‘Special atmosphere’ as India exploit familiar surroundings to beat Pakistan

India's Hardik Pandya (2nd L) shakes hands with Pakistan's Naseem Shah (R) after India defeated Pakistan during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 group A cricket match at Nassau County International Cricket Stadium in East Meadow, New York on June 9, 2024. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 10 June 2024

‘Special atmosphere’ as India exploit familiar surroundings to beat Pakistan

  • On a pitch that lacked quality, Pakistan never looked like they could overcome their fierce rivals in World Cup
  • Early rain caused several stops and starts, but India came out as a team that had played on the ground before

NEW YORK: What an experience. From the moment I arrived in New York on June 7, when I immediately felt the match build-up, to mingling with cricket fans in Times Square, to being in the ground, it is an event I will never forget.

All conversations centered on Pakistan’s match with India, cricket in North America and cricket in general, providing a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Then came the match, which lived up to all my expectations and then some.

The Nassau County International Cricket Stadium is an hour and a half away from Times Square by taxi. Thick cloud accompanied fans travelling to the stadium and the poor early weather could have brought Pakistan into the game as Shaheen’s swing bowling would add to already difficult batting conditions.

If India had won the toss, I would have feared they would take full advantage, but Pakistan’s captain, Babar Azam, called correctly and opted to bowl first.

Early rain caused several stops and starts, but India came out as a team that had played on the ground before, whereas this was Pakistan’s first outing in New York. India’s advantage of already experiencing the conditions and winning there was evident.

Although Pakistan claimed the prized wickets of Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma, India’s openers, early on, Rishabh Pant and a promoted Axar Patel illustrated exactly how ready India were to take the game to their great rivals. Their aggressive approach was designed to make the Pakistan bowlers crumble. I never got the sense that Pakistan genuinely believed they could win. Even with India two wickets down cheaply, the team in green could not quite believe the position in which they found themselves.

I have a great deal of respect for both sets of players, as they were playing on a surface that was not fit for international cricket. This is not just my view but that of many experienced observers. The pitch was dangerous at times and every batter struggled. Each player chose his own way of dealing with the demons. Rishabh Pant was ultra-aggressive and the rest of his team followed suit. India took more risks and rode their luck, but fortune often favors the brave.

Once India had taken their total to a modest 119, most people would think the chasing team held all the aces. Unfortunately for Pakistan, it felt like none of their batters felt the same way. They opted to try and dig deep, which was understandable, but any invention, drive and intent was lacking.

Jasprit Bumrah was outstanding with the ball, well supported by Hardik Pandya and Mohammad Siraj. Once Mohammad Rizwan was dismissed, the task seemed too large for the rest of the Pakistan batting.

The atmosphere in the ground, though, was special. The two sets of fans mixed, although Pakistan’s supporters were heavily outnumbered. As the teams traded blows, the excitement switched from one set of fans to the other. I was watching both as a cricket fan and with my media head, but still lost my voice through giving vocal support.

Even the seats in the big temporary stands were blue, something that could perhaps have been changed. It must have been intimidating for the Pakistan players and it is difficult to escape the feeling that small, seemingly inconsequential, actions create favorable environments for Team India. The almost total lack of Pakistan supporters in Ahmedabad for the match against India in the ODI World Cup last year comes to mind.

Nevertheless, the Indian team was excellent. When their backs were against the wall, they showed fight and a genuine togetherness. India are incredibly confident, they believe in what they are doing, have clarity of thought and in their roles, and are backed by their management structure.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have a number of problems. They do not appear to believe in themselves and the off-field instability shows no sign of change. Despite the closeness of the scores on the day, the two sides are a long way apart.

There were big opportunities for Pakistan throughout the match. The pitch conditions were a leveler, whilst they bowled well to restrict India with wickets in the latter stages. They could have grabbed the game, but let things slip and fell short. In a match where every run mattered, India captain Rohit Sharma chose the right moves, Babar was slow to react. An example of Pakistan’s problems was that leg-spinner Shadab Khan was not asked to bowl a single over. Why, then, is he in the team, if the captain does not appear to possess enough faith in his bowling?

