Sri Lanka – The Land of Smiles

This articles was first published in Travel & Aviation magazine here: http://travel-aviation.com/index.php/category/country-piece1/

Sri Lanka –the land of smiles – is one of the most underrated destinations in my humble opinion. That may be primarily down to the fact that the country was dogged with internal security issues till about 4 years back during which time competing destinations marketed and established themselves much more. But if you ask me it ranks right up there in terms of experience and beauty and hospitality. Especially for those of us looking for an economic get away and something that isn’t a burden on the wallet. The tagline ‘the land of smiles’ also fits really well as the people are really welcoming, hospitable and great. They always seem to be smiling and happy and there is actually no language barrier to be faced here.

For Pakistanis another plus point is the VISA. It used to be easier than it is now as it was on arrival till 2014. However new rules require travellers to apply online. This isn’t a cumbersome process at all and quite easy. I got my visa within 24 hours and it was all online. No passport submission anywhere. No documents. Nothing. Easy.

Easy Visa process + easy on the wallet makes this for a great destination. And it has a lot more to offer from a tourism point of view. There are scenic views, cultural and spiritual experiences, natural beauty, and interaction with wild life and beach resorts as well. Colombo offers some amount of an urban metropolis with the required shopping as well. Not as expansive as most other destinations but good nonetheless.

For the Pakistani Wallet

As mentioned earlier this is one of the more economic destinations for Pakistanis not looking to splurge. And with all other travel guides we like to encourage the smart traveller in you to plan ahead and make life easier for yourself. Book in advance and use the miracle of the internet to book online. Sites like booking.com are great in this regard and you never when you might come across a ‘steal’ of a deal for a 5 star accommodation.

To give you an idea here is the breakdown. Travel to Sri Lanka can be done via Sri Lankan Airlines from Karachi at fares which will hover around PKR 45-55k depending on how early you book. These are the fares for economy seats. For other places people can either journey to Karachi and onwards or take other airlines which won’t be direct like Emirates or Etihad. So for non-karachi travellers I would say the flight estimate would be around PKR 65-80k depending on airline, flight and date of booking. Keep in mind the peak season for Sri Lanka is between July to September so fares will go up if you book during this period.

VISA costs are 99$ per person. You can pay online using a credit card while applying for the VISA if you are managing this all on your own. Otherwise your travel agent can take care of it and add it in his overall bill. This is a spike as up till last year the VISA cost was 20$ for applied VISAs and 30$ for on arrival VISAs.

Expenses within Sri Lanka on food, shopping and tours etc are more or less in line with the kind of costs and expenses you might expect to find in Pakistan. Once you do the conversion its more or less the same. And the conversion goes in our currency’s favour which is just that slight bit stronger than the Sri Lankan rupee (roughly around 1 PKR to 1.3 Sri Lankan Rupee*). Average meal cost would be something like PKR 1,200 per person in normal restaurants. And for fast foods and on the go foods it would be something like PKR 700 per person. And there are plenty of Halal options so that is also a load off. Not to mention the vegetable variety on offer.

 Accommodation for an 8 day tour would come to around PKR 90k for a double room or twin share stay throughout, which is again great and can be slightly less also depending on what kind of hotels you book and how smart you are online in getting good deals. An example – when I recently went I got a 5 star property in Bentota (beach resort area near Colombo) for around PKR 25,000/- for two nights inclusive of breakfast and dinner! The hotel was Cinnamon Bey and I got this amazing deal through booking.com. Just goes to show how well you can manage your accommodation expenditure if you are smart about it.

Transportation is not something that needs to be explored. You can easily hire a guide and driver for the duration of the stay. The guy stays with you for all the days and is your transport for throughout Sri Lanka. There are no public transport hassles. All travel in Sri Lanka is customized to your own time table and not to mention the convenience and ease of having a guide / driver combo throughout. A good one can come in around 55$ per day inclusive of fuel, car rent, services of the guide, his food and accommodation. Now please tell me that is not a steal?

