July 6, 2020

Star-studded CPL set to explode into action on August 18

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

All the six Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) franchises have selected their teams for the 2020 tournament which is scheduled to take place from August 18 to September 10. 

The draft was carried out remotely and the six teams have successfully filled out their rosters with both Caribbean and overseas players with Rashid Khan, Marcus Stoinis, Ross Taylor, Pravin Tambe and Carlos Brathwaite all being signed up. 

Launched in 2013, the CPL has become one of the leading franchise-based T20 tournaments of the world. It’s known for combining two of the most compelling aspects of Caribbean life, dramatic games and a vibrant carnival atmosphere. 

There was a combined broadcast and digital viewership of 312 million during the 2019 season to make it one of the fastest growing leagues in world cricket. In 2019 the tournament made a positive economic impact across the Caribbean of US$ 136 million. 

Barbados Tridents happen to be the current champions with Trinbago Knight Riders, Guyana Amazon Warriors, St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots, St. Lucia Zouks and Jamaica Tallawahs being the other participants. 

Meanwhile the defending champions have signed the highly gifted Afghanistan leg-spinner Rashid Khan, explosive English opener Alex Hales and versatile Australian all-rounder Marcus Stoinis. Their other overseas players are Englishman Harry Gurney and Afghani Rahmanullah Gurbaz. They have retained the core of their championship winning side from last year and they have signed Kyle Mayers to join a strong set of Caribbean players. 

Trinbago Knight Riders have signed Pravin Tambe, a spinner, who will become the first Indian to play at the CPL. They have also brought back Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed who was part of their Championship winning team in 2018. They have signed New Zealand wicket keeper Tim Seifert and Zimbabwean batsman Sikandar Raza. The Knight Riders have retained the core of their local players for the 2020 season. 

The Guyana Amazon Warriors have retained 13 players from the team that went unbeaten during the league stage of last year’s tournament and have added New Zealander Ross Taylor and Afghani Naveen-ul-Haq. Imran Tahir, Chris Green, Brandon King, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford all return to the Amazon Warriors for 2020. 

The St Kitts & Nevis Patriots have signed Australians Chris Lynn and Ben Dunk and have also recruited Ish Sodhi of New Zealand and Sohail Tanvir of Pakistam. Rassie van der Dussen returns to the Patriots after a successful spell with the team in 2018 and they welcome back Fabian Allen, Evin Lewis, Sheldon Cottrell and their captain Rayad Emrit. 

The Jamaica Tallawahs are looking to rebuild after a poor season in 2019 which saw them finish in last place in the table. They have recruited Carlos Brathwaite who was released by the Patriots. They have also signed Nepalese leg spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and South African left arm wrist spinner Tabraiz Shamsi. They have brought in exciting Pakistani batsman Asif Ali and retained their leading run scorer from last season, Glenn Phillips. These overseas players will combine with a strong local contingent that includes Andre Russell, Rovman Powell and Oshane Thomas.

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Cricket in USA also affected by COVID-19

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

International cricket is set to return after nearly four months when England and the West Indies confront each other in the first Test match at Southampton on July 8 but cricket in the United States of America (USA) remains severely affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. 

Here in USA, quite a few events have been postponed or cancelled recently while others, slated for later this year, also remain uncertain because of the fluid situation caused by the deadly virus.

The second edition of the Champions Cup cricket tournament, which was scheduled to be organized by the Global Sports in Detroit, Michigan, on July 4, has been cancelled. 

The 15th edition of the Diversity Cup, having become one of the most sought after cricket tournaments of the country, originally planned to be held in August, has now been rescheduled for the Labor Day weekend, starting from September 5 to 7. 

The way things stand at the moment and the manner in which the COVID-19 fatalities and infections are rocking the country, I don’t foresee realistic hopes of the 15th Diversity Cup taking place in Detroit this September. Unlike the United Kingdom, the resumption of proper cricket activities in USA may still be far off in the prevailing scenario. 

As the cricket enthusiasts in the country are aware about it, the Diversity Cup, organized by the Global Sports, has been one of the most popular annual cricket events for the past one and a half decades. Its previous edition was held with the traditional fanfare in Detroit from July 19 to 21 last year. 

Meanwhile the inaugural edition of the Minor League T20 franchise tournament, being organized by the USA Cricket and the American Cricket Enterprises (ACE), has also been delayed by the pandemic. It was scheduled to commence from the July 4 weekend. 

According to the details, the organizers had identified four major conferences (West, Central, North East and South East) to spread the 22 participating teams in the inaugural event in which a total of 170 games were planned in the original schedule.

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June 30, 2020

World class sound track being prepared for Asian Games 2022

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The 19th Asian Games, due to be staged in the Chinese city of Hangzhou from September 10 to 25 in 2022, is already being expected to be the biggest Asiad ever. 

The preparations for the multi-sport continental event are now in full swing in Hangzhou which is set to become the third city in China, after Beijing and Guangzhou, to host the Asian Games. 

The organizers of the 19th Asian Games have announced that besides making top class arrangements for the continent's top athletes and world-class competition, the musical soundtrack for the event will also be of the highest pedigree. 

To mark the International Olympic Day, a global celebration of the founding of the modern Olympic Movement in Paris on June 23, 1894, the Hangzhou Asian Games Organizing Committee initiated a campaign to solicit musical works, calling on people from around the world to compose music for the sports event. 

Music plays an irreplaceable part in gathering momentum in all mass events, according to Xu Jianqiang, a professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. A good song can have a longtime impact. 

