Polling to elect about 2,100 ward councillors is underway in all 49 municipal bodies across Rajasthan on Saturday. According to that state election department, the polling started at 7 a.m. and will continue till 5 p.m. The election has been peaceful so far, an official of the department said. A total of 7,944 candidates are in the fray in 49 civic bodies of the State. The election department said that a total of 33.69 lakh voters, including 17.05 lakh men and 16.01 lakh women, will exercise their franchise on Saturday. Counting of votes will be done on November 19. Election for chairman and deputy chairman of local bodies will be held on November 26 and 27 respectively.
When the Champions Trophy tournament began on June 1, everybody had their set of favourites which usually comprised of teams like England, India, Australia and South Africa. Most of the cricket pundits and fans were backing the big four teams to battle it out in the semi-finals.Nobody gave Pakistan a chance of making it to the last-four let alone win the tournament. And Pakistan gave no reason for people to believe otherwise after their performance in the first match where they lost to India by a huge margin of 124 runs.That was the lowest point for Pakistan in the tournament and everybody was expecting them to crash out soon as they faced South Africa in the next game. But Sarfraz Ahmed and his boys had other plans. In the span of two weeks the team transformed itself completely and registered four wins on the trot – beating the Proteas, Sri Lanka, joint favourites England and India to clinch their maiden Champions Trophy last Sunday.Pakistan cricket has been on the decline ever since their exit from the 2003 World Cup where they lost to India and the legends in the team – Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis, Inzamam-ul-Haq and Mohammed Yousuf retired in the following years. They have always had talented players in the side from there on and were always labelled as an unpredictable but highly inconsistent side.Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan along with some other senior players in Shoaib Malik, Shahid Afridi and Abdul Razzaq shouldered the responsibility of the side but they were never able to produce results on a consistent basis. They had wins here and there with the 2009 T20 World Cup success being their only ICC trophy since the 1992 World Cup. But the steam somehow died down after that.advertisementBut now all of a sudden in the last two years, Pakistan cricket has stumbled back on its feet and with this Champions Trophy victory the belief and confidence will hopefully return as well.Karachi welcomes @SarfarazA_54, what incredible scenes! Champions return home ??????? #CT17 #AikJeetAur pic.twitter.com/v971el9kcH- PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) June 20, 2017For a team, which hasn’t played any international cricket at home since the 2009 terrorist attack on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, to clinch the World No. 1 ranking in Test cricket for a brief period and then to beat four top class teams and clinch the Champions Trophy is an astonishing effort.DECLINE POST IMRAN KHAN ERALegendary all-rounder Imran Khan is the man solely responsible for bringing Pakistan cricket back on its feet during the 1980s and early 1990s. Imran’s leadership and guidance saw Pakistan clinch the 1992 World Cup and become a dangerous side from there onwards.Imran retired soon after bringing the World Cup back home and gave Pakistan some future legends like Wasim, Waqar, Inzamam, Saleem Malik and Mushtaq Ahmed. Other greats like Saeed Anwar, Mohammed Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Akhtar and Shahid Afridi also came along and for the next 7-8 years they became a dominant force in world cricket.This is also the time when Pakistan gained a healthy lead in head-to-head encounters with arch-rivals India, who were struggling to cope up. Pakistan started to dish out consistent performances, won matches both at home and abroad in ODIs as well as in Test cricket.Veterans Wasim and Waqar provided the required guidance and direction to the team for as long as they could but their retirements began the decline for Pakistan yet again.RESURGENCE UNDER MISBAH-UL-HAQPakistan gave opportunities to a number of senior players to lead the team after Inzamam’s successful tenure came to an end while its cricket board also saw regular changes at the top which made matters worse for the team. Younis, Afridi, Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Yousuf all tried their hands at captaining the side with Younis leading the team to the 2009 World T20 triumph.But Pakistan were still in need of a leader who could inspire the team as well as Imran did. Misbah-ul-Haq then took over and proved to be the leader the team was looking for a very long time.It took some time but Pakistan managed to get back up on its feet with Misbah at the helm. Consistency still eluded the team but they regained the threatening factor which has always been associated with Pakistan cricket.PAKISTAN’S RISE DESPITE LACK OF CRICKET ON HOME SOILMisbah’s team shifted base to the UAE after the ICC ruled out any international cricket in Pakistan following the terror attacks on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore in 2009. Since then they have made the Sheikh Zyed stadium in Abu Dhabi their home ground along with the Sharjah cricket stadium.advertisementWhat an amazing welcome u deserve it @SarfarazA_54 pic.twitter.com/wSbBvng9Gp- Azhar Ali (@AzharAli_) June 20, 2017Despite their terrific record in the UAE were they have defeated most of the international teams in all forms of the game, Pakistan still miss the experience of playing on home soil and in front of packed stands. India’s refusal to play against Pakistan and in the UAE has also worked against the Men in Green who’s dismal record against its arch-rivals in ICC tournaments continued.Poor infrastructure, dismal state of domestic cricket and lack of support from the board have been the major reasons behind the decline in Pakistan cricket but Misbah and his team still managed to reach great heights against all odds.THE ROAD AHEAD UNDER SARFRAZ(Reuters Photo)More than the Champions Trophy triumph, Pakistan must be happy with the way its team has shaped up in the last two weeks. This tournament was the real test for Sarfraz as captain and for young players in the team like Fakhar Zaman, Hassan Ali, Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan and the likes who were playing on the big stage for the first time.Pakistan #CT17 heroes given rousing welcome at Lahore Airport #AikJeetAur ??????? pic.twitter.com/c5GfGvyTCd- PCB Official (@TheRealPCB) June 19, 2017Sarfraz as a captain completely changed after the first loss against India and the way his team responded match after match since then took everybody by surprise. We have not seen Pakistani players this charged up and hungry to win for a very long time now.Fakhar and Hassan especially were a revelation for Pakistan and nightmares for other teams who were playing against these two for the first time. Nobody could figure out a way to stop them. Imad and Shadab also improved along the way and gained confidence with each passing match.Pakistan saved its best performance for the last and hammered India in the final with Mohammed Amir proving his worth as a world class fast bowler and the one to watch out for in the coming years.Goosebumps!!!!! Love the reaction of crowd when they saw first glimpse of @SarfarazA_54 with ??? in his balcony pic.twitter.com/E74Q8Xvtil- Nabeel Hashmi (@HashmeNabeel) June 20, 2017But the biggest question now is – can Pakistan maintain their winning run and consistently churn out performances like these in the coming months?They have ticked all the right boxes from this tournament and have a young captain in Sarfraz who looks to be the best bet for the 2019 World Cup as well. But can the youngsters in the team keep up with the fitness levels required at the international level and deliver on a consistent basis till the next big ICC event?If they do then it will be great news for world cricket and for India-Pakistan cricket as well. After India cut all bilateral ties with Pakistan, the only time we get to enjoy a cricket match involving these two nations is at ICC events where India have been beating Pakistan consistently for more than a decade now.advertisementSince the turn of the millennium we have only seen one-sided matches in ICC events with India emerging victorious. The script was becoming monotonous to say the least.But the Champions Trophy win will hopefully change all that in Pakistan and give them more belief. International cricket has been missing a team like this current side under Sarfraz and we can only hope that they continue to entertain like this for a long time to come.