November 30, 2009

Magical figure of 600 comes good


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India won the second Test against Sri Lanka at Green Park, Kanpur, very handsomely. With the pitch looking full of runs they had their work cut out when they took the field after being bowled out for 642 in their first innings in.

Yes I need to use to word ‘bowled out’ because any team would be expected to get many more having brought up the 600 for the loss of only four wickets.

I was wondering if Mahendra Singh Dhoni would consider the option of declaring the innings a couple of runs shy of 600 because India, in the past, had rarely succeeded in winning the Test match after having amassed a total in the excess of 600 in first outing.

India were in a very strong position after accumulating 417 runs for the loss of only two wickets on the first day. They could have easily thought of extending their total in the region of 700 before declaring the innings on the second afternoon. After all they had been taken for more than 700 in only the previous game and it did make sense to return the favour.

The Indians have had this habit all along of throwing it away after the most impressive of starts. Very rarely have they capitalized on the great work of their top-order batsmen. Once again they collapsed but it started after they had gone past 600.

India were firmly in control when VVS Laxman and Yuvraj Singh milked the bowling to their hearts’ content as the Sri Lankan bowlers had run short of ideas even in containing them with the field having spread out in all directions.

From 613 for four they crashed to 642 all out something that’s least expected from a team dictating terms on the field. Sri Lanka lost only one wicket in the remaining time of the second day’s play to dispel any impression of the pitch having being deteriorated.

The pitch at the Green Park, as a matter of fact, didn’t appear to lose its character even until the last wicket of the match fell on the fourth afternoon. The Sri Lankan tail-enders were hitting around as merrily as Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir on the first day.

The Sri Lankans were buried under the pressure of 600 that’s indeed a huge total on any surface. The Indian bowlers came good in applying the pressure and their captain Dhoni was not afraid to have attacking fields, unlike his counterpart who was guilty of making India’s task of saving the first Test easier by opting for defensive fields while his side was in total command of the situation.

Dhoni didn’t waste the opportunity of pressurizing the batsmen and his bowlers responded by putting the ball in the right areas. The brilliant fast bowling of Shantakumaran Sreesanth helped India’s cause immensely with the spinners also doing the job admirably.

By the look of things it was a tough call for Dhoni to have enforced the follow-on. But he made the right decision under the circumstances, demonstrating total faith in his bowlers.

The Indian bowlers continued with the policy of maintaining a probing line and they were not discouraged by the occasional stick they received. They were rewarded for persistence, earning the 100th Test win for their country.

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November 29, 2009

Vettori needs to be extra vigilant


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Daniel Vettori, after having tackled every opposition in various corners of the world, must have realized that nothing could be taken for granted when he’s playing against Pakistan in any form of the game.

I am not sure if the New Zealand skipper, otherwise a mentally tough character, has analyzed the situation yet or he’s just going through the motions. Obviously he would have been left wondering at the events having unfolded of late.

He had experienced it in the third and final One-day International at Abu Dhabi where Pakistan’s last pair had very nearly stolen the match against all odds. Vettori must have been shocked by the manner in which he was treated by the tail-enders.

I don’t think the champion left-arm spinner would have been deposited to the fence so swiftly by any of the top order batsmen in any form of the game as the 17-year-old Pakistan newcomer Mohammad Aamer did him at Abu Dhabi. It was totally against the run of play in the game where the front-line batsmen of either side had struggled to get on top of the bowling.

Vettori and his boys had to endure greater amusement in the first Test against Pakistan at the University Oval in Dunedin that ended on November 28. Although New Zealand won the game in the end by 32 runs in the last session of the fifth and final day but they must have been left wondering if the contest deserved to go that far.

New Zealand had overcome a dreaded start followed by a middle-order collapse to post a commanding first innings total of 429 in their first innings with the skipper himself leading the charge with a superb 99.

Then a brilliant spell of fast bowling from Chris Martin and Shane Bond exposed Pakistan’s brittle top-order and even the experienced duo of Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik could not come to terms with the fiery fast bowling. Pakistan had been reduced to 85 for five and the Black Caps were in complete control of the situation.

A dramatic over from Bond changed the complexion of the game. Like the previous ones of the spell it was yet another brilliant over in which debutant Umar Akmal was at sea. Bond produced a magnificent lifter from good-length spot that had Umar fending.

The ball spooned in the air but the slip fieldsman reacted late and the catch was spilled. In the same over an outside edge was not plucked by the gully fielder and there was not much more the bowler could have done to take a wicket. It’s not often when two chances are floored in the same floor.

Lifted by the two dropped catches in an over Umar then went after the bowling fearlessly and the runs started flowing. He didn’t stop until Bond returned to snare him but not before he had scored 129 and Pakistan eventually reduced the first innings deficit to double digits.

New Zealand had extended their overall lead to the vicinity of 200 with the loss of only two wickets when another mishap derailed them. The run out of Ross Taylor opened the floodgates and the hosts crashed to 153 all out after being 87 for two.

Set to score 251, Pakistan lost their top three batsmen for only 24 but the match still remained opened until the last wicket fell.

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November 26, 2009

Islahuddin’s yet another brilliant Dash


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Islahuddin Siddiqui was known and feared, in his playing days, for his extraordinary ability to dash that blocked the penalty-corners and frustrated the specialists who wreaked havoc against other opponents.

It’s quite appropriate that the autobiography of the legendary right-winger has been titled
‘Dash Through My Life’ that was launched in one of the most impressive of ceremonies at Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi, on November 25. After all there was a time when Islahuddin and dash were synonyms.

The book has been co-authored by Humair Ishtiaq, a seasoned journalist, whose writing skills are among the best in the business.

The book launch functions are generally not all that lively or so well attended but then Islahuddin is no ordinary personality. Besides being a hockey great, he has held a very high position in Pakistan Customs but most importantly he has had a large circle of all-weather friends.

Quite expectedly the turnout in Islahuddin’s book launch was massive and impressive. It was a gathering of hundreds of luminaries from different walks of life, reflective of the versatility of the author.

There were numerous hockey legends gracing the occasion and recognizing publicly the great contribution made by Islahuddin over the years. The stalwarts of the yesteryears like Olympians Anwar Ahmad Khan and Abdul Waheed Khan showered him with praise for having taken the world by storm

Olympian Waheed Khan described Islahuddin as a lethal weapon who was proficient in denying European teams goals through penalty-corners.

