December 31, 2012

Bangladesh’s cricket tour to Pakistan in jeopardy once more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The fierce reaction of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) was expected when their Bangladeshi counterparts jeopardized Bangladesh cricket team’s tour to Pakistan once more. 

The PCB Chairman, Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf, didn’t hide his sentiments at learning about the decision of the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on the last day of 2012, to put on hold their proposed tour of Pakistan. 

"If they don't want to come it’s their own decision and we didn't force them. They had confirmed the tour to the PCB and the ICC three times and still they backed off. Now their reputation is at stake. If they don't want to respect their bilateral relationship then we will also respond in a same manner,” the PCB Chairman reacted. 

"We will take a principled stance on the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) but one thing is sure our players might not be free as we are making our own arrangements from next year,” Zaka Ashraf added. 

He didn’t mince words in stating that Bangladesh’s tour to Pakistan was almost confirmed and he found it strange that the BCB had pulled out from their commitment. He pledged that the PCB's efforts to revive international cricket in Pakistan were on track and they will soon manage to get a better team to tour Pakistan than Bangladesh. 

Earlier in the day, the BCB chief, Nazmul Hassan, had announced in a media briefing in Dhaka that Bangladesh will only tour Pakistan if the security situation in the country improved. 

"The ICC minutes have it that we have made an unconditional commitment to tour Pakistan. But there is concern among us about the country's security situation, it has deteriorated. We don't think it will be wise to visit Pakistan at this time," he said. 

"We have sent the PCB a letter three days ago, telling them of our stance. We will again contact them when their security situation improves. And we will go in the future, because we are committed to go there," Nazmul Hassan disclosed. 

"It isn't an easy decision for us. If we say we want to go, many people in the country will be hurt. If we don't go, there will be repercussions. We know the consequences. They may not want to send their players to the Bangladesh Premier League and our Dhaka leagues. They will probably not want to help us or support us," he thought. 

It’s not the first time when the BCB has played tricks with the PCB whose officials have been more generous than usual in luring them to undertake a visit in order to revive international cricket in the past. 

The PCB remains more than anxious to host them but the reluctance of the BCB functionaries to go ahead with the tour indicates their indecision and double-mindedness due to some reasons. 

Bangladesh’s cricket team was set to visit Pakistan earlier this year but they postponed it on grounds which were not too convincing. May be they are playing tricks with the PCB just to ensure that Pakistan’s cricketers continue appearing in the BPL.

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December 23, 2012

Tendulkar quits ODIs at least


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

If statistics is the sole criterion to judge a batsman then Sachin Tendulkar has to be put on top of the tree in One-day Internationals in which he played 463 matches, aggregated 18,426 runs and compiled 49 centuries, all of them world records. 

Tendulkar’s retirement from ODIs, on the eve of the upcoming home series against arch-rivals Pakistan, has hardly come as a surprise. 

"I have decided to retire from the One Day format of the game. I feel blessed to have fulfilled the dream of being part of a World Cup winning Indian team. The preparatory process to defend the World Cup in 2015 should begin early and in right earnest. I would like to wish the team all the very best for the future. I am eternally grateful to all my well wishers for their unconditional support and love over the years," Tendulkar said in a statement just before the selectors got together on December 23 to pick the squad for the Pakistan series. 

The most interesting comment to this decision has come from Kris Srikkanth, a former chairman of the selection committee. 

"Actually I am surprised. If he is continuing with international cricket (Tests) then he should have continued with ODI also. We play almost 25 ODIs in a season. It is very important to keep playing international cricket,” Srikkanth was quoted as saying. 

His observations carry enormous weight and he has demonstrated the same kind of courage which displayed while hooking the likes of the fiery Imran Khan who looked unplayable to many of his illustrious colleagues during that series of 1982-83 in which the Indians were blown away in Pakistan.
Tendulkar had done very little of note for India in the recent past, having become a liability for the team. His repeated failures and the inability to come to terms with even the average bowlers had made it absolutely clear that his days in the international arena were numbered. He already has had an extended career. 

As Srikkanth has suggested between the lines it’s really shocking why he has chosen to carry on playing Test cricket when he has lost the capability to do justice with the two-down position. 

Virat Kohli is very much there to take up the responsibility of batting at number four and Tendulkar will only be blocking the way of the gifted young batsman, whose frequency of winning matches for India is higher than that of the great man. 

Tendulkar’s reluctance to hang his boots has not surprised those who have considered his batting selfish all along, caring very little for his team. 

He has been accused of playing for personal records rather than for the glories of the team. This is substantiated by his dismal performance in many of the crunch situations where his own contemporaries Rahul Dravid and V V S Laxman rose to the occasion more often than not.

Dravid and Laxman, both Test specialists, have already quit the game although both of them looked in better form than Tendulkar during the last couple of years.

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December 12, 2012

Old wine in new bottle as Pakistan snooker body avoids going to polls


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) has become an entity of the past by having it renamed as the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSF) through a constitutional amendment passed in the Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) held at Hotel Beach Luxury in Karachi on December 12.  

