August 30, 2011

Omar Cricket Club lift Bahria Town Trophy


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Omar Cricket Club, hurt badly by a couple of harsh umpiring decisions in the final last year, displayed even greater mental toughness besides loads of skills by emerging triumphant in the 26th Karachi Gymkhana Ramazan Festival Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2011 for the Bahria Town Trophy which concluded at the Karachi Gymkhana Cricket Ground on August 29.

Leg-spinner Hafiz Saad Nasim claimed five wickets to bowl Omar CC to 22-run victory over Ali Sports in the final which was completed under dark clouds. Heavy downpour that followed ruined the presentation ceremony and the iftar-dinner reception which had to be moved to the heavily crowded banquet hall from the serene atmosphere of swimming pool.

Hamid Ilyas, Project Director, Bahria Town (Pvt) Ltd, was be the chief guest in the ceremony in which cash prizes of Rs eight lacs were disbursed. The President of the Karachi Gymkhana, Ali Rahim, was present on the occasion alongwith the Convenor Sports, Saleem Yousuf, and other top officials of the club.

Ramiz Aziz of Vital Five Academy was declared Man of the Tournament while Nasir Jamshed (Karachi Gymkhana Whites), Shahzeb Khan (KESC), Khurram Manzoor (Medicam) and Azhar Khan (Karachi Gymkhana Blues) were adjudged best barsman, bowler, fielder and wicketkeeper respectively.

Nadeem Omar, the founder and the owner of Omar CC, couldn’t hide his delight when laying hands at the trophy which could have easily come into his lap a year earlier as well.

In the final, enterprising knocks from opener Asif Raza (35 off 24 balls), Ali Khan (51 off 39 balls) and Ali Asad (32 off 26 balls) allowed Omar CC to post a competitive total of 146 for six against a spirited bowling attack. Left-arm spinner Imran Ali (3-21) was the pick of the Ali Sports bowlers.

Having registered a comeback victory in the semifinals only the other day, Ali Sports remained in the hunt while chasing the target of 147 despite losing wickets at regular intervals.
The match was wide open at the halfway stage of their innings with 90 needed from last 10 overs. By taking 22 overs in the next two overs Ali Sports inched closer to the target but their dreams were shattered by Hafiz Saad Nasim, who turned the match decisively in Omar CC’s favour by picking up five wickets for 22 runs. Ali Sports was bowled out for 124 in 19.1 overs.

In the semifinals Omar CC knocked out defending champions Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC), beating them by a margin of seven wickets while Ali Sports forced their way final by overpowering the formidable Vital Five Academy by five wickets.

KESC was spun out for 134 in 19.4 overs despite useful knocks from Sarfraz Ahmed (54 off 34 balls) and Shaheryar Ghani (30 off 30 balls) with left-arm spinners Raza Hasan (4-28), Faraz Ahmed Khan (2-16) and Sultan Ahmed (2-19) doing the damage. The 90-run third wicket stand between Ali Khan (56 not out off 40 balls) and Ali Asad (36 off 32 balls) allowed Omar CC to reach the target comfortably with 2.4 overs remaining.

Vital Five Academy was restricted to 125 for nine with only Hanif Malik (26), Ali Waqas (20) and Mohammad Waqas (20) contributing something of note. The match came to life when they reduced Ali Sports to 31 for five but the unbroken 96-run sixth wicket partnership between Noman Ali (54 not out off 39 balls) and Zakir Malik (45 not out off 34 balls) settled the issue with 10 balls in hand.

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August 25, 2011

Ponting deriving inspiration from Dravid


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Ricky Ponting, one of the most prolific run-getters in the game and a former Australian captain, has a reason to derive inspiration from Rahul Dravid, the champion Indian batsman who has overcome a lean patch in most spectacular fashion.

Obviously when you have a long career there are bound to be ups and downs. It’s next to impossible to be consistent all along for 15 years when playing 100 or 150 Test matches. It has become a tougher challenge of late because of the increase in the frequency of match and the excessive workload nearly everyone is subjected to.

The 38-year-old Dravid is a bit lucky in this context because, unlike the 36-year-old Ponting, he has not been a regular member of India’s limited-overs outfits for the past few years. Other than that both these great batsmen have quite a few things in common. Ponting has had to take care of Australian batting in One-day Internationals as well as Twenty20 Internationals.

