March 31, 2013

Hamza Akbar favourite to win Asian Under-21 snooker title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 19-year-old Hamza Akbar has become the favourite to win the 14th Asian Under-21 Snooker Championship 2013 starting in the Indian city of Indore on April 1 after having clinched Pakistan’s National Snooker Championship exactly a week ago.


Hamza, hailing from the industrial town of Faisalabad, has been in excellent form of late and it’s just a matter of extending that brilliant run for another week to bring home the continental title. 

“Winning the National Championship on my maiden appearance is certainly a fulfillment of a dream but I desire more wins. I will like to extend this purple patch and hope to do very well in the upcoming Asian Under-21 Championship,” Hamza remarked after capturing the national crown at the Karachi Gymkhana on March 25. 

Hamza will become the first Pakistani to annex the Asian Under-21 title, should he continue his winning form for a few more days. Mohammad Majid Ali, another highly promising youngster, is the other Pakistani cueist who will be in action at Indore where a total of 30 cueists will be competing for the crown. 

The participants have been divided in eight groups with the league matches to be spread over four days. The top two cueists from each group will be advancing to knockout phase starting with the pre-quarter-finals on April 5. The quarter-finals and the semifinals will be held the following day with the event to wind up with final and the prize distribution ceremony on April 7. 

According to the draws, the Group A comprises of Zhu Yinghui (China), Alireza Rezaei (Iran) and Ishpreet Chadha (India), the Group B contains Noppon Saengkham (Thailand), Khalid Kamali (UAE) and Dhvaj Haria (India) while the Group C features Malkeet Singh (India), Mohamed Naseer Mohamed Munshi (Sri Lanka), Maung Maung (Myanmar) and Ratchayothin Yotharuck (Thailand). 

The Group D has the presence of Hamza Akbar (Pakistan), Leong Man Hhoi (Hong Kong), Vishal Vaya (India) and Siyavosh Mazayani (Iran) while Mohammad Majid Ali (Pakistan), Wan Nansen Sin Man (Hong Kong), Badr Obaid Khalifa Almehairi (UAE) and Rahul Sachdev (India) have been drawn in the Group E. 

The Group F is composed of Hyder Salam Abd Ajmajid (Iraq), Ro Htet (Myanmar), Zhou Yelong (China) and Weerasooriya Maha Vidanalage Kanishka (Sri Lanka), the Group G consists of Boonyarit Keattikul (Thailand), Lu Ning (China), Amin Sanjaei (Iran) and Ali Naser Ali (Iraq) while the quartet of Hyder Abdul Sattar (Iraq), Nitesh Madan (India), Chang Ming Tung, Dongdong (Hong Kong) and Ali Gharahgozlou (Iran) constitute the Group H.

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March 29, 2013

Hamza Akbar creates sensation by annexing national snooker title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News  & Features Services) 

Debutant Hamza Akbar created a sensation by winning the recently concluded Jubilee Insurance 38th National Snooker Championship 2013 at the Karachi Gymkhana’s Billiards Hall. The teenager from Faisalabad, making his debut in the National Championship, blew the whistle on quite a few seasoned cueists to clinch the title against all odds. 

He was made to work very hard by Imran Shahzad in the final which lasted almost eight hours. Both the finalists, however, looked fit and fresh in the prize distribution ceremony which had to be delayed because of the marathon final which went to the full distance of 15 frames as Hamza won with the scores of 79-45, 36-70, 58-61, 76-1, 6-85, 23-89, 67-6, 64-22, 54-46, 80-6, 24-78, 24-73, 63-58, 0-115, 89-43. 

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, and Javed Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Life Insurance, presented the glittering trophy to Hamza alongwith a cash award of Rs 80,000 while Imran claimed a purse of Rs 50,000 with the runner-up trophy.

Both the guests of honour thoroughly enjoyed the epic final and they wholeheartedly congratulated both the finalists for coming up with awesome performance. Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Federation (PBSF), delivered the welcome address in which he acknowledged the contribution of all stakeholders in making the event a success.

Homi Khambata, President, Karachi Gymkhana, himself an enthusiastic cueist, described the final a memorable one and looked forward to hosting many snooker events in the future.

“Obviously I am feeling thrilled at my accomplishment. I had done well in the junior circuit earlier but this performance at the senior level makes me happy beyond words. This is the fulfillment of one my dreams,” Hamza observed after being crowned as the new national champion at the age of 19.

