July 31, 2010

Dr Shah praises KPC for organizing Sports Festival


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The curtain fell on the Karachi Press Club (KPC) Summer Sports Festival 2010 with a fabulous prize distribution ceremony at the club’s Ibrahim Jalees Hall on July 30.

Sindh Sports Minister, Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, who had reached Karachi from London earlier in the morning, was accorded a very warm welcome as he reached the KPC at the designated time of 7 pm to preside over the function.

In his speech on the occasion, Dr Shah, who is also the President of the Sindh Olympic Association (SOA), commended the Governing Body of the KPC for having revived the Sports Festival and he vowed to support it in the future as well.

“We would be more than glad to support even more than one Sports Festival in a year at the KPC. So be prepared to hold a Winter Sports Festival later this year in which the sports department of the Government of Sindh will extend your institution similar support,” Dr Shah announced.

“The media professionals are not too dissimilar to the doctors who have to be on their toes all the time. It’s really very heartening that the KPC members squeezed time to compete in the tournaments so enthusiastically,” he noted.

“It has always been a pleasure to be at the KPC. In fact I find the atmosphere very homely here. It’s my own club and I would be more than glad to contribute my bit in its further development,” Dr Shah remarked.

He shared his SOA experiences, recalling that there was barely Rs 13,000 or so in its account for decades but he has now turned it around by securing a grant of Rs four million from the Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Qaim Ali Shah, besides getting approved an annual grant of Rs 10 million.

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Sports & Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, who played the pivotal role in facilitating the KPC Sports Festival, delivered a brief speech in which he expressed his delight with the success of the event.

“The sports department is always there to implement the policies of our versatile minister, Dr Shah, who had appreciated the idea of the revival of the KPC Sports Festival while readily agreeing to offer support for the venture,” Shoaib Siddiqui observed.

The President of the KPC, Imtiaz Khan Faran, paid glowing tributes to Dr Shah and Shoaib Siddiqui for having fulfilled their promise so quickly that enabled the Sports Festival to start and finish at the scheduled time.

The Secretary of the KPC, A H Khanzada, expressed similar sentiments and he dwelled on the development of a Mini Sports Complex in the backyard of the club, seeking help from the Government of Sindh for this project.

Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, the chief guest of the evening, and Shoaib Siddiqui then distributed cash prizes and certificates among the top three position holders of all the five tournaments held during the month-long festival having been inaugurated on June 30.

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Raina grabs opportunity with both hands


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Not for the first time the injury or illness to a key player paved the way for someone waiting in the wings for quite sometime and the opportunity was grabbed with both hands. Suresh Raina was certainly not in the scheme of things when the Indian think-tank sat together to field their strongest possible outfit in the second Test to prevent hosts Sri Lanka from running away with the series.

Yuvraj Singh was the obvious choice for the number six slot despite having failed in both the outings of the first Test after that fluent century in the only warm-up game. As the luck would have it the experienced but enigmatic left-hander was declared unfit and Raina was handed over the Test cap finally.

Yes it had been a long wait for the enterprising Raina whose exceptional talent had made him a permanent member of Indian limited overs team for the past few years. In fact he had already played in 98 One-day Internationals and would have certainly played many more before his Test debut if Yuvraj had not been ruled out at the eleventh hour.

Raina had to spend the first couple of days in the Test arena doing leather chasing as the Sri Lankans scored heaps of runs after winning the toss. Although the ever-brutal Virender Sehwag had got off to a cracking start the Indians had a mountain to climb in order to save the game.

As we have become used to watching it there was a batting collapse after the fall of Sehwag for 99 and all of a sudden the batting paradise of SSC Colombo had started to look a favoured strip for the home bowlers.

The Indians, having been hammered in the previous Test, were in danger of yet another crushing defeat when debutant Raina came in to join Sachin Tendulkar, who had witnessed the cheap dismissals of the big guns Rahun Dravid and VVS Laxman at the other end.

Raina didn’t show any sign of nerves apparently while tackling the young Sri Lankans spinners who were dominating the seasoned Indian batsmen yet again. With Tendulkar as assured as ever at the other end he had the opportunity of discussing the strategy in the middle overs.

The presence of Tendulkar and the experience of 98 ODIs must have played a huge part in Raina remaining cool and calm throughout the length of his innings which turned it around for his side.

A century for him was very much on the cards on the fourth day and he didn’t let go the opportunity. He was consistently attacked with the short-pitched stuff but he did show the resilience to negotiate everything with confidence.

He was up to the task whenever the ball was pitched to him and he was not afraid to drive them gracefully towards the fence. He took his chances when the spinners tested him with flight and his couple of sixes reflected him being in total control.

Raina’s century on Test debut provides another worthy option for the Indian middle-order that does need someone as dashing as him at number six. He would obviously be needed to prove his mettle on the bouncy pitches abroad before he could be permanently slotted there.

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July 30, 2010

Mahmood Lodhi to be honoured for winning national chess title yet again


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) has decided to celebrate the accomplishment of International Master Mahmood Lodhi who recently improved his own record of winning the national chess title for the 12th time.

Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, has announced that a befitting ceremony is being planned in the honour of Mahmood Lodhi who emerged triumphant in the 27th National Chess Championship 2010 that concluded at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad the other week

Mahmood Lodhi won the recently held National Championship by securing nine points in the competition played under the 11-rounds Swiss League System in which Aamir Karim and Akram Wasim, both of them also from Punjab, shared the second position by aggregating 8.5 points each while the next position was shared with eight points each by Tanvir Gilani (WAPDA), Salman Farooqui (Sindh), Anwar Qureshi (Railways), Mohammad Waqar (Sindh), Dr Murtaza Ali (Punjab), Noman Mustafa (Sindh) and Mohammad Shahzad (Punjab).

He has participated in various international tournaments over the years but due to financial constraints he also has had to miss quite a few events during this period that has denied him the sought after Grand Master title.

“Mahmood Lodhi is an asset for the country and the MSAP will do everything to facilitate him in his quest to become the country’s first Grand Master of chess which will indeed be an honour to Pakistan as well,” Tariq Rasheed noted.

