December 22, 2021

PCB Chairman praises Babar Azam’s proactive captaincy


By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Rameez Raja, has credited skipper Babar Azam for the recent resurgence of the national team, describing him a much improved leader. 

“We are here to facilitate him in leading from the front, instead of hiding behind the coaches. He has developed of late as an outstanding captain who has been able to lead by example and motivate his teammates to express themselves fearlessly. He has been instrumental in bringing about positive changes on the field resulting in a well-knit combination which is good enough to challenge anyone. We will continue to back him for achieving the desired results,” the former Pakistan captain declared while talking to the media corps in Karachi on December 22. 

“We have obviously been disappointed by the lack of crowd interest in the recently concluded T20 home series against the West Indies. In future we would persuade the cricket boards the world to send their best available outfits to Pakistan as the depleted teams don’t generate the kind of interest which is generally expected in international matches. We will request the authorities in Australia, England and New Zealand to ensure their full strength squads for touring Pakistan later this year ,” he added. 

“In order to create a long-term sustainable process, it is essential that we continue to tap into, stimulate and motivate the youth’s passion and talent for cricket, whilst focusing on a bottom-up approach towards participation and making attempts to bridge the wide divide between pathways and Pakistan cricket journey,” the PCB Chairman observed. 

“We feel that our Junior Contracts and Cricket Foundation initiatives will now play a decisive role in ensuring that raw talent from even the remotest and less privileged of areas in Pakistan reaches its full potential. Through these and various other initiatives, including an all-Pakistan Talent Hunt Programme, we aim to unearth the hidden talent and provide them absolute clarity at a very young age that the PCB will back, support and provide a clear pathway through which they can embark on their journey of representing Pakistan at an international stage,” he continued. 

Meanwhile the West Indies will play three Twenty20 Internationals in the build up to the HBL Pakistan Super League 2023. The West Indian team has already confirmed to play ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup Super League ODIs in June 2022 to make up for the postponed December 2021 matches due to an increased number of Covid-19 cases in their side.

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Rameez commends Saqlain’s role in T20 World Cup


By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Rameez Raja, Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), has commended the role of interim coach Saqlain Mushtaq in the ICC T20 World Cup as well as during the Bangladesh tour. 

The PCB helmsman reckoned that Saqlain, a former Pakistan off-spinner, filled the vacant role from behind the scene quite admirably and he merited accolades for having created a sense nationalism. 

He also applauded the batting and bowling consultants, Matthew Hayden of Australia and Vernon Philander of South Africa respectively, who also rose to the occasion. 

"I don’t have fixed mindset and approach on this issue like short or long contracts,” he observed while commenting on appointment of foreign or local coaches for Team Pakistan. Rameez stressed that they were looking to improve Pakistan batters’ power hitting, adding that he was looking to see Pakistan getting better in Tests and ODIs. 

He would like specialists for different tours and conditions while indicating that Hayden may be retained with the team until the 2022 T20 World Cup to be held in Australia. 

The PCB Chairman pointed out that the team came up with improved performances in the T20 World Cup after the pressure they came under following the sudden and mysterious move of New Zealand to run away during the tour of Pakistan and then England cancelling their visit at the eleventh hour. 

“The boys fought hard in the T20 World Cup to come up with incredible performances which paid dividends and we were also awarded the Champions Trophy 2025 besides the Asia Cup,” the PCB Chairman concluded.

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December 21, 2021

Nasir Shah becomes first recipient of Global Sports CBF award


Pakistan News & Features Services

Nasir Ali Shah, a former first-class cricketer from Karachi, became the first recipient of the Cricketer Benefit Fund (CBF) award, instituted by the US-based Global Sports Inc. 

He was an opening batsman who played for Karachi, United Bank Limited and Pak PWD. He also captained his teams on many occasions. 

The presentation ceremony was held recently at the Karachi Gymkhana in which Younis Khan, a former Pakistan captain and holder of many Test records, handed over the cheque of PKR five lacs to Nasir Shah on behalf of Global Sports. 

The presence of Younis, a legendary top-order batsman with a number of records under his belt, was a massive source of encouragement to the organizers and promoters of the noble cause, jointly undertaken by a few of former Pakistani cricketers and philanthropists having relocated in USA.

The ceremony was organized through the courtesy of Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and the highest qualified coach of the country, currently visiting his home city. Anwar-ul-Haq, Naeem-ul-Haq, Waqar Hussain and Zafar Ahmed were among the other cricketers present on the occasion. 

Naeem, who played for Karachi, Pak PWD and Pakistan Customs, has been a part and parcel of Global Sports since its inception around 17 years ago. He had specially travelled from Orlando, USA, to be part of the presentation ceremony in Karachi. 

