October 31, 2013

Shahram Changezi seeks departmental support to boost snooker in Pakistan


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shahram Changezi, a former national champion and one of the most accomplished cueists of the country, firmly believes that snooker can’t rise phenomenally in Pakistan until the departments lend the kind of support they do to other games.

““The departments hold the key to the future of snooker in Pakistan. The financial constraints would be overcome and the game will stand of its feet once they are on board. The Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) should get affiliated to the legitimate Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) which would pave the way for the key departments to help the game in a big way,” the winner of bronze medal in the 2010 Asian Games snooker team event remarked in an interview. 

“Another factor having hindered the growth of snooker has been the lack of representation of as many as three provinces in the governing body of cue sports which is supposed to be a national federation of all four provincial units,” the Islamabad-based Shahram pointed out. 

Arguably the most educated of all the cueists in the national circuit, he has had difference of opinion with the functionaries of the PBSA on several occasions but he has not been afraid to call a spade a spade.

He has repeatedly reiterated the demand of sending a manager-cum-coach, having technical expertise, to accompany the cueists on every foreign trip rather than promoting joyriders.

“The cueists must not be allowed to leave the shores of the country until they are being accompanied by a manager-cum-coach, who should be a former international player himself. It will be great support to the cueists on and off the table. We don’t need more than one official on any tour,” he stressed.

Shahram regretted that the best available snooker facilities of the country, housed in Islamabad, was not been adequately utilized.

“I have spoken to the PBSA officials about it on a quite a few occasions and they cited the unwillingness of the sponsors to support any event as the reason for not availing the facility available in the federal capital. With better planning and far-sighted approach we could have had more snooker tournaments here,” he believed.

He looked unaware of the issues having plagued the PBSA lately but he expressed his concern over the resignations of top office-bearers. 

“I have read in the newspapers about the resignations but don’t know the details. To be honest I have been out of touch with the PBSA for quite sometime but as a cueist I am sad to learn about all this. All I can say is that let’s think big and dream high irrespective of the existing realities,” Shahram opined. 

 He did not mince words in stating that Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif, the reigning world amateur champion, should have tried his luck in the professionals’ circuit. 

“Asif, after having received financial rewards from the various quarters, appeared to have enough resources besides the opportunity to enter the professional arena but I am not sure why he didn’t go there. I would have advised him to turn professional as there are no Pakistanis in the circuit. His presence there would have been a boost for the country,” Shahram concluded.

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October 27, 2013

Hosts Bangladesh to contest ICC World T20 2014 qualifiers


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Hosts Bangladesh will be needed to appear in the first round, serving as the qualifiers for the Super 10 stage, in the next year's ICC World Twenty20 to be staged there from March 16 and April 6.

According to the details announced by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on October 27, Bangladesh will be grouped with three other Associate and Affiliate nations who will come through the qualifying tournament due to be staged in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) from November 15 to 30. 

The format for the World T20 2014 has been modified in order to accommodate 16 teams this time round as compared to 12 in the last edition. The top eight sides of the ICC's T20 team rankings as on October 8, 2012 have been given direct entry into the Super 10 stage. 

Unsurprisingly Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies are the eight teams having directly qualified for the Super 10 stage by virtue of being the top eight sides in the ICC rankings on the cut-off date. 

Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, who have finished outside the top eight, will now have compete with six other qualifying teams in the first round from March 16 to 21 for the remaining two places in the Super 10 groups.

The six qualifying teams to join the first round will be decided at the end of the World T20 qualifiers next month. If hosts Bangladesh do qualify they will play all Super 10 matches in Mirpur. 

Bangladesh will begin their campaign in the qualifying rounds, also in Mirpur, on March 16, against one of the Associate or Affiliate qualifiers. They will play the other two first-round matches, in Chittagong, on March 18 and 20. 

The Super 10 stage will kickoff with a Group 2 match between the arch rivals and former World T20 champions, Pakistan and India, in Mirpur, on March 21 while holders West Indies will get into action on March 23 against India in Mirpur and will play the rest of their group matches against Pakistan, Australia and a qualifying team. 

The Group 1 in the Super 10 stage will comprise of Sri Lanka, England, South Africa and New Zealand with one of the qualifiers.

