May 24, 2012

Former world championYousuf ready to quit to become Pakistan snooker coach

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

 The Pakistan Billiards &  Snooker Association (PBSA), seeking a coach for the top-ranked national cueists, have another worthy option up their sleeves in the shape of former world champion Mohammad Yousuf, who has offered to hang his boots to take up the job.

The PBSA, by the look of things, have been on the lookout for a seasoned coach to arrest the decline at the top in the recent past but they didn’t succeed in roping in Yasin Merchant or Sanjay Sawant, both Indians, due to the non-availability of funds. 

Yousuf has announced it publicly besides making it known to the PBSA that he was willing to quit the game, as desired by the, if he was appointed coach of the national snooker team. He looked forward to coaching the young cueists to bring back glories for the country if provided the opportunity. 

“Having read in the newspapers that the PBSA officials desired his immediate retirement from playing snooker to be considered for the job of the national coach, I have informed them that I will be more than glad to quit the game if they me the job,” he disclosed.

“It’s the desire of every top athlete, at the twilight of career, to payback to the sport by means of coaching or in any other capacity. I am no exception. It’s my wish to serve the game which has given me name, fame and everything,” Yousuf remarked. 

“Regarding the point of abiding by the code of conduct of the PBSA, I have always felt that nobody is above the law. I have had the habit of calling a spade a spade which cost me dearly but that’s how I have lived all my life. I respect the law and hope that the others do the same. But I may not keep quiet if injustices are being done,” he added. 

Yousuf, who won the World Snooker Championship in 1994 and then the Asian Snooker Championship in 1998, was not prepared to coach the cueists free of cost, however. 

 “Well snooker is my bread and butter. I am employed at an organization as a snooker coach. I expect to be given a decent honorariam by the PBSA if they acquire my services. It can be mutually worked out,” he said. 

 “The ball is in the court of the PBSA. If their officials realize that my expertise could be helpful in improving the skills of our cueists I am very much available for the assignment.,” the master cueist declared. 

Yousuf has been in terrific form of late, having performed very impressively in the league matches of the 4th NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2012 being staged at the Defence Authority Creek Club in Karachi. 

The PBSA has yet not responded to his offer and it remains to be seen if the matter will be discussed in the upcoming Executive Committee meeting of the Association due to be held shortly. The pressure seems to be on them for appointing a coach, after disastrous performance in the Asian Championship in Doha recently.

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May 21, 2012

Z A Nizami recognizes SSUET cricketers

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Chancellor of Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology (SSUET), Engr Z A Nizami, has renewed the pledge that all the talented sports persons will be supported and patronised by the institution in order to breed healthy competition in the society.  

He was speaking at a reception in the honour of the SSUET cricket team which finished runners-up in the recently held Red Bull Tri-nation Cricket Championship in Sri Lanka besides having clinched the national Inter-Varsities title.

The SSUET had qualified for the Sri Lankan event by winning the National Inter-Varsities championship.

“We would like our students to excel in the fields of education as well as sports. We facilitate them to let them display their talent in extra-curricular activities,” Engr Nizami remarked in his brief speech.

Former Test cricketer, Salahuddin Ahmed Sallu, who was the chief guest in the ceremony, observed that the outstanding athletes should be provided special assistance and facilities to pursue their education while unfolding their talents in the field of sports.  

“The students should also pay due attention to their studies in order to succeed in their future life. The curriculum should be designed in such a manner that allowed them sufficient time in the playgrounds,” Salahuddin, who has also been chairman of the national selection committee, urged.

He lauded the role of the SSUET, named after the visionary leader Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, in promoting sports alongwith education and congratulated their team for the good show in the Saarc event and for winning the national Inter-Varsities title.

“It’s a collective responsibility to have a kind of environment where we could produce dashing students, active athletes and above all good human beings,” he added. Chancellor Nizami and Salahuddin later distributed certificates of financial assistance among the members of the winning team. 

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May 20, 2012

Imran to defend NBP title; Shehram granted wild-card entry

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Imran Shahzad, who used to be the premier cueist of the country until the start of the year, will be defending his title in the fourth edition of the NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2012 starting at the Defence Authority Creek Club in Karachi on May 21.

Meanwhile the controversial Shehram Changezi has been given wild card entry in the event whose details were unveiled by Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), in a media briefing on May 17. 

The championship is being sponsored by National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) for the fourth year running. Iqbal Qasim, Head of the NBP Sports & CSR Division, who is also chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board’s selection committee, presented a cheque of Rs 850,000 to the PBSA officials as sponsorship fee. 

In his brief remarks on the occasion, Iqbal Qasim, known to be a man of few words, vowed to continue extending support to cue sports in future as well but he expected the cueists to perform better at the international level to be considered for employment at the bank. 

The Islamabad-based Shehram, who spearheaded the movement against the PBSA four years ago, has been granted a wild card for the second ranking tournament of the year whereas in the past the Association had only done so for the National Championship at the start of the year. 