The change in title of body didn’t mean changing traditions as they continued getting its officials elected unopposed and the whole lot, which was ruling for the past four years, was given an extension of four more years in the 32nd Annual General Meeting (AGM) which followed the EGM. 

There were hopes of real elections taking place for the first time since the cue sports body was founded originally by the name of the Billiards Association of Pakistan (BAP) in 1958 but it didn’t happen following the unending meetings with the challengers withdrawing their names at the eleventh hour to pave the way for a walkover to the incumbent office-bearers. 

As a result of the compromise Alamgir Anwar Shaikh (President), Abdul Wahid Qadir (Senior Vice President) Jawed H. Karim (Vice President), Munawwar Hussain Shaikh (Honorary Secretary) and Amir Abbas Poonawala, (Honorary Treasurer) were re-elected to their respective posts while Abdul Khalil Bachani, Abbas Saifuddin Valika, Abdul Rashid Lehra, Dr Amin Delawalla, M Amin Bawany, Nisar Ali Bhagat and Shabbir Hussain Daruwala were elected as members of the Executive Committee. 

The sitting office-bearers of the newly created federation have accomplished their cherished dream of getting a term of four years now but it remains to be seen if they would be able to weather the storm that seems in the air.

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December 11, 2012

SSUET to keep Aligarh spirit alive by sports promotion in big way: Engr Z A Nizami


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET) has vowed to keep the Aligarhian spirit alive by continuing the policy of promoting sports in a big way. 

Engr Z A Nizami, Chancellor, SSUET, and President, Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA), renewed the pledge while talking to a group of sports journalists at the University campus in Gulshan-e-Iqbal on December 10. 

Ali Zafar Khan Afridi, Joint Secretary (Sports), AMUOBA, who had secured admission in the Aligarh University in the 1940s on the basis of his all-round excellence in swimming, was also present on the occasion. 

“The legendary Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, who is credited to have played the pioneering role in enlightening the people of South Asia, laid great emphasis on education and sports. That’s why sports featured prominently in the list of priorities at the Aligarh University which he founded. The first-ever covered swimming pool of international standard in the entire region was built there,” Engr Nizami, who himself played tennis while studying at the famous Aligarh University, revealed. 

“The SSUET, founded by the AMUOBA in 1994, has been following the principles of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and the university has carried forward the Aligarhian spirit of sports among its students. We are delighted to be the largest university of the country in the private sector with more 5,000 students enrolled,” the SSUET Chancellor observed. 

“Special consideration is given to the outstanding athletes at the time of admission where the sports certificates carry certain marks. The performance in sports also helps them in getting scholarships,” Engr Nizami, who also served as the Director General of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA), added. 

“We have developed sporting facilities at the ground, owned by the Karachi Hockey Association, which is just opposite our campus. We encourage and support our students to actively take part in sports and quite a few of our teams have fared well in many competitions across the country,” he elaborated. 

“We have planned even bigger things for sports in future. We have decided in principle to build a sports complex in our new campus which is to be spread over 200 acres. Besides providing facilities for indoor games at the sports complex, we will also make an athletics field and a swimming pool,” he revealed. 

“At present we have space constraints here. Otherwise we would have developed more facilities than we actually have at the moment. Since sports remains in the list of our priorities we will make amends by building infrastructure projects that would serve the generations to come,” he announced. 

“We have passion and determination to play a lead role in motivating the students to engage in healthy activities like sports. We fully understand its importance and significance,” the SSUET Chancellor said. “Among the other initiatives to be launched in the near future are instituting ‘Athlete of the Year’ award at the SSUET,” Engr Nizami concluded.

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December 4, 2012

Asif brings world snooker crown to Pakistan after 18 years


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan have another world snooker champion after 18 years. It was the veteran Mohammad Yousuf who first accomplished the astonishing feat at Johannesburg, South Africa in 1994, and now it’s Mohammad Asif who has done it at Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012. 

In the interim period, Saleh Mohammad, now having returned to Afghanistan from where he hailed, had come very close to claiming the trophy at Jiangmen, China, in 2003 but fell at the last hurdle. 

It remains to be seen if Asif’s title victory helps in the revival of the Pakistan snooker or not but the cueist from Faisalabad has done his job and deserves to be complimented at having delivered against the heaviest the odds. 

He showed great resilience during the IBSF World Snooker Championship 2012 and his performance in the final, against Gary Wilson of Great Britain, was truly outstanding. He remained unbeaten in the entire competition and didn’t falter even in the crunch situations. 

He did achieve his cherished goal but not before some terribly anxious moments. Wilson, unlike the others, was unwilling to be routed and he fought on to combat the awesome skills of Asif.

The best of 19-frame final, which lasted nearly eight hours, remained open till the end. It was anybody’s game after 16 frames with both the contestants having won and lost eight frames. 

