March 31, 2012

Mahmood Lodhi determined to become Pakistan’s first Grand Master


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

International Master, Mahmood Lodhi, who holds the record of winning Pakistan’s national chess championship on the highest number of occasion, has expressed his fierce determination to become the country’s first-ever Grand Master.

“It’s my ambition and I desire to achieve it in not too distant future. Despite the hardships I have had to endure over the years, I remain determined to accomplish the most cherished goal of my careerm” the master craftsman observed in an informal chat at Marathon House in Karachi on March 31.

He acknowledged the timely support of the Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), having helped him in regrouping when those at the helm of the affairs in the governing body of his own sport had deserted him.

“I am thoroughly grateful to the MSAP and their Director, Tariq Rasheed Khan, who have encouraged me with their deeds. Life would have been tougher without their help at this stage,” he conceded.

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Hunain, Majid off to Goa for Asian battle


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan’s promising teenaged duo of Mohammad Hunain Aamir and Mohammad Majid Ali have left the shores of the country to participate in the 13th Asian Junior (U-21) Snooker Championship 2012 starting in Goa, India, on April 2.

Both the cueists, alongwith referee Shabbir Hussain Daruwala, who will also be acting as manager, flew out of Karachi on March 31 and they will be reaching Goa, via Colombo and Mumbai, on April 1.

A total of 33 cueists from 10 countries will be contesting the 13th edition of the Asian Junior Championship which gets underway on Monday. The participants have been divided in eight groups with the top two to reach the knockout stage starting with the pre-quarter-finals. The final will be played on April 9.

Hosts India are fielding the highest number of cueists with half a dozen entries while Iran, with five, have the biggest participation among the foreign teams. Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, China, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates (UAE) have three participants each while Pakistan and Sri Lanka have two entries each.

Sialkot’s Mohammad Hunain Aamir, emerged triumphant in the Jubilee Insurance Pakistan Junior Under-21 Snooker Championship 2012 staged in Lahore, has been placed in the Group A, alongwith Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, the reigning world champion from Iran, Lalit Dhaiya of India and Marcus Lim Wie Jie of Singapre.

Faisalabad’s Mohammad Majid Ali, who ended runner-up in the National Junior Championship, has been drawn in the Group D in the company of Akani Songsermasawad (Thailand), Chang Yung Kiu (Hong Kong) and Sylavosh Mozayani (Iran).

It will be maiden international exposure for both the talented youngsters, who, however, were granted an opportunity by the PBSA of competing in the Jubilee Insurance Pakistan 37th National Snooker Championship 2012 held in Karachi last month.

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Precision Marathon outwit JK IV to retain national crown


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Precision Marathon, a blend of youth and experience, retained the crown by outwitting JK IV, comprising of seasoned campaigners, in the final of the National Bridge Championship 2012 which concluded at the Lahore Gymkhana on March 27.

By winning the championship, which also served as the national trials, Precision Marathon earned the right to represent Pakistan in the 2nd World Mind Sports Championship, scheduled to be staged at Lille, France, in August.

It was in the fitness of things that the final of the event was contested between the two best teams of the competition. Precision Marathon came back strongly after an uncertain start in the league matches while JK IV remained impressive all along until the final where they were downed by the former.

Starting the final with a disadvantage of 12.5 Victory Points (VPs), Precision Marathon from Karachi, featuring Tehsin Gheewala, Hasan Askari, Khalid Mohiuddin, Mubashir Puri, Junaid Said and Farrukh Liaquat with Tariq Rasheed Khan being the non-playing captain, triumphed in all the four segements to win the final 138-111.5.

JK IV from Lahore, containing Javed Khalid, Mirza Shauq Hussain, Saeed Akhtar and Masud Mazhar, who emerged as the top team in the league matches and extended their brilliant run in the semifinal against Century Insurance, could not reproduce their top game in the title clash.

JK IV, comprising of seasoned campaigners, entered the final with a carryover of 12.5 VPs on the basis of their better show in the earlier games. But they were derailed in the very first segment which their opponents won 47-24,

Precision Marathon, showing mental toughness to come to terms with the pressure games, did not look back after the excellent start which enabled them to neutralize the carryover factor very early.

Fierce battle for supremacy was witnessed in the remaining three segments between the two top sides of the event. Neither of them was prepared to give up but Precision Marathon emerged triumphant in all those closely contested ties to retain control.

They won the last three segments by the scores of 27-19, 31-26 and 33-30 with 27.5 VPs seperating the sides in the end. JK IV fought gallantly, not allowing their opponents to go into comfort zone at any stage, and the contest remained open until the end.

Originally eight teams from all over the country were to take part in the five-day final leg of the National Championship but Allana from Karachi pulled out at the eleventh hour. The seven participating teams were engaged in a double round robin battle, spread over three days, before the knockout phase starting with the semifinals.

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March 23, 2012

Precision Marathon start as favourites in final leg of National Championship


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Precision Marathon, having Tehsin Gheewala, Hasan Askari, Khalid Mohiuddin, Mubashir Puri, Junaid Said and Farrukh Liaquat with Tariq Rasheed Khan being the non-playing captain, started as the favourites in the final leg of the National Championship 2012 which commenced at Lahore Gymkhana on March 23.

As in the past the National Championship is also serving as the trials to select the national team with the winners of the Lahore event to earn the right to represent Pakistan in the 2nd Mind Sports Championship, scheduled to be staged at Lille, France, in August.

Precision Marathon, a blend of youth and experience, are also the defending champions, having captured the national crown under the banner of Data Steel last year. The alteration in nomenclature was prompted by the change of their sponsors. They got off to a flying start by winning the Sindh leg of the National Championship.

Allana, former national champions and one of the most experienced outfits of the country, have withdrawn from the final leg at the eleventh hour, after having qualified from Sindh.

The star-studded Allana, featuring Abdul Rahman Allana, Khurshid Hadi, Kemal Shoaib, Tahir Masood, Imran Jaka and Javed Ahmed Miran, decided not to proceed to Lahore just a few days before the start of the event.

When approached for comments, Khurshid Hadi, a former President of the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF), stated that it was a consensus decision in the end not to take part in the final round due to a combination of factors.

