LAHORE: “Do you see any progress in sports in Pakistan?” asked a student of batch 2021 on the first day at one of Pakistan’s finest Management University. I was the guest speaker at the orientation day to welcome the new students, and introduce SLUMS (Sports @ LUMS), the largest student society at LUMS. Please note, this was session 1, on day 1 of orientation at LUMS, and it was about sports - I was impressed to see sports getting such attention at an academic institution, contrary to the ‘extra-curricular’ label I grew up with. Just like mental advancement is a sign of a progressive society, physical ambitions play a key role in setting up the tone for the youth of that very society. Mind, soul, body are all core matters (not ‘extra’ ones). Yes there is visible progress in sports in Pakistan e.g. our women’s cricket, our own cricket league, snooker, football, swimming, MMA fighters; these have won us medals and or titles or International contracts, in 2017 alone. I also heard there is a boxing league starting end of this year.
LUMS is actually party to the progress in sports in Pakistan, not just a recipient. LUMS had made one of my dreams come true, where I could touch and feel and see what was, in 2008, meant to be the first high-profile biomechanics facility in Pakistan and Asia.
If I say the words “illegal bowling actions” a few names will come to mind, and also a heart aching question: What if Shoaib Akhtar or Saeed Ajmal or Shabbir Ahmad or Mohammad Hafeez had access to these facilities at the right time. A bio mechanical lab helps bowlers keep track of their bowling actions, for any illegal movement, and in-line with the ICC rules book.
The PCB collaborated with LUMS, I am assuming based on their excellence in academics, to launch Pakistan’s first bio-mechanical lab. This marriage of the body and mind should be celebrated as concreate progress. Not only will our current and future cricketers benefit but our educational system will also grow given that sports sciences is not a fully developed field of study in Pakistan.
With this facility, we now have the advantage of testing out our talent and training them with the regulations and perfecting them before they go anywhere near the international venues and get scrutinized publicly. This is crucial for the confidence of our athletes and most importantly we just cannot afford to be victims of regulatory action related issues and lose world class talent.
This facility will not only help us groom our talent and analyze their movements - but is also going to save the PCB a lot of time and money. Our athletes will no longer have to travel to Brisbane, Chennai, Cardiff, Loughborouh or Pretoria to get themselves tested. We will now be able to maintain our confidentiality on the test results and eliminate doubts against the conspiracy theories of intentions.
Hollywood relies on bio-mechanic labs for their animated movies, and if used purposely, our fast-growing film industry could also benefit from this lab. If 50 percent of our population is youth, and there is a clear lack of quality Urdu cartoons….then…you get the point. I had started my speech by apologizing for being 55 minutes late to the ceremony and kept the students waiting. Half of Lahore was blocked last night due to the Independence Day Cup and the World XI series security. I was not sorry at all though, I just wanted to be the happiest cricket fan on the roads of Lahore, who has been waiting for International Cricket to come back home. The students can wait, I thought, because progress is, always, relative.
(The writer is a former Pakistan cricket captain)
Published in Daily Times, September 14th 2017.