Massacre at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium!

They were hapless. They were cornered. The whole West Indian team was humiliated on the grandest stage of all-the World Cup. And no less than the World Cup quarter final. Tonight the bereaved fans might be thinking it would have been better had their team not qualified for the knock-out stage. A neutral would claim that anyone of either Bangladesh or Ireland would have been far exciting prospects.

The West Indies team fell like a heap and was dusted off by some superb Pakistani bowling. Gayle seems to have lost his touch. The way he throws away his wicket is a blessing for the opposing team. Being very much a senior player in the present line-up, he had to accept responsibility. Once again, he failed miserably. Scooping up a catch to the best fielder is hardly the way to go about assuming responsibility. With Afridi catching that bullet flying off Gayles’ bat, the tone was set for what was to follow.

The Pakistani bowlers were spot on, with their line, length and ability to take wickets; they rolled over the West Indian batting line-up. The trick of having Hafeez open the bowling proved to be a clever one, with figures of two for sixteen, he held a stranglehold over the batsmen. Ajmal had been brought in especially for this game, keeping in view the number of left-handed batsmen in the Windies line-up. He bamboozled with his ‘doosra’ and did the job he was brought in to do. Once again the star performer with the ball was the captain himself. Taking four more scalps in this game, he has now added to his tally of wickets as the most successful bowler in this World Cup. Simply put, the Pakistani bowlers were a class apart from their opponents. The game was finished by the time the Pakistani fielders marched off the field.

With the confidence of having such a small target to chase, even our openers came into form. Joining the party, they have done themselves a huge favour by playing positively and taking momentum forward into the semi-final. I think they just needed such a knock to get into the groove. The confidence gained will go a long way in facing either Lee or Zaheer at Mohali.

To say that this was a solid performance in all aspects is not making things up. Even our usually dismal fielding was excellent today. Talk about having a perfect day!

This quarter-final was one every Pakistani cricket fan will remember for a very long time. As far as the semi-final goes, the opponents are yet to be determined. The question is will it be India or Australia? The answer is that the Pakistanis don’t really care. They are ready to roll over whoever gets in their way!

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Wake up to the reality!

The inevitable has happened and Raymond has been flown out of the country. To those who are acting surprised need to take a serious reality check. None of us expected a conviction for Raymond. Rather to have him holed up for so long is the surprise here. I guess the government and agencies would also have wished for the matter to be hushed up, but it was thrown in the limelight and thus began the huge media circus. One wonders now, wouldn’t it have been better to not prolong the saga for as long as it lingered on.

Let’s face it everyone. We are not a country who can mess with a superpower right now. I would say we have a zillion other problems on our hands and a face-down with the US was never in the mind of any of our leaders. So they did what they had to do. Huge amounts of blood money and the hurried departure of the man himself. Now the nation can cry itself hoarse, screaming in protest on the streets. The matter has been settled. We have bid our final farewell to Raymond.

How the US deals with the man is another matter. After all, he has jeopardized the US undercover operations in not only Pakistan, but all over the world. But our country’s work has been completed. The leading forces, which comprise both the government and intelligence agencies, have played their part. And the judiciary has player theirs by freeing the convict. All the pillars of state were involved, so why question the decision.

Some of you naive enough still believed in the impossible. Raymond would languish long and hard in a Pakistani jail or be hanged till dead. Dream on! We are living in starkly opposite conditions. When was the last time you heard the judiciary had sentenced someone big enough to warrant importance to us, as a nation. And allow me to mention here that I am talking about the ‘free judiciary’ that is the apple’s eye of the nation. We have seen terrorists released after the courts ruled them to be innocent. Have you ever come across one terrorist who has been convicted and punished by our esteemed courts? All have been set free. No judge is willing to take the risk. So when we see our streets filled by the terrorists freed by our courts, why raise a hue and cry over the acquittal of one Raymond Davis. He was, maybe, a threat to our nation’s sovereignty, but then so are these terrorists.