Masud Mazhar, Honorary Treasurer of the PBF, confirmed from Lahore that the withdrawal from Allana had been received and the final leg of the National Championship will now be limited to seven teams instead of eight.

The seven participating teams will be engaged in a double round robin battle before the knockout stage starting with the semifinals. The league matches will continue for three days while the semifinals and the final to be played on the last two days.

Defending champions Precision Marathon, Chandna and Century Insurance are the teams from Sindh which will be contesting the final leg of the National Championship alongwith four upcountry teams, Pre-empters, JK IV, Sabers and Engineers.

Chandna, comprising of Shakeel Ahmed Chandna, Pervaiz Mirza, Ghulam Mohammed, Anwer Kizilbash, Navaid Anjum Zaidi and Azwer-ul-Haque, and Century Insurance, having Shaikh Abdul Muqeet, Syed Asghar Abbas, Abdul Khaliq, Ghufran Ashraf and Yawar Abbas, are the other contestants from Sindh.

Pre-emptors, containing Izzat Khalil, Air Cdre.Safdar Mahmood, Asad Iqbal, Jahangir Ahmed, Malik Ghias and Ahsan Qureshi, and JK IV, having Javed Khalid, Mirza Shauq Hussain, Saeed Akhtar and Masood Mazhar, are the two outfits to have qualified from Lahore.

Sabers, consisting of Niaz Hussain, Air Cdre Qanar Kayani, Abdul Hamid, Azra Raja and Chaudhary Ijaz Ahmed, and Engineers featuring Yasir Rahim, Mudassar Rahim, Qasim Rahim, Ali Ahmed, Mohammad Ali and Mohammad Imran, are the two qualifiers from the federal capital.

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March 22, 2012

Bangladesh run out of luck against Pakistan as usual


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

One thing about the final of the otherwise maligned Asia Cup 2012 is certain. That it was not a fixed match, something which could not be said with conviction and certainity about some of the earlier games.

The final between hosts Bangladesh and Pakistan was a routine affair having predictable result with the latter emerging triumphant with the skin of their teeth. It was not unusual to find Pakistan being helped by the fringe members of their team.

Will you believe it that wicketkeeper Sarfaraz Ahmed, who was not being beinf played in the crunch games, turned out to be Pakistan’s topscorer? Equally awesome was the performance of fast bowler Aizaz Cheema, who wasn’t an automatic choice either.

But these are the norms in Pakistan cricket. Those least likely to do it in ordinary circumstances come up with something sensational to turn the tide decisively. They won the final by a couple of runs while defending a modest score of 236.

Bangladesh would have realized that defeating Pakistan, no matter how inexperienced or vulnerable they may look on paper, present the toghest challenge in the world. They may be good enough to overpower the World Cup finalists but they run out of steam in taking on the semifinalists.

It must not be often when Bangladesh control the game but fail to cross the line. But it happened two times and on both occasion Pakistan were their opponents. They had overtaken a much bigger total of 290 against the world champions but they crashed reaching a modest target of 237 in the final.

Whether they will curse that final over from Shahadat Hussain which went for 19 runs with the last pair in or they hold the others responsible for it, Bangladesh had reasons to feel deprived of their maiden title win.

At 170 for three, with Nasir Hossain and Shakib Al Hasan going great guns, Bangladesh appeared on course of a comfortable win. Only 67 more runs were needed in eight overs which looked a straighforward task for them considering the purple patch of their batsmen.

But as we have seen so many times in the past, Pakistan came back from nowhere to derail the home side which, only for the second time in the tournament, faltered from a position of strength.

It was being anticipated that they would not repeat their mistakes after having suffered a loss at the hands of Pakistan in their league fixture. But they proved everyone wrong by literally throwing the match away.

The kind of fortune Misbah-ul-Haq has been enjoying for the past few months it was going to be difficult to tame him but Bangladesh were expected to perform much better than they did in their first-ever appearance in a final.

Irrespective of the conditions in which they had registered thumping victories over India and Sri Lanka the momentum was with Bangladesh and they seemed to be having a balanced outfit to bring home their maiden title. They ran out of luck, more than out of steam, in the final.

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Cricket suffers yet another major jolt in Asia Cup 2012


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Cricket was once again disgraced out in the open during the Asia Cup 2012 when hosts Bangladesh marched into final after recording a comfortable victory over Sri Lanka in the last league fixture on March 20. The outcome was as much predictable as the body language and the efforts on the field of the two teams.

The equation was quite uncomplicated and straightforward. It was not rocket science. Bangladesh had to win and Sri Lanka had to lose in order to prevent defending champions India from reaching the final. A Bangladesh-Pakistan final was predicted before the start of the game and every thing went according to the plan. The Nature also didn’t come in the way.

Although India, who had emerged triumphant in the last edition of the Asia Cup before going on to win the World Cup less than a year ago, wouldn’t have mind exiting from the tournament because they accomplished everything else other than retaining the title.

India should be returning home satisfied having overpowered both their bitter rivals, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, besides having watched their record-breaking batsman Sachin Tendulkur fulfill his ambition of scoring 100th international ton.

The Indian cricket authorities won’t feel embarassed for the above reacons but the cricket fans over there must have felt disheartened if not cheated by the shady deals that appeared to have taken place that marred the Bangladesh-India game.

In the prevailing circumstances every match in the Asia Cup is suspected of being fixed but there are two matches in particular where the emotions of a large number of people seemed to have been played with. It became apparent on so many occasions during the Bangladesh-Sri Lanka encounter that an engieered result was on the cards.

Bangladesh have rewritten their cricket history by advancing to the final of the Asia Cup for the first time. That they have done it in dubious manner, apparently with the support of the outside forces, certainly takes gloss out of their most awesome accomplishment yet.

They may even win the Asia Cup for the first time, since the event was launched in 1984. They would enter the final against Pakistan as underdogs despite their unexpected triumphs over India and Sri Lanka, the finalists of the last World Cup.

The kind of cricket that’s being played in the tournament and knowing the unpredictability and vulnerability of the Pakistanis in crunch games it should come as no real surprise if Bangladesh lift the trophy on March 22.