“He was always there to block the penalty-corners. He did not care even if he was having a broken finger or broken teeth. He was instrumental in guiding the team to title victories in the World Cup as well as the Asia Cup in 1978,” Waheed Khan, who was the Pakistan manager in both the events, recalled.

Olympian Anwar Ahmed Khan credited Islahuddin for having revived the Pakistan hockey after the golden era that began in the late 1950s and lasted until the middle of the 1960s.

“Our team of 1950s and 1960s had set very high standards with the Olympic gold at Rome in 1960 and silver medals at Melbourne in 1956 and at Tokyo in 1964. We also won the Asian gold during this period in 1958 and 1962. We were unsure if we would recapture these glories. The arrival of Islahuddin put Pakistan back on track and history repeated itself with titles coming in our kitty one after another,” Anwar Ahmad Khan, acclaimed as the greatest-ever centre-half the game ever has seen, observed.

‘Flying Horse’ Samiullah Khan, one of the most illustrious contemporaries of Islahuddin, considered him an inspirational captain.

Hasan Sardar, another living legend, who stunned everyone with his artistic play in the hockey field, was no less generous in eulogizing the great Islahuddin.

The Sindh Minister for Sports, Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, who was the chief guest of the evening, threw light on the different aspects of Islahuddin’s personality as did squash legend Jahangir Khan, cricket great Zaheer Abbas and MNA Khushbakht Shujaat.

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Salman looking for yet other opportunity


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

An enterprising left-handed opener, Salman Butt now looks for yet another opportunity to make a comeback in the playing eleven. He was recalled for the tour of New Zealand but was omitted from the line-up for the first Test at Dunedin.

He has been in and out of the national team due to his inconsistency top of the order. While there has never been any doubt about his class but his tendency to throw it away after having been in the middle for sometime has often got him and his team in trouble.

The 25-year-old highly gifted fellow seems to have plenty of steam left in him but he needs to work harder to grab the opportunities coming his way.

His work is now cut out with so much competition around. He needs to improve his figures in international cricket. He is probably more talented batsman than his averages of 28.65 in Tests and 37.95 in One-day Internationals seem to suggest.

The most heartening thing, however, is that he did realize the significance of scoring heavily in domestic cricket and he has had fierce determination to do it. He made the right choice of sticking to the basics and not incorporating changes in his technique that could land him in hot waters.

Since Pakistan would be playing all their matches outside of the country the batsmen are likely to be put to stiffer test on the pitches of New Zealand, Australia and England. It would obviously keep the reserve batsmen on their toes as they could be pressed into service at a short notice.

Salman knows better than many how quickly life could change at the top. After having scored prolifically in 2008, he was the man to have posted a brilliant century against Sri Lanka in the first One-day International at the National Stadium, Karachi, earlier this year. He was being talked about as another Saeed Anwar after his superlative batting performance against a potent bowling attack.

Not many people would have expected him to be dropped from the side barely few months later. He was taken to Sri Lanka but was sidelined after his double failure in the opening Test in Galle where Pakistan succumbed to an astonishing 50-run defeat. He was not recalled for the subsequent ODI series and ignored for the Champions Trophy.

Born at Lahore on October 7, 1984, he caught the imagination of the movers and shakers of the game at age-level matches. He was still a teenager at the time of making his Test debut against Bangladesh in 2003-04. The youngster showed enormous promise from the outset and he made it to the ODI time the following season.

He hit headlines by scoring a magnificent match-winning century against India in the one-off ODI at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in 2004-05. He scaled greater heights by blasting a fifty and a maiden Test century in Sydney against Australia later the same season.

He got a wake up call when sidelined after a few low scores with the fingers being pointed at his defensive technique. He silenced his critics, however, by scoring consistently in the home series against England in 2005-06.

The loss of form took him out of the side and he was not a part of Pakistan’s dismal campaign in the World Cup 2007. He staged a comeback soon afterwards, with the additional responsibility of vice-captain. That was a time when he was being talked about as the future captain of Pakistan.

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November 25, 2009

Asif makes a comeback in Test cricket finally


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Mohammad Asif, the tall Pakistan fast bowler, has finally resumed his Test career. Although he didn’t look all that menacing on the opening day of the first Test against New Zealand at the University Oval in Dunedin but his immaculate line and length tested the home batsmen and he should be happy for having picked up three wickets on his first day of return.

In fact he came very close to finishing the day with a haul of five wickets. Umpire Simon Taufel had answered in affirmative when the fast bowler appealed for leg before against Brendon McCullum after beating him with an off-cutter in the final over of the first day’s play.

With the Umpire Decision Review System in place, the verdict was challenged by the batsman and the television umpire, Rudy Koertzen, disagreed with the judgment of his on-field colleague and it was subsequently reversed.

Swinging the ball appreciably, he had earlier in the day narrowly missed the scalp of Ross Taylor. The off-cutter had hit Taylor just outside the line and umpire Billy Doctrove turned down the appeal. Pakistan then referred the appeal to the television umpire that wasn’t successful either.

Asif has made a comeback to Test cricket after a couple of years. After having shown a lot of promise in his early years he has been laid low by the drug-related controversies having jeopardized his career.

Although he is nearing his 27th birthday now, he remains confident to make up for his long absence from the international arena.

"I have not played in New Zealand but have heard a lot about the pitches and conditions there and hopefully if I can get a chance I will make an impact. The key is to focus on just cricket and try to make up for lost time,” he was quoted as saying after his inclusion in the Pakistan squad for the Test series against the Black Caps.

He could not participate in the preceding series of One-day Internationals and the Twenty20 Internationals against New Zealand because they were being staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where he was stopped at an airport last year when a small quantity of a banned substance were recovered from his possession.

Asif, however, had made his return in international cricket by making the cut in the ICC Champions Trophy held in South Africa prior to the limited overs series against New Zealand in the UAE.

He was not played in the first couple of games but he an impression right away by claiming two wickets in the encounter against Australia, the eventual champions. He bowled quite superbly in his last spell and came very close to engineering an unlikely win for his team.

Asif has shown that he’s very much capable of producing the goods but what remains to be seen if he would be able to do it consistently at the international level.

With Pakistan due to play a lot of international cricket during the next one year, he has to play a key role in the fast bowling department. He may have lost some pace but his incredible control over line and length can still do the business.

