Dawn Editorial with topic background, Vocabulary (April 19, 2021)
TEAM Pakistan have a number of reasons to rejoice after their 3-1 T20 series win over hosts South Africa on Friday. First, the victory was a rare away tour success, and secondly, it came on the heels of their emphatic ODI series win. What complemented their success was Babar Azam’s remarkable debut as skipper, which had been delayed owing to his thumb injury in New Zealand. The prolific right-hander led from the front with his brilliant batting throughout the South Africa tour. It was a performance that catapulted him to number one spot in the ICC ODI rankings — an honour that had eluded Pakistan for 17 long years. Up until last December, Pakistan’s limited-over performances oscillated from ordinary to forgettable as they tasted successive defeats against England and New Zealand. The batting looked in disarray, the bowling appeared toothless and the fielding failed to measure up. The critics were unsparing and rightly so. They expressed serious doubts about Pakistan standing any chance of raising a competitive squad for this year’s T20 World Cup set to be held in India in October.
At the start of the South Africa series, it seemed there was little to separate the two sides. But as the tour continued, the visitors’ superiority became obvious and the results are there for everyone to see. True, the hosts lost some of their best players to the Indian Premier League after the first two ODIs, but the Proteas young guns have proved to be no pushover either and Pakistan did well to tame them. Having said that, the Green Shirts’ customary unpredictability was on display in the few games they lost and there remain serious questions regarding the middle order and the chequered performance of the fast bowlers. In the final analysis, this young team has shown signs of improvement but still has some way to go before it can play sharp, consistent cricket. The team’s coaches Misbah-ul-Haq, Waqar Younis and Younus Khan hold the key to achieving that goal.
vTHE hope that the slew of Covid-19 vaccinations approved for use since the end of last year would vanquish the virus, or at least drastically curb infection levels, is dissipating very fast. Many countries are struggling with their third or fourth wave, more devastating than the last. The global death toll has crossed 3m even if the mortality rate has come down overall, because of improved medical protocols as health professionals gain experience of treating the disease. However, the rate of infection is rising faster than before. The inequitable availability of resources among nations in ‘normal’ times is reflected during this global health emergency as well. Poorer countries have far less access to vaccines than others, and, coupled with the fact that their health facilities are similarly inadequate, their populations are more likely to isuffer serious and long-term effects of the contagion. Covax, the WHO’s global shared vaccine programme which aims to make vaccines available to countries that cannot afford the kind of financial outlay required to make successful bids for scarce supplies, is falling behind. Consider that within the period of a fortnight only 2m doses were cleared for shipment to 92 countries under the programme; during that time, the same number of vaccinations had been administered in the UK alone.
Uninterrupted supplies under Covax to around a third of the world population were largely dependent on India which has the world’s largest vaccine-manufacturing capacity. However, in yet another illustration of the interconnectedness of the world in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, the frightening surge of cases in India has thrown a spanner in the works. As it tries to ramp up its own inoculation programme for its massive population, India’s vaccine production cannot keep pace. The country is now actually planning to import vaccines to meet the shortfall. That is worrying news for countries that were looking to Covax to meet their requirements. And that includes Pakistan. This country, along with Nigeria and Indonesia were slated to be among the biggest recipients of vaccines under Covax. It was announced in early March that 10m doses were to arrive in each country before June. Whether anything close to that figure materialises remains to be seen.
Countries that do have an adequate supply of vaccines and a population largely amenable to getting inoculated are sprinting ahead of many others. For example, in the UK over 32m have received at least one dose and some of the restrictions in that country have been eased after months. In Pakistan though, as in many other places, the UK variant is raging with the ‘peak’ nowhere in sight. Last week, the WHO warned that South Asia is at a “critical phase”. Without a collective response to a global emergency of this nature, where wealthier nations look out for those less fortunate, one wonders how far it is possible to defeat the virus.