September 28, 2013

Shahid Aftab set to become Pakistan’s 16th cueist to appear in World Championship


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shahid Aftab, an accomplished cueist from Faisalabad, is set to become 16th Pakistani to participate in the World Snooker Championship which celebrates its golden jubilee this year. 

Latif Amir Bakhsh, Tanvir Dada, Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Amir Bakhsh, Naveen Perwani, Saleh Mohammad, Farhan Mirza, Imran Puri, Mohammad Shafiq, Khurram Agha, Imran Shahzad, Mohammad Sajjad, Mohammad Asif, Sohail Shahzad and Asjad Iqbal are the other cueists from Pakistan to have played in the World Championship, having been instituted in 1963. 

Mohammad Yousuf and Mohammad Asif are the only ones to have captured the world crown. Yousuf achieved this feat at Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1994 while Asif emulated him 18 years later at Bulgaria, Sofia. 

Asif will be defending his title in the 2013 IBSF World Snooker Championship to be staged in Daugavpils, Latvia, from September 27 to December 8. He will be accompanied by Shahid Aftab and Imran Shahzad as Pakistan will be fielding three entries this time round because of him being the holder. 

Shahid has made the cut by having emerged triumphant in the Jubilee Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2013 at the Karachi Sheraton Hotel on September 26. He has now become the top ranked cueist of the country.

Imran, who made his international debut at Korat, Thailand, in 2007, will be making his fourth appearance in the World Championship, having also participated at Damascus, Syria, in 2010 and at Bangalore, India, the following year. 

Asif, who won the National Championship in 2009, made his debut in the World Championship later the same year at Hyderabad, India. He missed the action in the global event in 2010 but returned to represent the country in 2011. He then rewrote history by winning the world crown at Sofia, Bulgaria, last year.

Yousuf had been participating in the World Championship every year since 1988. After winning the title in 1994, he appeared in the 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998 and 2000 editions of the premier amateur event. Still active in the national circuit, he has had the distinction of playing in exactly a dozen editions of the World Championship, which is the Pakistan record for the highest appearances. He also holds the record of winning the National Championship on the highest number of occasions. 

Saleh Mohammad, who has now emigrated to Afghanistan, represented Pakistan in as many as 11 editions of the World Championship from 1993 to 2004. He could have surpassed Yousuf’s record if the event was not scrapped in 2001 and 2005. He had come closest to claiming the world title in 2003 when, after winning the earlier 14 games on a trot, he was downed in the final by Pankaj Advani of India at Jiangmen, China. 

Naveen Kumar Perwani participated in the World Championships in 1992, 1993, 1995, and 2006 while Khurram Hussain Agha earned this honour in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2008. Mohammad Sajjad has appeared in a couple of editions of the World Championship (2009 and 2010) while Sohail Shahzad and Asjad Iqbal represented Pakistan in the global event in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

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September 26, 2013

Shahid Aftab qualifies for World Championship by annexing Jubilee Ranking snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Neither the world champion Mohammad Asif nor the defending champion Asjad Iqbal could force their way into the semifinals of the Jubilee Insurance 3rd Ranking Snooker Championship 2013. Top seeded Imran Shahzad also failed to make it to the final which was contested between fourth seed Shahid Aftab and sixth seed Abdul Sattar at the Karachi Sheraton Hotel on September 26.

Shahid Aftab prevailed over Abdul Sattar 7-4 in the best of 13-frame encounter with the scores of 56-76, 64-68, 73-51, 47-74, 114-3, 74-16, 40-66, 71-25, 58-46, 73-39, 61-59. The match was closer than the final scoreline suggested. Eventually the glory came in the way 

Shahid Aftab, a former national champion from Faisalabad. He was not only rewarded with the winner’s trophy alongwith a purse of Rs 70,000 but he also achieved the cherished goal of earning the right to represent Pakistan in the World Snooker Championship later this year by virtue of becoming the top ranked cueist of the country. He will be a part of the Pakistan’s World Championship squad, alongwith the reigning champion Mohammad Asif, also from Faisalabad, and Imran Shahzad, belonging to Lahore.

Abdul Sattar, one of the most accomplished cueists of Karachi, had his moments in the final but the additional pressure of vying for the World Championship slot took its toll and he reasons to feel heart-broken after being in such spectacular for throughout the seven-day event. 

Although making his maiden appearance in the final of a national ranking event, he had drawn the first blood and was looking good in the first half of the match. He was better poised to clinch the trophy when he led 4-3 but he couldn't put his acts together in the last few frames against an opponent, who had greater experience of big matches. 

The consolation for Sattar, however, was his elevation to third position in the national ranking chart, having been positioned sixth before the start of the tourney.

Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Commissioner Karachi, was to be the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony, according to an official announcement by the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) only a day earlier. But it could be ascertained immediately what prompted the governing body of cue sports to invite a cricket celebrity like Shahid Afridi, a former Pakistan captain, to run away with the spotlight in the presentation ceremony. 

The PBSA President, Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, does have the reputation of springing surprises once in a while and it was probably one of those moves. It looked surprising to say the least because the snooker officials often complain, officially, about being overshadowed by cricket. If they themselves would provide the stage to the cricketers in their prized functions they would lose the right of making an anti-cricket statement in future. 

Tahir Ahmed, Managing Director, Jubilee General Insurance, representing the sponsors, was also present in the closing ceremony of the event in which cash prizes of Rs 165,000 were disbursed among the top performers.

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September 25, 2013

Arif Habib’s visionary leadership creates magnificent Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It’s the vision of Arif Habib, besides his passion for cricket, which has led to the creation of the magnificent Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium which has nearly all the ingredients of becoming a world-class venue in not too distant future.

One of the leading entrepreneurs of the country having a played a pivotal role in keeping the Pakistan economy afloat even in the toughest of times, Arif Habib, Chairman, Arif Habib Group, has played a master stroke by developing a cricket ground of international standard in his latest project, the Naya Nazimabad City, a 2,100-acre housing scheme in the northern area of Karachi. 

He is believed to have masterminded the development of the cricket stadium on a fast track which has earned huge goodwill to the mega project in many ways. The first thing one comes across after entering the main gate of the Naya Nazimabad city is the picturesque cricket stadium, which already has floodlights. You could not expect a better first impression of the project other than this one. 

With hills on one side and the Manghopir Lake on the other, the scheme is well guarded and gated. It’s just a few minutes drive from the Sakhi Hasan roundabout in North Nazimabad. The construction work in the housing scheme is in full flow, much to the delight and satisfaction of the allottees, and the developed cricket stadium has ensured plenty of life in the arena much before people start residing there upon the completion of the project by the end of 2015.

Cricket has been the first love for Arif Habib and he has made a point to play matches at the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium on Sundays whenever he’s in town. 

He derives enormous pleasure in driving down from his DHA residence in the morning and takes the cricket game as seriously as any other assignment even today. 

“The principles of cricket are very effective in business. The goal is to stay at the wicket, hit the right balls, leave the balls that don’t quite work, and keep an eye on the scoreboard. I feel that my childhood association with cricket has contributed to my success,” Arif Habib was famously quoted as saying. 

The Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium has been named after Hussain Lawai, President, Summit Bank Limited, in recognition and honour of his support and passion for cricket. Indeed he has been a great promoter of sports over the years. The credit for turning Arif Habib’s dream of the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium into reality goes to Mohammad Iqbal, Director, Javedan Corporation Limited, whose expertise and skills for sports administration are well known.

Iqbal, a former first-class cricketer, headed the sports division of the Muslim Commercial Bank, now MCB Bank, for a number of years. He had represented the organization in the various committees as well as the Council of the Board of Control for Cricket in Pakistan (BCCP), now the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

It’s another far-sighted decision by the management of the Javedan Corporation Limited to have entrusted the responsibilities of managing the affairs of the cricket stadium in particular to Iqbal, who has a proven track record in this field. 

The Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium has already hosted a major tournament recently in which Omar Cricket Club emerged triumphant in the final of the Peace Cup Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2013 at as they overpowered Qasmi Cricket Club in the final. 

Samad A Habib, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Javedan Corporation Limited, was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony held at the ground immediately after the conclusion of the final. Mohammad Iqbal, one of the Directors of the corporation, was also present on the occasion.

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September 24, 2013

Omar Cricket Club complete grand slam by annexing Naya Nazimabad’s Peace Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

What a fascinating sight it has been to witness the flood-lit matches on the very pleasant nights of Karachi at the picturesque Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium whose settings resemble to those lovely cricket grounds of Australia and South Africa. 

Arif Habib, Chairman, Arif Habib Group, deserves the credit for having developed such a magnificent cricket stadium in remarkably short span of time. His passion for the gentleman's game is well known and he has done a great service to the cricket enthusiasts of Karachi by gifting this wonderful ground to them.

The inaugural edition of the Peace Cup Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2013, contested by some of the leading outfits of city, alongwith a few outstations ones, came to an end recently after the majority of the matches had been staged during the Holy month of Ramazan. 

The Naya Nazimabad Peace Cup remained a spectacle for the participating cricketers as well as the large number of spectators who thoroughly enjoyed the close contests and, most significantly, complete ‘peace’ was observed in every match. 

Omar Cricket Club extended their purple patch by winning the Peace Cup Twenty20 Cricket Tournament 2013 as they outwitted Qasmi Cricket Club by four runs in the tensely fought final on yet another beautiful night at the Naya Nazimabad Lawai Stadium. 

