October 15, 2021

Pakistan off to Dubai for ICC T20 World Cup with optimism

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Captained by star batsman Babar Azam, Team Pakistan left for Dubai on October 15 with fair degree of optimism for the ICC T20 World Cup Cricket Tournament whose Super 12 round is due to commence from October 23. 

Before flying to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Babar dispelled the impression that Fakhar will be used as an opener, as he himself would continue to be opening the innings with Muhammad Rizwan. 

The continued downpour of hue and cry by former cricketers, media and others had finally compelled chief selector Muhammad Wasim to induct left-handed explosive opener Fakhar and former Pakistan captains, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, in the 15-member squad. 

Green shirts now look a balanced and potent combination. The whole nation and millions of Pakistani supporters are looking at the vastly experienced trio of Shoaib, Sarfaraz and Muhammad Hafeez alongwith the talented youngsters, Babar, Fakhar and Rizwan to inspire rest of the team to show their firepower in warm up matches and the main event to gladden their hearts. 

Short format specialist Shoaib will now be playing his sixth consecutive T20 World Cup and he is being expected to come up flying colors to bid farewell by bringing glory and honour for Pakistan. 

Australia will clash South Africa at Abu Dhabi and two-time champions West Indies take on England at Dubai on October 23. However the showpiece contest will be held the following day when the 2009 champions Pakistan will start their campaign against arch-rivals India, led by the flamboyant Virat Kohli. 

Although not many are rating Pakistan team very highly but their unpredictability makes them the most dangerous outfit and the Indians, who had won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, will not commit the blunder of taking them lightly. 

Pakistan must win at least four matches of the group to have any realistic hope for a place in the semifinal. Besides India, New Zealand and Afghanistan may also prove to be hard nuts to crack but Pakistan will still be having a fair chance of moving ahead if they play to their potential. 

The qualifying phase of the event commence at Amert Stadium Oman from October 17 with eight teams in fray for four qualifying berths. Besides former champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and hosts Oman will be battling it out in qualifiers. Oman will clash Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh will be up against Scotland on coming Sunday. 

In the meantime Pakistan hired fast bowling consultant Vernon Philander of South Africa, who has extensive training pace bowlers. The pundits, however, have expressed apprehension about immediate success due to limited time at his disposal. 

Pakistan’s newly appointed batting consultant and former Australia batting great Matthew Hayden, who is currently engaged in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), will join the team in Dubai. With chief coach Misbah-ul-Haq and fast bowling coach Waqar Younis have stepped down, 

Pakistan’s cricketers have to adjust quickly to the methods pursued by interim coach Saqlain Mushtaq, to be assisted by Philander and Hayden.

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October 8, 2021

Fakhar, Haider and Sarfaraz finally inducted in Pakistan T20 World Cup squad

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By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Media pressure and public voice finally yielded results as the deserving trio of Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali and Sarfaraz Ahmed was belatedly inducted in 15-member Pakistan squad for T20 World Cup starting in United Arab Emirates from October 23. 

It had seemed that career of the 2017 Champions Trophy winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was over. But fortunes have fluctuated dramatically and he has forced his way back into the team in place of the much criticized Azam Khan. 

Fast bowler Muhammad Hasnain was axed from 18-member which also included three travelling reserve players Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir and now Khushdil Shah. Haider came into the team in place of Hasnain. 

Chief selector Muhammad Wasim, who named the controversial squad a couple of weeks ago, was facing wrath of media in particular and public in general. He must, however, be complimented for finally having bowed down to pressure and selecting a balanced squad. 

Some questions still remained unanswered as to why Wasim had named the national squad long ago when Ramiz Raja was waiting in the wings to take over leadership of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

Interestingly Wasim had blamed the cancellation of New Zealand and England tours, stating that it caused problems in analyzing the performances of the players. 

Poor performances of Azam Khan as a batter and wicketkeeper in National T20 Cup was reason of his ouster. While his Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfaraz Ahmed’s fine batting and keeping resurrected his career. 

Highly talented Haider Ali, who was hailed by English media after blazing debut half century, was out of the team due to his inconsistent performances. A couple of classy knocks in T20 Cup have earned his place in national team. 

The veterans, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz, however, have failed to secure a place in the team as was being predicted by some quarters. 

In the meantime the T20 World Cup-bound Pakistan squad will hold a seven-day training and conditioning camp under bio-secure protocols at the National High Performance Centre and LCCA ground, Lahore, from October 10. 

The squad members, along with their family members, will join the bio-secure and undergo Covid-19 testing upon arrival. After returning negative tests, the players will be allowed to commence their preparations with the gym sessions at NHPC, the PCB announced in a news release. 

