Myanmar irks rivals with SEA Games picks

Updated 30 January 2013
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Myanmar irks rivals with SEA Games picks

YANGON: Myanmar said Tuesday that it was excluding tennis and gymnastics from this year’s Southeast Asian Games, prompting accusations by rivals of cherry-picking events to help home athletes.
The 2013 SEA Games will be the first major international event to be held in Myanmar since the end of junta rule almost two years ago.
But the events list has angered some regional neighbors who say Olympic disciplines should take precedence over local events such as chinlone, a dance-like sport played with a rattan ball, and bodybuilding — at which the hosts excel.
“There were many requests to add and remove (sports). After discussion, we removed some and also added some,” sports ministry official Htay Aung told AFP, saying hockey, table tennis and badminton were all reinstated after talks Tuesday between officials from the 11 competing countries in Naypyidaw.
“We also should not include some sports which our country cannot win,” he added, apparently confirming suspicions Myanmar had selected some disciplines purely to boost its medal tally.
“Tennis is an Olympic sport which should be in the Games but Myanmar said they don’t have courts (for it),” said Chaiyapak Siriwat, vice president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.
“Personally, I think they don’t have tennis athletes,” he said.
Chris Chan, the secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council, said that it was Myanmar’s right to choose certain sports, but that other countries had pushed to have table tennis and badminton on the list.
“We argued that Southeast Asians were good at certain sports, and they understood that,” he said. “Gymnastics was dropped because it requires a lot of apparatus, and tennis, well, we don’t do that well in that in Southeast Asia.” Host nations are routinely accused of skewing the line-up of disciplines to favor their athletes as they eye medals table glory.
Events such as martial art pencak silat, Vietnamese martial art vovinam and sepak takraw, a cross between football and volleyball, are among the disciplines unfamiliar outside the region that join the regular sporting line-up.
Critics frequently decry their inclusion for diluting the quality of the events and handing host nations medals in their niche sports.
The hosts normally top the SEA Games medals tally.


Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

Updated 11 min 24 sec ago
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Ahmed defends Pakistan squad as ‘best of the best’

  • Fawad Alam is a seasoned player, but the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well, says Pakistani skipper
  • Former test opener Ramiz Raja claims there are flaws in Alam’s batting technique

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed has defended the 16-man national squad for tours of Ireland and England as the “best of the best” despite criticism over the omission of batsman Fawad Alam.
“It’s not like I voted him (Alam) out,” Ahmed said on the last day of Pakistan’s training camp in Lahore on Saturday, adding that “I would have picked all the 25 ... but we had to pick the best of the best 16 players.”
Wasim Akram was among several former Pakistan test players who have criticized selectors for ignoring Alam in the middle order — especially since Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan have now retired.
Alam was among 25 players called up for the camp after scoring consistently on the domestic circuit, but he failed to make the final squad.
Former test opener Ramiz Raja claimed there were flaws in Alam’s batting technique and that he would not have considered the left-hander, considering the tough conditions in England.
Ahmed played down the dispute.
“People can make as much reasons to talk, but there is nothing like flaws in anyone’s batting technique,” Ahmed said. “If you look back, Fawad had played a test in 2009 and he is a seasoned player ... (but) the players we selected are also equally good and have been scoring continuously as well.”
Ahmed said it had been a “unanimous decision” by coach, captain and selectors.
Pakistan has included uncapped batsmen Usman Salahuddin and Saad Ali in the final 16, as well as Fakhar Zaman, who has done well in limited-overs cricket but is yet to play a test match.
Misbah and Younis will be missed on a tour of England where Misbah scored a century at Lord’s in 2016 and Younis made 218 at The Oval in the fourth test to draw the series 2-2.
Pakistan has two four-day matches against Kent and Northamptonshire before meeting Ireland in a one-off test at Dublin, starting May 11. It plays two tests against England, starting May 24.
Pakistan will also play Scotland on June 12-13 in two Twenty20 Internationals.
Pakistan faced a major blow when its premier legspinner Yasir Shah was ruled out due to injury. However, Ahmed said he wasn’t sure that Shadab Khan, who has played just one test match, would make it to the final team with the English conditions more suitable for pace.
“The weather will be much cooler and I am not even sure if we are going to play a spinner,” Ahmed said.