July 31, 2013

Jalaluddin prepares Karachi Under-15 Grassroots Players Development Programme


By Syed Khalid Mahmood  
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Former Test fast bowler and Level-IV cricket coach, Jalaluddin, has prepared a plan by the name of Karachi Under-15 Grassroots Players Development Programme aimed improving the standard of the game on a long-term basis. 

The programme, to be spread over three months, could be organized at a total cost of Rupees five million to extract the top 20 cricketers of the city below the age of 15 years. Jalaluddin, who is the highest qualified coach of the country, has developed the plan which is tailor-made for the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) which has seven zones in its folds. 

According to the programme, in the first phase, all the seven zones will be required to send their top 30 players for selection to the panel of coaches to be headed by Jalaluddin and having a few other qualified and trained coaches. 

The coaches of panel will shortlist 20 players from each zone and the selected lot of 140 cricketers will be taking a coaching programme of one month, three days a week, in the second phase. The focus, during the one-month coaching programme, will be on basic skill development, game sense training, fitness programme and team building. 

In the third phase, the seven zones will be engaged in a tournament to be played on single league basis in which 21 matches will be contest over a period of two weeks. The matches will be played on alternate days and they would be 40-overs-a-side contest. 

In the fourth and final phase, to be spread over one month, the selection of the best players will be made on the basis of their performance. The selected 20 cricketers will be taking two-week training in an advance camp before undertaking a tour of the Punjab or abroad for a couple of weeks. At the end of the programme the performance of the selected cricketers will be evaluated for future planning.

Jalaluddin, who is expected to submit the plan to the KCCA as soon as the new office-bearers are elected sometime in August, appeared confident about its approval and subsequent implemented. “It’s wholly in the interest of Karachi cricket. 

The objective of this plan basically is to produce quality cricketers on a consistent basis. Ideally the pilot project should start as early as September. I am quite positive that the KCCA would be facilitating the project,” he hoped. 

“There has been a lot of cricket played in Karachi but the quality has remained an issue and the city has not produced a decent number of outstanding cricketers despite the abundance of talent. This has happened because mostly cricket is being played for fun or recreation. By introducing this programme we desire to let our boys get an exposure to professional coaching from the age of 15,” Jalaluddin explained. 

“When these boys will grow, having played quality cricket under the supervision of qualified coaches they will obviously be in a better position to perform at higher levels. That’s the core objective. Our youngsters should be getting proper guidance and training for unfolding their skills,” he added.

Jalaluddin, having vast coaching experience, was convinced that a revolution of sorts will be brought about if the plan was carried out every year which will ensure a very bright future for the cricketers of Karachi, who will feel much more comfortable graduating to the higher levels.

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July 29, 2013

Urdu Cricket Commentary will never be same again without Munir Hussain


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Although it could not be resolved if Munir Hussain was the founder of cricket commentary in Urdu, with Bashir Ahmad Khan having his own credentials to be the one, but not many people will disagree about him being the best in business for a very long time indeed.

Munir Hussain, who immortalised himself with Urdu cricket commentary, is no more. He breathed his last in Karachi on July 29 at the age of 83. He was being missed in the commentators’ box for quite sometime due to his illness. His death has saddened the cricket community in particular. 

There were a few other facets as well which had made him one of the most sought after cricket personalities of the country. 

His weekly columns in Daily Jang, the largest circulated daily newspaper of Pakistan, which continued for decades, was read and followed with great interest. He launched his own monthly cricket magazine in Urdu by the name of ‘Akhbar-e-Watan’ in the 1970s which turned to be a success story from the outset because of its content and the variety that caught the imagination of the masses. 

‘The Cricketer Pakistan’ remained the first-choice cricket magazine for the serious-minded followers of the game but ‘Akhbar-e-Watan’ was the market leader mainly because of Munir Hussain who put together a literature of different class.

He was an enthusiastic cricketer in his younger days, having played for the Jang Cricket Club for a number of years. He also went on to play a first-class match. A right-arm medium-pacer, he played his only first class game for Qalat District in 1969-70, taking two wickets against Quetta in the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy. 

He was proactive in the administration of the game for more than half a century and he was elected the President of the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) in the 1990s. He has become the second former KCCA President, after Dr Mohammad Ali Shah, to have expired during the current year. 

