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 Lawson Astonished By Hockey

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Registration date : 2007-07-03

PostSubject: Lawson Astonished By Hockey   Mon Aug 06, 2007 7:43 am

Pakistan’s new cricket Geoff Lawson terms Hockey Australia’s decision to pull out of the Lahore Champions Trophy because of security fears as ‘astonishing’.

“The Australian hockey team decided not to go, I find that astonishing. As sportspeople in Australia are revered, sportspeople in the sub-continent are deities almost. If you’re involved in sport, that’s the safest situation to be in,” Lawson told Australia’s Sunday Telegraph in an interview.

The former Australian Test pacer is shocked by what he labelled an extraordinary misunderstanding of safety in Pakistan.

“The amount of people who have said to me congratulations, but you’re mad,” Lawson said. “There are less concerns than I’d have going to London or New York. I was in England in 2005 when all the bombs went off, and that was scary. (People) see the Red Mosque shootout there and hear about (Osama) bin Laden hiding in the hills of Pakistan. But it’s like if you’re hiding in outback Australia and you live in Sydney,” he said.

Lawson, 49, also revealed that he has received a letter from the widow of former Pakistan coach Bob Woolmer in which she has encouraged him to take up the assignment with the Pakistani team.

“It’s a lovely letter about how he loved coaching Pakistan, loved the people and she wished me all the best,” Lawson said. “It comforted me in the fact (Woolmer’s family) gave me their support and they don’t have any concerns whatsoever,” he added.

Woolmer died of a heart failure during the World Cup in the West Indies this March but local Police launched a murder investigation into his death after his autopsy report suggested that the coach was strangled.

“You look through that stuff and you do wonder why the Jamaican authorities came out (and said it was murder). It was only their initial announcement that got people in a tizz about the whole thing. Why couldn’t they solve it? Because no one did it,” said Lawson.

The report adds that Lawson wasn’t always tolerant of Pakistan. He toured there in 1980, didn’t play a Test and admitted he counted down the days until he left.

Just months earlier, Russia had invaded Afghanistan. Lawson recalled escorts by military jets, tanks lining runways, soldiers on the streets and the Australian team bunking in Spartan army barracks.

He didn’t care to understand the culture. In fact, he admits he fought against it, upset to be woken before dawn by the first of five daily calls to prayer. On his next tour of Pakistan in 1982, Lawson said he refused to let things get him down. He survived the three-Test tour on a diet of Vegemite on naan bread with black coffee, lost 8kg and arrived home with dengue fever. But he had been Australia’s player of the series.

Lawson said he has learnt a bit of Urdu and spoke some of it when he addressed the Pakistani players for the job, at a training venue in Abbottabad.

His message was to “play for the team, leave egos aside (and) not get distracted by external influences”. He emphasised each point with ‘Insha-Allah’.

PCB wanted Dav Whatmore as their new coach. The players wanted Lawson. “They’re obviously strong advocates of me, they believed in what I said. I think that’s a huge headstart,” Lawson said.

Controversy has been common, with a doping scandal involving star pacer Shoaib Akhtar and Mohammad Asif, and the walk-off after an alleged ball-tampering incident at The Oval in England last August.

“Akhtar is going to be a big part of the success of that team. He’s very enthusiastic. We’ve had a few phone calls back and forth over the last couple of weeks,” he explained.

Lawson said that had he been the coach, Pakistani players would not have walked off the field at The Oval last summer, an incident that sparked an international controversy. “They wouldn’t have walked off (if I was coach), absolutely not. I don’t care where you are or what you’re doing, if you’re not happy with the umpiring you don’t take your ball and run away,” he expressed.

Lawson is confident he would help Pakistan land a major title soon. “I don’t have fears of failure, I don’t have fears of outside influences, I don’t have fears of dealing with politics,” he said.

“For me, it’s an adventure as well. You don’t live there that much and I think that’s a bit of a pity. I’d love to live for three months with the people,” he added.
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