May 31, 2010

MSAP Collegiate Programme launched at Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There’s more gladdening news for the mind sports enthusiasts of Karachi in particular. The Mind Sports Association of Pakisan (MSAP), having joined hands with the Aga Khan Youth Sports Board for Pakistan (AKYSBP), have launched their Collegiate Programme at the Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School located in Karimabad.

Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, who is spearheading the Collegiate Programme, was delighted with the participation of over five hundred students in the inaugural session at the Aga Khan School on May 28.

“It augurs very well for the future of mind sports. If the students’ community could be motivated into it in such big way we are quite confident of accomplishing our cherished objectives sooner than later,” he observed.

Tariq Rasheed, himself led the seven-member MSAP delegation at the Aga Khan School in Karimabad, was accompanied by the famous chess International Master, Mahmood Lodhi, having won the national title on the highest number of occasions, besides Azhar Javed, Emad Mirza, Javed Shamim, Mohammad Umair Kausar and Islahuddin.

“The management of the Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan School extended great help in spreading the message as they distributed the registration forms among the students for submission at a later stage. The Principal of school desired starting mind sports activities at the campus three days a week,” Tariq Rasheed, who is also the President of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), remarked.

“The AKYSBP have also expressed the desire to have the MSAP Collegiate Programme launched at their campuses Lahore and Islamabad,” he disclosed.

The MSAP has already started conducting weekly classes for the enthusiasts of chess and scrabble at the Aga Khan Gymkhana after having reached an agreement with the AKYSBP.

The MSAP and AKYSBP had to start the classes following the enthusiasm generated in the two-day event conducted to train and coach boys and girls in the games of chess and scrabble. The training and coaching progrommaes were spread over two successive days over the weekend.

The total of students in various age groups participating in the opening session was 41 with 26 of them registering in chess and 15 in scrabble. Quite a few talented and promising players were short listed for further training and coaching by the experts under the auspices of the MSAP.

It was announced that the talented players from this programme will be selected to get further training with the scrabble players to be invited to play in the regular events of the Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) held at Hotel Beach Luxury while the chess playing students will get the opportunity of unfolding talents at the Russian Cultural Centre.

The MSAP, founded a couple of years ago, has taken upon the responsibility of spreading bridge, chess and scrabble, classified as mind sports, in the educational institutions. They launched their collegiate programme in bridge, chess and scrabble here at Institute of Business Management (IoBM) last year. They had also organized the first-ever National Mind Sports Games in Karachi in August 2008.

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Has Rohit Sharma come of age finally?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Rohit Sharma, who couldn’t score a century in his first 42 One-day Internationals, has suddenly scored a couple in as many games in the ongoing three-nation series in Zimbabwe.

Sharma happens to be one of the so many enterprising young Indian batsmen to have come to the fore in the recent past but like the majority of the newcomers he has not been able to provide the comfort to the selectors to consider him a complete package.

Sharma’s talent as an explosive batsman has been beyond doubt but his application and shot selection has left a lot to be desired. He has been one of those young guys who have struggled to do justice to their talents.

He has played a few magnificent knocks under pressure in international cricket. But he has lacked the consistency to capture the imagination of the team management. He has possessed the skills as well as the temperament but he needed to put runs on the board on a regular basis to cement his place in the star-studded Indian batting line-up.

With the ‘seniors’ having been rested for the Zimbabwe series there’s an opportunity for the young guns like him, Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina to prove the point that they have graduated to the next level.

Sharma appears to have grabbed the golden chance with both hands, having scored centuries in the first two outings against different oppositions. His century in the opening game against India had gone in vain but the one against Sri Lanka a couple of days later was a worthy match-winning effort.

He must sustain this form in the rest of the tournament to dispel the impression of him being just another flashy batsman. He has to convert those half centuries into centuries and make them count in order to retain his slot when the likes of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni return to the folds.

Sharma is also a brilliant fieldsman, besides being a more than useful off-spin bowler. Most importantly he has the nerves to come to terms with the pressure-cooker situations that make him a most sought after all-round cricketer. He has been in and out of the Indian limited-overs side without playing Test cricket yet despite achieving the rare feat of scoring two hundreds in the 2008-09 Ranji Trophy final.

He had first hit the headlines in 2006 during the Under-19 World Cup in Sri Lanka. He made his ODI debut in 2007 but it were his heroics in the inaugural World Twenty20in South Africa later the same year which got him recognized as a special talent. He was one of the architects of India’s title win. Sharma continued to impress and his couple of dashing knocks helped India win the CB Series in Australia in early 2008.

Then came the slump as he struggled for runs in his first two first-class seasons for Mumbai but he performed exceptionally well in the shortest version of the game while playing for the Deccan Chargers, who bought him over for US$750,000, during the Indian Premier League (IPL).

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May 28, 2010

Prof Ejaz Farooqui desires to take Karachi cricket to next level


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The elections of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) are generally regarded as an exercise of legitimizing old wines into new bottles. But there’s a big difference this time round.

While there was not much to comment on the election of Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bokhari as the President or the re-election of Mehdi Hasan as Treasurer but the news making the headline was the election of Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqui as Secretary.

Prof Ejaz Farooqui is one man, known for bringing about a change. His presence in the central leadership could lead a turnaround in the fortunes of the KCCA. He has been blessed with so many outstanding qualities that make him counted as one of the leading personalities of the country.

He has a huge responsibility now on his shoulders and not surprisingly he is as confident as ever, displaying enormous self-belief that should serve as an inspiration to his teammates in the KCCA. He has pledged to take the Karachi cricket to another level by strategizing the goals. Not many people would disagree that he does have the capability of doing it.

Having who blanked his rival Shah Riazuddin 21-0 for the post of the Secretary in the KCCA elections held on May 22, Prof Ejaz Farooqui agreed that a lot was needed to be done to promote cricket from the grassroots level in the city.

“Yes there are lot of new challenges to be met but being a firm believer of making the most of the available resources I don’t foresee problems in accomplishing the goals and promoting cricket in every nook and corner of our metropolis,” he observed in an interview after having been elected as the KCCA Secretary.

“The Zone II experience would obviously come handy. I was elected the zonal chairman during the previous KCCA elections in 2006. With the untiring support of our team we were able to rewrite the history of the zone by organizing 25 accredited tournaments in which more than 650 matches were held. From Karimabad to Surjani Town, Khuda Ki Basti and Taisar Town we succeeded in engaging our cricketers throughout the year,” Prof Farooqui remarked.

