Azhar Mahmood adamant Pakistan ‘want more’ from Mohammad Amir

Updated 02 May 2018

Azhar Mahmood adamant Pakistan ‘want more’ from Mohammad Amir

  • Amir was the youngest bowler to reach 50 Test wickets
  • Mahmood wants him to recapture that form on tour of England

CANTERBURY: Pakistan bowling coach Azhar Mahmood “wants more” from Mohammad Amir, a challenge he believes the paceman will rise to in upcoming Test matches against Ireland and England.
Amir was the hottest property in world cricket after bursting on the scene as a teenager in 2009.
He was soon earning comparisons with fellow Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Wasim Akram, with Wasim himself declaring Amir a better bowler than he had been at the same age.
At 18, Amir was the youngest bowler to have reached the landmark of 50 Test wickets.
His first 14 matches in the five-day game saw him take 51 wickets at just a fraction over 23 apiece — figures that had Amir on course to be an all-time great.
But Amir’s world was turned upside down in 2010 when he and Mohammad Asif became involved in a spot-fixing scandal after deliberately bowling no-balls during the Lord’s Test against England at the behest of then Pakistan captain Salman Butt.
In 2011 Amir was given a five-year ban by the International Cricket Council and sentenced to six months in jail by an English court.
Amir returned to international duty in 2016 but his 16 Tests since his comeback have yielded 44 wickets at a relatively expensive 37.25.
“We want more from Amir, as bowling coach I want more from Amir,” Mahmood told AFP after the paceman took one wicket for 45 runs in 15 overs during Pakistan’s drawn tour opener against Kent at Canterbury on Tuesday.
“If you see his record since he came back it’s not great, but he was coming back after five years out,” the former Pakistan all-rounder added. “He needs to take a bit more responsibility and get more wickets for us.
“If he’s the leader of this attack, he needs to show us a bit more.
“I’m sure he will do that and that’s what we want from him.”
Given his lengthy absence it is unsurprising that the now 26-year-old Amir has not quite scaled the heights he reached earlier in his career.
Nevertheless, there have been some memorable moments since his return, with Amir taking a superb three for 16 in six overs as Pakistan thrashed arch-rivals India by 180 runs in the final of last year’s Champions Trophy one-day tournament at The Oval.
Amir’s figures against Kent on a cool, if sunny, day were nothing like as spectacular.
This, however, was a warm-up match, with Pakistan next facing Northamptonshire before providing the opposition for Ireland’s inaugural Test and then returning to England for a two-Test series.
And one delivery from Amir, who served part of his prison sentence in Canterbury jail, stood out on Tuesday when he demolished the stumps of Alex Blake with a late-swinging yorker.
It certainly caught the admiring attention of Kent assistant coach Allan Donald, the former South Africa fast bowler.
“When I saw this kid a few years ago, he’s one of the most skilful that’s going around,” Donald said.
“When you saw him knocking over those ‘poles’ that’s exactly what you expect from him — so much skill, so much imagination and creativity to produce that sort of thing on flat pitches.”
He added: “When it gets flat, you have to think out of the box and to see that happening was an eye-opener.”
Meanwhile Donald predicted Pakistan, whose last Test series in England ended in a highly creditable 2-2 draw in 2016, would impress again this year.
“There are some seriously good players in this Pakistan team,” he said.
“I think it’s going to be a great series — I hope it warms up for them though.”

Female footballers from remote Chitral bring their game to Pakistani capital

Updated 28 January 2021

Female footballers from remote Chitral bring their game to Pakistani capital

  • Chitral Women’s Sports Club founder Karishma Ali has organized a week-long training camp for female athletes in Islamabad
  • Club, founded two years ago with 60 girls, now has over 150 members

RAWALPINDI: Forty young football enthusiasts in matching black tracksuits jogged down the cement bleachers framing the expansive football pitch of the Islamabad Sports Complex on Tuesday, egging one another on and cheering as they embarked on a new day of sports and fun.

While athletes of all stripes could be seen on the many fields and tracks of the complex, what made this particular sight unique was that all of the athletes were young girls from Pakistan’s northernmost, long-neglected region of Chitral. The girls were brought to the capital by the Chitral Women’s Sports Club, the brainchild of national football star Karishma Ali.

Running a football club for girls from poor families in a remote, mountainous area of Pakistan is not easy during a pandemic, but Ali has not let the challenging circumstances stop her from pursuing her dream of helping girls in her native Chitral region.

“Usually when we do our activities, it’s kept secret and done far from their villages for security reasons,” Ali, 23, told Arab News on Tuesday, at the Islamabad Sports Complex. “This is why I brought them here, to give them a more comfortable environment. You can already see the change in their confidence, how they are playing out in the open versus at home.”

Ali started her club two years ago with 60 girls between the ages of 8 and 16. Now the club has over 150 members who ski and play volleyball, cricket and football.

Ali hopes the club will help the girls overcome both sexual discrimination and poverty in a country where boys’ education and sports are prioritized. Her dream is to help her girls win sports scholarships in professional colleges in Pakistan and beyond.

“These girls have talent,” said Ali, who has represented her country at international football tournaments. “If we get requisite support, we can have 1,000 female footballers from Chitral.”

In Islamabad, the footballers are attending a week-long camp from Jan. 23-29 under Coach Jose Alonso who runs a Spanish Football Academy in the capital. The camp has also given them the opportunity to interact and play with other female football stars.

“I am excited and happy because I see the girls smiling every day,” said Ali. “I haven’t seen a single upset face. They are getting the chance not only to play the way other athletes get to play and practice out in the open, but also to have fun.”

Indeed, for many of the girls, aged between 12 and 16, this is their first time away from home and in the capital.

“We do not get opportunities like this back home. Just having the chance to come and play every day has been really fun,” Zakira Nida, 14, said. “That’s what we lack the most: opportunities.”

“Boys get a lot of chances to play in our region,” said Mehek Sultan, 15. “But our society does not just consist of boys. We are here, too. We should also get to play because participating in sports is good for everyone.”

The Pakistani women’s football team, which faced a FIFA ban due to inactivity in 2013, remained dormant even after the ban was lifted in 2017. Last year in October 2020, the Pakistan Football Federation began work to revive the sport by organizing football camps.

Ali’s own passion for football began when she was nine years old and watched the 2006 FIFA World Cup with her father.

“I just knew this is the game for me,” she had said in media interviews last year.

But it was not easy. When the community discovered Ali’s football career, some were deeply hostile, and she received messages threatening to kill her if she continued.

“It was seen as inappropriate culturally because I would wear shorts, thereby baring my skin,” she told reporters.

The situation eased in 2019 when Ali was selected for Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 Asia list of rising stars and the community began to recognize her achievements.

Now, Ali says it is high time people in Pakistani sports management begin to believe in women.

“Women’s teams are becoming famous all over the world,” she said. “In the US, they are winning the fight to be paid equally and we are still fighting for our right to play.”