January 10, 2020

Five-day Test should continue unabated


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has done a fantastic job by having finally launched the World Test Championship last year. It has already been hailed as a success story as it seems to possess many ingredients to become a permanent feature in the future. 

Instead of waiting to reap harvests from the inaugural edition of the ICC World Test Championship, due to conclude in the summer of 2023, the governing body of the sport has dropped a kind of bombshell by showing inclination towards having four-day Tests. It’s obviously nonsense of the highest order. Such an idea never merits discussion in an ICC meeting. 

The announcement that the ICC cricket committee will consider making four-day Tests mandatory, as part of the World Test Championship from 2023, has come as a shocker to say the least. 

How dare could the ICC even think of committing such a heinous crime? They have been guilty of doing so many odd things disrespectful to the game and its stature in the past, but contemplating four-day Tests is something beyond ethics. 

Well everyone knows about the priorities of the ICC. There is no element of ‘news’ or anything like that in them thinking about commercialization or more commercialization. 

But ‘killing’ Test cricket in order to free up a calendar, thought to be cramped with too many fixtures and T20 leagues, is something which can only be condemned in the harshest possible way. 

How do the movers and shakers of the ICC lose sight of the fact that its Test cricket which sustained the game since it became global in the 19th century? The limited overs versions arrived much later in the second half of the 20th century. 

And now the ICC, having become a commercial powerhouse, is prepared to temper with Test cricket, which is well and truly disgusting. 

Whoever, within the ICC, has masterminded this idea of reducing the duration of Test matches from five days to four days, is certainly not a friend of the game. Neither that person or may be a group of persons, who are pleading this, could be regarded as the well-wishers of cricket. 

Those having turned millionaires, or even billionaires, because of cricket, should not try to stab the game which is a source of recreation to global audience. 

The Test playing nations, who constitute the ICC, have a rich history of the game and, more than any other format, its Test cricket, yes Test cricket, whose glories have mattered the most to them. 

If the ICC has run out of ideas otherwise for the maximization of their profits, they would be advised to refrain from tabling such horrible proposals which will only be opposed bitterly by the cricket-loving fraternity. 

The marketers or even the administrators pursuing the move at the ICC appear oblivious of the charm and beauty of the fifth day of Test matches. The cricket followers should not be deprived of the rare pleasures of witnessing action-packed fifth day thrillers for financial or commercial reasons. 

Hopefully better sense will prevail at the ICC cricket committee and they will shoot down the proposal even without deliberating on it.

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January 1, 2020

Jubilee General’s new boss pledges to carry on legacy of predecessor’s sporting legacy


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The newly installed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Jubilee General Insurance, Hassan Khan, has pledged to carry out the sporting legacy left by his predecessor, Tahir Ahmed, whose illustrious career at the company came to an end on December 31, 2019. 

On the very first day of taking over the leadership of the company on January 1, 2020, Hassan Khan was needed to deliberate on his sports policies during the media launch of the new snooker season, with as many as five national snooker events, being sponsored by Jubilee Insurance, taking place during the next one and a half months. 

“Jubilee has been the major sponsors of Pakistan snooker for the past 13 years. We are proud to have played our due role in uplift of cue sports, resulting in glories for the country at the international level. We look forward to continue extending the support to snooker in future too,” he declared while speaking at the luncheon media briefing at the Karachi Gymkhana Banquet Hall on the New Year Day. 

When specifically questioned whether he would continue the policies of his immediate predecessor, Tahir Ahmed, who was proactive in the promotion of sports over the years, Hassan Khan replied in the affirmative and announced his desire to perpetuate the legacy. 

He acknowledged that the modest prize money, being offered to the outstanding performers of the various tournaments at the moment, merited enhancement in the future. 

Replying to another question, he, however, ruled out the possibilities of offering employment to the cueists at his company, explaining that no such policy had ever been under consideration in board meetings. 

Jubilee Insurance, it may be recalled, had joined hands with the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) in a big way, by having sponsored the 24th ACBS Asian Snooker Championship at Karachi in 2007 when the national snooker body was being led by Ali Asghar Valika. 

From the following year onwards they took up the sponsorship of the national ranking tournaments as well and the relationship became stronger and wider with the passage of time. 