Turning to the American market, the spectacle was mesmerizing, even crazy. It was a day the like of which I have never before experienced and something that still has me buzzing. Anyone at the game will surely want to watch more cricket. However, if its best side is to be shown to the Americans, the quality of pitches has to improve. There is a risk that a golden opportunity has been missed.

A better pitch would have provided even better entertainment. No doubt there will be those who argue that the pitch created a close and tense match. This misses the point. The variable pitch conditions across the nine grounds on which the World Cup is being played may hand skewed advantages and disadvantages to individual teams.

The defeat leaves Pakistan on the brink of an early exit from the tournament. Their fate is no longer in their own hands, with the USA, India and Canada ahead of them in the group. A victory for the USA over Ireland will see Pakistan out, which is not acceptable in a group containing three much lower-ranked sides. The Super Eights were the bare minimum objective for Pakistan.

The team’s performance is a byproduct of everything that has happened over the last two years. All the chaos, the poor off-field management and instability, mean the desired levels of professionalism are lacking. It is going to take more than changing the coaches to resolve the issues. The new coach, Gary Kirsten, bemoaned poor decision-making by batters after reaching 72 for two with eight overs left.

I did not expect Pakistan to beat India. In fact, I predicted a clear India win. The closeness of the game should not be seen as any kind of positive or used to mask Pakistani deficiencies. It never felt like Pakistan were destined to win. There is an obvious and large gap in standard between the two sides, which will take serious work to bridge.

Pakistan will not be eliminated from the T20 World Cup just because of this defeat in New York. The damage was done by the defeat to the USA. However good this was for the competition and tournament hosts, it was a match which Pakistan should never have lost. They will be going home early because, currently, they are not good enough to stay.

Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers

Updated 5 sec ago

Pakistan reverses decision to deny passports to asylum seekers

  • Pakistan’s government last month announced it would not issue passports to citizens seeking asylum or living on asylum abroad
  • Government reverses earlier decision, vows to fast-track clearance of backlog of passports for overseas Pakistanis 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government announced on Monday it had reversed its earlier decision to deny passports to individuals who had sought asylum or were already living abroad on asylum, a press release said. 

Pakistan’s Directorate General of Immigration and Passports last month announced the government would no longer issue passports to Pakistanis who were seeking asylum abroad. According to local media reports, the directorate said that even the National Identity Cards of asylum-seekers would be blocked. 

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar chaired a high-level meeting on Monday to discuss important issues related to overseas Pakistanis. The meeting was attended by the foreign secretary, the secretary of interior and senior officials of the Ministries of Interior and Foreign Affairs.

“The meeting discussed in detail the recent policy decision that was taken vide circular dated 5 June 2024 for not issuing passport to any individual who had sought asylum or already living on asylum abroad,” a press release by the government said. “It was decided to reverse the policy decision with immediate effect and to withdraw the circular of 5 June 2024.”

Participants of the meeting also discussed issues relating to delays in the issuance of passports to Pakistanis living abroad, the press release said. The officials briefed Dar about the government’s ongoing efforts to streamline the process of issuing passports.

“It was decided that the Ministry of Interior and IMPASS will take immediate necessary steps to upgrade the infrastructure/equipment within the next 45 days and to fast-track the clearance of the entire backlog relating to the issuance of passports to overseas Pakistanis,” it added. 

Naqvi last month took notice of complaints that it took overseas Pakistanis as much as four months to get their normal passports, while the urgent ones were being issued in one-and-a-half months, according to a report published by the Radio Pakistan broadcaster.

Naqvi had told officials to ensure that normal passports were issued within 30 days and the urgent ones were issued within a week, saying the policy would be applicable to all Pakistani missions abroad. 

