September 7, 2023

‘Flying Horse’ Samiullah symbolizes Pakistan’s golden era in hockey


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It’s time for Samiullah Khan, the living legend of field hockey, to light another candle on his birthday cake. His name has become synonymous with Pakistan’s golden era in the national sport. The Flying Horse, most appropriately titled for his incredible speed, is always found full of energy which he has successfully retained because of his healthy habits and excellent work ethics. 

Samiullah’s mention takes us back to the 1970s and early 1980s when Pakistan ruled the hockey world. Those were the times when all other teams, including Europeans, were under the awe of the green-shirted Pakistanis for whom sky seemed to be the limit. Such was the dominance of the star-studded Pakistan outfits that they were household names wherever the sport was played. 

The team was packed with superstars but left-winger Samiullah stood out because of sheer brilliance. His lightening crosses paralyzed the most formidable of defence lines and he was simply unstoppable even when confronted by the tightest of markings. 

His remarkable ball control with enormous speed was a rare and lethal combination which allowed him to penetrate the defenders at will. With his thrilling runs, body dodges and large leaps he posed the toughest challenge for the opponents. There was indeed something magical about him which made him the most valuable player of his generation. 

Having represented the country in 155 matches, he scored 55 international goals but what the statisticians won’t be able to tell you is the fact that he was instrumental in the scoring of many more goals through his fellow forwards. He was the architect of many famous victories to leave an indelible mark on the sport. 

Irrespective of the number of medals and trophies he earned, it was his impact which created numerous scoring opportunities and paved the way for the country to register victories with unmatchable frequency. It was a pity that his solitary appearance in Olympic Games came at Montreal in 1976 as Pakistan boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games at Moscow and he was forced to hang his boots before the 1984 Olympic Games which took place at Los Angeles. 

He, however, featured in three editions of the World Cup, starting from Kuala Lumpur in 1975 where he hit headlines as Pakistan won silver medal. He continued to star in the next couple of World Cups at Buenos Aires (1978) and Bombay (1982) where Pakistan clinched gold medals. 

He enjoyed even better record in Asian Games, as the country won gold medals on all three occasions, Tehran (1974), Bangkok (1978) and New Delhi (1982). Pakistan also captured gold medal in the 1980 Champions Trophy at Karachi in his presence. 

Rather interestingly, the Indian audience in particular saw him at his very best when he was in the leadership role in two successive events. He was the vice-captain of the Pakistan team which won the World Cup at Bombay in 1982 while he was the captain of the team which annexed the Asian Games at New Delhi later the same year.

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September 4, 2023

Prokhrov pledges support to MSAP in chess promotion


By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Director of the Russian Centre of Science & Culture (RCSC) in Karachi, R M Prokhrov, has reiterated continued support to the mind sport of chess by hosting its various events besides providing other facilities to the participants and organizers. 

He also announced the famous Grand Master, an ex-world champion and a prolific trainer from Russia, Anatoly Karpov, will be training the Pakistan’s national masters of chess. He made these remarks while inaugurating Engro Women Training Programme being held at the RCSC, also known as Friendship House, on September 3. 

The event is being organized by the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) as part of its women empowerment initiatives. Around 25 women, including students from some of the prestigious educational institutions of Karachi, have enrolled for the programme. 

Tariq Rasheed Khan, CEO of MSAP, complimented Prokhrov for his support for this program and plans for arranging the Russian chess star Anatoly Karpov for training Pakistan chess masters.

Pakistan's chess star apparent, Grand Master Mahmood Lodhi, is the chief instructor with FIDE Master Omer Khan and Muhammad Waqar are both qualified trainer and coaches. The MSAP's Syed Akhtar Sami is supervising overall programme.

The MSAP, it may be recalled, was founded in 2008 for the promotion of bridge, chess and scrabble, three of the most popular mind sports in the country. The Association has held a number of events over the last 15 years beside facilitating the participation of the players in international events. 

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September 3, 2023

Younis, Sarfaraz face discrimination from PCB once more


By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), seemingly as a part of its promotions ahead of the upcoming Cricket World Cup 2023, compiled and released a video, showcasing the high moments in history on the eve of the 76th Independence Day celebrations. Its contents have already resulted in causing lots of resentment and controversies. 

Initially the PCB was slammed for ignoring Imran Khan, the triumphant skipper of the World Cup 1992. Since he is a former Prime Minister besides being one of the greatest-ever all-rounders of the game, with a huge fan following globally, there was uproar and criticism from every nook and corner of the world. 

Omitting the World Cup winning captain on political grounds was indeed shameful and the PCB was forced to edit the video and release a new one which included his images. But a couple of more glaring omissions have not been rectified yet, which is very disappointing for those who love the game the most earnestly. 