They have been the major sponsors of snooker in Pakistan for the past one decade and during this period they have been motivating force in launching the tournaments for the teenagers and schoolboys in particular in the recent past. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA, recognized the overwhelming support of Jubilee Insurance, whose continued patronage, he added, helped enormously in raising the standard of snooker. 

"Both the twin companies, Jubilee General Insurance and Jubilee Life Insurance, have been extremely supportive to the cause of snooker for the past 13 years and they deserve to be credited for the glories our cueists have earned for the country over the past decade and a half,” he added. 

"The new helmsman of Jubilee General Insurance, Hassan Khan, is also very eager to support the cause of snooker and the sponsorship budget for the current year (2020) has been approved by him," Alamgir Shaikh disclosed.

Meanwhile the new snooker season will dawn with the Jubilee Insurance 2nd Under-16 National Snooker Championship 2020 on January 4 and it will be followed by the Jubilee Insurance 5th Under-18 National Snooker Championship 2020, the Jubilee Insurance 12th Under-21 National Snooker Championship 2020 and the Jubilee Insurance 4th Over-40 National Masters Snooker Championship 2020. 

All these events will be staged at the PSB Sports Complex in Islamabad while the Jubilee Insurance 45th National Snooker Championship 2020 will be taking place at the Karachi Gymkhana from January 31 to February 12.

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December 24, 2019

Prof Siraj Bukhari welcomes return of Test cricket in Karachi


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Prof Syed Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari, hailed as the father figure of Karachi cricket for a long time, has expressed his joy at the return of Test cricket in Pakistan after the gap of whole decade.

“I would like to congratulate the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ehsan Mani, for bringing international cricket back to Pakistan with a bang. The entire cricket fraternity of the country is thrilled by watching the cricketers perform in our own backyard,” Prof Bukhari, who has been the President as well as the Secretary of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) for a number of years, remarked in a statement soon after Pakistan had completed a resounding victory over Sri Lanka in the second and final Test, to clinch the series 1-0, at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 23.

“The icing on the cake is the impressive performance of Pakistan’s team in the field which enabled them to win the Karachi Test against Sri Lanka at the National Stadium so handsomely. The victory in home Test series really tastes sweeter,” he added. 

“In fact I am running short of words in praising the PCB and the Pakistan cricket team for coming up with such sterling performance. They deserve the credit for doing it against the heaviest of odds,” the former KCCA chief reckoned. 

“The accomplishments of opener Abid Ali, who scored a century in each of his first two Tests, will be remembered for a long time. Similarly the firepower of the young fast bowlers, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Naseem Shah, augurs well for the future of the Pakistan cricket,” he complimented. 

“It’s such a pleasing sight to watch Test cricket being played again at the National Stadium, Karachi, after 10 years. This has been the happy hunting ground for Pakistan ever since the first Test was played here in 1955. Hopefully we will continue having international matches on a regular basis and every foreign team will be willing to come and play in future,” Prof Bukhari observed. 

It may be recalled that Prof Syed Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari had remained the face of Karachi cricket for decades. He used to be in the forefront in organizing international matches in Karachi year after year. He has also held important positions in the PCB with domestic cricket organization being his forte.

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December 10, 2019

Omar Associates clinch PVCA National Seniors Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Omar Associates from Karachi added another feather in its cap by winning the 20th National Seniors Cup Cricket Tournament 2018-19 as they outwitted Amar Cables of Lahore four wickets in the national final, held at Shah Faisal Cricket Ground, Lahore, on December 8.

A total of 107 teams from all over the country participated in the event, organized by the Pakistan Veterans Cricket Association (PVCA) every season since its inception in 1998-99. 

It was for the 10th time in the 20-year old history of the competition, being when a team from the southern region ran away with the trophy. 

On nine occasions a team from northern region has annexed the title while it was shared between Karachi and Lahore one time. Rashid Latif Cricket Academy (RLCA) had clinched the crown last season by outsmarting Okara, the northern region champions, in the national final at Karachi. 

Khalid Mahmood, a former Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony where he presented a cash prize of Rs 150,000 alongwith winners’ trophy to Jaffer Qureshi, skipper of Omar Associates. The Amar Cables captain, Waqas Ahmed, collected the runners-up trophy with a purse of Rs 75,000. 

