January 29, 2011

NJI offer greater support to Pakistan snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, New Jubilee Insurance (NJI), has offered to sponsor an international snooker tournament this year, besides taking care of a series of national events.

“We have also requested the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA to look into the possibilities of launching a tournament at the national level for Under-15 or Under-17 which we are prepared to support. We believe that the youngsters hold the key to the future of the country and special efforts must be made to facilitate them,” he observed during a media briefing at the Karachi Gymkhana on January 26.

“As the major sponsors of snooker for the last few years, we take pride in having played our part in the development of cue sports. We are eager to see the game getting spread in every nook and corner of the country,” Tahir Ahmed explained.

Meanwhile the PBSA has decided to organize the NJI 36th National Snooker Championship 2011 from January 31 instead of the NJI 4th National Junior (Under-21) Championship 2011.

The announcement was made by the PBSA President, Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, during the media briefing soon after getting the approval of the NJI Managing Director sitting next to him.

“After getting the nod of the sponsors right away we have decided to hold the National Championship from January 31 instead of the National Junior Championship which will now be organized at a later date,” Alamgir Shaikh announced.

Originally the media briefing was to be done for the NJI 4th National Junior (Under-21) Championship 2011 which was to be held at the Karachi Gymkhana from January 31 to February 5.

“The National Championship will start from January 31 but it will go on till February 6. 32 cueists will be featuring in the Nationals with four from each province making it to the final draw with the top 16 of the last ranking chart,” the PBSA President revealed.

“The prizemoney of the National Championship will be higher than that of the National Junior Championship in which a total of Rs 120,000 was to be at stake. We are trying to have a bigger purse for the winners as well as the runners-up,” he added.

“Another incentive for the winner of the upcoming National Championship will be qualification in the Asian Championship to be held in Indore, India, in April. Since Mohammad Sajjad is an automatic qualifier by virtue of being the last year’s runner-up we will be entitled to three entries this time,” Alamgir Shaikh said.

Ali Rahim, President, Karachi Gymkhana, also assured the support for the promotion of snooker. The Gymkhana’s newly elected convenors, Jahangir Moghul, Amin Noor and Saleem Yousuf were also present on the occasion.

The country’s premier cueist, Mohammad Sajjad, who will defend his title in the 36th NJI National Snooker Championship 2011, will be the favourite to win the title once more in the presence of a group of veterans and s crop of new talent.

According to the draws of the championship, released by the PBSA, Imran Shahzad has been placed in the Group A alongwith Rambail Gul, Shah Khan and Abdul Rahman while the Group B comprises of Sohail Shahzad, Noman Awan, Arshad Siddiq and Zahoor Ahmed.

The quartet of Mohammad Asif Toba, Sultan Mohammad, Hamidullah and Kamran-ur-Rahman constitute the Group C while the Group D features Mohammad Shahzad, Mohammad Javed, Yasir Shahzad and Abid Hussain.

The Group E contains Asjad Iqbal, Umair Alam, Raja Rashid and Faisal Kashmiri while the Group F is composed of Imran Qamar, Qasim Kamani, Ayaz Khan and Mohammad Yousuf.

Shehram Changezi, Abdul Sattar, Mohammad Imran and Naveen Perwani have been drawn in the Group G while the quartet of Mohammad Asif, Sharjeel Mahmood, Mohammad Shahid and Khurram Hussain Agha form the Group H.

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January 22, 2011

Does a journalist or writers body come into being so mysteriously?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

What a shame that the get-together on the evening of January 18 at Karachi Gymkhana was manipulated and exploited in such a horrible manner. A handful of cricket journalists and writers were invited verbally for an exchange of views over dinner.

The proceedings, lasting an hour or so, were conducted formally and there were relevant speeches to raise the issue of bringing back international cricket to Pakistan.

Every speaker, that included Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, Wasim Akram and Iqbal Qasim, had welcomed the idea of sharing views but there was no mention of any group or association getting formed there and not a single announcement to this effect was made during the meeting.

The subsequent announcement through a press release that a Cricket Writers (Journalists) Association was launched with an aim to serve the game loved by millions in Pakistan, has come as a bombshell to the community of working journalists who consider it as an act of dishonesty.

Every Tom, Dick and Harry has a right to form a group or association of his choice but nobody has a right to exploit the community or bring the profession to disrepute for personal gains.

Those seeking the formation of a cricket writers or journalists’ body should have had the courage of convening a proper meeting instead of doing it in such disgraceful manner.

Whatever their aims and objects, hidden or otherwise, they would need to follow the rules of the game if they are so fond of establishing an association of journalists, photographers and freelance writers even if it has only to be a forum to express themselves on a variety of topics, give suggestions for the improvement in the game and provide avenues to the budding cricketers.

In the first place they have to decide whether its nomenclature is Cricket Writers Association of Pakistan or Cricket Journalists Association of Pakistan. They will have to put together a constitution and extend the membership to the bonafide writers or journalists.

Announcing self-proclaimed President, Chairman or Secretary doesn’t serve the purpose. There’s also a feeling that quite of a few of the office-bearers whose name is included in the press release were not even consulted.

The fraternity of working journalists, passing the impression of being cheated, has condemned these actions of the people with vested interests who are trying to mislead others.

Arif Ali Khan Abbasi, a former Chief Executive of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), while having appreciated the idea of discussing the issues concerning the management of the game didn’t mince words in expressing his reservations about the success of such a venture.

“They say the world over that nothing is permanent except change. Unfortunately in our country or society it takes ages for the critical changes to take place,” he regretted.

The observations of Arif Abbasi, who was also later mentioned as one of the patrons of the so-called body, certainly did make a lot of sense but one can never be sure if his consent was taken.