Although the PBSA President was tight-lipped about the behaviour of the cueists in the recent past, he did disclose that there was a revolt-like situation on the eve of the National Championship a few months ago and the Association was prompted to delay the implementation of the desired changes in the format of the national events. 

The PBSA went another step forward in accommodating the cueists by allowing entry to Yasir Nadeem, also from Islamabad, which has raised the number of participants to 41 instead of the planned 40. 

Alamgir Shaikh pointed out that the cost of staging the championship has enhanced manifolds by raising the allowances of the outstation cueists, who will be paid Rs1,500 per day for not only for the entire length of the event but also for a day before and after it. 

“The total prize money on offer is Rs 174,000 but the amount to be paid to the cueists in the head of allowances would be more than four lacs. We considering increasing the winning purse but we couldn’t more in the available resources,” the PBSA chief reasoned. 

He expressed his immense displeasure at the disappointing performance of Mohammad Asif and Sultan Mohammad in the recently held Asian Snooker Championship in Doha, Qatar, and hinted at the possibilities of them being issued show-cause notice for not delivering the goods in the continental event. 

He, however, defended the decision of the PBSA to send two officials with two cueists, arguing that he had gone to Doha to present Pakistan’s case for bidding for the Asian Championship while Munawwar Shaikh traveled as manager, adding that the Association didn’t have to bear the costs of the fifth member of the squad, referee Shabbir Hussain Daruwala. 

Alamgir Shaikh didn’t rule out the possibility of appointing Mohammad Yousuf, a former world champion, as Pakistan’s coach provided the outspoken cueist was willing to abide by the PBSA Code of conduct besides quitting domestic circuit. 

“We haven’t signed any deal with India’s Sanjay Sawant or Yasin Merchant because we have yet not been released the funds by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for this purpose. We would be more than glad to consider Yousuf, whose contribution to the Pakistan snooker is enormous, if he is prepared to do it voluntarily,” the PBSA President concluded.

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May 17, 2012

Resumption of international cricket in Pakistan delayed

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The resumption of international cricket in Pakistan has been delayed by at least six more weeks due to the tussle between the Sindh Sports Minister, Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) which has led to the postponement of the two Twenty20 games between a World XI and a Pakistan team, which were due to be staged in Karachi on May 25 and 26.  

It looks like that Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf, Chairman PCB, and his cronies are not eager to for the revival of international cricket in the country and the policies of Ijaz Butt are being followed.

There was a faint hope that Zaka Ashraf might prove different than his predecessor but the manner in which he handled the request of Dr Shah has convinced everyone that he has no plans to boost the Pakistan cricket which has been at the rock bottom since the ‘rule’ of Ijaz Butt.

“We had received a letter from the PCB in which it was suggested to consider postponing the visit for period to be mutually worked out. Now the matches are most likely to be staged on July 14 and 15 upon the return of Pakistan’s team from the tour of Sri Lanka. The final decision in this regard, however, will be taken in a meeting between Dr Shah and Zaka Ashraf,” a handout issued from the office of the Sindh Sports Minister on May 16 said.  

“All the contracted players of World XI, alongwith manager Alvin Kallicharran, were ready to come over to Pakistan. The air tickets had been arranged and they would have reached Karachi on May 24. Since the Pakistan team was not available, it was not considered worthwhile to field a second XI to face World XI. The broadcasters also desired the national team, not a second XI, for marketing purposes,” it added.

Dr Shah, who had vowed to hold both the Twenty20 matches later this month despite the lukewarm response from the PCB, was not available for comment, having proceeded abroad for treatment. He is expected to return in a week.

Having extended invitation to President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to be the guest of honour in first and second matches respectively, Dr Shah, a former member of the PCB Governing Council, had seemed confident of getting the permission to hold the two night games at Karachi’s National Stadium besides the national team.  

Dr Shah’s Asghar Ali Shah Foundation, with the support of the Government of Sindh, had roped in quite a few international cricketers for what basically were charity matches to raise funds for the flood-hit victims.

Sanath Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lankan all-rounder, was due to lead the World XI which also featured Andrea Nel, Justin Kemp, Loots Bossman, Charl Langeveldt and Paul Adams (South Africa), Jerome Taylor, Adam Sanford and Jermaine Lawson (West Indies) and Owais Shah (England).

Dr Shah had announced in a media briefing just the other week that all the 12 contracted players were paid signing fee of 10 percent while the balance amount was to be disbursed in two installments upon their arrival in Pakistan.

Although it has not been confirmed officially yet but there are indications that the contracted players were briefed about the possibilities of the postponement of the two matches for a few months and they would be obliged to fulfill their commitment at a later stage. 

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May 16, 2012

Shahid Afridi to boost Rotary International’s Polio Eradication Campaign

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rotary International, one of the leading voluntary service organizations of the world, has been joined by Shahid Khan Afridi, Pakistan’s former captain and one of the most popular cricketers, in the Polio Eradication Campaign.  