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November 24, 2009

Future stars ready to lock horns in New Zealand


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup 2010 will be getting underway on the birthday of a man called Rahul Dravid. While the stars of the future from all over the globe will start their campaign on January 11 the Indian batting great will be lighting 37 candles on his cake to celebrate the day.

The start of the tournament on the birthday of Dravid, one of the greatest-ever batsmen, could be a source of inspiration for the Indian young guns entering the big event as the defending champions.

Defending champions India will open its campaign against qualifier Afghanistan at Bert Sutcliffe Oval, near Christchurch on the opening day of the competition with Pakistan facing the West Indies in Palmerston North and the 2008 runners-up South Africa taking on Ireland in Queenstown.

Besides the 10 full members, there are six Associates and Affiliates teams taking part, having won through their respective regional qualifying tournaments as well as the global qualifier, which was held in Canada in September.

Meanwhile the U-19 Cricket World Cup 2010, to be contested by as many as 16 teams, was officially launched in Dunedin, New Zealand, on November 23.
The ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, pointed to the competition’s track record as a launching pad for future stars.

“It’s been shown over and over that a number of players come through this event, and very shortly afterwards they are on the international arena in a meaningful way,” the ICC Chief Executive remarked.

Speaking at the launch function at University Oval, Dunedin, he recalled some of the current stars who have come up through the under-19 ranks, including New Zealand’s own Ross Taylor, who captained the national U-19 side at the 2002 event.

He also noted the swift rise of South Africa opener Hashim Amla, who went on to full honours after playing in the 2002 tournament in New Zealand, and fast bowler Wayne Parnell, who played in the 2008 tournament in Malaysia.

“Wayne Parnell had hardly finished playing at the Under-19 level when he was picked in the international side. This reflects the close migration from the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup tournament to the international stage,” Haroon Lorgat observed.

He emphasized the importance of the ICC U-19 CWC and described it as one of the flagship events of the global game.

“It’s an extremely important event for us at the ICC. We have pencilled this in as one of our major events going into the future. The ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup deserves to be put alongside the ICC Cricket World Cup, ICC World Twenty20, ICC Champions Trophy and the ICC Women’s World Cup. This ICC U-19 CWC is the most important event that those under-19 players will play at this stage in their careers,” he stated.

He confirmed that the ICC was committed to growing the profile of the tournament, and was in negotiations to boost the level of television coverage for the event that will already see matches carried to a global broadcast audience of millions.

He expressed his total satisfaction with the preparations for the tournament, noting that New Zealand Cricket had an excellent track record of hosting major tournaments, including both the U-19 CWC (in 2002) and the ICC Women’s World Cup (1982 and 2000).

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November 23, 2009

The Wall getting taller and stronger


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rahul Dravid of all people is a firm believer in letting his bat to do the talking. As the luck would have it he has been needed to dispel the impression once too often that he still has plenty to offer.

He has been one of those underrated cricketers who have had to meet more challenges than any of his contemporaries. His ability and integrity have been beyond doubt but for some strange reasons he has often been put under undue pressure by his own authorities.

Thankfully Dravid does possess that elusive mental strength to come to terms with the pressures from the various quarters. In fact he relishes the challenges and comes good more often than not in silencing his critics.

There could not have been a more appropriate time that the opening Test of the new season to remind people that he remains technically the best batsman in the world. He is not very far away from his 37th birthday but he still has the same hunger for runs and he proved the point once more that he can bat as freely as anyone if he desires so or if the situation demands him to attack the opposition.

That’s the advantage Dravid has. Because his technique is so sound and he judges the trajectory of the ball to perfection he has the option of changing gears without taking undue risks.

His knock of 177 in the first Test against Sri Lanka at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad was a classic example of him dominating the bowling at will. Remember his team was reeling at 32 for four on the first morning when he chose to take the attack to the opposition.

He had assessed the pitch and measured the bowling to perfection. He knew that the best way to keep the bowlers at bay was by hitting them to all parts of the ground. He doesn’t do it often but it’s also very rare when India lose four wickets in the first hour of a Test match.

With master blasters like Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni keeping his company for quite sometime the stage was set for Dravid to take up the initiative and put runs on the board quickly.

The lightening quick outfield brought him boundaries at regular intervals. His cover-driving was the feature of the brilliant innings during he got on top of all the Sri Lankan bowlers including the champion off-spinner Mutiah Muralitharan.

Not many people would have thought of him reaching the coveted milestone of 11,000 runs on the opening day considering the fact that he was 177 runs away when he had taken guard in the morning.

But it was a special day for him and all his followers the world over. In the end it was in the fitness of things that he did reach the landmark before the stumps were drawn.

With Harbhajan Singh at the crease and Zaheer Khan still to come, a double century for Dravid had looked very much on the cards on the second morning but he was undone without adding to his overnight score.

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November 22, 2009

MSAP offers incentives to scrabble masters


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) has offered cash incentives to the three-member national team proceeding to Malaysia to participate in the upcoming World Scrabble Championship 2009.

The MSAP Directors, Tariq Rasheed Khan and Pervez Iqbal, recently had a meeting with officials of Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) at the BBCL House which was also attended by the trio of Rodney Judd, Rashid Khan and Wasim Khatri, who will be representing the country in the World Championship to be staged in the Malaysian town of Johor Baharu from November 25 to 29.

During the meeting it was resolved that the scrabble players participating in the World Championship will be presented handsome cash prizes upon their return home if they finish among the top 10.

The MSAP functionaries not only advised the members of the national scrabble team to wear blazers during the course of the event but they also agreed to bear its costs. The PSA officials were thoroughly appreciative of the prompt action of the MSAP Directors.

It’s for the first time, after the establishment of the MSAP last year, when the World Scrabble Championship is being held. The PSA, being generally governed by the active scrabble players themselves, have had their limitations and the leadership has been found wanting in certain areas. They can now benefit a great deal by the expertise and the visionary approach of the MSAP.

The 21-year-old Wasim Khatri, who is the reigning national champion, gets a chance to make his debut in World Championship while Rashid Khan and Rodney Judd, both of them former national champions, will be making their fifth and second appearance in the global event held in the odd numbered years.

Wasim Khatri, a discovery from the Inter-Schools tournament, appeared very confident of winning laurels in the World Championship.

