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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

5,000 Pakistan cricket fans given Indian visa

In a goodwill gesture that can return to haunt the security agencies, India has provided visas to 5,000 Pakistani citizens for watching the ongoing Cricket World Cup matches.
“Most of them have been provided with up to 15-day duration multiple visas to facilitate travel to watch matches in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also,” a senior official said.Though the Home Ministry said the visas have been given after following well-laid and tough process of security clearances, its own records show that the number of Pakistanis overstaying in India without reporting has increased consistently over the years.
As many as 4,742 Pakistanis had disappeared after expiry of visas in the year 2005, their number had gone up to 5,392 in 2006; 6,038 in 2007; 7,547 in 2008 and 7,691 in 2009.
Only 371 of the 4,742 missing Pakistanis in 2005 were traced and deported. There is no trace of those who remained behind giving credence to security agencies apprehensions that many of such cases could be unwanted elements like terrorists, smugglers, drug dealers and other criminals.The Ministry, however, said all the visas have been given 45 days in advance on the basis of cricket match tickets, return journey tickets, submission of local address and checking their antecedents with the help of Indian Consulates in Pakistan. They will also have to report to the local Foreigners Regional Registration Officers(FRROs). India took a lenient view as Pakistan that was to co-host the ICC World Cup along with Sri Lanka and India was declared unsafe by the ICC following objection by several western countries due to increasing terror attacks.

Who will lift the 2011 World Cup?

KOLKATA: Eight quarterfinalists. One grand prize. A prize that will lead to one ultimate winner. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 has been an exciting tournament so far. Cricket fans have seen some great victories, some onesided shows, and the odd upset. With the quarterfinals about to begin, the thought of who will win the World Cup is on everyone's minds.

Barring one blemish, South Africa has been impressive, till Pakistan put it past Australia. The latter seemed invincible. India's bowling attack may not be great, but the expectations from the star-studded batting lineup and the team in general is understandably high. Pakistan is a serious contender, and a couple of other teams cannot be written off either.

The quarterfinals can be anybody's game. Nandan Bal, coach, Indian Davis Cup Team, feels there are many strong contenders for the title. "I would like to believe that India is a hot favourite still. Though we have had our ups and downs, we haven't peaked as yet. All our matches will be played at home, which will give us an advantage. England, despite having struggled, is capable of showing its true skills. South Africa is like a well-oiled machine," says he.

As India will be playing at home, the boys will have to go beyond their best. Former Bengal captain and national selector, Sambaran Banerjee feels that the Indian team stands a good chance. "India will have to struggle in the quarterfinals . If they can defeat Australia, they will be the chief contender for the Cup. Pakistan has been a bit inconsistent but I have a good feeling about Sri Lanka and South Africa," he says.

Well-known cricketer Hrishikesh Kanitkar believes there are four teams to watch out for: South Africa, Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. He says, "Both India and Pakistan have played well. Pakistan has shown brilliance on the field. With their win against Australia, it seems like they can beat anybody. Sri Lanka has really stepped up and played as a unit. South Africa has really shaped up. They have played well under pressure."

And when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. "It is difficult to predict the chief contenders since all the teams that have reached the quarterfinals are in good form. Team India has a good chance but the India-Australia match will be a tough one. There will be surprises as well — likeIreland beating England," says cricketer Deep Dasgupta. 

Gayle and Roach fit for quarter-final

Gayle - ready to return.
Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach will both return to action for West Indies when they take on Pakistan in the first World Cup quarter-final in Dhaka on Wednesday.
West Indies captain Darren Sammy confirmed that the duo would be fit to play, with Gayle having rested an abdominal strain in Sunday's clash with India and Roach having sat out due to viral fever and a stomach infection.
Both the opening batsman and pace spearhead took to the nets on Tuesday, and Sammy was pleased by the intensity he saw.
"I liked the way Chris was hitting balls in the nets," said Sammy. "He is very committed to the West Indies cause. Come tomorrow, and I have not doubt both he and Kemar will play."
Ravi Rampaul stepped in for Roach in the 80-run loss to India in Chennai and took five wickets, playing a key role as India lost late wickets.
Although the hosts were still able to defend their total, Rampaul's contribution makes him a contender for selection in Wednesday's quarter-final, although Sammy was giving nothing away.
"We will assess the conditions and discuss it amongst ourselves before finalising the team," he said. "We will put out the best possible team which can deal with the conditions."
The West Indies were in track for victory against India, reaching 154 for two before they lost eight wickets for just 34 runs.
They also fell apart in their clash with England a few days before, reaching 222 for six in pursuit of 244 but ending up losers by 18 runs.
"We did lose our way and can't keep collapsing like that all the time," the captain admitted. "And we certainly can't do that in a quarter-final.
"But I am confident we can put the past behind us and hopefully the West Indies will win. It will be an exciting game."
Sammy also knows that his side are up against dangerous opponents, with Pakistan ending Australia's 34-match unbeaten run in a comfortable victory over the reigning champions in Colombo on Saturday.
"Pakistan have been playing good cricket, especially Shahid Afridi who has led from the front, but we must focus on what we have to do to execute our plans and win the game," said Sammy.
"This is the quarter-final and everything depends on how we play on the day. It does not matter if you are number one or number eight. If you don't win you are out."

