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Why is Danish Kaneria suffering while convicted spot fixers flourish?

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Why can’t a former leg spinning legend who did not actively commit the crime be thrown a lifeline for his survival?

A country like Pakistan does not have many opportunities to elevate its image in the international media. With powerful adversaries that have significant global reach and a severely conservative local population that more often than not happily provides graphic evidence of societal regression through their actions, the world views our corner of the globe as backwards and extremist. To be brutally honest, Pakistan is certainly not a religiously diverse country and so, religious minorities face various problems that create unimaginable pangs for what are essentially marginalised groups in society. However, Pakistan’s former leg-spinner Danish Kaneria presented an opportunity for the nation to at least try and be more tolerant and appreciative of diversity. 

Cricket is undeniably the most watched sports in the country. Players who make it to the national team become overnight icons and almost instantly obtain the ability to influence large segments of the nation. Their words matter and their actions, even more so.

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Danish Kaneria was one of the greatest cricketers produced by the country. Only the second Hindu to represent Pakistan, his magical leg-spin catapulted him to the number four spot in the list of all time high wicket takers in Test matches for the country. Fast-bowlers Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Imran Khan, three legends of Pakistan cricket, are the only ones ahead of him in this list. He has clearly cemented his place amongst the greatest cricketing icons in the country in terms of achievements. The longer format of the game became his regular hunting ground where he took 261 wickets in a mere 61 test matches. To put things into perspective, the legendary Abdul Qadir, recognised as the best leg-spinner ever produced by Pakistan, took 25 wickets less than Kaneria despite having a longer career and playing more matches.

Sadly, in 2012, Kaneria was banned for life by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for “influencing” Essex player Mervyn Westfield into an act of spot-fixing. Kaneria’s career ended without actually committing a crime because of the allegations of a convicted cricketer. Unethical practices, especially those that can be classified as crimes, should never go unpunished, especially in Kaneria’s case, since his actions spelled the end for an otherwise illustrious career. However, an over-arching view needs to be taken while dishing out punishment for any crime.

Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Asif, Salman Butt and quite recently Sharjeel Khan have all been given second chances after bringing the game and by extension, the entire country, shame. Their acts tarnished the reputation of Pakistan globally and even then, all four have been allowed to return to the sport. In fact, even Westfield, who accused Kaneria of spot-fixing, was only served a five year ban as opposed to the lifetime ban imposed on Kaneria.

Pakistan does not have a rich history when it comes to including players from minority groups into the national setup. The most eminent player from a religious minority to represent Pakistan was Yousaf Youhana, a Christian who later converted to Islam, effectively taking him out of the lens that we are focusing on.

Kaneria’s time in the team could have been used to raise awareness around the role of minorities, their contribution towards society and the hardships  they face in this country. His role as a cricket icon, in a country that literally breaths cricket, could have paved the way for other talented sportsmen from minority groups. Yet Kaneria’s journey was never highlighted as prominently as that of his Muslim teammates. His accomplishments, at least before his ban, should have been given due credence. Yet, a leg-spinner of his brilliance and class went unnoticed and unappreciated.

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Pakistan’s legendary former pacer, Shoaib Akhtar recently shed some light on what it was like for Kaneria to be a Hindu on a Muslim Pakistani team, a picture that was bleak at best. He highlighted how the dressing room was a place of discrimination, with a player (he chose not to name) even complaining about Kaneria eating from the same plate. The Pakistani public reacted as expected and Akhtar faced tremendous backlash for just speaking the truth. The result was Akthar backtracking severely, essentially trying to bury what was a perfect example of blatant racism and discrimination in the local cricketing ranks.

This incident just reinforced what many of us already know, Pakistan is no place for minorities and some of the demons, such as intolerance and discrimination, have gotten so big that even local cricketing superstars are afraid of raising their voices against them.

That remains the sad reality of the country today. We aim to bury incidents of discrimination. We rarely highlight the plight of minorities who manage to tear through the glass ceiling and make a name for themselves. After all, Kaneria would have had to break seemingly insurmountable barriers to get his name thrown in the hat for national selection, especially considering that platforms like the Pakistan Super League (PSL) did not exist at the time. However, we know very little about Kaneria’s journey into the cricketing world because we did not deem it important to highlight the same when he was in his prime.