“My aim is not only to finish among the top 10 but to bring home the title. I think that I do have the capability to go the distance,” the youngster, having won the national crown for the past couple of years, remarked in a brief conversation.

Pakistan have been represented in the World Scrabble Championship regularly since 1995 and their performance in the last event, held in Mumbai, India, a couple of years, was the best ever when Mohammad Sulaiman finished 20th.

The World Scrabble Championship was launched in 1991 in the United Kingdom (UK) and players from every continent have been contesting it since then in what has become the most sought after global event of the mind sport.

Nigel Richards of New Zealand will be the defending champion in the upcoming event, having annexed the title at Mumbai in 2007 in which a record number of 104 players had participated.

Even greater number of participants, 112 players from 40 countries would be taking part in the 2009 World Championship offering a prizemoney of US$30,500 with the winner to take home US$15,000 and the runner-up to collect US$6,000. The prizes will be disbursed among the players sharing the top 10 positions.

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November 21, 2009

Chief selector, PCB chairman view Misbah’s indiscipline differently


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Misbah-ul-Haq owed an explanation to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for having absented from the ongoing Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. His decision to proceed to Bangladesh to play league cricket over there in preference to leading his department in the national championship of the country was not something that could be overlooked conveniently.

The PCB as well the employers of Misbah, Sui Northern Gas Company Limited (SNGCL) need to probe his act of skipping the premier national tournament of the country and strict disciplinary action must be taken if found guilty of betrayal to avoid such mishaps in future.

The Pakistan cricket is replete with instances of the big fishes being left unpunished even after having taken the laws in their hands primarily because of their clout and the club culture prevalent in the society.

Misbah’s decision to quit the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy has not gone well with the national selection committee whose chairman Iqbal Qasim, who held the right-hander in very esteem, has passed the impression of being quite upset with this move.

Iqbal Qasim is not the kind of person who could be taken for a ride. He has soft nature alright but this should not be misinterpreted as his weakness. He is a man of character who doesn’t tolerate nonsense. Since he’s an apolitical kind of person he does have the mental strength to withstand the pressures of various kinds.

Although the chief selector might not like to declare it out in the open but one could read between the lines that he has felt annoyed with Misbah’s act of playing in the Bangladesh league instead of the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy.

There are contradictory reports about the stand-in captain Mohammad Yousuf having asked for Misbah as the replacement for Younis Khan, having withdrawn from the tour of New Zealand.

It doesn’t really matter whether Yousuf has particularly asked for Misbah or not, the decision to send a replacement, if needed, has to be made by the national selection committee.

Misbah obviously had felt disturbed at having been dropped for the series against New Zealand but he had brought himself back in the reckoning for the tour of Australia by recording his career-best first class score the following day.

He had never been ruled out of the Australian series. In fact the selectors had just desired providing him the opportunity to restore his confidence by scoring heavily in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. He would have been an automatic choice in the middle-order for the demanding tour of Australia.

There’s a possibility that Misbah himself could have influenced Yousuf to recommend his name for the tour of New Zealand once Younis had become unavailable.

The Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Ijaz Butt, has his own ways of doing things. Not surprisingly one finds him in the news more often for the wrong reasons. There are indications that he was approached by the sympathizers of Misbah to have him flown to New Zealand.

But with the chief selector taking a firm stance on the issue it was not easy for the PCB Chairman to commit yet another blunder. They discussed the matter at length and finally it was decided not to send Misbah to New Zealand right away. They agreed, however, to consider him for the latter part of the tour if the batsmen already there didn’t deliver.

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November 20, 2009

Sangakkara’s negative tactics make India’s task easier


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Gautam Gambhir and Sachin Tendulkar batted skillfully in the second innings to guide India towards safety in the first Test match at the Sardar Patel Stadium in Ahmedabad but their task was also made easier by the refusal of the Sri Lankan skipper, Kumar Sangakkara, to apply the pressure on the batsmen.

Only one team could have won the game, if it did produce a result, after Sri Lanka had secured a massive first innings lead. India had nearly five sessions to survive and under no circumstances could have they posted a big enough total to threaten the visitors in the available time.

The pitch had not deteriorated as generally witnessed in Test matches going the distance that meant the bowlers had to do something sensational to force a result. The Sri Lankans were in the driving seat and they could have tested the batsmen by surrounding them with close-in fielders.

Sangakkara, rather surprising, was happy to spread the field in India’s second innings when the prime objective in front of the home batsmen was survival more than the quantum of runs.

The only way the Sri Lankans could have rattled the celebrated Indian batsmen was by attacking them with purpose. There had to be more fielders in the catching position rather than being stationed to save runs.

I don’t know why the Sri Lankan captain kept on thinking about containment when he had all the cards in his pocket. There was no way the Indians could have won the match after trailing by over 300 runs in the first innings. One failed to understand what fears Sangakkara had in his mind when marshalling the troops in India’s second innings.

His mind-boggling tactics kept the rate of scoring down but that didn’t help the cause of any team. The Indians had no problems in picking up singles instead of finding boundaries.

May be Sangakkara became a bit concerned due to the onslaught carried out by Virender Sehwag in the innings. But didn’t he know that India wouldn’t have come in a position to win the game even if the master blaster recorded the quickest triple century.

Sehwag has his own style of playing around with the bowlers and the only way to stop him is by sending him back to the dressing room. Luckily for Sri Lanka he didn’t last long in either innings. It could have been a different story to relate had he got going in the first outing.

Who could have thought of a high-scoring draw when four of the leading batsmen of the world had been sent back to the pavilion within the first hour of the game? As it turned out the pitch eased up to the extent of a belter and only 17 more wickets fell during the rest of the game with as many as seven centuries scored.

The spinners from both sides were thoroughly disappointing. The inconsistent umpiring didn’t help their cause either. The pitch did have turn and bounce but even the champion off-spinners like Mutiah Muralitharan and Harbhajan Singh could not make inroads.

The limelight was stolen by the batsmen of both sides. Rahul Dravid and Mahendra Singh Dhoni revived India with sparkling centuries and then Tillekeratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Prasanna Jayawardene put Sri Lanka firmly in control. It was then left to Gambhir and Tendulkar to save the day for the hosts.

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Shaiza Khan spearheading the cause with conviction


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Shaiza Khan happens to be one of the trend-setters. She has been chiefly responsible for putting Pakistan women on the cricketing map of the world. Besides being an active cricketer herself she has excelled in the role of the administration of the game against the heaviest of odds.