"The song, even if played decades after, can still bring back memories of an event, the year and the city where it took place," the renowned composer told China Daily.

The call, set to last two years, will be open to both ordinary people who love and support the Games, and professional musicians. According to the committee's expectations, the musical works for the Games should be artistic and creative, and should be heard and shared by a worldwide audience. 

"Sports represent the pursuit of breakthroughs in physical strength while music stands for the outburst of passion from inside the heart," Chen Weiqiang, deputy secretary-general of the Games' organizing committee and vice-mayor of Hangzhou, observed, noting that the combination of sports and music makes the most beautiful language. 

Chen remarked that the call for musical works was an important part of the preparations for the Games and after rounds of considerations and discussions, they finally approved the plan of solicitation, which was divided into three phases, and hoped that the campaign will help collect great musical pieces over the next two years. 

"Musical works are indispensable for almost all occasions in sporting events, such as the torch relay and the opening and closing ceremonies, and will be unique heritage left by the Games. We hope the music for the Hangzhou Asian Games, from across the globe and with different styles, to be classic and able to be spread through the ages," Chen explained. 

Besides being a stage for sports competitions, the Games will be offering a feast of Asian cultures. 

The theme song, the promotional song and the background music for the opening and closing ceremonies, embodied with distinctive cultures and values of the host country and the host city, along with the Asian Games spirit, are imprinted in the Games' history. 

Meng Ke, a famous producer who has been part of the composition teams for several major sports events in China, including the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing Olympic Games and the Hangzhou Time show at the closing ceremony of the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, stated that the music for Olympic events should reflect the Olympic spirit, as well as the perseverance and toughness of athletes. 

"Moreover, the music should help present a nation's pride, self-confidence and unity," he added.

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June 28, 2020

Recalling history of Karachi’s Jahangir West Cricket Club

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Karachi, one of the two major cricket nurseries of the country, with Lahore being the other, has produced outstanding cricketers in large numbers since the creation of Pakistan. Club cricket used to be the backbone of the whole system as it provided the initial platform for the promising youngsters. 

Those familiar with the history of Karachi cricket must be aware about Jahangir West Cricket Club, which used to be one of the leading cricket clubs of the metropolis for more than two decades. It was founded as Pak Wanderers Cricket Club in 1974 but was renamed as Jahangir West Cricket Club only a few years later. 

Muhammad Ali Jafri, who was a cricket scorer, had founded the club as its Secretary while Muhammad Rafiq was its first President. It still retained its original name when I joined the club, as a school student, in 1976. It was about a couple of years later when the name of the club was changed, probably because the majority of its members were residents of the famous Jahangir Road. 

In its formative years the club had the services of the likes of Zaheer Abbas, Sikander Bakht, Ali Javed, Naeem Ahmed, Anwar-ul-Haq, Nasir Shah, Shahid Pervez, Humayun Sumar and Asif Shah besides Jamil Zaidi, Munir-ul-Haq, Ahad Masood (Bobby), Naeem-ul-Haq, Mazhar Alam, Riasat Ali, Nadeem Ahmed, Tateer Abbas, S M Tariq and Merajuddin. 

In the latter part of its journey, the club was joined by Shahid Ahmed, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Ameeruddin, Nasir Ismail, Mohnis Qadri, Raza Khan, Rashid Hussain, Khalid Zafar, Shahid Shah and Arif Butt. 

Muhammad Ali Jafri, whom I have always revered as my mentor, was the moving force behind the club which was the first love for him. He was an enthusiastic and lively gentleman who cared for the cricketers and left no stone unturned in promoting them. Sadly he has passed away a few years ago. I have had a feeling all along that the Jahangir West CC trio of Naeem Ahmed, Anwar-ul-Haq and Nasir Shah could have played for Pakistan, if he had not moved to Sharjah for greener pastures in 1980. 

His younger brother, Ali Anwar Jafri, is also a well-known person in cricket circles, having been associated with the Cricketer Benefit Fund Series (CBFS) in Sharjah where he has also been running his business of A J Sports. 

Having played for Jahangir West CC for such a long time, I have had fond memories of it. The proudest moment for the club was winning the second edition of the Nazimabad Super Cup, the iconic tournament which is believed to have laid the foundation of Twenty20 cricket. I played my bit in bringing home the trophy, having been declared the best bowler of the tournament after capturing 13 wickets with my leg-spin.

The first captain of the club was Ali Javed but Naeem Ahmed and Anwar-ul-Haq led it for a long time in the subsequent years. I also had the opportunity of captaining the club for a few years during the absence of our senior players. 

Our skipper Naeem Ahmed was the best all-rounder in my estimation at the club level. He was a cool right-handed batsman who was an expert in finishing off the game. Everyone knew about his ability as a left-arm spinner but he made the mistake of his lifetime by quitting National Bank for joining PIA. In his absence, Iqbal Qasim got the break at National Bank and emerged as the leading wicket-taker of the season which earned him Test cap right away and the rest is history. 

Anwar-ul-Haq, a solid opening batsman, scored heavily and consistently at the club as well as the first-class levels but was really unfortunately not to have played for Pakistan during an era when a few of lesser skilled batters than him made the cut. 

Nasir Shah, a stylish and elegant left-handed opening batsman, who captained Karachi besides playing for UBL, also came close to winning the Pakistan cap while the hard-hitting Humayun Sumar had a reputation of blasting the bowlers all over the park and bringing early end to matches when he got going.  