“I have gained first-hand experience of the problems being faced at the club level by interacting with the cricketers as well as the organizers on a regularly basis and we were able to overcome many of the obstacles if not all during my three and half year tenure as the zonal chairman,” he pointed out.

He agreed that he may have not have as smooth sailing being the KCCA Secretary as he had while being the KCCA Zone II Chairman.

“Yes the challenges are going to be different but the basics remain the same. If one has the will power to take on the problems and tackle them accordingly no problem could be considered too big. I will take on board all the stake-holders to take the Karachi cricket to another level,” the KCCA Secretary concluded.

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May 25, 2010

Ahmed Mustafa receives ICC award


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The nominations of the winners of the awards had been announced by the International Cricket Council (ICC) last year but it took the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) around six months to hand it over to the recipients.

In fact the delay was so frustrating for the award winners that quite a few of them had started to wonder if they would receive it in their lifetime. At least one winner of the ICC award, Gul Hameed Bhatti, expired in the interim period.

While it was a nice idea of the ICC to have thought of recognizing the volunteers across the world, having given their sweat and blood for the cause of the game rather selflessly, but the implementation of the strategy left a lot to be desired particularly in Pakistan.

The ICC probably had no other option than to seek the recommendations from the PCB but more regrettably they didn’t have any mechanism in place to verify the credentials of the nominees.

The list of award winners contains majority of the names who didn’t deserve it at all to say the least. The genuine volunteers or the silent soldiers were purposely ignored to accommodate people having access to the Chairman of the PCB, Ijaz Butt, infamous for doing things according to his whims and wishes in total disregard to merit.

There were just a few exceptions and the person, in the opinion of many, who deserved it more than anyone else was none other than Ahmed Mustafa, a former first-class cricketer, having immortalized himself by setting up an academy where coaching of the highest class is being provided free of cost for close to quarter of a century now.

Ahmed Mustafa, whose health has deteriorated for the past few years, defied the instructions of the physicians to collect the award personally from the officials of the PCB in a ceremony held at the National Stadium, Karachi.

He was presented the award by the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the PCB, Wasim Bari, with a member of the Board’s Governing Body, Wazir Ali Khoja, also present on the stage.

It was a just reward for Ahmed Mustafa who has spent all his life in grooming the talented youngsters once his own dream of donning the national colour was shattered by a tragic road accident when he was at the peak of his career.

He could not fulfill his ambition of playing Test cricket but he has gone on to make more significant contribution to the game than any Test cricketer by having established a famed academy by the name of Cricket Coaching Centre (CCC).

Azam Khan, Faisal Iqbal and Owais Shah are three Test cricketers having been discovered and trained by the CCC. They were in their early teens when taken to Ahmed Mustafa by their parents.

Quite a few cricket academies have mushroomed over the last few years but it was Ahmed Mustafa who pioneered the idea. Most significantly he has never charged a single penny from his trainees. In fact he has also been instrumental in arranging kits for them besides taking care of the practice balls all along. He has given his life to cricket in the truest sense of the word.

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May 24, 2010

Cricket comes alive in USA


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I have read with interest the observations of the legendary Australian captain, Ian Chappell, who was in Florida to do television commentary on the back-to-back Twenty20 Internationals between New Zealand and Sri Lanka over the weekend.

More than his comments on television that primarily focused on the low-scoring games between the two evenly matched outfits it were the remarks in his write-up published on the eve of the event that caught my imagination.

I incline to agree with Chappell, acclaimed as one of the most inspirational leaders of all time, that cricket in USA could flourish in a big way to the extent of becoming a viable business proposition only if the local population was into it.

“If cricket is to become a viable sport in the USA, eventually the officials have to attract some genuine American fans. This is why the experiment this time, unlike those attempted in the past, is critical; the only way cricket is going to attract American fans in reasonable numbers is via the Twenty20 version of the game,” the former Australian captain reckoned.

“Twenty20 is the correct vehicle to promote the game and if they come up with the right formula, combining business and cricket administration in a franchise, they might just find a niche market,” he added.

He has recalled that the past efforts could not pay dividends as they all featured longer matches mentioning that even the presence of Don Bradman could not ignite the passion for cricket when Australia toured USA and Canada in 1932.

“The game failed to capture the imagination of the Yanks. There was a publicity shot involving Bradman and Babe Ruth, then a huge star with the Yankees, and the inevitable comparisons were made between the two kings of their sport but nothing came of it other than a nice memento for Bradman's mantelpiece,” Chappell wrote.

“There were also publicity shots taken at a film studio in Hollywood, but the British actors like Aubrey C Smith and Boris Karloff who figured in it were already cricket fans. I remember seeing photos from the tour of stars like Jeanette McDonald and Jean Harlow,” he observed adding that the photos were on his grandfather Vic Richardson's mantelpiece, who was the captain of the team.

Just as Chappell had anticipated the crowd at Lauderhill, where the twin Twenty20 contests between New Zealand and Sri Lanka took place, remained vocal and cheerful although the low-scoring fixtures were not the ideal advertisements for a game aiming to penetrate into the big market region.

Not surprisingly the turnout of the American cricket fans wasn’t on the high side but there are possibilities of attracting them if international matches continue to be staged there with integrated efforts to boost the game locally.

Cricket has certainly come alive in USA with the historic T20 series between New Zealand and Sri Lanka that was drawn with both sides winning and losing a match each. The low bounce of the pitch wasn’t to the liking of the big hitters in two sides but that’s part and parcel of the game and such surfaces are not uncommon in Test playing nations either.

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May 23, 2010

Red Letter day in USA cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

22 May 2010 will go down in history of cricket in the United States of America (USA) as a Red Letter day with the successful hosting of the first-ever ‘officially accredited’ game featuring two full members of the International Cricket Council (ICC), New Zealand and Sri Lanka, in Florida.

It could well open the floodgates in that part of the world with both cricket as well as USA needing each other very dearly now. The growing popularity of Twenty20 Internationals has made cricket a more marketable product than ever before. This shortest version of the game, offering greater entertainment value to the paying public, has the potential to make inroads in territories that couldn’t be won over earlier.

Theoretically cricket has remained a minority sport in the USA in the truest sense of the word. It’s not one the games yet which the majority of the natives of the USA desire to play or even watch for that matter. Cricket has had its roots there for a very long time with the immigrants from the South Asia and the Caribbean fuelling their passion with the activities restricted mostly to weekends.