Munir Hussain’s fame and recognition had come his way largely due to Urdu cricket commentary in which he stood head and shoulders above his contemporaries. His voice was crisp and distinct which was tailormade for radio. He did commentary for television as well for a number of years rising to the status of a legend. 

With the trio of three great commentators, Omar Kureishi, Iftikhar Ahmed and Chishty Mujahid, charming the audience with English of the highest class, it was Munir Hussain who provided it the much needed balance with his broadcasts in Urdu. That was a golden era for cricket commentary in Pakistan when these four legends were there in the box. 

Mainly because of his commentary Munir Hussain was a household name all over Pakistan. His popularity went a long way in creating a massive circulation base for ‘Akhbar-e-Watan’ which is believed to have crossed the magical figure of 50,000 copies on quite a few occasions.

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July 24, 2013

Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium illuminates Karachi cricket scene


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The development of the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium has been described as a welcome addition to the list of cricket grounds of high standard in Karachi. The installation of floodlights has certainly helped in illuminating the cricket scene of the metropolis.

The inaugural edition of the Peace Cup Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2013 is being staged there and some of the leading outfits of city, alongwith a few from other parts of the country, have been engaged in absorbing battles under floodlights.

The Peace Cup matches have been starting late in the evening during the Holy month of Ramazan. It has been quite a spectacle for the participating cricketers who are enjoying in the pleasant overcast conditions of Karachi, considered ideal for cricket.

The state-of-the-art cricket stadium has been constructed as per international standards and it has many of the facilities comparable to the best in business. The Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium is named after Mr Hussain Lawai in recognition and honour of his support and passion for cricket.

The stadium certainly relives Nazimabad’s cricketing spirit. Nazimabad has produced a lot of world-class cricketers and now it has become home to a wonderful cricket stadium. It will help in further igniting the passion for cricket in the area in particular where it is located.

The inauguration ceremony of the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium was held with great fanfare last year. It had turned out be one of the high-profile events in which quite a few notable personalities, like Mr Arif Habib and Mr Hussain Lawai, were in attendance.

The Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium hosted New A.J. Sports Multinational Champions League Twenty 20 cricket tournament earlier and now it’s the venue for the Peace Cup whose matches are being staged daily under floodlights.

The organizers obtained the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) for holding the event to facilitate the participating teams from seeking the permission from the Board to field the centrally-contracted national players.

“We are following the PCB rules and guidelines in letter and spirit. We are confident about getting their permission which will allow the participation of celebrated players in the event,” Tournament Director, Riazuddin, a senior Test umpire, was quoted as saying in the media briefing of the Peace Cup.

As far as the format of the tournament is concerned, the 16 participants have been divided equally in four groups for the first round. The top two teams from each group will make it to the knockout stage of the competition starting with the pre-quarter-finals.

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July 23, 2013

Ali Zafar Khan Afridi: Unsung swimming maestro


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Ali Zafar Khan Afridi was one of the shining lights in the sport of swimming in the 1950s. A diving specialist, he captained the UP swimming team in the Indian National Games staged at Bombay and New Delhi in 1954. He also captained the Aligarh Muslim University Swimming Club in 1956. 

He participated in quite a few editions of the Inter-Varsities Swimming Championships in India, demonstrating his swimming prowess in the pools of Madras, Calcutta, Allahabad and Lucknow besides Bombay and Delhi. 

Born on February 3, 1932, the lion-hearted Ali Zafar Afridi was a versatile sportsman right from his childhood. Apart from excelling in swimming he also made a mark in athletics, basketball and volleyball during his stay at the famed Aligarh Muslim University. 

He captained the basketball team at the university while he remained a member of the volleyball side all along. His record in track and field events of the university was also exceptional. He earned numerous awards in the sporting arena. 

It was a pity that a person possessing so much sporting talents didn’t get an inspiration or may be an opportunity he desired upon migration to Pakistan. Instead of being lured to play a role in the development of sports infrastructure of the nascent country, he was allowed to pursue a full-time professional career as geologist. 

Still in his 20s, he had a lot to offer for Pakistan in the field of sports in those years but unfortunately he didn’t get the kind of recognition he deserved on the basis of his talents. He could have proved an asset in swimming in particular. It’s believed that he did possess the skills to represent Pakistan at the international level. He could have done wonders for the country if he was taken care of by the powers that be. 

