April 17, 2024

Hub Rally Cross explodes into action on April 28

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 11th edition of the Hub Rally will get underway at Gadani on April 28 with the top racers of the country to be in action, the organizers announced on April 16. 

The annual event was originally scheduled to be held on April 21 but it was put forward for a week due to the inclement weather forecast in the province of Balochistan where the action will be taking place. It is all set for the racers to showcase their skills once more with larger incentives awaiting the outstanding performers.
 
Addressing a joint news conference, Chief Organizer, Shujaat Sherwani, along with officials of Pakistan Motorsports and Sindh Motor Sports, informed that the country's leading race drivers will be seen in action in thrilling and entertaining racing contest in eight different categories. 

He revealed that women category has been added to the event, which offers an enhanced purse of Rs five million whose breakup would be notified later. 

The major attraction in race will be country's premier and iconic drivers Nadir Magsi, Sahibzada Sultan Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Patel, Mir Jafar Magsi, Holliston Rally winner Zain Chaudhry with host of aspirant rising young guns from across the country. 

Rehan Qureshi, Technical Director of Hub Rally, Nadeem Khan, Vice President Sindh Motor Sport, former Hub Rally champion, Ronnie Patel, while unveiling the details of Hub Rally paid rich tributes to Shujaat Sherwani and Toyota Highway Motors for their immense contribution in staging, promoting and developing the sport of racing in Pakistan. 

Ronnie Patel, the senior most driver of Pakistan racing circuit, recalled that Hub Rally was just a family event at the outset. But, thanks mainly to the gigantic efforts of Shujaat Sherwani, it has now grown into a popular national event. 

He recalled that in the earlier years it was held at a 19-km track in Nooriabad with 15 participants. But it is now being staged in Gadani on 51-km track which is expected to attract 50-60 participants in eight prepared and other categories. 

Shujaat Sherwani complimented Indus Motor Company, the manufacturers of the famed Toyota cars, for their continuous support in staging the event and praised other sponsors and supporters of Hub Rally.

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March 28, 2024

USA hosts ICC Cricket World Cup: A historic milestone

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By Affan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The ICC T20 Cricket World Cup 2024, being hosted by the United States of America (USA) marks a significant moment in the sport's global expansion. As the cricket enthusiasts around the world eagerly anticipate this historic event, USA stands poised to showcase its capabilities as a burgeoning cricketing nation. With state-of-the-art facilities and a diverse fan base, the upcoming World Cup promises to deliver a unique and unforgettable experience for players and spectators alike. 

The highly anticipated clash between traditional rivals, India and Pakistan in the ICC T20 World Cup 2024, is scheduled to be held in New York. It will mark a significant milestone in the history of the sport. This showdown, occurring amidst the backdrop of the popular 9th edition of the tournament spanning from June 2 to 29 across USA and West Indies, has captured the attention of cricket fans worldwide. 

The rivalry between India and Pakistan in the T20 World Cup has always been one of the most sought-after episodes, with India clinching the inaugural title in South Africa in 2007 under the leadership of MS Dhoni, while Pakistan, led by Younis Khan, secured their maiden crown at Lord's, London, in 2009 by defeating Sri Lanka. 

Against the backdrop of iconic American cities, teams from cricketing powerhouses and emerging nations will compete for cricket's ultimate prize. USA's debut as a host nation not only signifies the sport's growing popularity beyond traditional strongholds but also represents a pivotal step in the ICC's mission to promote cricket's reach worldwide. As the cricketing community converges in USA for this momentous occasion, the ICC Cricket World Cup 2024 is poised to leave an indelible mark on the global sporting landscape.

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January 20, 2024

Aqeel Memon lived and died peacefully

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Aqeel Memon, the energetic wicketkeeper-batsman of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), may have played just a handful of first-class matches in a long career but he remained extremely popular in the cricket circles due to his gentle mannerism and apolitical nature. Sadly, the gentleman-cricketer is no more. 

He had gone to sleep at his usual hours, even though it was a weekend, but couldn’t wake up the following morning on January 15. A cardiac patient, having suffered a couple of massive heart-attacks earlier, there were hardly any symptoms lately but, as a few of his close friends had realized, he was living on borrowed time. He was 63. 