She currently holds a world record having merited recognition in Wisden, the Bible of cricket. She rewrote history by capturing 13 wickets in a Test match, obliterating Australian Betty Wilson’s record of 11 wickets achieved way back in 1956. Her record haul also included a hat-trick, only the second in women's Test history.

Shaiza also earned the distinction leading Pakistan women's cricket team in their first-ever Test match as well as the inaugural One-day International. She has, in fact, led the country in 40 ODIs besides three Tests. The prolific leg-spinner captained the national team in the 1997 World Cup in India and the 2003 IWCC Trophy in Holland.

She had started playing cricket at a very young age and the passion grew while attaining secondary education in England. She played club cricket for Winchmore Hill in England while she graduated to league and county cricket just a few years later. She was still at school while making her debut for Middlesex in 1986.

She became the first non-British captain for University of Leeds, where she completed her masters in Textile Engineering during 1991-95.

Upon her return to Pakistan she proactively took up the challenge of organizing a proper women team that could make its presence felt on the international scene. She had the dual responsibility of looking after the administrative matters besides leading the team in the field.

Shaiza was the motivating force behind the launch of the Pakistan Women Cricket Control Association (PWCCA) a body that was founded in January 1996 and registered under the Companies Ordinance of 1984. Later the same year the PWCCA became affiliated to the International Women's Cricket Council (IWCC) as an associate member.

Shaiza led Pakistan in their first-ever ODI in New Zealand soon after the country was granted the desired status. She added another feather to her cap by captaining the team in their historic first-ever Test match played against Sri Lanka in April 1998 at Colombo.

In 1999 she had become the first overseas player/member of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) when the membership opened for women after 212 years. She is currently a full member of the MCC.

As the Pakistan, she had toured New Zealand (1997), Sri Lanka (1998 and 2002), England and Ireland (2000) while she also skippered the national team in the home series against Holland (2001) and the West Indies (2004).

Although her focus of late has shifted on the administration of the PWCA, she remains an active cricketer and makes most of her stay in England during the summers.

Shaiza is a versatile entrepreneur working as Executive Director in the United Carpets Group of Industries. She has been one of the major financiers in the promotion and development of women’s cricket in Pakistan.

In fact it’s believed that the affairs of women’s cricket were totally financed by both Shaiza Khan and Sharmeen Khan during the first 10 years of PWCCA’s existence.

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November 19, 2009

Vital Five launched with great fanfare


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Customs Cricket Academy (CCA), founded by former Test fast bowler Jalaluddin in 1999, has distinguished itself by providing quality service. Currently celebrating its first decade of excellence, the CCA has also embarked upon the mission of spreading itself.

Headquartered at the Customs Sports Complex in Block 15 of Federal-B-Area, close to the UBL Sports Complex on Rashid Minhas Road, the CCA has recently established a base in the posh locality of the Defence Housing Society. A project by the name of Vital Five Club has been launched, based at the SKBZ Ground.

“The purpose of establishing Vital Five club is to give youngsters a chance to shine. The programme is a commitment for the development of cricket at school level in the eve of raising the standard of Pakistan cricket. This is a cricket carnival, which will give children the benefit of playing sports competitively. Team pairs competition for different age groups (8-10 years) (11-15), and (16-19 years) is planned, and schools are invited to take benefit from the set up,” Jalaluddin stated in his welcome speech during the presentation ceremony of an exhibition match organized to mark the opening of the club.

Jalaluddin, who is remembered for recording the first-ever hat-trick in One-day Internationals, highlighted the objectives of the Vital Five Club and announced the plan to revive school cricket. The club will be managed by the CCA, possessing qualified coaches and other support staff.

Jalaluddin, credited for developing a team of qualified coaches and trainers after having undertaken various ICC-accredited courses himself, has a firm resolve to revive the school cricket.

Meanwhile Askari XI registered an exciting 14-run victory over Showbiz XI in the festival match played in connection with the inauguration ceremony of Vital Five Club at the DA College Ground in DHA Phase VI.

Put into bat, Askari XI, led by Lt Gen Tariq Wasim Ghazi, scored 195 for the loss of wickets in the allotted 25 overs. Former Pakistan captain Moin Khan smashed a breezy 38 while Col Billa made 48. Hockey Olympian Islahuddin contributed 21 before retiring after Saleem Yousuf had kickstarted the innings with a brisk 49.

The damage was controlled by the Showbiz XI skipper, Adnan Siddiqui, who took wickets with Haji Ashraf, Faisal and Waqar being the other successful bowlers.

Chasing a formidable target of 196 in 25 overs the Showbiz XI lost a few early wickets but the situation was retrieved by Haji Ashraf and former hockey Olympian Qamar Ibrahim.

There was another mini-collapse following the departure of Qamar who made 36 but Haji Ashraf kept his side afloat until he was run out for 56. Col Billa sealed the fate of the match with three quick wickets as Showbiz XI were bowled out for 180.

Sindh Sports Minister, Dr Muhammad Ali Shah, who was the chief guest in the ceremony, presented Man of the Match award to Saleem Yousuf of Askari XI while Haji Ashraf of Showbiz XI and Col Billa of Askari XI were adjudged the best batsman and the best bowler respectively.

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Recalling Tendulkar’s debut 20 years ago


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It was a Wednesday on November 15, 1989. I was still very sad and depressed having lost my closest friend, Ali Rizwan, in a tragic road accident just four days ago. I was not in the ideal frame of mind to cover the Test match but it was my duty to do it for The Frontier Past the leading national newspaper published from Peshawar.

The Indian cricket team had come to Pakistan after five seasons. There was a lot of buzz and excitement leading to the start of the four-Test series at the National Stadium, Karachi.

There were a lot of side stories doing the rounds. Krishnamachari Srikkanth was appointed the Indian captain for the first time after the removal of Dilip Vengsarkar in controversial circumstances. The celebrated all-rounder Kapil Dev was ready to play in his 100th Test match.

Pakistan were to award a Test cap to Waqar Younis, carrying the big reputation of being a lethal fast bowler. He was to complement the likes of Imran Khan, Wasim Akram and Abdul Qadir, three of the greatest bowlers in world cricket those days.

