From sublime to ridiculous | By Zaheer Bhatti


From sublime to ridiculous

THERE were days when right in the fifties of the last century, as a Pakistani child at school, one was pleasantly exposed to the great feats of Pakistani sportsmen in track and field events like Razik the 110 meter Hurdler, Nawaz the Javelin thrower and Iqbal at the Hammer.

Hockey, Cricket, Squash followed by Boxing soon after Independence, showed promise of sheer raw talent in the newly-born country.

Despite a rag tag cricketing outfit which one saw mauled by the three Ws Walcott, Worrell and Weeks of the West Indies at the Bagh-e Jinnah Ground (the only one at that time) soon after freedom, one cannot forget the banner headlines screaming ‘England Fazaled’ when Pakistan beat England in England at the Oval in 1954 with the blue-eyed Islamia College fast medium lad Fazal Mahmood bamboozling the English team.

One marveled at Skippers like Kardaar, Imran Khan, Intekhab and Misbahul Haq, batting legends like Hanif Mohammad, Maqsood (merry max), Majid Khan, Zaheer Abbas, Asif Iqbal, Salim Malik, Saeed Anwar, Younas Khan, Mohammad Yousaf and Inzemamul Haq, all-rounders Imran Khan, Mudassar Nazar, Intekhab Alam, Abdul Razzak, Azhar Mahmood and Shahid Afridi, wicket-keeper batsmen Imtiaz Ahmad, Wasim Bari, Mueen Khan and Rashid Lateef, pacers Fazal Mahmood, Sarfraz Nawaz, Waseem Akram, Waqar Younas and Shoaib Akhtar, spinners Iqbal Qasim, Mushtaq Ahmad, Saqlain Mushtaq, Abdul Qadir, Saeed Ajmal and an unending trail blaze that followed.

Our magic Hockey stick work mesmerized the best in the world with gold medals at the Asian Games, Olympics, Champions Trophy and World Cup raising stars in field Hockey like Hameedi, Atif, Munir Dar, Anwaar Ahmad, Rashid Junior, Samiullah, Hassan Sardar, Kalimullah, Manzoorul Hassan, Munnawaruzzaman, Shehnaz Sheikh, Hanif Khan, Shahid Ali Khan, Islahuddin, Akhtar Rasul, Penalty Corner specialist Sohail Abbas and the long striding skipper of the World Cup winning squad of 1994 Shehbaz Senior; another nimble-footed flying horse after Samiullah, and scores of other names to reckon with.

The Squash world was reined and ruled by the Hashim/Raushan Khan family for almost two decades throwing up legends like Jehangir Khan and Jansher Khan, while Yousaf Khan put Pakistan on the World Snooker map, Boxer like Hussain Shah emerged as an Asian medalist and the Pakistani origin British pugilist Aamir Khan ruled his weight on the professional scene besides a flurry of Boxers from the KP (former Frontier} and Baluchistan appearing on the scene having already won International acclaim on their own.

There was no looking back ever since for some decades in which Pakistan stormed the world of Cricket, Hockey, Squash, Boxing and Snooker, but gone are the days when sports buffs like me would keenly await and relish the accomplishments of our sportsmen and get glued to the Radio and later on to TV commentary relaying the event.

Those days have evaporated like a dream for several decades now, when invariably Pakistani green shirts triumphed and lost only rarely, but not without giving a fight.

Today it is a pathetic scene reducing Pakistan’s sublime ascent to a ridiculous dissent down the hill in almost every discipline.

Just while I am taken down the memory lane, I see my Cricketing squad being humiliated by an England ‘B’ team at Cardiff, Lords and Birmingham in the absence of its key players engaged in the various premier leagues elsewhere and given an ODI drubbing with a clean sweep during its current tour of England, which says it all.

Going down fighting and making a match of it is one thing but being flattened as if you never existed is quite another thing.

After the first two defeats one blamed the miserable batting show by much hyped stars like skipper Babar Azam, opener Fakhar Zaman, gritty Keeper-allrounder Rizwan and middle order Sohaib Maqsood, Shadab and Fahim for not giving enough to the bowlers to defend; the batters unable to bat out the 50 overs leave alone posting a defendable total.

The excuse of leaving out the in-form seasoned Shoaib Malik and difficulties acclimatizing to English conditions by the green shirts, was dusted in the third match at Birmingham where despite posting a formidable total of 331 courtesy determined knocks from Babar Azam 158, Rizwan 74 and Imamul Haq 56, the team was unable to go over the line and contributed to the clean sweep defeat as a whole; bowlers failing to bowl to their field and fielders misfielding and dropping three catches while allowing easy singles.

Pakistan concluded its tour of England by conceding a 2-1 loss also in the T20 series that followed.

The ignominy of defeat and disgrace has taken hold of our sporting scene for decades now, where our laurels are restricted to victories against cricketing teams which have either barely qualified for International competition or those going through a phased rebuilding.

Barring freak performances at the World Cup 1992 in which Pakistan remained in the reckoning only courtesy some teams losing to others, or against India in the past which we keep repeating to boost our sagging morale, there is little one would like to remember.

There were times when we enjoyed the green shirts taking on the best in the world in Cricket, Hockey, Squash and even Boxing; spurred by Mohammad Ali’s triumphs and glory he lent to the sport.

Today we fight shy of tuning in on any event featuring Pakistan even playing the minnows of the game as you have become so unpredictable that you can lose to even those squads barely qualifying among top ten in any game.

Even Zimbabwe and Bangladesh have beaten you in cricket while the three time Champions have failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics this year losing to Ireland in the qualifying round.

I implore Imran Khan if indeed he had inspired his squad to a World Cup triumph, to at least set the sporting scene of the country right if nothing else.

The reasons for this frustrating decline are many; among them top-heavy Management, joy-rides, wrong selections and lack of discipline.

—The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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