It was down to the last few frames. Asif won the 17th frame comprehensively but Wilson still held a chance of neutralizing the lead. The momentum was with Asif and he made it count by wrapping up the issue in the 18th frame to win the marathon encounter 10-8 with the scores of 36-73, 72-11, 29-67, 3-72, 79-39, 70-43, 27-67, 41-88, 29-106, 78-47, 1-85, 111-1, 64-4. 

Asif’s journey to the final had been hassle-free. He hammered Alex Borg of Malta 7-1 in the semifinals after having Mer Alkojah of Syria 6-2 in the quarter-finals. He was equally ruthless in the pre-quarter-finals having whacked Wael Talaat of Egypt 5-2. In his earlier knockout games, he trounced Vinnie Calabrese of Australia in straight frames after having blasted Yaser Elsherbiny of Egypt 4-1. 

Asif remained undefeated in the league matches, becoming Group H champion after overpowering Shachar Ruberg (Israel), Fabian Louison (Canada), Nadir Khan Sultani (Afghanistan) andAhmed Benraïssi (France). 

He did get an advantage by having topped the group at the end of the league matches which put him among the top four in the reseeding and avoided potentially explosive duels from the dangerous cueists of China and Thailand.

It’s for the second year running when the World Amateur Snooker Championship has been won by an Asian cueist.

Last year it was Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, the teenaged sensation from Iran, who grabbed the trophy at Bangalore, India.  

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November 30, 2012

Ponting already had an extended international career


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ricky Ponting’s decision to quit, finally, should not have come as a surprise. The former Australian captain made the announcement on November 29 with the third and final Test against South Africa, having started at the WACA in Perth on November 30. 

The journey which had begun at the same ground in December 1995 is now coming to a close at the same ground after 17 years. By the Australian standards it has been too long a career. 

Ponting’s illustrious contemporaries like the Waugh twins, Steve and Mark, Adam Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Mathew Hayden, had left the scene at a time when they still looked good for a few more seasons if not more. 

The case of Ponting was different, however. He was allowed an extended career despite undergoing a lean patch for considerable length of time.

The Australian cricket authorities had never been so lenient in the past but they seemed to have let the former captain stay on because there were not too many consistent batsmen around who could be his worthy replacement. 

Ponting’s form had declined quite a few seasons ago. He was not the same flamboyant self who used to dictate terms against the bowlers. 

He had lost his ability to dominate the bowling but he was hanging on. He looked a shadow on his own self during the last few years of his career. 

Gone were the days he pulled and cut the fast bowlers whenever they pitched short. Neither did he appear assured enough while driving the ball when the bowlers dared attacking him with full-pitched stuff. 

An odd innings or two not withstanding, he was at sea against the quality bowlers in the recent past. He couldn’t reproduce his top form even after handing over the captaincy to Michael Clarke. 

Ponting was given numerous chances, despite his ordinary performances, but he couldn’t make them count. His most recent failures against South Africa very clearly reflected that he was encountering problems of all kinds in the middle. 

He has made the right decision to hang his boots. Not that he was blocking the entry of any talented youngster but more because he was finding it increasingly difficult to put runs against his name. 

With the retirement of Ponting there will be greater pressure on skipper Clarke and Michael Hussey to continue their awesome form. They remain the only two reliable batsmen in the Australian line-up which used to have far too many in the past. 

The Australians have been producing fast bowlers who have pace and swing but their cupboard of quality batsmen has gone bare. That’s one reason they may find it difficult to be the top side of the world. 

They ruled the world, under Ponting, for a number of years because they were blessed with an extraordinarily gifted side. They had world-class batsmen from number one to seven which made their bowling even more lethal. 

It’s a different ball game now. The Australian speedsters do have the firepower to rout any side but their own batsmen don’t have the capability to score heavily in all conditions.

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Text of Ponting’s retirement speech


Pakistan News & Features Services

 “As you probably seem like you're all very aware now, a few hours ago I let the team know of my decision to make this Test match my last. It's a decision I thought long and hard about, put in long consideration about the decision, at the end of the day it was based on my results and my output really in this series so far.”
“It hasn't been what I expect of myself and it certainly hadn't been to the level that I feel is required for batsmen and players in the Australian team. As I've said all along, I'll continue to play this game as long as I felt that I could contribute to wins, play well enough to help the team win games, and over the last couple of weeks I think that my level of performance hasn't been good enough to do that.” 

“My passion and love for the game hasn't changed one bit, right through the last 12-18 months when things probably haven't been as I would've liked them or pictured them. I'll continue this season to play out the rest of the summer, and I'm looking forward to a full season of the Big Bash with the Hobart Hurricanes.” 

“But I think it's really important today, I could sit here all day and reflect on my career and talk about the great teams I've played in, the great players I've played with and against, but I honestly believe that's for another time, there's other days and times for that at the end of this game, at the end of my career that we can all get together and talk about those moments.” 

“As far as I'm concerned, my immediate focus now and the team's immediate focus is what we're presented with tomorrow. That's an unbelievable opportunity. We're going into what I believe is almost like a grand final.” 