But the news catching the imagination more than anything else was the induction of a 16-year-old lad called Sachin Tendulkar in the Indian playing eleven. He had been drafted in the side that was announced in the evening before the start of the Test match. Mohammad Azharuddin was missing in that eleven with Raman Lamba having been included in his place.

The drama began as early as on the first morning when Azharduddin started plucking a few incredible catches as Pakistan were sent into bat by Srikkanth.

Everyone wondered how Azharuddin was there in the field when not mentioned in the original playing eleven. Although officially it was described as a toe injury that kept Lamba out of the game there were speculations that the high-ups of the Indian Board had intervened after learning about the composition of the team.

While the spotlight remained on Azharddin for having picked as many as five catches in Pakistan’s first innings in which Kapil Dev and Manoj Prabhakhar bowled exceedingly well but all eyes were on Tendulkar when India began their reply on the second afternoon.

Tendulkar was expected to bat at number five but probably the loss of early wickets prompted skipper Srikkanth to hold back his teenage sensation for a while. He finally made an appearance at number six position with India reeling at 41 for four.

Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis were firing on all cylinders with Imran Khan setting attacking fields as he had plenty of runs in the bank. The pressure was on India when Azharddin was joined by Tendulkar.

Everyone in the media box and elsewhere in the stadium was awaiting Tendulkar, about whom they had heard a lot of being a schoolboy wonder. People pushed each other to get a better sight of the teenager entering the middle.

Tendulkar controlled his nerves splendidly and the 15 runs he scored did make many of those watching him that day realize that a special talent had arrived on the horizon. Obviously very few of them would have imagined him claiming every conceivable batting record in the years to come.

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November 14, 2009

Qualification in World Cup celebrated like title triumph


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan emerged triumphant in the FIH World Cup Qualifiers in Lille, France, that has earned them the qualification for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010. But the impression being given in the country is that Pakistan have already annexed the world title.

The officials of the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF), sitting in the corridors of power, even managed to have a congratulatory statement issued from the office of the head of the state hailing the victory in the recently held tournament.

The manner in which Qasim Zia and Asif Bajwa have been operating after having overthrown Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, nothing could be ruled out. They have become the hockey rulers who don’t approve the idea of consulting former Olympians and seasoned campaigners who brought more glories for the country than these two gentlemen could not even imagine.

The PHF is not being ‘governed’ much differently than the oft criticized Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). The only apparent difference between these two bodies, headquartered in close vicinity in Lahore, is that the PCB is a one-man show and in the PHF there are two brothers in arms calling the shots.

No authority or governmental body can dare questioning Asif Bajwa, the PHF Secretary, enjoying total support and backing of President Qasim Zia, the hockey Olympian-turned politician.

Will these two worthy officials of the PHF care to explain didn’t it cost millions to take the team to France whereas they could have settled the issue by winning the Asia Cup in Malaysia earlier this year.

Pakistan would not have been needed to travel all the way to France had they overpowered South Korea in the Asia Cup final. The winners of the Asia Cup were to directly qualify for the World Cup.

It was the failure of the team in the Asia Cup final that jeopardized their chances of playing for the World Cup and they had to take part in the Qualifiers in Lille where they did it by the skin of their teeth.

Pakistan still needed to win the competition to avoid elimination from the World Cup although the teams participating in the Qualifiers in Lille were not highly rated or prolific ones.

They accomplished their mission after winning the tensely fought final against Japan 3-1. The lady luck was smiling on Pakistan who managed to overcome a much improved performance from the Japanese outfit. It turned out to be a much closer contest than anticipated.

Poland, who had overpowered Pakistan in their league meeting, finished third while hosts France, Russia and Italy shared the next three positions.

Pakistan became the 10th team to have qualified for the Hero Honda FIH World Cup 2010 with Australia, Canada, England, Germany, India, Korea, Netherlands, South Africa and Spain having secured their berths earlier.

A couple of more spots are available and will go to the winners of the second World Cup Qualifier, having started in Invercargill, New Zealand, and the third one, which starts in Quilmes, Argentina, in the coming week.

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November 13, 2009

PCB now gambling with Yousuf


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Two wrongs don’t make one right. Isn’t it? Yet the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) or is just its Chairman, Ijaz Butt, conveniently ignore this basic rule. Controversy has been a part and parcel of the Pakistan cricket for a long time but there have been far too many in the recent past.

The appointment of Mohammad Yousuf as the skipper of the national team for the upcoming tour of New Zealand seems yet another blunder. The PCB is unclear in its mind too hence there’s no announcement yet if he will quit the job after three Tests and hand over the reigns back to Younis Khan.

There is a lot of chaos and confusion at the moment. The indecisiveness and shortsightedness of the PCB Chairman is making things more complicated with every passing day. His inability to deal with the matters professionally is taking its toll and his insistence to take decisions on his own is bringing the Pakistan cricket to disrepute.

Yousuf is not much different a character to Younis, with whom almost every member of the team was dissatisfied and unhappy, when it comes to captaining the side. Both of them remain reluctant leaders.

If Yousuf or Younis were natural leaders, one of them would have been handed over the captaincy upon the retirement of Inzamam-ul-Haq. That was the reason the then Chairman of the PCB, Dr Nasim Ashraf, had to induct Shoaib Malik as a skipper, a move that brought mixed results.

At least Shoaib had some leadership skills and his body language in the field was generally positive. He did carry a stigma of having thrown away a domestic match in mysterious circumstances he possessed the drive to carry the team forward.

Shoaib was removed by Ijaz Butt, who managed to convince Younis, who was unwilling to accept the job earlier, to take over during the course of the home series against Sri Lanka earlier this year. It wasn’t the wisest of move to bring about a change of guard during the course of a series.

Younis caused more headaches to the PCB with the only relief having come when the team won the ICC World Twenty20 against the heaviest of odds in England this summer. But with so much cricket going on Pakistan was humbled in Sri Lanka soon afterwards and there were all sorts of dressing room stories doing the rounds.

Younis, with his conduct or the lack of it, was chiefly responsible in earning bad name for the PCB even at a time when the nation was celebrating the Twenty20 conquest. He was found wanting in handling the media upon his return from the triumphant tour of England and there were negative headlines because of his haughty attitude.

The lady luck smiled on Younis again when Pakistan created an upset by making it to the semifinals of the ICC Championships Trophy in South Africa. But the unexpected loss to New Zealand opened another Pandora’s Box and the skipper was in the news for the wrong reasons yet again.

