November 30, 2012

Ponting already had an extended international career

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ricky Ponting’s decision to quit, finally, should not have come as a surprise. The former Australian captain made the announcement on November 29 with the third and final Test against South Africa, having started at the WACA in Perth on November 30. 

The journey which had begun at the same ground in December 1995 is now coming to a close at the same ground after 17 years. By the Australian standards it has been too long a career. 

Ponting’s illustrious contemporaries like the Waugh twins, Steve and Mark, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Mathew Hayden, had left the scene at a time when they still looked good for a few more seasons if not more. 

The case of Ponting was different, however. He was allowed an extended career despite undergoing a lean patch for considerable length of time.

The Australian cricket authorities had never been so lenient in the past but they seemed to have let the former captain stay on because there were not too many consistent batsmen around who could be his worthy replacement. 

Ponting’s form had declined quite a few seasons ago. He was not the same flamboyant self who used to dictate terms against the bowlers. 

He had lost his ability to dominate the bowling but he was hanging on. He looked a shadow on his own self during the last few years of his career. 

Gone were the days he pulled and cut the fast bowlers whenever they pitched short. Neither did he appear assured enough while driving the ball when the bowlers dared attacking him with full-pitched stuff. 

An odd innings or two not withstanding, he was at sea against the quality bowlers in the recent past. He couldn’t reproduce his top form even after handing over the captaincy to Michael Clarke. 

Ponting was given numerous chances, despite his ordinary performances, but he couldn’t make them count. His most recent failures against South Africa very clearly reflected that he was encountering problems of all kinds in the middle. 

He has made the right decision to hang his boots. Not that he was blocking the entry of any talented youngster but more because he was finding it increasingly difficult to put runs against his name. 

With the retirement of Ponting there will be greater pressure on skipper Clarke and Michael Hussey to continue their awesome form. They remain the only two reliable batsmen in the Australian line-up which used to have far too many in the past. 

The Australians have been producing fast bowlers who have pace and swing but their cupboard of quality batsmen has gone bare. That’s one reason they may find it difficult to be the top side of the world. 

They ruled the world, under Ponting, for a number of years because they were blessed with an extraordinarily gifted side. They had world-class batsmen from number one to seven which made their bowling even more lethal. 

It’s a different ball game now. The Australian speedsters do have the firepower to rout any side but their own batsmen don’t have the capability to score heavily in all conditions.

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Text of Ponting’s retirement speech

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Pakistan News & Features Services

 “As you probably seem like you're all very aware now, a few hours ago I let the team know of my decision to make this Test match my last. It's a decision I thought long and hard about, put in long consideration about the decision, at the end of the day it was based on my results and my output really in this series so far.”
“It hasn't been what I expect of myself and it certainly hadn't been to the level that I feel is required for batsmen and players in the Australian team. As I've said all along, I'll continue to play this game as long as I felt that I could contribute to wins, play well enough to help the team win games, and over the last couple of weeks I think that my level of performance hasn't been good enough to do that.” 

“My passion and love for the game hasn't changed one bit, right through the last 12-18 months when things probably haven't been as I would've liked them or pictured them. I'll continue this season to play out the rest of the summer, and I'm looking forward to a full season of the Big Bash with the Hobart Hurricanes.” 

“But I think it's really important today, I could sit here all day and reflect on my career and talk about the great teams I've played in, the great players I've played with and against, but I honestly believe that's for another time, there's other days and times for that at the end of this game, at the end of my career that we can all get together and talk about those moments.” 

“As far as I'm concerned, my immediate focus now and the team's immediate focus is what we're presented with tomorrow. That's an unbelievable opportunity. We're going into what I believe is almost like a grand final.” 

“I've prepared well this week, and as I said to the boys this morning, I'm hungrier than ever and want this win probably more than any other game I've ever played in, so I'll do whatever I can this week to contribute to a great team performance.” 

“If that happens to lead to a win for the team and we get back to the top of the tree and No. 1 in the world then there's no better time for me to finish anyway. This week we've got a big job ahead, and especially me, I've got to lift my level of play from where it was last week to where it is this week. I've got a good feeling I can do that, and as I said there's no better stage than in a finals type game, a big game, to try to do that this week.” 

“Ironically, this is where it all started for me, I think 17 years ago, this is where it all started, and that's where it's going to finish.”

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November 13, 2012

HEC, PUSB initiate measures for sports promotion at grassroots level

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News and Features Services)

The 15th meeting of the Pakistan Universities Sports Board (PUSB) was held recently in Islamabad under the auspices of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) approved measures for the promotion of sports at the grassroots level. 

The meeting presided over by Dr Javaid Laghari, Chairperson PUSB/HEC, was attended by several vice chancellors of public and private sector universities. 

During the meeting, it was apprised that as an outcome of incentives and steps undertaken by the HEC for promotion of sport activities at university level, the university athletes have displayed considerable improvement in their performance at national and international level. 

It was also noted that the PUSB, having emerged as one of the largest sports setups in the county, has made its presence felt in a big way by organizing as many as 54 Inter-Varsities Championships in nearly all the major sports of the country during the last year thus actively promoting sports activities as nursery of national players. 

The meeting, also attended by Prof Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi, Advisor HRD, HEC, and Yahya Khan, Director General Sports, HEC, approved the inclusion of new disciplines of archery and Ju-jitsu in the Inter-Varsities Championships. 