“I've prepared well this week, and as I said to the boys this morning, I'm hungrier than ever and want this win probably more than any other game I've ever played in, so I'll do whatever I can this week to contribute to a great team performance.” 

“If that happens to lead to a win for the team and we get back to the top of the tree and No. 1 in the world then there's no better time for me to finish anyway. This week we've got a big job ahead, and especially me, I've got to lift my level of play from where it was last week to where it is this week. I've got a good feeling I can do that, and as I said there's no better stage than in a finals type game, a big game, to try to do that this week.” 

“Ironically, this is where it all started for me, I think 17 years ago, this is where it all started, and that's where it's going to finish.”

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November 13, 2012

HEC, PUSB initiate measures for sports promotion at grassroots level


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News and Features Services)

The 15th meeting of the Pakistan Universities Sports Board (PUSB) was held recently in Islamabad under the auspices of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) approved measures for the promotion of sports at the grassroots level. 

The meeting presided over by Dr Javaid Laghari, Chairperson PUSB/HEC, was attended by several vice chancellors of public and private sector universities. 

During the meeting, it was apprised that as an outcome of incentives and steps undertaken by the HEC for promotion of sport activities at university level, the university athletes have displayed considerable improvement in their performance at national and international level. 

It was also noted that the PUSB, having emerged as one of the largest sports setups in the county, has made its presence felt in a big way by organizing as many as 54 Inter-Varsities Championships in nearly all the major sports of the country during the last year thus actively promoting sports activities as nursery of national players. 

The meeting, also attended by Prof Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi, Advisor HRD, HEC, and Yahya Khan, Director General Sports, HEC, approved the inclusion of new disciplines of archery and Ju-jitsu in the Inter-Varsities Championships. 

The committee approved the suggestion that all the important national and international games would be included as part of Inter-Varsities Games. 

The house recommended that the Director Sports of the universities be sent abroad for training for broadening their vision and enhancing their capacity for better and effective administration of sport activities. 

 The PUSB/HEC committee also looked into the possibilities of introducing the Best Director Sports award at the provincial and federal level in the near future in order to encourage the performance of sports officers. 

The committee approved HEC Inter-Varsities all round trophy and cash prizes for the session 2011-12 with Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad to be awarded a special prize for organizing eight Inter-Varsities sports events. 

The meeting approved the rules for seeding, draws and systems of tournaments for the upcoming university sport events.

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November 12, 2012

Asif crashes in Dubai snooker final


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Pakistan’s premier cueist Mohammad Asif fell at the last hurdle of the 2012 Dubai International Open Snooker Tournament as he was overpowered by the 20-year-old Noppon Saengkham of Thailand in the final at the Dubai Snooker Club on November 10. 

The 27-year-old Asif appeared on course of bringing home their first cue sports title in 12 years but he couldn’t come to terms with the brilliance of the Thailand youngster who won the best of nine-frame final 5-2 with the scores of 61-10, 49-60, 60-40, 69-9, 31-63, 74-27, 64-46. 

Having performed exceptionally well in the semifinals, Asif held the psychological advantage going into the final but after having snatched two of the five frames he ran out of the steam in the decisive phase to lose the duel. 

Asif had produced stunning performance in the semifinals less than 24 hours ago as he whacked the dangerous Andy Lee of Hong Kong in straight frames. 

Saengkha, however, played superior game in the final and there was not much Pakistan's top cueist could have done to prevent the inevitable.

His defeat in the final meant Pakistan will have to wait longer for another cue sports title. After Mohammad Yousuf’s victory in the World Championship in 1994 and the Asian Championship in 1998 and Shaukat Ali’s gold medal in the individual event of the Asian Games in 1998, it was Mohammad Shafiq who clinched a regional title in 2000. 

Pakistan’s second participant, Asjad Iqbal, had crashed in the quarter-finals after having performed impressively in the league matches. He was knocked over by Lee whom Asif overwhelmed in the semifinal.

Saengkham, having outwitted Karam Fatima of Syria 5-3 in the semifinal, continued his brilliant form in the final to earn another title for Thailand, having emerged as the most powerful cue sports nation of Asia. 

The top 32 cueists of Asia belonging to 11 countries entered the competition. As many an as 16 of them were eliminated after the first round of league matches with the top 16 battling it out in another league round. 

Eight cueists were left in the arena for the knockout games and the line-up featured two qualifiers each from Pakistan, Thailand and Syria and one each from Hong Kong and hosts UAE.

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November 9, 2012

‘Sain’ Razaullah Khan is no more


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

‘Sain’ Razaullah Khan, one of the most enterprising characters of Pakistan cricket, has expired. He breathed his last on November 5 at the age of 75. He had been unwell for quite a while but he didn’t lose his sense of humour and satire until the very end. 

He might not have excelled as a first-class cricketer but he made amends by proving his mettle in the administration of the game. He will go down in history as one of the Pakistan’s most talked about organizers. 

