March 4, 2006
Bush Takes a Swing at Cricket in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - U.S. President George W. Bush, an avid baseball fan, on Saturday tried his hand at a sport hugely popular in parts of the old British empire -- cricket -- and was pronounced "not bad" for a first-timer.
Bush bowled and batted several times on a practice cricket pitch set up on the grounds of the U.S. embassy in the capital of cricket-mad Pakistan, as students from the Islamabad College for Boys and the private school Schola Nova, who included girls, looked on and encouraged him.
He got a quick lesson on how to hold the bat from Shaharyar Khan, chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.
"He's telling me the difference between baseball and cricket," said Bush, a former owner of a Texas baseball team.
Then the president was coached while batting at the wicket by Salman Butt, a member of Pakistan's cricket team, with Inzamam-ul-Haq, the team captain, nearby to also lend his expertise.
Bush, in a blue shirt with sleeves rolled up, played with tennis balls, which are much softer than stone-hard cricket balls.
One student, Asif Raza, said he hoped Bush's foray onto a cricket pitch would promote the sport in America.
The president's first couple of hits went off to the side, but the Pakistani players were charitable.
"Not bad for a first time," one boy said.
But his last hit was better and the ball flew off into some trees. One ball hit him on the back.
He then tried his hand at bowling. "Very nice, very nice," one girl said.
Bush, in Pakistan on the last leg of a tour of South Asia, was modest about his first-time performance.
"Haven't quite got the skills yet," he said.
Pakistan's most famous-ever cricketer, former captain-turned-politician Imran Khan, spent Saturday confined to his home where authorities detained him to thwart his plan to lead a march to protest against Bush's visit.