“Mohammad Asif, who won the World Snooker Championship a few months ago, has been my role model. We belong to the same city (Faisalabad) and we have been playing at the same club there for the past couple of years. I have derived a lot of inspiration from him,” the dashing youngster disclosed.

“Although I had defeated experienced rivals in the earlier games the final presented a tougher challenge and I just took it frame by frame. Thankfully my game worked and I was able to beat my rival who was far more experienced than me,” Hamza added.

The 37-year-old Imran, hailing from Lahore, didn’t mince words in stating he lost to a cueist who played better than him in the final. The vastly experienced Imran, who didn’t lose any of his earlier games in the competition, regretted not having the most of his purple patch to win the national championship.

“I have won quite a few national ranking tournaments over the years but unfortunately I have yet not clinched the national title, having gone down fighting in the final for the fourth time,” he remarked.

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March 18, 2013

India on course of rewriting their history after Mohali triumph


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Indians have been at the wrong end of many whitewashes in quite a few Test series exceeding three matches but they have yet not clean swept any opponent in a series spanning four or more Tests.


By registering what could be considered as an unlikely win in the third Test against Australia in Mohali on March 18 they have put themselves in an ideal position to rewrite their cricketing history with a victory in the fourth and final Test starting in New Delhi on March 22. 

The Australians have been outplayed in the key departments of batting and bowling in all three Tests so far with India being the second best among the two sides in catching and ground fielding as usual. 

Mahendra Singh Dhoni, unsurprisingly, has lost the toss on all three occasions on surfaces where he would have loved to bat first. He must be credited for having kept the team motivated despite the setback before the start of every Test. His bowlers have done a commendable job and their efforts look even more impressive in light of the innumerable catches floored off their bowling.


The victory at Mohali has to be classified as unlikely or unexpected because of a few reasons. First and foremost the opening day’s play was washed out completely due to rain which reduced it to a four-day affair. Then India’s traditionally poor catching allowed Australia to build a total they would not have been able to achieve without their generosity. 

It’s quite remarkable, but not at all surprising, that the Australians have caught and fielded magnificently despite the mauling of their bowlers whereas the Indians have let go easiest of chances when they were on top of the game. 

Historically the tail-enders have frustrated Indian bowlers all along and this series has been no exception. Even number tens and elevens have batted with freedom which would make the openers proud. The Aussies could have considered themselves safe in the Mohali Test after having scored in the excess of 400 in the first innings and more importantly consumed a lot of time.


Debutant Shikar Dhawan played in the fashion of the man he had replaced, Virender Sehwag. It was the opener’s onslaught in two successive sessions that brought India in a commanding position after being frustrated by the Australian tail. India’s customary batting collapse of the recent times revisited them and they couldn’t even reach 500 after the exhilarating opening stand of nearly 300. 

With a meager first innings lead of less than 100, their bowlers came to the party with a bang until confronted by the tail-enders once more. The last wicket occupied the crease for far too long and India’s target of 133 at four an over was never appeared a straight forward task in light of their past record of failing nearly every time in similar circumstances. 

India took many more overs than needed to get to the score which kept their supporters tense until the very end. In fact there were people who feared Dhoni calling off the chase for he had done so before in not too dissimilar scenario.

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March 13, 2013

Jubilee Insurance 38th National Snooker Championship 2013 from March 17


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

With the postponement of the bilateral series against India, the Jubilee Insurance 38th National Snooker Championship 2013 has been brought forward by a couple of weeks and now it will staged at the Karachi Gymkhana from March 17 to 25.


 The officials of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Federation (PBSF) were in a state of fix over the past few weeks because of the delay in holding the Punjab Cup which was originally scheduled to be completed last December, like the other three provincial tournaments which serve as qualifiers for the National Championship. 

The PBSF President, Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, conceded during the media briefing on March 13 that the federation was not empowered to solve the problems within the Punjab Billiards & Snooker Association and they themselves had to resolve the matter. 

“Thankfully the Punjab Cup has been organized and we are all set to start the National Championship 2013 on March 17 with the representation of all the four provinces as well as the federal capital,” he remarked. Alamgir Shaikh, when questioned, also confirmed the cueists took an unusually long time before signing the central cueists. 