The FATA-born Shahid Afridi, who is also famous with his nickname of Boom Boom, has agreed to become a brand ambassador for the Rotary International’s National Polio Plus Committee.

Aziz Memon, Chairman, Rotary International’s National Polio Plus Committee, was excited to have Shahid Afridi, who is the heartthrob of millions of people, on board.

Shahid Afridi, an enterprising all-round cricketer who has remained a crowd-puller all along, has agreed to be a brand ambassador of Rotary International and the formal agreement in this regard will be inked shortly.

“Being ethnic Pashtun, he will be especially instrumental in influencing high-risk groups in the regions of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) He is a sporting icon who enjoys massive popularity. We are looking forward to roll-out communications campaign prior to the July polio rounds,” Aziz Memon, who has also been the Governor of Rotary International’s District 3270 covering Pakistan and Afghanistan, reckoned.

“By joining hands in a noble cause Shahid Afridi has once again proved that he cares for the community. He brings smiles on their faces with his aggressive intent in the cricket field. He will be featuring in our polio ads free of cost,” Aziz Memon, who himself played the lead role in roping in the dashing cricketer, disclosed.

“We already have had photo-shoots and video recording at a cricket ground in Karachi. Shahid Afridi has given his message in Urdu as well as Pushto, urging the people to cooperate with the vaccination teams so that every child could be administered polio drops without hassles,” the Rotary leader added.

“His appearance in the polio ad will surely get huge mileage because of immense popularity, particularly in the Pushto-speaking areas. Last year 79% of the polio cases came from Pushtoon families. We are confident that Shahid Afridi’s cricketing credentials will come handy in eradicating polio from this region,” Aziz Memon hoped.

“We are trying our level best to eradicate this deadly disease from Pakistan and we are mobilizing all our resources to do it as soon as possible. The Rotarians alongwith all other stake-holders are on board to kick polio out of Pakistan,” he emphasized.

Meanwhile according to the latest Pakistan Polio Eradication Bulletin; published on May 15, no new polio case was reported in the past one week. “As of May 14, 2012, Pakistan has reported a total of 16 polio cases (13 type-1, 2 type-3 & 1 mixture type-1 & 3) from 10 districts/tribal agencies,” it said.

The NIDs have been completed in Killa Abdullah, Pishin and Quetta districts in Balochistan and the second phase of the staggered NIDs was carried out in Peshawar district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where a Vaccination passage, as per short interval additional dose strategy, has also commenced in Nowshera and Lakki Marwat districts.  

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May 2, 2012

Time for Mehta to clinch Asian crown

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Giant-killer Aditya Mehta proved third time lucky as he edged out fancied compatriot Pankaj Advani 7-5 in the all-India final to win the recently held 28th ACBS Asian Snooker Championship 2012 in Doha, Qatar.  

Mehta, who had earlier toppled the reigning world champion Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran 6-3 in the semifinals and Afghanistan’s former world number two, Saleh Mohammad, in the quarter-finals, became only the third Indian ever to clinch the Asian snooker title.

Mehta, who missed out on the Asian title twice previously, proved to be third time lucky when he defeated Advani, a former world champion, 7-5 in an enthralling final which lasted no less than five hours and 50 minutes.

Advani had made it to the final after overpowering the dangerous Noppon Saengkham of Thailand 6-4 in the other semifinal. “It was good until 6-3. I played better in the semi-finals, earlier in the day. Eventually, it was just about getting over the line. It’s my first international title, so the pressure was there and I was faltering. And fortunately Pankaj gave it to me really. In the end it was so close,” Mehta remarked during the presentation ceremony.  

“Had the match gone to the last frame, Pankaj would have definitely been the favourite. At one stage, I thought I had lost it. Earlier, he was feeling the pressure with I taking a 3-0 lead but then, we both started making some mistakes,” he added.

“Playing two gruelling matches in a day was really crazy but I am used to playing several games in a day. Luckily, my semifinal match was little quicker than Pankaj’s. Physically, I was not tired at all but mentally yes, the pressure was there as I’ve lost in two finals before. This was going to be the biggest win of my career and I didn’t want to miss out on it,” Mehta felt.  

Advani, who won the Asian billiards title less than a month ago, was disappointed for not having been able to complete a grand double.

“It was a case of so close yet so far. This was my second final at the Asian Snooker Championship and Aditya’s third final. And it proved lucky for him. May be I have to wait for another final. I just had under 10 days to switch to snooker and then my old cue broke. I’ve been using the new one since the past one week. Considering all the circumstances, I think I had a fantastic event,” Advani stated.

Meanwhile Pakistan’s squad returned home empty-handed, with both the young cueists, Mohammad Asif and Sultan Mohammad, having failed to make it to the knock-out stage of the competition after indifferent form in the league matches.  

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