So the next time you see our judiciary doing its job on the domestic front, and handing out just punishments to those that wreak havoc in our country, that is when you should start protesting against the Davis ruling. Till then, just shut up and watch the drama unfold every day. We are, after all, a nation that easily forgets and forgives.

It is that time of the year again!

The blooming flowers announce an end to the winter season and the city is coloured in reds, yellows and all the hues in the rainbow. Spring is here, though rather hotter than yester years this time around, yet casting a joyous mood in the air. Spring, for many, is the celebratory season. The flowers and greenery all lights up our world. Still, for an almost equal number of citizens, the season brings with it misery. The arrival of spring brings with it the dreaded allergies, the biggest culprit being the paper mulberry trees.

While many welcome the season by making sure their gardens are masterpieces, full of the most wonderful flowers and plants, others have completely different preparations to make. Out come the anti-histamines, face masks and inhalers. For many whose allergies reach very serious levels, it is a time to pack up and leave. They would spend these two months in some other part of the country, and return home when they no longer run the risk of getting killed by their own city. A few casualties occur every year, even with all the steps taken to avoid the deaths. For all its beauty and colour, spring turns the capital city into a killer.

Every year we hear about the efforts being made to cut down the dreaded paper mulberry trees and replace them with new ones. So far, not much headway has been made. The number of patients is on the increase with each passing year. A dangerous trend, that is making at least a few sufferers think about packing up and leaving for good.

There are special medical camps during the season to provide awareness and medicines. Most hospitals take good measures to ensure that they have the adequate training and drugs to treat a patient in an emergency, at all times. Yet substantive steps need to be taken to eradicate the problem. There is a need to control and gradually remove the cause. While we all know that the paper mulberry trees in our city are in huge numbers, and cutting them all would be counter-productive to the environment. Yet we have to think about the misery and pain that patients of allergies experience due to them. The CDA needs to work out a plan where other rapidly-growing trees can replace the paper mulberry ones. And apart from the planning, do something about it too. Action needs to be taken quickly and effectively, so that the next spring may be a bit better in this regard. Or the one in the year after that. The point is, with such a huge portion of the population suffering from this menace, immediate action should be taken.

Where not much has been done up till now, maybe now is the perfect time to kick start work on this front. There wouldn’t be a more appropriate time. The yearly epidemic of sneezing, itchy eyes, hay fever, cough and asthma is all back to hit the town. The question is: will somebody do something concrete about it this time?

Our students need help

There is no denying that a school is the center of all learning for a child. Leaving home at the age of four, and entering a world of knowledge, a child picks up almost all traits of his/her personality within the boundaries of school. Where the books open up a sea of knowledge and interesting discoveries, the playground teaches a thing or two about surviving in the outside world.

The years pass and a bewildered child who had taken the first steps out of his home and into the school, is now ready to move on into the real world. School is finished and a college degree awaits most. While a few lucky ones might possess a clear vision about where they’re headed in life, the rest are clueless. So the trend picks up, with everybody jumping onto the bandwagon driven by their predecessors. The simplest choices tend to be the profession of medicine and engineering, with business administration not lurking too far behind. So basically, every year we have a huge number of students vying for slots in the most well-known medical and engineering colleges of the country. Obviously only a few make the cut and the rest either waste a year to try again the next, or settle down for some other degree which was never their first choice. Throughout this race, not many take a moment to contemplate on what is their own choice regarding the matter of higher studies. As I said before, only a few lucky ones are clear about where they’re headed in their future. The rest need a helping hand, or at least some sort of support which can help them in shaping their future. A child, sixteen-years old can hardly make a decision what career he wants. He needs to be able to talk to someone professional enough, who would help him decide on the adequate career path, in accordance with the talents of the child in question. This lays down the foundation for having a career counsellor in all schools and colleges. And a counsellor who would be open-minded about all career paths, helping the students find their own strengths and talents. If this happens, we would certainly be having a lesser number of confused youngsters, who at first are unable to decide what to study in college, and then find after entering university that this was not what they wanted. By then though, it is too late. Although many change paths once again after acquiring the degree, most call it the finishing line.

