THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sports Downfall In Pakistan

Pakistan was not always like that. There was a significant infrastructure in Pakistan -- at least by Asian standards -- and some international-level stadiums and sports arenas. Cricket, in particular, was the highlight of Pakistan and it fetched the 1992 World Cup to much jubilation and festivities; it reached another world cup final in 1999 but failed to clinch the prized trophy. Hockey, being the national game of Pakistan, was not as popular as cricket but the team was good enough to win Olympic gold medals and Hockey World Cup titles.

Squash was a game that was ruled by Pakistanis for over two decades. Jansher Khan holds the distinction of winning the maximum number of titles. Jahangir Khan achieved legendary status in this game by winning the British Open for a record ten times. There were a couple of medals in boxing and a snooker world title.

The projectile growth of sports ended in mid-nineties. Since then; it has been a free fall for Pakistani sports. The Afghan quagmire after 9/11 and the resultant terrorist attacks -- that have become a hallmark of Pakistan these days -- have crippled the boom of sports in Pakistan. Unfortunately, the national cricket teams of New Zealand and Sri Lanka came under attack in Pakistan and this put an end to the tours of international teams. Now Pakistani cricket team has to play matches on neutral venues in the United Arab Emirates.

There are no Pakistani players in squash that are able to reach even the preliminary rounds of international championships. Hockey, on the other hand, has suffered the most as the national team has failed to win any title; this includes even the relatively medium-level championships where chances of victory are higher.

The squash "Khans" are from the North Western Union Province of Pakistan that has become the major battleground in recent years. They tried to inculcate some interest in the game and even established a local academy but it had to be shut down after the rise in terrorist attacks and lack of financial support from the government.

The future of sports in Pakistan looks bleak; it would remain so until there are some improvements in the law and order situation. Pakistani cricket team still ranks in the Top 5 teams in ODI rankings. They have won the 20/20 Cricket World Cup recently but generally fail to perform efficiently in other matches.

Critics, however, do not blame terrorism as the sole reason for the decline of cricketing achievements of Pakistan. A dirty game of politics is played at the Pakistan Cricket Board and players remain unsure of their futures. Even the captains are not hired for a definite period and face the dangling sword of being kicked out from their positions. Corruption, nepotism and player politics are further eroding the already demolished structure of Pakistani sports. With low lights at the end of the tunnel, it looks an uphill task for Pakistani sportsmen to regain their long lost glory.