Having been associated with Global Sports as its Vice President, Advisor and Coach, Naeem is acknowledged as the person to have floated the idea of supporting former cricketers back home which led to the formation of the CBF and Nasir Shah was selected as the recipient for the inaugural award. 

In a brief conversation with PNFS, Naeem informed that besides being an outstanding cricket player, Nasir mentored quite a few of his teammates, including him, and he was widely respected for his leadership qualities. 

Naeem also disclosed that the CBF will announce the next beneficiary for 2022 during the Diversity Cup Tournament, scheduled to be held in Detroit, Michigan, next July.

He expressed gratitude to his colleagues and patrons of Global Sports, particularly its Founder President, Shahid Ahmed, and Dr Shaukat Rashid of Ohio, to have launched the initiative which will be their token contribution for recognizing the silent soldiers and unsung heroes of the game.

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December 16, 2021

Different script but identical result as Pakistan sweep WI 3-0


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Skipper Babar Azam and Muhammad Rizwan powered Pakistan to seven-wicket victory over the West Indies to complete the expected 3-0 clean-sweep in T20 series which concluded on December 16.

The match was jeopardized when three more West Indian cricketers, Shai Hope, Akeal Hosein, and Justin Greaves tested positive for Covid-19, but it was decided to go ahead with the match and complete the T20 series. 

The tourists were left to field a severely depleted side because they had had already lost Sheldon Cottrell, Roston Chase and Kyle Mayers, also due to Covid-19, at the start of the tour while Devon Thomas was ruled out after a finger injury. It went to their credit to have agreed to play the third game without the availability of seven players. 

While the West Indians showed grace by staying on even with marginal resources at their disposal, the home side continued to enjoy with the rub of the green going their way until the very end. That Pakistan completed the series whitewash with the help of a dropped catch was another reflection of lady luck keeping their company all the way. 

Chasing a record total of 208 at the National Stadium, Karachi, the start of Pakistan innings was a dramatic one. Rizwan was declared out leg-before on the very first ball but the decision of on-field umpire was reversed following a review and the West Indies could not break the opening partnership until the 16th over by which time 158 runs had already been scored. 

The hosts rode their luck to overhaul the total for the loss of only three wickets with seven balls to spare. It was their sixth successive T20 win over the West Indies in Pakistan. They had also swept them by the identical 3-0 scoreline in 2018. Pakistan ended the year 2021 year their 20th T20 win. 

Babar, who was dismissed cheaply in the earlier two matches, returned to top form with another sterling knock. He made 79 off 53 balls with nine sizzling fours and two sixes. The openers put on 158 off 91 balls for the first wicket. Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman continued to attack the bowlers the requirement was down to 24 off 16 balls when the former fell after scoring 87 off 45 balls with the help of three sixes and 10 fours. 
Asif Ali’s unbroken 21 off seven balls ensured that the match didn’t go into the final over. Rovman Powell helped his cause by dropping him in the deep off Romario Shepherd and that was it. 

As in the previous game, the young West Indian side showed flashes of brilliance but choked at key moments. They must have felt happy at having posted a competitive total of 207 for three which was their best at the ground which obviously proved inadequate in the end. 

Captain Nichollas Pooran, Samrah Brooks and Brandon King produced the best batting display of the tour. The top three West Indian batters blasted no less than a dozen sixes to demonstrate their big hitting prowess. 

Pooran batted fearlessly while hammering 64 off 37 balls with the help of half a dozen sixes and two fours. Brooks mustered 49 off 31 balls, spiced with four sixes and two fours while King cracked 21-ball 43 with seven fours and brace of sixes. Curiously, though, Darren Bravo didn’t hit any six in his unbeaten 34 off 27 balls which denied the visitors some crucial runs in the death overs. 

King and Brooks had provided the West Indies a flying start of 66 in power play. Brooks was in a punishing mood as he lifted premier spinner Shadab Khan for three sixes in a row. The momentum was sustained by Pooran but Bravo, coming in at number four, remained unusually quiet and returned unbeaten without belting the bowlers. 

Muhammad Wasim (2-44) was the most successful home bowler but Shahnawaz Dahani delivered an economical spell of one for 24 in four overs. Fast bowler Muhammad Hasnain, making a comeback, was hit all over the park, conceding 48 runs in four overs without taking any wicket.

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Pak- WI ODI series postponed due to Covid-19


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The series of three One-day International between Pakistan and the West Indies, which was set to be played at the National Stadium, Karachi, from Dec 18 to 22, has been postponed due to detection of more Covid-19 positive cases in the West Indian camp. 

The series has now been rescheduled for June 2022. The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Cricket West Indies (CWI) jointly issued a statement after five more positive cases were reported in the West Indies camp following the PCR testing, raising the total number of positive cases to nine since their arrival in Karachi on December 9.

