November 19, 2000

PCB Grand Dinner Gala

Dr. Nauman Niaz

The Pakistan Cricket Board in collaboration with The News International and Pepsi Cola International organized a Grand Dinner Gala. The purpose of the function was twosome - firstly, to honor the visiting England team and secondly, to honor the top five cricketers of Pakistan.

The Governor of Sindh, Mr. Muhammad Soomro was the chief guest for the occasion. Apart from the Chairmen of Pakistan and England Cricket Boards and the chief of the ICC, foreign and local dignitaries and media representatives were also present at the occasion

The function took off with a dynamic speech by the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, after which the chief guest gave away lifetime achievement awards to Moin Khan, Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Saeed Anwar and Inzamamul Haq.

These five top cricketers of Pakistan in their individual addresses thanked God for the respect and honour granted to them. In turn they also acknowledged the support of their families, friends, relatives and countrymen who have supported them throughout their careers.

Speaking on the occasion, Moin Khan said, "I feel ecstatic being honoured by the PCB".

"I thank my parents, my coaches, my teachers, senior cricketers and the selectors for having chosen me to represent Pakistan," maintained Inzamam-ul-Haq.

"I stand here being admired by the people for having achieved distinctions on the cricket field. I feel that I am primarily here because of Pakistan", asserted Waqar Younis."

"By the grace of Allah, it is he who provided me with the courage and strength to represent Pakistan with conviction", stated Saeed Anwar.

In the end, it was Wasim Akram's turn to express his feelings. He said, " It has been an amazing journey for the last 15 years, and I still wonder whether I deserve it or not."

Mian Mohammad Soomoro spoke eloquently about his journey from Karachi to Lahore during which he happened to pass through important cities like Multan and Vehari. He revealed that it was an opportunity for him to pay tribute to these cities, which have produced such scions like Inzamam-ul-Haq and Waqar Younis.

Mr. Soomro also emphasized the need to maintain the true spirit of cricket while showing his disappointment about India's refusal to play a cricket series in Pakistan. Going into details, he said that politics and cricket should be kept separate and that cricket-lovers should not be deprived of quality cricket. He added, "Cricket is known as the gentleman's game. It is no longer just a sport rather it has taken the form of a life style. It is poetry in motion bringing together nations and people who stand for one cause of glorifying the game.

"Cricket has been marred by controversies lately. It is such a pure game that the tainted image doesn't synchronize with the essence of this extraordinary sport. The ICC and the concerned cricket boards are attempting to tackle some grueling and relatively tough problems. I personally feel that nothing is impossible and if the administrators of the game try their best, with sincerity and conviction, it will be a matter of time before cricket regains it true self.

In the end he wished that, only for the sake of cricket, the Indian Government and the Indian Cricket Board reconsidered their decision about the Indian team's visit to Pakistan.

The Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board, Lt. Gen. Tauqir Zia spoke with precision and added flavor, as he highlighted the philosophy of cricket. He said, "I must make it a point to welcome Mr. Malcolm Gray, the President of the ICC, who, after taking over charge of the Council, has taken steps to make the ICC an effective body. Critics have been coming up strongly on ICC about not adopting a strong stance so as to eradicate some of the problems that have emerged in recent years. What I feel is that Mr. Malcolm has started communicating with all the concerned countries and is trying his best to ensure that these problems are resolved and viable solutions for them are offered.

Cricket has a pure philosophy and its integrity has to be maintained at all costs. I must admit that sincere attempts are being made to offer instant remedies for the ills that have found abode in the fields of cricket. I sincerely hope that the ICC enjoys full support and cooperation of all the cricket boards in its endeavors to root out corruption in the game.

"I will also take this opportunity to welcome the Chief Executive of the ECB, Mr. Tim Lamb, to Pakistan. I also congratulate the touring England team for having played extremely well in the first Test and also I have a word of praise for the Pakistan team for having won the One-day series after a long wait of 26 years.

"Now coming on to the real purpose of getting together here, which is to honor Pakistan's top five cricketers. Pakistan Cricket Board has decided to bestow upon these five, lifetime achievement awards to recognize their amazing cricketing deeds.

Let me; first of all, say a few words about Wasim Akram, who holds several world records. He is the only bowler in the history of cricket to take 400 wickets in both forms of the game. Not only that, he has the rare distinction of achieving two hat-tricks each in Tests and One-day Internationals, besides sharing the world record 8th wicket partnership with Saqlain Mushtaq in Tests. Also, he is the only cricketer in the history of the game who has scored a Test double hundred to add to his reservoir of over 840 international wickets. If I'm not mistaken, he is the only cricketer in the Test arena to hit 12 sixes in an innings.

"Waqar Younis became an ideal partner of Wasim in the early 90's. The two `W's' routed many a top batting orders in the world by virtue of their deadly reverse swing. They formed a deadly duo, managing on many occasions to grasp victories from the jaws of certain defeats. His pace and hostility enabled him to claim more than 300 wickets in both Tests and One-day internationals. He has a One-day international hat-trick to his credit and he also has the credit to maintain the best strike rate in Tests for a long time. His bowling exploits have earned him the titles `toe-crusher' and the `Burewala Express'. In West Indies while he was bowling from the far end, tickets were sold on a high premium for that particular enclosure because of the view the enclosure provided was the best of his smooth and rhythmic bowling action.

"Saeed Anwar has played cricket with grace and timing of a pianist. He holds the Pakistani record for having carried the bat against India with an innings of 189. And as if that was not enough, he hit 194 runs, the highest innings in One-day internationals to date against India in 1997. He has got 19 one-day international centuries, which gives him second place behind Sachin Tendulkar.

"Inzamamul Haq has really revitalized his game in the recent past. Somewhat pulled by the critics for irritatingly and confused running between the wickets, he has now become the backbone of Pakistan cricket. His unflinching consistency and the never-ending urge to score runs make him a threatening prospect for the opposition. It is interesting to note that nine of his eleven Test hundreds have been made outside Pakistan. Of course, he is one of the very few cricketers in the world who have scored seven thousand runs in One-day Internationals.

"Moin Khan, as captain of the team, has won many series for Pakistan. He can make any bowling look mediocre on his day by hitting quick-fire half-centuries and hundreds embellished with sweetly timed fours and towering sixes. Moin responded to our call when there was captaincy crisis in the country. Since then, he has come a long way in making Pakistan a force to reckon with in the world of cricket. He holds the world record for maximum number of victims in One-day internationals.

"I must conclude my speech by saying a few words about the revival of cricket's image, in general. I feel that cricket is a game that requires a lot of conviction, faith, sustained aggression, grit, flair, and the right attitude. I pray for the restoration of its untainted image and its restoration to the heights it really belongs. Of course, no one, whether it be a player, an administrator, or and executive, is bigger than cricket."

After dinner there was a fashion show organized by Sana Shafi Naaz, Faiza Sami, Maheen and Fareeha Altaf. They ensured that the whole show, whose theme was `Dupatta', went smoothly, and that it depicted the Pakistani culture and heritage in the most appropriate manner. The shows end was singer of the new generation, Hadiqa Kiyani, who sang songs in her melodious voice.