All in all the total cost per head should come to around PKR 140k for an eight day stay including travel, stay, tickets, tourist activities, food and guide. And mind you stay is in 4-5 star hotels. This does not include shopping and any other luxurious activities like spas and massages. However even if you add the latter for a couple of times it would come to around not more than 150K per head which is fantastic for an eight day tour. Honestly great destination and you can probably get away with a lower budget as well.

The Top Places in Sri Lanka

It is all basically a drive around the country once you land in Sri Lanka. The perfect planning would have you land in Sri Lanka and stay overnight in Negombo (city close to Colombo and on the beach). From there you drive away to Kandy and Nuwara Eliya and then back down south towards Bentota and Colombo.

Kandy

By far the most activity filled city with tourist attractions aplenty and very scenic hilly views as well. The weather the city has to offer is excellent between July to September which is overall the ideal time to go to Sri Lanka. There will be showers out of nowhere but then the sun will come back up out of nowhere to. Kandy is the second largest city of Sri Lanka after Colombo. It has temples, market areas, natural man made attractions and cultural shows. You can visit the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala and the Spice Gardens on your way to Kandy and not far from the main city (maybe about a 1 hour journey). The orphanage is great where you can get up close and personal with gentle giants of the Ceylon valley and feed and ride them for an enhanced experience. Then there are the botanical gardens which are beautifully made and have some of the tallest and oldest trees around which are nothing but beautiful. Very well maintained and made the botanical gardens are a must see. The one in Kandy is high on plants and trees as compared to flowers. And if you are lucky you might get a peek of monkeys as well! Additionally you may also visit the Temple of the Tooth for some cultural input and attend a local dance and culture show in city to cap of the stay here. A 2 day stay in Kandy is sufficiently comfortable but you can do all of this in one hectic day as well. On your way out from Kandy be sure to visit a local wood carving factory for some great souvenirs and take home stuff.

IMG_6843

Places to stay in Kandy would definitely be either Amaya Hills or Earl’s Regent. Both are excellent hotels with comfortable rooms and excellent hilly views. The Ayurvedic massage treatment at Amaya Hills is especially excellent.

Nuwara Eliya

The hill station of Sri Lanka that is absolutely gorgeous. Expect weather to be on the chillier side here with temperatures during the day time during July-September also touching around 13-14 degrees. It gets cold in the night so be sure to pack something slightly warm for here. Nuwara Eliya is on the hill so the journey to and from the city is a windy road. For those who have travel issues on such routes I would definitely advise taking a motion sickness tablet before hand to help during the journey as it can be a bit much. The result is worth it though. The view from Nuwara Eliya and on the way is gorgeous. The higher you drive closer to the city your view is filled with beautiful tea gardens all across the hills. You can stop at one of the tea factories for a quick visit and lesson in how tea is made and how many different kinds of tea are there. You will also be served a complimentary cup of tea made from the fresh produce. Another on the way sighting is the Ramboda Waterfalls. This makes for a great view and a nice lunch stop. Once in Nuwara Eliya to be honest there are just a couple of things to do. More so for the nature geeks in us who like treks and lakes and horse rides. Gregory lake makes up the main attraction in the city with boating, horse riding and a typical hill station weather time coffee. Maximum you just need a day in the city and then you can move on. If you like relaxing in such environments you can extend your stay.

Recommended hotels for the city are Qantara and Araliya Green Hills. Qantara is a fairly new hotel but very well made is almost at the top belt of the city so the view from here of the whole city all the way to the lake is breathtaking. Stay at both hotels is comfortable and food is also good.

Bentota

The perennial beach resort. Bentota is something of a properly developed sandspit or hawksbay that Pakistanis and Karachiites in particular might be able to relate to. The hotels are resort type hotels here and it is basically the stop for a relaxing, tanning and spoil of yourself resting type of stay. The beach is somewhat pebbly so be sure to be prepared in footwear accordingly. There are some good water sport options that can be done here including jet skiing, tube riding, motor boat riding, snorkelling and fishing to name a few. There is also a wild life attraction in the Turtle Hatchery in Bentota which you can skip or do depending on your interest.

