February 26, 2013

Dhoni’s double does the trick at Chennai


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It was Mahendra Singh Dhoni's first double century in Test cricket. More than the quantum of runs it was the manner and the situation in which they were scored will classify it as one of the greatest innings in modern cricket history.  

The Indian captain silenced his critics with the awesome power of his batting, playing the best knock of his career yet. His sensational knock took the game away from the visitors whose fierce determination was very difficult to overcome. It was a kind of knock that would have made the legends proud. 

It surely changed the complexion of the game as the Australian captain Michael Clarke conceded in the post-match media briefing at the end of the first Test against India in Chennai on February 26. 

"They outplayed us. Mahendra Singh Dhoni certainly led the charge and I thought Virat Kohli was outstanding as well with his hundred. But it certainly was Dhoni, who changed the game," the Aussie skipper acknowledged. 

Clarke admitted that Dhoni's innings had the most impact on the match, but did not forget to praise off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, who took 12 Aussie wickets to pave the way for India's victory.  

"It (Dhoni's innings) certainly had an impact on the game. Dhoni contributed a lot to India's success in this Test match. But like I said, Kohli made a fantastic hundred. Ashwin got seven wickets in the first innings and five in the second. Those were three very good performances. We were completely outplayed," Clarke added. 

 I think there are areas in both teams you need to focus on. There are weak areas in the Indian team we did not attack enough. If we had got 150 or 200 on the board we might have been able to expose or at least see how they played on a deteriorating wicket. A lot of credit has to go to India," he felt. 

Clarke’s assessment was perfect. India would not have only struggled but, going by their recent record, stood a fair chance of losing the game if they were a target in the excess of 150 in the second innings. Dhoni’s double century provided India the cushion to bowl the Australians out a second time without being asked to get many runs in the last innings of the match.

Australia had done exceptionally well to post a first innings score of 380 thanks to a fighting century from skipper Clarke. And they were right on top of the game when Sachin Tendulkar was scalped early on the third day. 

Enter Dhoni at number six, one place ahead than he normally bats, and the game started changing. His partnership with Kohli brought India closer to the Australian total but another mini-collapse opened up the game. 

Dhoni’s assault in the later part of his innings blew whatever hopes Australia had of limiting the Indian lead. His dominating knock forced the visitors to spread the field and the tired bowlers came under the hammer. He could have gone on to score 250 but he gloved a bouncer straight to the keeper which, on another day, would have sailed right over the top.

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February 24, 2013

Shoaib Siddiqui inaugurates Journalists Challenge Cup Cricket Tournament 2013


Pakistan News & Features Services

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, inaugurated the Journalists Challenge Cup Cricket Tournament 2013, being organized by the Karachi Union of Journalists (KUJ), at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) on February 24.  

In his brief speech on the occasion, Shoaib Siddiqui recognized the initiatives of the KUJ and the KPC for the promotion of sports and urged them to hold more similar events for the recreation of their members. 

Afzal Mohsin, President, KUJ, stated that the media fraternity, like rest of the country, was also passionate about cricket and they were hoping to make the Journalists Challenge Cup an annual feature. 

Aamir Latif, Honorary Secretary KPC, who was also the Honorary Secretary of the KUJ until last year, looked forward to organizing greater number of sporting activities for the working journalists. 

In the exhibition match, played to celebrate the inauguration of the event, Court Reporters defeated Daily Nai Baat by three runs after an exciting contest. 

Besides Court Reporters and Daily Nai Baat, the other teams to have entered the six-a-side competition are Daily Jang, Geo TV, Express Group, Samaa TV, Nawai Waqat, Jahan-e-Pakistan, ARY, Cameramen, Photographers, Sports Reporters, Aaj TV, International Media, Daily Times and Dawn. 

The draws of the tournament, to be played on knockout basis, will be taken out in the presence of the representatives of the participating teams on February 26 while the matches will be played under floodlights on March 2 and 3.

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February 21, 2013

Gavaskar’s memorable M A K Pataudi Memorial Lecture


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

India’s greatest-ever opening batsman, Sunil Gavaskar, came up trumps while delivering the inaugural M A K Pataudi Memorial Lecture in Chennai on February 21.
It was another vintage Test double century by the great opener who talked at length about the various aspects of ‘Tiger’ Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi’s personality in the typically graceful style of his. 

Sunny Gavaskar lived to the reputation of taking his time and making his presence in a big way instead of unleashing just a few flashing shots before disappearing. It was a speech to remember and a lecture to savour. 

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) could not have chosen a more appropriate person for the occasion. Sunny knew Tiger well enough and held him in high esteem all along as was reflected during the marathon speech whose text was both enlightening as well as enchanting. 

Following are the excerpts: 

“The difficult part is that right till the Nawab of Pataudi Jr passed away, I never knew how to address him. The first time I played under him was for the Vazir Sultan Colts XI in the Moin-ud-Dowla Gold Cup.” 

“We were about 16 years old at that time, socially challenged, and so we were in one corner. All the executives of Vazir Sultan were in another corner, and we never got the opportunity to speak to Tiger.” 

“I gathered up enough courage and said, 'What do we address you as? Nawab saab, captain, skipper, Pats, Tiger?' These were all the names that we'd heard him being addressed as by various other people. But we were all kids. The Nawab finished tying his shoelaces, looked up at me, turned and went away. So, we were none the wiser.”  

“I met him several times after that. I spent a lot of time with him when I got into the Indian team. But I could never actually call him anything. Every time there was an opportunity to talk to him, I went directly to him, instead of calling him by any name. So that really is going to be the tough part today. But just because he's addressed by just about everyone in their conversations, be it cricket or anything else, as Tiger, with your permission, I am going to address him as Tiger.” 

