Articles of the year 2006

National Assets
Published on November 10th 2006

In Pakistan we have very few National Assets. Especially in Sports. Jehangir Khan of course is probably the most valuable in terms of International achievement, and recognition. Imran Khan gave us the world cup and established Cricket as the gateway to the stardom. Miandads' six on the last ball in Sharjah is every schoolboys' dream shot, magical, and above all match winning, when all was lost, driving grown men to tears of joy, and many more Indians to tears of sorrow. Shahid Afridi's 100 in 37, is a record that will stand for many years, considering all the great batsmen that have gone before—the big hitters like Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards never even got close to this figure.

Now we had Shoaib Akhtar the undisputed fastest bowler in the world, the only Tonner in the world, and the only Pakistani to have struck terror in the hearts of all batsmen, including Tendulkar. He was a true National asset, and should have been protected—very carefully. Doping is an offence, and has been used in all countries, in most cases aided and abetted by their coaches, and trainers. Surely Woolmer should have been watching Shoaib that much more carefully? After all in the Pepsi Ad it was Woolmer carefully monitoring Shoaib's bedtimes, making sure he slept alone! Woolmer was paid quite well for that ad, I am sure. If he was being watched so closely, how did Shoaib get access to these drugs, and get to use them so heavily?. Woolmer as a coach was failing in his job, if he was not monitoring the diet--- at all times of his charges, and of any other additives.Coming to the important part of the administration, IF there was suspicion of drug abuse, he should have been held back, till his system had been cleared. I do not for a moment believe that he was warned, which was vital to the interest of Shoaib, and to the Nation. For he is a star, and such a magnificent role model for our youngsters. For him to be destroyed in such a manner shows an almost deliberate undermining of not just Shoaib but our team.

The test conducted by the Pakistani doctors was conducted in Pakistan, before they left for the ICC tour. Surely a local test would have shown the substance, and he should have been sent off for rehab till he was clean enough to play international cricket. Athletes in all other disciplines Olympic and otherwise are routinely being caught, and many an Olympic Gold has been returned over a doping charge. And so it should be. But for a country such as Pakistan which is forever under a cloud for ball tampering, or Sledging, this is yet another stick to beat us with. I think it was the duty of the Pakistani management to protect him, and not allow him on the tour if there was a doubt that he had been doped. But for the management to test him, and send the samples to the Singapore Laboratories for testing was the equivalent of finishing his career forever. It is indeed a shabby way to treat a player who gave so much pleasure to our Nation. But we Pakistanis are very good at treating our greats shabbily, and I am sure if it was not for President Musharraf, Dr Qadeer would have been doing pushups, shackled, in Guantanamo camp.

One remembers an incident in the West Indies not too long ago,where the Captain and Vice Captain were caught on the Beach, by the local cops, smoking Charas, certainly a banned drug, but there was no reprisal, not even a slap on the wrist!The mis-management of the Pakistani cricket team has effectively brought our results to a new low, almost systematically. With such an incredibly talented side, this disastrous performance was difficult, but we did it, jointly and severally. Everyone should share the blame equally.

A sportsman is not the brightest of men, for his physical prowess is not dependant on a keen intellect, that is why he needs expert coaching to guide him. He has a certain talent, and the extreme will to train hard, making many a sacrifice to achieve the performances required of him. The greatest athletes invariably are the product of a great coach. Angelo Dundee produced Mohammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard, both acknowledged as the greatest in their weights, and difficult people, but Angelo Dundee controlled them, protected them, coached them to the greatest prizes in the ring. The temptations on offer to these two fighters to stray, were far greater than anything that Shoaib may have been offered.For a star such as Shoaib, to be snuffed out in this manner by his own management is truly sad, for it will be a long time before we can find a replacement for such a magnificent specimen.