The leg-spinner currently has no means of earning a livelihood while convicted spot-fixers such as Amir, Asif, Butt and Sharjeel are busy furthering their careers, earning millions through various 20-20 leagues including the PSL, appearing on multiple television channels as esteemed analysts, so on and so forth. Kaneria will forever be Pakistan cricket’s biggest missed opportunity, one that could have been used to galvanise our minorities and present a positive image of Pakistan. His achievements should have been celebrated during his prime and not pushed under the rug when he erred.

He might be responsible for his current fate, but perhaps we as a society are to blame as well. It is not too late to acknowledge his plight, hardships and his services for his country. His match winning performances certainly deserve more than a simple pat on the back and if Muslim cricketers who actively committed spot-fixing can be brought back into the fold, why can’t a former leg spinning legend who did not actively commit the crime, at the very least, be thrown a lifeline as well?

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Uruguay held by South Korea in goalless stalemate

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DOHA:

Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after they were held to a 0-0 draw in Group H on Thursday in a contest where both teams struggled to find the clinical edge.

Clear-cut chances were rare for either side at the Education City Stadium and although Uruguay created more goalscoring opportunities, neither team were able to register a shot on target.

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Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork while South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams to rue missed chances before group rivals Portugal and Ghana meet later on in the day.

Uruguay’s first sight of goal came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who connected with Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and took a touch before firing a half-volley towards goal, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.

The South Americans had begun to find their footing when South Korea, having been patient so far, disrupted their rhythm and launched a counter-attack from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour mark. Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside, skipping past two Uruguay defenders before curling a right-footed effort towards goal, but left back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it away. South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim fizzed the ball into the penalty area and into the path of Hwang in front of goal, but the forward could not keep his composure and sent it over the crossbar.

The closest Uruguay came to scoring in the first half was just before the break, when centre back Godin rose highest to power a header from Valverde’s corner but it bounced off the left post and away from goal. Gimenez made a crucial tackle to deny Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing move from South Korea, while Jung Woo-young blocked midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s powerful strike at the other end. Uruguay saw more of the ball but found few chances to break through the South Korean defence until the closing stages, when Valverde unleashed a thunderbolt in the final minute of regulation time that struck the top of the post.





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World Cup fans in Qatar introduced to Islam

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DOHA:

The Katara Cultural Village Mosque in Qatar’s capital of Doha has become the focus of attention for World Cup fans who want to get to know about Islam.

Multilingual male and female preachers at the mosque explain the religion and tolerance of Islam to tourists.

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Electronic boards about Islam in more than 30 languages at the door are positioned to allow visitors to view them on their phones. And booklets introducing Islam in different languages ​​are distributed to those who want them.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Qatar also launched a pavilion to introduce Islam and its teachings during the World Cup 2022.

Also read: Batshuayi fires Belgium to World Cup

World Cup fans encounter hadiths — words, actions or habits of Prophet Muhammad — on the walls of streets, describing the importance of good deeds.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was last Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

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The tournament’s official mascot, La’eeb, whose name is an Arabic word that means super-skilled player, along with the flags of all 32 participating nations were waving on the field.





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Ronaldo and Brazil enter World Cup fray after Swiss win

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Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to put his painful Manchester United divorce behind him at the World Cup on Thursday as Brazil also make their bow following a win for Switzerland in the early kick-off.

Ronaldo’s preparations for what is likely to be his last World Cup have been overshadowed by his sudden departure from Old Trafford this week after he lambasted the club in a TV interview.

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The Portugal superstar’s form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at glory in Qatar after leading his team to the Euro 2016 title.

The 37-year-old, whose club future is uncertain, is aiming to become the first player in history to score at five World Cups.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his men were entirely focused on their opening Group H match against Ghana despite the distractions of the media circus surrounding their captain.

“The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing,” he said.

“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”

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World Cup favourites Brazil launch their bid for a record-extending sixth global crown against a dangerous Serbia side.

Brazil boast a frightening array of attacking talent including Paris Saint-German forward Neymar and Real Madrid pair Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Coach Tite will be wary of his Group G opponents after witnessing shock defeats for Argentina and Germany already in Qatar.

“In my opinion these players (attackers) will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him,” said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

“The atmosphere in the squad is super-healthy,” he added. “The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection.”

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Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and exited in the first round.

“We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hopes prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for the match at the Lusail Stadium.

Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.

The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.

Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.

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“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon — I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”

Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups — a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.

Son Heung-min was named in the starting line-up for South Korea’s Group H opener against Uruguay at 1300 GMT even though he was wearing a mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye earlier this month.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso selected Luis Suarez up front, with fellow veteran Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Germany coach Hansi Flick said no member of his team was safe after their shock 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday.

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The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.

“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.





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