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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