“The cueists held their own point of view and they took a lot of time in finally realizing that the new format in the national ranking tournaments was actually meant to make the circuit more competitive and produce better quality material,” he stated. 

“Under the new format which have introduced on an experimental basis this year, only the top eight cueists at the end of the last national ranking tournament will be retained for the National Championship next year. Until now we used to allow automatic entry to 16 top cueists,” the PBSF President explained. 

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, vowed to continue supporting snooker and he foresaw a bright future for the country in the field of cue sports in particular. 

He stated that, like the whole nation, he was thrilled at the accomplishment of Mohammad Asif, adding that it was a matter of time for Pakistan to have produced another world champion. 

 “I have had this gut feeling all along. Our cueists were coming up with creditable performance in the various international events in the recent past and it was just a matter of putting the acts together which Asif did successfully in Bulgaria,” Tahir Ahmed shared. 

World champion Asif will return to defend his national crown in the Jubilee Insurance 38th National Snooker Championship 2013 which carries an enhanced prizemoney of Rs 267,000. 

 The highest break of the competition award offers a stunning purse of Rs 25,000, as compared to Rs 5,000 until last year, after the spontaneous announcement from the Karachi Gymkhana’s President, Homi Khambata, and Convener Sports, Javed Mir, to contribute Rs 15,000 towards this prize. 

A total of 40 cueists, divided equally in eight groups, will be contesting the event. After the league matches the top two cueists from each group will be advancing to the pre-quarter-finals.

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March 9, 2013

Hasib Ahsan ruled Pakistan cricket without heading it


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Hasib Ahsan, who expired in Karachi on March 8, was more than a former Test cricketer and an ex-chief of the national selection committee. Although he never held a top slot in the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP), later renamed Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), but for quite some time he was regarded as one of the most influential administrators of the game in the country.


He was believed to have called the shots during the four-year tenure of Lt General ® Safdar Butt in the 1980s when serving the BCCP as the Chairman of the selection committee. It was during this period when Hasib also became the manager of the national team for the tour of England in 1987. 

The following winter he was understood to be the man to have taken the command in his hand following the heated debate between the visiting England captain, Mike Gatting, and the veteran Pakistani umpire, Shakoor Rana, which led to the cancellation of the one day’s play of the Test match at Faisalabad. 

Hasib was not afraid to lock horns with the people he disliked for some reasons or the other. For a number of years he didn’t let go any opportunity go to settle scores with Javed Burki, accused of cutting short his international career, and Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, whom he considered guilty of shaking the confidence of Shoaib Mohammad. 

Javed, who was controversially appointed the Pakistan captain for the tour of England in 1962, reportedly hatched the conspiracy to send Hasib back before the Test in order to accommodate one of his favourites, Javed Akhtar, who was also an off-spinner. 

Hasib, who turned the ball prodigiously while playing 12 Tests for Pakistan between 1958 and 1962, couldn’t play again. His bowling action became a matter of debate and what had promised to be a long career came to an end rather abruptly. 

He, however, retained the passion and also possibly the grudge as the years went by and he came into the prominence for taking a firm stand against the all-powerful Air Marshal Nur Khan, who was also his boss at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA). 

Hasib had resigned from the post of chief selector in protest of the Air Marshal’s decision to appoint an unfit Imran Khan as captain for the demanding tour of Australia in 1983-84. 

In this period he also developed serious differences with his PIA colleague, Arif Abbasi, another blue-eyed boy of the Air Marshal, who was working as the Secretary of the BCCP. 

Air Marshal Nur Khan and Arif Abbasi were removed from the BCCP soon after the disastrous tour of Australia in early 1984 and Hasib returned with nearly absolute power in all cricket matters with the appointment of Lt General ® Safdar Butt. 

After four-year tenure Lt General ® Safdar Butt was replaced by Lt General ® Zahid Ali Akbar who brought back Arif Abbasi as Secretary. 

Hasib fought a bitter war of words with the BCCP when Shoaib Mohammad, having emerged as frontrunner for the opener’s slot with a string of high scores in the national tournaments, was ignored. 

There was a twist in the tale when Majid Khan succeeded Arif Abbasi as the PCB Chief Executive in 1996 and Hasib was in the thick of things for a while. He was held in high esteem by the subsequent chiefs of the PCB.

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