“On Thursday (December 16) morning and as part of the PCB COVID-19 Protocols, Rapid Antigen tests were conducted on the remaining 15 West Indies players and six player support personnel. All 21 members of the West Indies touring party returned negative test result. As such, Thursday’s T20 International (T20I) proceeded as planned,” the statement read. 

“However, taking into consideration both the teams’ welfare as well as limited resources in the West Indies side for the ODIs, it has been agreed that the series, which forms part of the ICC Men’s Cricket Word Cup Super League, will be postponed and rescheduled for early June 2022. This will provide the West Indies with an equal opportunity to field their best available players for the World Cup qualification matches,” it added. 

“The West Indies team members, who returned negative results following Wednesday’s PCR and today’s Rapid Antigen tests, will depart from Pakistan after tonight’s match. Those who have tested positive will complete their isolation in Karachi before their travel arrangements are finalized to allow them to rejoin their families in time for Christmas celebrations.” 

“Meanwhile, the Pakistan team members, all of whom have returned PCR negative after Wednesday’s tests, will also be leaving the Managed Event Environment after tonight’s third T20I. The CWI would like to thank the PCB for its excellent series arrangements and appreciates its support in rescheduling the ODI series in June 2022.”

The West Indians must have heaved a sigh of relief at the postponement of the ODI series because their already thin resources could have been tested further in the longer of two white-ball formats.

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December 15, 2021

Pakistan poised to complete whitewash despite Calypso exuberance


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The youngsters from the West Indies currently touring Pakistan showed lot of energy and enthusiasm in the second T20I at the National Stadium, Karachi, just a day after getting hammered in the opening game. It’s a clear reflection of them being quick learners. 

But history is not on their side as they take the field on December 16 to avoid yet another whitewash. Pakistan has had the knack of blasting weak opponents at home and the West Indians have faced the music more often than not at their hands on numerous occasions during the last couple of decades. 

Gone are the ways of the 1970s and the 1980s when they were branded as formidable tourists. They have been one of the worst travellers to Pakistan in the preceding three decades. 

The home captain, Babar Azam, is certainly short of runs after a rare back to back failure but there’s adequate depth and strength in the line-up to see off the hapless West Indies, who have always been found wanting in closing the deal Pakistan, a glimpse of which was also seen in the second T20I on December 14 when they squandered a golden opportunity of leveling the series. 

Pakistan may opt to rest some of their top performers to induct those who could only warm the benches in the first couple of matches. 

There’s a feeling that the West Indies may still struggle to win the third and final tie, although they do possess the typical Calypso exuberance to dominate their fancied rivals. 

This is one of those phases where everything seems to be going their way as far as the home side is concerned. Some of their players might not have fired but someone from somewhere has emerged to save the day since the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

It remains to be seen how they exploit their resources to extend the purple patch as the T20 series is to be followed by three-match series of One-day Internationals against the same opponents starting from December 18.

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December 14, 2021

Improved West Indies run out of luck to concede T20I series


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Unlike the first outing of the tour when they were completely outplayed by the hosts the other day at the same venue, the visiting West Indians came up with much improved performance in the second T20 International but lost the game, and with it the three-match series against Pakistan, at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 14.

On any other day, or night, the West Indies could have emerged triumphant from the commanding situations they were during the match but they let the initiative slip at key moments to deprive themselves from a possible series leveling win. They lost by nine runs instead, while chasing a target of 173, to give Pakistan an unassailable 2-0 lead. 

As the visiting skipper Nicholas Pooran conceded in the presentation ceremony they made silly mistakes and he also held himself accountable for the chaos in the middle when his team was in the driving seat. 

"Tough one for us. Big improvement from yesterday. Felt like we lost here due to silly mistakes. Irresponsible from myself too. We tried our best to execute plans. It's our responsibility to carry the game. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes. It is an experience for us all, and very proud of how all these guys have performed," he remarked. 

The home captain Babar Azam didn’t look perturbed as his outfit has been fortunate enough to come out of such situations frequently since the resurgence witnessed during the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Someone has been doing the job, no matter how challenging or precarious the circumstances had been in the UAE or then in Bangladesh where Pakistan triumphed across formats. It was the turn of Shadab Khan to come good with bat and ball to win the day for his team this time round. 

"The finish from Shadab with the bat was very good. Bowlers did well too, particularly Shaheen, and it was a team effort. The idea is to set a target and defend, and play as per the conditions and the wicket. There is grip for the spinners in the second innings, which is why we wanted to bat first,” the winning captain observed. 