The globalization of cricket with focus on off-shore venues makes the USA as one of the most attractive locations. The brand of T20 cricket seems to have the potential to make waves leading to a distinct change in the sporting culture of people.

Baseball is considered to be the game of the masses in the USA. The T20 cricket matches have quite a few things in common with baseball and it could sell there as well. After all the sports enthusiasts are also eager for innovation and change. If they discover cricket anywhere close to baseball it would turn Lockerbie's 'Destination USA' dream into reality much more quickly than imagined.

The Chief Executive of the United States of America Cricket Association (USACA), Don Lockerbie, has a vision to turn it around. The ball has already been set into motion with back to back Twenty20 Internationals between New Zealand and Sri Lanka at Central Broward Regional Park Stadium Turf Ground in Lauderhill, Florida, over the weekend.

Neither the USACA nor Lockerbie should lose heart from the fact that not many tickets were sold even though New Zealand and Sri Lanka were the semi-finalists of the recently concluded ICC World Twenty20 in the West Indies.

Yes things can change dramatically overnight only if the Indians could be roped in by the USACA to play any other side. That’s one team that has the reputation of attracting large crowds in every corner of the world and there’s no reason why they won’t be flocking in large numbers to watch in action their national team play in the USA.

The development of cricket in the USA could be fast-tracked if the functionaries of their cricket body succeed in negotiating a deal with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in particular. Then they could turn to the teams like Pakistan, Australia and South Africa whose cricketers have the potential to attract huge number of spectators.

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May 21, 2010

Sindh Govt, PCB join hands to train cricket coaches


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The five-month camp for the cricket coaches, being organized by the sports department of the Government of Sindh with the collaboration of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) as a part of the Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme (BBSYDP), got underway at the Regional Cricket Academy Ground, Karachi, on May 17.

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary, Sports & Youth Affairs to Government of Sindh, presided over the opening ceremony held at the National Stadium during which he presented kits and resource material to the participating 20 coaches, including four ladies, selected from all over the province.

Syed Shahid Ali (Khairpur), Abdul Rahman (Sanghar), Shakir Ali (Sanghar), Ashdaq Ahmed (Naushero Feroze), Ghulam Murtaza Shaikh (Sukkur), Pervez Nabi Memon (Sukkur), Amjad Anjum Memon (Dadu), Abdul Waheed (Larkana), Faiz Aslam Khan (Karachi), Zaheer Imran (Karachi), Mohammad Farhan Saeed (Karachi), Talia Shamglib (Karachi), Saba Hasan (Karachi), Maimoona Dad (Karachi), Hasan Muzammail (Hyderabad), Mohammad Azhar (Hyderabad), Nabi Mohammad (Mirpurkhas), Mohammad Abid (Mirpurkhas), Shirin Naz (Karachi) and Ashok Kumar (Umar Kot) are the participants of the five-month camp.

“The Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme (BBSYDP) has been launched according to the wishes of Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, to pay tribute to the two-times elected Prime Minister of Pakistan,” Shoaib Siddiqui remarked in his speech on the occasion.

“The Youth Development programme has been named after her and the Government of Sindh has approved Rs 13 million for the project in which 150 youngsters will be trained in nine different sectors. Besides sports the training will also be provided to the youth in the fields of banking, insurance and taxation,” he disclosed.

“These courses will not only enlighten the trainees but will also be greatly helpful in raising their skills that could open the doors for career jobs. The youth holds the future,” Shoaib Siddiqui reckoned.

Saleem Siddiqui, Deputy Secretary Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, revealed that the trainees will be paid a monthly stipend of Rs 6,000 with a further monthly allowance of Rs 3,000 to be paid to the outstation coaches.

The PCB, he added, would be compensated for organizing the initial Level-1 course for the participants under the supervision of Haroon Rasheed, Ali Zia and Shahid Asalm. The PCB has also been assigned to monitor and assess the participants throughout the five-month period during which the coaches will be assigned different tasks to polish their skills.

The Sports and Youth affairs department of the Government of Sindh had placed newspaper advertisements inviting applications from the prospective coaches. The applicants appeared in a written test before a series of interviews on the basis of which 20 were selected for the camp training.

“It’s very heartening to note indeed that the applications were received from every nook and corner of the province. After carrying out the due process, with the assistance of technical hands, the candidates from Larkana, Dadu, Sukkur, Naushero Feroze, Sanghar, Khairpur, Umar Kot, Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad and Karachi have been selected for the training course,” Saleem Siddiqui observed.

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May 18, 2010

Sulaiman upstages masters to win international title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The last few days have witnessed the Pakistanis making it big in the sporting events. The cricket team, quite remarkably, made its way to the semifinals of the ICC Twenty20 even after having lost three matches on a trot. Then Mohammad Sajjad stormed into the final of the Asian Snooker Championship against the heaviest of odds

Scrabble may not be as popular sport as even snooker but it’s quite gladdening to watch Pakistan’s Mohammad Sulaiman going all the way to win the 3rd Malta International Scrabble Open (MISO), organized by the Malta Scrabble Club.

The event, staged at the Suncrest Hotel in Qawra from May 14 to 16, was sponsored by Intercomp (Dell Computers), Vascas Jewellers, Scotts Supermarket, ProPrint, Alliance Cruises, Tilefish and Seiko UK Ltd.

It attracted one hundred participants, 60 percent of them hailing from a total of 14 foreign nations including Pakistan. Among the illustrious participants were former world champion Nigel Richards, from New Zealand, arguably the world’s strongest scrabble player, and top British players, the Englishman Craig Beevers and Helen Gipson of Scotland.

Sulaiman earned laurels for himself and the country by winning the prestigious tournament after having exhibited great skill in fighting vigorously against some of the game’s top players including former world champions.

The officials of the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), who been complementing the Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) in promoting the game, were thrilled with the title winning performance of Sulaiman.

“Sulaiman has rewritten history by becoming the first Pakistani to win an international scrabble tournament. He won the contest out of nearly one hundred players that included participants from the native English speaking nations. It’s a magnificent performance by all means,” Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, observed.

“Nothing succeeds like success. I am confident that this terrific accomplishment of Sulaiman will go a long way in inspiring the scrabble players of our country who would now be looking forward to emulate him,” Tariq Rasheed, himself an outstanding player of bridge, chess and scrabble, reckoned.