How could the history of Pakistan cricket remain complete without mentioning the accomplishments of Younis Khan and Sarfaraz Ahmed? Yet they have been deprived of this honour of featuring in the video highlighting Pakistan’s conquests in the cricket field. Younis, as we all know, is the only other World Cup winning captain of Pakistan.

If Imran was the skipper of the team which brought home the title in 1992 it was Younis, under whose leadership, Pakistan had won the World Twenty20 Championship in 2009. Isn’t it strange that one World Cup winner becomes the Prime Minister of the country and the other one is denied the kind of respect and recognition he deserves?

Younis holds national records for the highest number of Test runs as well as centuries. He won numerous matches for the country. He led the team with distinction. But he was victimized in his playing days and the same trend has continued all along. Since he is brutally honest and straightforward, who always believed in let his bat to do all the talking, he has often been sidelined from limelight. Those in the corridors of power have generally been reluctant to interact with him because he takes pride in calling a spade a spade. 

Sarfaraz has also been meted out step-motherly treatment all along despite having exceptional record both as a player and as a captain of the national team. He had led the country to title victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in 2017. Earlier he was also the captain of the Pakistan team which annexed the ICC Youth World Cup. 

Pakistan remained the top ranked team in T20 rankings for two and a half years when Sarfaraz, an enterprising wicketkeeper-batsman, was at the helm of the affairs. He is credited to have blooded and groomed the youngsters like Babar Azam, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Khan Afridi and Fakhar Zaman who have gone on to become world-class performers. 

Both Younis and Sarfaraz have done wonders for the country, Any documentary of Pakistan cricket will be deemed incomplete without their mention. The PCB must re-edit the video to include both of them because they deserve to be there. The heroes are meant to be respected and admired, not humiliated or insulted.

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August 1, 2023

Controversial ball change spoils Ashes finale: Is this cricket?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Ashes 2023 produced high quality entertainment for the cricket fans as all five Test matches between England and Australia witnessed fierce battles for supremacy and probably it was in the fitness of things that the series was drawn in the end although the home fans were left to rue the rain-affected fourth Test in which the visitors were fighting hard to avoid a crushing defeat. 

There were a lot of headliners in the decisive fifth and final Test at the Kia Oval but the on-field umpires Joel Wilson of the West Indies and Kumar Dharmasena became the centre of controversy for their decision of changing the ball in the 37th over of Australia’s second innings. 

The replacement ball brought about a dramatic change in England’s fortunes and the struggling bowlers soon became lethal to alter complexion of the game. It became obvious that the changed ball was significantly harder and newer than the ball that had been used previously. The vastly experienced English bowlers, hungry for success, fully exploited the situation and Australia, until then firmly in control, lost their 10 wickets in 58.3 overs after the ball change. England managed to win the game after being in serious danger of losing it for all money. 

Ricky Ponting, the former Australia captain, who was watching the action from the commentators’ box, could not hide his displeasure and shock even on camera. "The biggest concern I have is the big discrepancy in the condition of the ball that was chosen to replace the one that had gone out of shape. There's no way in the world you can even look at those two balls there and say in any way are they comparable,” he complained in a live television interview. 

"At the end of the day, if you are going to change the ball, you want to make sure that you get it right, so you make it as close as you possibly can to the one that you're changing it from. Now if you have a look in that box, there weren't too many older-condition balls in there. There were some older ones that were picked up, the umpires looked at that and threw them back,” he pointed out. 

"I just cannot fathom how two international umpires that have done that a lot of times before can get that so wrong. That is a huge moment in this game, potentially a huge moment in the Test match, and something I think actually has to be investigated: whether there was the right condition of balls in the box, or the umpires have just, blasé, picked one out of there that they think will be okay to use," Ponting lashed out.

"The conditions were perfect for bowling this morning, let's say that. The conditions were better for bowling this morning. But what I saw last night, that ball there, I'll put my hand up and say I've got absolutely no doubt at all that that ball would not have done anywhere near as much as what that one did this morning. Double the amount of movement this morning from yesterday afternoon, seam movement and swing. I think it's a huge blunder that needs to be investigated," he elaborated.

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June 21, 2023

Syed Foundation, R & D Foundation join hands for sports promotion


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Syed Foundation and Research & Development Foundation have joined hands for sports promotion and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in this this regard was inked between their top officials at Hotel Mehran, Karachi, on June 18. 

Syed Wasim Hashmi, President, Syed Foundation, and Ashfaq Ahmad Soomro, Director, Research & Development Foundation, signed the MoU on behalf of their respective organizations in a simple but graceful ceremony. 

