The NewsFuror

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pakistan, India seek redemption in dream final

Pakistan, India seek redemption in dream final

Action begins at 5:00pm (PST)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 23: The young guns of India and Pakistan will square off in a dream final of the Twenty20 World Championship on Monday at the culmination of a tournament which has changed the face of cricket.

After a clinical Pakistan performance saw off the challenge of New Zealand at Cape Town in the first of two semi-finals on Saturday, India recorded a stunning victory in Durban against the previously all-conquering Australians.

Less than six months after both sides returned in disgrace from the 50-over World Cup, they now have a perfect opportunity for redemption, albeit with vastly different line-ups since their early departure from the Caribbean.

Rookie Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik and incoming India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have the chance to lift a major trophy after a tournament that has packed in more thrills and close finishes in a fortnight than six weeks in the West Indies.

After another six-packed batting performance propelled his side to victory against Australia, India’s hero Yuvraj Singh declared that a match against arch-rivals Pakistan was the icing on the cake.

“India-Pakistan is always a huge competition. It’s just like a dream for us,” said Yuvraj after smashing 70 off just 30 balls.With fellow master-blasters Dhoni and Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi both due to take the field at the batsman-friendly Wanderers here, a sell-out crowd on what is a bank holiday in South Africa can expect another run-fest.Dhoni’s swashbuckling style is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor as captain, Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid, who was rested for the tournament along with India’s other long-time star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly.

After so often being crushed by the weight of expectations from their vast fanbase, India’s new generation has been revelling in the role of underdogs.“We never started out as favourites, nobody expected us to reach the semi-finals,” said Dhoni after victory over the Australians.“You can expect a healthy rivalry over there (against Pakistan in Johannesburg) and a tough game of cricket.”

Victory for Pakistan would be even more unexpected and mark a dramatic reversal in fortunes after a year of hell for India’s neighbours.After a drugs scandal and defeat to Ireland in the World Cup, even worse was to follow with the death in Jamaica of their coach Bob Woolmer who was initially presumed to have been murdered.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq then quit, star batsman Mohammad Yousuf was cast adrift for signing up to a rebel Twenty20 tournament and controversy even continued to dog the team in South Africa with controversial speedster Shoaib Akhtar sent home for assaulting a team-mate on the eve of the tournament.

The 25-year-old Shoaib Malik however has been a breath of fresh air, inspiring Pakistan to become arguably the sharpest fielders in the competition.While Inzamam was famously inept between the wickets, Shoaib volunteered to act as a runner when Imran Nazir pulled a hamstring against the Kiwis.

Shoaib has been trying to keep his team’s feet on the ground but believes that victory is within their grasp.

“In Pakistan we have lots of talent which, Insha Allah, we are going to utilise and, Insha Allah, the Pakistan team will be number one very soon.”

Victory over India would make Shoaib the skipper of the first Pakistan team to ever beat their arch rivals in a major international tournament.

The only other time they have played each other in a final was back in Australia in 1985 when India won the World Championship of Cricket in Melbourne.

Teams (from):

PAKISTAN: Shoaib Malik (captain), Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Yasir Arafat, Salman Butt, Rao Iftikhar, Abdul Rehman.

INDIA: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Joginder Sharma, R.P. Singh, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla.

Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Mark Benson (England).

TV umpire: Daryl Harper (Australia).Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

Israelis declare Gaza 'hostile'

The Israeli government has declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" in response to the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militants there.

Israeli officials told the BBC fuel and electricity supplies could be targeted, but not water, food or medicine.

The militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, said such a move would be considered a declaration of war.

In Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said the US considered Hamas a "hostile entity".

But she added that the US "would not abandon the innocent Palestinians" of Gaza.

I call for Israel to reconsider this decision
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

Ms Rice arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks about re-starting the Middle East peace process.

Israeli public pressure for retaliation has grown since a rocket fired from Gaza hit an army base last Tuesday, injuring 69 troops.

Palestinian militant groups say the rocket fire is a response to Israeli military action in Gaza and the West Bank.

International law

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said his security cabinet had approved the "hostile entity" classification on Wednesday morning.

It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people
Fawzi Barhoum
Hamas spokesman

"Additional restrictions will be imposed on the Hamas regime, limiting the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip, cutting back fuel and electricity, and restricting the movement of people," a statement said.

It said the sanctions would be implemented "following a legal review" to examine the legal and humanitarian consequences.

Israeli officials reportedly hope the new measures will put pressure on Hamas, which ousted its rivals Fatah to seize control of Gaza in June, to halt rocket attacks on southern Israel.

A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, condemned the decision.

"It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people," he said.

"They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference," he added, referring to the US-sponsored talks expected later this year.

The Palestinian Information Minister, Riyad al-Malki, said the Palestinian Authority would ask the US to "pressure Israel to refrain from taking such action".

Correspondents say that by formally declaring Gaza "hostile", Israel could argue that it is no longer bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply utilities to its 1.5 million inhabitants.

But the current position is that, under international law, Israel remains legally responsible for the coastal strip, despite withdrawing two years ago, because it still controls Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters.

An Israeli government source told the BBC that Israel believed the decision was entirely legal in terms of Israeli law, which Israelis "correlate with international law".

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to reconsider its decision.

"Such a step would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population [of Gaza] under international humanitarian and human rights law," he said.

The Israeli move will only be seen by Palestinians as a form of collective punishment and risks consolidating support for Hamas in Gaza, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

Two-state solution

Ms Rice is in the Middle East for talks ahead of the peace conference.

She is due to meet Mr Olmert and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

With US encouragement, the two recently held a series of face-to-face meetings.

After their last meeting on 10 September, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution and agreed to set up negotiating teams to discuss some of the disputed issues.