Pakistan sports in 2014

The nation will be hoping that current Pakistan team can take some inspiration from history and achieve glory again

Emmad Hameed December 29, 2014

Disillusioned sportsmen continued to cry hoarse looking for recognition and support as another sporting year comes to a close with almost all sports stars, other than leading cricketers, struggling to make ends meet. Sporting bodies across Pakistan spent another year knocking at the doors of government officials, the Pakistan Sports Board and the National Olympic Committee for financial help with almost all pleas falling on deaf ears.

Hockey — the national sport — went through a roller-coaster ride in 2014. For the first time in their illustrious history, the four-time champions sat out the World Cup held in the Netherlands after failing to secure a berth in the 12-team tournament. Lack of finances forced Pakistan to miss the Commonwealth Games. However, under their new coach Shahnaz Sheikh, Pakistan restored some credibility by gathering silver medals at the Asian Games and the fiercely competed Champions Trophy in India at the end of the year — the participation only ensured through generous donations by private financiers. The hockey federation demanded a grant of Rs500 million for running the sport smoothly in the country in the aftermath of the upward trend in results, but by the end of 2014, the government remained obstinate in its stance of non-adherence to such calls.

Pakistan’s athletes made a mark in various international competitions in boxing, karate, jujitsu and kabaddi. The country’s leading pugilist Mohammad Waseem grabbed the silver medal in the Commonwealth Games, losing the gold medal match after a contentious decision against him. The talented, Quetta-born pugilist also snared a bronze in the Asian Games but by the end of the year, he also grew increasingly disgruntled as his demands for financial support and better training going unanswered.

Pakistan’s squash players continued to plummet further in international rankings, crashing out of prestigious events like the World Open and the British Open in the opening rounds. On the other hand, snooker continued to be a beacon of hope for sports fans. Mohammad Sajjad came within a whisker of winning the IBSF World Championship in Bangalore, losing the 15-frame final by a narrow 8-7 margin. Emerging cueists Hamza Akbar and Majid Ali also made their presence felt at the Asian and international levels and will be hoping to earn more plaudits in 2015.

Finally, coming to the country’s most popular sport, cricket, a topsy-turvy year was witnessed. In the final analysis, it will be safe to conclude that disappointments outweighed the moments of success. After conjuring a remarkable win against Sri Lanka in the Sharjah Test at the start of the year, the national team narrowly lost the Asia Cup final in Bangladesh. Earlier in the tournament, Shahid Afridi played one of the innings of his life — clouting two consecutive sixes in the final over of the match against India before helping the team surpass a record target against the hosts in the group stages. The euphoric win against the arch-rivals gave a real hype to the crash, bang and wallop of the World Twenty20 that followed in April. But the hopes of a second world trophy in the format were quickly dashed as the West Indies blew Pakistan away in a crucial group encounter. The loss meant that the 2009 champions failed to secure a semi-final berth for the first time in five editions of the tournament. The tour of Sri Lanka, thereafter, turned into a stern examination as Pakistan lost both Tests of the series before woeful batting in the final 50-over game handed the hosts the One-Day International (ODI) series too.

Pakistan’s World Cup preparations suffered a major jolt as ace spinner Saeed Ajmal was banned from bowling at the international level after failing the test on his suspect action, and has now ruled himself out of the mega event. Later, Mohammad Hafeez also joined Ajmal on the ‘suspension bench’ after failing to satisfy biomechanics of the legality of his action. Adding to Pakistan’s woes, Australia completed a whitewash in the three-match ODI series in the UAE as the national team hit its lowest ebb of the year.

Thereafter, Pakistan being Pakistan, the team bounced back incredibly, thrashing the tourists in the two Tests played subsequently. Younus Khan, Azhar Ali and Misbahul Haq batted like gods to churn out one century after another. Misbah, perpetually crucified because of his pedestrian approach to batting, unfurled the joint-fastest Test century in the second match of the series as his team completed a ruthless demolition job and beat Australia in a Test series for the first time in 20 years.  New Zealand were then soundly beaten in the opening Test of the series that followed and Pakistan looked set for another series whitewash. But Brendon McCullum’s team threw a spanner in the works as the increasingly weary national side failed to turn up for the last four days of the Sharjah Test — following the tragic demise of Australian opener Phillip Hughes. New Zealand continued to impress as they bounced back to seal the ODI series 3-2 after being at the brink of defeat more than once in the series.

The year 2015 is the World Cup year. Pakistan have a few tough days ahead as the selectors and the team management struggle to form the best possible combination for the prized event. The team seems to be in disarray at present with suspensions and injuries to key players creating obstacles, but Imran Khan’s cornered tigers were also languishing at the bottom before roaring back in contention the last time the mega event was held in Australia. The nation will be hoping that the current Pakistan team can take some inspiration from history and achieve glory again.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 30th, 2014.

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harry kahn | 6 years ago | Reply

Pakistan invest in sport not in london or newyork

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