I would go so far as to say that it is an absolute necessity to have a career counsellor in all schools. Where society and family does not encourage a wide variety of professions, the students of our country need someone professional to guide them on the right path. While our country may need more doctors, engineers and businessmen, we also require more accountants, public workers, writers, fashion designers, sportsmen, teachers and artists. A society needs to be vibrant, with colours added from all facets of life. Let us give acknowledgment to all professions, and help our students make progress in the field that their minds yearn for. Help the students discover their talents, and make the country thrive in all spheres of life.

Death and Silence

I want to cry today.  Cry my heart out right now. Another voice has been silenced, that dared to speak out against irrationalities. In the capital of my dear country, another brutal killing has been witnessed. I will not delve into criticising the security forces today. Nor waste words in trying to identify the real killers. Right now, I mourn yet again. As I did on the 4th of January, I feel helplessness and grief.

One by one, all the brave voices will be silenced. And we will only be left amidst cowards, who are too afraid to speak their minds. The real issues will be swept under a carpet of indifference, and society will cease to improve. A stagnant pond of dirt accumulated over time that we have all caused through ignorance and our silence. And when the silence overpowers the few voices that do speak out, the silence will cause a destruction so vast that it would be irreparable.

Shahbaz Bhatti was just another minister. Another will take his place tomorrow. Salman Taseer was just one governor. Another has already taken his place. Yet in these two men, were voices of courage. People with a will to eliminate the irrational attitudes widespread in our society, and courage to match that will. So we have not just lost two government officials, we have lost two right-minded men whose absence will be greatly felt. The hole of their presence will not be filled by any of the presently serving government officials. No one is willing to take a stand. Rather I would go so far as to say that some are going all out in condemning the country to a violent and pathetic end.

Have they managed to silence all those who dare to speak courageously? Or are there any left to condemn this rigid and violent mindset? I cannot speak about the high-powered officials, but I can speak for you and me. I will continue to speak my mind and raise my voice wherever I get the opportunity. Are you willing to do the same?

Today, at this moment, I will cry for the helplessness I feel. I will mourn for the vision of our Quaid we have failed to uphold. I will shed tears for the Pakistani flag we are dishonouring today, by not acknowledging non-Muslims as even Pakistanis today. The word Pakistani has now been made synonymous with being a Muslim, and minorities suffer everywhere. Today we killed their representation in the government. Today we have wiped the ‘white portion’ off our flag. At least, in the mindset we have made the transition. Today was just the graduating ceremony to further cement that mindset. So I cry today, for some ideals lost. The Quaid must be squirming in his grave right now. His nation has failed him miserably. The silence prevails, with death lurking right around the corner for those who dare to break it.

A Sweet, Sweet Victory!

The Pakistani team of a few years back would have succumbed to the high pressure. Playing one of the favourites to take the cup this time, on their home ground, was always going to be a crunch encounter. As far as the points table was concerned, it wouldn’t make much difference. As the format is pretty favourable to the top eight teams in the world, so barring any big upsets, all would be playing the quarter-finals. What was at stake today was mere pride, and taking confidence into the rest of the matches. For Pakistan, they are still termed outsiders with little chance of winning the cup. For Sri Lanka, the least they could have hoped to do was erase their dismal record against Pakistan in World Cups. They have won none of the teams’ six encounters!