Interestingly betting and match-fixing were in the stage of infancy when the inaugural Asia Cup was staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than quarter of a century ago. Sharjah had just been inducted as a venue for One-day Internationals.

28 years down the road the mechanics of cricket have changed. In the past only just an odd game or two in years were feared to have been manipulated. It has become the other way round now. There are very few games that seem to remain unaffected of the outside forces. Let’s see how long cricket can endure this pain.

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March 19, 2012

Sir Syed University win Unilympics 2012


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET) won the general championship trophy in the Unilympics 2012 organized recently by FAST National University of Computers and Emerging Sciences, at their Karachi campus.

SSUET emerged as the worthy winners of the All Star Trophy after winning the tournaments of table tennis and volleyball.

SSUET, having become one of the leading engineering universities of the country in a relatively short span of time, has been actively engaged in co-curricular activities and their athletes have been faring rather well in the various sporting events held from time to time.

A total of 15 educational institutions, representing universities and their affiliated colleges/high schools, from all over the metropolis took part in the two-day event in which competitions were held in basketball, table tennis, volleyball, throw ball and futsal.

‘It's not just Playing, It's Living the Sports’ was the slogan of the event, acclaimed as the biggest and the liveliest sporting extravaganza at the university level. It was organized by Sportics, the sports society of FAST NU.

The students of the FAST NU have been passionate about sports and their versatile society has built a platform to hold a competition featuring the top educational institutions of the metropolis. It made great sense to organize the Unilympics 2012 a few months before the Olympics 2012.

The preliminary round matches of all five disciplines of the Unilympics 2012 were held on the opening day with the semifinals and the finals taking place on the more exciting and absorbing last day of the event.

SSUET extended their supremacy in table tennis as the duo of Bilal Tariq and Taha Shibli, brought home the gold medal for the third year running. They remained undefeated in the competition.

SSUET made winning debut in volleyball with their outfit, comprising of Nooruddin Moeenuddin, Waqar Ali, Tehzeeb Sardar, Jamhoor Alam, Pervez Karim, Shamul Kamal, Shafiur ur Rehman, Muhammad Ismail and Tariq Amin, overpowering PAF City School 3-1 in the final.

Hosts FAST NU annexed the basketball title by outsmarting Fazayya Degree College, Malir, in the final while St Joseph Convent Girls High School claimed the throw ball trophy by defeating FAST NU in the final.

Fazayya Degree College, Malir dominated the futsal competition held on the lush green field. They secured gold medal by outwitting NED University of Engineering & Technology in the final.

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March 18, 2012

India unsure of a place in Asia Cup final despite another Kohli special


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Pakistan may win the Asia Cup and India may not still reach its final. That’s how the situation remained even after Virat Kohli’s spectacular 183 off 148 balls that helped the Indians reach the stiff target of 330 with 13 deliveries remaining.

The scenario is not much different to the one at Hobart, Australia, a little while ago. India had needed a massive win over Sri Lanka in their last league outing to stay afloat which they did achieve, mainly due to the heroics of Kohli.

Despite the sensational victory at Hobart India’s fate had depended on the outcome of the Australia-Sri Lanka. Not surprisingly the Sri Lankans prevailed over the hosts to send India home early.

Sri Lanka can spoil the party for the Indians once more, having done it so many times in the past. India will exit from the Asia Cup if Banglalesh defeats Sri Lanka in the last league fixture of the tournament. It’s not the question of claiming a bonus point. Bangladesh will walk into the final only if they win their last game.

India would have paid the price of what looked like having gifted the match to Bangladesh in the process of securing 100th international ton for Sachin Tendulkar, if they are denied a place in the final even after having overpowered Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

India’s successful run chase against Pakistan on March 18 underlined the growing confidence of their young guns and the uncertainty in the minds of the old guard. Now Tendulkar, with nearly every batting record under his belt, has to play second fiddle to Kohli.

The enigmatic left-hander Gautam Gambhir somehow got a hundred in the opening game but he flopped miserably in the following two matches. He has already lost the vice-captaincy and if he contunues to fare inconsistently he could well be thrown out of the team too.

The promising youngsters like Rohit Sharma and Suresh Raina have sit on the sidelines for quite a while in order to accommodate the veterans but now the time has come to move forward and bring about a change in policy.

With Kohli having matured into a top-class batsman, the Indian selectors need to be brave in giving longer runs to the likes of Sharma and Raina to let them get the feel of playing in all sorts of circumstances.

The Indian batsmen may be vulnerable to the short balls on the bouncy or seaming tracks but they seem to be in total control when playing on the docile sub-coninental pitches where the ball barely rises and hardly ever moves, particularly with the majority of the games being day-nighters.

That’s how they chased down the target of 330 with remarkable ease against Pakistan at Dhaka under floodlights. That’s why their inability to score briskly in the previous game against Bangladesh looked strange and raised questions. Isn’t it incredible that they managed scores in the excess of 300 against stronger and more resourceful bowling attacks of Pakistan and Sri Lanka but failed to do so against the hosts.

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Match gifted to celebrate Tendulkar’s 100th ton?


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

How to classify the Asia Cup encounter between hosts Bangladesh and defending champions India at Dhaka on March 16, 2012? Was it the most memorable day for Indian cricket when Sachin Tendulkar completed the much awaited 100th international ton? Or was it the most shameful of days when succumbed to the minnows?

The majority of the people as well as the common sense say that a win-win situation was created by the stakeholders to let the Little Master reach the milestone which was haunting him for over a year.

Tendulkar did get the 100th hundred but at the cost of yet another match. Whether it was by design or by default the bottom line was that the team lost the game. As a newspaper highlighted in its report, it was his 25th century having come in a losing cause.

This is not to suggest that whenever he scores a hundred his team is going to be the second best on the day but there are valid reasons to prove the point that his centuries have not won matches for India.

Have a look at his last three centuries for example. The Indians were humiliated by Bangladesh at Dhaka when he scored his 100th century. India had lost to South Africa at Nagpur during the 2011 World Cup when Tendulkar amassed his 99th hundred. In the same competition India’s match against England at Bangalore was tied after he scored his 98th ton.

