Pakistan paying price for over-reliance on lone ranger Amir

In this file photo, Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir makes an appeal for a review after a leg before wicket (LBW) decision during the 2019 Cricket World Cup group stage match between Australia and Pakistan at The County Ground in Taunton, southwest England, on June 12, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019

Pakistan paying price for over-reliance on lone ranger Amir

  • In this world cup Amir shares the top wicket-taker’s position with Australian Mitchell Starc
  • Left-arm quick saddled with burden of misfiring bowling unit which refuses to complement his effort

MANCHESTER: Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was at pains on Sunday to dismiss suggestions that Mohammad Amir’s agitated gesticulation after the defeat against India was a result of his frustration at his team mates.
Even if it was, Pakistan’s pace spearhead could hardly be faulted.
The 27-year-old left-arm quick has found himself saddled with the burden of a misfiring bowling unit, which simply refuses to complement his effort.
Pacers hunt in pairs but Amir has been Pakistan’s lone ranger with the ball with no significant assistance from the other end.
Figures from Pakistan’s last two matches, against Australia and India, prove how toothless the attack is without Amir.
In those two defeats, Amir returned a combined figure of 20-3-77-8 while others put together managed an embarrassing 79-0-554-7.
With 13 wickets from four matches, Amir shares the top wicket-taker’s position with Australian Mitchell Starc.
The next Pakistani on the list is Wahab Riaz, way behind with five wickets from four matches.
“He’s got 13 wickets in four games. Other bowlers should also chip in,” spinner Imad Wasim said after the defeat by India.
Riaz, whose hostile spell to Australian Shane Watson in the quarter-final of the 2015 World Cup was one of the highlights of the tournament, has struggled for success.
The left-arm quick had vowed to prove coach Mickey Arthur wrong after being left out of the original squad but has done little to justify his late inclusion.
Fellow quick Hasan Ali, who bled 84 runs in his nine overs against India, has not done any better with two wickets from four matches.
Against a bowling attack of such nature, the opposition strategy has been fairly simple — to treat Amir with respect and others with disdain.
KL Rahul and Rohit Sharma did exactly that on Sunday during their 136-run opening stand, even allowing Amir to begin with a maiden over.
As conditions demand, Amir has bowled a fuller length and kept it tight at both ends of the innings but his pace colleagues have bowled noticeably short.
Rohit, whose 140 helped secure India’s comprehensive victory, was asked if he was pleasantly surprised by the short length which allowed him to cut and pull with impunity.
“I really can’t read into what was going in their mind, whether to bowl up or to bowl short,” the right-hander said.
“As a batsman, you’re ready to just pounce on it when given or bowled to your strength. It’s my strength when someone bowls short to me.”

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.”