July 6, 2020

Star-studded CPL set to explode into action on August 18

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

All the six Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) franchises have selected their teams for the 2020 tournament which is scheduled to take place from August 18 to September 10. 

The draft was carried out remotely and the six teams have successfully filled out their rosters with both Caribbean and overseas players with Rashid Khan, Marcus Stoinis, Ross Taylor, Pravin Tambe and Carlos Brathwaite all being signed up. 

Launched in 2013, the CPL has become one of the leading franchise-based T20 tournaments of the world. It’s known for combining two of the most compelling aspects of Caribbean life, dramatic games and a vibrant carnival atmosphere. 

There was a combined broadcast and digital viewership of 312 million during the 2019 season to make it one of the fastest growing leagues in world cricket. In 2019 the tournament made a positive economic impact across the Caribbean of US$ 136 million. 

Barbados Tridents happen to be the current champions with Trinbago Knight Riders, Guyana Amazon Warriors, St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots, St. Lucia Zouks and Jamaica Tallawahs being the other participants. 

Meanwhile the defending champions have signed the highly gifted Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, explosive English opener Alex Hales and versatile Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis. Their other overseas players are Englishman Harry Gurney and Afghani Rahmanullah Gurbaz. They have retained the core of their championship winning side from last year and they have signed Kyle Mayers to join a strong set of Caribbean players. 

Trinbago Knight Riders have signed Pravin Tambe, a spinner, who will become the first Indian to play at the CPL. They have also brought back Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed who was part of their Championship winning team in 2018. They have signed New Zealand wicket keeper Tim Seifert and Zimbabwean batsman Sikandar Raza. The Knight Riders have retained the core of their local players for the 2020 season. 

The Guyana Amazon Warriors have retained 13 players from the team that went unbeaten during the league stage of last year’s tournament and have added New Zealander Ross Taylor and Afghani Naveen-ul-Haq. Imran Tahir, Chris Green, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford all return to the Amazon Warriors for 2020. 

The St Kitts & Nevis Patriots have signed Australians Chris Lynn and Ben Dunk and have also recruited Ish Sodhi of New Zealand and Sohail Tanvir of Pakistam. Rassie van der Dussen returns to the Patriots after a successful spell with the team in 2018 and they welcome back Fabian Allen, Evin Lewis, Sheldon Cottrell and their captain Rayad Emrit. 

The Jamaica Tallawahs are looking to rebuild after a poor season in 2019 which saw them finish in last place in the table. They have recruited Carlos Brathwaite who was released by the Patriots. They have also signed Nepalese leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and South African left arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. They have brought in exciting Pakistani batsman Asif Ali and retained their leading run scorer from last season, Glenn Phillips. These overseas players will combine with a strong local contingent that includes Andre Russell, Rovman Powell and Oshane Thomas.

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Cricket in USA also affected by COVID-19

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

International cricket is set to return after nearly four months when England and the West Indies confront each other in the first Test match at Southampton on July 8 but cricket in the United States of America (USA) remains severely affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Here in USA, quite a few events have been postponed or cancelled recently while others, slated for later this year, also remain uncertain because of the fluid situation caused by the deadly virus.

The second edition of the Champions Cup cricket tournament, which was scheduled to be organized by the Global Sports in Detroit, Michigan, on July 4, has been cancelled. 

The 15th edition of the Diversity Cup, having become one of the most sought after cricket tournaments of the country, originally planned to be held in August, has now been rescheduled for the Labor Day weekend, starting from September 5 to 7. 

The way things stand at the moment and the manner in which the COVID-19 fatalities and infections are rocking the country, I don’t foresee realistic hopes of the 15th Diversity Cup taking place in Detroit this September. Unlike the United Kingdom, the resumption of proper cricket activities in USA may still be far off in the prevailing scenario. 

As the cricket enthusiasts in the country are aware about it, the Diversity Cup, organized by the Global Sports, has been one of the most popular annual cricket events for the past one and a half decades. Its previous edition was held with the traditional fanfare in Detroit from July 19 to 21 last year. 

Meanwhile the inaugural edition of the Minor League T20 franchise tournament, being organized by the USA Cricket and the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), has also been delayed by the pandemic. It was scheduled to commence from the July 4 weekend. 

According to the details, the organizers had identified four major conferences (West, Central, North East and South East) to spread the 22 participating teams in the inaugural event in which a total of 170 games were planned in the original schedule.

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June 30, 2020

World class sound track being prepared for Asian Games 2022

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 19th Asian Games, due to be staged in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from September 10 to 25 in 2022, is already being expected to be the biggest Asiad ever. 

The preparations for the multi-sport continental event are now in full swing in Hangzhou which is set to become the third city in China, after Beijing and Guangzhou, to host the Asian Games. 