Jamil Zaidi, currently the manager of Oman’s cricket team, was a talented wicketkeeper-batsman who scored tons of runs for Jahangir West CC. He made the mistake of leaving the country when at the peak of his career. Asif Shah, an explosive all-rounder, also chose to move to Oman, a mistake which I also committed and eventually missed the chances of playing at home, after having debuted for Pak PWD and Karachi as a top order batsman. 

Ahad Masood, affectionately called Bobby, was an accomplished batsman who also captained Pak PWD. Possessing incredible knowledge about the game, he has remained my best friend since playing days. 

Shahid Ahmed was a bowling all-rounder. A handy off-spinner, he contributed vital runs down the order besides being an athletic fielder. Raza Khan used to be the spearhead of our bowling attack and he took wickets regularly. 

Ishtiaq Ahmed, who also scored heavily for Karachi, was one of our premier batsmen while Shahid Pervez, who represented UBL and was also named Pakistan’s 12th man in a Test match, was another brilliant all-rounder. Mazhar Alam was another fine all-rounder but his potential remained unfulfilled.

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June 23, 2020

Younis Khan has much better record, temperament than his critics

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

So Younis Khan, the most successful Pakistan batsman in Test history, is all set to start second innings of his career. 

Having quit international cricket in 2017, after scoring the highest number of Test runs and centuries for the country, he has now been appointed as the batting coach for the upcoming tour of England. 

Younis Khan will add value to the star-studded Pakistan support staff which also includes the likes of Misbah-ul-Haq (head coach), Waqar Younis (bowling coach) and Mushtaq Ahmed (spin bowling coach). Pakistan will be playing three Tests and as many as T20 Internationals during the tour of England in July and August. 

Like so many others, I also reckon that Younis Khan should have been a part of parcel of the Pakistan cricket soon after his retirement and it has already taken far too long to rope him in. 

He should have been associated with the set-up in one capacity or the other even during these last three years because he has had so much to offer after having enjoyed an incredibly successful batting career at the international level. 

Remember that he was the most consistent Pakistan batsman for a number of years during a period when batting was often letting down the team and he used to be the lone man standing and taking the fight into the opponents’ camp. 

There’s a school of thought which compared him to Rahul Dravid, the mainstay of Indian batting for a long time, and expected the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) to utilize Younis Khan’s expertise and services in the identical manner as the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had done with their former captain. 

I also firmly believe that Younis possesses the capacity and talents to replicate Dravid in grooming the promising youngsters and turn them into success stories. This is one role Younis would have played much better than any other of his contemporaries in the country. 

Why the think-tank at the PCB took three years to bring Younis back and that too for such a short assignment of a single tour doesn’t reflect too well on their part and it clearly demonstrates that non-cricketing factors also have played a part in it. 

There have been reports that the PCB had contacted him, but not seriously enough, to engage him in the past. He was believed to have been offered a role in revamping the National Cricket Academy (NCA) but the negotiations were unfruitful. 

Now when the PCB has finally succeeded in roping him as a batting coach for the national team, the assignment should not have been just for a single tour. He merited a longer contract, much like others in the coaching staff. It will indeed be a tragedy if Younis is made the scapegoat if the Pakistan team didn’t achieve the desired results on the tour of England. 

Hopefully better sense will prevail and the movers and shakers of the Pakistan cricket will see to it that no such mischief is committed in the larger national interest. 

There has been some talk in the media about the temperament of Younis and a few experts have expressed the opinion that he might not be suited in a coaching role. 

Let me remind all concerned that Younis compiled no less than 30 Test centuries besides accumulating 10,000 runs at the highest level of the game in the toughest of circumstances. Staying miles away from petty politics, he let his bat do the talking all along. He stonewalled the fastest of bowlers with a smile on his face while countering the spin wizards with his nimble footwork. 

Sadly, one of the voices spreading poison against him is none other than Rameez Raja, a former Pakistan opening batsman turned commentator. What he seems to be forgetting though is the fact that Younis was a far more successful batsman at international level who didn’t need any certification of temperament from someone with a mediocre batting record to say the least.

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June 17, 2020

Engagement of locals essential in boosting cricket across continents

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The International Cricket Council (ICC), now headquartered in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), has been taking various steps from time to time to spread the gentleman’s game to every nook and corner of the world. 

At the moment, the ICC has 104 members, which include a dozen full members, who have the entitlement to play Test cricket besides having other privileges. England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Ireland, Zimbabwe, West Indies and Bangladesh are the full members of the ICC, being the top cricket playing nations of the world. 

While the respective cricket boards in almost each of these countries have professional set-up as they have plenty of resources as well as numerous opportunities to sustain and grow, the same could not be said about the 92 Associate members who have had rely, almost entirely, on the ICC support for their survival. 

Although the ICC, over the past few years, has initiated moves to create more space and opportunities for the Associate members there’s a lot more to be done to get them going in the truest sense of the word. 

It’s indeed gladdening that now eight Associate member countries are allowed to play One-day Internationals on the basis of performance in the World Cricket League (WCL). Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the United States of America (USA) enjoy the rights to play ODIs. 

Similarly, following a decision by the ICC in April 2018, the T20I status has been granted for all the Associate members since January 1, 2019. 

All the Associate members had remained eligible to play in the ICC World Cricket League, a series of international one-day cricket administered by the ICC until 2019. It was then replaced by the World Cup League Two and World Cup Challenge League since 2019. 

In addition to key administrative requirements of the national governing body, an Associate member has to posses a minimum of 16 senior teams and 16 junior teams playing in a structured competition or competitions besides having access to at least eight cricket grounds, four of which must be having a permanent pitch. 