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad

Updated 22 July 2024

Noose tightens around Imran’s Khan’s party as information secretary arrested in Islamabad

  • Raoof Hasan arrested from Islamabad secretariat, PTI Chairman Gohar Khan released after brief detention 
  • PTI social media accounts show police cars and dozens of officers surrounding party’s Islamabad office

ISLAMABAD: Top leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) of jailed former premier Imran Khan were arrested on Monday from the party’s Islamabad office, according to party officials and visuals widely shared on social media.

PTI official social media accounts shared videos of dozens of policemen surrounding the party’s Islamabad secretariat on Monday morning, while visuals of party Information Secretary Raoof Hasan being led away by police were widely distributed on social media. 

Zulfi Bukhari, Khan’s key adviser on media, confirmed to Arab News that Hasan and PTI Chairman Gohar Khan, who is also Khan’s lawyer, had both been arrested but that Gohar was later released. 

“Barrister Gohar has been released,” Bukhari told reporters in a text message as the party shared visuals of police lining up outside its office. 

It was unclear what the charges are against Hasan but his arrest comes after those of several other PTI members in the last few days, including the party’s top media manager Ahmed Waqqas Janjua. 

Bukhari said Janjua has been presented before an anti-terrorism court today, Monday, and was remanded into police custody for seven years. According to the PTI, the investigating officer said explosives were recovered during Janjua’s arrest and links with outlawed organizations would be probed.

Bukhari said Janjua’s remand had been challenged by the party’s lawyer and would be heard today or tomorrow, rejecting that any explosives or weapons were found on him during his arrest. 

The federal government of PM Shehbaz Sharif last week announced plans to ban the PTI and moved the country’s top court to press treason charges against Khan. 

Khan came to power in 2018 and was ousted in 2022 after what is widely believed to be a falling out with Pakistan’s powerful military, which had helped propel him into office. The army denies political interference.

Since his ouster, the PTI founder and his party have faced an ever-widening state-backed crackdown and Khan himself has been in jail since August last year. He was acquitted earlier this month in one of the last standing convictions against him but was not freed after authorities issued new orders to arrest him in another case involving riots by his followers in May last year. 

Khan, arguably the country’s most popular politician, says all legal cases are motivated to keep him out of politics and dent the popularity of the PTI. 

The convictions against him had ruled him out of Feb. 8 general elections, which all candidates from his party were forced to contest as independents after the election commission denied the party its iconic symbol of a cricket bat on technical grounds. Despite the setbacks, Khan-backed candidates won the most seats in the polls but could not form the government, which is now being led by Sharif’s PMLN party in coalition with other parties. 

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

Updated 22 July 2024

Pakistan captain Babar Azam says ‘always learning’ from batting greats Kohli, Root

  • Pakistan skipper Babar Azam speaks to former South African batting icon AB de Villiers
  • Azam says he does not think much about the future, focuses on living in the moment 

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s T20 captain Babar Azam recently said he seeks guidance from international batting greats and colleagues Virat Kohli, Joe Root and Kane Williamson to learn about their mindset and how they approach different situations in cricket to improve his own performance. 

Azam is counted among one of the world’s best batters in modern-day cricket. The right-handed batter has scored 3,898 runs from 52 Test matches, 5,729 runs from 117 ODIs and 4,145 runs from 123 T20Is. Azam has also scored 31 centuries for Pakistan in all three international formats and is frequently compared with top batters around the world such as Kohli, Williamson, Root and others. 

Former South African batter AB de Villiers interviewed Khan for his YouTube channel in June before the T20 World Cup kicked off. However, the South African icon shared the full interview on Saturday in which he spoke to the Pakistani captain about his goals, achievements and how he handles pressure situations. 

“When overseas players come [to Pakistan], youngsters engage them and learn because international players are playing lots of leagues and they share that experience with everyone,” Azam told de Villiers. 