The organizers of the 19th Asian Games have announced that besides making top class arrangements for the continent's top athletes and world-class competition, the musical soundtrack for the event will also be of the highest pedigree. 

To mark the International Olympic Day, a global celebration of the founding of the modern Olympic Movement in Paris on June 23, 1894, the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee initiated a campaign to solicit musical works, calling on people from around the world to compose music for the sports event. 

Music plays an irreplaceable part in gathering momentum in all mass events, according to Xu Jianqiang, a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. A good song can have a longtime impact. 

"The song, even if played decades after, can still bring back memories of an event, the year and the city where it took place," the renowned composer told China Daily.

The call, set to last two years, will be open to both ordinary people who love and support the Games, and professional musicians. According to the committee's expectations, the musical works for the Games should be artistic and creative, and should be heard and shared by a worldwide audience. 

"Sports represent the pursuit of breakthroughs in physical strength while music stands for the outburst of passion from inside the heart," Chen Weiqiang, deputy secretary-general of the Games' organizing committee and vice-mayor of Hangzhou, observed, noting that the combination of sports and music makes the most beautiful language. 

Chen remarked that the call for musical works was an important part of the preparations for the Games and after rounds of considerations and discussions, they finally approved the plan of solicitation, which was divided into three phases, and hoped that the campaign will help collect great musical pieces over the next two years. 

"Musical works are indispensable for almost all occasions in sporting events, such as the torch relay and the opening and closing ceremonies, and will be unique heritage left by the Games. We hope the music for the Hangzhou Asian Games, from across the globe and with different styles, to be classic and able to be spread through the ages," Chen explained. 

Besides being a stage for sports competitions, the Games will be offering a feast of Asian cultures. 

The theme song, the promotional song and the background music for the opening and closing ceremonies, embodied with distinctive cultures and values of the host country and the host city, along with the Asian Games spirit, are imprinted in the Games' history. 

Meng Ke, a famous producer who has been part of the composition teams for several major sports events in China, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Hangzhou Time show at the closing ceremony of the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, stated that the music for Olympic events should reflect the Olympic spirit, as well as the perseverance and toughness of athletes. 

"Moreover, the music should help present a nation's pride, self-confidence and unity," he added.

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June 28, 2020

Recalling history of Karachi’s Jahangir West Cricket Club

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi, one of the two major cricket nurseries of the country, with Lahore being the other, has produced outstanding cricketers in large numbers since the creation of Pakistan. Club cricket used to be the backbone of the whole system as it provided the initial platform for the promising youngsters. 

Those familiar with the history of Karachi cricket must be aware about Jahangir West Cricket Club, which used to be one of the leading cricket clubs of the metropolis for more than two decades. It was founded as Pak Wanderers Cricket Club in 1974 but was renamed as Jahangir West Cricket Club only a few years later. 

Muhammad Ali Jafri, who was a cricket scorer, had founded the club as its Secretary while Muhammad Rafiq was its first President. It still retained its original name when I joined the club, as a school student, in 1976. It was about a couple of years later when the name of the club was changed, probably because the majority of its members were residents of the famous Jahangir Road. 

In its formative years the club had the services of the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Sikander Bakht, Ali Javed, Naeem Ahmed, Anwar-ul-Haq, Nasir Shah, Shahid Pervez, Humayun Sumar and Asif Shah besides Jamil Zaidi, Munir-ul-Haq, Ahad Masood (Bobby), Naeem-ul-Haq, Mazhar Alam, Riasat Ali, Nadeem Ahmed, Tateer Abbas, S M Tariq and Merajuddin. 

In the latter part of its journey, the club was joined by Shahid Ahmed, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Ameeruddin, Nasir Ismail, Mohnis Qadri, Raza Khan, Rashid Hussain, Khalid Zafar, Shahid Shah and Arif Butt. 

Muhammad Ali Jafri, whom I have always revered as my mentor, was the moving force behind the club which was the first love for him. He was an enthusiastic and lively gentleman who cared for the cricketers and left no stone unturned in promoting them. Sadly he has passed away a few years ago. I have had a feeling all along that the Jahangir West CC trio of Naeem Ahmed, Anwar-ul-Haq and Nasir Shah could have played for Pakistan, if he had not moved to Sharjah for greener pastures in 1980. 

His younger brother, Ali Anwar Jafri, is also a well-known person in cricket circles, having been associated with the Cricketer Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) in Sharjah where he has also been running his business of A J Sports. 

Having played for Jahangir West CC for such a long time, I have had fond memories of it. The proudest moment for the club was winning the second edition of the Nazimabad Super Cup, the iconic tournament which is believed to have laid the foundation of Twenty20 cricket. I played my bit in bringing home the trophy, having been declared the best bowler of the tournament after capturing 13 wickets with my leg-spin.