 The game is done and over with. The dust has settled on the Premadasa pitch. The Sri Lankan bands have been silenced in the crowds. And Pakistan has sent out a message to the rest of their rivals- in the captain’s own words, “…we will play harder with each game”. The steely determination of the Afridi-led clan was evident today. The batting was rock solid, with the experienced Younis and Misbah making all their talent and experience count. The “Rawalpindi Express” finally bowled with the fire today that will prove a killer to any big batsman of any team. Anyone who has any doubts should just ask Jayawardene. The look of disbelief as he actually turned around to look at his middle-stump dismantled. Yet the bowling hero, for the second consecutive match, is Shahid Afridi. Forget Ajmal and Rehman, the captain is claiming the top spinner’s slot. He most definitely is leading from the front.

When a little of the joy has subsided, some matters need to be taken into consideration. We need to make better use of the batting powerplay. Against Kenya we were fabulous. Yet against the Sri Lankan attack, only thirty-six runs were scored with the loss of one wicket. It should have been taken with the set batsmen on the crease, i.e. Younis and Misbah. Secondly, the Razzaq factor is still puzzling. If he is not going to be playing any active part in the side, then why not leave him out. He comes in to bat at number eight, when mostly there is no time for any constructive innings. And his bowling is dismal on the Asian tracks. Now either he should be promoted up the batting order. And if that cannot happen, then he should be replaced with Wahab Riaz, who will definitely bowl a much better ten-over spell. And he can also bat pretty well at that number eight position. The last weakness, as is always the case with our team, our fielding needs more commitment.

This win will boost the team’s morale. The confidence taken from it will prove a big factor in the rest of the games. Here’s hoping that amidst the celebrations, the team management will formulate plans to eliminate the weaknesses. For the fans, it is time to savour a sweet, sweet victory!

On our way…!

Our World Cup campaign has finally started and a pretty good start it was. Now some of you might be a bit apprehensive since the opponents were cricketing minnows, but being a die-hard fan of the Men in Green, I am celebrating the victory and ask you to do the same. The reason; it could easily have been a repeat of Pakistan versus Bangladesh in 1999, or Pakistan versus Ireland in 2007. It could even have been a scratchy affair as it was for England against Netherlands just the other day. Yet our team delivered and has conquered the first hurdle. And that, as all my fellow cricketing buffs would agree, is sometimes the most important and difficult hurdle to pass in a World Cup.

Amidst the victory, I couldn’t help but feel a loss too. The Sri Lankan kids were a joy to watch, dancing around waving Pakistani fans, yet one could only wonder that this could have been our kids cheering the team on. Losing the chance to be hosts was indeed a sad blow.

Coming back to the match itself, the playing-eleven was always going to be an interesting enigma. The batting line-up looks well-settled. It’s the bowling department that poses a few questions. Where Akhtar has looked a tad lack lustre in recent outings, Riaz has come of age as a talented player. Gul is still not at his best, but his accuracy will always assure him a place in the side, I believe. Even last-minute inclusion to the squad, Junaid, made a case for himself in the last practice match. Both Ajmal and Rehman are world-class spinners, and will come in handy on the turning tracks of the subcontinent. It is a well-rounded unit.

To me, the omission of Riaz was quite a surprise. Apart from the fact that he has been bowling really well, he is a left-armed pacer and this gives variety to the bowling attack. We do need a fit and firing Shoaib to produce results on these slow and dead tracks, but as he remained wicketless, Waqar Younis and Aaqib Javed must be scratching their heads as to play him against Sri Lanka or not. Rehman looked good enough, but the unlikely hero was Shahid Afridi with five wickets. Trust the captain to rewrite records and produce a performance that would make his fans go ‘Boom Boom’. One thing the Pakistani camp needs to re-think is Razzaq opening the bowling. While this may have worked in New Zealand, yet here on these slow tracks, it’s a no-no. He has no pace to trouble the very fine openers we will encounter in the rest of our games. The batting line-up looks solid and exciting, yet with four half-centuries, at least one should have gone on to get three figures. We will need that kind of maturity in the coming weeks.

The Men in Green are on their way. And the cricket-crazy nation is clinging onto high hopes desperately. There is a tough, rocky road to the ultimate prize-and that is ‘the Cup that matters’.