The ICC, with the collaboration of the local governing bodies, has been trying to get the best results but there are certain factors which are hampering the growth of cricket in these countries. 

While in majority of the countries only the bonafide citizens qualify to become a member of their national cricket team but there still are quite a few countries, most notably the Middle East, where cricketers of various other nationalities sneak into the team. 

What purpose will it serve to the development of its cricket of that particular nation when outsiders from other countries will occupy all the spots in the national team? It will obviously distract and disengage local talent. 

All efforts to promote cricket, without engaging the locals, will prove cosmetic and the exercise will prove futile. The ICC should look into this matter to ensure that the goals of globalization of the sport are achieved.

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All-rounder Shane Watson turns 39

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shane Watson, one of the most highly gifted all-rounders to have emerged from Australia in the recent past, has turned 39 on June 17.

He has been immensely popular lately in this part of the world for his astonishing feats in the T20 leagues. 

Although his international career ended a few years ago, he has continued to steal limelight with his terrific performances in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) as well as the Indian Premier League (IPL), two of the most successful T20 annual tournaments. 

The handsome and dashing all-rounder played in 59 Tests for Australia besides 190 One-day Internationals and 58 T20 Internationals. He amassed 10,950 international runs besides picking up 291 wickets. 

He is only the second player to score over 5,000 runs and take 150 plus wickets in ODIs while he remains the top run-scorer for Australia in T20 World Cups.

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June 14, 2020

Shahid Afridi catches COVID-19

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A former Pakistan captain and one of the most explosive all-rounders, Shahid Khan Afridi, has caught COVID-19 virus and has joined the list of country’s celebrities suffering from the pandemic.

He has become the third cricketer from Pakistan, and the second international after former opener Taufeeq Umar, to have contracted the virus. Zafar Sarfraz, a former first-class cricketer, who has died of the disease, was the first one to have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The 40-year-old flamboyant cricketer, nicknamed Boom Boom as well as Lala, revealed on Twitter on June 13, having experienced severe body ache for a few days and that the tests had come out positive. 

“I’ve been feeling unwell since Thursday; my body had been aching badly. I’ve been tested and unfortunately I’m covid positive. Need prayers for a speedy recovery,” Shahid Afridi tweeted. 

“My heartfelt prayers and best wishes for your quick recovery,” the former Chief Minister of Punjab and leader of the opposition in National Assembly, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, responded to Shahid Afridi. “Allah’s grace, prayers of the people and determination are keys to fighting this scourage. Get well Lala,” Shahbaz Sharif, quarantining himself after having tested positive for COVID-19, wished.  

Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan chief selector and head coach, also extended his best wishes to Shahid Afridi, reckoning that he had contracted the virus while he was conducting his charitable work. 

"My prayers are with him. All well wishes are with him that he gets out of this soon. I think he was doing a lot of work in the area of Balochistan and the northern areas just to help the people. Throughout the COVID-19 situation he was helping the poor and doing a very good job. Well wishes are with him to get well soon," Misbah observed. 

Shahid Afridi has reported to have travelled extensively to remote parts of the country to provide essentials to the underprivileged as part of his charity, the Shahid Afridi Foundation.

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June 10, 2020

Infrastructure for 2022 Winter Olympic, Paralympic to be ready by 2020

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

All stadiums for the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympic Games will be ready by end of 2020. Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, while high technology such as 5G service and accurate and timely meteorological forecasts will be integrated into the event, officials from the Beijing Organizing Committee for the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (BOCOG) made the announcement in a press briefing. 

According to a BOCOG official, the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games and Winter Paralympic Games have entered the trial stage. 

The first trial event, an international ski racing event, had originally been scheduled to be held in February in Beijing's Yanqing district, but was postponed due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Zhang Jiandong, Vice Mayor of Beijing and Executive Vice President of BOCOG, disclosed that while the coronavirus has been brought under control in China, its continuous spread around the world still presented some challenges and difficulties. 

"A lot of equipment that we have purchased, including ice making systems and ice pouring trucks, are coming from countries with serious epidemics, which has caused some difficulties when it comes to production and transportation. Also, some foreign experts in equipment installation and site certification cannot come to China to provide on-site guidance," he said, adding that dealing with these issues would be the key tasks of the following work to construct the stadiums.

In terms of service, the BOCOG will accelerate the implementation of 5G communication networks, cloud guidance and meteorological services that are accurate within a minute. 

It was further revealed that the opening ceremony's theme will focus on a community with a shared future for mankind. 

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), Vice President, Juan Antonio Samaranch, also attended the conference. He expressed his pleasure at the improved coronavirus situation in China and looked confident about the Beijing 2022 Olympics becoming successful. 

According to reports, the number of applicants for volunteer positions at the two events has exceeded 810,000 since the global recruitment of volunteers for the tournament began on December 5, 2019.

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Younis Khan delighted over appointment as batting coach

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By Masood Sattar Khan
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistani’s most prolific batsman Younis Khan, has expressed delight over his appointment as batting coach of the national cricket team for the upcoming tour to England.

“No feeling can be better than the feeling of serving Pakistan again,” the record-breaking former Test, ODI and T20I captain stated in his tweeter message. 

Holding the record of hitting the highest number of Test centuries as well as the most runs for Pakistan, he thanked the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for honouring him with an opportunity to be back in the dressing room as a batting coach. 

Having captained Pakistan to title triumph in the World T20 in England in 2009, he assured that he will make sure that no stone remained unturned to bring the best out of the talented players of Pakistan. 