The Gujranwala-based Mahmood Lodhi has remained jobless for a long time after having been relieved by the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) despite having been crowned as the national champion on the highest number of occasions.

It’s really a pity that an athlete of the calibre of Mahmood Lodhi, having earned laurels for the country in the limited opportunities coming his way besides ruling the chess arena at the national level for so long, has remained unemployed over the years despite the tall claims of the successive government being sports-friendly.

Even the administration of Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali couldn’t do justice with him when there was a lot of talk about the sportsmen getting their due quota of jobs.

The Chess Federation of Pakistan (CFP) is also to be blamed for not having pleaded the case of their most valuable asset in the manner he deserved.

On the contrary the national record holder has had grievances with the functionaries of the federation who are believed to have created hurdles for him instead of taking care of him.

Mahmood Lodhi has got a new lease of life after being taken in their folds by the MSAP whose officials have proved by their acts that they really desire to facilitate the national champion in accomplishing his cherished goal of rising to the coveted rank of a Grand Master.

He thoroughly deserves the consistent support he’s being extended by the MSAP at what probably is the most critical phase in his career. He does have the eagerness and the talent to scale greater heights.

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July 26, 2010

Brilliant Shabbir extends purple patch


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Mohammad Shabbir Iqbal, the country’s leading golfer, extended his brilliant run by clinching the professionals’ title in the Byco 12th Sindh Opening Golf Championship which concluded at Arabian Sea Country Club in Karachi on July 25.

The 33-year-old Islamabad-based Shabbir overcame the difficulties of strong windy conditions on the third and final day of the competition as he demonstrated his prowess by having played two-under-par 70 third round to end with an aggregate of 204. By retaining the Sindh Open title, he also completed a double, having annexed the Chief of Naval Staff Championship only the other week.

The settings at the Arabian Sea Country Club (ASCC), with cloud cover and all tees pulled back, were indeed presenting ideal golfing conditions but the strong winds did pose a challenge and only the skilled campaigners were able to do it with precision.

The President of the Byco Petroleum, Kaleem Siddiqui, was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony and he presented the glittering silver trophy to Shabbir Iqbal with a purse of Rs 173,850 while runner-up Matloob Ahmed received Rs 119,036 and third placed Mohammad Munir collected Rs 66,880.

The Chief of the ASCC, Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, one of the famed sports personalities, was also present in the presentation ceremony alongwith the livewire Vice President of the Sindh Golf Association (SGA) Asad I.A.Khan and the proactive Tournament Director, Dr Tariq Raz.

The ASCC has been playing host to the various leading golf events and the facilities over there have always been to the liking of the participants as well as the covering media.
Back to the action in the golf course, Shabbir played the rounds of 67, 67 and 72 on the final day to lead the pack of 40 golfers.

Matloob Ahmed of Lahore Gymkhana, who was enjoying a one-stroke lead over Shabbir at the start of the proceedings on the final day, slipped to the second position after playing two-over-par 74 to end with a total of 207. He had played a splendid six under-66 on the second day of the Championship.

Muhammad Munir from Islamabad secured third position with rounds of 67, 71 and 71 while Imdad Hussain of Railways produced the best round of three-under-par 69 to secure the fourth slot.

Suffian Dhaduk of Dreamworld Golf Club won the amateur gross event with score of 224 while Muhammad Rehman of Royal Palm Beach Club ended as runner-up.

Umair Saleem of Karachi Golf Club won the net event with total of 209 while Wajid Ali was the runner-up with 215. The U-18 event was claimed by Daniyal Asim of DHA Golf Club who carded 88 gross while Hamza Ghani, also from the same club, was runner-up with total of 80.

Meanwhile Shabbir Iqbal, in a media interview, stated that with proper support and sponsorship he had the ability to excel at the Asian Professional Golf Tour.

“I have already done well on the Asian PGA tour and finished fourth in Pakistan Open (part of the Asian Tour) in 2007 in Karachi. But without international exposure you cannot raise the standard of your game. If a Pakistani can finish among the top four in the presence of top golfers from across the world it means they are good enough for the Asian Tour,” Pakistan’s top golfer reckoned.

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Heart-broken Ponting accepts blame for loss


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Ricky Ponting was not the only ‘culprit’ in Australia’s shocking defeat at the hands of the struggling Pakistan outfit in the second Test at Headingley but his decision to bat first was certainly something beyond comprehension.

Winning and losing is obviously a part and parcel of the game but allowing a rival to dominate that’s in disarray itself is not expected from a side known for not giving up against the toughest of rivals.

Ponting has been the architect of many famous victories but at the moment he’s at the centre of a controversy as the cricket entuhisiasts all over the world still remain surprised why had he chosen to bat when he could have simply sealed the series by inserting the inexperienced batting line-up on the first morning.

"There's no doubt it's had a big impact on it," Ponting said of his decision to bat first after winning the toss.

"That is my responsibility to get those sort of things right. The wicket was dry and it had surface cracks. It certainly wasn't something you expected to seam all over the place, but it did that. Any decision that is made like that is obviously the captain's and when you have a loss like we've had, it's the responsibility of the captain as well. The buck stops with me," he stated.

The conditions in Headingley on the first morning were such that would have tested even the greatest batsmen on earth. Well Ponting himself faced the music after his openers were unable to weather the storm for long.

It’s not often to find Australia getting skittled for 88. They still had the potential to recover as they had done several times in the past. But nothing was to go Ponting’s way in this game as his front-line fast bowlers failed to exploit the conditions.

Obviously if Ponting had to turn to Shane Watson, Steve Smith or Marcus North for wickets it clearly meant that the men expected to do the job were not delivering and the captain was under additional pressure.

Great teams usually recover from the tightest of corners because they are not depending on just a few individuals and they have a whole lot of match-winners. So has been the case of Australia under Ponting for quite sometime now.

Ponting, to his credit, had done well, prior to the Headingley Test, to have got the best from his young side whose never-say-die abilities were admired and feared by the opponents.

It was almost unbeliavable to imagine the Australian batting as well as bowling to flop in the same game. Add to this the blunder of batting first after winning the toss and the situation was such that no team could have escaped disaster.