“When I was young, I always talked with you, learn from every single player. I am always talking to Kane [Williamson], [Joe] Root, Virat [Kohli],” he added. 

The Pakistani captain said he tries to learn how these players approach the game, what is their routine and how they manage their self-belief.

“So when you speak to good players they give you good advice that helps you a lot,” Azam explained. 

When asked what his goals and dreams for the future were, Azam said he was living in the moment mostly. 

“Honestly, I’m just thinking day by day,” he said. “I’m not thinking about where I am going. I’m just playing my game and enjoying myself every single time. I just love to play cricket.”

 The Pakistani captain, however, has been heavily criticized recently by fans and critics alike for Pakistan’s lackluster performance in the T20 World Cup 2024. The green shirts, under Azam’s leadership, failed to beat minnows USA and India, crashing out of the World Cup in the group stages of the tournament last month. 

Former cricketers and cricket commentators have asked Azam to resign as captain, with some even calling for his ouster from the international T20 squad. 

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

Updated 22 July 2024

Residents of southwestern Pakistani border town end months-long protest against strict visa policy

  • Traders, residents were protesting against Pakistan’s strict passport and visa policy at Chaman crossing with Afghanistan since Nov. 2023
  • Balochistan official says protesters have accepted the government’s passport and visa policy, however, protest spokesperson says otherwise 

QUETTA: A body of local tribesmen and traders on Sunday called off its nine-month-long sit-in protest against the government’s strict visa policy in the southwestern Chaman town bordering Afghanistan, with its spokesperson saying the decision had been taken after the government accepted its demands and released detained protesters. 

Pakistan’s interim government last year tightened its travel policy for citizens of all neighboring countries following deadly attacks in the country’s northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and southwestern Balochistan provinces. Pakistan shares a 2600-kilometer porous border with Afghanistan which lies through KP and Balochistan. The Chaman border crossing is one of the key border crossings between the two countries in Pakistan’s Balochistan that connects with Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. 

Since Pakistan’s independence from British India, Islamabad has been practicing a relaxed travel policy for residents living in border towns on either side. Local tribesmen and traders in Pakistan’s border areas could previously cross into Afghanistan through Chaman by showing their National Identity Cards. Afghan nationals in Kandahar, meanwhile, were allowed to enter Pakistan after showing their Afghan national identity document, also known as “Tazkira.”

But the Pakistani government in October 2023 announced a strict policy that allows only residents of Chaman and Kandahar to cross the border by showing their proof of residence. The rest of the citizens from both countries were required to have passports and visas to travel across the border. Furious traders in Pakistan had opposed the move, saying the strict policy would hamper their economic activities as daily over 15,000-20,000 people use the border crossing to travel between the two countries. They staged a sit-in protest for nine months at the border crossing, causing trade between the two countries to remain at a standstill. 

Raja Athar Abbas, Chaman district’s deputy commissioner, said organizers of the sit-in protest had agreed to follow the government’s visa policy. 

“There will be special areas for laborers depending on daily wages through the border trade and only they can travel with their National Identity Cards,” he told Arab News on Sunday.

Malik Inayat Kasi, former Balochistan home minister and tribal elder who addressed the protesters on Sunday, said the government had succeeded in addressing a key issue of the province. 

“The protesters have accepted the passport and visa policy at the Chaman border that was announced by the Government of Pakistan,” he told Arab News. 

However, Olas Yar, the spokesperson of the protesters, said the sit-in had been called off after the provincial government had accepted all of their demands and released detained protesters who were charged with various crimes. 

“Today we have ended our protest after Mr. Kasi assured us that the government has accepted all of our demands,” Yar told Arab News. 

He said the protesters will observe the situation during the next two days, warning that if the government does not allow them access to border markets in Afghanistan under the previous conditions, they will protest again. 

Pakistan has been witnessing an uptick in militant violence in its northwestern and southwestern regions, particularly after the Pakistani Taliban called off their fragile truce with the government in November 2022. The militant group, which is said to have sanctuaries in neighboring Afghanistan, is separate from but a close ally of the Afghan Taliban.