The first captain of the club was Ali Javed but Naeem Ahmed and Anwar-ul-Haq led it for a long time in the subsequent years. I also had the opportunity of captaining the club for a few years during the absence of our senior players. 

Our skipper Naeem Ahmed was the best all-rounder in my estimation at the club level. He was a cool right-handed batsman who was an expert in finishing off the game. Everyone knew about his ability as a left-arm spinner but he made the mistake of his lifetime by quitting National Bank for joining PIA. In his absence, Iqbal Qasim got the break at National Bank and emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the season which earned him Test cap right away and the rest is history. 

Anwar-ul-Haq, a solid opening batsman, scored heavily and consistently at the club as well as the first-class levels but was really unfortunately not to have played for Pakistan during an era when a few of lesser skilled batters than him made the cut. 

Nasir Shah, a stylish and elegant left-handed opening batsman, who captained Karachi besides playing for UBL, also came close to winning the Pakistan cap while the hard-hitting Humayun Sumar had a reputation of blasting the bowlers all over the park and bringing early end to matches when he got going.  

Jamil Zaidi, currently the manager of Oman’s cricket team, was a talented wicketkeeper-batsman who scored tons of runs for Jahangir West CC. He made the mistake of leaving the country when at the peak of his career. Asif Shah, an explosive all-rounder, also chose to move to Oman, a mistake which I also committed and eventually missed the chances of playing at home, after having debuted for Pak PWD and Karachi as a top order batsman. 

Ahad Masood, affectionately called Bobby, was an accomplished batsman who also captained Pak PWD. Possessing incredible knowledge about the game, he has remained my best friend since playing days. 

Shahid Ahmed was a bowling all-rounder. A handy off-spinner, he contributed vital runs down the order besides being an athletic fielder. Raza Khan used to be the spearhead of our bowling attack and he took wickets regularly. 

Ishtiaq Ahmed, who also scored heavily for Karachi, was one of our premier batsmen while Shahid Pervez, who represented UBL and was also named Pakistan’s 12th man in a Test match, was another brilliant all-rounder. Mazhar Alam was another fine all-rounder but his potential remained unfulfilled.

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June 23, 2020

Younis Khan has much better record, temperament than his critics

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

So Younis Khan, the most successful Pakistan batsman in Test history, is all set to start second innings of his career. 

Having quit international cricket in 2017, after scoring the highest number of Test runs and centuries for the country, he has now been appointed as the batting coach for the upcoming tour of England. 

Younis Khan will add value to the star-studded Pakistan support staff which also includes the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Waqar Younis (bowling coach) and Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling coach). Pakistan will be playing three Tests and as many as T20 Internationals during the tour of England in July and August. 

Like so many others, I also reckon that Younis Khan should have been a part of parcel of the Pakistan cricket soon after his retirement and it has already taken far too long to rope him in. 

He should have been associated with the set-up in one capacity or the other even during these last three years because he has had so much to offer after having enjoyed an incredibly successful batting career at the international level. 

Remember that he was the most consistent Pakistan batsman for a number of years during a period when batting was often letting down the team and he used to be the lone man standing and taking the fight into the opponents’ camp. 

There’s a school of thought which compared him to Rahul Dravid, the mainstay of Indian batting for a long time, and expected the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to utilize Younis Khan’s expertise and services in the identical manner as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had done with their former captain. 

I also firmly believe that Younis possesses the capacity and talents to replicate Dravid in grooming the promising youngsters and turn them into success stories. This is one role Younis would have played much better than any other of his contemporaries in the country. 

Why the think-tank at the PCB took three years to bring Younis back and that too for such a short assignment of a single tour doesn’t reflect too well on their part and it clearly demonstrates that non-cricketing factors also have played a part in it. 

There have been reports that the PCB had contacted him, but not seriously enough, to engage him in the past. He was believed to have been offered a role in revamping the National Cricket Academy (NCA) but the negotiations were unfruitful. 

Now when the PCB has finally succeeded in roping him as a batting coach for the national team, the assignment should not have been just for a single tour. He merited a longer contract, much like others in the coaching staff. It will indeed be a tragedy if Younis is made the scapegoat if the Pakistan team didn’t achieve the desired results on the tour of England. 

Hopefully better sense will prevail and the movers and shakers of the Pakistan cricket will see to it that no such mischief is committed in the larger national interest. 

There has been some talk in the media about the temperament of Younis and a few experts have expressed the opinion that he might not be suited in a coaching role. 

Let me remind all concerned that Younis compiled no less than 30 Test centuries besides accumulating 10,000 runs at the highest level of the game in the toughest of circumstances. Staying miles away from petty politics, he let his bat do the talking all along. He stonewalled the fastest of bowlers with a smile on his face while countering the spin wizards with his nimble footwork. 