The misfiring pace attack of Mitchell Johnson, Doug Bollinger and Ben Hilfenhaus let Ponting down miserably after the batters had collpased on the first morning. It was amazing to find them bowling all over the place making it very difficult to set fields for them.

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July 24, 2010

Australia play terribly poorly to lose to Pakistan finally


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Yes Australia had to play far too poorly to lose a Test match to Pakistan and they finally managed to do it at Headingley. Considering the huge gap in the strength of the two teams the Aussies had to play much below their potential to deny themselves another series win against their demoralized rivals.

Ricky Ponting deserved full credit for having allowed Pakistan to come from behind and square the two-Test series against the heaviest of odds.

Pakistan had yet another new captain for the Test match in Salman Butt and the composition of their team reflected as much uncertainty as in the past. There were changes in the line-up as usual and there was nothing to suggest that they had the ammunition to undo the Australians.

A lot has already been written and spoken about the blunder Ponting committed by electing to bat after having called it correctly. To cut the long story short I don’t think the Australian captain was in his senses when he made probably the most horrible decision of his captaincy career.

Everybody knew that traditionally the Australian captains preferred to put runs on the board to bring their opponents under pressure rather than insert them into bat. But there have been exceptions and they have also gambled and succeeded.

May be Ponting and the Australian think-tank took Pakistan very non-seriously and they didn’t mind batting first even in the overcast conditions on a lively pitch offering plenty of swing to the bowlers.

The Pakistanis could not believe their luck when Ponting made the outrageous decision because they knew that they were being offered a lifeline.

It became evident within a couple of hours that Ponting had committed a suicide and Australia had to play a catching game afterwards. In the past they had been successful in the damage control exercises but they looked out of sorts in this particular match to finally it by three wickets on the fourth morning.

It’s not certainly enough for the Australians to have just gone down fighting. They had to pull it back from somewhere but they lacked the purpose that had been the hallmark of their team until not too distant past.

How often would one see Michael Hussey drop a sitter in the gulley region or watch Shane Watson make a mess of a regulation slip catch? Their fast bowlers were all over the place on a pitch they could have exploited much better. It was one of those games which they would like to forget quickly.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have cashed in. They have to thank their stars as the prayers have moved the mountain once more. When the luck is on their side they become invincible with even the weakest of arsenals.

Whether the inexperienced Pakistan side with a new captain deserved to win the game or not is a matter to debate but there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Australia played terribly badly to let themselves down and draw the series instead of taking it once more. What next skipper Ponting?

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July 23, 2010

Shaukat Omari inaugurates KPC Table Tennis tourney


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The Honorary Secretary of the Karachi Table Tennis Association (KTTA), Shaukat Omari, inaugurated the Karachi Press Club’s Table Tennis Tournament at the Club’s Khoja Hall on July 22.

The table tennis tournament is a part of the Karachi Press Club’s Summer Sports Festival 2010 being held with the support of the sports department of the Government of Sindh. The competitions in snooker, chess, scrabble and badminton have already been completed.

It may be recalled that the KPC Summer Sports Festival 2010 was opened by Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary, Sports and Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, in a very impressing ceremony on June 30.

Shaukat Omari, an active social worker besides being a former table tennis champion, placed on record his appreciation for the officials of the Karachi Press Club to have revived the Sports Festival that used to be quite a sought after event in the past.

The inauguration ceremony of the table tennis tournament turned out to be quite lively in the presence of a large number of media corps. After performing the formality of cutting the ribbon, Shaukat Omari played a couple of big rallies with Khurram Baig, Secretary of the KPC’s Indoor Games Committee.

There were no speeches on the occasion but the KTTA Secretary could not conceal his feelings and he was friendly enough to share them with the media.

“I am really thrilled to watch my media friends taking to table tennis so seriously,” he observed in a friendly chat while a group of enthusiastic KPC members displayed their talents on the table in the air-conditioned hall.

“I think it would be a better idea to have more than one table, space permitting. Table Tennis, besides providing recreation, is also very helpful in burning calories and the busy media professionals can have a game or two in the limited space between their pressing assignments,” Shaukat Omari suggested.

The KPC President, Imtiaz Khan Faran, complimented the Sports Committee for having done a fabulous job and he encouraged them to continue doing the good work despite the uncalled for and even senseless criticism from certain quarters.

He also announced that the Governing Body of the KPC was considering the proposal of building a mini-sports complex type of thing in the backyard.

Meanwhile a total of 19 entries were received for the KPC Table Tennis Tournament, being played on knockout basis.

The draws were taken out by Zulfiqar Ahmed, Joint Secretary, KTTA, in the presence of the participants and the KPC officials soon after the inauguration ceremony. The matches will start at 4 pm on July 23 with the semifinals and the final to be played on July 24.

Khurram Baig, Maqsood Hussain, Rashid Ali Khan, Ashraf Khan, Saddam Tufail Hashmi, Hasan Mansoor, Mohammad Azhar and Ehsan Qureshi were given a bye in the first round while the other KPC members to have entered the contest are Ubaid Narejo, Moosa Kaleem, Syed Javed Iqbal, Mahmood Ahmed Khan, Zeeshan Azmat, Khurram Ali Shah, Akhtar Baloch, Adil Jawwad, Maqbool Ahmed, Jamal Khurshid and Nasim Rajput.

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July 19, 2010

Ifs and Butts ought to destroy Pakistan cricket further


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There’s another twist in Pakistan cricket with the appointment of a new captain in the middle of a tour. Barely a few weeks ago Shahid Khan Afridi was handed over the responsibility of leading the team throughout the summer in England in all three formats of the game.

But rather dramatically Shahid, following the 150-run defeat at Lord’s in the first Test against Australia on July 16, announced his decision to retire from the Test arena after the second and final game against Ricky Ponting’s side starting in a few days time at Headingley.

Ijaz Butt, who has been ruling the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for the past couple years by hook or by crook, was believed to have stepped in to deny Shahid the opportunity of playing his final Test at Headingley.

Ijaz, availing yet another foreign tour, is very much in England these days. He is understood to have intervened in the team matters as he always feels it’s his prerogative to do so. He has chosen to pass the baton to Salman Butt with immediate effect and there will be no place for the one-Test skipper in the next game. What a shame!