Fawad Ijaz Khan, Chairman, PVCA, and Intikhab Alam, a former Pakistan captain, manager and coach, were also present on the occasion. 

As anticipated, the national final turned out to be a closely contested affair between the two regional champions. Put into bat, Amar Cables, the northern region champions, scored 203 for the loss of eight wickets in the allotted 25 overs. Omar Associates, the southern region champions, overcame an uncertain start to chase down the target successfully with just two deliveries remaining. Nadeem Shaikh’s decisive unbeaten 38 off 21 balls earned him Man of the Match award. 

The decision of Omar Associates to insert the opponents, after calling correctly, paid dividends as the home side lost three wickets before raising 50 of their innings. 

It was Farhan Asghar’s brilliant unbeaten 81 off 60 balls which lifted Amar Cables as he clobbered one six and nine fours. Shahzad Butt’s cameo in the death overs took the total past 200. He hammered a six and four fours in his 30 off 18 balls as Amar Cables reached a respectable score of 203. Left-arm medium-pacer Kashif Pervez (3-30) was the pick of the Omar Associates bowlers. 

Amar Cables got into the driving seat by dismissing both the openers, Jaffer Qureshi and Sajid Ali, early and they still had the game in control when Omar Associates lost fourth wicket at 70 while chasing a target of 204. 

Azhar Khan’s counter-attacking 61 off 37 balls containing three sixes and six fours brought Omar Associates back in the game and then Nadeem Shaikh finished it off with a breezy 38. Afsar Nawaz also contributed an invaluable 32 off 22 balls to help the Karachi outfit overhaul the stiff target.

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December 5, 2019

Sindh Archery Championship creates buzz, excitement


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Hosts Karachi dominated the Sindh Archery Championship 2019 by winning the Inter-Division contests for both men as well as the women competitions which concluded at the Soccer Ground of the University of Karachi over the weekend. 

The two-day Sindh Archery Championship was declared open by Prof Dr Khalid Mahmood Iraqi, Vice Chancellor, University of Karachi, in a colourful ceremony.

Zain-ul-Abideen Valika, President, SAA, was the chief guest in an equally enchanting prize distribution ceremony which was also attended by Wisal Khan, Secretary, Archery Federation of Pakistan (AFP), who had specially flown in from Peshawar to witness the event. 

The atmosphere at the event remained electric on both the days with participants showing great intensity. Various stalls were also set up to facilitate the players, officials and visitors.
Speaking briefly on the occasion the SAA President revealed that quite a few archery events have been planned to be held in the city during the next few months, which includes the National Archery Championship 2020. 

Zainuddin Valika, appearing enthusiastic and animated, also hinted at hosting an international archery event in Karachi sometime in the second half of next year.

A proud Grammarian, being an alumni of the famous Karachi Grammar School, the SAA President promised to take archery to another level with the support of all stakeholders.

According to the results made available by Mansoor Shahzad, Secretary, Sindh Archery Association (SAA), Karachi Division clinched the men’s contest in which Hyderabad and Sukkur finished second and third respectively while in the women’s category Karachi was followed by Benazirabad and Sukkur. 

Huzaifa of Al Nadi Ali Burhani Academy emerged triumphant in the Sindh Open men competition and he was followed by Ibrahim Pattiwala. The third spot was claimed by Abdul Nur Khan of Bulls Eye Club. 

Qurrat-ul-Ain and Kanwal Hasan, both of them belonging to Customs Archery Club, shared the top two positions in the Sindh Open women tourney with Sumaira of Karachi University finishing third.

There was plenty of buzz and excitement at the campus of the University of Karachi on both days and the participation and involvement of a large number of players augured well for the future of archery in the province of Sindh.

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November 29, 2019

Kohli capitalizing on good work of predecessors


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Captaining the Indian cricket has never been easy. The task has continued to become increasingly tough and challenging because of the monumental significance of the sport which is followed the most passionately and so closely in a country whose population is reported to be more than 1.3 billion. 

The legendary Sunil Gavaskar has indeed correctly reminded the modern great Virat Kohli that the Indians were winning in the 1970s as well as in the 1980s but it should also not be forgotten that the frequency of Indian victories was on lower side compared to the one attained by the present side. 