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January 15, 2011

Countdown to Cricket World Cup 2011 begins


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The final countdown to the Cricket World Cup 2011 has begun with just over a month to go for the most sought after tournament of the game to get underway. The cricket fever has started gripping the Test playing nations and it will spread to the various other countries too as the mega events gets closer.

There’s a lot of debate about which team is going to lift the trophy this time round. The opinion may be divided as to whom the crown will belong to but there are very few people who consider Australia, having done it for the past three times, a serious contender to make it four in a row.

Although the Australians still have an ODI series against England to play at home before the World Cup but I don’t think they would be helped much by its outcome. They have endured a kind of lean patch in every format of the game in the recent past and there’s very little to suggest them making any impression on the flat pitches of the sub-continent.

Australia, who also played the final of the 1996 World Cup when the event was last held in this part of the world, are quite unlikely to go that far this time round. They are very low in confidence at the moment and I don’t think they would be able to make mincemeat of the England side in the upcoming ODI series as they used to do in the past.

India and Sri Lanka are the two teams who in my opinion should be progressing to the final of the CWC 2011 unless and until something very dramatic happens. Besides the home advantage both these sub-continental teams will be boosted by their success stories during the last couple of seasons.

The Indians, although humiliated in the last couple of editions of the ICC World Twenty20 after having won the inaugural event in 2007, have fared consistently in ODIs and Test matches.

The Indians, with a strong squad complemented by formidable bench strength at their disposal, have their best chance in years to regain the title they had won for the only time way back in 1983.

The Sri Lankans have a potentially World Cup winning combination in their folds as well. It remains to be seen at which stage of the tournament they come head to head with India, whom they had eliminated in the semifinals in 1996.

England have been on a high after annexing the ICC World T20 title in the West Indies last year and they must be fancying their chances of claiming their hands on a trophy that has never come in their bag yet.

South Africa may have struggled against Pakistan in their last ODI in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) not very long ago but they have adequate resources to make a huge impact on the competition and do away with the tag of the chokers.

India, Sri Lanka, England and South Africa, in my opinion, are more likely to be making it to the top four with Australia being their main challengers. New Zealand and the West Indies can’t be expected to do anything more than bringing about an upset or two. So could be the fate of Bangladesh and Zimbabwe.

It’s never wise to rule Pakistan out therefore don’t be surprised if they go on to win the tournament even with the turmoil at the top and all those controversies surrounding the team. On paper they don’t have much of a chance, however.

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January 8, 2011

India’s traditional misfortunate comes in way of pocketing series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The history repeated itself to the extent that India were unable to press home the advantage despite being in control. They remained in the driving seat most of the time in the third and final Test against South Africa in Cape Town only to be denied a victory in the end.

That has remained the case more often than not most of the time. The Indians have had the knack of not winning a game despite dominating it from start to finish. This time Jacques Kallis became their nemesis. It could have been anyone else either. The tail-enders did just enough to ensure that the visitors didn’t have enough time to chase the target.

I was pretty confident of India doing well in South Africa this time round because they had their most potent side of the recent times. Regardless of their top ranking in the Test arena they were in possession of the most formidable side in world cricket.

India should have won the Test series, which would have been their first on the South African soil. They had come very close to doing it on their previous tour and they came even closer this time.

Any other team dominating South Africa for so long in the field would have emerged triumphant in the Cape Town Test but not India. They had the hosts in complete disarray on the fourth day and it looked a matter of time for the visitors to bowl the hosts out for a low total and knock off the runs quite comfortably.

But the South Africans were able to recover with the tail-enders doing the job with the injured Kallis. Slowly the match was taken away and by the time their last wicket fell the pressure had shifted to India because they needed to play out the final day rather than think in terms of getting 341.

Even 341 wasn’t a huge target. In fact it was less than four an over on a pitch still having plenty of runs. The outfield was lightening quick and the batsmen were going to get value for their attacking shots.

I don’t remember India having ever successfully chased a target in any Test match where they had to maintain a challenging run-rate. They have tried many times only to be left short of it in the end. Conversely they have lost every time when their opponents have taken them on in similar conditions.

I think the Indians were well aware of their history and they didn’t dare making an attempt to chase down 341 on the final day of the Cape Town Test. Even Virender Sehwag, acclaimed as the most destructive batsmen to have played cricket since Don Bradman, remained subdued during his long stay at the crease.

Not only Bradman but even the lesser mortals like Matthew Hayden and Adam Gilchrist would have gone for it and there’s more likelihood of them having succeeded than not.

The Indians, obviously, could not have trusted their luck hence they preferred to play safe. They accomplished their goal of drawing the third Test that meant the series remained locked at one-all which I don’t consider a fair result.

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January 1, 2011

Happy New Year 2011


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Time flies. 2010 has receded into history before we could realize that all 365 days of the year have gone. Another year in our lives has lapsed.

2011 has dawned. The celebrations and festivities continue unabated all over the world. For one moment all the miseries and shortcomings are forgotten.

Well we start each and every year with hope, both individually as well as collectively. We have to be optimistic about the year to come. We have to move on despite all the problems and uncertainties surrounding us. As they say the show must go on.

The start of the year is considered to be the time to reassess ourselves and our plans. Ideally we need to pause just for a while to seek confirmation if we are moving in the right direction.

Not much could change in a new year. It can only be the extension of the year gone by. It’s for us to identify our mistakes and try not to repeat them. Wiser people learn from the follies of the others but I believe learning from one’s own mistake is much better than not taking a lesson at all.

So the life goes on. The sporting action continues after the break of just a few days and there will be plenty to talk and write about for the analysts, commentators and anchorpersons.

Let me wish all of you a very happy new year. It has been real pleasure writing on this blog and the feedback has been encouraging. It’s great to be read and followed in different corners of the world.s

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