If Shahid was good enough to be entrusted with the job for the whole of summer featuring six Tests there was no point in making him a persona non grata after just one failure.

Salman did play a couple of fighting knocks at Lord’s. In fact the only Pakistan batsman to come good in the trying conditions when the ball was darting around and the Australian quickies were right on money.

Isn’t it a pity that Salman, just having reached the peak of his career as an opening batsman, is being burdened with captaincy? He would have been much better off playing his natural game without performing the additional and more critical duty of uniting a team that has been shaken once more.

It looks like another blunder by the bigger Butt who is just not prepared to look beyond his own self. Many of his decisions have already harmed the Pakistan cricket enormously but it looks like as if all eyes are closed and nobody is prepared to take him on.

Those having dared challenging Ijaz Butt over his alleged wrongdoings have been shown the door such awesome has been his clout in the corridors of power with his brother-in-law Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar, an influential Federal Minister, having given him the license to do things as he wishes even if the national interests are compromised.

The heads of the PCB have been in the firing line in the past as well but nobody seems to have caused as much damage to the Pakistan cricket as Ijaz Butt has done in a matter of two years. With no signs of any accountability or anything close to it there’s very little chance of getting things back in order.

The temperamental Ijaz Butt, who’s not prepared to follow merit in any of his decisions, has considered himself above board all along and he has been treating the PCB like one of his briefcase companies where only the top man has the authority to every thing.

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July 17, 2010

Predictable result with changed characters, venue


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

There was nothing unfamiliar with the final result. Considering the wide gap between the two sides there was hardly an element of surprise in watching Australia overpower Pakistan by 150 runs in the first Test at Lord’s with over a day to spare.

The match was won and lost on the basis of first innings and there was not much Pakistan could have done to prevent another defeat at the hands of their fancied rivals who possessed far greater depth and experience in the batting department.

It went to the credit of the Pakistan bowlers, however, to have tested the mighty Australian middle-order and cut them to size in conditions which were not ideal for free flowing strokes.

Australia, having been floored in both the Twenty20 Internationals prior to the start of the two-Test series, might have desired to win the first Test a bit more convincingly but in the end they must have been satisfied with what they really achieved even after not being in total control.

Simon Katich, who is not as flamboyant as Mathew Hayden or as secured as Justin Langer, rose to the occasion in both the outings to save his team from embarrassment. It’s not often that the trio of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey fails to dominate the bowling but it was one of those games where they were unable to dictate terms.

Australia collapsed in both their innings despite the heroics of Katich. They were unable to build a score they would have liked and it was left to their bowlers to expose the inexperienced Pakistan batting line-up which they did.

How often does one see Australia lose their way after being in the driving seat? They were in a commanding position after the 120-run third wicket stand between Katich and Clarke yet they struggled to post a total of 250.

Australia made amends by bowling Pakistan out for less than 150 that gave them a more than handy lead of 100 in what was more likely to be a low scoring affair.

The start to the Australian second innings was more assured than the first one but another middle-order collapse from a position of strength reflected the vulnerability of their top-class batsmen. It was really amazing to see Ponting, Clarke and Hussey perish so quickly one after another on the second evening.

Katich turned out to be unlikely bowling hero and even unlikelier bowlers stole the limelight. Shane Watson swung the ball appreciably on the second afternoon to rip through Pakistan’s batting and was rewarded with a five-wicket haul.

Then just as the sun came out and the batting conditions eased out Pakistan’s batsmen grabbed the opportunity of helping themselves for some runs which didn’t threaten the Aussies but the game was stretched to the fourth day.

Pakistan could have seriously considered themselves in a position to win the game even while chasing a fourth innings target of 440 if the opponents were anyone other than Australia.

The Pakistan batsmen took the off-spin of Marcus North for granted and obliged him with a haul of six wickets. Their act was not too dissimilar to the ones in Australia a few months ago when they had gone after Nathan Hauritz to gift him five-for a couple of times.

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July 16, 2010

KPT hosts KPC badminton tourney


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The badminton tournament of the ongoing Karachi Press Club (KPC) Summer Sports Festival 2010 was inaugurated here at the Karachi Port Trust (KPT) Sports Complex on July 15.

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Sports & Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, was the guest of honour in the inauguration ceremony which was presided over by the chief of the Sindh Badminton Association (SBA), Raees Paracha.

Later the two senior bureaucrats, Shoaib Siddiqui and Raees Paracha, were escorted to the arena where they played a few rallies, turning back the years when they routinely visited badminton court.

The decision of the KPC Sports Committee to hold the badminton tournament of the Sports Festival at the centrally air-conditioned and well-maintained indoor gymnasium of the KPT Sports Complex was welcomed by all the participants.

After having staged the snooker, chess and scrabble tournaments at the club it was thought to provide the KPC members a chance to play badminton in the settings of KPT Sports Complex that not only possessed a court of high class but also had the perfect settings to host such an event.

The Chairperson of KPT, Nasreen Haq, was acknowledged during the opening ceremony for having promptly granted the approval of holding the KPC Badminton Tournament.

Engr Shah Naeem Zafar, who has been heading the sports department of the KPT for quite sometime, was also thanked for making the arrangements at a short notice.

In his brief speech on the occasion, Shoaib Siddiqui praised the initiatives of the Executive Committee of the KPC for having revived the Sports Festival which is now being supported by the sports department of the Government of Sindh.

“It’s really very heartening to find the media professionals taking to the sports field. I am sure they must be thoroughly enjoying the experience themselves. The smiling faces of the KPC members present here make me feel delighted and I think they are raring to go to the badminton court now after having demonstrated their skills in snooker, chess and scrabble during the past couple of weeks,” Shoaib Siddiqui remarked.

He made a special mention of former international athlete, Mohammad Talib, who attended the function on special invitation.

Rais Paracha, President, SBA, recognized the contribution of the media in the promotion of sports and he also welcomed the idea of having sports competitions between the working journalists.

