ISLAMABAD    -    Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Dr Fahmida Mirza has said that it was quite painful to see the early exit of Pakistan cricket team from the ICC World Cup.

In an interview with The Nation, Dr Fahmida said: “Cricket is madly followed by Pakistani people and wherever, Pakistan cricket team is in action, they get overwhelming masses support, just like we witnessed in England, as massive crowd turned up to support Pakistan team. As an athlete and minister, I would have loved to see Pakistan cricket team lifting the World Cup trophy, just like our Prime Minister Imran Khan did it for the country in 1992.

“Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) doesn’t fall into my domain as it is an autonomous body and we don’t believe in government interference in it. Obviously, when PCB chairman visits Islamabad, I will meet him and definitely discuss the weaknesses of Pakistan cricket team. I would like to know why the team failed to make it to last four. Although PCB doesn’t fall under the IPC Ministry, yet I know the feelings of millions of fans, who want to know the reasons behind the team’s early exit from the World Cup,” she added.

The Minister said she knows Pakistan team has the capability and capacity to deliver. “When men in green are in great form, no one can beat them. But I feel there is a mental blockade, which is main obstacle in depriving Pakistan cricket team of winning major titles. We need to address the weaknesses and bring discipline into our team.

“I have getting different opinions from different corners as some were questioning team selection while others were pointing fingers at lack of merit in Pakistan team selection process. When I’ll meet Ehsan Mani and listen his side of story, then I will be able to comment any further on this issue. But I seriously feel, the team selection must be transparent as it will help the team perform far better,” she asserted.

Dr Fahmida said: “Pakistani sports have been suffering badly. In hockey, squash and cricket, we were world champions. We need to revive that sporting culture by extending whole-hearted support to all sports, which were ignored in the past. Winning or losing is a part of the game, but even if we lose with dignity and give our 100 percent, I am sure nobody will doubt our abilities and appreciate efforts put in by the athletes. We need to address grey areas.

“I was in grave pain and feeling so bad to witness Afghanistan supporters forgetting all norms and misbehaving with Pakistani fans. It should have been avoided. We are Muslims and are like brothers. Pakistan always stood shoulder-to-shoulder to our Afghan brothers and sisters. I regret and feel such incident should never occur. Pakistanis are sports loving nation and wherever they are, they are true ambassadors of the country.

“We need to promote sports diplomacy, which can play vital role in bridging gaps amongst the countries. That’s why I took initiative of holding sports diplomacy conference in which other countries will be invited. They will be taken onboard to promote culture of tolerance,” she added.

When asked about Pakistani parliamentarians’ team participation in the 1st Inter-Parliamentary Cricket World Cup, which started in England, Dr Fahmida said: “I wish Pakistan team good luck and it is also an aspect of sports diplomacy through parliamentarians. I am hopeful that they will do something good and try to bring trophy to Pakistan, which the national team failed to do. I know they don’t have enough time to train as budget session was underway, but I know they are dedicated and roaring to deliver for Pakistan.”