The players will hold training sessions at the LCCA Ground at 1:30 pm on October 11 and 12 while they are scheduled to play a practice match under the lights on October 14 which will start at 6 pm. No training activity has been scheduled for October 13.

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September 29, 2021

PCB accepts Wasim Khan’s resignation

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

England import Wasim Khan, on September 29, resigned as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and his resignation was accepted by Board of Governor, it was confirmed officially. 

Wasim Khan’s resignation was being anticipated soon after former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja had taken over as the Chairman of the board on September 13. But it was not expected so quickly. 

According to reports, Ramiz Raja desired to bring about sweeping changes in the PCB setup after sitting for few months in the office of the board headquarter at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. However Wasim Khan’s resignation seems to have made things easy for Ramiz Raja, who was observed making the smallest of decisions independently, without consulting anyone after assuming the charge of Chairman, PCB. 

Ramiz Raja, rather diplomatically, praised the services of the outgoing CEO, according to the PCB media release. “During his time with PCB, Wasim Khan provided excellent leadership, particularly during the time of outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The PCB owes Wasim Khan a debt of gratitude for his leadership and we wish him well in his future plans and career endeavors,” he complimented. 

The sources have indicated that Ramiz Raja was expected to appoint Director Cricket after amendments in the PCB constitution. According to reports, another former Pakistan captain Moin Khan, Head Coach of Quetta Gladiators and Lahore Qalanders Chief Coach, Aqib Javed, were also likely to be inducted in the PCB setup. But conflict of interest seemed the biggest issue as they can hold only one position at a time.

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September 28, 2021

APL is nothing more than club level cricket: Jalaluddin

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By Arif Afzal Usmani 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Pakistan’s former Test fast bowler and internationally acclaimed coach, Jalaluddin, has lashed out at the organizers of the ongoing American Premier League (APL) Cricket Tournament which has failed miserably in attracting the masses.

“APL has been founded in a dubious manner as the event organizers don’t have adequate experience of running franchise cricket which has its own demands and template. Franchise cricket tournaments are run on the basis of players participation and pumping of big money with both these elements clearly lacking in APL,” Jalaluddin, having relocated in the United States, commented in a brief chat with this scribe. 

“This event doesn’t seem to have any value. They had been granted the permission to hold the tournament on certain conditions which didn’t allow the participants of the Minor League to take part in this competition. APL is nothing more than club level cricket,” he reckoned.

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September 21, 2021

APL commence with local outfits at empty baseball grounds

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By Arif Afzal Usmani

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The American Premier League (APL) Cricket Tournament got off to a disappointing start as the spectators abstained from watching the action and the big baseball grounds remained deserted in the first three matches held on its opening day on September 21. 

The organizers had been claiming that the APL was going to become the greatest cricket event to be held in the United States but the presence of just a few hundred spectators in the first three games didn’t prove so. 

People had shown tremendous enthusiasm in collecting free tickets for the matches but they didn’t turn up to witness the matches. Even the presence of former Pakistan fast bowler Muhammad Asif in one of the participating teams could not lure people to visit the stadium. 

The organizers of the APL are attempting to reach the cricket enthusiasts by live streaming of action while a leading media organization, ARY, is also supporting the tournament but it has yet not succeeded in creating the kind of buzz which was being promised. 

The organizers of the APL consider theirs as the most successful cricket event in USA but the fact remains that the historic Double Wicket Championship organized by Worldwide Sports in New Jersey a couple of decades ago was a much bigger event which attracted huge media coverage globally as the action was televised live in 52 countries. The megastars of the era like Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, Vinod Kambli, Jimmy Adams and Sunil Joshi had taken part in the event.

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National T20 Cup explodes in action with top stars in fray

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The cream of Pakistan’s talent will be on display in the National T20 Cup which explodes into action at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on September 23. 

This premier event now holds the key in preparing for the ICC T20 World Cup being staged in Oman and United Arab Emirates after New Zealand deserted their tour to Pakistan minutes before first One Day International in Rawalpindi on September 17 and England followed by cancelling to next month’s visit for T20 International on mysterious security reasons. 

It will be Babar Azam versus Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan versus Shadab Khan, Sharjeel Khan versus Naseem Shah, Fakhar Zaman versus Shahnawaz Dahani and Hasan Ali versus Imam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) highlighted in its media release. 

The 18 Rawalpindi-leg matches, which were earlier planned for Multan, will now be played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium until October 3 while Gaddafi Stadium will remain the venue of the remaining 15 matches that will commence on October 6. Both semifinals will be played on October 12 with the first match to commence at 1500 and second match to begin at 1930. 

The National T20 is a fiercely-contested and highly entertaining tournament. It not only provides opportunities to cricketers to stake claims in the national side but leading performers get a chance to be included in the HBL PSL player draft and then picked up by the franchises. 