My last meeting with him had taken place barely a few weeks ago. In fact, he had reconfirmed my cell number as he planned to organize a meetup of cricket friends in the presence of one of his former colleagues at PIA Sports department, Faiz-ul-Hasan, who was coming from USA. 

Aqeel stayed very close to Aziz Memon, the famed entrepreneur and social figure, who’s his cousin. He used to visit the Kings Group head office in Clifton, Karachi, regularly and it was always pleasure to talk to him on matters relating to cricket, which was very dear to his heart. 

Talking about heart, this particular organ of the body was his nemesis as well as of his entire family. His father had perished at the age of 48 due to heart failure while his elder brother breathed his last at the age of 52, also because of cardiac arrest. Despite this family history, Aqeel survived little longer probably due to his athleticism. 

Aziz Memon recalled the moments in the late 1970s when he had introduced Aqeel to the PIA officials who were conducting trials for selecting their Colts outfit, a brainchild of the legendary commentator and writer, Omer Kureishi, who worked there as Director. The PIA selectors were impressed with Aqeel’s skillset behind the stumps and he was chosen in the squad, alongwith Anil Dalpat.

“Aqeel had passion for cricket since childhood and after coming to know about the trials for PIA Colts team he sought my assistance and guidance. The great Omer Kureishi had confided to me that this lad indeed had the talent which itself was quite a compliment in my estimation,” Aziz Memon shared in a brief chat with PNFS.

Another labour of love of Aqeel was the formation of Tapal Cricket Club, which he founded in collaboration with a few like-minded of his like Amin Merchrant, who was later elected at Secretary of the Karachi Club more than one time. Tapal CC, whose primary focus was grooming talented youngsters, has remained one of the leading cricket clubs of Karachi for quite a few decades. 

A large number of Aqeel’s colleagues and contemporaries, including Shoaib Mohammad, Faisal Iqbal and Sajid Khan, have condoled his death on various social media platforms. He has been hailed as a gem of a person who was helpful and trustworthy all along. 

The compliments are so richly deserved because he lived a simple life and was never found engaged in any kind of politicking on or off the field, a rare attribute when confronted by challenges of all kinds. He didn’t believe in harming anyone and neither did he like to become a party to intrigues.

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December 5, 2023

Shan Masood deserves a minimum of two-year stint as captain

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By Ahad Masood ‘Bobby’ in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The newly appointed captain of the national Test team, Shan Masood, should not be dumped even if Pakistan gets whitewashed in the upcoming three-match series in Australia. The world champions are overwhelming favourites to make a clean sweep in view of their own strength as well as the dismal Test record which Pakistan has had in Australia. 

Blooding Shan directly as a captain for such a demanding tour seems to be a hasty decision. Hopefully he would not be assessed on the basis of just one series and the decision-makers will be acting in national interest if let him lead the team until the end of the current cycle of World Test Championship which will continue for another two years. He could be given a longer stint, depending on performance.

Despite the criticism over Babar Azam’s captaincy, following the debacle in the Asia Cup followed by the World Cup, he could have been asked to skipper the team for Test series in Australia and also the T20I series in New Zealand. 

Alternatively, when they have brought Sarfaraz Ahmed back in their frame, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) should have reappointed him as the captain in all three formats for at least next one year. Ideally, Shan should have been posted as vice-captain to either Babar or Sarfaraz before taking up the national captaincy. 

But, as we have often witnessed in the past, authorities pressed the panic button after the recently concluded World Cup just as they have done four years ago when Sarfaraz was removed unceremoniously. 

It’s a pity that captains are deposed in such haste. Pakistan, in the recent past in particular, has lacked in initiating the process of grooming captains by picking up the potential candidates as captains. 

Misbah-ul-Haq, the most successful Test captain, had innumerable vice-captains during his tenure while there was none when Sarfaraz was leading the side. There was no clarity of thought even in the era of Babar when sometimes Mohammad Rizwan was given the job before passing on the baton to Shadab Khan. 

Shan also had a brief stint as vice-captain during the home series against New Zealand but Babar, for reasons best known to himself, was not prepared to pick his deputy in the playing eleven which was indeed well and truly disrespectful. 