There are many people who believe that Tendulkar plays for himself rather than for the team. After all it can’t be mere coincidence that India rarely wins when he scores heavily. He has not been in the business of saving Test matches either for a very long time.

His records are unlikely to broken but it’s for the analysts and the statisticians to work out exactly if he has caused more damage to the team or has helped it. Wasn’t his latest century as forgettable as many of those that harmed the team’s interest?

It was an ordinary innings by his high standards. It was a patchy knock that cost his team immensely. He was not on top of the bowling at any stage and when he tried to make amends he was scalped.

It was the easiest of pitches to bat on and the outfield was very quick. The runs were there to be taking against a friendly bowling attack lacking fire or intensity. But it became much too obvious that the basic purpose of the proceedings to let Tendulkar get to his landmark.

Virat Kohli and Suresh Raina, in mercurial touch, kept on providing the strike to Tendulkar rather than going after the bowling to post a big total. The master batsman was unable to dominate the Bangladesh bowlers and even his 100th run reflected nerves and uncertainty.

The low-key celebrations that followed had conveyed the message to many people that things were manipulated to ensure the 100th century. The refusal of the Indian batsmen to attempt quick runs in the death overs with wickets in hands dropped hints that the plan was not to set a daunting target for the home side. As was being anticipated in the knowledgeable circles Bangladesh did reach the target later in the evening.

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March 15, 2012

Tendulkar’s best chance to complete 100th international hundred


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Sachin Tendulkar would be hoping that Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who probably loses more tosses than any other contemporary captain, calls correctly and opts to bat first in the Asia Cup tie against Bangladesh on March 16.

There’s also a distinct possibility that the Bangladesh skipper, Mushfiqur Rahim, decides to field first, after winning the toss, in anticipation of limiting the Indians and chasing down the target in quick time to improve the run-rate besides claiming the bonus point.

In the event of India batting first, Tendulkar will have greater chance of reaching the milestone that has eluded him for more than a year now. It looks ages now when he had posted his 99th international hundred against South Africa at Nagpur during the 2011 World Cup.

The form he was in during the World Cup his next hundred had looked just round the corner. It should have come during the course of the tournament that was being held in the sub-continent where the pitches were featherbeds. The bowlers were at the mercy of the batsmen and it seemed a matter of time for him to get to the most coveted of landmarks.

Who could have imagined that he would still be searching for that elusive century after having had 33 outings in the middle so far? Yes it’s a fact, not fiction, that the man who was scoring centuries at will previously would not be able to do it for so long.

More extraordinary is the fact that he has never looked out of touch in this century-less period. He has been on top of the bowling more often than not and every time he has gone past 50 there has been expectations of the milestone being reached during the next few hours.

He has scored runs but the centuries have dried, costing India many matches, particularly the Tests abroad. His inability to score hundreds derailed the team on the disastrous tours of England and Australia where his team lost all eight Test matches.

His failure to get his 100th hundred in a Test match seemed to have prompted the selectors to play him in the One-day Internationals in Australia recently where he was unable to get to the much talked about landmark despite getting enough chances.

It appears very clear that Tendulkar has gone to Bangladesh more in pursuit of his personal record rather than with the ambition of playing any significant role in letting his team defend the Asia Cup title.

He got out cheaply in the opening game against Sri Lanka where Gautam Gambhir and Virat Kohli complied centuries while confronting an inexperienced bowling attack on a batting-friendly pitch.

The game against Bangladesh on March 16 offers him another golden opportunity. If he misses out again then he may have to wait much longer. It is not to suggest that he doesn’t have the capability to score a century against Pakistan but the probability of doing it in such high-voltage match would be remote to say the least.

There would indeed be one more opening created for him if India do advance into the final but we all know that Tendulkar doesn’t have had the inclination to score a century in the final of a tournament.

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Precision Marathon off to a flyer in National Bridge


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Precision Marathon, featuring Tehsin Gheewala, Hasan Askari, Khalid Mohiuddin, Mubashir Puri, Junaid Said and Farrukh Liaquat, with Tariq Rasheed Khan being non-playing captain, emerged champions in the Sindh leg of the Bareeze National Bridge Championship 2012 held at Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi.

Four teams from Sindh and two each from Punjab and Islamabad will participate in the final leg of the National Championship, also serving as trials to select the national team for the year, to be organized in Lahore later this month.

The famous Lahore Gymkhana Club will host final battle between the top eight bridge outfits of the country, to be held from March 23 to 27. The winners will earn the right to represent Pakistan in the 2nd Mind Sports Championship, scheduled to be staged at Lille, France, in August.

Precision Marathon, Chandna, Allana and Century Insurance are the four teams from Sindh to have qualified to play the final round of the National Championship while Pre-emtpors and J K IV have made it from Lahore. They will be joined by the top two teams of the Islamabad leg of the event to be held during the upcoming weekend.

Seven teams from Sindh contested the first leg of the championship after it was decided to limit the participation to those teams who are serious in competing in the final segment at Lahore.

Right from the outset it was anticipated that Precision Marathon, Allana, Solox were certain to qualify and for the fourth place it seemed open for Chandna, Century Homes or Tanvir, with Foxy being the dark horses.

The star-studded Precision stood firm throughout and remained unbeaten in the competition. It was a perfect team work which allowed them to dominate and they thoroughly deserved the top place with an aggregate of 134 Victory Points (VPs).

Chandna, having Shakeel Ahmed Chandna, Pervaiz Mirza, Navaid Anjum, M. Azwer-ul-Haque, Anwer Kizilbash and Ghulam Muhammed, scored 115 VPs and finished as the runners-up.

Allana, with the veterans like Abdul Rehman Allana, Kemal Shoaib, Khurshid Hadi, international pair of Javed Miran and Tahir Masood, alongwith Imran Jaka qualifed on third position with a score of 109 VPs.

Solox, who seemed certain to qualify, failed to live up to the expectations. They had the big names like Shahin Iqbal, Gulzar Ahmad Bilal, Mirza Ziaullah Baig and Hamid Mohiuddin.