Both of them have had the knack of fighting it out until the very well. They have set examples for others to follow with batting of the highest class in the toughest of conditions. They have been class act for a very long time, having endured different phases in their illustrious career.

Ponting once was the aggressor when he had the likes of Justin Langer, Damien Martyn and Steve Waugh to hang around and take care of occupation of crease. After their retirement with those of Mathew Hayden, Mark Waugh and Adam Gilchrist, he took the responsibility of spending more time at the wicket.

Ponting, himself a fighter to the core, has revealed having encouraged Dravid to fight through his struggles and continue playing when their sides met in the two-Test series in India last October.

"I remember after our last series in India there was a lot of talk and speculation about Dravid being finished. I actually went and found him at the end of the series and said 'don't you even think about retiring' because I just saw some stuff in a few of his innings that suggested he was still a very, very good player. I just said 'don't let them wear you down, don't let them get you down'. I received a similar text message before and after the Ashes from him as well," the former Australian skipper disclosed.

"There are a few who provide an inspiration for batsmen of advancing years. Sachin Tendulkar and Jacques Kallis both had a great last year; Dravid is doing well now. It's not only good for guys of my age to see guys doing that, it's good for the younger blokes to see it as well; to know that if you keep doing the right things and working hard, and if you've got talent, then age is not a barrier in our game," Ponting added.

Dravid’s success in 2011 should inspire Ponting, who has been short of runs in Test matches in particular. Both these batting greats have lost none of their passion and retirement doesn’t seem in their plan at the moment. Cricket certainly needs characters like them.

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August 24, 2011

IPL causes India’s debacle in England


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Different people have different theories about India’s disastrous campaign in the four-Test series in which they were whitewashed by England but in my opinion the Indian Premier League (IPL) was the main reason of the sudden decline of the top ranked country of the last two years.

No matter what the officials or the cronies of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) have to say, the injuries to key players, resulting due to the excessive workload imposed on them in the form of the IPL, cost them dearly.

India at full strength could never have met this kind of fate of the hands of Andrew Strauss and company, who find themselves elevated to the number one position in ICC Test rankings. Whether they deserved this slot or not is another matter.

The results would have been different if India had the option of fielding their strongest eleven in the park comprising of Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan and Ishant Sharma.

Due to injuries and illness India couldn’t field their best team in any of the four Test matches. They didn’t have adequate insurance because it’s never easy to replace the greats.

The newcomers, no matter how talented, skilled or promised, cannot be expected to emulate the likes of Sehwag, Dravid or Zaheer because it took them years to build their reputation.

The BCCI is solely to be blamed for having shifted its focus from cricket to commercialism. As they say excess of anything is bad. Heavy overdose of T20 cricket day in and day out was bound to affect the cricketers and the burnout has resulted in their recent humiliation in England.

Why the BCCI is joking with the public? Was there any sense of holding a new edition of the IPL, immediately after the 2011 World Cup? What was the point in staging a domestic tournament so soon after having hosted the most prestigious international event?

Wasn’t the BCCI making fun of its own cricketers by asking them to consume energies in the IPL when the tours of the West Indies and England were round the corner? What was more important to them, prestige or money?

Wasn’t it a crime as heinous as treason, depriving the national team of its best cricketers? Shouldn’t the BCCI officials be brought to book for having brought the game to disrepute?

The BCCI didn’t find problems in letting their top performing players abstain from international tours after ensuring that they made an appearance in nearly each and every outing of the terribly long IPL, whose credibility has always been in doubt.

The Indians survived in the West Indies because the home side was not threatening enough to make the most of the depleted visitors. Not England. A lot of key players were carrying injuries and it became evident from the day one of the series that India would struggle from the moment Zaheer had limped off the field.

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August 18, 2011

Imran Shahzad soars to top position after winning NBP Trophy


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Imran Shahzad, after having emerged triumphant in the recently concluded 3rd NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2011, has become the top ranked cueist of the country.

Imran, ranked number two previously, has displaced Shahid Aftab, who has now gone sliding to an embarrassingly low 10th position following his dismal performance in the last event, in the latest national ranking chart issued by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA).

Sohail Shahzad, who ended runner-up in the NBP-sponsored tourney, has moved to the second position, after having been ranked fifth earlier. Mohammad Sajjad, who skipped the second national ranking tournament with the consent of the PBSA, has retained the third position while Mohammad Asif, the 2009 national champion, has moved forward from fifth to fourth slot.