Mr Saleem Paracha, Secretary, SBA, who conducted the ceremony in his usually exciting style before taking out the draws in the presence of Mr A H Khanzada, Honorary Secretary, KPC. A total of 28 entries were received for the tournament to be played on knockout basis.

Noman Khan, Babar Khan, Mohammad Saleem and Hamid Rahman were given a bye in the first round while the other participants were Kaleemuddin, Mohammad Aftab Ahmed, Ehtisham Ali, Mohammad Yasir, Abdul Qadir, Raja Kamran, Nabeel Ahmed, Waqar Khan, Mohammad Shahid, Syed Javed Iqbal, Mohammad Arshad, Jahangir Khan, Kamran Sahil, Sabir Mazhar, Qasim Khan, Afaq Mustafa, Tariq Hussain, Adeel Khan, Mohammad Ijaz, Ehsan Qureshi, Munir Aqeel Ansari, Syed Azhar Sultan, Jamal Khurshid and Ahmed Faridi.

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July 15, 2010

MSAP conduct KPC chess, scrabble events nicely


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Anwar Mooraj and Mohammad Shahid emerged champions in the chess and scrabble tournaments respectively of the ongoing Karachi Press Club’s Summer Sports Festival 2010 being supported by the Government of Sindh.

The results were compiled and released by the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), who organized the week-long chess and scrabble event with the collaboration of KPC’s Sports Committee, very nicely indeed.

Anwar Mooraj won the chess competition by securing eight points while Mohammad Shahid took the snooker title with a spread of +55.

A total of 10 KPC members participated in the chess tournament and they played nine rounds. Azhar Javed of Chess Players Association of Pakistan (CPAP), conducted the event with Shahzad Mirza, International Master, and Muhammad Umair Kausar, Coordinator, MSAP

Anwar Mooraj stood out with eight points while the trio of Mohammad Shahid, Hasan Mansoor and Nargis Khan had six points each. Aziz Narvi and Kamran Sohail were next on the list with five points each and they were followed by Mohammad Yasir, Afaq Mustafa, Hamid-ur-Rahman and Syed Javed Iqbal.

Mohammad Shahid won the scrabble contest with a spread of +55 while Mohammad Afaq (+70) and Irshad Ali (+59) finished second and third respectively. The event was conducted by Tariq Pervez, Director, Pakistan Scrabble Association (PSA) and Fahim Naqvi, Vice President, PSA.

Tariq Rasheed Khan, Director, MSAP, and President, Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), was chiefly responsible in making both the tournaments a success despite the lower turnout than was being anticipated.

A firm believer of professional management, Tariq Rasheed made things comfortable for the KPC Sports Committee by taking care of the entire technical side from start to finish. He posted a team of officials who were well versed in conducting such events. The intensity was not lost or even dampened by the spells of rains that also played a part in disturbing the originally chalked out schedule.

The MSAP officials did show the flexibility that was so essential in keeping the participants interested. The KPC members were allowed to incorporate changes in their schedule with the consent of their opponents in order to minimize the walkovers as the idea was to have maximum possible matches in the allotted time.

The MSAP representative, Azhar Javed, was also gracious enough to extend the chess tournament by a day to accommodate those who couldn’t make it due to an unusually long spell of rain that did cause considerable traffic jams at various locations.

So the chess tournament actually last five days instead of the originally planned four. All the participants were provided ample opportunity to demonstrate their skills on the chess board and we witnessed some interesting contests besides getting unexpected results.

The participation in the scrabble competition was even lower but it was very heartening to find Tariq Pervez handle the event very professionally without losing interest. In fact he was even prepared to coach the KPC members after they had played their matches.

The card room of the KPC, that hosted both the mind sports events, was wearing a festive look all along and one can hope for a larger pool of members participating in such contests in future.

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July 14, 2010

NBP, KCCA strengthen ties to promote club cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The decline in the standard of club cricket in Karachi over the years has been debated for a long time but thankfully some concrete measures have been taken of late to revive it and take it to another level.

Prof Ejaz Ahmed Farooqui, who was elected as the Honorary Secretary of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) only recently, has been championing the cause of the revival of club for the past fours years or so and his tenure as Chairman of the KCCA Zone II had witnessed unprecedented activities throughout his area of jurisdiction.

Now when he has taken over as the Secretary of the whole KCCA there are hopes that he might be able to turn it around at the city level. It remains to be seen, however, how he tackles the ‘bureaucracy’ within the Association and if he’s able to spread the mission that he had initiated in his zone about four years ago.

The KCCA is fortunate to be blessed by a ‘loyal’ friend like National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) whose officials remain committed to carrying out its corporate social responsibility in letter and spirit.

It’s very heartening for the game of cricket that, primarily due to Iqbal Qasim, NBP has continued to support the KCCA in a big way and their joint efforts at the club level would certainly yield results.

“Four years ago our institution had felt that the club cricket throughout the country was facing problems. We at NBP decided to play our part in arresting the decline and initiated an event exclusively meant for the clubs. We launched the NBP-KCCA Premier League which has now become a regular annual event. We desire to make it a model tournament on the basis of which the teams of Karachi should be selected,” Iqbal Qasim, a former Test left-arm spinner now heading the Sports and CSR wing of NBP, remarked in the opening ceremony of the 5th NBP-KCCA Premier League.

“It’s a matter of great pleasure and satisfaction that NBP has joined hands with the KCCA to hold the Premier League for the fifth year running. I am confident that cricket will benefit immensely with this venture and new talent will emerge on the scene,” Prof Ejaz Farooqui, Secretary, KCCA, observed during his speech at the Karachi Gymkhana.

The details of the 5th NBP-KCCA Premier League 2010 were unveiled by Prof Siraj-ul-Islam Bukhari, President, KCCA, having been associated with the Association as Secretary for a number of years.

The total number of participating clubs are 28, having been divided equally in seven groups. The top team of each group will be advancing to the knockout stage, starting with the quarter-finals.

All the 48 matches of the tournament, to be supervised by the best available umpires, will be played on turf pitches and those will be 50-overs-a-side contests.

The winners will be receiving a cash bonus of Rs 75,000 while the runners-up will be getting a purse of Rs 50,000. There will be cash awards for the outstanding individual performers as well.