Century Insurance, having. Asghar Abbas, Yawar Abbas, Shaikh Abdul Muqeet, Ghufran Ashraf, Abdul Khaliq and Wajahat Suri, combined perfectly to make the last four and qualify for the final round of the National Championship.

Century Insurance and Solox were tied with on points at the fourth position but the former made the nod by virtue of having beaten the latter in their clash.

In the Punjab leg of the championship, Pre-emptors comprising of Izzat Khalil, Air Cdre.Safdar Mahmood, Asad Iqbal, Jahangir Ahmed Malik Ghias and Ahsan Qureshi excelled in the double round robin matches to finishon top with 62 Victory Points (VPs). They defeated Tigers and Silver Star with a big margin 25-2 and 25-4 respectively before losing 12-18 to J K IV.

J.K. IV, featuring Javed Khalid, Mirza Shauq Hussain, Saeed Akhtar and Masood Mazhar, accumulated 48 VPs to take the runners-up slot. They played 15-15 draws against Silver Star and Tigers before toppling the eventual champions.

Tigers, having Moin Rauf, Rana Kamal, Suleman Bokhari, Sajjid Bokhari Hamza and Salman Ahmed, came third with 38 VP’s while Silver Star, consisting of Taqi Imam, Tanvir Ahmed, Sikander Butt, Imran Khan and Mian Tariq, stood fourth with 38 VP’s.

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March 14, 2012

Pakistan snooker authorities interested in acquiring Yasin Merchant’s services


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India’s ace cueist, Yasin Merchant, has been approached by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) to coach Pakistan’s cueists for the World Snooker Championship to be held later this year.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, has confirmed having held a discussion with Yasin Merchant in this regard during the course of the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012 which concluded at Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi, on March 9.

“Yasin Merchant, who is also a qualified coach, has agreed in principle to come to Pakistan for two sessions of three weeks each to train our cueists for the World Championship. Now we will have to obtain the necessary clearance from the Ministry of Interior and the required funds from the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to move ahead,” the PBSA President revealed.

“In our opinion he’s the most suitable candidate to train our players. Besides being a seasoned cueist and a qualified coach, he will be at away at a couple hours flight from here. Additionally he holds the advantage of being able to communicate with the boys in our national language,” Alamgir Shaikh explained.

“We will give a firm and formal offer to Yasin Merchant only when we get the funds and the necessary approval from the concerned authorities,” he replied when questioned as to why the Indian wasn’t offered formally yet.

The PBSA has been informed that the experienced Indian cueist would only be available to coach Pakistan’s cueists only two times a year with each session lasting a couple of weeks.

Meanwhile the PBSA President disclosed that all the six foreign teams, having participated in the just concluded 7-nation event, have returned to their countries.

“The Iranians were the last to have flown out on Marc 11 evening while the Indians have left earlier in the day. The other four contingents had returned by March 10,” he added.

The Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012 was staged at Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi, from March 4 to 9 in which two cueists each from Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iran, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) took part.

The event went ahead smoothly and there were no security issues reported by any of the visiting cueist or the accompanying officials. It was after nearly four years when the foreign cueists had participated in any championship in Pakistan.

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March 13, 2012

Indian snooker ace Yasin Merchant prepared to coach Pakistan’s cueists


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

India’s snooker great Yasin Merchant will be happy to have brief coaching sessions with Pakistan’s cueists if the authorities in his country allowed him to do so.

“I have no issues in coaching Pakistan’s cueists but that would only be possible if the permission is granted by the Billiards & Snooker Federation of India (BSFI) as well as the Government of India,” he disclosed in a recent chat on the sidelines of the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012 at Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi.

“I have yet not been approached formally by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) on this subject but the media persons in particular have frequently asked me about coaching assignment throughout my stay in Karachi,” the former Asian champion observed.

Having traveled to Karachi more nearly 25 times in as many years, the 45-year-old Yasin Merchant, who plans to set up a snooker academy of his own in Pune, 150 kilometers southeast of Mumbai, clarified that he would be available to coach Pakistan’s cueists only two times a year with each session lasting a couple of weeks.

“My services could ideally be acquired on the eve of the events like the Asian Championship and the World Championship,” he suggested.

“Time is indeed an issue for me and I have decided not to take part in the state or national championships anymore that rules me out of the Asian Championship and the World Championship automatically. The decision was prompted by business preoccupations and family commitments. However, I will continue playing in invitational tournaments like this one besides having coaching stints at my own academy and elsewhere,” he explained.

Yasin Merchant, who has had a good look at the new crop of Pakistan’s cueists, didn’t mince words in stating that they needed polishing besides exposure to earn glories. He described Mohammad Sajjad as the most accomplished in the lot while Sultan Mohammad’s temperament impressed him most.

“These lads are talented and gifted. They can have a better future with little polishing. They need to concentrate more and develop the desire to perform at the highest level. Mohammad Yousuf possessed all these qualities which even Saleh Mohammad didn’t have,” he reckoned.

“Pakistan’s youngsters have to be groomed to achieve success. Take the example of Mohammad Asif who seems a victim of his own talent. He needs to be taught to tone down his aggression because he gets carried away so quickly,” Yasin Merchant thought, adding that it will be in Pakistan’s interest if they pick a pool of 10 cueists on whom the work should be done and results will be yielded in due course of time.

The ball is now in the court of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), having shown the inclination towards having an Indian coach in order to let the cueists learn without having communication problems. Yasin Merchant could be the answer to their prayers.

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March 10, 2012

Jubilee Insurance offers to sponsor Asian Snooker Championship


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, has announced that his company, having become the major sponsors of snooker in Pakistan for the last five years, was willing to support the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) in holding international snooker competitions in the country in future

Speaking as the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony of the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012, at Hotel Pearl Continental on March 9, he expressed his delight at the revival of international snooker in the country and offered sponsorship support to the PBSA in hosting future events.

He delivered a crisp and compact speech on the occasion in which he briefly threw light on all aspects of the game, mentioned the ingredients of a successful event.