The hotel to stay in here is Cinnamon Bey. It is a 5 star luxury property with a great beach, excellent restaurants and fantastic amenities overall. A 5 star resort in the true sense of it.

Colombo

Colombo is the only metropolis experience that you will get in Sri Lanka. This is the place for fulfilling the retail, shopping, big city cravings in you. There are some places you can see as a tourist like the Independence square but really Colombo is really for concrete jungle feel for rounding off the Sri Lankan holiday. There are some very nice shopping outlets and retail malls here where you can get good stuff. Odel, Paradise Road, Glitz and Barefoot are a couple of places that you should definitely visit. Shopping is also like almost all other things not that expensive in Sri Lanka and in some cases you can actually get some pretty good deals. For fine dining experience be sure to try out either Beach Wadia (for sea food lovers) or Gallery Cafe which is a great combination of an art gallery, a retail store and very fine dining.

There are plenty of good hotel options in Colombo. Cinnamon Grand, Hilton, Cinnamon Red and Mirage a few of the good ones you can choose from.

Overall

Overall Sri Lanka is a great holiday experience which gets ignored thanks to the Thailands and Malaysias on offer. Head to head it is probably not as high in experience but definitely has a lot to offer and is something which will be economical for Pakistanis. Excellent destination for couples and honeymooners!

ICC World Cup 2015 – Knockout Predictions

As a nation of 180 Million Pakistanis breathed a huge sigh of relief on Sunday, the World Cup 2015 bid farewell to the group stages of the tournament.

Knockouts ICC

A couple of surprises, some strong performances and late inspirational starters have all been part and parcel so far. Runs have been a plenty, in fact I would say by the end of this tournament it would probably rank as perhaps the highest in terms of total runs scored in the history of the competition. The par scores have been beyond 300 with 3 instances of the 400 mark being reached already. Twice by the Proteas and once by the Aussies although only one of those instances was against a test playing nation (South Africa versus West Indies). It has actually been ridiculous and mundane in some instances the ease with which run  s have been pummeled so far. A little too much of the T20 nature combined with smaller grounds and new age rules to make the ODI format more fast and happening is the main reasoning for this.

However it has not been batting traffic all the way. We have seen some exceptional bowling as well especially from the pace batteries of New Zealand, Australia and Pakistan. While the attacks of the co-hosts have successfully destroyed lineups front up, the late party joiners of Pakistan have shown a separate class altogether when it comes to the batting power play and death overs bowling. Where the likes of Boult, Southee, Starc and Johnson have ripped up the batting the bowlers from Pakistan have induced a slower death – much in line with the resources they have had after losing key bowlers to injuries and suspensions. Where the hosts have been clinical, the mercurial boys in green have been surgical. In short the attacks of these three teams have kept the bowlers in this tournament.

England is not part of the quarter finals and Bangladesh successfully usurped them in Group A. The English will no doubt be gutted, distraught and left reeling from this. Their performance overall had been dismal with the bat and ball and hence this was coming their way. They lacked that edge and didn’t seem at all inspired. Pakistan started in the same fashion but thankfully rallied themselves in time to reach the quarterfinals.

The Quarterfinals:

South Africa vs Sri Lanka – Prediction: Whoever bats first will win

If South Africa Bat first I would pick them to make it to the semis ahead of the Sri Lankans. While Sangakarra has been outstanding (4 consecutive tons) along with the good form of Dilshan and Mathews I feel their bowling lacks the required cutting edge. The Proteas are suspect to a chase but if they bat first they can very well dominate the Sri Lankan attack and post a total maybe just slightly out of the reach of Sanga and company. The toss will be important and may decide the tie.Sanga DE Vil ICC

India vs Bangladesh – Prediction: India to win with perhaps a good fight from Bangladesh

India should by all counts get through this getting the easiest of the quarter final ties. However given that Bangladesh defended against England to qualify instead of them and also almost carved out a win against the Kiwis will give them a lot of confidence coming into this tie. They will play with nothing to lose and then you never know! I would still say the Indians will win thou. But wouldn’t that be something if they went out against Bangladesh. Would love to see the fireworks ads on Star Sports after that!!