The cricket historians and the statisticians from all over the world will testify that the current team, captained by Kohli, has displayed far more consistency and intensity to overcome most of the obstacles than any of the outfits fielded by the country since its Test debut in 1932. 

Kohli’s may not be the most resourceful Indian side of all time which makes its conquests even more praiseworthy. The marshalling of resources and the mindset to dominate, among other factors, has enabled them to register Test victories more regularly than before. 

Mind you Kohli is also confronted, time and again, by the factors that used to derail and sometimes even dishearten the Indian teams of the past. More than half of the 10 Test matches which the Indians have lost under him so far could also have been won. At least three Tests in his tenure were hit by rain just when victory seemed round the corner. 

‘Tiger’ Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, with his dashing personality, is thought to be the first-ever Indian captain who taught self-belief to his teammates. Ajit Wadekar, credited to have fast-tracked Gavaskar into international arena, continued the Pataudi legacy to reap instant rewards. 

Bishan Singh Bedi, a great left-arm spinner, achieved limited success as captain before giving way to Gavaskar, following defeats in a couple of Test matches in Pakistan that could have been saved. 

Gavaskar, arguably the greatest-ever opening batsman in cricket history, got off to a sensational start as a captain too. He remained unbeaten in 18 Tests, winning six of them, before tasting first defeat at Sydney. He also lost the captaincy following a dismal tour of Pakistan in 1982-83. 

Kapil Dev, the mercurial all-rounder, took over and stunned the world by taming the high-flying West Indies in a high-scoring one-dayer in their own den. A few months later the Indians dethroned the mighty islanders of the Caribbean in the 1983 World Cup. 

He continued to lead by example as India defeated England in the Test series in the summer of 1986 but on innumerable occasions India failed to finish off the rivals despite being in the driving seat. 

The era of Muhammad Azharddin as captain saw India winning more regularly on home turf in the 1990s but Sachin Tendulkar, the most gifted of all batsmen, couldn’t do justice with high expectations when handed over the responsibility of leading the side. 

Enter Ganguly and the Indians become a formidable force abroad too. Remember he had taken over the command in 2000 following an unheard of whitewash at home. How he restored the confidence in his boys, or men, to become world beaters deserves special mention. And that’s what Kohli must have been at the back of his mind while praising Ganguly after decimating Bangladesh recently. 

Obviously it’s not any disrespect meant for Gavaskar or any other former Indian skipper but Kohli seemed justified in recalling that Ganguly, as captain, was responsible for putting India on path of winning Tests overseas. 

The versatile Mahendra Singh Dhoni, whom Kohli had succeeded, also played a major part in leading India to conquests in big events but he had to endure a nightmarish streak in Tests outside Asia. Kohli has been leading more or less the same bunch of players who were around in the days of Dhoni. 

These speedsters, Ishant Sharma, Muhammad Shami and Umesh Yadav, who are dismantling the opponents at will of late, were there at the disposal of Dhoni too. The spin duo of Ravichandaran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja was also there but look at their changed roles and the subsequent results.

It’s not meant to discredit Dhoni, who remained as cool as a cucumber in the toughest of scenarios and brought about many famous victories, but the fact remains that Kohli has used the same set of bowlers with a different mindset and the rest is history.

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November 25, 2019

Ali Abbas Hasanie honoured in Karachi


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The veteran cricket administrator, Ali Abbas Hasanie, was showered with praise by comrades and contemporaries in a reception hosted in his honour by the former top functionaries of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) on November 23. 

Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bokhari, a former President and Secretary of the KCCA, and Akram Khan, ex-Joint Secretary, KCCA, arranged the ceremony to recognize the visiting official, having moved to Canada almost five decades ago. It was attended by a large number of Test and first-class cricketers, umpires and organizers. 

It was recalled that Hasanie, one of the founding members of the National Sports Club, established in 1960, had quickly made his mark in the city cricket circles as he worked closely and enthusiastically with Haji Iftikhar, who was one of the zonal chairmen of the KCCA. 

It was disclosed that, upon relocating in Canada way back in 1970, he has remained actively involved in cricket’s organizational matters besides pursuing his career as a management consultant. 