Tahir Ahmed, along Javed Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Life Insurance, presented a purse of US$2,000 alongwith the winner’s trophy to Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh was awarded while runner-up Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran collected a reward of US$1,000. Mohammad Asif of Pakistan clinched the prize of US$100 for registering the highest break of the six-day championship.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, took his time in the welcome address making a mention of people who had extended support to him in organizing the event. While seeking the affiliation of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) without further delay, he thanked the old friends of the sport as well, making a special mention of S M Muneer, Shahid Ahmad Khan and Aqeel Karim Dhedi.

He also announced that his association planned to bid for the next year’s Asian Snooker Championship.

Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, President, POA, stated on the occasion that the PBSA would be granted affiliation of the national Olympic body soon, upon the completion of some formalities.

Mohammad El Kammah, Secretary General, International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) and President, Egyptian Billiards & Snooker Association (EBSA), expressed the hope that Pakistan would be able to play host to the Asian Championship as well as the World Championship in not too distant future.

S M Muneer, a former President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), who played a key role in facilitating the participation of the Indian cueists in the championship by pursuing the matter with the Interior Ministry, was confident that international sports events will now be organized on a regular basis in the country.

Shahid Ahmad Khan, who was one of the architects of bringing international snooker to Pakistan with the mega events like the Asian Championship in 1991 and the World Championship in 1993, was recognized by the PBSA for his contributions.

There were far too many speeches and the presentation of souvenirs in the crowded ceremony that lasted more than half an hour. It was also being telecast live and there were quite a few organizers and socialites queued up around the arena.

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Un-Nooh edges out Ayouri in epic final between world champions


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

What an extraordinary final it turned out be between two world champions! Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh, a former world champion, fought back magnificently to overpower Hossein Vafaei Ayouri of Iran, the reigning world champion, in the final of the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012 at Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi on March 9.

Un-Nooh, cool like a cucumber, didn’t panic even after losing the first four frames in the best of 13 encounter and rallied back to win it 7-6 with the scores of 61-83, 44-80, 0-75, 28-69, 59-28, 57-54, 52-65, 80-50, 78-30, 19-87, 76-42, 91-36, 92-0.

The spectators, not large in number though, could not have asked for a more thrilling contest between the top two cueists of the event having made there without losing any match. The organizers, Jubilee General Insurance, could not have desired a more befitting end to an interesting championship that has marked the revival of sporting activities in Pakistan.

Although none of the Pakistanis managed to force their way into the final, it was thoroughly enjoyed by the people watching the action at the five-star hotel and many more who viewed it on television as it was being telecast live.

Un-Nooh, 26, having looked the most accomplished cueist in the six-day competition lived up to the billing. He had turned professional after winning the world amateur crown in 2008 and he showed why he’s rated so highly. He came back so strongly after being unable to contain the Iranian teenager in the first four frames.

The 17-year-old Ayouri, on the other hand, made some unforced errors which cost him the game after being in the driving seat. He came up with much improved performance, though, than what he had done while defeating Pakistan’s Mohammad Sajjad in the semifinals the other day.

He succeeded in clinching the opening frame after some fight but he was offered less resistance in the next frame. He gave nothing away in third frame and he was equally at ease in the fourth frame. He ran into 4-0 lead within no time. Un-Nooh had won just one frame when interval was announced at 1 pm.

There was a fierce fight in the sixth frame as the battle resumed after one-hour break for Friday prayers. Un-Nooh won it to reduce the deficit. Ayouri made it 5-2 by claiming the seventh frame but his Thai rival registered a break of 71 to take the next frame. Un-Nooh made it 4-5 by also taking the ninth frame but the Iranian hit back with a break of 72 that allowed him to make it 6-4.

The cool and calculated Un-Nooh didn’t appear under any kind of pressures even though he was in danger of defeat. He played superbly under pressure and by pocketing the last three frames under enormous pressure he proved the point that he was the worthy winner of the title. He finished it in style, with a masterful break of 92 in the decisive 13th frame.

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Tendulkar eyes 100th international century and improved ICC rank in Asia Cup


SKM Sports

India’s iconic batsman Sachin Tendulkar will be eyeing to score his hundredth international century and, in the meantime, also improve his rankings in the Asia Cup starting in Mirpur, Dhaka, on March 11.

Tendulkar has scored 51 Test and 48 ODI centuries in an illustrious 23-year career but the 100th century has been eluding him since last year’s ICC Cricket World Cup.

In addition to this, Tendulkar’s current ranking of 29th is his lowest since December 1991, when he slipped to 31st position. The 38 year-old’s highest career ranking is at the top of the listings, a mark he first achieved in February 1996.
In the Reliance ICC ODI Championship table, the main battle appears to be for the number two position as Australia has all-but-sealed top spot for the third successive year and ninth time in 11 years.

The only way Australia can slip behind second-ranked South Africa is in the highly unlikely scenario of it losing all the five ODIs against the West Indies. In other words, Australia just needs to win an ODI of the five-match series to retain the prestigious ODI shield and with it win a cheque of US$175,000. However, battle for second position remains tight with South Africa leading India by just one ratings point.

Sri Lanka’s batting trio Kumar Sangakkara, Tillakaratne Dilshan and Dinesh Chandimal will be aiming to carry their recent good form into the Asia Cup. If they can do that then it will help them maintain upward movement in the Reliance ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen after the trio stormed up the batting chart at the conclusion of the three-nation series which finished in Adelaide earlier in the week.

Sangakkara has jumped five places to fourth position after finishing as the fourth leading run-getter with 420 runs, Dilshan has moved up four places to 10th place after ending as the leading scorer with 513 runs, while Chandimal has broken into the top 20 for the first time and lies in 18th spot after scoring 419 runs, success that saw him rise 18 places.

The latest rankings, which reflect player performances in the three-match ODI series between New Zealand and South Africa which finished on 3 March, were released on March 9.

Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardena is the other Sri Lanka batsman to improve his ranking in the tri-series in Australia, which also featured world champion India. Jayawardena chipped in with 406 runs and has been rewarded with a rise of two places which has put him in 17th position.

Three Australia batsmen have also been rewarded for their consistent performances. Skipper Michael Clarke has moved up two places to eighth spot after scoring 331 runs in six matches, David Warner has been rewarded with a jump of 97 places which puts him in 53rd position after he aggregated 506 runs in the series and David Hussey has gained eight places and is now in 34th position after scoring 439 runs at an average of just under 55.