Sulaiman outwitted Beevers 469-392 in the final round to emerge victorious in the tournament. Beevers finished second while Nigel Richards (New Zealand), Even Cohen (Israel) and Jared Robinson (England) shared the next three positions.

Sulaiman has had vast international experience of playing scrabble. He started playing the game in 1990 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he was stationed from 1986 to 1996. He won the Sri Lanka National Championship in 1994 against some of the top players there.He was also instrumental in bringing a team of Sri Lankan scrabble players, under his captaincy, to Karachi.

He moved to Pakistan in 1999 and after several years of absence from the game he rejoined and exhibited his indomitable fighting spirit, terrific memory of unusual words and unmatched stamina and skill.

He was the oldest contestant of World Scrabble Championship 2008 where he survived the marathon sessions of most competitive scrabble games for three days. He has also participated in Oman and Bahrain international tournaments and gave a creditable performance, winning laurels and prizes.

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May 17, 2010

England finally clinch a world title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
England have finally pocketed a trophy. It was in the fitness of things, probably, that they accomplished their mission by taming arch-rivals Australia, having spoiled their party on numerous occasions in the past.

Yes it were the Australians having been instrumental in denying glories for England in every format of the game. For a change it were England, led by the inspirational Paul Collingwood, who emerged triumphant in Barbados on May 16 to be crowned as the new World Twenty20 champions.

Looks like yesterday when Australia’s Garry Gilmour had come up with the all-round performance of his lifetime to deny England a win in the semifinals of the inaugural World Cup in 1975.

Since then England, despite possessing the arsenal to rule the world, somehow had been crashing in crucial games to be robbed of the title. They stormed into the final of the World Cup in 1979, 1987 and 1992 where they lost to the West Indies, Australia and Pakistan respectively.

England could not run away with the ICC Champions Trophy or the World Twenty20 until May 16, 2010 when Collignwood’s men did not choke in the final and they proved too hot to handle even for the mighty Australia, the only unbeaten outfit in the competition.

Collingwood, the man having played the key role, alongwith coach Andy Flower, in having galvanized England into a formidable limited-overs unit, was there in the middle to hit the winning runs with a six and two fours that brought the much-awaited maiden world cricket title for his country to be proudly displayed at Lord’s.

"This is a very special moment. This is right up there, with the best, the guys deserve everything they've got today. We've won a World Cup, and you can never take that away from us. We thoroughly deserve the victory, because the way we've played throughout the tournament has been consistent and also we have been taking the game to the opposition,” Collingwood remarked.

"We have had a lot of belief, and the guys have thought very well for themselves and made the right decisions. In the end, we've turned up on a big occasion like this and we've performed. I'm absolutely delighted with the guys. We knew it was a monkey on our back. We knew what it meant, and that is why I am so pleased that these last two performances in such pressurized situations were absolutely spot on," the victorious England captain reckoned.

"You can see from the way the guys have gone out from the first ball, believing in themselves, taking it to the opposition and playing a brand of cricket that is unlike England in the past. I think a lot of credit goes to every single player in the dressing room, to have the confidence to go out there and really give it their best shots and have no regrets. I think we have done that throughout the tournament and it has certainly paid off," Collingwood added.

"We are going to savour the moment and enjoy it, because we deserve to. But good teams kick on, and that's exactly what we'll get drilled into the guys. We have got a lot more potential as well - that's the scary part about it. We can go even further. But this is what we came here to achieve, and we've done it. The next step is to savour the moment, celebrate as a team - and then we'll come across the next hurdle," he observed before rushing to join his teammates for the celebrations.

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May 16, 2010

Thailand’s cueists dominate once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Thailand continued to dominate at the continental level with the duo of Issara Kachaiwong and Thanawat Thirapongpaiboon making the local supporters proud in the PTT 26th Asian Snooker Championship 2010, concluding at the Maneechan Resort in Chanthaburi on May 15. A total of 39 cueists from 18 countries contested the big event.

Kachaiwong, a Chanthaburi native, provided the massive home crowd a lot of opportunities to cheer about as he overpowered Pakistan’s Mohammad Sajjad 7-3 in the final. It was his second title win, having earlier captured the crown four years ago.

Earlier in the day the teenaged Thirapongpaiboon had turned the tables on India’s veteran and two times champion, Yasin Merchant, in the playoff for the third place.

Kachaiwong will be returning to the lucrative Main Tour when the new season gets underway in the United Kingdom in August this year. He will be joining his compatriots Ratchapol Pu-Ob-Orm and Noppon Saengkham on the Tour but Thirapongpaiboon will have to wait for his turn.

Kachaiwong dashed Pakistan’s hopes of regaining the Asian title by knocking out Sajjad by toppling him with in the best of 13-frame final with the scores of 17-49, 78-15, 65-73, 40-94, 66-6, 43-64, 85-30, 81-1, 123-8, 120-1.

Sajjad, who became the first Pakistani to enter the final of the Asian Championship in 12 years, emulating the legendary Mohammad Yousuf, who had gone on to win the title in his hometown, Karachi, in 1998, had done well to contain his rampaging rival in the first half of the final which looked anybody’s game after being locked at 3-all.

But the local hero didn’t let the initiative slip once he regained it in the seventh frame. He clinched the next four frames on a trot to win the game quite comfortably in the end. He registered breaks of 78, 56, 81, 80 and 60 to demonstrate his prowess.

Sajjad, however, earned the honour of having recorded the highest break of the event. His break of 134 chalked up in the quarter-finals against Sittihead Sackbiang of Laos won him the award.

Kachaiwong was ecstatic with his triumph. "This is what I had been aiming for all this while. I had a forgettable season last year, but started spending more hours on the practice table since the start of the year. I was under a lot of pressure today, because I am eager to return to world professional circuit,” he remarked after recapturing the Asian title.

"I could have done better at the beginning and then I told myself: 'There are so many people at the venue and they are all here to see me.' That changed everything," he observed.

The enigmatic Sajjad also had no reason to feel disconsolate because it was quite an accomplishment on part of the youngster to have gone all the way to the final. With the kind of infrastructure or rather the lack of it in Pakistan it was in fact a miracle for him to have progressed that far.

