October 29, 2011

Imran Shahzad stages magnificent comeback to win Jubilee Snooker tourney


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Top seeded Imran Shahzad lived up to the billing and came up with sensational performance to edge out unseeded Asif Toba in an epic final to win the Jubilee General Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2011 at the Karachi Gymkhana on October 29.

Recovering from an attack of dengue, Imran staged a magnificent comeback after being 3-6 down to win it 8-7 with the frame scores of 1-70, 78-21,119-0, 47-60, 40-88, 13-85, 25-58, 68-14, 25-96, 89-19, 87-18, 29-72, 92-0, 65-13, 115-25.

The prize distribution ceremony was held soon after the conclusion of the final which lasted five and a half hours. Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Insurance Company, was the chief guest of the evening as a total of Rs 150,000 was disbursed among the outstanding performers.

Speaking on the occasion, Tahir Ahmed expressed his delight at the growth of snooker activities in the country, hoping that Pakistan would be producing world champions in the future as well.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), confirmed that Imran Shahzad, by retaining his number one position in the national rankings, became the automatic qualifier for the upcoming World Snooker Championship.

Talking to the media, after claiming the trophy, the Lahore-based Imran observed that he had been laid low by the dengue virus and was advised bed rest by the doctors for this particular period.

“I played the tournament primarily because I didn’t wish to miss the chance of playing in the World Championship. Thankfully I managed to win the title which has allowed me to retain my top ranking and accomplish my goal,” he remarked.

Asif, a promising youngster from Toba Tek Singh, admitted that he was overawed by the occasion and he committed unforced errors in the decisive frame only because he was feeling the heat of the moment.

“Yes I as tense and nervous in the last frame which made the difference between winning and losing. In normal circumstances I would have definitely potted those easy red balls which missed target in the 15th frame,” he said.

Asif had his moments in the final which he could have won comfortably, had he not got carried away in the last half an hour or so.

He had entered the game in a positive frame of winning as he registered a break of 51 to draw first blood. Imran hit back by taking the second frame and then moved ahead with the help of a break of 119 in the third frame.

Asif then stepped up and took the next four frames on a trot to go into 5-2 lead. Imran narrowed the deficit by taking the eighth frame but Asif regained three-frame lead quickly. Imran won the next two frames but Asif became the favourite again when he ran into 7-5 lead.

Imran had to bring all his expertise into play to stay in the game. He drew level by winning the 14th frame and there was everything to play for in the 15th frame which produced lot of drama and excitement.

Imran was guilty of committing as many as four fouls before opening his account which meant 16 bonus points for his opponent. Asif was found wanting in potting easy red balls more than once which allowed Imran to do the business. He recorded breaks of 60 and 39 in successive visits to the table to settle the issue.

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October 26, 2011

Dhoni’s exemplary leadership helps India whitewash England in payback ODI series


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

With his brilliant batting, agile wicket-keeping and shrewd captaincy, Mahendra Singh Dhoni played the decisive role in guiding India to 5-0 victory over England in the series of One-day Internationals that concluded at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on October 25.

He was the deserved winner of the Man of the Series award which was presented to him by Jagmohan Dalmiya, a former President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), who also headed the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and still leads the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB).

Obviously Dhoni was under immense pressure from all quarters after having returned empty handed from England on a tour where nothing seemed going right for his team. The injuries to key players still haunted him but he knew things won’t be as bad at home in what was being billed as the payback series.

As expected there were quite a few changes in the line-up and the emphasis was on youth when the squad was selected for the first couple of games. The youngsters were given an extended run as the team regained its winning habit.

The ice melted in the first ODI when India finally defeated England at Hyderabad, apparently after ages. Mind you India, the eventual winners of the trophy, were not able to beat England even after having posted a huge total in their World Cup encounter which ended in a tie.

India didn’t look back after hammering England in the series opener. They chased down substantial totals successfully in the next three games with only the one at Mohali giving them a run for their money.

Although Dhoni never talked big and didn’t ever make a mention of whitewash in any of his interviews the whole of India urged him to go for the kill. The Captain Cool that he is, he just believed in taking every game seriously and concentrating wholly to get the result in his team’s favour.

He was the driving force behind the rejuvenated side that showed true grit under pressure. The home conditions certainly suited his boys but in the past hardly any Indian team, having so many big names, succeeded in registering a whitewash.

England were on a high when they landed in India. They would have certainly expected tougher cricket in India but I don’t think they would have ever imagined getting blanked by more or less the same combination whom they had crushed whole summer.