"When my batting comes, it usually is in the death overs so I practice accordingly. I planned by batting as per the field. And with the ball, it wasn't gripping a lot. I had good rhythm, and I just tried to bowl in the good areas," Shadab stated after being adjudged Man of the Match for his all-round performance. 

Losing the toss, the West Indies put up a far better performance in bowling department. They had restricted Pakistan to 127 for six after 17 overs despite opener Muhammad Rizwan’s 30-ball 38 with containing a six and four boundaries. Haider Ali made steady 31 off 34 balls with four hits to the fence while Iftikhar Ahmed hoisted a couple of sixes in his 18-ball knock of 32. Asif Ali, the six-hitting wonder, failed once again. 

It was left to vice-captain Shadab to retrieve the situation. He smashed a delightful unbeaten 28 off mere a dozen deliveries studded with three towering sixes as the Pakistan batters went on rampage mustering 45 runs in last three overs to their eventual total to 172. 

Odean Smith was the most successful West Indian bowler with the figures of 2 for 24 but left-arm spinner Akeal Husein again produced a tight spell of 1-16 off four overs. 

Opener Brandon King’s explosive 43-ball 67 containing three sixes and six fours laid very strong platform for the West Indies to overhaul the home total but despite being only two wickets down at the halfway stage when they were ahead of the clock, the momentum was lost in strange circumstances and eventually they were beaten in the match they could have won leisurely.

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December 13, 2021

Pakistan draw first blood without sweating


By Ehsan Qureshi at National Stadium, Karachi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

As expected, the Pakistan juggernauts prevailed over the depleted West Indian side in the first of the three Twenty20 Internationals at the National Stadium, Karachi, on December 13 with as many as 63 runs separating two sides after a one-sided encounter.

The helplessness of the tourists was highlighted as they lost their last three wickets for as many runs to be bowled out for 137 in the penultimate over while chasing a mammoth target of 201 in the allotted 20 overs. 

With no luck coming their way, the writing was very much on the wall even before they had taken to the field. Odd moments of elation, not withstanding, they were comprehensively outplayed in every department of the game and the hosts didn’t have to sweat on a cold night of Karachi to draw the first blood. 

In the post-match presentation ceremony, the Pakistan skipper, Babar Azam, praised Muhammad Rizwan and Haider Ali for having played handy knocks while Muhammad Nawaz was lauded for finishing the innings in an outstanding manner. 

He praised the spinners for having bowled well and put the visitors under pressure. He disclosed that they will sit and discuss the combination to be played in the next game. 

The West Indian captain, Nicholas Pooran, felt that they gave away 20 runs more in the field and there were a few boundaries off the edges too. He loved the effort and energy from his guys, adding that they’re a young side but it all came down to execution. 

Haider Ali, who was adjudged Man of the Match, rated his innings 10 out of 10, acknowledging the support of Rizwan who kept advising him to build his innings. He conceded having gained lot of confidence from the way Rizwan was playing at the other end. The pitch, he reckoned, was a bit difficult and was helping spinners, that’s why they chose to take chances against fast bowlers. 

Thanks to the brilliant batting display of Rizwan and Haider, Pakistan managed to post a huge total of 200 for six in 20 overs despite having lost Babar, the premier batter, without scoring. 

Opener Rizwan extended his dazzling run in 2021 with another sparkling knock of 78, coming from 52 balls and containing 10 boundaries. He was looking set for a hundred but a running catch by debutant Odean Smith off Romario Shepherd at the boundary ended his superb innings. 

Haider, who came in at number four, was more fluent as he smashed 68 off only 39 balls with the help of four sixes and six fours. Together they added 105 runs for the third wicket off 63 balls. Pakistan's T20 World Cup hero Asif Ali made four-ball one and Iftikhar made seven but Nawaz blasted a quickfire unbeaten 30 in mere 10 balls studded with a couple of sixes and as many fours. 

Left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein, who operated with the new ball, was the pick of the visitors bowling attack. He gave away only 19 runs in his quota of four overs, claiming with prized sclap of Babar. All the other West Indian bowlers were put to sword as the home total reach the magical figure of 200. 

Quite predictably, the inexperienced West Indian batsmen were unable to come to terms with the home bowlers literally dictating terms and toying with the tourists, who seemed absolutely clueless against the Pakistan spinners in particular. 

Shai Hope, a highly gifted batsman, resisted briefly at top of the innings but he too was found wanting in changing complexion of the game. Even skipper Pooran didn’t produce the kind of fireworks that could have enlivened proceedings. 

It was all too easy for leg-spinner Shadab Khan to claim three wickets for only 17 runs. The 20-year-old speedster, Muhammad Wasim, also had a dream night, finishing with the career best figures of four for 40 as the match was won by the home side by the heaviest of margins in T20 Internationals.

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