“Tiger was an extraordinary cricketer. To be able to play cricket with just one eye - and the splinter that went through his eye, you could actually see the scar in the eye when you were close to him - and score almost 3000 (2793) runs is something terrific. I mean, it's hard enough to see the cricket ball with two eyes, and here was a man who played with just one!” 

“The best thing about Tiger was that with his batting style and his approach to the game, he liberated Indian cricket. Till then Indian cricket was more about letting things drift than making things happen. Tiger changed the entire outlook and mindset. He stepped down the pitch to the spinners and lofted the quicker bowlers over the infield, which wasn't done before.” 

“India was a team which was being run-over by just about every other team. But when Tiger came in, he gave the team the belief and the confidence that they could play against any opposition, do well, and even go on to win. His charisma was such. It was incredible.” 

“He was one of those cricketers that you could never take your eyes off. If he was standing at covers and the action was going on in the middle, you would be looking at Tiger Pataudi. Yes, to a peripheral vision you were watching the action but he had that magnetism.”

“He was very good-looking as well. I keep saying that the 1960s has to be the most glamorous decade in Indian cricket. We had some really good-looking guys and they were dating some gorgeous women. Tiger Pataudi himself was dating the leading film star of India - Sharmila Tagore.” 

“Tiger also was an outstanding fielder. I think in the history of Indian cricket, Tiger has to rank among the top-three Indian fielders ever. Tiger himself, Eknath Solkar, who is no more with us, and Mohammad Azharuddin - these three would be, in my view, the top-three fielders of India. Wherever they stood - close-in, in the outfield - they were outstanding.” 

“Tiger, with that one eye, could hit the stumps quite regularly - pretty much as regularly as a Jonty Rhodes or a Ricky Ponting did. Whenever the run-out opportunity was there, Tiger hit the stumps. And that is the crucial thing. If you hit the stumps and the run-out opportunity is not there, it doesn't really mean much.”

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February 13, 2013

Sports turf managers course concludes


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The two-month long training session for Sports Turf Managers, organized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, with the collaboration of the Customs Cricket Academy (CCA), concluded with the certificate distribution ceremony at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 12.

Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, was the chief guest in the ceremony and he presented certificates among the participants of the training programme.

The selected 40 boys and girls were trained here at the CCC, under the supervision of qualified coaches, as a part of the Sindh Government’s initiative of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme (BBSYDP).

Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and the Event Director, informed the audience that the training programme was run by the CCA five days a week for a period of two months and it included theory, practical work, group discussion and field study tours.

“It is a new field for sports management in Pakistan. However it has a great scope of job in other parts of the world. The CCA has acquired the services of experts of different areas of the training programme such as infrastructure development, management maintenance and equipment,” the CCA Head Coach observed.

“Youth is the future of Pakistan. The country has been blessed with enormously talented and hard-working young generation who need direction and guidance to do wonders. Our training programmes have been helpful in unfolding the talents of the youngsters whom we have facilitated by letting them enhance their skills by acquiring first-hand knowledge from the leading professionals,” Shoaib Siddiqui remarked.

Prominent among those having attended the ceremony were Mahboob Shah, a former international umpire, Waqar Hussain, Assistant Collector, Pakistan Customs, and. Haris Ahmed Khan, a cricketer-turned qualified coach.

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February 4, 2013

Dr Mohammad Ali Shah's memories will live on


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The sports fraternity of Karachi in particular has been shattered by the heart-breaking news of the death of Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah who breathed his last in Houston, United States of America, on February 4. 

It was still early in the morning in Houston but most of the Karachiites were preparing for dinner late in the evening when the news broke on the various television channels. 

The former Sindh Minister and the leading orthopaedic surgeon of the country, Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, who was battling the disease of cancer with unmatched fortitude and courage for quite a few years, finally became its victim. 

The multi-dimensional personality of Dr Mohammad Ali Shah earned him a huge circle of friends and he remained extremely popular all along primarily because of his passion for cricket. 

Nearly every Test cricketer of the present and the past knew him personally and he was always there to lend them a helping hand. 

He was a workaholic in the truest sense of the word. He hardly slept for a couple of hours in a day while the remaining 22 hours were meant for continuous activities that included playing cricket, doing surgery, performing duties of a minister and carrying out social work. 

It was really quite amazing how Dr Mohammad Ali Shah kept on working with the same passion and zeal despite having treatment for cancer during the last couple of years of his life. 

The manner in which he succeeded in roping in the foreign cricketers to stage a couple of cricket matches last year was truly incredible. He overcame all obstacles, including the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), to turn his dream into reality. 

His energy-level during the course of staging those couple of matches at the National Stadium, Karachi, will be remembered for a very long time. He literally worked round the clock for many days to personally oversee the arrangements and ensure that the games were organized peacefully. 

Dr Mohammad Ali Shah had many other dreams for the uplift of sports but they could not be fulfilled in his lifetime. He was only in his mid 60s and had looked good to live for many more years before the cancer knocked him down. He would certainly be missed in the sports community of Pakistan in particular. 

His death leaves a huge vacuum and it may not be possible to find so many outstanding qualities in one man.
He had penned down his autobiography before leaving this mortal world. The twin-autobiographies, in English and Urdu, were published around a year ago. 

He had worked very hard on putting together so many photographs of the various and reproducing them with catchy captions. Dr Mohammad Ali Shah is no more but his memories will live on.

He has left behind a legacy. The Asghar Ali Shah Stadium, he developed in North Nazimabad, Karachi, around two decades ago, will continue reminding of one of his major accomplishments.

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