Left-handed batsman Shaharyar Ghani and left-arm pacer Rumman Rais Khan were the stars of the final as Omar CC, despite a hat-trick by off-spinner Haris Ayaz, continued their march towards glory by annexing fifth local tournament. It was another feature in the cap of Nadeem Omar whose Omar Associates and Omar CC have dominated the local cricket scene. 

Batting first, Omar CC was bowled out for 134 on the final ball of their innings. Shaharyar Ghani was the top scorer with 48 off 31 balls, hammering two sixes and four fours. Fakhar Zaman (32 not out) and Akbar-ur-Rahman (31) ensured a fighting total after the innings was rocked by the spin trio of Haris Ayaz (3-31), Wasim Ali (2-15) and Fahim Ahmed (2-24). 

Qasmi CC failed in their pursuit of reaching the target of 135 although fine knocks from Zakir Malik (31), Mohammad Rizwan (25), Tariq Haroon (20) and Waqas Haroon (20) put them at striking distance. The raw pace of Rumman Rais Khan made the difference in the end as the youngster claimed four wickets for 15 runs to limit Qasmi CC to 130 for nine in 20 overs. Adnan Kalim (2-14) and Misbah Khan (2-20) also bowled superbly in what turned out to be a low-scoring thriller. 

The prize distribution ceremony, in which cash awards of more than Rupees half a million were disbursed, was held at the ground immediately after the conclusion of the final with Samad A Habib, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Javedan Corporation Limited, being the chief guest of the night. Mohammad Iqbal, a former cricketer and Director of the corporation, also graced the occasion alongwith some other officials of the company, who had worked tirelessly to make the tournament a success story. 

A total of 16 teams took part in the tournament and they were divided equally in four groups for the first round. The top two teams from each group advanced to the knockout stage of the competition having started with the quarter-finals.

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September 17, 2013

Pakistan's first-ever snooker academy inaugurated in Faisalabad


By Syed Khalid Mahmood 
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

While cricket and hockey continue to test the patience of the sports enthusiasts in Pakistan, the progress being made in the game snooker provides some consolation. At a time when the hockey team failed to even qualify for the World Cup and the cricketers struggled to overcome the lowly-rated Zimbabwe there was some ray of hope for the country to seek further glories in snooker.

The industrial town of Faisalabad, which is home to the current world snooker champion, Mohammad Asif, has now taken the lead in establishing the first-ever snooker academy of the country. It was in the fitness of things that Asif was present in the inauguration ceremony as the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) inked a deal with the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF), for establishing academy on September 14. 

The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, PBSA, and Dr Iqrar Ahmed Khan, Vice Chancellor, UAF, in a high-profile ceremony at the campus on Saturday in the presence of Riaz Hussain Pirzada, Minister for Inter Provincial Co-ordination (IPC). 

Syed Amir Hamza Gilani, Director General, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and Dr Akhter Nawaz Ganjera, Director General (Technical & Training), PSB, were also present on the occasion while the Snooker & Billiards Association of Punjab (SBAP) was represented by its President, Naveed Ahmed, and Secretary, Shahzad Riaz Choudhary.

According to the PBSA media release,  the welcome speech by its President, Alamgir Shaikh who requested the IPC Minister to use his good offices to donate a couple of tables from the Ministry since the PBSA had planned to install four tables for the Academy but only two could be arranged due to financial constraints. 

The PBSA President thanked the Vice Chancellor UAF for providing the University Hall for the Academy and praised the management for their wholehearted co-operation in turning the dream of a snooker academy into reality. 

The Vice Chancellor, Dr Iqrar Ahmed Khan, acknowledged the efforts of the PBSA in establishing this academy which he said was a big achievement and assured the Minister that the University of Agriculture will always be ready for any sports activity in the premises. He also offered a job to world champion Mohammad Asif at the university. 

The IPC Minister, Riaz Pirazada, in his speech, recognized the initiatives of the PBSA and the UAF for setting up the snooker academy. He praised the efforts of the PBSA for the promotion of snooker in Pakistan and lauded the cueists for their achievements in international competitions which made the country proud.

The Minister announced that the two tables to the Faisalabad Snooker Academy will be provided by the Ministry of Inter Provincial Co-ordination in addition to the already installed two) tables by the PBSA. Furthermore, the Minister also gave assurance on behalf of the federal government that Mohammad Asif will soon get his entitlement of the cash award of Rs. 10 Million as per Sports Policy. 

The Snooker Academy Hall was declared officially open by the IPC Minister by cutting the ribbon and playing a shot on the snooker table. 

The PBSA President proposed that the name of the Hall provided by the UAF for the Snooker Academy be named Muhammad Asif Snooker Hall. The Vice Chancellor agreed to the proposal and assured to take approval of the said proposal from the Board of the UAF.

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