Born on November 29, 1977, Younis Khan had called it a day after having played 118 Tests in which he scored 10,099 runs at an average of 52.05 which included 34 Test hundreds. 

In ODIs, he scored 7,249 runs in 265 games. He also played 25 T20Is and scored 442 runs at an average of 22.10. He retired from international cricket, at the age of 39, after the series against West Indies in 2017.

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February 17, 2020

Alamgir Shaikh re-elected as SVP of ACBS

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

The popular figure of Alamgir Anwar Shaikh has been re-elected as the Senior Vice President of the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) for the term of 2020-2024.

According to a media release issued by Zulfiqar Ali Ramzi, Honorary Secretary, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), it has been communicated about the election details by the ACBS Secretariat based in Doha. 

“As per the information received from the Secretary General of the ACBS regarding nominations for the Executive Board elections scheduled to be held at the Annual General Meeting of the ACBS in Doha, Qatar on March 29, a total of four nominations for the following posts of the ACBS Executive Board had been received before the stipulated deadline for nominations,” the PBSA Secretary revealed. 

“Muhammad Al-Nuaimi from Qatar had filed the nomination for the post of the President with Alamgir Anwar Shaikh (Pakistan), Michael Al Khoury (Syria) and Joseph Lo (Hong Kong) having filed for the slots of Senior Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer respectively. Since there were no other nominations filed for these four top positions of the ACBS, the quartet has been elected unopposed, for the term 2020-2024,” he added. 

Alamgir Shaikh expressed his delight at having been re-elected unopposed to the second highest position in the continental body of billiards and snooker for second successive term. 

“Obviously it’s an honour not only for me personally but to the entire snooker community of the country. I have also been representing the ACBS at the Board of the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) since 2017,” Alamgir Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA, stated in a brief conversation on February 17. 

“I have pledged to continue playing my role more proactively in the further development of cue sports at the global level. Together we will overcome the various challenges at different levels to create bigger things for cue sports,” he hoped. 

A recipient of the coveted Pride of Performance award, presented by the President of Pakistan, in recognition to his services in sports administration, Alamgir Shaikh is fondly remembered for having served a couple of highly successful tenures of four years each as the President of the PBSA, starting from 2008 to 2016. 

Even after quitting the top slot of the PBSA, in order to meet the requirements of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB), he has remained the backbone of Pakistan snooker for the past four years as well. 

He is credited to have sustained the momentum which was built by his mentor Ali Asghar Valika, who had revived cue sports in the country during his two decade long stint as the PBSA President, beginning in 1988. 

While Asghar Valika was chiefly responsible for laying the strong base, his worthy successor Alamgir Shaikh has been running from pillar to post to facilitate in raising the bar for Pakistan snooker. 

No wonder Muhammad Asif, the brilliant cueist from Faisalabad, has succeeded in bringing home the world title two times during the last eight years which speaks volumes of the monumental progress made on snooker front in Pakistan.

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February 14, 2020

Sindh snooker body could come alive as elections held under court orders

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh Billiards & Snooker Association (SBSA) has hardly ever been in the news because the body has not been known for carrying out any activity apart from holding the Sindh Cup, which serves as the qualifying rounds for National Snooker Championship. 

Even the last edition of the Sindh Cup witnessed unprecedented controversies as the SBSA was suspended following the court orders and the annual event had to be organized by a committee, nominated by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA). 

The SBSA, however, may come alive as a result of its fresh elections conducted by the PBSA committee at the Hotel Movenpick, Karachi, on February 13 in compliance of the orders of the High Court of Sindh. 

“The High Court of Sindh, Karachi, vide its order dated December 4, 2019 of the Constitution Petition No. D-281 of 2019, had appointed the PBSA to act as an administrator, to regulate the affairs of the SBCA to from a truly representative body for the snooker & billiards players of the province of Sindh,” Zulfiqar Ali Ramzi, Administrator SBCA, and Honorary Secretary, PBSA, stated. 

“To implement the order of the High Court of Sindh, the PBSA, as administrator, called a general body meeting of all members of the SBCA to hold the elections for the office-bearers and the committee members at the Movenpick Hotel, Karachi, on February 13 and all eight candidates were elected unopposed for a term of four years,” he added.

According to the results declared by the SBSA Administrator, Muhammad Irfan Moton (President), Nisar Ali Bhagat (Vice President), Naveed Kapadia (Honorary Secretary), Abdul Ghaffar Tayab (Associate Secretary), and Muhammad Ashfaque Ghory (Honorary Treasurer) were the elected office-bearers while Muhammad Shafiq, Sohail Ahmed Marfani, Muhammad Siddiq Ragadia and Muhammad Hussain were elected as the committee members. 

Interestingly no nomination was received for the post of Office Secretary and the slot remained vacant, shrinking the size of the executive committee of the SBSA to nine instead of the prescribed 10. 

Zulfiqar Ramzi revealed that the total life members, eligible to cast vote at the SBCA elections on February 13 were around 80. 

Upon a query, he shared that nearly all the current members of the SBSA were based in Karachi and only one of them seemed to be belonging to Hyderabad. 

Without criticizing the past office-bearers of the SBSA, Zulfiqar Ramzi expressed the hope that the newly elected set-up will conduct fresh membership drive from all over the province to make it a truly representative body. 

The initial challenge for the newly elected leaders of the SBSA, before thinking in terms of extending its membership base or doing any other activity, would be to resolve the issues concerning the last edition of the Sindh Cup. 