Meanwhile Cox's Bazaar has been dropped as a venue for the 2014 World T20 to be held in Bangladesh between Sylhet, another venue considered doubtful due to ongoing work at the stadium, has been retained. 

The ICC has announced that Sylhet would host all first-round fixtures of the Women's World T20 and a few group matches of the World T20, along with Mirpur and Chittagong while all the six knockout matches will be played in Mirpur. 

Sylhet and Cox's Bazaar had been in doubt because of ongoing development works being carried out at the stadiums and were granted an extension until November 30 by the ICC upon a request by the Bangladesh Cricket Board as the original deadline for the completion of the stadiums was September 30.

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October 18, 2013

Pakistan make mockery of ICC rankings by routing South Africa in Abu Dhabi


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

A young cricket correspondent of a leading weekly newsmagazine had interviewed me soon after Pakistan’s defeat at the hands of Zimbabwe in a Test match barely a few months ago.

Maaz Ahmed of MAG Weekly was stunned to the extent that he switched on his tape-recorder to record my comments when I informed him that the result of Harare will have no impact whatsoever when Pakistan would be facing the top-ranked South Africa in their next assignment in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

Obviously he was curious enough to know how it would be possible for Pakistan to challenge the mighty South Africa when they had struggled in both the Test matches against the lowly-rated Zimbabwe. 

The young journalist asked probing questions because he was finding it hard to swallow how in the world any team in obvious shambles will rise so dramatically in a few months to confront or even tame the toppers.

Like a trained professional he hadn’t argued, however, but the strong disbelief on his face indicated that he was not entirely satisfied with my assessment of the Pakistan-South Africa series becoming a close affair. 

What I had stated, on record, a couple of months ago, has now been proved correct in the very first Test match, from the very first day of the series to be precise. You can never write off Pakistan no matter whatever the circumstances. 

Don’t be misled by the ICC rankings. They do have their meaning and purpose but Pakistan can’t be covered by it. No matter where they may be placed or what kind of resources they may be possessing if the rub of the green starts going their way the word ‘logic’ takes a backseat. 

We have seen it happening in many parts of the world but it’s more frequent in the UAE where they have had every aspect to their liking. Be it the weather, the pitch or any other factor, controllable or uncontrollable.

The Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi has witnessed another huge upset. South Africa, having ruled the world, have been brought down to earth by Misbah-ul-Haq’s Pakistan team, which was forced to make changes following the tour of Zimbabwe. The unbeaten run of Graeme Smith’s men has ended after 15 Tests. 

Pakistan fielded a new pair of openers in Khurram Manzoor and Shan Masood and both of them came good beyond expectations. They scored far too many runs in the first innings than their most ardent supporters would have imagined. 

Shan Masood had a dream debut against the most formidable bowling attack of the world, having the likes of Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel who can demolish any opposition within matter of minutes. He could have even got to a hundred in his maiden outing but it was not to be. 

Left-arm spinner Zulfiqar Babar might also be considering international cricket much easier than domestic or even local cricket. He must be feeling at top of the world. That’s called charmed life.

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October 17, 2013

Indian batters cover up follies of bowlers


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The trio of Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli came up with awesome batting performance at the Sawai Mansingh Stadium in Jaipur on October 16 to script a historic ODI win over Australia.

Left-handed Dhawan batted in his usual dominating style, Sharma didn’t throw his wicket for a change and returned undefeated while Kohli came up with another standout cameo to prove the world is at his feet. 

They made a mockery of the huge Australian total of 359 and the impossible-looking target was achieved with nine wickets and 6.3 overs in the bag. 

Not surprisingly it was India’s highest-ever successful chase in ODI history, making up for quite a few near-misses in the past.

Kohli broke the record for the fastest ODI hundred by an Indian, which belonged previously to Virender Sehwag, who has not even been selected for this series due to emergence of the shining young stars and a dip in his own form.

Sharma, under fire despite performing well in the role of an opener, silenced his critics with a phenomenal knock that should also relieve the team management who have continued backing him all along. 