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May 15, 2010

Hussey saves Australia from embarrassment


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Well it wasn’t exactly a case of Michael Hussey stealing a win from Pakistan but it was rather a matter of preventing embarrassment for Australia who had dominated the tournament only to be put in the jail in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

Hussey, who smashed an unbeaten 60 off 24 balls, to take the Aussies into the final had performed similar acts in the past as well. Cometh the hour, cometh the man describes him perfectly.

He has had his share of his ups and downs, like any other human being, but his level of commitment and the fierce determination to stand tall in crisis are the virtues that make him the standout batsman of his era.

Australia were expected to be tested in the semifinals because Pakistan have had the knack of bringing about the downfall of the giants against the run of play. On paper and in form the Australians were streets ahead of Pakistan but it was always going to be a big challenge for Michael Clarke and his men to tame the side that had sneaked in more on luck than performance.

Pakistan had found their way into the semifinals after having lost three matches while Australia had strolled there without dropping a single game. So there was absolutely no comparison between the two sides when they arrived in St Lucia for the knockout encounter.

As people, not even possessing knowledge of the game, kept praying all day for Pakistan to come good and Australia to falter had their wishes very nearly fulfilled. The Australians played much below their potential because you won’t see often Brad Haddin conceding 10 byes in a T20 game.

Leg-spinner Steven Smith, who had become one of the shining lights of the tournament, suddenly became the weak link of the best bowling attack on show. It was very rare to find the Aussies committing unforced errors.

The kind of batting strength Australia had even the target of 192 should not have caused problems. But their batters also found it hard to come to terms with the Pakistan factor leaving far too many for the end.

Cameroon White was not overawed and he changed the momentum before perishing and the stage was set for Hussey to do it. The Australians accomplished their mission of winning the game but they shouldn’t have let it come so close.

On Pakistan’s part they should be credited for having advanced to the semifinals even after having lost to Australia in the first round and then suffering defeats at the hands of England and New Zealand in Super Eights.

Pakistan came very near to spoiling Australia’s march towards glory and it was only at the fag end that they let the initiative slip. They had the mighty Aussies under pressure for quite sometime in the semifinals before going down fighting.

In fact Pakistan, the kind of resources they had and keeping in mind the situation in which the team was selected prior to the appointment of the skipper, exceeded all expectations by making into the semifinals.

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May 14, 2010

Mind sports to debut in Sindh Games


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The mind sports of bridge and chess will be making debut in Sindh Games whose 13th edition will be staged in Karachi from June 1 to 3.

Besides bridge and chess, four other disciplines, rowing, kabaddi, muaythai, and fishing, have been added to raise the tally to 36 disciplines for men and 17 for women with the 13th Sindh Games set to be inaugurated at the National Sports Training & Coaching Centre (NSTCC) on June 1.

The disciplines for men would athletics, badminton, baseball, basketball, body building, boxing, cycling, football, gymnastics, handball, hockey, judo, karate, netball, rowing, softball, squash, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, throw ball, tug-of-war, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling, wushu, chess, muaythai, bridge, kodi kodi, malakhra, wanjwatti, shootingball, kabaddi and fishing while the women folks would be trying their luck in athletics, badminton, basketball, baseball, football, handball, hockey, judo, karate, netball, softball, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, throw ball, volleyball and wushu.

The final decision in this regard was taken in the meeting held under the chairmanship of Sindh Sports Minister, Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah, who is also the President of the Sindh Olympic Association (SOA).

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Sports and Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, has revealed that all the organizational matters relating to the Sindh Games were being dealt with on daily basis by the various committees having been assigned tasks with deadlines.

It has been decided that the opening ceremony will be held at the NSTCC while the closing ceremony will be taking place at the Asghar Ali Stadium. As in the past, he said, all the five regions of the province, Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur and Larkana would be taking part in the 13th Sindh Games.

Meanwhile the change in dates of the Sindh Games has been ruled out despite the rescheduling of the ongoing intermediate examination.

Shoaib Siddiqui has disclosed that there was no proposal under consideration to postpone the Sindh Games for any reason categorically denying any possible postponement of the event due to the rescheduling done recent by the Board of Intermediate Education (BIEK) in conducting their annual examination.

“We are focusing on providing the best possible boarding and lodging facilities to the participating athletes with the limited resources at our disposal. We have worked out various accommodation plans keeping in mind the hazards of commuting in peak hours,’ Shoaib Siddiqui remarked.

“There’s an option of arranging their accommodation in the various schools in the vicinity of the SSB Sports Complex in Nazimabad which will be hosting a lot of competitions. We are also assessing the possibilities of facilitating the outstation athletes in different hotels,” he added.

“It’s going to be yet another big occasion for the city of Karachi to be hosting the Sindh Games for the third time in 24 years, having hosted it previously in 1989 and 1999. We are trying our level best to stage it in a most befitting manner,” Shoaib Siddiqui observed.

“Another reason for the 13th Sindh Games to be special is the fact that it’s being held during the same year as the Commonwealth Games as well as Asian Games. It will have added significance in order to provide an opportunity to our athletes to prepare for these international events,” he reckoned.

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May 12, 2010

Prime Minister’s ‘From battlefield to sports field’ programme underway


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Federal Sports Ministry, according to the directives of Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, launches the ‘From battlefield to sports field’ programme by starting an Inter-Schools and Inter-Collegiate Badminton and Table Tennis championships for girls in Islamabad on May 12.

Federal Sports Minister, Mir Ijaz Hussain Jakhrani, had announced the details during a media briefing at the National Sports Training & Coaching Centre (NSTCC) in Karachi, having stated that the twin championships will be staged at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad from May 12 to 14.

The focus in the question-answer session shifted to the affairs of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) but the Federal Minister took his time in explaining the salient features of the Prime Minister’s programme that was his basic objective of speaking to the media for the first time after having taken over from Pir Syed Aftab Hussain Shah Jilani quite a few months ago.

“This is just the beginning of the programme in pursuance of the Prime Minister’s directives to revive the sports activities at grassroots level specially involving the educational institutions. After this Islamabad event we plan to take it to the provinces from July 1,” Ijaz Jakhrani disclosed.

“Initially we are holding competitions in badminton and table tennis only at Islamabad but we will be adding more games as we move on to the provinces and the tournaments will also be held for boys,” he added.

“Badminton and table tennis have been picked up at first stage for kick-off sports activities owing to their awfully poor performance in last South Asian Games. The government as well as the private schools and colleges are taking part in the three-day event with the winnings teams and outstanding individual players to be presented cash prizes and trophies,” Ijaz Jakhrani said.

