Cricket team returns: Moin, Zafar defend team's performance in final (25 June 1999)

25 June 1999

Cricket team returns: Moin, Zafar defend team's performance in final

Samiul Hasan

Karachi, June 24: Dozens of gun-totting personnel of law enforcement agencies and an estimated 1,000 angry cricket fans were at the airport when the first group of 10 members of Pakistan's World Cup team arrived here from London on Thursday morning. The crowd comprised mostly airport services personnel. They raised slogans against the team's defeat, particularly against skipper Wasim Akram, batsmen Ijaz Ahmed and Inzamam-ul-Haq.

The angry crowd dispersed peacefully after a show of resentment after Moin Khan and Shahid Afridi left the airport for homes with their families. The others stayed in the transit lounge for a connecting flight to Lahore.

It was an amazing turn of events: only a few months back they were accorded a rapturous welcome on return from a highly successful tour of India and soon thereafter following a very convincing victory in tri-nation Sharjah Cup.

The cricketers who arrived this morning are:

Moin Khan, Shahid Afridi, Inzamam-ul-Haq, Yousuf Youhana, Ijaz Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Mushtaq Ahmed, Azhar Mahmood and Abdur Razzaq.

The nine cricketers and manager Zafar Altaf, dressed informally, were escorted to an airport official's room after they were subjected to taunts and cat-calls from fellow passengers and others in the baggage hall prior to customs clearance.

Moin Khan and Shahid Afridi came to the car park in police escort but without security cover thereafter.

There were, however, groups of people who raised slogans in praise of Moin Khan.

Talking to Dawn, vice-captain Moin Khan said: "I want to tender my apologies on behalf of the entire team to the people for not performing well.

"But we did not fail to put up our best. It was simply not our day. Everything seemed to have gone wrong," the gutsy wicket-keeper/batsman scored 242 runs and dismissed 15 players behind the stumps.

Moin was speaking in the absence of skipper Wasim Akram who was amongst six players to have stayed back in England. Others are Saqlain Mushtaq, Saeed Anwar, Salim Malik, Shoaib Akhtar and Wajahatullah Wasti.

Pakistan coach Mushtaq Mohammad left for Birmingham after the final while English-born Richard Pybus departed for his adopted country South Africa.

But the former captain minced no words in expressing his disappointment at the attitude of the people. "I don't think this is the way to treat us.

For the last six months, we have won everything besides reaching the final of the World Cup. One loss has thrown all the recent victories out of the window.

"It's time the people realize that cricket is a sport and in sport one team has to end up on the losing side. When we finish on the winning side, we also have to lose some day. No team in the world is invincible," Moin added.

Moin, without going into the details, urged the followers to evaluate the background in which the team had gone to England. "Everything was topsy-turvy except our performance in the field before we left for England.

"We are as much grieved as the people. They (people) might forget this World Cup some day but we will have to live with it for the rest of our lives and I assure you it is going to be very painful."

Reason for defeat: Dr Zafar Altaf, manager of the team, praised the performance of the team stressing that youngsters took the team to the final. "But they collapsed in the big match and there were some reasons behind it. The most important one was cumulative injuries to six frontline players.

"Since the injuries were cumulative, replacements could not be asked because only the knock-out matches were left and the conditions were so tough that the reinforcements couldn't have done better," he said.

He, however, admitted that the performance in the final cannot be justified. He said several players distraught and some were in a state of shock. He said nobody was expecting that this would happen in the final. "The tragedy came when we were unable to handle Shane Warne. He bowled outstandingly. But you should praise the overall performance of Australia. Two marvellous catches by Steve Waugh and Mark Waugh turned the tide in the winners way.

"If you want to hang the entire team for failing to win the World Cup, then hang us. It is a sport and I urge the followers of the game to show maturity."

Altaf dismissed claims that the players dressing room was crowded with board officials. He said only after the match, board officials came to the dressing room.

"I don't think the presence of too many board officials distracted the players' concentration," he stressed.

The crowded press conference turned nasty when Zafar Altaf was asked to comment on the apprehensions of some cynics that Pakistan players sold out to the bookies.

"I don't want to say anything on this. You people seem to know even the unknown, "he taunted, adding: "What is this nonsense. Your team has achieved second position and you people are talking about match-fixing and betting.

"Instead of appreciating the performance of the team which comprised mostly of inexperienced players, you are condemning them. You should be ashamed of yourself. I am ashamed to listen to your question," Altaf lashed out before storming out of the arrival lounge.

Source :: The Dawn (