The recent attacks also prompted authorities in Pakistan last year to ask all illegal immigrants to leave the country by November 1, 2023. Islamabad says it has so far deported over 620,000 Afghan nationals who were living in the country illegally and has vowed to continue doing the same. 

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

Updated 22 July 2024

Pakistan concludes post-Hajj operations for over 160,000 pilgrims

  • Pakistan’s religion ministry says it facilitated pilgrims in food, transportation and accommodation
  • Ministry says it introduced new measures this Hajj such as Pak Hajj app and free SIM cards for pilgrims

Islamabad: Pakistan successfully concluded its post-Hajj operations 2024 on Sunday, the religion ministry said, during which over 160,000 pilgrims from the country performed the annual Islamic pilgrimage this year. 

Out of Pakistan’s total quota of 179,210 pilgrims, around 160,000 from the country performed Hajj this year through both the government scheme and private tour operators. The annual Islamic pilgrimage was held from June 14-19 during which millions of pilgrims from all parts of the world arrived in Saudi Arabia. 

In a statement on Sunday, Dr. Mirza Ali Mehsood, senior joint secretary of the Ministry of Religious Affairs (MoRA) congratulated Pakistani pilgrims on their safe return and completion of Hajj rituals. He thanked the MoRA staff, Hajj Moavineen or assistants, and the Pakistani Hajj Medical Mission for their relentless efforts in facilitating pilgrims during the post-Hajj phase. 

 “Moavineen and ministry staff, comprising officials and officers of grade 7-21, are deployed to serve these guests of Allah in the Holy lands of Makkah and Madinah,” Dr. Mehsood said. “They are required to take care of guests of Allah. We should shun our arrogance, status, and authority while serving the Guests of Allah.”

The MoRA official said the duty to serve pilgrims must be taken as a “rank-less” assignment, adding that one does not know when they would ever be blessed with such an opportunity again hence they should make the most of it. 

Zia Ur Rehman, the director of Hajj in Madinah, praised the operation’s success, saying that MoRA facilitated Pakistani pilgrims in food, accommodation and transportation. 

“He noted that due to demolition and new construction, it was very difficult to get accommodations in Markazia Madinah, but with our efforts, we arranged all accommodations for Pakistani pilgrims in Markazia, a significant achievement,” MoRA said. Rehman shared that 66,000 Pakistani pilgrims had visited the Riaz ul Jannah, the area between the pulpit and the grave of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in Madinah. 

MoRA said it had introduced several new initiatives this Hajj, which included the launch of the Pak Hajj app, free SIM cards for pilgrims, and the appointment of Hajj Moavineen who qualified after passing the National Testing Service (NTS) exam. He said these initiatives greatly assisted Pakistani pilgrims throughout their holy journey.

“Jamil-ur-Rehman, Assistant Director, praised the Pak Hajj app as a successful and unique initiative that kept pilgrims in constant contact with the ministry,” the statement said. “The app provided access to complaints, training materials, accommodation details, flight schedules, and other services, greatly aiding pilgrims throughout their journey.”

Mushtaque Asghar, another MoRA official, said 36,900 complaints were received through the Pak Hajj app out of which 34,979 were successfully resolved. 


Pakistan’s national airline also announced in a statement it had concluded its post-Hajj operations on July 21. The Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) said its Hajj operations kicked off on May 9 and continued till June 11 while the post-Hajj operations commenced from June 20 and lasted till July 21. 

“A total of 143 flights were operated in the post-Hajj operations out of which 61 went to Jeddah and 82 to Madinah,” the airline’s spokesperson said in a statement. “A total of 34,663 pilgrims returned to their pilgrims after performing their rituals.”

Of these, 19,278 were pilgrims who had performed the Hajj through the government scheme and 14,754 through the private tour operators, the airline said.