The Federal Minister was of the opinion that the Ministries of Sports and Education needed to work jointly to attain the mutual objective of promoting sports in the educational institutions.

“In our programme we have taken on board the educational institutions, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and sports associations. We have identified that more than fifty percent talent lies with female segment of our population particularly in schools and colleges,” he reckoned.

“We also intend to attract and involve the corporate sector for sponsoring these activities. We desire to complement the national sports federations by facilitating a larger pool of players to be groomed for future,” he explained.

Talking about the second stage of the programme, Anis-ul-Hasnain Musavi, Secretary Sports, Government of Pakistan, added that the competitions will be held in athletics and football, besides badminton and table tennis, at the provincial headquarters.

He also announced that the Federal Ministry of Sports would be holding Youth Summer Training Camps in nine different disciplines starting from June 1. The PSB Centre in Karachi would be hosting the camps of table tennis, badminton, athletics and boxing while the camps of boxing, athletics, badminton and weightlifting will be held in Lahore.

“Peshawar will be the venue of the camps of squash, table tennis and athletics while Quetta will host karate, wushu, football and boxing and Islamabad to stage the camps of table tennis, badminton, athletics and football,” the Federal Sports Secretary revealed.

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May 7, 2010

Tariq-led Data Steel crowned as national champions


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Data Steel were crowned as the new national champions when they overpowered Solax 130-112 in the most absorbing of finals of the National Bridge Championship 2010 in Lahore on May 4.

Besides becoming the national champions Data Steel have also earned the right to represent Pakistan in the in the World Series Championships 2010 to be staged in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, from October 1 to 16 and they will also compete in the Commonwealth Nations Championships 2010 to be organized in New Delhi, India, from October 25 to 31.

Data Steel, having the services of Tariq Rasheed Khan, Rashid-ul-Ghazi, Tehsin Gheewala, Tahir Masud, Javed Miran, Mohammad Saeed Akhtar and Javed Khalid, continued their good work in the final to outwit the dangerous Solax, composed of Ghulam Mohammad, Anwar Mumtaz Kazilbash, Gulzar Ahmed Bilal and Khalid Mohiuddin.

The high-profile Data Steel outfit is now looking forward to bringing laurels for the country during the upcoming international events.

Data Steel featured the President of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), Tariq Rasheed Khan, as well as the President of the Punjab Bridge Association (PBA), Javed Khalid, besides some of the leading bridge players of the country in Rashid-ul-Ghazi and Tahir Masood.

Tariq Rasheed, who led Data Steel to their maiden national title, believed that his team possessed the expertise and the mental strength to come good in the toughest of situations and they were able to do it at the Lahore Gymkhana.

He acknowledged that the final against Solax, spread over four segments of 16 boards each, was a tough one and both the contestants had a chance of pulling up a victory until the last stages.

It was only in the final segment that Data Steel was able to assume control through superlative bidding and back up that carried them to victory in the final, broadcast live through the internet.

Earlier in the semifinals, Solax had stunned Preempters, who topped the points table at the end of the league matches, while Data Steel knocked down Giants, the defending champions.

Prempters, having the likes of Jan-e-Alam Fazli and Abdul Rahman Allana to complement Jahangir Ahmed, Farrukh Liaqat and Izzat Khalil, could not extend their form in the tie against Solox who had ended up last in the race for semifinals.

Solax remained in the driving seat and galloped serenely into the final through unremitting brilliance. Somehow the top team after the first three days failed to dazzle and the resolve demonstrated in the league matches fizzled away. Throughout the semifinal, Solox reflected enthusiasm undiminished and at times their effort looked awesome.

Data Steel proved too good for Giants featuring Masood Mazhar, Mirza Shauq Hussain, Muhammed Mubashir Puri, Hamid Mohiuddin and Asfandyar Shauq. The reigning champions were unable to come to terms with the Data Steel team that was dauntless and daring.Giants failed to sparkle and conceded defeat virtually midway after 48 of the 64 boards had been played with Data Steel leading by 160 to 70. They were dethroned rather softly in the end.

Hosts Punjab Bridge Association (PBA) recognized the quartet if Ihsan Qadir, Safraz Butt, Syed Ameer Hasan and Umair Kousar, for having conducted the event nicely by incorporating the use of latest technology in the scoring system commissioned by the Karachi-based Pakistan Bridge University (PBU), another brainchild of Tariq Rasheed Khan.

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May 6, 2010

All seeded teams advance to Super Eight


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Quite remarkably there was no major upset in the first round of the ICC World Twenty20 2010 and all the eight seeded outfits managed to force their way into the Super Eights starting on May 6.

Australia topped the Group A with two successive wins while Pakistan, the defending champions, had to settle with the number two slot. New Zealand became the Group B leaders ahead of Sri Lanka while India headed the Group C, relegating South Africa to the second place. Hosts West Indies led the points table in the Group D where England edged out Ireland on net run-rate.

Now in the Super Eights, the Group E comprises of Pakistan, England, New Zealand and South Africa while the Group F contains Australia, India, Sri Lanka and the West Indies. Interestingly there are no carry forward points allowing advantage to the teams having made there after having ended runners-up in their respective groups.

There were quite a few upsets in the matches leading to the tournament but there were none in the event itself where the quartet of Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Ireland and Afghanistan couldn’t surprise any of their fancied opponents.

Zimbabwe had come up with the most astonishing performance in the warm-up matches, having defeated both Australia and Pakistan. England looked in complete command while winning both their matches, including the one against South Africa. New Zealand also emerged victorious in both their outings.

New Zealand carried their brilliant form to the main event and whipped the high-flying Sri Lankans in the opening match of the tournament in Guyana where the West Indies bulldozed Ireland by 70 runs later in the evening.

The Indians found the conditions of St Lucia to their liking and won both their matches, against Afghanistan and South Africa, rather convincingly. Pakistan, however, met with mixed luck at the same venue where they crashed against Australia after hammering Bangladesh.

The rains played havoc for a couple of days as the action returned to Guyana with all the four matches getting affected. Sri Lanka were lucky enough to win even after batting first in the shortened game against Zimbabwe but the West Indies benefited greatly by the DL method while cruising to victory over England.

Zimbabwe’s following game against New Zealand was also ruined by rain but the result was seldom in doubt after the hosts had been bundled out for a very low total after a promising start.