"It was very important for me to play the big innings. It took a long time coming, but I would like to say that the hardwork never stopped. I wanted to bat throughout the innings, I agree that I have played some stupid shots to get out, but this was much needed. Both Shikhar and I understood the pitch and managed the chase, and Virat came and played a strong innings and his innings needs a mention as much as any," Sharma remarked after receiving the Man of the Match award, ahead of Kohli, now the fastest Indian ODI centurion. 

"I think this is one of the best you can see, irrespective of the field restrictions and the pitch, it was still a tall chase. I told them not to look at the target and just go and play. Shikhar batted very well, Kohli was amazing, Rohit got a big knock. It was an ideal pitch, fast outfield, but you need to keep the shape as a batsman, that's what they did well," skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni summed up.

Our batting is looking good, but it's unfair to assume the batsmen are going to chase a 300-plus target every time. Most of our guys have played international cricket, but most of them don't have the experience of a Yuvraj Singh who has played over 250 matches, what you have to do is to be aggressive, but what is important is that you don't have to slog, you have to maintain good shape,”he added. 

The Indian captain, however, remained concerned with his bowlers, having leaked in the excess of 300 on both occasions so far. 

“Bowling, we need to improve. The reason is that if you attempt a yorker and it becomes a low full toss its fine, but if it becomes a waist-high full toss, then the margin is too much. It's one area we are looking to improve," he pointed out.

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October 7, 2013

Nadeem Omar launches presidential campaign with a bang


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Nadeee Omar, a veteran sports promoter and a cricket administrator, has begun his election campaign with a bang. He announced his programme in the presence of some of the influential and venerated cricketing personalities along with a large battery of covering media professionals at the Karachi Gymkhana on October 7.

The founder and patron of the successful cricket teams like Omar Associates, Omar Cricket Club and Capricorn Discount Cards has vowed to transform the Karachi City Cricket Association (KCCA) into a bigger entity than the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), if elected as its President. 

With former Test cricketers, Salahuddin Ahmed, Sadiq Mohammad, Jalaluddin and Nadeem Khan sitting at the stage with him, lending obvious support to him, Nadeem Omar made a convincing presentation aimed at reviving the KCCA. His strategic plan, covering nearly aspect of the game, was lavishly praised. 

The development of a new structure of cricket for Karachi features prominently on his agenda as he plans to have the KCCA managed as professionally as any other modern cricket association anywhere in the world. 

The establishment of a multinational type of office where the KCCA could be headquartered with grace and dignity is on top in the list of his priorities as he also has the plans to take upon the task of building new infrastructures in each of the seven zones something on the lines of Recreation Centres which could house indoor cricket schools besides zonal offices. 

He spoke about revitalizing the club cricket on a war footing with the assistance of the sponsors. He has also looked eager to launch proper cricket tournaments for schools and colleges. 

Nadeem Omar’s plans included the development of complexes containing a full fledged cricket grounds where first-class matches could be played. He emphasized on quickly developing and uploading a state-of-the-art website of the KCCA, to be updated on a daily basis, which would have details about Coaches, Umpires, Scorers, Clubs, Departments, Grounds, Rules, Women’s Cricket and Tournaments besides other features of general interest. 

He also made a mention of setting up a central KCCA Academy besides launching the KCCA Annual Award function to recognize the various stakeholders besides the cricketers. 

Speaking on the Salahuddin Ahmed, while offering his support to Nadeem Omar, observed that the revival of school cricket was the key to discover the new talent. He recalled the 1950s and the 1960s when the cricketers were directly selected to the national team on the basis of Inter-School tournaments whose standard was highly competitive. 

The former KCCA chief selector reckoned that merit should not be compromised at any cost as he cited examples of the past when the teams picked up on the basis of open trials continued to perform well in the national tournaments. 

Sadiq Mohammad, a former Test left-handed opening batsman, was thoroughly appreciated of the plan presented by Nadeem Omar but he emphasized on the development of a top-class office for the KCCA in order to attract the sponsors. He also suggested for the improvement in the quality of pitches to produce fast bowlers. 

Jalaluddin, a former Test fast bowler and a highly qualified coach, felt that it’s high time to have the KCCA reformed and Nadeem Omar, in his opinion, was the right person, to take it to the next level. He urged the zonal officials to vote for him in order to bring about a change.

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