The top performers of the Sindh Cup, quite a few of whom participated in the just concluded National Championship at the Karachi Gymkhana, had still not received the prizemoney which was due to be paid to them.

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Prof Siraj Bukhari condoles Waqar Hasan’s demise

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

Prof Syed Siraj-ul Islam Bukhari, the longest serving office-bearer of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA), has been saddened by the death of Pakistan’s former Test batsman, Waqar Hasan, who passed away recently in Karachi recently following a brief illness. 

“The passing away of Waqar Hasan, the last surviving member of Pakistan’s first-ever Test team, has made the entire cricket community sorrowful and heavy-hearted,” Prof Siraj Bukhari, who served the KCCA as President for four years after being its elected Honorary Secretary for a staggering three decades,” observed in his condolence message. 

“Having worked closely with him for a number of years, I am deeply grieved and depressed at his tragic demise. He captained the Karachi teams of which I used to be the manager. We had extremely cordial relationship as he was such a fantastic cricketer and a thorough gentleman,” the former KCCA boss recalled. 

“Besides being a stylish middle-order batsman and a safe fielder, he was an able leader who inspired his teammates with his positive approach. After being Pakistan’s highest run-getter in the inaugural Test series against India in 1952-53, he continued to score consistently at the international level and was regarded as a dependable batsman. He was certainly one of the pillars on whom the Pakistan team rested in the formative years,” Prof Siraj Bukhari complimented. 

“After hanging his boots and later making a name for himself in the business arena, he returned to cricket in the role of an administrator. He also served with distinction as the Honorary Treasurer of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB),” he added. 

“Acclaimed as one of the most respected personalities of Pakistan cricket, the soft-spoken Waqar Hasan has left a legacy and he will always be remembered and missed,” Prof Siraj Bukhari concluded.

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February 12, 2020

Rampaging Asif comes from behind to edge out Shahid in epic national final

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The mercurial Muhammad Asif, easily the greatest cueist to be produced by the country in the recent past, continued his march towards glory by regaining the national crown yet again. 

The top seeded cueist, also the reigning world champion, came from behind in the final against unseeded Shahid Aftab to win the Jubilee Insurance 45th National Snooker Championship 2020 at the Karachi Gymkhana on February 12. It’s the fourth time he has won the Nationals, having done it earlier in 2009, 2012 and 2018. 

It was an all-Faisalabad final as both the cueists, living in close vicinity of each other in the industrial city, had outsmarted their opponents in the earlier matches to set a date for the title clash. 

The final, telecast live on Geo Super, lasted no less than six hours without any break. The snooker fans, all over the world, got the opportunity of watching an epic final between two seasoned campaigners. 

The 38-year-old Shahid looked the obvious favourite to reclaim the trophy when he ran into 6-2 and then 7-3 lead in the best of 15-frame final but the 37-year-old Asif staged magnificent comeback from the brink of disaster to win the contest 8-7 with the scores of 21-69, 80-73, 67-20, 26-49, 42-77, 25-106, 35-69, 1-76, 116-0, 88-2, 0-107, 78-32, 72-35, 62-48, 70-28. 

Shahid drew the first blood by winning the opening frame. He was set to double his lead until Asif chalked up a break of 69 to snatch the second frame. Asif moved ahead with another fine break of 63 in the third frame but Shahid, quite remarkably, won the next five frames to go into a commanding 6-2 lead. Asif narrowed the deficit by securing the ninth frame but Shahid produced an excellent break 85 in the very next frame to go 7-3 up. 

Shahid needed at this stage was just one more frame but Asif didn’t let it happen with a mixture of good fortune and incredible resilience. Slowly but surely Asif got into his elements and there was hardly any doubt about the outcome when the two cueists entered the arena for the decisive 15th frame of a marathon final. 

“Oh yes there were times during the final when I thought it might not be my day and Shahid could run away with the title. But I also held a firm belief that my opponent could make an odd mistake here or there to let me provide the opening I needed and, as everybody saw, he did play a few false strokes and I was back in business,” Asif remarked. 

“Experience of taking the game deep comes handy as this quality is not built overnight, no matter how talented the cueist may be. I have also learnt it after toiling hard for so many years and the ability to absorb pressure indeed has become my forte now,” he added. 

“I played to the best of my ability and came very close to regaining the national title after nearly a decade. But Asif played better than me in the end and he capitalized on my mistakes to change the course of the match,” Shahid said rather sportingly. 

"No, I was not overawed by the reputation of my opponent or anything like it. Simply I had to pay the price of committing the mistakes which I could have avoided. May be I was little eager to go for the kill which resulted in playing shots which could have been avoided,” he reckoned. 

The final, going to the full distance of 15 frames, was followed by the prize distribution ceremony, also beamed live, in which Syed Usman Qaiser, Head of Marketing, Jubilee Life Insurance, and Tauseef Shah, Head of Marketing, Jubilee General Insurance, presented awards to the outstanding performers. 

Both the dignitaries vowed to extend support for snooker in future as well as they praised the inspirational performance of the Pakistani cueists at the international level, earning laurels for the country. 

A beaming Asif collected a cheque of Rupees one lac alongwith the winner’s trophy while Shahid received a cheque of Rupees fifty thousand with the runner-up trophy.  

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), described Asif as a living legend. 

“Besides winning the World Championship a couple of times now Asif has also clinched the national title four times and he fully deserves to be regarded as modern snooker legend,” Alamgir Shaikh commended. 

Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, President, PBSA, announced that both Asif and Shahid, by virtue of being the finalists of the Nationals 2020, will now be representing the country in the upcoming Asian Snooker Championship. 

