Snippets From The Goings On In COVID Stricken Cricket

By Chishty Mujahid - July 29, 2020

The Corona Virus pandemic has swept the world causing disturbance and problems in all walks of life. It has shaken the experts of medicine who are battling to find a vaccine for this malaise. They have also failed to even find the right medicines to cure the ailing and have depended mostly on aspirin. Ventilators come in as a last resort.

Hospitals and pharmaceutical companies had minted money by charging astronomical amounts. I may be wrong but there are three leading hospitals who have charged Rs 1 million from those unfortunate members of the population rich or poor, young or old who have fallen victim to this virus. That is the sad side of the story.

At the other end there are the dedicated and hard-working doctors, paramedics, nurses and other staff who have worked relentlessly and some have even given their lives in the discharge of their duties. They should be saluted and recognized for the services they have rendered and the sacrifices they have offered. May Allah bless them and their families. We all salute them.

The economies of most countries are in shambles and we are no exception. Because of lockdown social life of the rich and the famous and also of the common citizens have come to a grinding halt.

Schools and educational institutions are closed. For how long is anybody’s guess. Offices are also vacated and everyone is working from home.

The educational institutions are holding classes “on line.” Clubs, restaurants, hotels, cinema houses and the beaches and picnic spots are deserted.

Since the last pandemic (Spanish flu) was a hundred years ago there is no one alive who can remember how to deal with the situation. Hence the innovative ideas.

Like all else in life Sports have also received a painful punch by the pandemic. All sport domestic or international has been under suspension since the pandemic broke out. Tennis tournaments including the famous and prestigious Wimbledon had to be cancelled.

The leading soccer events so popular in Europe and South America in particular had to be shelved.

Field hockey games were suspended and the “most unkindest cut….” Was the postponement of the Olympic Games scheduled in the Japanese capital Tokyo. Most other popular sports have been affected.

All the bigwigs of the various games put their thinking hats and in consultation with their medical experts came up with the idea of holding some tournaments in international sports “behind closed doors.” To the best of my limited knowledge this has perhaps never happened in sports history before this.

However I do recall a test match at Eden Gardens Calcutta in 1999 being finished when the ground was cleared of spectators as they had become rowdy and out of control as Pakistan was on the verge of winning the Test against India.

Any way they are the bosses and have to justify their jobs. All meetings in connection with arriving at decisions were held “on line” or as the new fad is “on zoom.” What next only they know.

But in all fairness the bosses have to run and manage their businesses which because of the pandemic are sinking. SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) have been drafted and implemented. Whether they are being followed strictly is absolutely another kettle of fish.

During soccer matches I perceived that there was no “distancing” – how can there be in close contact games like hockey and soccer and football. There were “high fives” and even hugs and embraces. The SOPS were hit for a six. I also understood what “behind closed doors” meant. It means no spectators – doors are closed although the play goes on in the open.

I have been often asked in interviews whether cricket (which I have now covered for 53 years as a broadcaster) is a religion or passion with me. Without blinking an eyelid and perhaps without even thinking my answer is always consistent. I reply that it is neither religion nor passion – it is an addiction. That may be the reason that I have first cursorily dealt with the other sports before taking up the subject of my addiction.

Cricket has been brutally bruised by the pandemic. Some series were left unfinished when the touring teams packed their bags and baggage and took wing for their home country.

Other scheduled events were first postponed and then cancelled. Pakistan did not have any international engagements at that time but the popular and cash rich PSL V (5th edition of the Pakistan Super League) had to be abandoned with the three final matches left to be played at Lahore. There was some discussion that the prestigious event should be completed but this could not go through as the foreign players took a wise decision and left in a hurry. When this event (which by the way is in Pakistan’s domestic NOT international category) will be finished only time will tell. There is still a glimmer of hope all over the cricketing world with the postponement this year with the ICC World T20.

The Indian Cricket Board are smacking their lips and suggesting their cash rich cow the Indian Premier League (IPL) be staged in the UAE. UAE has been recently badly hit as Pakistan is now open to international cricket.

Earlier UAE were making substantial profits by staging the cricket drama on behalf of Pakistan. It was Ehsan Mani who stopped this process and restored the rightful place of the Pakistan Cricket Stadia.

Many PCB/PSL officials were disappointed at the loss of their and their families’ UAE vacations. Whether this point was taken into consideration when some critics hopped about on hearing of the allowances and travel of the top placed PCB management. It should be kept in mind that Ehsan Mani had to travel very frequently to Dubai because the international cricket hosted by Pakistan and also the PSL matches were held in UAE.

Moreover the ICC Board Meetings were also held in Dubai as it is the headquarters of the ICC. True that the expenses of these meetings were picked up by ICC it did count as Ehsan’s travelling. About Wasim Khan going to England 4 times in his 8 months in office it must have been part of his compensation package; he also went to Australia for 3 months. But this is I am sure part of his job. There were other travel expenses mentioned. These are by the International Director and Marketing Director.

