June 30, 2013

Dhoni confident of sustaining momentum in Caribbean triseries


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Following their magnificent title-winning performance in the just concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England, the expectations from the Indian side, captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, are on the higher side as they begin their campaign in the triseries in the Caribbean with a game against the hosts on June 30.

There has been so much cricket during the last few years and the cricketers from India in particular have had to travel a lot. They had played the final of the Champions Trophy at Edgbaston on June 23 and now they have to take on the hosts in their first game of the triseries just one week later. 

Sri Lanka, who lost to India in the semifinals of the Champions Trophy, are the third team taking part in the tournament. In fact they have already played their first game in the tourney, having surrendered tamely to the West Indies in the opener on June 28. 

The triseries will have each team facing the other two twice in the preliminary stage to determine the finalists who will clash for the trophy at Port of Spain on July 11. The Indians appear eager to extend their purple patch which began with the warm-up fixtures of the Champions Trophy earlier this month. 

They had retained the same squad for the triseries but were forced to make a change at a later stage when Irfan Pathan was ruled out due to hamstring injury. He has been replaced by Shami Ahmed, a promising young medium-pacer, who bowled impressively in the limited opportunities that came came his way at home last season.

"What is very important for us is not to look too far ahead. We will take it series by series. We just finished a world tournament in the UK and now we are in the West Indies. First, we will have to see the two teams which are ahead of us. The performance was really good in UK but we need to continue," skipper M S Dhoni remarked upon arrival in the West Indies. 

"The demands of the fans remain the same. The expectation when it comes to the Indian cricket team has always been the same. If things are moving, it will only move in one direction which is up,” he added. 

M S Dhoni, having become the first captain to win the World Cup, the World Twenty20 and the Champions Trophy, reckoned that the team's success has been made possible by the dressing-room environment which thrived on each other's performances.

"I'm fortunate to have the players in the side to really soak up the pressure. What we have done really well is we have enjoyed each other's success and that has really contributed to the side winning most of the games. If I'm happier than the person who has actually scored a century or a fifty, you understand that's the kind of atmosphere that you want, because at the end of the day, what we play is a team sport,” he stated. 

"It's important that the guys sitting out just to wait for their chance, don't think that if this guy does badly I will get a chance. They can use that period to improve themselves and whenever the chance, whatever the reason may be, fitness or form, they try to earn that place in the side,” the skipper concluded.

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Dhoni-inspired comeback guys earn India unexpected glory


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It was the best Indian fielding side in memory which, driven by the forceful captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, made the decisive contribution in clinching the recently concluded ICC Champions Trophy 2013 in England.

India won the final, reduced to a 20 overs-a-side contest following the expected rains for the better part of the day, against the hosts by just five runs. Besides holding on to a few superb catches, which were made to look easy, they also fielded brilliantly to prevent easy runs which made the difference between winning and losing. 

No matter how brilliantly they had been playing for the past couple of weeks, the Champions Trophy would not have come in their grasp if they lost intensity even for a minute in the final while defending a modest score. 

Mind you this was not a brand new Indian side with only teenagers in their folds. As a matter of fact there were no debutants in the 15-member squad that had been selected for the Champions Trophy by the panel headed by Sandeep Patil.

There were fringe cricketers, staging a comeback into the side, who followed the script of coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper M S Dhoni and turned the tide decisively. The enigmatic Rohit Sharma finally showed some consistency while Shikar Dawan, returning after injury, blasted away merrily. 

Virat Kohli and M S Dhoni were the only two batsmen occupying permanent place in the playing eleven for some time. Dinesh Karthik made the cut at the strength of his back to back centuries in the warm-up games leading to the big event. 

Suresh Raina was considered a doubtful starter in view of his known weaknesses in handling short balls. Ravindra Jadeja wasn’t a certainity either with Irfan Pathan also in the run due to the climatic factor. 

Ravichandaran Ashwin was the first-choice spinner and medium-pacer Bhuvneshwar Kumar was deemed a lethal weapon in English conditions. But the Indians were unsure about their two other quickies at the start of the tournament. They began with Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav.

India’s sensational performance in both the warm-up matches must have given them enormous confidence but not many people expected them to perform so consistently and impressively in the tournament itself. They were not even required to make a single change in their line-up in five matches with the quartet of Irfan Pathan, Vinay Kumar, Amit Mishra and Murali Vijay watching their teammates to do the business. 

The Indian selectors deserve to be complimented to have made the bold moves which paid the dividends. They recalled the players whom they considered capable and worthy to deliver in the tough playing conditions of England. 

The standout performance suggested that the selectors and the captain were on the same page. M S Dhoni looked in complete command of the situation and his leadership was the key to the success achieves in the unlikeliest of circumstances. His couple of brilliant stumpings in the final reminded everyone that he remains one of the best wicketkeepers, if not the best, in the game besides being a world-class batsman and captain.

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June 29, 2013

Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament merits greater participation


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

While it’s heartening that the Karachi Bridge Association (KBA) has succeeded in holding the Aslam Memorial Bridge Tournament every year but what’s disappointing is the fact that the attendance has been on the decline.

Mohammad Aslam Shaikh, who was recognized as a torch bearer of the sport of duplicate bridge having rendered great services to the game, had passed away in 1995. 

The KBA instituted a tournament in his memory the following year and it has remained a permanent annual feature on their calendar since then. 