Wasim Hashmi, in his introductory address, briefed the audience about the aims and objectives of Syed Foundation which was established three years ago with initial activities revolving around arranging food and shelter for handicapped and less privileged persons. 

He recalled that Syed Foundation, with the collaboration of Research & Development Foundation and Alamgir Welfare Trust, had reached out the masses in the flood affected areas of interior of Sindh to provide ration of food, drinking water and medicine. 

Ashfaq Soomro, in his speech, revealed that Research & Development Foundation had facilitated nearly three and a half lacs persons in 10 districts of Sindh during their flood relief initiatives. 

He felt that the activities of Research & Development Foundation and Syed Foundation, besides other non-governmental organizations, helped the flood affected people enormously in moving them to safer places where they were looked after in the best possible manner. 

Ashfaq Soomro was of the opinion that the joint venture of Research & Development Foundation and Syed Foundation will bring smiles faces on the faces of many people who deserve assistance and support in their rehabilitation after having endured traumas. 

Shaikh Nisar Ahmad, Chairman, Alamgir Welfare Trust, expressed similar sentiments and urged the like-minded NGOs to engage into such kind of activities to reach wider audience and bring about positive changes in their lives. 

The other speakers, sharing their thoughts on the occasion, also reflected on multiple benefits of working jointly to achieve bigger goals.

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June 17, 2023

Cricket statistician Aziz Rehmatullah’s demise signals end of an era


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The death of Aziz Rehmatullah, a veteran cricket statistician, on June 16 has found marginal space in a few national dailies of Pakistan. He certainly merited better sendoff at the strength of his overwhelming contributions to the game which is loved by millions in the country. 

The 81-year-old Aziz Bhai, as he was popularly known in the cricket circles, indeed remained one of the unsung heroes whose love affair with the sport lasted lifetime. His statistical pieces, which he compiled with incredible passion, caught the imagination of a large number of readers besides having inspired budding writers immensely. 

His compilations had started seeing light of the day in the 1970s as his statistical works got published in various national and international magazines and periodicals. He rose around the same time when Gul Hameed Bhatti was making his mark from the platform of The Cricketer Pakistan which joined soon after its launch in 1972. 

Gul Hameed Bhatti and Aziz Rehmatullah could be described as the pioneers of cricket statistics in Pakistan. While Aziz Rehmatullah pursued a full-time job as accountant at a private company to make his ends meet for nearly quarter of a century, Gul Hameed Bhatti had the opportunity of earning his entire livelihood by writing and editing cricket literature. 

Despite limited time at his disposal, Aziz Rehmatullah wrote, compiled and produced books regularly. In the company of his friend Haji Abdul Razzaque, also a cricket enthusiast who had great love for collecting books and magazines, he brought out a quarterly magazine by the name of Cricket World. The magazine was rich in content but it couldn’t become a successful business model and was closed down after just a few years despite promising much. 

Aziz Rehmatullah, who never looked short of energy, re-entered magazine publishing in 1986 when he launched Cricket Herald with the legendary Javed Miandad being its Chief Editor. Their partnership couldn’t last long with the batting maestro choosing to part ways early. Then he tied knock with the Original 'Little Master' Hanif Mohammad but this marriage of convenience also failed. 

Taking a leaf out of books of Hanif Mohammad and Javed Miandad, both of whom were known and respected the world over for their gritty batting against the deadliest of bowling attacks, Aziz Rehmatullah showed tremendous resilience by continuing the publication of Cricket Herald whose subsequent Urdu edition brought greater financial rewards. 

The hurricane which followed Pakistan’s tame surrender in the 1999 World Cup final at Lord’s also blew away Cricket Herald and even the great Aziz Rehmatullah was unable to put the pieces together despite his numerous attempts. The abrupt closure of the magazine was obviously a massive shock for the ageing statistician. 

His books also stopped coming as the years took its toll and he preferred to work from home much earlier than the world in general was forced to do it with the outbreak of Covid-19. On the basis of his accomplishments, he deserved far greater recognition than what came his way in his lifetime. Hopefully he would be compensated posthumously with an award at the national level as we have had numerous such precedents.

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April 4, 2023

Sarfaraz Ahmed merits ODI selection after phenomenal Test comeback


By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It’s an open secret that Sarfaraz Ahmed has had to battle harder than normal cricketers in any part of the world to retain his place in the national team across formats. Despite having exceptional track record he has been forced to prove his worth time and again. This boy of steely nerves from Karachi deserves to be praised lavishly for having silenced his critics with performances more than once in his international career. 