Sadly, one of the voices spreading poison against him is none other than Rameez Raja, a former Pakistan opening batsman turned commentator. What he seems to be forgetting though is the fact that Younis was a far more successful batsman at international level who didn’t need any certification of temperament from someone with a mediocre batting record to say the least.

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June 17, 2020

Engagement of locals essential in boosting cricket across continents

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The International Cricket Council (ICC), now headquartered in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), has been taking various steps from time to time to spread the gentleman’s game to every nook and corner of the world. 

At the moment, the ICC has 104 members, which include a dozen full members, who have the entitlement to play Test cricket besides having other privileges. England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh are the full members of the ICC, being the top cricket playing nations of the world. 

While the respective cricket boards in almost each of these countries have professional set-up as they have plenty of resources as well as numerous opportunities to sustain and grow, the same could not be said about the 92 Associate members who have had rely, almost entirely, on the ICC support for their survival. 

Although the ICC, over the past few years, has initiated moves to create more space and opportunities for the Associate members there’s a lot more to be done to get them going in the truest sense of the word. 

It’s indeed gladdening that now eight Associate member countries are allowed to play One-day Internationals on the basis of performance in the World Cricket League (WCL). Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America (USA) enjoy the rights to play ODIs. 

Similarly, following a decision by the ICC in April 2018, the T20I status has been granted for all the Associate members since January 1, 2019. 

All the Associate members had remained eligible to play in the ICC World Cricket League, a series of international one-day cricket administered by the ICC until 2019. It was then replaced by the World Cup League Two and World Cup Challenge League since 2019. 

In addition to key administrative requirements of the national governing body, an Associate member has to posses a minimum of 16 senior teams and 16 junior teams playing in a structured competition or competitions besides having access to at least eight cricket grounds, four of which must be having a permanent pitch. 

The ICC, with the collaboration of the local governing bodies, has been trying to get the best results but there are certain factors which are hampering the growth of cricket in these countries. 

While in majority of the countries only the bonafide citizens qualify to become a member of their national cricket team but there still are quite a few countries, most notably the Middle East, where cricketers of various other nationalities sneak into the team. 

What purpose will it serve to the development of its cricket of that particular nation when outsiders from other countries will occupy all the spots in the national team? It will obviously distract and disengage local talent. 

All efforts to promote cricket, without engaging the locals, will prove cosmetic and the exercise will prove futile. The ICC should look into this matter to ensure that the goals of globalization of the sport are achieved.

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All-rounder Shane Watson turns 39

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shane Watson, one of the most highly gifted all-rounders to have emerged from Australia in the recent past, has turned 39 on June 17.

He has been immensely popular lately in this part of the world for his astonishing feats in the T20 leagues. 

Although his international career ended a few years ago, he has continued to steal limelight with his terrific performances in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL), two of the most successful T20 annual tournaments. 

The handsome and dashing all-rounder played in 59 Tests for Australia besides 190 One-day Internationals and 58 T20 Internationals. He amassed 10,950 international runs besides picking up 291 wickets. 

He is only the second player to score over 5,000 runs and take 150 plus wickets in ODIs while he remains the top run-scorer for Australia in T20 World Cups.

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June 14, 2020

Shahid Afridi catches COVID-19

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A former Pakistan captain and one of the most explosive all-rounders, Shahid Khan Afridi, has caught COVID-19 virus and has joined the list of country’s celebrities suffering from the pandemic.

He has become the third cricketer from Pakistan, and the second international after former opener Taufeeq Umar, to have contracted the virus. Zafar Sarfraz, a former first-class cricketer, who has died of the disease, was the first one to have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The 40-year-old flamboyant cricketer, nicknamed Boom Boom as well as Lala, revealed on Twitter on June 13, having experienced severe body ache for a few days and that the tests had come out positive. 

“I’ve been feeling unwell since Thursday; my body had been aching badly. I’ve been tested and unfortunately I’m covid positive. Need prayers for a speedy recovery,” Shahid Afridi tweeted. 

“My heartfelt prayers and best wishes for your quick recovery,” the former Chief Minister of Punjab and leader of the opposition in National Assembly, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, responded to Shahid Afridi. “Allah’s grace, prayers of the people and determination are keys to fighting this scourage. Get well Lala,” Shahbaz Sharif, quarantining himself after having tested positive for COVID-19, wished.  

Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan chief selector and head coach, also extended his best wishes to Shahid Afridi, reckoning that he had contracted the virus while he was conducting his charitable work. 

"My prayers are with him. All well wishes are with him that he gets out of this soon. I think he was doing a lot of work in the area of Balochistan and the northern areas just to help the people. Throughout the COVID-19 situation he was helping the poor and doing a very good job. Well wishes are with him to get well soon," Misbah observed. 

Shahid Afridi has reported to have travelled extensively to remote parts of the country to provide essentials to the underprivileged as part of his charity, the Shahid Afridi Foundation.

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