The thin attendance in the last edition of the tournament was a setback to the organizers who were justified in expecting larger turnout. 

The participation of only nine teams in the competition had not reflected the respect the late Aslam Shaikh commanded in the bridge circles. 

The KBA officials are hoping for greater participation than last year in the 18th edition of the tournament scheduled to be staged at the Aslam Bridge Hall, housed in the National Stadium, Karachi, on July 6 and 7.

Mohammed Azwerul Haque, President, KBA, has urged the local bridge players to compete in larger number in order to pay homage to the late organizer. 

The tournament will be conducted on Swiss Movement basis, spread over seven rounds, subject to the number of competing teams. 

It may be recalled that Century Insurance, comprising of Shaikh Abdul Muqeet, Tanvir Mazahir, Saleem Ahmed and Ghulam Muhammed, had emerged triumphant in the previous edition of the tournament while Data Steel, having Rashid Jaffer, Tariq Rasheed Khan, Tahir Masud, Rashid-ul-Ghazi and Imran Jaka, who captured the title in 2011, had to settle with the runners-up trophy.

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Pakistan field strong outfit in World Junior Snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Snooker has come alive in Pakistan with the twin conquests of Mohammad Asif in less than six months time and it’s no wonder that the youngsters have derived great motivation from him and they are eager to emulate their role model.

Mohammad Majid Ali had come very close to winning the 14th Asian Under-21 Snooker Championship 2013 in the Indian town of Indore a couple of months ago before going down fighting to Noppon Saengkham of Thailand in the final. 

Majid Ali will lead Pakistan’s campaign in the World Junior Snooker Championship 2013 to be staged in Beijing, China, from July 11 to 19. 

Mohsin Amin, Aamir Tariq and Hamza Akbar will be the other cueists representing the country in the global event. The Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Federation (PBSF) has selected the top four cueists of the Jubilee Insurance 5th National Junior Snooker Championship 2013 held in Karachi earlier this year.

“Mohsin Amin, Aamir Tariq, Majid Ali and Hamza Akbar, placed at number one, two, three and four respectively in the national junior ranking chart have been provided the opportunity to gain international exposure and try to bring more laurels for the country,” Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSF, stated. 

“Quite a few of our junior cueists have shown tremendous promise of late which augurs very well for the future of the country in snooker. If they continue improving their game with the passage of time they are quite likely to emulate the feat of Mohammad Yousuf and Mohammad Asif,” he reckoned. 

“The youngsters have talent as well as passion. We are providing them every possible support to fine tune their skills. We are confident that the intensity will not drop and they will strive to perform even better in their next outings,” Alamgir Shaikh added. 

The PBSF President was satisfied with the form and fitness of the junior cueists who will participate in training and conditioning camp in Karachi from July 1 to 8 before their departure to China via Sri Lanka on July 9.

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June 17, 2013

Grand Master Ashraf Tai recuperating steadily


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Grand Master Mohammad Ashraf Tai, the most famous martial artist of Pakistan, has been recuperating steadily after having spent nearly five weeks in hospital. He has even resumed attending the karate centre he had founded more than four decades ago.

He had collapsed at the Tai’s Karate Centre on March 30 and was rushed to hospital in a critical condition. A diabetic for the last many years, his kidneys were badly affected when his blood pressure dropped to the dangerous levels.

He remained in intensive care unit of the Liaquat National Hospital (LNH) for quite a few days before being finally discharged after five weeks.

Soon after being discharged from the hospital earlier this month, the Grand Master has now started visiting the centre much to the relief and delight of the large number of his trainees.

“Thanks God, Sir is back. He is the source of inspiration for the trainers as well as the trainees. All of us remained greatly concerned when he was hospitalized and his return at the centre has been warmly greeted,” Grand Master Farooq Palla observed while heaving a sigh of relief.

“His mere presence at the centre means a lot to us. We had been praying for his recovery and thankfully our prayers have been answered,” he added.

Grand Master Ashraf Tai himself is in high spirits after having made a comeback at his own centre after being away for more than six weeks.

“I am grateful to Almighty Allah to have blessed me with a new life. I have recovered literally from the deathbed thanks to the continuous prayers of family, friends, well wishers and students. Both my kidneys failed. But with help of Almighty and great efforts of doctors I have survived,” he remarked in a conversation on June 16.

“Indeed the last couple of months were traumatic to say the least. There were times when I was not responding to the treatment and the doctors feared for the worst. But their continued efforts and optimism yielded results as I started to recover after being in very critical condition for far too long a period,” the Grand Master recalled.

“Obviously some more time will be needed for me to regain full fitness but I am still very happy to be breathing normally,” he stated.

President of Pakistan's Pride of Performance winner Ashraf Tai has been hailed and recognized for having played the lead role in launching and promoting martial arts across the country.

He had become the pioneer martial arts teacher in Pakistan when he introduced bando karate in early 1970s, having emigrated from Burma.

He started coaching a group of six students at the Hill Park. As the number of young karate enthusiasts kept growing, he moved to the KGA Gymkhana at M A Jinnah Road where the centre is still housed.

He had created a sensation by overpowering Stanley Michael of Malaysia in the final of the Afro-Asia Championship in 1978. He then confirmed his superiority in the continent by outwitting Japan’s Koha Yash a year later.

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