Isn’t it strange that none of the office-bearers of the national swimming body or any of its affiliated units ever came forward to contact him! His expertise would have certainly benefitted the cause of Pakistan sports. The geologist community of the country appears more alive to the situation than the sports community of Pakistan. 

Ali Zafar Afridi has held various portfolios in the geological bodies and he has been duly recognized for his services. He has continued to lead an active social life, having decades long association with the Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA). 

He has remained a strong support to the Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET). He has served the university, founded by the AMUOBA, in the capacity of Advisor Sports. 

The 81-year-old Ali Zafar Afridi is a man of few words but his memory is sharp and he vividly remembers the high points of sporting career which was brief but very eventful. 

He had passion for sports since childhood. He and his brothers learnt swimming at a very early age in the canal which was in the vicinity of their residence in Farrukhabad, a bustling town in the populous UP. He worked proactively for the Pakistan movement, deriving inspiration from Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s theory of Unity, Faith and Discipline. 

He recalls campaigning for his grandfather, Khan Bahadur Sultan Alam Khan, who defeated the Congress candidate in the 1946 elections. Ali Zafar Afridi has fond memories of his stay at the Aligarh Muslim University. 

He described the university sports facilities as among the best in the country as it housed India’s first indoor swimming pool. He also attended the first-ever Asian Games held in Delhi in 1951 and he has still not forgotten the slogan ‘Play the game in the spirit of the game’ which was displayed prominently at the stadium.  
He’s fully aware of the fact that the sport of swimming was changed over the years but he’s pained by Pakistan’s lack of progress in it. 

“It’s very sad indeed that our swimmers and swimming administrators have not kept pace with times. The standard of swimming has not improved in Pakistan despite the fact that our climate is ideal for swimming,” he regretted. 

“It’s never too late to start working in the right direction. The swimming authorities can still make things happen and bring laurels for the country,” he hoped. 

The soft-spoken Ali Zafar Afridi is not keen to get any office in the swimming body but he expressed his willingness to help out the organizers in raising the bar.

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July 14, 2013

Another Ashes Test turns out to be cliff-hanger


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The first Investec Test between England and Australia at Trent Bridge had nearly all the ingredients of another epic Ashes battle which was sold out for all five days. The 2013 series could have started in a more appropriate manner.

The absorbing contest on all five days proved the point once more that Test cricket in alive and kicking. No matter how much greater money could be earned in lesser time by staging limited overs games or tournaments the fact remains that a high profile Test series has his own significance. 

The Trent Bridge Test which England have won by 14 runs in the end remained a fascinating game all along. It was the faintest of tickle, not even spotted by the umpire, which finally sealed the fate of the match in the home side’s favour. 

Australia, not England, could have emerged triumphant if no DRS was in place. It was the third umpire who made the ultimate decision to settle the issue after five days of intense drama. There was something special on all five days and the cricket enthusiasts could not have desired a closer Test match than this.

Chasing an improbable 311 in the fourth innings of the game, Australia seemed to be out of the contest when their ninth wicket fell on the fifth and final morning with 80 still needed. Brad Haddin and James Pattinson counter-attacked with purpose and remained unseparated until lunch which was extended by half an hour as the last pair was in. 

Haddin and Pattinson had brought Australia right back into the game with their steady partnership and there was every reason for Alastair Cook to feel worried even though it was just a matter of one more wicket. That wicket took long time coming. 

Even James Anderson, whose inspired spell of fast bowling had brought England at the brink of victory, had lost steam against the stubborn last pair. Cook was running out of options and runs. He must have had an uneasy lunch. It was a matter of just a few more lusty blows and Australia would have been home. 

They were only 15 runs away from the target when Haddin, well set on 71, seemed to have nicked Anderson.

Aleem Dar, the on-field umpire, was unsure as the England fielders appealed for caught behind. Since he did not spot an inside edge about which only the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, seemed convinced, the benefit was doubt was given to the batsman which was perfectly in the spirit of the game. 

England, sensing it as their last opportunity, went for the review more in hope than anticipation and they had the decision reversed in their favour and the party began. But it brought to an end one of the most dramatic Test matches of the recent times. 

Anderson's skill and stamina proved decisive in the end as he returned the match winning figures of 10 for 158 off 55.5 overs. He overshadowed the heroics of teenaged debutant Ashton Agar, who created a world record by scoring 98 while batting at number 11 in the first innings.

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