Fawad Malik, President, Karachi Gymkhana, promised to continue supporting the cause of snooker and other sports from the platform of the club.

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February 10, 2020

World champion Asif threatens to quit snooker

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Frustrated by the continued delay and red-tapism in the release of his governmental reward, Muhammad Asif, the reigning world snooker champion, has threatened to quit the sport.

The top officials of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), lending support to their proud product, have talked about taking legal action if the reward amount was not released.

In a dramatic turn of the events, all the participating cueists in the quarter-finals of the Jubilee Insurance 45th National Snooker Championship 2020 sported a black armband to protest against the delay in the release of payment to Asif on February 10. 

Upon the completion of the quarter-finals, Asif, flanked by the top functionaries of the PBSA, addressed the media corps, present on the occasion at the Karachi Gymkhana’s Banquet Hall. 

Initially Asif appeared cool and calm while seeking his due reward of Rs 10 million from the government which had been promised to him by head of the state. 

Apparently he seemed to have been provoked by some teasing queries leading to the change in his tone and body language. 

When asked specifically, during the media briefing, if he would burn his cue, if the reward money was not paid to him, Asif, after some reluctance, opened up and expressed his disgust at having been made to run from pillar to post for the amount the government owed to him. 

“I was not given the due amount when I became the world champion in 2012. Now I have won the world title again last year but still waiting for the reward money to be released from the government. The athletes should not be treated like this as they make a lot of efforts and sacrifices for performing well and bringing laurels to the country,” Asif stated. 

“If the attitude of the government doesn’t change when perhaps I will stop playing snooker at national or international level in near future. I will be left with no other option than to announce retirement from snooker. If I don’t get the due reward then there will be no point in continue playing snooker,” he warned. 

The PBSA President, Munawwar Hussain Shaikh, who is a lawyer by profession, didn’t rule the possibilities of taking the matter to court if Asif’s reward was not released. 

The PBSA Co-Chairman, Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, shared that the President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi, had himself given the assurance for the release of due payment during their meeting in Islamabad a few weeks ago. 

“We have been knocking at the doors of the concerned departments from the moment Asif had made the country proud by bringing home the world title for the second time last year. We have approached the Federal Minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination, Dr Fehmida Mirza, as well the Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is a sportsman himself, but we are still waiting,” he explained. 

“The protest of today is meant to basically serve another reminder to the concerned authorities to release the reward money to Asif, the two times world champion,” Alamgir Shaikh declared. 

When inquired about the next possible move, if the payment was further delayed, the PBSA Co-Chairman hinted at holding protest meetings in Islamabad too.

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February 1, 2020

Younis Khan’s punctuality, modesty charms Memon community

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Younis Khan, a former Pakistan captain and the highest run-getter for the country in Test cricket, gladdened the hearts of the participants, guests, dignitaries and organizers of the KMA Sports Gala 2020 during its opening ceremony, in which he was the chief guest, held at the KPT Sports Complex, Karachi, on February 1.

It’s not often that the chief guest, irrespective of his own stature or that of the hosts, arrives right on time but Younis Khan, widely respected for his gentlemanly actions, broke the tradition by reaching the venue of the ceremony at the designated time of 10 am. 

Everyone present on the occasion was pleasantly surprised to watch the batting great enter the KPT Sports Complex in time which allowed the opening ceremony to take place in accordance with the original plan, instead of being forced to alter it because of the delayed arrival of the chief guest.

The colorful opening ceremony of the KMA Sports Gala 2020 was made memorable by the presence of the cricketing heroes of the caliber of Younis Khan, Jalaluddin and Haris Ahmad Khan. 

It seemed to be in the fitness of things that the first-ever sports gala to be organized by the Kutiyana Memon Association (KMA) Education Board was graced by such eminent personalities of the sporting world. 

Jalaluddin, a Test fast bowler, who holds the distinction of recording the first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals, is now among the highest qualified cricket coaches of the country.

Both Younis Khan as well as Jalaluddin appeared to be overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the students and teachers of the KMA-run educational institutions which was evidenced by their fabulous display in the opening ceremony. 

The atmosphere at the KPT Sports Complex was nothing short of electric and there were thousands of spectators watching the spectacle at the football ground. 

With more 6,500 students enrolled at the various schools and college of the KMA, it was not surprising to find such big number of people having assembled for the opening ceremony. 

Younis Khan, granted well-deserved hero’s reception upon arrival at the stadium, was full of smiles and praise for the KMA officials to have organized a sports gala in befitting manner. 

“It seems like the Pakistan Day or the Independence Day. It’s wonderful to have such animated surroundings. It’s really lovely to watch the students being so passionate about sports. It augurs well for the country,” Younis Khan declared amidst loud applause. 

Jalaluddin, having trained hundreds of young cricketers at his academies over the years, was also impressed with the initiative and he hoped that it would be beginning of something big for the students of the KMA educational institutions. 

“The organizations like the KMA, who have the infrastructure as well as the resources, can play a vital role in building sports culture in the society. Their students will benefit a great if they could be engaged in competitions and tournaments of sports on a regular basis,” Jalaluddin opined. 

Haris Khan, the tall off-spinner, was appreciative of the decision of the KMA Education Board to launch a sports gala and expressed the hope that it will go on to become an annual event on their calendar in future.

Indeed it's a great beginning as far as the KMA Sports Gala is concerned and judging by the success of its opening ceremony there are strong enough indications of it becoming a regular feature.