Other players to improve their rankings include New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum 19th (up by eight places) and JP Duminy of South Africa in 22nd (up by two places).
In the Reliance ICC Player Rankings for ODI bowlers, South Africa’s Lonwabo Tsotsobe has achieved the number-one ranking for the first time in his career.

The South Africa left-arm fast bowler took six wickets in his side’s 3-0 win over New Zealand which has been enough to lift him ahead of Pakistan’s Saeed Ajmal. Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn are the other South Africa bowlers on a move in the right direction.

Morkel was the most successful bowler in the series with seven wickets which has helped him leapfrog England’s Graeme Swann in third position while Steyn has moved up three places to 13th position.

Australia’s trio Shane Watson, Clint McKay and Xavier Doherty have also improved their rankings. Watson has vaulted 15 places to 25th position, McKay has moved up six places to 28th position and Doherty has gained a place and is now in 29th spot.

In the Reliance ICC Player Rankings for ODI all-rounders, Watson has dislodged Shakib Al Hasan from the number-one position. The Australia leads the former Bangladesh captain by three ratings points.

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March 9, 2012

Full text of Rahul Dravid's retirement speech


SKM Sports

Here is the complete speech made by former Indian captain Rahul Dravid, who announced his retirement from Tests and first-class cricket, in his hometown Bangalore on March 9:

“I would like to announce my retirement from international and domestic first-class cricket. It has been 16 years since I first played a Test match for India, and I feel it's time for me to move on. Once I was like every other boy in India, with a dream of playing for my country. Yet I could never have imagined a journey so long and so fulfilling. I have had a wonderful time, but now it is time for a new generation of young players to make their own history and take the Indian cricket team even further.”

“No dream is ever chased alone. As I look back, as one does at such a time, I have many people to thank for supporting me, teaching me and believing in me.”

“My junior coaches in Bangalore and at various junior national camps inculcated in me a powerful love of the game which has always stayed with me.”

“My coaches at the international level have added to my craft and helped shape my personality. They pushed me and challenged me to keep getting better. The physios and trainers worked hard to keep me fit -- not an easy job -- and allowed me to play late into my 30s.”

“The selectors who rarely receive any credit in India had, on occasions, more confidence in me than I had in myself and I am grateful for that. The various captains I played under offered me guidance and inspired me.”

“The media has been kind to me, and I have respect for their craft.”

“The KSCA and BCCI have provided me a platform and the facilities to play the game.”

“But most of all, I have to thank the teams I played with. I know what I am going to miss the most is being part of a unit. The joy of bonding together and striving to achieve a goal is what made cricket special for me. I was lucky in my early years to play for a Karnataka team which was trying to forge itself into a strong side and they were years of fun and learning.”

“In the Indian team, I was fortunate to be part of a wonderful era when India played some of its finest cricket at home and abroad. Many of my teammates have become legends, not just in India but in the wider cricketing world. I admired them, learnt from them and I leave the game with wonderful memories and strong friendships. It is a great gift to have.”

“A career in sport is almost impossible to manage without the support, guidance, and reassurance of family and friends. During tough times -- and there have been many -- they are the ones we go to. I found strength and encouragement from my parents (Sharad and Pushpa ) and brother (Vijay) and they created around me a positive environment which was essential to my success.”

“My wife, Vijeeta, has been a remarkable partner in my journey. She has made sacrifices in her own career and has almost been a single parent bringing up our children alone as I travelled abroad to play. Whenever challenges appeared, she was always there, as sounding board, as ally and as guide. Being away from my family became harder and harder through the years and I look forward now to spending time at home and doing the simple things, like just taking my sons (Samit and Anvay) to school.”

“Finally, I would like to thank the Indian cricket fan, both here and across the world. The game is lucky to have you and I have been lucky to play before you. To represent India, and thus to represent you, has been a privilege and one which I have always taken seriously. My approach to cricket has been reasonably simple: it was about giving everything to the team, it was about playing with dignity, and it was about upholding the spirit of the game. I hope I have done some of that. I have failed at times, but I have never stopped trying. It is why I leave with sadness but also with pride.”

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Gentleman cricketer Dravid bids farewell to international arena


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The time finally came to bid farewell. After having carved a niche for himself during his 15-year stay in international cricket Rahul Dravid has decided to call it a day. He announced retirement in a press conference in his hometown Bangalore on March 9.

Narayanaswami Srinivasan, President, Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), and Anil Kumble, a former Indian captain and now President of Karnataka State Cricket Association (KSCA), was also present on the occasion.

The 39-year-old Dravid, having retired from One-day Internationals last year, has now quit Test cricket as well. He, however, will be in action in the upcoming fifth edition of the Indian Premier League (IPL) where he will be leading Rajasthan Royals.

His retirement had appeared on the cards after a dismal tour of Australia where the Indians were mercilessly exposed by the young brigade of home fast bowlers. He could have stayed on, had the form of the other two bigwigs, Sachin Tendulkar and V V S Laxman, not slumped simultaneously.

Tendulkar and Laxman, alongwith Virender Sehwag, had also flopped miserably in England last summer where Dravid’s three centuries went in vain due to the total failure of the other prolific batsmen.

With eight successive Test defeats overseas the time had come to bring about a change and induct newcomers to do the job. Dravid has taken the lead, despite having had a terrific last year. Now the pressure will be on Tendulkar and Laxman to follow suit.

Tendulkar’s retirement appears a matter of time too. Probably he is awaiting his 100th century in international cricket before he hangs his boots too. I think he will enjoy leading Mumbai Indians in the IPL where the settings are nearly ideal to his liking. I am not sure what Laxman is waiting for.

Indeed it’s a very sad day for cricket because the game will never be the same without Dravid and the Indian team in particular will miss him a lot. He was the one batsman who anchored the innings and let the stroke-makers do the business from the other end. It’s going to be very difficult to find anyone right away to perform that role.

More than anyone else he was a team man, who always gave more than one hundred percent, something which could not be said about his illustrious contemporaries with certainty.