The PCB Chairman put his entire weight before Younis and agreed to all his terms and conditions, a few of which were unfair. But when the pressure built up and the boys stood up in Abu Dhabi, Ijaz Butt didn’t back the man whom he had lent overwhelming support just a few weeks ago.

Yousuf was initially reluctant when approached by the PCB Chairman in Abu Dhabi to take over with the short tenure being the point of contention. Out of his wisdom Ijaz Butt kept the matter pending and no mention was made about Younis getting the captaincy back.

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November 12, 2009

Younis makes himself and PCB a laughing stock


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It’s certainly the bad luck of the whole nation that they have had to endure a man as inconsistent in temperament and conduct as Younis Khan to be the skipper of the cricket team.

I have raised the issue on numerous occasions that Younis doesn’t possess the leadership skills hence he didn’t qualify to captain the national team.

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), plagued by administrative problems from top to bottom, hasn’t had the guts or the capacity to deal Younis in the desired manner leading to one controversy after another in the recent past.

Since Ijaz Butt, the Chairman of the PCB, is believed to be making all the decision on his own, disregarding the Governing Body, he must be entirely blamed for not having dealt with the situation in a shrewd manner.

The PCB Chairman, under fire on various fronts, had chosen to put his entire weight behind the temperamental Younis on the eve of an important series against New Zealand, beginning with the One-day Internationals in Abu Dhabi.

Ijaz Butt, for reasons best known to himself because he didn’t care to take anyone in confidence, not only bowed to the demand of Younis to appoint him as the captain until the 2011 World Cup but he went overboard in pleasing the skipper by ditching his own personal friend Yawar Saeed.

It may be recalled that the PCB Chairman himself had persuaded Yawar to carry on the job when the latter had sought a break. Younis, however, prevailed over the Board helmsman to remove his long-time mate just a few days before the departure of the team to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Younis had reasons to feel triumphant for the removal of Yawar as it opened the way for Abdul Raqeeb to accompany the team as manager instead.

Younis desired complete authority and a management team of his choice. He wanted to exercise the kind of authority that Imran Khan had during his time. He was desirous of calling the shots on his own.

Now after only three-match ODI series he has withdrawn from the tour of New Zealand requesting a break from cricket. He has caused embarrassment not only to the PCB but to the Pakistan cricket in general.

Had he traveled to the UAE riding a camel? How did he tire without having played a single big knock in the ODI series? How did he run out of steam when he didn’t have to do much running around in the team?

These are the questions Younis must be made to answer in public. He is not captaining a club team or a departmental outfit. He is or rather he was leading the national team. He must be made accountable. His change of mind hurts the cause of the team. His inability to lead by example creates bad taste.

The PCB will do a service to the game if they could take Younis out of their plans. They should not be backing an individual who is found wanting in handling the pressure. He should rather be considered a case for permanent retirement now.

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November 11, 2009

Countdown to mega event begins


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The World Cup remains the most prestigious of all the cricket tournaments and the International Cricket Council (ICC) regards it as its flagship event.

The first-ever Cricket World Cup was staged in England in 1975. It was described as an instant success and England went on to host the event in 1979 as well as in 1983. The other cricket playing nations then expressed the desire to organize it and the ICC has had to follow a rotation policy since then.

The World Cup came to the sub-continent in 1987-88 and it reached Down Under in 1991-92. It returned to the sub-continent in 1995-96 with England hosting it again in 1999. The action moved towards Africa in 2002-03 and the flame of cricket reached the Caribbean Islands for the first time in 2006-07.

Now the sub-continent will be the hosts once more in 2010-11 with the tournament to be held from February 17 to April 2. The countdown for the mega event has begun and the functionaries of the ICC and the Tournament Organizing Committee are ready to meet the challenge.

A ceremony was held in Mumbai on November 9 in which the fixtures of the 2011 World Cup were allowed well in advance.

Sharad Pawar, Vice President, ICC, and Chairman, Organizing Committee, very rightly pointed out that the match schedule announcement would allow all stakeholders to start planning their tours.

“The announcement of the match schedule for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 is an exciting development as not only does it allow all our stakeholders to start planning their tours but it will also remind everyone that we are getting closer to the staging of the biggest event in world cricket, where the leading cricketers from all over the globe will battle it out for the top prize in the game,” he remarked.

“The sub-continent offers some great facilities for the cricketers, spectators, sponsors and media, and with some brand new stadia to be built and others to be upgraded, the match schedule will allow the venues to focus on the task at hand to plan and implement their preparations and ensure they are ready to welcome the world to this beautiful, historic and cricket-loving region in 2011,” Pawar noted.

The ICC Chief Executive, Haroon Lorgat, believed that the announcement of dates was an important indicator of the excellent progress they were making towards staging their flagship event.

“The match schedule will allow the teams, commercial partners, spectators and media to commence with planning their tours. Preparation of venues and safety and security planning continues and I am confident that the host countries will showcase our great sport with its great spirit in the best possible light,” he observed.

“The ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 will be the ICC’s next 50-over tournament after the highly successful ICC Champions Trophy 2009 in South Africa. And with plenty of high-quality matches played since that event concluded last month, I’m convinced that the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011 in the sub-continent will further cement the status of ODIs and once again illustrate one of cricket’s greatest strengths – that with Tests and Twenty20 Internationals alongside ODIs, we have three viable, vibrant and successful formats of the game at international level,” the ICC chief added.

“The sub-continent has hosted high-quality events in the past, including two ICC Cricket World Cups in 1987 and 1996, and we are committed to stage another world-class event in 2011, one which will be memorable and enjoyable for all,” Tournament Director, Prof Ratnakar Shetty, said.

“However, the announcement of the match schedule will mean that the venues hosting the matches will have to meet their timelines to ensure everything is ready for what we believe will be a superb spectacle and a great advertisement for the sport which has a huge following in the sub-continent,” he pointed out.

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Pakistan not to host a single game


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The ICC World Cup will make a return to the sub-continent in early 2011 but Pakistan, having being proactive hosts in 1987 and 1996, will not be having a single match on their soil this time round.

The fixtures of the World Cup 2011 were announced by the ICC in a ceremony in Mumbai on November 9. It’s first time in history that Pakistan has not been allotted matches when the World Cup has come to the sub-continent. The 1992 champions, Pakistan, would be playing all their league matches in Sri Lanka.