The committee approved the suggestion that all the important national and international games would be included as part of Inter-Varsities Games. 

The house recommended that the Director Sports of the universities be sent abroad for training for broadening their vision and enhancing their capacity for better and effective administration of sport activities. 

 The PUSB/HEC committee also looked into the possibilities of introducing the Best Director Sports award at the provincial and federal level in the near future in order to encourage the performance of sports officers. 

The committee approved HEC Inter-Varsities all round trophy and cash prizes for the session 2011-12 with Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad to be awarded a special prize for organizing eight Inter-Varsities sports events. 

The meeting approved the rules for seeding, draws and systems of tournaments for the upcoming university sport events.

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November 12, 2012

Asif crashes in Dubai snooker final

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan’s premier cueist Mohammad Asif fell at the last hurdle of the 2012 Dubai International Open Snooker Tournament as he was overpowered by the 20-year-old Noppon Saengkham of Thailand in the final at the Dubai Snooker Club on November 10. 

The 27-year-old Asif appeared on course of bringing home their first cue sports title in 12 years but he couldn’t come to terms with the brilliance of the Thailand youngster who won the best of nine-frame final 5-2 with the scores of 61-10, 49-60, 60-40, 69-9, 31-63, 74-27, 64-46. 

Having performed exceptionally well in the semifinals, Asif held the psychological advantage going into the final but after having snatched two of the five frames he ran out of the steam in the decisive phase to lose the duel. 

Asif had produced stunning performance in the semifinals less than 24 hours ago as he whacked the dangerous Andy Lee of Hong Kong in straight frames. 

Saengkha, however, played superior game in the final and there was not much Pakistan's top cueist could have done to prevent the inevitable.

His defeat in the final meant Pakistan will have to wait longer for another cue sports title. After Mohammad Yousuf’s victory in the World Championship in 1994 and the Asian Championship in 1998 and Shaukat Ali’s gold medal in the individual event of the Asian Games in 1998, it was Mohammad Shafiq who clinched a regional title in 2000. 

Pakistan’s second participant, Asjad Iqbal, had crashed in the quarter-finals after having performed impressively in the league matches. He was knocked over by Lee whom Asif overwhelmed in the semifinal.

Saengkham, having outwitted Karam Fatima of Syria 5-3 in the semifinal, continued his brilliant form in the final to earn another title for Thailand, having emerged as the most powerful cue sports nation of Asia. 

The top 32 cueists of Asia belonging to 11 countries entered the competition. As many an as 16 of them were eliminated after the first round of league matches with the top 16 battling it out in another league round. 

Eight cueists were left in the arena for the knockout games and the line-up featured two qualifiers each from Pakistan, Thailand and Syria and one each from Hong Kong and hosts UAE.

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November 9, 2012

‘Sain’ Razaullah Khan is no more

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

‘Sain’ Razaullah Khan, one of the most enterprising characters of Pakistan cricket, has expired. He breathed his last on November 5 at the age of 75. He had been unwell for quite a while but he didn’t lose his sense of humour and satire until the very end. 

He might not have excelled as a first-class cricketer but he made amends by proving his mettle in the administration of the game. He will go down in history as one of the Pakistan’s most talked about organizers. 

His career in the field of cricket administration had two distinct phases. He was a fearless and courageous fellow who took pride in raising voice at the malpractices committed by the rulers of Pakistan cricket from time to time. 

Razaullah Khan, popularly known as ‘Sain’ because of his Sindhi background, was prepared to throw caution to the wind and take on even the most influential of people at the helm of the affairs in the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) which later became the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

He even sacrificed his departmental job to continue fighting pitched battles against the then Board officials, who also left no stone unturned in creating hurdles of all kinds for him in order to ‘diffuse’ him. 

In those days Razaullah Khan was considered a ‘terror’ and the cricket establishment of the country remained scared of him because he would waste no time in ‘exposing’ their shortcomings to say the least. 

In that phase, while pursuing anti-Board stance, he displayed his organizational talents by launching various young cricketers, who later became stars. As the Secretary of the Sindh Cricket Association (SCA), he’s credited to have provided the platform to some of the youngsters who were earlier ignored by their own respective Associations. 

Razaullah Khan was instrumental in founding the sports department at the Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) with the blessings of his ‘benefactor’ Hussain Lawai, one of the country’s most prominent bankers.

The turnaround came in 1999 when Razaullah Khan got employment at the PCB. Whether it were the economic compulsions or he had run out of steam after waging a war for decades, it must have been the toughest decision of life because he had to change himself completely since then. 

The man who was known for hitting headlines on a number of occasions for bringing to light the various conspiracies and malpractices of the Board was now himself a part of that set-up. He had been chained. 

Although he did speak about some burning issues with the usual venom of his occasionally once in a while, he had lost the sting after joining the PCB. He was dismayed when Ijaz Butt didn’t renew his contract which put him out of job last year. 

Despite his illness he had the desire to be a part of Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf’s team but his wish could not be fulfilled. 

Besides Hussain, Lawai, now President, Summit Bank, Waqar Hasan, a former Test batsman turned entrepreneur, and Irfan Mirza, the founder of the United Bank Limited (UBL) sports department, are among his all-weather friends alongwith Zahid Bashir, a former President of Karachi Gymkhana.

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