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July 10, 2010

Neither Harbhajan nor anyone else can emulate magician Murali


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

I don’t know in which frame of mind Muttiah Muralitharan was in while having singled out Harbhajan Singh as the only bowler capable of emulating his record haul of nearly eight hundred wickets in Tests.

The legendary off-spinner, who will be retiring from Test cricket in a few days time, was quoted as saying in an interview the other day that only Harbhajan, another champion off-spinner, was most likely to have a go at his world record tally in Tests and One-day Internationals.

"I think only Harbhajan can do this. I don't know how old is he and how long he will continue. But he is the only one who can achieve this feat in Test cricket," Murali was reported to have said.

Probably it might have slipped out of his mind that Harbhajan is already 30 years old whose tally of 355 wickets in 83 Tests is far too less than his haul of 792 wickets which is likely to go further up when he calls it a day after the upcoming Galle Test.

Ideally Murali would ideally like to get at least eight more scalps in his last Test to reach the inconceivable landmark of 800 wickets. If the vulnerability of the Indian batsmen against spin bowling is taken in account I reckon he should get those wickets if he bowls well enough.

I don’t think anybody, either a spinner or a fast bowler, would be able eclipse his record haul of Test wickets in foreseeable future. It may stand for stages until and unless the cricket boards decide to shift their focus to Test cricket which is something very unlikely to happen given the fact that now even 50-overs games are being considered long enough and they might be replaced by 40-overs contest.

Harbhajan will of course become the most accomplished spin bowler in the world after the retirement of Murali but it doesn’t just not practically possible for anyone to overtake the record set by the champion Sri Lankan off-spinner.

In the same interview Murali has admitted that it would get increasingly difficult for spinners to chase his records.

"In the current scenario Test cricket is dying. One-day cricket does not have bright future. Only Twenty20 is going to survive. So it will be difficult for any slow bowler to survive so long," he said.

Harbhajan, undoubtedly, has been a class act all along but expecting him to think to go after the records set by Murali is not fair I think.

Murali and Harbhajan have remained the two top off-spinners of the world for quite sometime just as Shane Warne and Anil Kumble were the two best leg-spinners on the international scene for a long time.

With Warne and Kumble already having retired, Test cricket will become poorer with the exit of Murali. Harbhajan will be the senior most quality spin bowler on the international scene and it remains to be seen for how long he will be able to cope with the pressures of continuous cricket.

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Shahid Afridi feels confidence level can help Pakistan immensely


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Encouraged by the success in both the Twenty20 Internationals the Pakistan captain Shahid Khan Afridi has a right to believe that his team can topple Australia in the upcoming two-Test series as well.

Pakistan and Australia will renew their Test rivalry at Lord's on July 13. The Aussies have had an outstanding record against Pakistan in the recent past but who will know it better than Shahid Afridi that history and reputation can be taken for a ride very quickly.

“I think now that we have regained our winning habit we must work harder to maintain it and make winning a habit. I knew sooner or later we will win back-to-back matches because we have been performing well since the Twenty20 World Cup but missed out in close matches," the Pakistan observed in an interview.

“Test cricket indeed different to the T20s. There is indeed a marked difference and we have to be aware of this but the good thing is that a win is a win in any form of the game and this series win should serve a confidence booster for us ahead of the Tests," he added.

"Obviously we will miss their experience. I wanted them in the team for this tour and I tried my best to see they were in the team but for different reasons this couldn't happen and it is unfortunate," he responded when asked about the absence of senior batsmen, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan.

Shahid Afridi, whose aggression in the field has been instrumental in lifting the spirits of his teammates, has backed his younger members of the side to grab the opportunity with both hands.

It remains to be seen if he manages to lift his boys in the Test matches like the way he did in the T20 matches. It’s a common belief that the shortest version of the game suits Pakistan both technically and temperamentally. Whether they would be able to improve in the Test arena is a big question mark despite the high confidence level.

The Pakistan coach, Waqar Younis, feels that his team can take a lot of confidence into the Test series.

"I think these two wins are really going to help us to get into the momentum. Test matches are a different ball game fair enough, but with victory behind you it always helps," he reckoned.

Nobody can dispute with Shahid Afridi and Waqar Younis about the confidence level being sky high but realistically Pakistan need to play much more consistently to overpower Australia in the two-Test series.

Pakistan’s bowling resources appear adequate which gives them a very good chance of bowling Australia out two times during a match but what about putting runs on the board. We have seen on numerous occasions that the Pakistani batsmen are vulnerable to balls moving in the air or off the pitch.

The youngsters, having little experience of coming to terms with high quality pace and swing bowling, would be tested and it will be a big bonus if they come good in the English conditions.

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Can Pakistan do it in Tests as well?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Well who would dare ruling Pakistan out of the Test series now after they have got the better of Australia in both the Twenty20 Internationals? Obviously there’s a world of difference between the two formats but there’s one thing called momentum which is very much with Shahid Afridi’s men at the moment.

No matter how inexperienced or shallow in strength they may look on paper I don’t think Pakistan are ever out of a contest until they are actually beaten. They have had this tendency of coming back from the dead and shocking their most fancied of rivals over the years.

Not many people back home demonstrated faith in the Pakistan team when it left the shores of the country to combat two of the strongest outfits in world cricket today, Australia and England in what was expected to be a forgettable summer.

But a lot has changed in a matter of just two days and Pakistan have suddenly come into the contention from nowhere.

“They are going to be tough opposition in the Test match. They' are going to have a very good attack, so our batters have to be at our best with the Duke ball that I'll imagine they'll get to swing, in conditions where, if it's overcast, it's going to be quite tough. I think we're in for a really good Test series,” Michael Clarke observed after his side was floored in both the T20 games at Edgbaston.

Clarke, who had led Australia to victory in the ICC World Twenty20 in the Caribbean just a few weeks ago, sounded a warning to his teammates for the Tests after the drubbing in the shortest version of the game.

"If it's overcast here, I think they'll swing the ball nicely and they've got some pace as well. I think the Duke will help them. Conditions play a big part in England as to how much swing there is. If it's overcast there's generally a bit of swing the whole day. Hopefully the sun's out," Clarke, who will be the vice-captain to Ricky Ponting in the Test series, stated.

