Cricket and baseball might have similarities - the need to hit as powerfully as one can - but the former greatly outweighs the latter when it comes to fan following and being one’s aspiration.
While it lacks popularity, the sport in Pakistan is not a lost cause altogether. Ranked 25th in the world, Pakistan won the 2010 Asia Baseball Cup and were also crowned the Saarc champions in Lahore earlier this year. However, the news hardly spread as wildfire. There were no celebrations and hardly any talk or plans of development at national level.
Schools, where sport is an important ingredient to the curriculum, has included baseball in its ranks but the level of competitiveness and enthusiasm still lags and lacks. There are inter-school tournaments but none that can grab the spotlight.
If anything that is worth bringing up, it’s the achievement of the Pakistan national team. Getting their hands on the inaugural Saarc trophy was a huge achievement. Even more was the power and consistency of one pitcher, Ehsanullah, who consistently delivered over 150 kilometres per hour.
This man, from Vehari in Punjab, was the highlight of the Pakistan team. His performance (read speed) was enough for him to be called up by the LG Twin Baseball Club in Korea, who signed up the Pakistan Army player for eight weeks of training.
But the exposure for the rest is still lacking. This does not bother the Pakistan Baseball Federation Secretary General Khawar Shah, who said that performance speaks for itself.
“We let the achievements do the talking,” said Shah. “We can beat our own drum but I think that is what our performance on the field is for. Pakistan is much better than India and Iran and this was proven by our performance in the Saarc Championship. And the signing of Ehsanullah speaks volumes of our players’ credentials.”
The official did not sound like a worried man. He spoke at length about the various upcoming tournaments, adding that talent was being identified to carry Pakistan forward in the field of baseball.
Pakistan under-18 team is en route to the Baseball Federation Asia (AAA) Championship where they will compete against Japan, the giants of the continent, among many others.
“The camp [for the event] is currently underway and this is our chance to identify the talent,” said Shah, referring to the event that starts on August 27. “The players who show good performance will be singled out for the senior team within two years.”
And while the country feels baseball is not being given due respect, it’s time for a re-think since Pakistan are ready to take on the Asian giants in the upcoming tournament.
The writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune
Pakistan and its glory
1996 - Silver in International Thailand Baseball Championship
1997 - Bronze in 2nd Asia Baseball Cup
2001 - Silver in 4th Asia Baseball Cup
2002 - Silver in 5th Asia Baseball Cup
2004 - Silver in 6th Asia Baseball Cup
2007 - Gold in 7th Asia Baseball Cup
2008 - Silver in 8th Asia Baseball Cup
2010 - Gold in 10th Asia Baseball Cup
2011 - Gold in SAARC Baseball Cup
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2011.