Zimbabwe to play test match against Pakistan

Zimbabwe will host a test match against Pakistan in August, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said on Monday.
Zimbabwe, who have not played test cricket since 2005 after suspending their status due to political problems in the country, are due to play a test match and two one-day internationals against Pakistan.
"We will be touring Zimbabwe in August to play the lone test and ODIs and we then host Sri Lanka for a future tours program series," a PCB official said.
The Zimbabwe cricket union voluntarily suspended its test status in 2006 when the country was engulfed in political turmoil, forcing many leading players to retire from international cricket.
Zimbabwe, also hoping to play a test against Bangladesh in 2011, offered to tour Pakistan last year following the refusal of other teams to visit the country because of security concerns after the attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009.

Confident Pakistan take on struggling Windies in World Cup quarters

 A rampaging Pakistan go into the cricket World Cup quarterfinals against a struggling West Indies on Wednesday, hoping to continue their winning run and take a step closer to the coveted title.

Pakistan had a tumultuous build up to the World Cup with the team battling spot-fixing allegations but Shahid Afridi and his men have not allowed themselves to be distracted by the scandal as they topped group-A with five wins in six outings.

Hugely talented but highly unpredictable, Pakistan started off with a bang before running into New Zealand's Ross Taylor who blew them away with a breath-taking century but Afridi's men quickly regrouped and finished the league stage with a comfortable four-wicket win over Australia.

Pakistan's clinical display in their last match not only earned them a victory but also broke four-time champions Australia's unbeaten streak of 34 World Cup matches and Afridi will hope for an encore on Wednesday.

For Pakistan, former captain Younis Khan has been the cog of their wheel, while Test skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Umar Akmal also chipped in nicely, scoring 192 and 211 runs at an average of 48 and 52.75.

Youngster Asad Shafiq also has shown in the two games he played in the World Cup averaging 124. But Pakistan's opening partnership has been a worry.

Both Mohammad Hafeez and Ahmed Shehzad have failed to give Pakistan a start, which has put undue pressure on the middle-order.

Afridi too has failed with the bat scoring just 65 runs in six games and the captain will hope to strike form in Wednesday's match.

The skipper, however, has been very effective with his leg-breaks and currently is the leading bowler in the tournament with 17 wickets. Swing bowler Umar Gul also has been among wickets taking 13 scalps.

The predicament for the 1992 champions would be Gul's pace partner. While Shoaib Aktar has not been at his best, Wahab Riaz has been expensive against Australia giving away 39 runs in six overs taking a wicket.

Afridi said beating Australia has boosted their confidence and they are now focused on their quarterfinal match against West Indies.

"We knew that beating Australia would be very important for us and this win has enhanced our image, sending a good signal to the cricket world that we can win despite our difficult situation," Afridi said.

"West Indies have qualified for the quarterfinals after some good play, so we have to do well in all three departments. Our focus is on the quarterfinals, we have a must-win match against a dangerous opponent," Afridi added.

The West Indies, on the other hand, have been grappling with injuries. Key players - pacer Kemar Roach and former skipper Chris Gayle - didn't play the crucial match against India because of illness and abdominal strain respectively.

The Caribbean team also have struggled with their form in both batting and bowling and have been inconsistent as after three consecutive wins they lost their last two games against England and India from being comfortably placed at 222-6 and 154-2 respectively at one stage.

However, the defeats didn't spoil their quarterfinal dreams as they managed to make it to the knockout stage finishing fourth in Group B with better run-rate than Bangladesh, who also won three matches.

The two-time champions West Indies were ranked behind Bangladesh at 10th place in the ICC ranking in February and have lost 18 successive matches against the leading nations but Darren Sammy's men would hope to raise their game in time on Wednesday.

"We reached our first objective of reaching the knockout stage and we have to tighten our games quickly and produce our A game to beat Pakistan in the quarterfinals," Sammy said.

"Once we put our heads down and play each ball on its merit, we will come up with good shot. We will have good time to beat them. We have to beat Pakistan and then it will be sweet revenge to beat India at home," he added.

The West Indies have good memories of Sher-e-Bangla stadium where they bundled out Bangladesh for their lowest one-day total of 58 in the league match and romped home by nine wickets.

"We did well against Bangladesh at Dhaka and hopefully we will have the same confidence going in there on Wednesday," he said.

Teams (from):

 Shahid Afridi (c), Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Kamran Akmal, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Umar Akmal, Abdul Razzaq, Abdur Rehman, Saeed Ajmal, Shoaib Akhtar, Umar Gul, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Ahmed Shahzad.