Australia vs Pakistan – Prediction: Depends on which Pakistan side shows up

The clinical aggression of a somewhat efficient Australian Unit vs the quintessential art of the mercurial Pakistanis. You will hear a lot of optimism buzzing about amongst Pakistanis these days of how ‘it is quite possible for us to beat Australia’ ‘The game is in Adelaide which will help us more than the Australian bowling attack’ ‘Pakistan has the universe conspiring for it now’. While all that is great the fact of the matter is that it may very well be evenly poised or it may very well be a one sided show. It all depends really on which Pakistani side shows up. The one that choked South Africa to defend a low total or the one that capitulated against the West Indies to be 4 down on 1 run.

Sarfaraz ICC

New Zealand vs West Indies – Prediction: New Zealand to win

While New Zealand’s batting is not impenetrable it is at the moment hard for me to see West Indies manage a fight against their lethal attack. The likes of Boult, Southee and Vettori all being in top form should ensure a Kiwi victory and a spot in the semis. The Gayle factor is always there but of late I feel it has been less frequent. And also there is an injury concern which could keep him out of the tie altogether.

The Semis:

New Zealand vs South Africa / Sri Lanka – New Zealand to win if it’s South Africa otherwise Sri Lanka to go through to their 3rd Consecutive final. South Africa have a habit of choking on the big stage and I feel it will be against the Kiwis (has happened before) and since it will be the semis. The Kiwis would show more mental strength then the Proteas during the crunch time. However the same will not be the case if Sri Lanka are their opponents. Sri Lanka’s start was poor against the Kiwis however the same will not be the case if the two sides meet again and I would pick Sri Lanka’s batting to see off the Kiwi attack.

India vs Australia / Pakistan – Just on principle I would say in either case India will lose. My gut says this is not going to be their cup. My brain says it might. But let’s stick to the gut as we have been doing so far. Australia will be efficient and a much more difficult test for India then they have had so far in the tournament. An imploded South African performance in their match granted a somewhat easy life for the Indians during the group stages. Even with Pakistan they will face a more confident side which has gotten into its groove and would be on a high after beating South Africa in the group and then Australia in the quarters should they make it till here. Hard to call but again on principle I would say India to lose.

The final would then be an open book as per the above permutations! My gut says it will be an all Tasman Clash – Australia vs New Zealand. And unfortunately Australia will win the 5th. However that’s just my gut and it could all go quite differently from all that I am saying. It is an open tournament with no clear all out favorite. Fantastic and exciting stuff ahead!

So happy viewing to all cricket fans! Go Team Green! Pakistan all the way! 😀

On Cricket

Over the past couple of years due to varying circumstances I have sensed a decline in my ‘interest’ level in cricket. Yes… cricket. The sport that may not be our national sport in Pakistan but certainly the one which is given every honor and importance of being that national sport of the country. Almost being a monopoly in terms of commercialism of sports in Pakistan. Cricket is king. Yes… it is this cricket for which I find my interest level declining.

Long gone are the glory days of being the ‘Unpredictable’ Pakistan side. Long gone are the days of having prolific players in our side. Long gone are the days of having some of the giants of the game. The modern day cricket of Pakistan is nothing like its predecessor and unfortunately is not all that endearing.

It is a combination of on the field and off the field controversies as well as performances and results and overall attitude/character of the side. They lack the confidence that should normally come with being one of the ‘Big’ teams of the sport.

Don’t get me wrong – I would still follow and watch Pakistan and its exploits on the pitch. I will still be roaring come the 2015 World Cup or the 2016 Twenty20 World Cup. But it won’t be the same roar that was there perhaps up till the 2011 World Cup. Cricket for all intents and purposes is losing its whole charm-of-being-an-emotional-birth-right-and-national-team-fan thing. Previously I would look forward to various series and tours as well. Now probably not so much – for example the recently concluded Pakistan vs Sri Lanka series which took place in the UAE was one in which I perhaps just saw …….2 live overs..maximum. Over the entire length of the series – all tests, ODIs, T20s included.