The event starting on September 23 has become even more important and critical as members of the Pakistan squad for next month’s ICC T20 World Cup will be in action. 

With each player to get at least, 10 matches, they will aim to strike form and fitness that can help them to be in their best shape when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates on October 15. 
“Following the postponement of the New Zealand series, the National T20 provides an opportunity to our elite cricketers to maintain their focus and composure show the world that they have not been distracted by the events of last week and continue with their preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup,” the PCB Chairman, Ramiz Raja, remarked. 

“The participation of our finest cricketers in the National T20 will also enhance the reputation, value and significance of the tournament, while providing the next generation of cricketers a chance to rub shoulders with the national stars and learn the art of preparing and performing at the highest level. With your enthusiasm, wishes and backing, Pakistan cricket will continue to move forward,” he added. 

Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan will lead defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, runners-up Southern Punjab will be captained by hard-hitting top-order batter Sohaib Maqsood. Babar Azam, Pakistan’s all-format captain and second ranked T20I batsman, will captain Central Punjab and Pakistan’s ODI opener Imam-ul-Haq will lead Balochistan. Sindh have kept faith in former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed while Pakistan white-ball vice-captain Shadab Khan will be in-charge of Northern. 

Apart from Babar, Rizwan, Shadab and Sohaib, other members of the ICC T20 World Cup squad to feature in the 33-match National T20 are Azam Khan, Khushdil Shah (both from Southern Punjab), Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez (both from Central Punjab), Imad Wasim (Northern), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh), Asif Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz (all Northern) and, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Shaheen Shah Afridi (both from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Shahnawaz Dahani (Sindh) and Usman Qadir (Central Punjab) will also be in action. They have been named as the traveling reserves 

Squads 
Balochistan: Imam-ul-Haq (captain), Bismillah Khan (vice-captain and wicketkeeper), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Akif Javed, Amad Butt, Ayaz Tasawar, Gohar Faiz, Haris Sohail, Jalat Khan, Junaid Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Khurram Shahzad, Mohammad Ibrahim Snr, Umaid Asif and Yasir Shah 

Central Punjab: Babar Azam (captain), Hasan Ali (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Ahmed Safi Abdullah, Ahmed Shahzad, Ehsan Adil, Faheem Ashraf, Hussain Talat, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Akhlaq (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Qasim Akram, Saif Badar, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz and Waqas Maqsood 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Mohammad Rizwan (captain and wicketkeeper), Shaheen Shah Afridi (vice-captain), Adil Amin, Arshad Iqbal, Asif Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Khan Snr, Israrullah, Maaz Khan, Mohammad Haris (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Imran Khan, Mohammad Wasim, Mussadiq Ahmed and Sahibzada Farhan 

Northern: Shadab Khan (captain), Mohammad Nawaz (vice-captain), Rohail Nazir (wicketkeeper), Ali Imran, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Musa Khan, Nasir Nawaz, Salman Irshad, Sohail Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umer Amin, Zaman Khan and Zeeshan Malik 

Sindh: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain and wicketkeeper), Anwar Ali (vice-captain), Abrar Ahmed, Ahsan Ali, Danish Aziz, Hassan Mohsin, Khurram Manzoor, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Hasnain, Muhammad Taha, Ruman Raees, Saud Shakeel, Shan Masood, Shahnawaz Dahani, Sharjeel Khan and Zahid Mahmood 

Southern Punjab: Sohaib Maqsood (captain), Zeeshan Ashraf (vice-captain), Amir Yamin, Azam Khan (wicketkeeper), Dilbar Hussain, Faisal Akram, Hassan Khan, Imran Randhawa, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Ilyas, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Tayyab Tahir, Umer Khan, Zain Abbas and Zia-ul-Haq

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September 20, 2021

Pakistan cricket may be further jolted if England don’t tour

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It will be a double jolt for Pakistan cricket if England don't fulfill their commitment of touring for a couple Twenty20 Internationals, following New Zealand’s sudden departure for yet to be undisclosed security threat. 

Along with the millions of lovers in the country, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is also eagerly awaiting the decision of England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in this regard which is expected any moment now. 

England’s brief tour to Pakistan is of vital importance considering next year's visits to be undertaken by Australia and the West Indies. 

This will be a big test of the ECB as Pakistan have given a lot of sacrifices by touring England during Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and staying there for quite few months. 

The PCB and the Pakistani cricketers showed great character by touring England a time when the pandemic was peaking and their families back home had to keep praying for their safety. The players endured tough life inside the bubble, away from family and friends, without complaining. 

Former England cricketers, including captains, have expressed their solidarity with the PCB and cricket-loving public of Pakistan and millions of their supporters across the world. 