The team that must have cursed the weather more than anyone else was Ireland because they had a realistic chance of overpowering England and advancing to the Super Eight. But the rains didn’t let them have a go at the modest target of 121 in 20 overs. Much to England’s relief the match didn’t resume once it had been halted.

Thankfully that was the final game in Guyana and the focus shifted to Barbados for the last couple of league games neither of which produced a surprising result as Australia overcame Bangladesh after a few hiccups and South Africa blew the whistle on debutant Afghanistan, who however had their moments in the tournament.

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May 5, 2010

Life is a great leveler for Collingwood


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Paul Collingwood was fuming only the other day when England had been cruelly victimized by weather to lose the game against the West Indies. The Nature obliged the heart-broken skipper within 24 hours and the showers opened to prevent him from a possible embarrassment against Ireland.

Ireland, not England, would have made it to the Super Eight if they successfully chased a modest-looking target of 121 in 20 overs. It was the kind of total that needed just one or two of the Irish batsmen to get going and complete the job which made them the favourites to win the encounter at the start of their innings.

Ireland, who had performed the giant-killing act in the Caribbean three years ago during the World Cup, again appeared poised to rewrite history only to be denied by the fickle weather of Guyana.

They had bowled and fielded remarkably well to contain the England batsmen who had shown so much of guts while tearing apart the West Indian attack at the same ground just the other day.
Ironically it was an Irishman, Eoin Morgan, who held the England innings together with 45 off 37 balls. The left-hander demonstrated his growing stature by putting his head down and cutting down the risks while getting the odd boundaries.

Now it was the turn of Ireland to mourn. It was more painful for them that it was for England in the game against the hosts because it was a do or die fixture for both the teams.

William Porterfield was convinced that his side could have reached the target. "The attitude we took out into the field there was brilliant. We just wanted to get into Super Eights and beat the big teams in there. We came with our sights set on that, and showed glimpses in our performance that we could do that. The way we came out today, after Friday's disappointment, was great. If we can take that into every game, we'll go places,” he pointed out.

Collingwood must thank his stars that it continued raining and Ireland didn’t get the opportunity to resume their innings. The lady luck was certainly smiling on him tonight after having deserted his team the other evening.

"We were looking at all the different scenarios, at one point we were about to go back on and it would have been 19 in 10 balls or something like and it was like here we go again. You just don't want those situations where a couple of edges can go their way,” a relieved Collingwood remarked.

"Either it comes and washes it out or we get the full 20 overs in because when you have 10 wickets in the hutch and it gets reduced it certainly comes more into their favour. I guess the rain has come at a time that it's got us through to the next stage so it's helped us a little bit," he admitted.

Collingwood described Morgan as a very versatile player who can not only play all the shots but he's also got a good mind on him that is what you need in the middle order especially at number five.

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May 4, 2010

Duckworth-Lewis system under fire


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Duckworth-Lewis system, being used for the games shortened by weather, might have looked even stevens in the majority of cases in the One-day Internationals but it offers huge advantage to the side batting second in Twenty20 Internationals as England suffered at the hands of the West Indies once again.

One could understand the sentiments of the England captain, Paul Collingwood who was left fuming at the DL because it played the decisive role in his team’s defeat against West Indies for the second World Twenty20 running.

"There's a major problem with Duckworth-Lewis in this form of the game. I've got no problem with it in one-dayers, and I know it's made me very frustrated tonight because I've come off the losing captain, but it's certainly got to be revised in this form,” Collingwood said.

"Ninety-five percent of the times when you get 191 runs on the board you are going to win the game. Unfortunately Duckworth-Lewis seems to have other ideas and brings the equation completely the other way and makes it very difficult," he reckoned.

"I'm trying to take the emotion out of that defeat to be honest with you. It's the second time it's happened to us against West Indies so it's very frustrating for the boys because we've played a near-perfect game and still lost," he conceded.

"I think that's what the equation is built around in the one-day format. Unfortunately there’re probably not enough games. I'm not a mathematician, I don't really know what the equation should be, but your backs are certainly against the wall when it's like that," Collingwood added.

His West Indian counterpart, Chris Gayle, agreed with his concerns about the DL system. "I think it's something they're going to have to look into. I would support what Collingwood just said. I could have been in the same position as well. It's something that can be addressed so it can be even stevens for both teams in the future. I'm happy but it's just unfortunate for England,” the victorious captain stressed.

"We knew that the weather was going to play a part so the first five overs, obviously, can determine the game. So we decided to go out and see what we could get out of the first five overs. The target was actually 43, I think, at one stage and the adaption went in our favour. After the rain we knew we were most likely to win the game from there on," Gayle added.

It was really cruel for England to have lost the game after having piled up an imposing total of 191 for five in the allotted 20 overs. They were in the driving seat but rain intervened after 2.2 overs of the chase and when play resumed, the hosts were left needing 60 from six overs with all 10 wickets in hands.

It was the second time in nine months that England had been at the receiving end of the DL system against the same opponents. During last year's World Twenty20 at The Oval, a rain break had reduced the West Indian target to 82 from eight overs which they chased down successfully.

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May 3, 2010

Raina comes of age


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

What a splendid innings Suresh Raina played to guide India to a comfortable victory over South Africa in their clash at St Lucia on May 2. He became only the third player in the history to score a century in Twenty20 Internationals.

Only Chris Gayle of the West Indies and Brendon McCullum of New Zealand had accomplished this feat earlier, making Raina the first Indian to reach the landmark.

There could not have been a better occasion for Raina to cross the three-figure mark because his team was struggling to post a decent total after an uncertain start. The outfield was on the slower side and the batsmen were not getting full value for their shots.

The South African fast bowlers, backed by the acrobatic fieldsmen, were not prepared to give anything away and there was hardly a possibility of the Indian score getting past 150.

Raina and Yuvraj Singh, both left-handers, had consolidated the position with a solid third wicket stand but the total was just 112 when only five overs were left. In normal circumstances India, having suffered more wounds in the death overs than any other team, would not have thought of adding more than 35 or 40 runs

The enigmatic Raina had shown previously that he does have the talent to cut loose but probably nobody expected him to take charge in the manner he did. He led the carnage of the South African bowlers and India were able to collect as many as 75 runs in their last overs.

India had certainly leaked many more runs in the death overs against even the modest opponents but for a change they did the damage to the South Africans and the eventual total of 187 in the allotted 20 overs was far too many than anticipated.

