June 30, 2012

Sindh Government sponsors Punjab’s cueists


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

The Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), after being denied financial support by the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Government of Punjab, has been obliged by the Government of Sindh, having taken the responsibility of sponsoring the cueists, both of them belonging to Punjab, for the World Under-21 Snooker Championship 2012 to be held in China from July 14 to 22.

Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari, Sindh Minister for Youth Affairs, handed over a cheque of Rs 246,500 to Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, in a simple ceremony, conducted by Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, at the Karachi Gymkhana on June 29. 

It’s indeed an unprecedented move in which a provincial government has come out to extend financial support to athletes belonging to a different province in the larger national interest. 

In his brief speech on the occasion, Faisal Sabzwari revealed that the PBSA had submitted the request to meet the total cost of participation of the two cueists, being Rs 493,000, but it took quite an effort on part of his Ministry even to get the 50% of the cost because of the budget constraints. 

 “We have decided to sponsor the two teenaged cueists, Hunain Aamir and Mohammad Majid, for the sake of the country’s representation in a global event which will be helpful in promoting Pakistan’s soft image abroad. This act of ours will also send positive signals to the youth of the country that the government does go beyond lip-service,” the Sindh Youth Minister remarked. 

“Our department, despite meager resources, has been following multi-dimensional approach having been prepared to go the extra mile for creating opportunities for youth as we have just demonstrated by sponsoring two young cueists from Punjab,” he added. 

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, in his welcome address, described the sponsorship of the Punjab cueists by the Government of Sindh as setting of a new trend. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, while acknowledging the support of the Government of Sindh, told the whole story how the PBSA request had been turned down by the Federal Government as well as the Government of Punjab. 

“We are truly grateful to the Youth Affairs department of Sindh to have come to our rescue and bailing us out when those who were actually responsible for it had cold shouldered us. In fact we were treated very harshly by the Youth Affairs department of Punjab who were not even prepared to listen to us,” the PBSA President stated. 

He expected the duo of Hunain and Majid, who will be representing the country in the World Under-21 Championship to be staged in Wu Xi, China to reproduce the kind of performance they showed during the Asian Under-21 Championship in Goa, India, earlier this year. 

“Both of them are exceptionally talented cueists. They are currently been trained and coached by Mohammad Yousuf, a former world champion, in Islamabad. They have tremendous potential and we are confident that they will bring laurels for the country in future,” Alamgir Shaikh reckoned.

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June 27, 2012

Yuvraj’s comeback to add value to ICC World Twenty20 2012


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

The gladdening news is that Yuvraj Singh, the champion Indian all-rounder who was declared Player of the Tournament in the World Cup 2011, has aimed a comeback in the ICC World Twenty20 2012 to be held in Sri Lanka in September. 

Yuvraj, recovering from treatment for cancer, has begun training at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bangalore. He has clarified that he’s in no mood to rush his comeback but he remained hopeful for representing the country in the upcoming T20 event which would itself be boosted by his return. 

"I will be in the NCA for a while now. I want to come back and play for India, that's my goal. It's not very easy on the body. I have gone through a lot and my body has gone through a lot of shock. People are expecting me to come back very quickly, but I don't want to rush. I will have to take my time and come back 100% fit,” the explosive left-handed batsman, whose left-arm spin also works in the limited overs games, was quoted as saying. 
"I am feeling good. My body will become stronger stage by stage. Twenty20 world cup is my target. Hopefully I can be ready little before that," Yuvraj said. Yuvraj was diagnosed with a type of cancer called ‘mediastinal seminoma’ a germ-cell tumour located between his two lungs, in February. 

He underwent three sessions of chemotherapy in Indianapolis, at the IU Simon Cancer Centre at the Indiana University Medical Centre. He finished the last cycle of chemotherapy in mid-March, and his response had left his medical team fairly confident that he would not suffer a relapse. 

The daring all-rounder has remained confident he will return to playing cricket for India but says he is neither in a hurry nor anxious to do so, and that cancer changed his approach to both life and the sport. 

 In his first media conference on returning to India after receiving treatment in the USA Yuvraj had stated his chemotherapy cycles often left him ‘depressed’ and in tears, but having cancer had taught him a lot. 