His career in the field of cricket administration had two distinct phases. He was a fearless and courageous fellow who took pride in raising voice at the malpractices committed by the rulers of Pakistan cricket from time to time. 

Razaullah Khan, popularly known as ‘Sain’ because of his Sindhi background, was prepared to throw caution to the wind and take on even the most influential of people at the helm of the affairs in the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP) which later became the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

He even sacrificed his departmental job to continue fighting pitched battles against the then Board officials, who also left no stone unturned in creating hurdles of all kinds for him in order to ‘diffuse’ him. 

In those days Razaullah Khan was considered a ‘terror’ and the cricket establishment of the country remained scared of him because he would waste no time in ‘exposing’ their shortcomings to say the least. 

In that phase, while pursuing anti-Board stance, he displayed his organizational talents by launching various young cricketers, who later became stars. As the Secretary of the Sindh Cricket Association (SCA), he’s credited to have provided the platform to some of the youngsters who were earlier ignored by their own respective Associations. 

Razaullah Khan was instrumental in founding the sports department at the Muslim Commercial Bank (MCB) with the blessings of his ‘benefactor’ Hussain Lawai, one of the country’s most prominent bankers.

The turnaround came in 1999 when Razaullah Khan got employment at the PCB. Whether it were the economic compulsions or he had run out of steam after waging a war for decades, it must have been the toughest decision of life because he had to change himself completely since then. 

The man who was known for hitting headlines on a number of occasions for bringing to light the various conspiracies and malpractices of the Board was now himself a part of that set-up. He had been chained. 

Although he did speak about some burning issues with the usual venom of his occasionally once in a while, he had lost the sting after joining the PCB. He was dismayed when Ijaz Butt didn’t renew his contract which put him out of job last year. 

Despite his illness he had the desire to be a part of Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf’s team but his wish could not be fulfilled. 

Besides Hussain, Lawai, now President, Summit Bank, Waqar Hasan, a former Test batsman turned entrepreneur, and Irfan Mirza, the founder of the United Bank Limited (UBL) sports department, are among his all-weather friends alongwith Zahid Bashir, a former President of Karachi Gymkhana.

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October 25, 2012

Kallicharran emerges as candidate for Pakistan batting coach


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Alvin Kallicharran, one of the greatest West Indian batsmen of the 1970s and a former captain, has emerged as a strong candidate for the job of Pakistan’s batting coach. 
Having arrived Karachi as the coach of the International World XI on October 18, he has stayed back in town for a few days although the remaining squad has flown back to their respective countries. 

What a fabulous time he has had in Karachi! The media has been covering him like anything and he has every reason to feel overwhelmed by the headlines he hit for the past one week. 

I had a first conversation with him upon his arrival and it became crystal clear that he has come here with a very positive frame of mind and he was bound to win new friends mainly due to the clarity of his thought. 

His positive comments have been highlighted by the media daily for almost a week now. 

He can be seen on the television every day, charming people with the wealth of his cricketing knowledge and the eagerness to help the cause of the Pakistan cricket. 

He has not been short of words in making his feelings known candidly. As the things have unfolded of late, he might be required to live in Pakistan for quite a while if he is appointed the batting coach of Pakistan, a position for which there seem to be many aspirants. 

Kallicharran, who played 66 Test matches for the West Indies in an international career spanning close to a decade, has reacted cautiously to the speculations of him being offered the post of Pakistan’s batting coach. 

“Let the offer come first then can I only consider it” was the brief reply when asked if he was interested in the job. 

Kallicharran, whose elegance and poise as a prolific left-handed batsman is still talked about with great awe, has earned the support of no less than a man of the stature of the legendary Hanif Mohammad whom he called on at the latter’s residence in Karachi’s Al Hilal Society on October 24. 

The great Hanif reckoned that the struggling Pakistani batters will learn a great deal from Kallicharran, whom he considered the most appropriate person for the job.

Kallicharran, who captained the West Indies for a couple of years, was obviously delighted by the remarks of the ‘Little Master’ which has now put him in the list of favourites because of his standout qualities. 

With security concerns not in his mind at all, he could outshine all the other contenders if the officials of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) are looking for someone to do the job on a long-term basis.

Kallicharran, who coached the young trainees at the PIA Cricket Academy, housed in Karachi’s eastern part of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, for a couple of hours on October 24, emphasized on the importance of playing a long innings rather than becoming impatient in playing strokes. 

He will be doing a great service to the Pakistan cricket if he could teach them the virtues of the occupation of crease because lately the tendency has been to go out and slog from the outset.

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October 23, 2012

Recalling Wasim Bari’s pivotal role in Pakistan cricket


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Wasim Bari has been one strong pillar on whose shoulder the destiny of Pakistan cricket rested for quite a while. He was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar behind the stumps. Seldom did anything elude him even if it was yards away from him either side. 

He was hailed as the greatest-ever exponent of the art of wicket-keeping by none other than Alan Knott, who himself was a master artist. He had complimented Bari in a BBC show hosted by the greats John Arlott and Fred Trueman, when asked to compare the legendary wicket-keepers. 