The reason for this as I said is a combination of on and off the field issues. It is the controversies – one after the other. The constant state of chaos that PCB loves shrouding itself in. The repeat situations where our team has inexplicably collapsed or succumbed or been toothless. It has been the lack of any confidence inspiring new talents. Afridi isn’t the same he was in 2011. He still tries to be dangerous and consistent as a bowler. But he is still the worst person to rely on as a batsman who will bail the team out from 5 or 6 down at low scores. Saeed Ajmal has been our most threatening bowler and now his action has been challenged and he is likely to miss the world cup. We haven’t had an out and out pace threat – like a dominating, soul crushing pace attack like the days of yore since the unfortunate bans on Asif and Aamir. We haven’t had a decent opening pair let alone an explosive one since the days of Saeed Anwer and Aamir Sohail. Pakistan cricket has been in a state of sluggishness which is leading towards a steady decline of the overall team. And that there doesn’t seem to be a positive outlook in place to try to fix the fundamentals because of which this is happening. The fact that international cricket doesn’t look any closer to returning on Pakistan soil is a contributing factor to all of the above.

I love cricket. My memories of cricket will always be very fond. Imran Khan lifting the 92 world cup being one of my first conscious memories. But yes … I am not as interested in every game as I used to be once for Pakistan. And that’s a little sad.

An Epiphany

An epiphany can be described as an obscure moment of absolute clarity regarding a problem or dilemma that is being faced. It is may be obscure because it can come in any shape or form, at any time and at any place. The weirdest of places as well. Some epiphanies occur after creating the required setting for one to come. Others take course themselves.

As I flew back from my holiday – I felt an epiphany had struck me. This holiday has probably been one of the better decisions in my recent history. The whole two weeks of it (Bahrain & Sri Lanka both). Just underlines the importance of two things. One that everyone should and needs to take some time off. It does them a world of good. And if possible then also take some time to yourself, to gather yourself, talk to yourself and rediscover who you really are underneath all the layers of everyday routine and hard realities of life. The other thing is of course – family. Nice to just slow down everything else and take time to be with your family. Trust me you can never get enough of family. Regardless of whether your entire family is living together or spread out over geography, you simply cannot. In your own way of course – every family being different to each other. Point taken I assume.

Coming back to the epiphany. I feel some parts of me have changed. I definitely do feel fresher. Rejuvenated even (a word that has been the source of much amusement for some people I know over the past few days). I feel like a different person at work – thou the work place seems different from last when I left it but that’s a whole different story and perhaps a blog post some time in the future. And most of all I can feel myself smile. I know that might sound weird but I don’t think I have smiled on the inside in a long time. Longer then I can remember really. I have had a cautious smile perhaps but not this free kind all the way inside my soul, my spirit.

It wasn’t that Bahrain had anything magical about it or Sri Lanka. Both place offered their own positives. Bahrain a nice relaxing time with family and Sri Lanka a peaceful, beautiful solo escape to be by myself. I think the combination did the trick really. And of course our Lord and Creator, Allah. I genuinely think given all that has happened Allah has done something even if it is temporary to sort of balance of my emotional equation. I am very thankful to that and genuinely feel that is one of the major reasons for me to smile. My epiphany. That life is and forever going to move. It will not stop for anything. That it will take from us but also at the same time give us opportunities of greatness. That we must take it by the horns to truly live it. To truly understand it. That there are things that are not worth worrying over and there are those things which require that emotional investment as they are worth it, they are worth the risk. That everything that happens does happen for a reason and that there is indeed a connectivity to everything. Every single moment in life has been preparing me to be at this current moment. There was a connection between all. They all had to be lived to be where I am today. Wherever that may be. I am thankful for where I am today because I know there are those with much more difficult struggles then mine. Mine maybe emotional , for some it is survival. So yes I am very thankful to Allah for everything. I am thankful that He has always given me strength when faced with a loss. And the ability to move on. To move forward. And at the same time for showing new paths, new bridges, new connections that will take me more forward. I feel one such thing from this holiday. Maybe it is true, maybe it isn’t – but at least it has helped me smile.