"Cancer may be the best thing to have happened to me and maybe I will realise this in the future. There were more bad days than good. I haven't played cricket for one year, and it has been the toughest battle of my life,” he observed. 

He had avoided watching cricket on TV during treatment in USA, stating that there was a little bit of frustration when he watched the team play. He found himself inspired by the practical approach of fellow chemotherapy patients. 

He discovered that he now belonged to another larger group of people, a group he called ‘the cancer family.’ The disease, Yuvraj said, had made him appreciate friends, family, health and happiness over fame, popularity, success or money. 

Yuvraj's treatment in the USA had involved working with Dr Lawrence Einhorn, the doctor who helped Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong recover from a form of cancer that had been considered terminal.

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June 23, 2012

World champion Yousuf contracted to coach junior cueists


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

 In a move that looked surprising but not totally unexpected, former world snooker champion Mohammad Yousuf has been appointed as coach and commandant for the training camp for the junior cueists starting in Islamabad on June 25.

The appointment of Yousuf, who clinched the World Championship in 1994 before annexing the Asian crown four years later, was confirmed by Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), on June 22, welcoming the veteran cueist with open arms contrary to the general expectations. 

He will be coaching the duo of Hunain Aamir and Mohammad Majid in the two-week camp to be held at the PSB Snooker Hall in Islamabad from June 25 to July 8. 

 “Yousuf will be the coach as well as the commandant of the camp to train the duo of Hunain and Majid, who will be representing Pakistan in the IBSF World Under-21 Snooker Championship 2012 scheduled to be staged in Wu Xi, China, from July 14 to 22,” the PBSA President revealed. 

“It’s a new beginning. Yousuf may have had stormy relationship with the PBSA but that’s history now. We have had cordial relations with him in the recent past, holding him in high esteem, and we look forward to having a long-term working relationship with him although the present assignment is a rather brief one,” Alamgir Shaikh observed. 

“It’s a very nice and appreciative gesture on part of Yousuf to have agreed to train the two youngsters, Hunain and Majid, at a token honorarium. We are grateful to him for taking up the assignment in the national interest,” the PBSA President acknowledged. 

Alamgir Shaikh didn’t rule out the possibility of Yousuf’s appointment as the national coach either at a later stage which was a clear enough indication that he was very much in the minds of the PBSA officials, alongwith Sanjay Sawant and Yasin Merchant, both of them from India. 

Yousuf has had his share of problems with the PBSA in the past, particularly when it was being headed by Ali Asghar Valika until 2008. He wasn’t particularly favourite with the present office-bearers either but he found them a little more accommodating and thus the deal has been inked. 

When contacted, Yousuf, known for calling a spade a spade, expressed his pleasure at being recognized by the PBSA and he too looked forward to having a long-term association with the controlling body of cue sports. 

“The contract for the two-week assignment has been signed. It was mutually agreed that I won’t be going to China with the boys with referee Shabbir Hussain Daruwala to accompany them as manager,” he disclosed. 

Yousuf reckoned that Hunain and Majid, the finalists of the Jubilee Insurance Junior Under-21 Snooker Championship 2012, possessed enormous talent and they stand a good chance of proving their mettle in the upcoming World Under-21 Championship. 

“I have never played against them in any of the national events but I have certainly watched them play closely. Both of them are skilled and enthusiastic. They should improve with experience and coaching,” Yousuf concluded.

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June 21, 2012

Asjad regains Jubilee Ranking snooker title


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 

Second seed Asjad Iqbal, after having toppled top seeded Mohammad Asif in the semifinals, faced no problems in taming unseeded Shehram Changezi in the final to win the Jubilee Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2012 which concluded at the Karachi Gymkhana on June 21. 

It was one of those tournaments where the seeded cueists were undone by those who were placed lower in the ranking. 

Besides Asjad and Asif, Sultan Mohammad was the only other seed to make it to the quarter-finals with the quintet of Mohammad Sajjad, Naveen Kumar Perwani, Abdul Sattar, Vishan Gir and Mohammad Majid Ali getting eliminated before the knockout stage of the 10-day competition. 

Asjad, who had clinched the Jubilee Ranking title in 2010, regained the trophy rather leisurely in the end as he won the best of 13-frame final 7-2 with the scores of 75-45, 77-29, 44-60, 61-23, 73-50, 81-38, 66-1, 0-83, 54-21. 

