Exciting cricket in Southern Hemisphere

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SPORTS THIS WEEK – There are currently two Test series of major significance being played in the Southern Hemisphere. England and Australia are playing off for the Ashes urn while India and South Africa vie for the top position in the Test cricket rankings. England are coming of a dream Test victory in the second Test where they demolished Australia in a manner more akin to what Australia has been doing to them in the recent past.
England looked like world beaters all the way through to the first two sessions of the third Test. They looked to have the series locked up, with the Aussies struggling, but Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin and Michael Hussey chipped in to give the Australian first innings some respectability.
The out of form Johnson then rode the momentum gained from his batting, to destroy the England top order, taking six wickets for very little. Johnson has been Australia’s match winner and the Australian selectors stuck with class rather than form and Johnson delivered in spades. The momentum has shifted Australia’s way and at 81 for five chasing 391, it looks extremely grim for England to wrest it back in what promises to be a pulsating series.
In South Africa, the vaunted Indian batting failed to come to terms with the bouncy South African pitches and the lethal opening attack of Dale Steyn and Mornie Morkel. After being dismissed for a hundred plus, the Indians have a mountain to climb against a solid South African batting line up led by Smith, Amla, Kallis and de Villiers.
Amla has been riding a torrid batting streak this season while Kallis continues to reinforce his position as one of the greatest all-rounders in the history of the sport. By lunch on day three, AB de Villiers had also helped himself to a splendid, whirlwind hundred (his unbeaten 120 at that point contained 11 fours and five sixes) that came at a mindboggling strike rate of 126, and the lead had soared to 457 with seven wickets remaining.
After such an emphatic display, the situation looks tailor made for South Africa to topple India from the top spot. Pakistan has received an extension from the ICC for naming their preliminary squad for the World Cricket Cup. They await clearance from the ICC for Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal as well as, perhaps Danish Kaneria. These three have been on the fringes of the cricket spot fixing scandals.
The PCB has been intent on cleaning up its Augean stables and it would do well to look to the future rather than to select tainted players. Pakistan performed well in the South African series in the UAE. They looked committed and fought well. It would be a shame to revert to those cricketers whose actions and commitment is suspect.
Pakistan have already lost Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir to the spot fixing scandal, a crippling blow as the duo are two of the very best. The loss of Butt is not as significant. Regardless, the team that will represent Pakistan in the World Cup must be seen to be clean regardless of how they fare in the matches.
The newly elected President of the Pakistan Tennis Federation, Syed Kaleem Imam has hit the ground running. In a well attended press conference at the PTF Complex, Kaleem unfolded his vision of where he wanted to take Pakistan tennis. The energy was good and the media came away buzzing with excitement. Already two National events have been announced and will take place before the end of the year. An under 14 team has been selected to represent Pakistan in the ITF qualifiers in Myanmar.
Pakistan tennis was badly in need of a fresh start following the devastation wrought by the previous regime and it looks as though the present setup could be just what the doctor ordered. The PTF does not have a hard act to follow. If they would only give the players a level playing field, they would be miles ahead of their predecessors.
There are, however, murmurs that the Abbas group may be attempting to wrest control of the PTF back through some legal machinations. It is true to character that this man would try anything at all to get back into power. Dilawar Abbas’ time at the head of PTF is being termed as the lost decade of Pakistan tennis. For him to even dream of making a comeback would be more akin to a nightmare.
The recently held elections were fair and clean and were duly approved by the Pakistan Sports Board. Unfortunately, some remnants of the Abbas regime are still clinging on to their perks and privileges and it is up to the PTF to cleanse the sport from these profiteers. Their presence in the PTF offices could be dangerous for the sport as well as the office bearers.
In another happy occurrence, the sessions judge of the Islamabad Court, the Honourable Tanveer Meer set aside the lawsuit that the previous PTF had initiated against this scribe and a national daily. This lawsuit had been a bid to browbeat objective journalism. Legal experts are calling this a landmark decision with significant financial consequences for the losing side.
If indeed, there are some benefits accruing from the damages, they would be used for the development of the sport of tennis in the country.