While most of the things I said above just now may seem cliché , I humbly believe unless you actually come to a point where you feel all of the above one cannot truly understand it. Till then they will remain clichés.

It is in moments like these that one understands that there are more powerful forms of communication and connection out there then just mere words and letters. There is a language beyond the one governed by alphabet alone. It exists in signs, in gestures, in those little things that happen to us in life, those little things that we see happening to others in life, the right moment for a particular song or set of musical notes, the perfect view, the sound of nature, the silence of peace. An absent voice that forms in your head using imagination while talking to someone via text/online. 

One simply cannot underestimate the power of an epiphany. An illuminating realization, a discovery resulting in feelings of elation, awe and wonder.

IMG_7792 (853x1280)

Thoughts From Above The Clouds

There is no measure to how fast time flies. It is a month already that my mother passed away. Forget the last 5 months, it just seems like yesterday that I boarded Sri Lankan airlines for our family holiday to Singapore – to celebrate Eid together at my eldest brothers. One the most treasured moments in the last 4 years. Other moments might have been tainted. But the trip in August and then the family reunion in Karachi in December will remain closer to heart then all other memories of recent years. Yes emotional bias is there but that is just natural I suppose.

Allah is kind on His creations in this that death of a closed one (barring some traumatic experiences beyond even that which we have had to face) is also something which invokes a naturally tailored recovery within ourselves. We eventually – if not consciously then in the background – realize that life has to continue. That it must continue. That it simply does without really anything being done about it. It is only in times when you realize this that you feel this sudden sense of a gaping hole following you around. A void stuck to you. Forever being attached with you. A permanent companion from here on. I think somewhere along the way the acceptance has come. The realization of what this acceptance truly represents hasn’t really set in thou. It still seems unreal.

Both my parents went after fulfilling all their responsibilities towards us and we feel and hope a complete and full life. However there did arrive a sense of completeness in terms of moving on with my father’s passing. Emotionally I mean. With my mother’s passing there seems to be a sense of something being left incomplete. Like an unfinished conversation perhaps. I don’t know how else to put it. There was peace made after Abbi’s passing. There is peace with Amma’s passing as well but just that little bit of nagging feeling of something having been missed out. Maybe that is the sense one gets when they lose both their parents.

This feeling has certainly led me to believe that I needed to get away. Which I did for a week to Bahrain to my elder brother. And it was great. Relaxing. Time away from the routine and responsibilities of Karachi which I will have to get back into. But before that I think I needed this journey that I embark on now. Sri Lanka. If nothing else I get this sense that this place for some reason is calling me. To visit , to explore, to discover. Itself and perhaps my own self as well. Just 4-5 days and a packed itinerary but on my own so at my pace. I think it will do me good. I really think it will help.

Maybe, just maybe it will slow down the otherwise fast moving or at least bring us neck to neck. And maybe it will help me discover whatever it that is amiss. Some things I have already come to a conclusion for regarding the immediate future of my life. However I think maybe an epiphany or two in Kandy while watching the elephants will further that.

I can almost imagine my parents smiling at me but at the same time also thinking I am probably weird to go to Sri Lanka alone for self discovery and epiphanies and what not’s. (like some others Smile)

IMG_7236 (1280x853)

So 10 months on I am travelling on Sri Lankan again – for a different holiday. For self discovery and to answer a ‘weird’ calling. Written on flight and just got access to post it online.

P.S.

Sri Lanka is a beautiful country with coconut trees and greenery and nature aplenty!

Asia Cup: Triumphant Lankans, Sorrowful India and Quintessential Pakistan

So a good Asia Cup comes to a close. There were wickets, sixes and close chases and not so close ones. In then end Sri Lanka triumphed in very much the same manner as they played through out the tournament. India’s sorrows continued from their trip to Kiwi Land (which they would have wanted to forget soon). Pakistan were what they are best – Pakistan. Mercurial and flat at the same time, in the same tournament, in the space of 2-3 days.

