Will 2012 be the year of change?
Whenever the name of Pakistan comes up, people think about the country as per their own perceptions. While a follower of politics might think of the country as an ally in the War Against Terrorism, a sports follower will think of it as a land of corrupt sportsmen. The sports follower may be correct in his own right but thanks to dedicated cricketers like Younis Khan, Misbah ul Haq and the Shahid Afridi, the country has done better on the cricket field than it has off it.
Pakistan – first under Shahid Afridi and later Misbah ul Haq – defeated 6 out of the 9 times it took the field in one day internationals in 2011. All the victories were series wins, including against New Zealand in New Zealand, West Indies in West Indies, Ireland in Ireland, Zimbabwe in Zimbabwe, Sri Lanka in United Arab Emirates and Bangladesh, in Bangladesh. They even managed to reach the semi finals of the World Cup in the sub continent, ending the tournament as the 3rd (or 4th) best team in the world. No easy feat considering the players spent more times abroad than at home.
However, its three disgraced pupils – Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamir – didn’t have the same luck as their compatriots. Not only were they banned from taking part in anything related to cricket by the ICC’s Independent Tribunal but they also were sent to jail by the British authorities for a crime they did commit. After ICC’s punishment of 10 years, Salman Butt ended with a 30-month jail period, Mohammad Asif’s one-year jail sentence was added to his already 7-year ban whereas Mohammad Aamir’s 5-year ban by ICC felt gigantic compared to the 6-month jail term he got from the Southwark Crown Court in London, later in the year. The three had been found guilty of spot fixing along side another Pakistani Mazhar Majeed in London during Pakistan’s tour of England in 2010.
However, not all Pakistanis got their hands dirty in sports. Tennis star Aisam ul Haq managed to win the Paris Master’s doubles event with India’s Rohan Bopanna along with a couple of other ATP doubles titles, improving his ranking and reaching the top 10! The hockey team managed to reach the final of the inaugural Asia Cup and won the tri-nation featuring hosts Australia and arch-rivals India in November. They came 7th in the 8-nation Champions Trophy but capped the year with a series win over China, in matches played in Pakistan. Pakistan didn’t do well in any of the other sports, except reaching the Pre Quarter Final of IBSF World Snooker Championship in Bangalore, India in November.
The country also hosted the second Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Boxing tournament in late December where just one Pakistani boxer managed to take Gold Medal. The boxing sensation Amir Khan, the British boxer of Pakistani parentage defeated Zab Judah in July to become the unified IBF and WBA Light Welterweight Champion, although he had lost the titles in a controversial fight to Lamont Peterson in December.
Sports may be on a rise in Pakistan but in order to bring the games back to the country, the local authorities would have to prove their worth, something they failed to do when the Chinese hockey team visited Pakistan in December. That is one of the reason why Pakistan would play England and Australia in United Arab Emirates, travel to Sri Lanka for a series and hope the Bangladeshis fulfill their promise of what can be the first tour of a Test-side to Pakistan in 3 years. The national cricket team is doing well and one hopes their luck brings back the game to Pakistan in what can be an eventful 2012!