The Australians have had bitter experiences with the swing of the red Duke ball having caused considerable problems for their batsmen in the English conditions. They may not easily forget the banana swing in the summer of 2005 that had cost them the Ashes after a very long time.

The Pakistan fast bowlers may not possess that kind of experience or expertise of excelling in the English conditions as the likes of Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison had to rattle the Aussies but you never know when they exceed expectations.

After the debacle in the T20 series the Australians will not make the mistake of going into the Test series half-heartedly as one might have thought given the edge they enjoyed over Pakistan.

The Australians had whitewashed Pakistan in every format of the game at home last season but that seems to be history now.

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July 8, 2010

Condon warns against complacency


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sir Paul Condon, having headed the ICC's new Anti-Corruption Unit (ACSU) for nearly a decade, feels that cricket would only have to get complacent for a few months or a couple of tournaments for those bad days to come back very quickly.

“I am certainly not leaving in a complacent frame of mind that everything is hunky dory, but I believe it is a different game with different attitudes and a different awareness these days, so I am pretty confident about the future, even though there's far more cricket now and it's more commercial,” he said while preparing to hand over his duties to the former Northern Ireland police chief, Sir Ronnie Flanagan.

Condon, who had a seven-year stint as the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had been appointed the head of the ACSU in October 2000, reckoned that there has been a seismic shift in attitude from players towards fixing in the last 10 years.

“If we go back to those bad old days of the late 1990s, it's easy to forget that cricket was pretty much in crisis. Its credibility was in threat, and so was its commercial viability. Sponsors were pulling out because it was clear there had been a whole series of fixed matches in every form of the game, from Test cricket to World Cup tournaments,” he said in an interview.

“The corrupters were literally going into the changing rooms, and in some instances were influencing team selection and ordering what events should happen on the field. One player contacted, and was contacted by, a fixer several hundred times in the course of a Test match, and no matter how friendly you are with someone, that's just not something you'd do. Now we have a regime in place of no use of mobile phones, and controlled access to changing rooms,” Condon remarked.

“There were some initial moans, but on the whole the players have been very supportive. They are aware of what can go wrong, but it's in their interests not to get sucked in. There is a lot of legitimate money around cricket these days, and players know full well that they don't need to get drawn into grubby deals for US$20,000 here or there,” he added.

He predicted that it might not be possible to entirely eradicate fixing from the game of cricket.

"It is a wonderful game, but if you were designing a game to fix, you would design cricket, because it is a whole series of discreet events, and every ball you can bet on. You can't guarantee a throw-in or a free kick in soccer, but if you're a corrupt player, you can guarantee to do certain things at key moments and if you can bet on that you can make a lot of money. Corruption in any walk of life, whether it's politics or business or sport, is about human frailty and weakness, and opportunity. Most cricketers are totally sound in their integrity, but one or two still mix with the wrong people,” he explained.

He maintained that Twenty20 cricket represented the biggest challenge to the integrity of cricket for probably 10 years.

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July 7, 2010

Australia jolted for second day running


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It took Pakistan many a month to finally overpower Australia in an international cricket match on July 5 but they needed less than 24 hours to topple the Aussies again to clinch the T20 series 2-0.

It’s not often that the Australians crash while chasing an average of less than eight and a half in a Twenty20 International but they collapsed against Pakistan two times in as many days.

I don’t know if the Australian think-tank will consider back to back defeats in T20 games as a wake-up call for the upcoming Test series against Pakistan or not but there’s very little doubt in one’s mind that it won’t be a walkover for the returning Ricky Ponting.

Irrespective of the comparative strength of the two teams, Pakistan would obviously feel much more confident going into the Test series after having humiliated Michael Clarke’s boys who had captured the T20 crown only a few weeks ago.

Clarke has looked a reluctant leader in what we have seen of him so far. He is probably more concerned about the loss of his own batting form and his weaknesses are reflected in the field.

It was really pathetic of him not to have posted a slip for Mohammad Aamer when Dirk Nannes was on a hat-trick after dismissing Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi on successive deliveries.

As the luck would have it Aamer was forced to edge the ball in the vacant slip position and a bewildered Nannes could only watch the action helplessly. Any proactive captain would have brought a slip in place at least for the hat-trick delivery which Clarke didn’t.

It was second time in the same over when an outside edge had resulted in a boundary. Earlier Shahid had topedged Nannes over the head of wicketkeeper Tim Paine while attempting yet another agricultural shot.

Ponting is obviously a far more experienced captain who would like to extend his winning streak in Test matches. His aggression and tactfulness could make the difference in what is now expected to be a close contest.

Shahid, on his part, would be hoping to keep performing miracles. He knows that anything becomes possible when the lady luck moves in to defy logic. When Pakistan get on song every other team has to take a back seat.

The Australians had managed to reign supreme at home despite some close shaves. They had overcome odd periods of uncertainties to whitewash Pakistan in every format of the game but they must have discovered by now that it’s a different ball game in every new series.

Pakistan are on a high with T20 wins and the critics who had written them off completely before the start of the long summer in England must be wondering why did they dare doing it.

Trust me it’s never advisable to write Pakistan off because they always have a chance of doing something sensational. No matter how much superior their opponents may be they have had the knack of taking them with surprise.

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July 6, 2010

Pakistan break jinx against Australia


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It was a matter of time for Australia to succumb to defeat against Pakistan. The Aussies had been getting away with it despite playing poor cricket for quite sometime during a period when their opponents were guilty of being even more lopsided in the field.

Australia had struggled to dominate Pakistan at home while they had coasted to a last-over win in the semifinals of the ICC World Twenty20 at St Lucia a few weeks ago when Mike Hussey had taken Saeed Ajmal by the scruff of his neck to climb the mountain.

It was a different day and a different story. It was not St Lucia in the Caribbean but it was Edgbaston in England. The settings were different and so were the moods of the two teams.

Australia did hold the psychological advantage going into the game but everybody knew that it was a matter of time for them to be blown away. Although they are now also the reigning world champions in the shortest version of the game there’s a feeling that they don’t possess the same kind of depth or character which had allowed them to rule for quite sometime in the not too distant past.