Shahid Khan Afridi a.k.a Lala. You can dump on him for the string of lousy performances with the bat in 15 consecutive matches. You can curse him. You can continue saying 17 years! Still no responsibility. You can all that you want but on the day when he blasts sixes all over the ground to hit an 18 ball match winning 50 you forget all of the rest. You love him. He is quintessentially Afridi. More so since in the previous match he took you over the finish line against India of all teams. Love for Lala sealed. Adoration pouring.

In many ways Afridi is the perfect embodiment of Pakistani Cricket. He represents that special ‘Pakistani kind of hero’ as Osman Samiuddin noted on cricinfo (link: http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/724937.html )

Pakistan for all intents and purposes have always been best when they have a persona of unpredictability about them. On their day they can make you truly realize exactly why you love this sport. And Afridi is exactly the same. On his day – its one of those innings that you are forever thankful for having witnessed.

Pakistan as a unit impressed in the way they contained India’s batting juggernaut and then chased down the score. And far more in the chase of Bangaldesh’s 326! Pakistan’s highest ever chase in ODI history. And that fantastic turnaround from horrific starts in both games against Afghanistan and the final against Sri Lanka. In fact all in all the batting has been the higher performing part of Pakistan in an entire series which is not at all the norm. The balling didn’t quite hit the spot really. But in all fairness the pitches were more in favor of the bat then the ball. Still. All in all – a lot to take heart from this tournament going into the World T20 (strange as it might be given they are two completely different formats). Continued positive batting, enough proven talent and experience in balling and perhaps better catching can provide for a good World T20 outing.

India – after a fine and wonderful Kiwi tour (fine and wonderful from my point of view Open-mouthed smile , and well most fans this side of the border) managed wins only against the minnows. They missed out on close wins against both Sri Lanka and Pakistan. The latter defeat always being more painful then anything else. Especially from the-fans-on-that-side-of-the-border’s point of view. I am surprised no houses or effigies were burned this time. To be fair they were missing some of their key players and their captain. But Kohli is supposed to be the crown prince to the Indian Team Raj so really would have wanted to deliver.

Sri Lanka were finally able to break their finals jinx and picked up a trophy. They performed well throughout the tournament and did their job. So definitely a threat going into the World T20. Mathews will be quite delighted with how his unit has performed – experienced and new players alike.

Afghanistan should take heart in showing glimpses of potential of being part of the big boys. They certainly did well in upstaging their minnow seniors and rejected them to winless tournament. Bangladesh for all their gains over the years need to start hitting more results now. At least I feel they should. I genuinely believe that given the same amount of time as Bangladesh, Afghanistan would be ahead on the achievements curve. Far ahead. I mean they almost embarrassed Pakistan.

So again – all in all not a bad Asia Cup. We were runners up. We beat India. Afridi smashed several sixes in consecutive matches. And did what lala does best! Be quintessentially lala. And Pakistan did what they do best, be quintessentially Pakistan.

Go Greens for the World T20!! Bring it on! ‘GRRRRR’ (bit much? Smile with tongue out)

The Year That Was: 2012

First of all a Happy New Year to all. May 2013 be wonderful, prosperous, joyous, happier, merrier, more successful, more opportune, more everything positive that you can think of on this planet for you!

2013_sparklers_sm

As it turned out the Mayan’s probably ran out of steam in continuing their calendar or planned a very elaborate practical joke for the superstitious and weak hearted around in the year 2012. Also there was no planet x or Nibirui or whatever on course towards earth. In short.. we have survived 2012 without any world ending incidence. We are in 2013. So cheers to all for that.

Now apart from the hullabaloo of the Mayan apocalypse the rest of the year was much like most years. Some good and some bad all mixed in 365 days to make a year. Actually 2012 was a leap year so let’s make that 366.