Dravid was a great ambassador of the game and indeed a perfect role model for the gentleman's game. In fact he’s probably the last gentleman cricketer of an era when professionalism and greed caused irreparable damage to the reputation of the sport.

Instead of personal records or glories, he cared purely for the team’s interests. He did keep wickets, which was not his job, just to allow a balance in the side on a number of occasions, most notably the 2003 World Cup.

He aggregated 13,288 runs at 52.31 in 164 Test matches since making his debut against England at the Lord's in 1996. Only Tendulkar, with 15470, has scored more runs in Test matches. He remains the world record holder for the highest the number of Test catches (210).

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March 7, 2012

IBSF chief considers Karachi safe for World Snooker Championship


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The top functionary of the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF) considers Karachi a safe city to play host to international cue sports events, including the World Snooker Championship.

Pascal Guillaum, President, IBSF, visiting the city after 19 years, found it having all the ingredients needed to organize a global competition.

“It’s as fantastic a city as anyone else. I faced no problems whatsoever in the city while commuting to its different parts for past three days,” he observed in an informal chat at Hotel Pearl Continental on the sidelines of the ongoing Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012.

“The venue as just perfect and I foresee no real issues in holding the World Snooker Championship in Karachi. I am totally satisfied with all the arrangements made for this 7-nation event,” the IBSF President added.

He lauded the efforts of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) in their efforts of boosting cue sports by organizing international events in this part of the world, making a special mention of its President, Alamgir Anwar Shaikh.

“I am delighted that the PBSA have really been doing an exceptional job. With willing sponsors and supportive media they find themselves in a nice position and they should capitalize on their resources. We will surely back them if they bid for the World Snooker Championship in future,” the soft-spoken Guillaum said.

Hailing from the historic city of Paris, the IBSF President had previously stayed in Karachi during the entire length of about two weeks during the World Snooker Championship in 1993, while being a delegate of the French Billiards & Snooker Association (FBSA).

Guillaum, a lawyer by profession, will not be able to spend as much time in Karachi now because of his professional commitments back home.

“I have fulfilled my promise of coming over for the seven-nation tourney. Unfortunately I won’t be able to stay back until its conclusion because of a hearing of case in Paris on March 9,” he explained.

“I have had very comfortable stay in this vibrant city again. I went to Zamzama in Defence a couple of times besides spending some time on what I consider as splendid beaches of Karachi. Honestly speaking it has been a wonderful trip,” Guillaum stated

“I couldn’t visit the much talked about French beach during this tour to Karachi because it was little far but I will make it a point to go there when I am around next time,” the IBSF President said.

Mohammed El Kammah, Secretary General of the IBSF, not only seconded the views of his President but he appeared even more impressed with the organizational capabilities of the PBSA, reckoning that there won’t be hindrances in having more international snooker competitions in Pakistan.

“I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Karachi is as safe as any other city. With so much security in place there should be no problems in hosting any kind of mega event here,” the IBSF General Secretary noted.

“A few people in the IBSF may be having some reservations but we will put our weight behind the PBSA if they are interested in hosting international events. I am confident that on the basis of our report of this particular tour, the entire IBSF Board will be supportive of the Pakistan snooker authorities,” he concluded.

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March 3, 2012

World champ Hossein Vafaei Ayouri top seeded for Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

All is set for the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012, carrying cash awards of US$3,100, to cue off here Hotel Pearl Continental, Karachi, on March 4.

Iran’s Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, who clinched the world crown last December in Bangalore, India, by defeating Lee Walker of Wales in the final, will be the top seed as well as the hot favorite in the championship.

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), is mighty relieved by the arrival of the Indians in particular as their participation remained doubtful until the eleventh hour, due to the delay in issuance of the necessary clearance from the concerned authorities.

With the Jubilee Insurance 7-Nation International Snooker Championship 2012, the international snooker returns to Pakistan after nearly five years. The sponsors, Jubilee General Insurance, are eager to have a major event like this once in two years, if not annually.

The Pakistan snooker has found a willing sponsor in Jubilee General Insurance. Their Managing Director, Tahir Ahmed, remains a source of continued motivation for the Alamgir Shaikh-led PBSA.

Jubilee Insurance will be paying a sponsorship fee of Rs 3.5 million to the PBSA for the 7-nation contest, whose total cost, as declared by its President, will be Rs 3.2 million. The winner of the championship will be getting a purse of US$2,000 while the runner-up will be receiving US$1,000 and the highest break carries a cash award of US$100.

Meanwhile two cueists each from Bahrain, Egypt, India, Iran, Thailand and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will compete alongside the top eight Pakistanis in the six-day event.

The 20 participants have been divided equally in four groups. The Group A contains the world champion from Iran, Hossein Vafaei Ayouri, alongside Naveen Perwani (Pakistan), Hussain Mahmood Ali (Bahrain), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand) and Sharjeel Mahmood (Pakistan).

The Group B features Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Thailand), Mohammad Sajjad (Pakistan), Mohammad Faisal Khan (India), Habib Subah (Bahrain) and Vishan Gir (Pakistan) while the Group C comprises of Yasin Merchant (India), Sultan Mohammad (Pakistan), Mohamed Ibrahim Mohamed (Egypt); Mohammed Al Joaker (UAE) and Sohail Shahzad (Pakistan) and the Group D has the presence of Mohammed Mustafa Shehab (UAE), Mohammad Asif (Pakistan), Saeed Abooyesani (Iran), Yaser Ahmed M. Elsherbiny (Egypt) and Abdul Sattar (Pakistan).

The eight seeded cueists in the championship, whose league matches will continue for three days until Tuesday, are Hossein Vafaei Ayouri (Iran), Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (Thailand), Yasin Merchant (India), Mohammed Mustafa Shehab (UAE), Noppon Saengkham (Thailand), Habib Subah (Bahrain), Mohammed Al Joaker (UAE) and Yaser Ahmed M. Elsherbiny (Egypt).

There will be only two sessions on the opening day of the event, starting at 12 noon, while there will be four sessions on the following two days, Monday and Tuesday, with the first session starting at 10 am. The league matches, to be best of seven-frame encounters, will be followed by the knockout games, starting from quarter-finals.

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