Many people believe that the current Australian team is overrated and they don’t have the strength to weather the storm as soundly as the one they had in the days of Steve Waugh or Ricky Ponting.

The youthful side at the disposal of new T20 captain Michael Clarke has the enthusiasm as well as the energy to come good but this lot cannot be expected to perform consistently as they do have the tendency of breaking down much earlier than their predecessors.

Australia had made a confident enough start in the first of the two-match T20 series by having Pakistan on the mat. But they had no answer to the onslaught of Umar Akmal who blazed to a 21-ball half century.

Pakistan, who had slipped to 49 for four, recovered to reach 167 that looked a fighting total but very much gettable for the Australians. But they made a heavy weather of it even after David Warner had put them on top by hammering Shoaib Akhtar for five successive boundaries.

As we have witnessed so often, the Australians have had the habit of losing the momentum against Pakistan. They had been winning matches without doing it convincingly.

They had gone on to win clinch the World T20 crown in the Caribbean but how would they erase the memories of losing five wickets in an over against Pakistan in their league outing.

Mohammad Aamer, the man to have sent down that sensational last over in which Australia lost five wickets without getting a single run on the board, was into the act again and so was Saeed Ajmal, who has had exceptional record against them barring that last over in the semifinals.

The Australians were founding wanting in chasing down the target of 168 and there were no heroics from Hussey or anyone else. Pakistan won the match by 23 runs to start the long international summer on a winning note.

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July 5, 2010

ICC should consider scrapping dead rubber games


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Yes the time has come for the governing body of the sport, the International Cricket Council (ICC), to find the ways and means to exercise better control over the dead rubber matches and the safest option could be scrapping them altogether.

The ICC has done a fine job by controlling, if not totally eliminating, the match fixing element that had threatened to ruin the game in the 1990s.

The ICC has introduced the incentives like the ranking points to keep the winning teams interested even after clinching the series but since the temptations to under-perform are understood to be too high to keep performing it has become imperative to come up with another damage-control measure.

It’s not meant to suggest that any team having surrendered the series can’t stage a comeback but expecting them to turn it around completely against the run of play certainly creates doubts in the minds of people.

Test matches, One-day Internationals and Twenty20 Internationals are contested between countries and the national stake is involved. Obviously the ICC could not be held responsible for the apparent wrongdoings but being in a position to enforce law they should be persuaded to minimize the chances of foul play in the sport.

It looks quite astonishing even while taking into account the uncertainties of the game the manner in which some matches in full or in part appear to be moving according to a plot that defies logic.

Cricket, like any other sport, is more about momentum. If a team is good enough to win first three matches of a five-match series obviously it has all cards in its pocket and only something very dramatic can prevent them from completing a whitewash.

But when the team having been floored in the first three outings is allowed to win the remaining two matches of the series it would raise concerns and every avid follower of the game will bewildered by the outcome.

In any sport it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to stage any sort of comeback after being cornered or demolished. There is always a greater likelihood of the team down in the dumps to bite the dust further until the end of the series.

I think the ICC should probe into those series where the winning teams have let their opponents dominate the matches of academic interest.

I don’t think that the ICC could possess a mechanism to control the dead rubber matches. That’s why I believe that a strategy should be devised to cancel the remaining matches once the series has been decided.

Instead of a having a full five-match or seven-match series the ICC, can consider the option of introducing best of five or best of seven series. Even a best of three series would be better than a full three-match series.

Now it’s for the ICC to look into the aspects of negotiating with the broadcasters in the changed scenario. But I am sure they do have brainy and visionary individuals who can come up with proposals with the primary objective of saving the integrity of the game.

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July 1, 2010

Shoaib Siddiqui inaugurates KPC Summer Sports Festival 2010


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It was a very pleasant evening on March 30 when Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Sports & Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, formally inaugurated the KPC Summer Sports Festival 2010 with a crisp stroke on the snooker table.

The festival, being organized by the Sports Committee, with the collaboration of the Indoor Games Committee, at the Karachi Press Club from June 30 to July 24, had actually commenced a couple of hours before the inauguration ceremony.

A session was held at the Ibrahim Jalees Hall of the KPC which was presided over by Shoaib Siddiqui with Tariq Rasheed Khan, President, Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), and Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), also gracing the occasion alongwith Dr Farhan Essa, Chairman, Karachi Table Tennis Association (KTTA).

They were presented the traditional gift of Ajrak by the office-bearers and senior members of the Karachi Press Club.

In his opening remarks, the KPC Secretary, A H Khanzada, briefly threw light on the history of the club and expressing his joy at the revival of the sports festival for the members.

The KPC President, Imtiaz Khan Faran, recognized the importance of sports in building a healthy society and he expected the members of the club to participate in the sports festival with great enthusiasm.

The chief guest of the evening, Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, showered the working journalists with praise for having taking up a challenging profession and performing their duties in the most demanding of situations.

He recalled the services of the KPC members in spreading information, making a particular mention of the former Presidents Sabihuddin Ghausi and Najeeb Ahmed who expired last year.

Shoaib Siddiqui spoke about the importance of the role of media in sports in particular and he acknowledged their contribution in a big way. He welcomed the revival of the sports festival at the KPC and assured his total support to the venture.

Shoaib Siddiqui was then escorted to the snooker hall where he performed the formal inauguration of the sports festival. He was highly appreciative of the arrangements made for the various tournaments.

As many as five games, snooker, chess, scrabble, badminton and table tennis, will be contested during the festival which is being supported by the sports department of the Government of Sindh.

The festival, offering cash awards to top performers, has commenced with the snooker tournament which will continue till July 3 and it will be followed by chess and scrabble (July 5 to 10), badminton (July 12 to 17) and table tennis (July 19 to 24).

The snooker tournament is being held with the collaboration of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) who have deputed Shoaib Alam Khan, an international referee, to conduct the event.

The Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP) has pledged to offer technical assistance for the chess and scrabble tournaments while the Karachi Table Tennis Association (KTTA) has agreed to join hands with the KPC in holding the table tennis tournament.

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