Whilst Pakistanis were busy in Eid rituals on the first day of the festival, our beloved cricket team was giving the opposition including, arch rivals India, a thrashing of the highest order.
The likes of the Akmal brothers, Junaid Khan, Tanvir Ahmed and Awais Zia, who have all represented the country at the highest level, were in full flow as they annihilated India in a group game on the first day of Hong Kong sixes that coincided with Eid in Pakistan.
However, there were hardly any celebrations, even our oft ‘over the top’ electronic media barely stayed on the story, and it was pretty obvious why. The humbled Indian team was merely club-level. Shafiq Khan, Amit Uniyal, Vikram Dhariwal, Dharmendar Phagna etc, names that even the Indian cricket audience would struggle to recognize.
In fact some of them have not even featured in Indian first class cricket! No wonder that Pakistan’s star studded team made an easy meal out of them (albeit within a day we crashed to a final defeat to South Africa).
The Indian team aside, even the rest of the major cricketing nations like Australia, Sri Lanka, South Africa and England chose to send at most three international players in the team, barring Chamara Kapugedra and Wayne Parnell none of the players from these teams are part of the first string of their respective nations.
Other than the Akmal brothers (easily the most high profile duo in the tournament) the entire Pakistani outfit included international players! Word is that Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is the only major cricketing board that selects a team for this event, the rest of the teams sent are at best a composition of first class cricketers, junior players or spent forces.
This has been the case for the last few years. The tournament that was initiated in 1992 did feature some of the stars of the game back then and that was the trend until the turn of the century.
However, with the advent of T20 and the growing demands of the international cricketing calendar took the shine off the competition and most of the major nations withdrew their stars from the tournament that has been an annual two-day event since its debut.
A closer look at the format and the use of a matting wicket is enough for one to understand the lack of interest from other cricketing boards. A five-over-a- side tournament is nothing more than an exhibition that just cannot be taken seriously.
It does nothing to enhance the skills of the batsman or the bowler; the boundaries are barely 45 yards on all sides. The already hampered bowlers are further burdened by being forced to shorten their run-ups.
Some cricketing pundits are of the opinion that PCB has keen interest in the tournament as it gives them a great opportunity of winning a title and silencing its critics. One can only laugh at such a suggestion and on a serious note hope that the officials at the helm noticed the lukewarm response of the cricket-mad population this year.
Perhaps a veteran side comprising of past stars of the game is the best bet for this and hopefully, the PCB would follow the example of others and not send players involved in cricket at the highest level at such events. The sight of Junaid Khan jarring his knee into the Kowloon Cricket Club outfield, but thankfully escaping a season-ending injury, should provide for a warning of sorts as well.
Many cricket fanatics would love to see stalwarts like Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Ijaz Ahmed or Moin Khan thrashing it out at the Hong Kong Sixes, and this would surely bring a genuine smile to our faces, a broader one than defeating a club-level Indian team did.
Emmad Hameed has resigned to the fact that this life will be spent writing about something he has eaten, dreamt and slept about for all of his existence: Cricket. ———————————————————————————————————————————————— The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.