Sultan Mohammad, who was ranked fourth earlier, has slipped to fifth position while Abdul Sattar has leapfrogged from 16th position to number six in the ranking chart.

Naveen Kumar Perwani, one of the most experienced cueists of the country, has now moved down to seventh position after having been ranked sixth earlier. Abdul Sattar, at the strength of his fine performance in the last tournament, has jumped from 13th position to eighth.

Imran Shahzad had whipped Sohail Shahzad in the final of the 3rd NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2011 at the Karachi Club. Imran extended his brilliant form in the final to dominate the best of 15-frame encounter, blanking his rival in straight frames with the scores of 92-24, 55-11, 74-10, 68-10, 62-4, 59-36, 54-37, 65-28.

Imran forced Sohail to submission with combination of aggressive potting and solid defence. It was only the second time in recent history when a best of 15-frame national ranking final was decided in straight frames.

The Lahore-based Imran was in total command of the situation, chalking up breaks of 22, 30, 46, 30, 43 and 53 in successive frames to unnerve the local finalist, who had to pay heavy price for not making the most of the limited opportunities that came his way.

Imran not only became richer by Rs 60,000 which came along the glittering trophy, he was also promised employment by the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP), whose Senior Executive Vice President and Group Head, Human Resource Management, Dr Mirza Abrar Baig, was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony.

Dr Mirza Abrar Baig, having recruited the then Pakistan number one, Mohammad Sajjad, a couple of years ago, committed to consider the case of giving a job at the bank to Imran Shahzad as well.

He also announced to enhance the sponsor fee for the fourth edition of the NBP Ranking Snooker Championship 2012 from Rs 0.8 million to Rs one million.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), in his welcome speech, while acknowledging the support of NBP in the promotion of snooker, had urged the bank management to employ greater number of cueists in their folds.

Former Test left-arm spinner and Head of NBP’s CSR Division, Iqbal Qasim, was also present in the ceremony alongwith the Karachi Club top officials, Shahnawaz Khan and Yousuf Suleman, and Vice President of the PBSA, Jawed Karim.

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August 7, 2011

Zaheer’s ouster dents Indian chances further


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The news has finally broken and the Indian camp has every right to feel shattered. Zaheer Khan, acclaimed as the most complete seam bowler in world cricket, has been ruled out of the remainder of the series against England.

Without him India’s chances of fighting back in the Test series will now be greatly reduced. Although the return of Virender Sehwag for the last two Tests will have boosted their confidence immensely but the loss of Zaheer, the champion left-arm quickie, makes their task even harder if not impossible.

Zaheer, whom his side needed so badly to take care of the new ball, will now be returning to India and will be replaced by left-arm seamer RP Singh.

Zaheer was believed to have picked up a hamstring injury during the first Test at Lord's, but the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has now said that he’s not only has a recurring hamstring problem but also a right ankle impingement that will require surgery, followed by a 14-16 week period of rehabilitation.

He had earlier been withdrawn from the squad for India's recent Test series in the West Indies due to a right ankle injury.

Isn’t it funny that the premier fast bowler of the country was made to play in the Indian Premier League (IPL), after having played a lead role in his team’s success in the World Cup?

Shouldn’t the officials of the BCCI have discouraged their key players from taking part in every match of the IPL thus risking their immediate future?

With the tours of the West Indies and England round the corner, the movers and shakers of the Indian cricket should not have lost sight of the fact that the excessive workload in the IPL was certain to take its toll on the quicker bowlers in particular.

Zaheer, who was quite enthusiastic and vibrant in the IPL, became a liability for the national team right after his return. He had fitness problems from the day one of the England series. In fact he had pulled up midway through his 14th over in the first innings at Lord's.

Wasn’t it a shame that the best bowler of the team was sidelined on the very first day of the series? He was the bowler who held the key to India’s chances was very unlikely to take any further part on the tour although the official statements tried to conceal the facts.

The BCCI functionaries were probably shy of declaring it right away what they have done now. They didn’t desire to get the discredit therefore stories of all sorts were planted to twist the matter.

It was a joke expecting him to bowl again during the first Test, as it was being indicated in official reports. There were reports about his return for second Test that there was hardly any substance in it.

With a bigger gap after the second Test, there were thoughts that he might stage a come back in the third Test but he only got through three overs in warm-up match in Northampton and he has now finally been pulled out of the squad.

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