Different stories are doing the rounds on social media on Blackcaps abandoning Pakistan’s tour minutes before start of first One-Day International at the Pindi Stadiun Rawalpindi on fateful September 17 afternoon. 

It had shocked the world, PCB, Babar Azam Team Pakistan and in particular general public. 

Pakistan cricket has suffered greatly after the terrorists attack on the Sri Lankan bus in 2009 just outside Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Since then the PCB has had to work really hard to convince foreign teams to play on the Pakistan soil.

Teams from Zimbabwe, West Indies and South Africa have toured Pakistan and praised highest level security arrangements in the recent past. By successfully organizing the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in 2020 and 2021, the security apprehensions about Pakistan were dispelled as the dozens of foreign participants in the PSL highly appreciated the efficiency of Pakistan’s security agencies. 

The iconic West Indies batsman, Chris Gayle, warmed the hearts of Pakistanis with his tweet that he was going to Pakistan. Who was coming with him was to be seen! 

The T20 World Cup West Indies winning captain, Darren Sammy, complimented Pakistan’s security agencies besides praising excellent hospitality of people and franchise owner. Sammy led Peshawar Zalmi to the PSL crown as their head coach.

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September 19, 2021

Bridge fraternity grieved by Azwer-ul-Haq’s demise

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The bridge fraternity mourns the loss one of its longest-serving administrators of the country, Muhammad Azwer-ul-Haq, who succumbed to multiple organ failure on September 16. He was buried the following afternoon in Karachi. He had celebrated his 75th birthday only a few days ago.

Besides being the Chairman Emiretus of the Karachi Bridge Associates (KBA) he also served as Secretary General of the Bridge Federation of Asia & Middle East (BFAME) after having had long stints in different roles at the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) which he also headed briefly. 

Although the soft-spoken Azwer became more famous in the role of an organizer, he was also a fine exponent of the game himself and he participated in innumerable national, regional and international events during a long career. 

The demise of Jan-e-Alam Fazli, Masood Saleem, Ehsan Abbasi, Sultan Siddiqui, Parvez Mirza, Kemal Shoaib and Syed Ameer Hasan with Azwer-ul-Haq becoming the latest casualty, has broken the back of Pakistan bridge during the recent past. 

“The bridge world has lost an irreplaceable asset with the death of Azwer. He and I worked together on the Managing Committee of the PBF for several years establishing a functioning secretariat and an organization that oversaw the creation of an institution to serve the administration and promotion of bridge in the country. He continued his excellent work both domestically and internationally as Secretary of the Asia and Middle East zone,” Khurshid Hadi, Chairman, Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), and two-times President of PBF, observed. 

It may be recalled that Khurshid Hadi and Azwer-ul-Haq were elected unopposed as President and Secretary of the PBF respectively in 1998 and they were credited to have revived the mind sport of bridge in Pakistan by organizing several landmark events.

“All of us are mourning today with the passing of Azwer He was a gentle soul and his small stature didn’t stop him being a giant in the bridge community. He worked tirelessly and selflessly with his passion shared by all of us. Our hearts are with his family. We have all lost a member of our family,” Pakistan’s bridge legend Zia Mahmood narrated. 

"It is indeed a profound loss to intellectual sport of bridge in not only at levels of Bridge administration in Pakistan but also to all National Bridge Organizations (NBOs) in BFAME. I had picked him up and brought him in the international bridge at Asian geographical sphere. He established his worth with hard work and technical knowhow,” Mazhar Jafri, the longest serving member of World Bridge Federation (WBF), having mentored Azwer, stated. 

“It's really shocking news to hear the sad news about our dear friend Azwar. He was a dear brother and a real gentleman who had cordial relations with almost every one he worked with to promote bridge in our zone. He was a great organizer. I am sure he will be missed by all members of the bridge community in our countries,” Bahjat Majali, President BFAME, noted. 

“How do you learn to manage without your go-to man for all seasons and every kind of reason? When in doubt, ask Azwer. And now when he has left us and I don’t doubt that every bridge player in our BFAME community feels that the ground we stood on has been pulled from under our feet. Last night when I learnt of Azwer’s passing my first thought was: who is going to inform everyone that he has left us? He filled so many shoes, wore so many hats, and he was friend, colleague and companion in the struggle to keep the bridge flag flying,” Rehana Saigol, a former President of the PBF, remarked. 

“The sad demise of Azwer my friend who was just like a brother came as a real shock. His loss has deprived of an ardent bridge administrator, organizer and a great human being. The whole bridge fraternity will miss him particularly in Asia and Middle East,” Ihsan Qadir, Chief Tournament Director of the PBF, recognized.

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