As for Emmad Hameed, spending a million on travels seems plausible as he covered all the international and PSL matches. Asad Mustafa in Logistics Management also needs to travel for international as well as PSL. He looks after the transport, kits and clothes and connected matters. He is very ably and efficiently assisted by Maqsood. I never grudge anyone getting money as long as it is justified. Let us stop cringing and let them do their jobs.

Cricket is going on in empty grounds between England and the West Indies. West Indies surprisingly won the opener but were back to their level of incompetence in the second with England leveling the series 1-1 with consummate ease. The super show from Stokes continued and his was a superb contribution. The matches were played at Southampton and Manchester. This is because both have luxury hotels attached to the grounds so the SOPs could be enforced. The final Test is also at Manchester. Pakistan will also be playing at Old Trafford.

Still staying on the ongoing Tests I must say the best player on the circuit today is Ben Stokes and deservedly has the top ranking. He has also elbowed out Jason Holder from the best all- rounder spot. I must make a plea to the spectators and others connected with cricket that we should cease comparing our cricketers to the India players. There are other teams.

Why is Babar Azam always compared to Virat Kohli? Why not to Steve Smith, Marnus Labuschagne, Joe Root, Kane Williamson or Ben Stokes. Let us grow up and take a mature view.

For bowlers why don’t we compare Pakistan bowlers to Boult, Southee, Wagner, Starc, Bumrah, Anderson, Roach. The only Pakistan bowler is Mohammad Abbas at No. 13, and compare all-rounders to Jason Holder, Ben Stokes, Tim Southee, Shakib, and Mohammad Nabi.

By the way Pakistan does not have an all-rounder in the first twenty. Overall our Test ranking is 7th; West Indies is 8 and England 4. It is becoming obvious that our high powered coaching staff squad needs to pull their socks up.

I am at a loss of the management of the current Pakistan squads in England. They are not on a joy ride but what psychological affect it will have on them after the long isolation only an expert can judge. Overall discipline is essential.

Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir had resigned from Test Cricket. There was no justification in bringing them into Test cricket. Let them make their handful of silver in the leagues. Why play cat and mouse with the talented Fawad Alam. Why can’t someone take him into confidence and tell him “ya’ or “nay.” Ehsan and Wasim should have those guts to make a final decision of Alam. There are others in the 40 man rabble who should be taken or dropped. Misbah-ul-Haq should jettison his SNGPL mantle and think about the team as a whole. He cannot even consult some senior person as he is the be all and end all.

Mansoor Rana is the Manager but what is his job description? Nadeem Khan is too new and inexperienced in these matters. Shahid Aslam a well behaved youngster but wholly dependent on the others. Waqar Younis and Mushtaq Ahmed are there for the money. Younis is strong willed and a thorough professional. But is any one consulting him.

I am surprised that there was no agreed memorandum of understanding for the tour of England. Or if there was it has been kept away from the media and public. Reading between the lines in Wasim Khan’s statement about 3 star hotels it is clear that the players have gone on the arduous tour just for the cash. And whose brilliant idea it was to take a 40 member squad. Some will not even step on the playing field. Best wishes to all of them and may they succeed. It is not understood why only intra-squad matches. There is no county cricket at the moment and they could have had matches against county teams.

Why are their no ICC “third country “Umpires and referees. Surely the ICC and the ECB could have managed a few extra Pounds shillings and pence and have this. It is also learned that accreditation cards for the coverage will not be issued to Pakistani journalists. At least some if not more should have been granted. Leading newspapers deserve representation. Abdul Majid Bhatti, Saleem Khaliq, Shahid Hashmi, Abdul Waheed Khan, Khalid H. Khan, Abdur Rashid Shakoor from Karachi and an equal number from the Punjab, Islamabad and KPK should be considered.

I will not talk about the commentary but the limitations are appreciated. I was surprised that one of the commentators (and my favourite) brought up the question of Black Lives Matter). For this subject there should have been a full-fledged and well attended debate style seminar.

Most of you know that this matter had been raised over the years but this Test series has given strength to the cause. The signs BLM on the collars of the kits at the insistence of the West Indies Team is a good step. As is the kneeled gesture with the arm sticking out at the start of play by both sides and the officials.

However most of you must have seen and heard the interviews of the great boxer and sportsman the late Muhammad Ali which he gave to Michael Parkinson in which he said that everything good including angels, fairies, Miss World, Miss Universe, The rhymes like Mary had a little lamb whose fleece was white as snow, Tarzan the King of the Jungles was white, Santa Claus is white.
Muhammad Ali gave four interviews to Michael Parkinson between 1971 and 1974. So what we heard from the Test match on this issue was nothing new but I am glad it was raised.

By Chishty Mujahid

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