Dhoni’s acts showed that he was focused on winning each and every match of the series. There was not a single unnecessary change in the team on one pretext or the other. He had a definite plan in his mind and he executed it to perfection.

He desired an express fast bowler to complement the duo of Praveen Kumar and Vinay Kumar. Umesh Yadav filled that role and delivered in the first three games. Varun Aaron replaced Yadav only when the latter was injured in the third match. Parthiv Patel was played in first four games and was dropped for not doing well with Manoj Tiwary coming into the eleven in the final ODI.

He displayed great faith in the combination of left-arm spinner Ravindra Jadeja and off-spinner Ravichandaran Ashwin, both of whom rose to the occasion every time the skipper tossed the ball to them. Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina got the runs with Dhoni himself controlling the innings without getting dismissed even once.

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October 21, 2011

Jubilee General Insurance announce greater support to snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Jubilee General Insurance Company Limited, formerly New Jubilee Insurance Company Limited, has announced to extend greater support to snooker after the change in the corporate identity.

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, made the announcement during the media launch of the Jubilee General Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2011 at the Banquet Hall of Karachi Gymkhana on October 20. The tournament will be played at the Gymkhana’s Billiards Hall from October 23 to 29.

“We have been supporting snooker for the last few years and now we are in an even better position to expand our relationship. We have been strengthened financially by becoming a part of the worldwide group,” he observed.

“Jubilee General Insurance has decided to sponsor the inaugural 6-Reds National Snooker Championship to be launched by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) later this year,” Tahir Ahmed disclosed.

He urged the officials of the PBSA to turn their attention to the development of Under-15 snooker circuit in order to find talent from the grassroots level.

“While we appreciate the efforts of the PBSA in carrying out regular activities it’s our wish that more and more youngsters could be groomed to earn laurels for the country. We have been sponsoring the Under-21 national events and now we offer to support the Under-15 programmes as well,” the Jubilee Insurance chief declared.

As usual he acknowledged the role of all the stake-holders in the promotion and development of cue sports, making a special mention of print and electronic media.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, unveiled the details of the seven-day Championship, which will be contested by 32 cueists, divided equally in eight groups. The Karachi Gymkhana's Managing Committee members, Jahangir Moghul and Amin Noor were present on the occasion alongwith Billiads Secretary, Fawad Shaikh.

The PBSA President hinted at raising prizemoney for the national ranking tournaments from the next year, adding that the daily allowance of the participating cueists has already been enhanced from Rs 500 to Rs 1,500.

He pointed out that an added incentive to the participants of the upcoming event was earning a spot in the World Snooker Championship to be staged in Bangalore, India next month. The top ranked cueist will automatically earn a berth while the PBSA Executive will select the other cueist.

The league matches of the Jubilee General Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2011, to start from October 23, will continue for three days before the commencement of the knockout games, starting from the pre-quarter-finals, from October 26.

The quarter-finals will be held on October 27 to be followed by the semifinals on October 28 and while the final and the prize distribution ceremony would be organized on October 29.

The total prizemony at stake will be Rs 150,000 with the winner to collect a purse of Rs 60,000 and the runner-up to take home Rs 35,000. Both the losing semifinalists will be receiving Rs 15,000 each while all the four losing quarter-finalists will be compensated with Rs 5,000 each. The highest break (100 or above) will earn a reward of Rs 5,000.

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October 6, 2011

Myra Nur Lakdawala could become Pakistan’s next athletics sensation


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Myra Nur Lakdawala, a young and hard-working middle-distance runner from Karachi, has shown the promise to make it big in the years to come. The 17-year-old slim girl already holds the junior national record for 1,500 meters and 3,000 meters besides being in possession of every track record in school.

Recently, on September 28, she broke 5 minutes for 1,500 meters by running 4:56.4. This historic feat, recorded on video, should provide her more encouragement. She trains two times a day and runs about 65 kilometers every week.

Myra seems to be having the potential as well as passion to accomplish her cherished goals on the track. She has starting attracting the sponsors with her immense talent and performance. PIA and Nike generously contribute towards her clothing and travel needs. Not surprisingly she is receiving letters of interest for scholarships from universities in the USA.

Her story is indeed an interesting one which could inspire the young ladies folks of Pakistan. She is probably the first-ever for a school girl of the country to have entered into athletics record books. She is the only female track and field athlete that is aspiring to receive a scholarship from a university in the USA for athletics. She has already been contacted by one in California that is interested in her.