The 10 full member countries of the ICC alongwith four associate members, divided equally in two groups, will be taking part with the top four from each group qualifying for the quarter-finals.

The Group A comprises of Australia, Pakistan, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Canada and Kenya while the Group B contains India, South Africa, England, West Indies, Bangladesh, Ireland and the Netherlands.

A total of 49 matches will be played in the World Cup 2011 with India hosting 29 matches, including the final, a semifinal and a quarter-final, Sri Lanka 12 matches, including a semifinal and a quarter-final, and Bangladesh eight matches, including the opening matches, and two quarter-finals.

During the 43-day event spread over three countries, a total of 13 venues will be used and the 2011 event is a week shorter than the 2007 edition.
The inaugural ceremony will be held in the Bangladesh capital, Dhaka, on February 17 where the opening match of the tournament will also be staged a couple of days later featuring the host nation and the 1983 champions India.

The quarter-finals will be played in Dhaka on March 23 and 25 in Colombo on March 24 and and in Ahmedabad on March 26 while the two semifinals will be played in Colombo and Mohali on March 29 and 30. The Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai will host the final on April 2.

It has been clarified that Pakistan would be facilitated to contest the final in Mumbai should they qualify. The organizers have specifically made a mention of Pakistan because Mumbai has always been a city they have had to avoid playing for a number of years now.

Sharad Pawar, the Chairman of the 2011 World Cup's organising committee, has stated that India would welcome them to play at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai should Pakistan make it to the final of the tournament.

Pawar expressed the optimism that there would be no hurdles if Pakistan made it into the final of an event like the World Cup.

"There is no exception whether it is Pakistan or any other country. I am confident the sport-loving population of this country will welcome anybody who reaches the stage,” he was quoted as saying in Mumbai.

Pakistan would be needed to play in India during the course of the 2011 World Cup only if they go all the way to the final.

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November 10, 2009

Black Caps survive unlikely late flourish


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

How often would you expect any team having lost its ninth wicket for 101 in the 34th over still be in the reckoning for a pursuit of a target of 213 in 50 overs with the number 10 and 11 out in the middle?

The match would have been deemed as good as over when the ninth wicket fell with more than one hundred still needed at over run a ball for nearly 16 overs. That would have been the case in normal circumstances.

It’s a different story altogether when the Pakistanis take the field. You can never take them for granted. Their last pair can do wonders with the bat and their non-regular bowlers can return the dream figures.

Daniel Vettori must have learnt a few lessons at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi, on November 9 where New Zealand survived the unlikeliest of late flourishes to pocket the ODI series.

Vettori himself was the ‘culprit’ because the turnaround began with his penultimate over in which Mohammad Aamer smashed him for three sixes. I don’t recall the champion left-spinner having been whacked this way in any form of the game by any batsman let alone by any tail-ender.

Even Vettori might not have anticipated what was in store for him and his team over the next one hour or so. Left-handed Aamer started batting in the manner that would have made Sir Garfield Sobers proud and last man Saeed Ajmal, who was at sea initially, suddenly gained the confidence of Sir Donald Bradman to toy with the bowling.

Aamer and Saeed had fun with the New Zealand bowling and the action was a source of entertainment for the large number of supporters at the ground who had earlier been quiet after the dismal performance of the Pakistan batsmen.

The crowd certainly got their money’s worth as the match went into the final over and New Zealand barely got home after having been poised for a resounding win.

Pakistan have been known for shattering the dreams of New Zealand and very nearly they did it again against the run of play. The New Zealanders would now have reasons to value their every victory over Pakistan after the narrow escape in the third and final game.

Although New Zealand managed to clinch the series they failed to dominate it after being in the driving seat in the last two games. They were restricted to just over 300 in the second match when a total in the region of 350 was always on the cards after the explosive start to their innings.

They were expected to post a total in the vicinity of 280, if not 300, in the third encounter but they made a mess of the final overs to be bowled out for 212. They were 130 odd for the loss of only two wickets at the halfway stage of their innings but they couldn’t even bat out their 50 overs.

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November 4, 2009

Pakistan’s participation in World Snooker Championship doubtful once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan’s participation in the upcoming IBSF Snooker Championship 2009 to be staged in the Indian town of Hyderabad has become doubtful once again, this time due to the shortage of funds. Earlier it was the issue of visas that had jeopardized Pakistan’s chances of competing in the global event.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), has heaved a sigh of relief at having received the Indian visas as well as the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) but he’s deeply concerned with the part payment of the special grant believing that the financial constraints may not allow the Pakistan snooker squad to proceed to India.

“Only a grant of 40% of the total expenses submitted by the PBSA has been released by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Federal Ministry of Sports which is insufficient to meet the costs pertaining to the participation of the World Championship,” he revealed in a conversation on November 4.

“In this regard, we have forwarded a written request to Federal Sports Minister, Pir Syed Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani and the departmental heads to intervene in the matter and release the required full amount of our submitted budget for the said event,” the PBSA President added.

“As the snooker squad is scheduled to depart for India on November 12 and time is running short to finalize the travel and other arrangements for the departure of the team, we once again request the Federal Minister to kindly issue instructions to the Pakistan Sports Board to release the balance 60% amount of the special grant,” Alamgir Shaikh remarked.

“We also would like to point out that the PBSA had to face the same situation for the participation in the IBSF World Snooker Championship of 2008 in Austria and the PBSA had to approach the Pakistan Sports Trust (PST) which provided a major portion of the Financial Assistance to salvage the situation,” he recalled.

“It may also be noted that due to paucity of funds Pakistan did not participate in the Asian Indoor Games, Hanoi, Vietnam as well, and if necessary funds are not released for the IBSF World Snooker Championship 2009 it will be big blow for the image of Pakistan Snooker at international level, causing concern for the Association to promote this game,” the PBSA President said

“Our track record will show that we have never missed a World Snooker Championship in the last 20 years, due to lack of funds, we earnestly request the Ministry to intervene in the matter saving us and the country from big embarrassment by not participating,” Alamgir Shaikh remarked.

The PBSA President, having spoken to the top officials of the Federal Sports Ministry as well as the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) earlier in the day, was optimistic about the release of some more funds within the next few days to meet the costs for the World Championship.

“The government officials have been supportive of our cause in the past. They do have their own constraints but we are confident of getting support for a tournament as important as the World Championship,” the PBSA President concluded.

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