Shehram, having annexed the trophy in its debut edition in 2009, was unable to come to terms with Asjad in the final although he was the only cueist to have downed him during the course of marathon event whose league matches lasted seven days. 

The 23-year-old Asjad was rewarded with a cheque of Rs 70,000 which he received alongwith the winner trophy from chief guest Javed Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee Life Insurance Company Limited. 

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs to the Government of Sindh, presented the cheque of Rs 40,000 alongwith the runner-up shield to the 29-year-old Shehram from Islamabad.

Ali Rahim, President, Karachi Gymkhana, in his brief remarks on the occasion, touched on the sporting history of the club and pledged to continue the tradition of supporting the cause of sports. The Gymkhana’s Convener Sports, Mian Shaukat Hussain, was also present on the occasion alongwith a few other members of the Managing Committee which included his predecessor Jahangir Moghul. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), in his welcome address, praised the consistency of Asjad who has now won the last couple of national ranking tournaments within the space of a month. He also appreciated Shehram on his successful comeback in the domestic circuit. 

The PBSA President recognized the extensive media coverage of the event, besides acknowledging the support of sponsors Jubilee General Insurance Company Limited. Their Managing Director, Tahir Ahmed, has been particularly enthusiastic in supporting the cause of cue sports. 

Asjad, who lives in a village named Chak Chalis Shumaal, which is located 10 kilometres away from the town of Sargodha, was all smiles at winning the trophy. He proved that he was not overawed by the occasion and neither did the loss at the hands of Shehram earlier in the event deterred him from giving his best. 

He, however, admitted being under greater pressure in the semifinal against top seeded Mohammad Asif in the semifinal which he won 6-4 after trailing 1-4 at one stage. 

Shehram revealed that he was laid low by a stomach upset before the start of the final and he was unable to execute his plans to perfection in the all-important game.

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June 10, 2012

Dr Shah and PCB to jointly stage World XI series in July


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

The international cricket in Pakistan may finally be resumed next month following an understanding reached between the Sindh Sports Minister, Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, and the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Chairman, Chaudhary Zaka Ashraf.

“I have had a lengthy informal meeting with the PCB Chairman in London recently. We have agreed in principle to make it a joint venture and the details are being worked out. We are due to meet again, this time formally, later this month to finalize the matter,” Dr Shah revealed in an interview the other day. 

“Since the PCB has showed willingness to work jointly with the Asghar Ali Shah Foundation for the resumption of international cricket in Pakistan, we may extend the Twenty20 series between World XI and Pakistan XI to three matches instead of the originally planned two. We can have matches in Karachi, Lahore or any other venue the PCB may desire,” the Sindh Sports Minister, showing flexibility, remarked. 

He had adopted a different stance earlier which led to the postponement of the two matches which he had announced to organize in Karachi on May 25 and 26. 

“It’s our mutual desire to hold the three-match T20 series in the middle of July, upon the return of Pakistan’s team from the tour of Sri Lanka. The period between July 14 and the start of Ramazan around July 21 is being considered as the window of opportunity. Since the T20 and ODI specialists will return home before the Test series, we can also play host to these matches a little bit earlier,” Dr Shah felt. 

When inquired about what role his Foundation will be playing in the event of the PCB hosting the matches, he explained that the Board will be looking after all the organizational matters and his body will only bring in the contracted players to Pakistan. 

Dr Shah has indicated that the contracts with the players will be revised if they were to appear in three matches instead of two. 

He was confident that all the players, who had signed to play in May, will be available to come for a short period for Pakistan in July. 

Sanath Jayasuriya, the former Sri Lankan all-rounder, is due to lead the World XI which also features Andrea Nel, Justin Kemp, Loots Bossman, Charl Langeveldt and Paul Adams (South Africa), Jerome Taylor, Adam Sanford and Jermaine Lawson (West Indies) and Owais Shah (England) with Alvin Kallicharran, former West Indian batting great, being the manager. 

There’s a strong possibility of these matches getting staged if the PCB Chairman indeed has made up his mind to work jointly with Dr Shah or even let him do it on his own. But the kind of system prevailing in the society nothing could be taken for granted. There’s still a long way to go it seems.

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