Some notable things from around the world:

  • Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years as head of the Commonwealth in February
  • The Greek Debt crisis forced the Eurozone Finance ministers to grant a second bailout to Greece worth 130 Billion Euro in February
  • After 244 years of publications the Encyclopedia Brittanica discontinued its print edition in March
  • A pastel version of ‘The Scream’ by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch sells for US$ 120 Million in New York City setting a new record in May
  • CERN discovered a new particle in July after experiments in Large Hadron Collider
  • London successfully held the 2012 Summer Olympics between July-August
    london-2012
  • 620 Million people were left without electricity after what was the world’s worst blackout in history in India in July
  • September saw a series of hostile attacks, protests and outrage over a anti Islamic amateur film made and uploaded on YouTube. As a result of an attack in Libya, the US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens lost his life. The protests and violence also claimed lives and damage to property in other countries and cities. Pakistan has since banned YouTube as protest for allowing the video to stay on the website which is deemed an offense to sensitivities of the Muslim world.
  • Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner becomes the first person to break the sound barrier without any machine assistance during a record space dive out of the Red Bull Stratos helium-filled balloon from 24 miles (39 kilometers) over Roswell, New Mexico in the United States in October
    ap_felix_baumgartner_skydive_freefall_thg_121015_wg
  • Israel launches Operation Pillar of Defense against the Palestinian-governed Gaza Strip, killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari. In the following week 140 Palestinians and five Israelis are killed in an ensuing cycle of violence. A ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after the week-long escalation in hostilities in Southern Israel and the Gaza Strip in November

The above list is from Wikipedia’s online timeline of 2012 of sorts. Their complete list can be viewed on the following link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012

There were a couple of things that got missed out in the list and which I feel are important to the list:

  • The Caribbean Kings won the World T20 2012 tournament against hosts Sri Lanka
    West-Indies-lifts-Twenty20-World-cup
    • Sri Lanka were playing in their 4th final of an ICC tournament in the last 6 years and have lost all 4. They lost the 2007 ODI World Cup Final to Australia. The 2009 T20 Final to Pakistan. The 2011 World Cup Final to India. And now this one to the West Indies. Also Sri Lanka were the host nation and would have become the first host nation to also lift the cup had they won.
  • South Korean singer PSY’s ‘Gangnam Style’ claimed a global fame level and even became the West Indies teams, especially Chris Gayle’s, celebration style after a wicket, match win and the T20 tournament win. Rumor has it that it even made its way to the song lists of some mehndi’s in the Sub Continent region!
    1349199807-psy_gangnam_style
  • 2012’s best Hollywood release for me and many many many more will most definitely have to be ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Chris Nolan’s trilogy telling the story of Batman has been fantastic. It connects the bat with the audience on completely different level. The third movie delivers on all counts and this marvel fan will admit that it beats the avengers hands down. The Avengers had its own appeal. It was a fun and entertaining movie and was great to see so many supers packed in a single movie. But the Dark Knight definitely makes them pale in comparison.
    The-Dark-Knight-Rises-7_0

So that was all that happened Globally. I mean much more happened but those were some of the bigger things.

Pakistan in 2012 has had it’s ups and downs. There have been proud moments and moments of despair all the same. But that’s for another post.

However just a few quick positive mentions since I can’t help myself:

  • Pakistan won the Asia Cup 2012 in cricket
    287960,xcitefun-pakistan-champions-asia-cup-2012
  • Pakistan’s Muhammad Asif won the World Snooker Championship
  • Pakistan set a world record for setting the most world records in a day with Guinness – I kid you not
  • Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win an Oscar. She got this for directing the documentary ‘Saving Face’ based on acid attack victims in Pakistan.
  • Our Hockey team won Bronze in Champions Trophy
    Champions Trophy
  • Asif Ali Zardari and company have managed to so far steer their political ship to survive 5 years in the Government. And if they stick till February / March 2013 they will become the first democratically elected government to complete its tenure in the country.
  • It has been 2, 3 years and we still have no clue as to who the heck is Dr. Ghulam Mujtaba! (not really a positive but interesting none the less)

Once again happy new year to you all! Cheers! Smile