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January 10, 2020

Five-day Test should continue unabated

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The International Cricket Council (ICC) has done a fantastic job by having finally launched the World Test Championship last year. It has already been hailed as a success story as it seems to possess many ingredients to become a permanent feature in the future. 

Instead of waiting to reap harvests from the inaugural edition of the ICC World Test Championship, due to conclude in the summer of 2023, the governing body of the sport has dropped a kind of bombshell by showing inclination towards having four-day Tests. It’s obviously nonsense of the highest order. Such an idea never merits discussion in an ICC meeting. 

The announcement that the ICC cricket committee will consider making four-day Tests mandatory, as part of the World Test Championship from 2023, has come as a shocker to say the least. 

How dare could the ICC even think of committing such a heinous crime? They have been guilty of doing so many odd things disrespectful to the game and its stature in the past, but contemplating four-day Tests is something beyond ethics. 

Well everyone knows about the priorities of the ICC. There is no element of ‘news’ or anything like that in them thinking about commercialization or more commercialization. 

But ‘killing’ Test cricket in order to free up a calendar, thought to be cramped with too many fixtures and T20 leagues, is something which can only be condemned in the harshest possible way. 

How do the movers and shakers of the ICC lose sight of the fact that its Test cricket which sustained the game since it became global in the 19th century? The limited overs versions arrived much later in the second half of the 20th century. 

And now the ICC, having become a commercial powerhouse, is prepared to temper with Test cricket, which is well and truly disgusting. 

Whoever, within the ICC, has masterminded this idea of reducing the duration of Test matches from five days to four days, is certainly not a friend of the game. Neither that person or may be a group of persons, who are pleading this, could be regarded as the well-wishers of cricket. 

Those having turned millionaires, or even billionaires, because of cricket, should not try to stab the game which is a source of recreation to global audience. 

The Test playing nations, who constitute the ICC, have a rich history of the game and, more than any other format, its Test cricket, yes Test cricket, whose glories have mattered the most to them. 

If the ICC has run out of ideas otherwise for the maximization of their profits, they would be advised to refrain from tabling such horrible proposals which will only be opposed bitterly by the cricket-loving fraternity. 

The marketers or even the administrators pursuing the move at the ICC appear oblivious of the charm and beauty of the fifth day of Test matches. The cricket followers should not be deprived of the rare pleasures of witnessing action-packed fifth day thrillers for financial or commercial reasons. 

Hopefully better sense will prevail at the ICC cricket committee and they will shoot down the proposal even without deliberating on it.

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January 1, 2020

Jubilee General’s new boss pledges to carry on legacy of predecessor’s sporting legacy

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The newly installed Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Jubilee General Insurance, Hassan Khan, has pledged to carry out the sporting legacy left by his predecessor, Tahir Ahmed, whose illustrious career at the company came to an end on December 31, 2019. 

On the very first day of taking over the leadership of the company on January 1, 2020, Hassan Khan was needed to deliberate on his sports policies during the media launch of the new snooker season, with as many as five national snooker events, being sponsored by Jubilee Insurance, taking place during the next one and a half months. 

“Jubilee has been the major sponsors of Pakistan snooker for the past 13 years. We are proud to have played our due role in uplift of cue sports, resulting in glories for the country at the international level. We look forward to continue extending the support to snooker in future too,” he declared while speaking at the luncheon media briefing at the Karachi Gymkhana Banquet Hall on the New Year Day. 

When specifically questioned whether he would continue the policies of his immediate predecessor, Tahir Ahmed, who was proactive in the promotion of sports over the years, Hassan Khan replied in the affirmative and announced his desire to perpetuate the legacy. 

He acknowledged that the modest prize money, being offered to the outstanding performers of the various tournaments at the moment, merited enhancement in the future. 

Replying to another question, he, however, ruled out the possibilities of offering employment to the cueists at his company, explaining that no such policy had ever been under consideration in board meetings. 

Jubilee Insurance, it may be recalled, had joined hands with the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) in a big way, by having sponsored the 24th ACBS Asian Snooker Championship at Karachi in 2007 when the national snooker body was being led by Ali Asghar Valika. 

From the following year onwards they took up the sponsorship of the national ranking tournaments as well and the relationship became stronger and wider with the passage of time. 

They have been the major sponsors of snooker in Pakistan for the past one decade and during this period they have been motivating force in launching the tournaments for the teenagers and schoolboys in particular in the recent past. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, Co-Chairman, PBSA, recognized the overwhelming support of Jubilee Insurance, whose continued patronage, he added, helped enormously in raising the standard of snooker. 

"Both the twin companies, Jubilee General Insurance and Jubilee Life Insurance, have been extremely supportive to the cause of snooker for the past 13 years and they deserve to be credited for the glories our cueists have earned for the country over the past decade and a half,” he added. 

"The new helmsman of Jubilee General Insurance, Hassan Khan, is also very eager to support the cause of snooker and the sponsorship budget for the current year (2020) has been approved by him," Alamgir Shaikh disclosed.

Meanwhile the new snooker season will dawn with the Jubilee Insurance 2nd Under-16 National Snooker Championship 2020 on January 4 and it will be followed by the Jubilee Insurance 5th Under-18 National Snooker Championship 2020, the Jubilee Insurance 12th Under-21 National Snooker Championship 2020 and the Jubilee Insurance 4th Over-40 National Masters Snooker Championship 2020. 

All these events will be staged at the PSB Sports Complex in Islamabad while the Jubilee Insurance 45th National Snooker Championship 2020 will be taking place at the Karachi Gymkhana from January 31 to February 12.

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