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President takes a lesson and a hit
- Avid Baseball fan practises cricket with Pakistan schoolboys

Islamabad, March 4: Baseball is where his heart is but for a man handling a cricket bat for the first time, George W. Bush was “not bad”.

The US President today bowled and batted several times on a practice cricket pitch set up on the grounds of the heavily fortified American embassy here as local students, including girls, looked on and encouraged him.

The world’s most powerful man got a quick lesson on how to hold a bat from Shaharyar Khan, the chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board.

“He’s telling me the difference between baseball and cricket,” said Bush, an avid baseball fan and a former owner of a Texas baseball team.

The President was then coached while batting by Salman Butt, the Pakistan opener, as captain Inzamam-ul-Haq stood nearby.

The event, sources said, was aimed at seeking the President’s support in popularising the game in America.

US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and ambassador to Pakistan Ryan C. Crocker were among the spectators who watched Bush roll up the sleeves of his sky blue shirt. The President pretended to knock dirt from his shoes like a baseball player stepping up to the plate, then strode up to the wickets for a few swings with the bat.

He connected with the first ball, was hit in the shoulder by the second, and sent a third sailing into a tree. “Not bad for a first time,” one boy said.

He then tried his hand at bowling. “Very nice, very nice,” one girl said.

“You are good.' Why don’t you join our team,” quipped a schoolboy.

One student, Asif Raza, said he hoped Bush’s foray onto a cricket pitch would promote the sport in America.

Asked whether he liked Pakistan’s national pastime better than America’s, Bush, a former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball team, paused and cocked his head before answering. “I haven’t quite got the skills yet,” he said. “I’m a big baseball fan,” he added.

PCB chairman Khan presented Bush with a cricket ball and a tie, while the President handed the young players autographed baseballs.

While Bush had his first brush with a cricket bat, First Lady Laura met schoolchildren in the embassy. Laura usually visits classrooms when she travels abroad. But because of security concerns, the children came to her.

A former librarian and teacher, Laura beamed as she watched a circle of students participate in an imagination exercise in which they made up stories that revolved around a toy rabbit. “That bunny over there is actually Bugs Bunny,” she told the children.

Laura empathised with a teacher who lamented that traditional teaching methods in Pakistan had not achieved results.

“I was the same way after graduating with a degree in education,” the First Lady said. “I started to teach and I was wondering: Do I really know how to teach'”

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