Jul

9

 For the last few days I have tried to follow the major story in Pakistan. Today's news flow contains words attributed to the leader of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) that shocked me. In the article, Abdul Rashid Ghazi is quoted as saying:"The boys are the first line of defence, then the girls," he said. "They have all sworn an oath on the Koran that they will fight to the death."

So this so-called religious scholar and leader, is teaching young children that death is preferable to life. The leaders of the mosque are using these innocent children as human shields. Ghazi's older brother attempted to escape a couple of days ago by leaving with 60 women who were surrendering. Of course, he wore a burqa and veil to try to hide himself from the Pakistani army who were waiting outside, but inevitably was caught.

The bravery, courage, and moral authority of such leaders leaves me in dismay and fear for the future of a country where illiteracy and poverty are often reasons to send young children to schools administered by unregulated religious authorities. 

May

1

 I recently had the pleasure of having dinner with a certain young man, Mohammad Asif at the home of a good friend. It's not often that I get the chance to sit and chat with someone of such huge potential in the world of cricket, so I was tremendously excited.
Some background first. Asif is the latest in a long line of prodigious fast bowling talent that is constantly being unearthed in Pakistan. Pakistani fast bowlers have been credited with inventing and then perfecting the art of "reverse swing." Rahul Battacharya in his book "Pundits from Pakistan" credits a version of cricket called "tape tennis" for keeping this conveyer belt of fast & swing bowling going in Pakistan. This version of cricket is played with a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape and more often than not played on concrete. Roads, pavements, parking lots, anything will do!

During these few hours, inevitably the discussion centered around the Pakistan cricket teams' poor performance at the current World Cup in the West Indies. It was here that Asif opened up. He began to talk about the professionalism, hard work, athleticism and mental preparation of the Australian team. Australia are to cricket currently what the Jordan Bulls were to 1990s NBA. The sheer desire to win and competitive spirit that is the ethos of Aussie cricket has never existed in cricket before, certainly in the modern era that I have watched the game. They do not care if their opponents are amateurs or the next best team in the world. They want to defeat, maybe even crush them all by the same margin!

For me, hearing a Pakistani player, especially the new vice-captain of the squad, speak of admiration for the professionalism of the Aussies was like manna from heaven. Is it possible that we have finally found home grown leadership that wants to develop modern attitudes in its approach to competitive professional cricket?

This discussion lead to discussions about Chelsea, the current English Premiership champions (soccer), Michael Jordan and the Bulls and eventually, Asif said the magic word: deception! He said when he was bowling, all he thought about was how was he going to get the opposing batsman out. What would he bowl, from what angle, how did he want the ball to approach the stumps, and what was the batsman expecting. He wanted to deceive the batsman into losing his wicket and would try anything to make it happen. Now, the Chair has written numerous times on deception and its role in markets, sport and even life. But here was a guy who had worked out that it was his primary weapon in attaining success. And he's only 25. I thought about mentioning the Chair's work to him, but decided it would be too far removed from Asif's world to appreciate. Better to direct him somewhere else.

So I mentioned Hashim Khan's book "Squash Rackets: The Khan Game" a first edition 1967 copy of which my university squash coach Peter Lyman gave me in my sophomore year (the reasons are another story). Everybody from Pakistan knows the legend of the Khans, so I figured he'd cotton on immediately and I wasn't disappointed. Chapter 7-9 read like a very early version of "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert. He's asked for my copy of it which I will loan to him, but I think I'll add Winning Ugly too.

I'm convinced that Asif will become a legend in the sport, not only because of his audacious ability to swing the ball, his simple and sustainable action, but also because he has already understood the game within the game. All he needs is to find 10 like minded individuals in Pakistani cricket, and we can win the next World Cup!

For those interested, the current Cricket world cup will finally end this week, and more than likely Australia will win for a record 3rd consecutive time. But the seeds of the future are being sown. What price Pakistan at the next World Cup?

Dec

13

I read your letter to a new born son, Aubrey earlier this year and thought that it was a great guide for me with own 20 month boy, Ayman (which in Arabic means, to be on the right side, or the right path).

Last night, he sat down with me at 8pm (too late by far I thought, but we were both in a good mood) and watched a game between current number 1, Amr Shabana & Rami Ashour (both of Egypt) at the US Open from a couple of weeks ago. As you know squash is not the best TV sport, but I couldn’t believe how entranced Ayman was with the sound of the ball being hit hard on the glass walls. I tried to give him a brief explanation which he seemed to enjoy, but I could constantly hear this voice in my head saying, “these guys don’t look as good as the guys I watched playing when I was younger (ie. Jahangir & Jansher). I know you are a huge squash legend, so I will try and contribute my thoughts on this in another email.

Ok, now on to the reason I write today. Very briefly re: your comment below:

A Change of the Rear Guard. The Saudi Arabian market is the worst performer of the year, with the Tadawul down some 53% at 7837, but United Arab Emirates and Qatar are now down just 40 to 45%. The question that immediately springs to mind is, how did I avoid buying these markets that looked to be so oversold?

I think you are already grateful for avoiding the Saudi market, but I suspect that even if you had tried, you would not have been able to buy the Saudi market. I haven’t checked but I think the only people who could buy stocks in Saudi were residents of Saudi Arabia and even then only after jumping through several hoops. Previously, the only people who were allowed to invest were Saudi nationals!

I think it is called capitalism, Saudi style. Not very different to Chinese capitalism.

Also, I know you are probably aware of this, but most local critics of the Saudi regime complain about how they’ve given ceded autonomy to the American governments over the last 30 years. What I don’t think anybody realizes is that because they’ve pegged the Riyal to the USD they’ve also given up control of their monetary policy and their currency to the US.

Vic replies:

Please feel free to contribute your own bullet points on child rearing. One I wanted to write was never be afraid of rejection and always be ready to bargain. I am also waiting for Laurel to write one about music — 20 months seems very old to start playing an instrument. I have Aubrey playing handball daily now, and got him to hit with a racket at 1 day!

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