It was the greatness of Knott as well for having showered Bari, one of his illustrious contemporaries, with lavish praise. 

The Englishman also acknowledged other gifted wicket-keepers but he had no doubt in his mind about Bari being a cut above the rest. 

The summer of 1971 was the most memorable one for Bari when he had managed to eclipse Knott with his brilliance, a fact which was even acknowledged publicly by a man of the stature of Ted Dexter. 

The whole of the 1970s as well as the early 1980s belonged to Bari as he helped the Pakistan bowlers enormously by plucking catches out of thin air. 

His unblemished wicket-keeping allowed the speedsters like Imran Khan and Sarfaraz Nawaz to fire on all cylinders. His nimble movement behind the stumps encouraged the spinners like Abdul Qadir and Iqbal Qasim to do all kinds of experimentation. 

He was the pivot around whom the Pakistan team revolved for well over a decade. He was the unsung hero. He was hardly ever mentioned in the headlines despite contributing most significantly in Pakistan’s rise among top teams of the world. Wicket-keeping indeed is a thankless job. 

All their good work is forgotten on basis of a single missed opportunity. Yet Bari was one man who committed very few mistakes in a remarkably long career. One must not forget that he had to stand and deliver on the dusty pitches of Pakistan where the ball hardly rose above the ankle height more often than not. 

Bari has remained an unassuming soul all his life. He has not cared to worry about his accomplishments not getting the due recognition whereas the lesser gifted colleagues of his caught the media attention somehow. 

A firm believer of letting his work do the talking he proved his mettle in senior management positions at the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), after hanging up his gloves. 

He also remained associated with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), having served as the chairman of the national selection committee for quite sometime, before joining the institution full-time. 

With enormous cricketing knowledge and experience allied with the senior management expertise, the soft-spoken Bari still has a lot to offer to Pakistan cricket. He is one man who can help tremendously in building bridges and closing the gaps. His role can be vital in lobbying with the other Cricket Boards at a time when the PCB is under pressure to revive international cricket in the country.

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Exemplary tolerance of Karachi crowd


Pakistan News & Features Services

The spectators who filled the National Stadium, Karachi, on October 20 and 21 for the T20 series between an International World XI and an All Pakistan Stars XI were the real heroes. 

The patience and endurance, besides passion for cricket, of the huge turnout on both evenings allowed the organizers to fulfill their dreams and accomplish their objectives. Just for the record All Pakistan Stars XI won the series 2-0. 

The stadium was packed to capacity in the first match with more than 35,000 people welcoming the return of international cricket of sorts. 

The attendance was slightly less the following day although it was a Sunday. The enthusiasts, who came along from the different parts of the metropolis, didn’t complain about the quality of cricket which was of poor standard to the least with the members of the International World XI looking rusty and totally out of form. 

How much the people of Karachi, particularly the youngsters, love the game of cricket was reflected from the big turnout in both the matches which were ‘unofficial’ and Pakistan’s national team was not playing. 

The crowds didn’t react to the dismal performance of the International World XI in every department of the game. 

There were signs, however, of their disapproval to the one-sided contests because the majority of them left the stadium well before the final ball was delivered. In normal circumstances they would have cheered the home team and celebrated the win rather enthusiastically. 

The only consolation for the spectators was having watched the foreign cricketers taking the field at the National Stadium after more than three years. 

The organizers, on their part, could have made greater effort in roping in better and fitter cricketers from abroad. They seemed to have compromised due to the financial reasons as the current players would have obviously demanded proper fees whereas the lot which came here, with the exception of a few, were well past their prime and anything offered to them must have been a bonus return for them. 

The presence of Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), in the second game sent a clear message that the Board had finally recognized the initiatives of Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, the Sindh Sports Minister, who braved all obstacles to turn his dream into reality. 

It could have been much better if the PCB had extended support to Dr Shah from the moment the idea was floated about six months ago. 

The PCB bigwigs in Lahore had their reservations and they tried their level best to have these games scrapped. These matches would have taken place in May, had the PCB supported Dr Shah right away which they didn’t for reasons not declared publicly. 

Ultimately the PCB had to bow to the demands of Dr Shah and the permission was accorded reluctantly which didn’t please Ehsan Mani, a former President of the International Cricket Council (ICC), in particular. Having acted disgracefully earlier, it was heartening to find the PCB Chairman engaging into damage control rather than making another egoistic move.

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October 21, 2012

Welcome return of ‘international’ cricket in Pakistan


Pakistan News & Features Services

The idea was right but the execution left a lot to be desired as far as the T20 series between an International World XI and an All Pakistan Stars XI is concerned. The first of the two exhibition T20 games was played under floodlights at the National Stadium, Karachi, on October 20 with the second once scheduled to be staged on October 21. 

The quality of cricket in the opening game was much below par to be considered an international match. The result hardly mattered but the people had filled the stadium in anticipation of a closely contested fixture and they had every chance to have returned home disappointed. 

Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah and his Asghar Ali Shah Foundation deserved compliments for having taken up the initiative for the revival of international cricket in Pakistan but they could have done a greater service to the cause of the sport by limiting the invitation only to those cricketers who were still active in the game. 

It became evident in the opening overs that the majority of the members of the International World XI were out of practice. Otherwise they might not have dropped half a dozen sitters in the first half of the Pakistan Stars XI innings. 

The catching and ground fielding of the visitors was terrible. They dropped the catches which the schoolboys would accept gleefully anytime. They misfielded as if they were unaware about the basics of the game. 

Although the home batsmen were the beneficiaries of pathetic display in the field the spectators would have loved to watch an absorbing contest rather than a lop-sided affair. 

The knowledgeable cricket fans of Karachi, who showed exemplary patience besides discipline, left the stadium quietly when the International World XI batting was rocked by Tabish Khan, who has not even played for Pakistan yet. 

If an uncapped fast-medium bowler could tear apart them with a hat-trick what would have been the scenario if someone like Umar Gul or Junaid Khan had been played in the game! 

It’s not often that the spectators leave the ground when the home side is on verge of victory. But there were hardly a few hundred of them left when the match was actually over. 

More than 35,000 people were present at the ground when the home side batted but people preferred to leave once the reply was such a weak one. They must have heard about the big names in the International World XI but they would not have anticipated them being out of touch. 

Following were the teams in the first match: 

All Pakistan Star XI: Shahid Afridi (captain), Umar Akmal, Shahzeb Hasan, Nasir Jamshed, Fawad Alam, Wahab Riaz, Shoaib Malik, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Imran Nazir, Anwar Ali and Tabish Khan. 

International World XI: S T Jayasuriya (captain), Mohammad Shahzad, M Hayward, JJC Lawson, LE Bosman, A Nel, RL Powell, MS Tshabalala, AJ Seymore, Shapoor Zadran, SR Taylor and A Sanford

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October 20, 2012

PCB’s reluctance to support Dr Shah disgraceful but not unexpected


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The International World XI, comprising cricketers from Afghanistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, is all set to take on the Pakistan All Stars XI in the first of the two Twenty20 games at the National Stadium, Karachi, on October 20 with the second one to be played the following day. 

It’s a monumental effort on part of Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, the Sindh Sports Minister, to have roped in the foreign cricketers and finally turned his cherished dream into reality. 

There has been no international cricket in Pakistan since March 2009 as tour after tours have been cancelled on the pretext of security concerns. Pakistan couldn’t even stage their quota of matches in the ICC World Cup 2011. 

Ijaz Butt was the Chairman of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) when a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricketers was attacked in Lahore in April 2009 after which the foreign teams have not been interested in touring Pakistan. 

Ijaz Butt’s tenure as the Chairman PCB was a nightmare for the Pakistan cricket to say the least and the local circles had heaved a sigh of relief when he was finally removed from office in 2011. 

His successor, Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf, was expected to do some damage control after the bleak period but unfortunately he hasn’t seemed much inclined towards undoing the malpractices and wrongdoings of his predecessor. 

Zaka Ashraf should have backed any initiative aimed at reviving the international cricket in Pakistan but unfortunately, instead of supporting Dr Shah, he decided to take him on initially. 

Dr Shah had to mobilize all his connections to keep his plans afloat. Wasn’t it shameful that the PCB was unwilling to extend me the support he desired to bring the World XI to Pakistan? 

The planned T20 series had to be postponed on a couple of occasions due to the hurdles erected by the PCB. 

It was not the International Cricket Council (ICC) but the PCB that delayed the resumption of international cricket in Pakistan by five months. 

The series could have easily taken place in May this year when the contract with the World XI players had already been signed. 

The PCB blocked the matches by refusing to let the Pakistan team play, offering a ridiculous excuse. 

Any other ordinary mortal would have given up due to the stance taken by the PCB which was in the forefront in stopping the revival of international cricket in Pakistan. 

Dr Shah is not just another person. Besides vision, he also has the perseverance to overcome the obstacles of various kinds. The PCB had to succumb to his plans and the permission was finally granted to him to go ahead with the two T20 matches which he desired to hold. 

Here was an opportunity for the PCB to make amends and capitalize on the efforts of Dr Shah. But they have shown once more than they are being governed by people with vested interests who have their own agenda.

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October 19, 2012

Heroes welcome to World XI cricketers in Karachi


Pakistan News & Features Services

The dream has finally come true and the World XI, featuring international cricketers from different corners of the globe, has landed in Karachi on October 18 and the bunch is enjoying its stay in the city about which they had heard stories of various sorts over the years. 

The World XI has been officially renamed as the International World XI by the organizers, following an objection by the International Cricket Council (ICC). 

They arrived in batches and were accorded heroes welcome at the Jinnah International Airport by the Sindh Sports Minister and Chief Organizer, Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, besides other members of the committee, having top officials of the Karachi City Cricket Association. 