After his fairytale comeback in the Test arena only a few months ago it was logical to have him in the limited overs matches as well, particularly One-day Internationals where accomplished batsmen like him are more likely to deliver than dashers or power hitters. Not surprisingly, he is being treated harshly once more. 

It’s mind-boggling to find his name still missing in the scheme of things for the ODI line-up. The kind of awesome form and fitness he displayed in the Test series against New Zealand had made him an automatic choice for the ODIs but for some strange reasons, which include petty politics, he was been kept on the sidelines once more. 

It will be fair to say that Sarfaraz, having the scores of 86, 53, 78 and 118 in four successive innings, was chiefly responsible for saving the two-Test home series against New Zealand. He was adjudged Man of the Match in the second Test and was also the unanimous choice for Man of the Series award. What more could have he done in his comeback series? 

He was scoring consistently in first-class cricket all along and yet he was kept out of the Test side for four years which can only be described as madness and nothing else. Quite remarkably Waqar Younis, as evidenced by his comments on air, was still not impressed with the accomplishments of the guy he had tormented or even victimized when he was the national coach. 

He was the man, alongwith skipper Misbah-ul-Haq, to have prevented him from playing in the early part of the 2015 World Cup. Sarfaraz was kept out of the playing eleven and it had needed the intervention of the then PCB chief, Shaharyar Khan, to get him in. The rest is history as we all know. 

Now another lobby with vested interests seems proactive in creating more hurdles for Sarfaraz to demoralize him. With the 2023 World Cup not very far away, these elements will be eager to keep him away from the squad. It is upto the PCB top brass to ensure fair chance to the man who made them proud with outstanding performance on Test return not very long ago. 

With Micky Arthur returning, there’s greater hope of justice being done with Sarfaraz as he definitely merits selection in the ODI outfit and should be a part and parcel of the squad for the next couple of years at least. His expertise and experience are too precious to be ignored. 

It’s a sheer nonsense to suggest that only one wicketkeeper-batsman can be a part of the playing eleven. Many teams are having more than one such all-rounder and they are getting the results. Therefore keeping Sarfaraz out of the team on the pretext of having someone else around for the same role makes no sense. He should be in the ODI team. No question about it.

Sarfaraz is very much needed in the Pakistan XI because he has mastered the art of accumulating runs. He remains an exceptional wicketkeeper whose batting prowess is the much-needed insurance for the national team which has often struggled in putting runs on the board.

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March 16, 2023

Draws of KG Ramazan Cricket Tournament 2023 taken out


Pakistan News & Features Services

The draws for the upcoming 36th edition of the Karachi Gymkhana Ramazan Cricket Tournament 2023, due to commence on the first day of the holy month, were taken out in the presence of the representatives of the participating teams on March 15. 

The simple but graceful ceremony of taking out draws was held at the cricket ground of the Gymkhana with its Convenor Sports, Rizwan Umer, who is also the Tournament Director, conducting the session. The club’s Secretary Cricket, Muhammad Hussain, and cricket captain, Taha Zindani, were also present on the occasion alongwith Athar Khan, Omair Shaikh, Syed Khalid Mahmood, Masood Ahmed and Rashid Aslam who attended as observers. 

The 12 participating teams have been divided equally in three groups for the preliminary rounds. At the end of the league matches the two teams from each of three groups will advance to the knockout phase, alongwith the two of the third placed teams with higher net run rates. 

According to the draws, Karachi Gymkhana Whites and Karachi Gymkhana Blues have been penciled in the Group A alongwith Ashfaq Memorial Club and N N Strikers while the Group B features Quetta Cricket Club, Rangoonwala Cricket Club, Chaudhary Sports and Greeno. The Group C comprises of Omar Associates, Sony Associates, Faizan Steel and Heroes Cricket Club. 

Although the details about the event are set to be unveiled in a media briefing next week, it was confirmed that the cricket sub-committee of the club has decided to offer a handsome prize money of over Rupees two million in the upcoming event. The total cash prizes are expected to exceed Rupees two million which will be disbursed among the outstanding performers which includes cash bonus for winning teams as well attractive cash awards for individual high-achievers. 

Launched in the mid-1980s, the KG Ramazan Festival has gone on to become the leading cricket tournament of the country to be held during the holy month as lots of leading cricketers of the day have been participating in it from time to time. 

“The KG Ramazan Festival has been our marquee event for more than three and a half decades now and we will continue trying our level best to keep adding value to it to maintain the high standards we have set for it,” Rizwan Umer, Convenor Sports and Tournament Director, remarked in a brief chat. 

The tournament has an added personal significance to Rizwan Umer because his father, Iqbal Umer, who holds the unique distinction of getting elected unopposed as the Gymkhana’s President, was one of the founders the Ramazan Festival Cricket Tournament.

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