In 2011, he was elected President of the Board of Control for Cricket in Canada (BCCC) which was earlier known as the Canadian Cricket Federation (CCF). 

“My most significant contribution has been reviving international cricket in Canada against the heaviest of odds as I was instrumental in laying the turf pitch at the stadium in Toronto which paved the way for the Indo-Pak ODI series by the name of Sahara Cup to take place there in the 1990s,” Hasanie revealed in his speech on the occasion. 

In his welcome address, Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bokhari, whose name remained synonymous with Karachi cricket for decades, became little emotional as he expressed his delight at finding a lot of retired and forgotten personalities who had served the cause of the sport diligently in the past. 

The widely respected umpire, Mahboob Shah, who earned the honour of becoming the first Pakistani to stand in a World Cup final, in his address, regretted that the cricket authorities in the country were unwilling to arrange for the training of the umpires which didn’t allow them to break into the elite ICC panel. 

Brig (Retd) Salahuddin, who is still remembered for having uprooted the stumps of the legendary opener Hanif Muhammad in a first-class match, in his speech, expressed the hope that the cricket organizers of today will learn and derive inspiration from their illustrious predecessors in order to carry forward their mission. 

The vote of thanks was presented by Jamil Ahmed while Ghulam Muhammad conducted the ceremony. Prominent among those present on the occasion were former Test cricketers Aftab Baloch, Jalaluddin and Danish Kaneria besides international umpires Saleem Badr and Masroor Ali.

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Dreamworld Resort to host World Wrestling Champions on Dec 21


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The buzz and excitement in the rings will return to Karachi with a bang with more than 15 foreign participants expected to set alight the one-day event titled as the World Wrestling Champions at the picturesque Dreamworld Resort on December 21. 

“We had witnessed the participation of four foreign international wrestlers at the first-ever competition of its kind to be held in Pakistan earlier this year but now we have received confirmation from as many as 17 combatants from abroad for the upcoming event which will be much bigger than the previous one,” Nouman Suleman, President, Pro Wrestling Federation of Pakistan (PWFP), announced in the media launch organized at the Dreamworld Resort on November 24. 

“We are excited to be bringing such a historic wrestling event to Pakistan. It is important for us to organize something new and exciting for the fans of this sport. We hope that through organizing such events, Pakistan gains recognition as an important destination for world wrestling and other mega sporting events,” he remarked. 

Hailed as the biggest event in Pakistan’s Pro Wrestling history yet, it will witness the participation of eminent wrestlers from USA, UK, UAE, Mexico, Greece and Singapore who will be coming over to Karachi to lock horns with the top challengers of the country. 

The international wrestlers, which include former and current champions from WWE, TNA, AEW, Lucha Underground and Indie circuits, are expected to be engaged in tough and exciting contests with the local talent. 

“We are more than glad to be playing our role in the promotion of soft image of our country as we reckon that the success of the our international wrestling events will be particularly helpful in sending positive vibes from Pakistan which will encourage the top athletes of the world to continue visiting our country without any apprehensions or reservations,” Faraz-ul-Huda, Head of Marketing, Dreamworld Resort, observed. 

“As part of our policy of promoting the neglected sports, we had joined hands with the PWFP to hold Rumble in Pakistan earlier this year which was hailed as a landmark event. In order to promote wrestling further, we are now helping them organize another event next month which is expected to be even more thrilling spectacle than the previous one,” he hoped. 

Abdul Jabbar Rathod, Executive Director, Dreamworld Resort, in his brief remarks, reckoned that the upcoming World Wrestling Champions will not only turn out to be an exciting day for wrestling fans but it will also help further establish Pakistan’s position in the world of wrestling. 

“We are happy to be partnering with Dreamworld Resort for this historic event. It is important to introduce new sporting avenues to the youth of our country, especially a sport such as wrestling, which, until recent years, has only ever been seen on television or online.” Zofeen Ihsan, Chief Operating Officer, Xenith Public Relations, noted. 

The media launch was also attended by some of the leading wrestlers, having performed impressively in the Rumble in Pakistan on April 28, who vowed to upstage the foreign participants in the World Wrestling Champions.

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