Dr Shah considered the arrival of the international players a good sign for the future of cricket within the region. He termed the upcoming four days as extremely vital in resuscitating cricket within Pakistan. 

The South Africans were first to arrive in the early hours and they were followed by their teammates from the West Indies, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. They were garlanded upon their arrival and there was large presence of the media at the airport to meet and greet them amid strict security arrangements. 

The World XI is being led by Sri Lanka’s former captain Sanath Jayasuriya, whose swashbuckling knocks must be fresh in the minds of his large number of fans in Pakistan. 

The World XI will lock horns against the Pakistan XI, being skippered by Shahid Khan Afridi, in back to back Twenty20 matches under floodlights at the National Stadium, Karachi, on October 20 and 21. They will be playing for the A O Trophy. 

Jayasuriya hoped that these couple of games would help bring international cricket back to the troubled land. 

“I am happy to be back in Pakistan after a long time. The people here love cricket and the two exhibition matches will be a big occasion for the game,” Jayasuriya told reporters at the airport. 

Manager Alvin Kallicharran from the West Indies was ecstatic to be back in Pakistan after more than three decades, declaring that there should be no issues in the revival of international cricket in this part of the world. 

All-rounder Ricardo Powell, also from the West Indies, didn’t have any apprehensions about playing in Pakistan either, saying it’s is a good opportunity for them to provide some excitement to cricket fans in Karachi. 

South Africa fast bowler Andrea Nel stated that the purpose of the visit was to help Pakistan and help the return of top-flight international cricket in the country. 

Another South Africa cricketer Nantie Hayward felt that it was his ‘responsibility as a cricketer to help the game.’ 

All the foreign cricketers, as well as the home team, were moved to a heavily guarded five-star hotel of Karachi where they were observed enjoying themselves as normally as anywhere else in the world.

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October 15, 2012

Training Programme for Sports Turf Manager inaugurated


Pakistan News & Features Services

The two-month long training session for Sports Turf Managers, being organized by the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, with the collaboration of the Customs Cricket Academy (CCA), Karachi, was inaugurated at the CCA on October 15. 

It’s being organized under the banner of Benazir Bhutto Shaheed Youth Development Programme (BBSYDP). 

The selected 40 boys and girls will start their training at the CCA from October 16. 

Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari, Sindh Minister of Youth Affairs, was to be the chief guest on the occasion but he could not attend the ceremony due to his preoccupations in some important matters. 

Khurshid Ali Shaikh, Director, Youth Affairs Department, performed the inauguration and highlighted salient features of the training programmes. 

“The Ministry of Youth Affair, under the able leadership of Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari has been providing opportunities to the youngsters of Sindh to enhance their skills in order to create greater job opportunities for them,” he noted. 

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, was also complimented for the initiatives aimed at training the youngsters to get off to a flying start to their professional career. 

Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and the Event Director, unveiled the technical aspects of the training programme. 

“It is a new field for sports management in Pakistan. However it has a great scope of job in other parts of the world,” he informed. 

The CCA has acquired the services of experts of different areas of the training programme such as infrastructure development, management maintenance and equipment. 

The training programme will be run by the CCA five days a week which include theory, practical work, group discussion and field study tours. 

Prominent among those having attended the ceremony were Mahboob Shah (International Umpire), Siddiq Shaikh (Pakistan Football Federation), Dr Arif Kamal (Karachi University), Waqar Hussain (Assistant Collector Customs) and Haris Ahmed Khan (Qualified Cricket Coach).

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October 13, 2012

Cueist Asif contracted by Langnese


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The reigning national champion Mohammad Asif, who successfully defended title by whacking second seed Asjad Iqbal in the final of the Langnese 4th Snooker Cup Ranking Tournament 2012 here at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Sports Complex a few days ago, has been rewarded with a one-year sponsorship deal. 

The 27-year-old Asif, hailing from Faisalabad, will be getting a stipend of Rs10,000 per month for the next one year from Anjum Asif (Pvt) Ltd, the manufacturers of popular brands Langnese and Del Monte. 

“Asif, who will represent Pakistan in the World Snooker Championship next month, has turned out to be most consistent cueist during the last one year and we would like to see his graph going further up. He deserves the encouragement to sustain his solid performance,” the company’s Managing Director, Anjum Nisar, remarked while confirming the deal. 

“We have been one of the supporters of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) for the past few years, having sponsored a national ranking tournament every year. Before taking Asif in our folds, we had a similar deal with Imran Shahzad, then the number cueist of the country, for a couple of years,” he added. 

Anjum Nisar, who is a former President of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), stressed that cue sports need a lot of sponsorship support for its sustenance and development. 

“The PBSA has done an excellent job by securing a piece of land from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) for the purpose of setting up the first-ever snooker academy in the country. The Association needs to be supported in their efforts for building the academy,” he stated. 

“Our company has already announced a token contribution of Rupees one lac and we would mobilize our resources in the KCCI to generate substantial funds for the snooker academy project,” Anjum Nisar promised.

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