They say that everything happens for a reason, but whoever said that didn’t live in Pakistan because here, the more bizarre, the better. Nothing happens for a reason in this part of the world and that’s why the once mighty Pakistanis stand nowhere in world sports. Thankfully, those responsible for the uplift of sports in the country are trying their best to show that ‘Frankly, we don’t give a damn!’
Let’s talk about the national sport -- hockey. Pakistan was considered a formidable opponent from the 50s to the 90s but now the game paints a sorry picture. The first open trials in 20 years were attended by just two dozen of players from all over Karachi, the city that produced one of the greatest hockey players in the world. That doesn’t seem to bother those in charge because for them, that’s business.
Why has the popularity of hockey gone down in Pakistan? For starters, the game isn’t profitable enough for players since professionalism is as far away from the sports as is the moon from the Earth. Secondly, till the turn of the century, Pakistan used to host international events but the declining standards of hockey and the ‘War on Terror’ has stopped foreigners from coming to the country and if any of us is given the option, we might join them; such is the pathetic state of sports in Pakistan.
Cricket, on the other hand, is the most popular sport in Pakistan, but run by those who either have no idea of what they are doing or are too short sighted to see afar. Just recently, the Pakistan Cricket Board gave an advertisement in leading newspapers regarding applications for the national team’s head coach and support staff.
There were many former cricketers -- some even qualified ones -- who applied for the main job which went to Waqar Younis, the former captain and coach of the national side. Days before his appointment, media speculated that the Burewala Express will get the job, which he did. The million dollar question here is: If the board had no intention of assessing the applications, why did they even bother?
Then there is the curious case of chief selector -- till last year, former Test cricketer Iqbal Qasim held the post and resigned after the team’s pathetic performance (that’s what respectable people do.) Since then, former players like Mohammad Ilyas, Aamer Sohail, Moin Khan and Rashid Latif have all played musical chairs on the tune of PCB and Islamabad High Court, with Mohammad Ilyas being declared the chief selector in the latest twist (that’s till our going to print!).
There was a time when Squash players used to bring laurels to Pakistan but now they go to international events and return as ‘Laurel & Hardy’. From Hashim Khan in the 50s to Jansher Khan in the 90s, Pakistan won each and every tournament multiple times but now, not even multiple players have managed to win a respectable international event like the World Open or the British Open.
Same is the case with athletics and other Olympic sports and that include football, swimming, badminton, shooting, skiing etc. The players are good enough to represent the country but not good enough to participate at international level where they always feel better at either ending a few places before the last position or ahead of arch-rivals India.
That doesn’t mean that all is not well in the field of sports in Pakistan. Tennis and snooker remain the two sports where Pakistani players still win and bring smile on the faces of their win-deprived countrymen. The main reason for their better track record is that both Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association -- the snooker body -- and Aisam ul Haq -- the lone performing international Tennis star from Pakistan -- function without the government’s support. Says a lot about the government backed organisations, doesn’t it?
Had Rip Van Winkle woken up from his sleep in current Pakistan, he would have been shocked to know that the team that won the World Cup 20 years back will not be featuring in the event, starting on May 31st in The Hague, Netherlands.
The country will be -- most likely -- without a hockey title in a couple of months (except the Asian Games title it won in 2010), has been deemed unfit to feature in Hockey Champions’ Trophy since they are no more champions and will not be part of the Commonwealth Games this year because the Pakistan Hockey Federation didn’t see ‘eye-to-eye’ with the Pakistan Olympic Association. Even in cricket, we have a Cricket Team Manager but no Cricket, a probable T20 Captain for whom T stands for Twitter and a Chairman whose intentions are noble but who trusts just a handful of people in his inner circle. Such is the way in which matters of national importance are run in Pakistan, and until and unless something is done about it, the games will continue to plunge in depths below the rock bottom!