West Indies:
 Darren Sammy (c), Chris Gayle, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard, Devon Thomas, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Kemar Roach, Kirk Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Devendra Bishoo.

 Billy Bowden (NZL) and Steve Davis (AUS)

TV umpire:
 Daryl Harper (AUS)

Match referee:
 Chris Broad (ENG)

Match starts: 2 pm (IST).

Not thinking of India yet, says Afridi

DHAKA: Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi is not concerned about a possible World Cup semifinal showdown against India, saying his immediate focus was on beating the West Indies.

Pakistan start firm favourites in Wednesday's quarterfinal against Darren Sammy's men at the Sher-e-Bangla stadium after topping Group A with five wins in six matches.

One of those wins broke Australia's unbeaten streak of 34 World Cup matches over a 12-year period after the three-time defending champions went down by four wickets in Colombo on Saturday.

A win over the West Indies could had Afridi's men a mouth-watering semifinal against arch-rivals India, if the co-hosts beat Australia in Thursday's quarterfinal in Ahmedabad.

"Our entire focus is on winning the quarterfinal, I am not even thinking of the next match, whether it is India or Australia," Afridi told a packed news conference.

"We will not take the West Indies lightly. Any team is capable of winning on their day, there are no second chances in a knock-out match. I think they are a very good side."

The West Indies collapsed from winning positions against England and India, and only qualified for the quarterfinals on superior run-rate after ending the league level with Bangladesh on six points.

The impressive run by Afridi's team would have delighted their volatile nation, which has been stripped of big-time cricket at home due to security concerns and tainted by an unsavoury spot-fixing scandal.

The absence of former captain Salman Butt and pace spearheads Mohammad Aamer andMohammad Asif due to the controversy was not felt as the team has rallied superbly under their inspirational captain.

All-rounder Afridi is the tournament's leading bowler with 17 wickets with his fastish leg-breaks, while seamer Umar Gul has kept the pressure on at the other end with 13 wickets.

Afridi may have failed with the bat so far with just 65 runs in six games, but young guns Umar Akmal and Asad Shafiq have shone brightly in their first World Cup.

Akmal has scored 211 runs at 52.75 and Shafiq averages 124 in the two games he has played so far, while seasoned seniors like Misbah-ul Haq and Younis Khan have lent solidity to the middle-order.

"Our success so far has been entirely due to the bowlers, who have done a very good job," said Afridi. "I myself have not batted well and will focus on that tomorrow."

"I know how important my batting is for the team and I will try to get some runs on the board."

Afridi played down suggestions that the West Indies will be hard to beat at a venue where they shot out Bangladesh for their lowest one-day total of 58 in the league to romp home by nine wickets.

"That was Bangladesh, this is Pakistan," the captain said. "It's not that we are playing for the first time in these conditions. We feel at home anywhere in the sub-continent."

Afridi said he had never seen Pakistan work so hard at their cricket, which has been rewarded by the good results so far.

"I have played for 14 years and never seen the team train so seriously and focus on their game," he said. "The entire team is together in the dream to do well in the World Cup.

"Our aim at the start was to make the semifinals and I am confident we can achieve that. The expectations back home are high and we are determined not to let our supporters down."

Pakistan poised to peak at Cricket World Cup

Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi concedes the expectations on his squad have increased following Saturday's momentous win over Australia, but so has confidence within the team.
Victory over the defending champions earned Pakistan top spot in Group A and a quarter-final against West Indies on Wednesday — a game Afridi's lineup is now expected to win.
"Yes, expectation is more now," Afridi said Tuesday.
"And we feel more confident now. That's a good sign to win a big game before the quarter-final and we all are very confident."
West Indies comes into the match after ending the group phase with losses to England and India. Darren Sammy's side does have the benefit of having played a match at Dhaka's Sher-E-Bangla Stadium already — the nine-wicket win over Bangladesh — but Afridi does not believe that will be a factor in the quarter-final.
"We're not Bangladesh. This is Pakistan," he said. "Every match is different.
"We played two [pre-tournament] games here. We know the pitch and how it will play."
Pakistan was something of an unknown quantity coming into the tournament, especially after losing three players to long-term bans after the spot-fixing scandal in England last year.
However, the team made qualifying for the knockout stage look easy, losing only one match against New Zealand and beating Sri Lanka as well as Australia.
Pakistan now stands on the verge of a semifinal, possibly against rival India, and Afridi said the team's performances aren't down to luck.
"We really worked hard before this World Cup," Afridi said. "I think we never worked as hard in our career.
"We had very good [training] camp sessions. We've been taking our practice sessions very seriously.
"The coaches have done a great job with the guys, especially with the fielding. There's a lot of effort behind this."
While West Indies has fitness worries over Chris Gayle and Kemar Roach, Afridi, the tournament's leading wicket-taker, said Pakistan is very unlikely to change its lineup.
"I think I'm happy with my winning combination at this stage," he said. "You can't change for a game like this."

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