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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October 12, 2012

Sports fraternity mourns death of Zohra Saifuddin Valika


Pakistan News & Features Services

The sports fraternity mourns the death of Mrs Zohra Saifuddin Valika, mother of Ali Asghar Valika Chairman, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), and Abbas Saifullah Valika, Convenor Sports, Karachi Gymkhana. 

She passed away, after a brief illness, at Karachi’s South City Hospital on October 8 at the age of 85. She has left behind two sons, both of them prominent personalities in sports and social circles, and two daughters. 

Her husband, the late Saifuddin Valika, was also a renowned industrialist and philanthropist. 

Shoaib Ahmed Siddiqui, Secretary Youth Affairs, Government of Sindh, Jameel Ahmed Sakrani, President, Sindh Billiards & Snooker Association (SBSA), and Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, alongwith its executive committee members condoled with the family and prayed that her soul may rest in eternal peace. 

Many other sports figures and socialites have also offered condolences with the Valika family.
Asghar Valika’s contribution for the revival of snooker in the country has been legendary. He has played the pivotal role in putting Pakistan on the snooker map of the world. 

He remained President of the PBSA from 1988 to 2008. He has also headed the Asian Confederation of Billiards Sports (ACBS) besides having helped out the United Arab Emirates Billiards & Snooker Association (UAEBSA).

His role in transforming Karachi Club into the leading sports club of the country has also been quite significant. He has been the President of the club for a number of years during the last couple of decades.

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October 11, 2012

Asif turns tables on Asjad to retain Snooker Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood

It’s not often of late when Pakistan’s top two cueists manage to force their way into the final of a national ranking snooker event but Mohammad Asif and Asjad Iqbal did it during the recently concluded Langnese 4th Snooker Cup Ranking Tournament 2012 staged at the National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Sports Complex in Clifton, Karachi. 

In fact these two cueists, both of whom have now earned the right to represent the country in the IBSF World Snooker Championship 2012 due to be held in Sofia, Bulgaria, next month, have developed a rivalry of sorts and it was top seeded Asif from Faisalabad who turned the tables on Asjad from Sargodha in the final to retain the trophy he had captured at Karachi’s Southend Club last year. 

Asif, 27, who was at the receiving end in the knockout games of the last couple of national ranking tournaments earlier this year, turned the table on Asjad, 23, decisively in the best of 13-frame final, winning it 7-1 in a matter of three hours. 

Dr Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, Sindh Sports Minister and President, Sindh Olympic Association (SOA), who was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony, expressed his delight at the allotment of a piece of land for the development of a snooker academy in Karachi. He considered it as the realization of one of his dreams. 

Anjum Nisar, Managing Director, Anjum Asif (Pvt) Ltd, and ex-President, Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI), presided over the function and in his brief speech he lauded the role of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) in the development of cue sports in the country. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, in his welcome address, acknowledged the support of the sponsors and the hosts besides making a mention of the media and his colleagues in the Association. 

The tournament offered Rs 165,000 in prize money with champion Asif receiving Rs 70,000 and runner-up Asjad getting Rs 40,000. The losing semifinalists, Sohail Shahzad and Shehram Changezi, were entitled to Rs 15,000 each while the losing quarter-finalists, Mohammad Javed, Mohammad Sajjad, Umair Alam and Shahid Aftab, were compensated with Rs 5,000 each. 

Shahid Aftab, a former national champion from Faisalabad, clinched the cash award of Rs 5,000 for registering the highest break (133) of the tournament. Mohammad Sajjad (118), Imran Shahzad (116), Umair Alam (114), Sohail Shahzad (102) and Shehram Changezi (100) were the only other cueists to have chalked up a century break during the course of seven-day event. 

The tournament was contested by the top 24 cueists of the country, who were divided equally in four groups for the first round. 

As expected many close league matches were witnessed for four days and quite a few fancied and seasoned campaigners could not force their way into the knockout stage, which started with quarter-finals. 

None of four most experienced cueists on the circuit, Mohammad Yousuf, Naveen Kumar Perwani, Khurram Hussain Agha and Imran Shahzad, managed to make it to the last eight.

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