KARACHI: Pakistan pitcher Muhammad Usman is wary of the challenge his side could face from Iran in the ongoing West Asian Baseball Cup but remains confident of winning a sixth consecutive title.
“We are confident that we’ll win the title again,” Usman, who helped Pakistan thrash Nepal 16-1 in the opener, told The Express Tribune on the eve of his team's second match of the tournament.
“Iran are definitely one of our more formidable opponents and Sri Lanka have been improving continuously with every edition. Yet, the fact that we are the home team helps us greatly, so we are hoping to win the event and play in the Super League later this year.”
Pakistan have been placed with Nepal and Iraq in Group A, but Group B features just two teams — Iran and Sri Lanka. The notable absentees in the revised five-team competition are India, who were scheduled to participate but pulled out due to visa issues — much to Usman and the organisers' dismay.
“India were ready to come; they even held a national camp for their team to prepare for the championship,” said Pakistan Federation Baseball executive director and team manager Syed Fakhar Ali Shah.
“But the time required for the processing of visa is generally six weeks and they sent their documents just three weeks ago. Our government tried their best to process the visas but couldn't so India decided to skip the event.”
Shah believes that hosting a continental event would project a soft image of Pakistan and prove to the world that their terrorism problems have subsided.
“We can counter terrorism with sports so we need to show the world that Pakistan is a safe place and that we can hold international events,” said Shah.
Meanwhile, Usman feels that local baseball players can carve out a future for themselves in the sport by playing in foreign leagues but wants the federal government to take notice and help start a local league.
“I played in Iran; they have a great set up so our players can go abroad to play such foreign leagues,” he said. “We would like to see such leagues taking place in Pakistan too. But we are on our way to that. We just need more interest from the government; they should invest in this sport.”