this sluggish performance.
Except for Shoaib Malik, no other Pakistani batsman is among top 10 batsmen of the event whereas two Afghan players - Hashmatullah Shahidi (263 runs) and Muhammad Shahzad (268 runs) - were among the top four batsmen. In bowling side, no Pakistani bowler could take more than six wickets. The top bowler of Pakistan remained pacer Hassan Ali with five wickets.
There are reports in the media that Prime Minister Imran Khan, who took just few hours to replace Najam Sethi with Ihsan Mani, all on political grounds, has sought a report on the Asia Cup fiasco. Selection committee head Inzamamul Haq, captain Sarfraz Ahmad and head coach Mickey Arthur could face the axe.
It will be the most suitable time for Mr Mani to get rid of those appointed by his predecessors Shaharyar M Khan and Mr Sethi, and bring in his own trusted people.
The poor attendance of the players was witnessed in the 4th Punjab National Squash Championship which ended in Lahore last week.
Up to 16 players from all over the country featured in the five-day event. The less number of players must be worrying one for the Pakistan Squash Federation. Barring a couple of close matches, the remaining matches were decided in straight ways, showing the drought of the quality players.
Once Pakistan was considered a giant in this game and now it is without any international player, who is on top 100 players chart. The irony is that neither the federal nor any provincial government is showing any seriousness to bring improvement to the sports sector. Asim Khan of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa won the tournament beating Ali Bukhari in the final.
Here is good news for the hockey players: The second Chief of Naval Staff All-Pakistan Hockey Tournament is being held at the National Hockey Stadium, Lahore, from Oct 1 to 7. Only top eight departmental teams are participating in it.
The Navy has announced hefty cash prizes for the top three position holders: Rs500,000, Rs3,00,000 and Rs200,000. Cash prizes of Rs50,000 each will be given to individual performers too. The competing teams are Wapda, National Bank of Pakistan, Sui Southern Gas Company, Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited., Police, Port Qasim Authority, PAF and Pakistan Navy. The game of hockey has been facing crises after crises for years and hopefully this tournament will give hockey players an avenue to show their talent.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018