I recently had the opportunity of having a session with Myra and her school athletics coach, Scott Johnson. Their fierce determination and professional approach left very little doubt in my mind about the future being very bright indeed.

What make Myra unique other than her abilities are her ambitions. Her confidence level is sky high and she has faith in her talent. She is not afraid to train hard day in and day out and she has set high goals for herself.

Myra is looking forward to compete in the upcoming National Athletics Championship due to be held in her hometown, Karachi, next month. She then plans to travel to Scotland with the aim of breaking the all time indoor national record for 3000 meters for Pakistani women.

Syed Zahid Ali Rizvi, President, Sindh Athletics Association (SAA) described Myra as a potential national champion who could also earn laurels for the country when I approached him for his assessment about the youngster.

He seconded me that Myra possessed exceptional talents as a middle distance runner and her stint with the school athletics coach, Scott Johnson, will help the cause of the teenager immensely.

“I have seen her run in a junior meet and she was thoroughly impressive. She will surely emerge as the champion at the provincial level right now but she is likely to be tested at the national level where she would come across a few other talented girls from upcountry regions and departments,” Zahid Rizvi stated.

“Myra, however, is fortunate to be blessed with a professional coach at the school where she receives regular training under his supervision. A top class coach like Scott Johnson can make a lot of difference and this puts her at tremendous advantage. The youngster has the potential which would blossom with high-class coaching and guidance,” the SAA President remarked.

“We are confident that Myra will bring glories for the province in the very near future and if she continues working hard there’s no reason why she should not earn laurels for the country in future,” Zahid Rizvi hoped.

The SAA President agreed that athletics needed more role models and champions to inspire the young students to take it seriously rather than just going through the motions.

“We have Nasim Hameed who became the fastest women of South Asia only last year. She belongs to Karachi having learnt all the basics here. She possessed the talent and came up to make the entire nation proud. Her accomplishment should be a source of inspiration for all the emerging athletes of our country,” Zahid Rizvi concluded.

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October 1, 2011

IPL/CL syndrome now deeply hurting South Africa


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The hand injury sustained by South Africa’s premier batsman AB de Villiers, during the ongoing Champions League tourney in India, has ruled him out of cricket for a period of four to six weeks.

He will surely miss South Africa's upcoming T20 and ODI series against Australia. He was due to make his captaincy debut for the country in the T20 encounter but his dreams were shattered after breaking the third finger on his left hand during fielding practice with the Royal Challengers Bangalore on September 28.

The injury indeed serves as a setback to South Africa's plans of starting a new era, with former opening batsman Gary Kirsten as head coach and de Villiers as captain in limited-overs version. Instead they find themselves pushed to a corner to work out a contingency plan right at the beginning.

The South African selectors or the management have not lashed out at the Champions League for obvious reasons but they certainly are feeling betrayed by this uncalled for and unnecessary exposure of their top guns at a time they should have been relaxing to prepare for the battle against Australia.

“We debated that at length and we will release the information around the captaincy at the same time as we release the squads, which will be early next week," Convenor of Selectors, Andrew Hudson, remarked in a diplomatic tone after chairing a meeting at the Wanderers.

“The Champions League hasn't been kind to us. Last year we lost Dale Steyn, Jacques Kallis and Albie Morkel and we can only hope we don't suffer more. What we are realising is that T20 is hard on players, it's intense. We're going to have accept that we will get injuries,” he added.

Well the South African chief selector at least expressed his concerns and recorded his apprehensions. The Indians, who have suffered the most due to the Indian Premier League as well as the Champions League, prefer not to open their mouth on this critical subject.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will not be speaking on the ills of the IPL or the CL because these are their babies and they have already done enough to suggest that international cricket or national glories come far below in their list of priorities. But I don’t think the other Boards will keep silent on this issue if the national interest would be compromised.

The South African cricket authorities have a responsibility to answer whether it was proper to let their players take part in the IPL or the CL instead of concentrating on national duties. Their reaction on the absence of de Villiers for the Australian series would be interesting to note.

Some of Australia’s top stars like Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin and Brett Lee are also being seen in action for their respective franchises in the CL. What would happen if they also get injured in some of the matches? Will Cricket Australia not stand up and explain what prompted them to let their star performers go there?

The only Board that remains above board at all times will be the BCCI because they seem to have been granted the license to play with the national interests. Nobody dared questioning them why the cricketers who were injured during the disastrous tour of England were allowed to play the CL. The follies of the BCCI will mainly hurt the cause of the Indian cricket for sure.

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