Shan is an educated youngster who has the experience of leading Multan Sultan in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) besides captaining the county of Yorkshire in England. A prolific left-handed opening batsman, who can shift gears whenever needed. He seems to be having the capacity to lead by example. 

The PCB would have been better off handing over captaincy across formats to him instead of just Test matches. He may still be asked to lead the ODI side as they haven’t made the announcement in this regard yet. 

The enigmatic Pakistan squad, short of confidence, will be tested on both the tours of Australia as well as New Zealand where the conditions would be entirely different to what these guys encountered at home. They didn’t perform consistently against these two sides even in own backyard last season. Hopefully they would do better this time to pose serious challenge to the hosts Down Under.

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Marathon runner Yousuf on course of breaking Guiness record

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Marathon runner, Muhammad Yousuf Malik, is on course of breaking a record to enter the famed Guiness Book of World Records. He informed PNFS in Karachi on December 5 that he has been running 21.1 kilometres daily for the last five days. He is set to become the highest-ever half marathon distance runner (male). 

“I have a plan to continue running 21.1 kilometres daily until December 31 to create a new world record for the most consecutive day run for Pakistan. Presently the record is for 22 days but I have set my goal of raising the bar substantially by running for 31 days so that it could not be easily broken in near future,” Yousuf Malik revealed. 

A resident of Karachi, he has chosen the route between Zamzama Park and Sea View in Defence Housing Authority (DHA), which is relatively peaceful and free from pollution, which otherwise is a big factor elsewhere in the metropolis. The finishing venue is McDonalds in Clifton. Yousuf Malik is an enthusiastic marathon runner and he has got himself registered with Guiness already whose officials are monitoring his progress digitally.

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November 27, 2023

Controversies galore in Cricket World Cup 2023

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Having followed closely each and every single edition of the Cricket World Cup (CWC) since its inception in 1975, I have very little doubt in mind that the recently concluded 13th edition in India was the most controversial of them all, on and off the field. The hosts could not win the trophy despite all odds being stacked in their favour. 

It was a marquee event of the International Cricket Council (ICC) but the governing body of the game came under heavy criticism as did the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the hosts. They were accused of actions and inactions which didn’t go well with the cricket followers across countries.

The insistence of the hosts to play the final on a wearing track instead of the originally chosen fresh strip backfired and loss of toss proved to be the last nail in their coffin. Despite being on top of the game for 10 matches on a trot, the Indians fumbled in the final at Ahmedabad and the robotic Australians capitalized with hints of conviction to capture the crown for a record sixth time. 

India, whose all three fast bowlers, Mohammad Shami, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammad Siraj, were firing on all cylinders as they also extracted extra yard of swing than their competitors, would have been much better off taking on the Aussies on a newly laid surface instead of battling it on a slower pitch which didn’t aid the spinners either. 

While the majority of close umpiring decisions seemed to have favoured the home team, it proved to be a different ball game in the final where rub of the green titled Australia’s way. The umpires call saved the visitors much to the disapproval and annoyance of the huge crowd which became silent as the match slipped out of India’s hands. 

It was really chocking not to have found the World Cup winning Indian captains of the past, Kapil Dev and Mahendra Singh Dhoni, in the prize distribution ceremony from which Sourav Ganguly, who led India to the final in 2003, was also absent. Reportedly the trio seemed to have some ‘political’ difference with the hosts who probably didn’t invite them. 

The Indian authorities didn’t appear to have allowed visas to the media corps or even supporters of other participating countries, a move which was also widely criticized. The wisdom behind preventing foreign fans from attending World Cup matches could not be understood. 

Another mind-boggling move was the skipping of an inauguration ceremony before the start of the championship. The Indians have had the reputation of organizing the most colorful of ceremonies but they chose to remain silent this time and the World Cup got off to a muted start directly with the opening match between England and New Zealand. 

It’s a common knowledge that the Indians are well versed in arranging mega events and high-profile ceremonies but they didn’t deem it proper to let the CWC 2023 gain the hype it deserved. The dates of the event were altered and it were finalized at the eleventh hour. There were numerous factors which made it a forgettable outing. 