It was the best T20I innings by an Indian with Raina on song. He appeared as cool and calm as if playing for Chennai Super Kings in the Indian Premier League (IPL). He found the boundaries at will and it was a matter of time for him to reach the coveted three-figure mark.

It was in the fitness of things that skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was with him at the crease when he brought up his thoroughly deserved hundred. He brought up the milestone with a six off Albie Morkel, his Chennai Super Kings teammate.

Remember that Dhoni was also in the middle when Sachin Tendulkar had completed that historic double century in the One-day Internationals earlier this season.

Not surprisingly Raina credited Dhoni for his accomplishment. “Mahi helped me a lot in the IPL. The senior players, Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, have also supported me throughout. I've played five or six years of international cricket, it's important to fulfill the dreams they've had for me,” a beaming Raina acknowledged.

Raina was delighted that his knock helped India secure a much needed victory over fancied South Africa that took them to the top of points table in Group C.

The outcome was seldom in doubt with the Indian bowlers not losing control and most importantly Dhoni making the moves which caused unforced errors from the South Africans who remained well behind the clock from the beginning to the end of their chase.

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May 2, 2010

Pakistan, India survive battle of nerves


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan and India did not let the history to repeat as far as their performance in a global competition in the Caribbean was concerned. With the fiasco of the 2007 World Cup fresh in the minds of their supporters it was not unusual to find the cricket fans on both sides of the border heaving a sigh relief at watching their team win the opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 2010 in St Lucia on May 1.

March 18, 2007 was a date neither of the two sub-continental giants would ever forget. It was on this day when Ireland had knocked Pakistan out of the World Cup and Bangladesh had shocked India to let them prepare for an early exit too.

Three of these four teams were in action on May 1. With Ireland having a well deserved rest to regroup after the thrashing they received at the hands of the hosts the other day, the fourth team in the field was Afghanistan.

Mohammad Ashraful frightened Pakistan with his spectacular knock while chasing a target of 173. His 91-run third wicket partnership with skipper Shakib Al Hasan had opened up the game but it was debutant Mohammad Sami who brought relief for the defending champions by picking up two wickets in an over.

Earlier the Pakistan openers Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt, scoring 73 each, had taken full advantage of the sloppy work in the field by the butter-fingered Bangladeshis who were very disappointing with the ball as well.

India didn’t look entirely convincing but still they were good enough to tame minnows Afghanistan without much fuss. Pakistan, on the other hand, survived a few anxious moments while defending their big score but not surprisingly Bangladesh didn’t demonstrate mental strength to do it.

The Indian skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who blasted a couple of big sixes to bring about an early end to the game, was very rightly looking for more improvement from his side if they were to regain the trophy they clinched under him in 2007.

“We hope to get better and better as the tournament goes. With today's win we have qualified for the Super Eight stage. That is when we need to play at our best because each of the teams has the potential to win the title,” Dhoni said after completing seven-wicket victory.

"We jell well as a team and the dressing room atmosphere is wonderful. We play and win as a happy family. If we continue in the same spirit, we should be able to do well in this event. Murali Vijay is an asset to the team. We saw during the IPL what he can do with the bat. He is a batsman who looks quiet but is capable of playing big shots when the situation warrants," he added.

Afghanistan did gain some points by putting up good fight in their first game on the international stage and enjoyed the experience of playing against a high-quality side.

"India is one of the best teams in the world. We were very happy to play our first match against them. Early in the morning the wicket was difficult for us but it was a good experience for our guys,” the Afghanistan captain Nowroz Mangal acknowledged.

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May 1, 2010

Unconvincing Black Caps overpower uncertain Sri Lankans


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The opening match of the ICC World Twenty20 2010 at the Providence Stadium in Guyana on April 30, featuring New Zealand and Sri Lanka, produced an exciting finish but unfortunately it lacked the fireworks needed to kick start the tournament.

Sri Lanka could score only 135 in their stipulated 20 overs and New Zealand got to the target with just one delivery remaining in the final over. Just 274 runs in nearly 40 overs was not the kind of stuff one expected from two of the finest teams in the shortest format of the game.

New Zealand, as usual, were found wanting in chasing down what was a modest target by all standards on a pitch where batting wasn’t all that difficult a proposition. They had a strong and deep line-up that should have done the job convincingly rather than taking the game to the wire and leaving it to Nathan McCullum to do the job in tense conditions.

Daniel Vettori talks big off the field but his leadership skills look ordinary at times. He sets high standards himself but he’s unable to motivate his teammates to rise to the occasion.

Well Vettori certainly feels handicapped in the Test matches or even in the One-day Internationals with the inexperience of his batters but he doesn’t have the same excuse for T20 games where the same guys do have the capability of coming good.

Vettori himself bowled exceptionally well to tie down the belligerent Sri Lankans, particularly the charged up Mahela Jayawardene, and he also handled his bowlers rather well.

It was quite extraordinary on part of Vettori not to have conceded a single boundary in his four overs. Doing it against a team that plays the spinners so well was quite an accomplishment.

Then Vettori also made an intelligent move by allowing his premier fast bowler, Shane Bond, who had gone for plenty of runs in his earlier three overs, to do the business in the final over of the innings.

Bond may have lost pace over the years with various injuries but his wisdom and accuracy with the ball make him the guy to beat. He responded by picking up two wickets in the last over that didn’t yield the kind of runs what was being anticipated. Tim Southee was also absolutely brilliant in his final over, the penultimate of the innings.

The last couple of tight overs from Southee and Bond, after Vettori had finished his spell, kept the Sri Lankan total down to 135 that was most likely to go well past 150. The bowlers had done the job for the Black Caps.

The momentum was with the New Zealanders when they came out in pursuit of a total of 136. But more than anything it was the lack of self-belief and application and on their part that opened the game.

They made a mess of the small target with careless and thoughtless batting and the Sri Lankans very nearly sneaked an unlikely win. With only three wickets in hand, New Zealand needed 10 runs off the last over from fast bowler Lasith Malinga.

They lost the wicket of Vettori, attempting a risky second run, but Nathan McCullum struck a huge six over long-off to settle the issue on the penultimate ball.

McCullum, entrusted with the new ball, had earlier done the job to the satisfaction of his captain. His off-spin was treated with respect by the watchful Sri Lankan batsmen.

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