Toss was another cause of controversy as Rohit Sharma came under fire for throwing the coin upward far too wide. The ICC will now be advised to exercise control in this matter too in order to make it transparent and fair to all contestants. Technology should come in and it could be monitored with the help of a camera.

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November 16, 2023

Biased selection, mismanagement, player power, inept captaincy cost Pakistan Cricket World Cup 2023

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Biased selection, mismanagement, player power and inept captaincy were the major causes of Pakistan’s flop show in the Cricket World Cup 2023 as the returning national team faces a barrage of criticism. Dishonesty was also an obvious factor which created rifts and tension among the cricketers leading to chaos and dismal performance.

The quartet Babar Azam, Shaheen Khan Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan and Shadab Khan had been running the show for the past three years. These four guys were observed working in unison as they pursued identical goals of controlling the affairs of the game. 

There was a change of guard at the headquarters of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) more than one time during this period but the unity between these four didn’t let any helmsman to implement his own vision. Different chief selectors also came and went without having the guts to contain players’ power. 

The Babar-led Pakistan outfit managed to accumulate ranking points by whipping soft opponents. The skipper himself and Rizwan scored heavily in these matches while Shaheen also performed exceptionally well with the ball. Shadab, however, was unable to deliver the goods even against these sides and fingers were being pointed at him all along. 

Yet neither the PCB Chairman nor the chief selector could do anything to displace Shadab, who form as a bowler had dipped considerably as he failed to come to terms with the demands of one-day cricket. 

Everybody knew that he didn’t deserve a place in the World Cup squad as a bowling all-rounder but nobody could throw him out because of his bonding with Babar, Rizwan and Shaheen. 

Imad Wasim was much better choice as a spinning all-rounder but it’s a common knowledge that Babar didn’t like him. Muhammad Nawaz, despite his inconsistency with bat and ball, was the preferred option and the whole world saw the humiliation caused by him at crunch moments. The decision of ignoring mystery spinner Abrar Ahmad and choosing Usama Mir was mind-boggling as well. 

What was the logic of having a reserve wicketkeeper-batter in the shape of Muhammad Haris whereas the presence of Sarfaraz Ahmed would have proved much more beneficial for the squad? But the interests of the team were compromised and the former Pakistan captain was purposely dropped as the ruling elite of four men possibly felt uncomfortable. 

Saud Shakeel and Salman Ali Agha were drafted in the contingent at the eleventh hour. While Saud justified his selection by chipping in with little contributions there was not much opportunity for Salman to showcase his skills. Even Saud needs to learn about converting those starts into something substantial if he is to become a regular member of Pakistan’s ODI playing eleven. 

With the Pakistani batsmen, barring a couple of occasions, failing to get big scores the pressure mounted on their own bowlers who were then taken to the cleaners by the opposing power-hitters. The policy of not allowing Haris Rauf to operate with new ball didn’t make sense and heavy price was paid for it. 

The captaincy of Babar was far from impressive during the course of the tournament. He was supposed to be the pivot of the team but he disappointed all his fans as runs didn’t flow from his bat and there was hardly any element of surprise at his resignation following the debacle in India.

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November 3, 2023

Yousuf Malik, Mona Khan to represent Pakistan in Athens Marathon 2023

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Long distance runners Mohammad Yousuf Malik and Mona Khan will represent Pakistan in the upcoming 50th edition of the famous Athens Marathon 2023 due to be organized in the capital of Greece on November 11 and 12. The event is being organized by Hellenic Athletics Association (SEGAS) with Hellenic Republic Region of Attica being the co-organizers. 

The marathon races, held in the cities of New York, Boston, Berlin, Chicago and Tokyo are among the most sought-after ones but the Athens Marathon is acclaimed as the most prestigious annual event of its kind which was launched in 1972. It could not be organized in 2020 due to the pandemic of Covid-19 and now its Golden Jubilee edition is being staged this year with great fanfare. 

A record number of more than 70,000 runners from 140 countries are expected to take part in the Athens Marathon, which is traditionally held on second Sunday of every November. The participation of Pakistani marathon runners in the event augurs well for future of athletics in the country.

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