November 30, 2013

Hakimuddin Sadiq Gold Cup revives Karachi Club’s golden status in snooker


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Karachi Club, as an institution, has played the most significant role in taking snooker where it stands today in Pakistan. It remained the virtual headquarters of the controlling body of cue sports in the country for a number of years. 

Sadly, however, the Karachi Club and the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA) have had sour relationship during the last few years. The gulf has only widened following the gold trophy episode. The worst sufferer has been the sport itself and the tournament as prestigious as the Latif Masters has not been staged for more than five years. It used to be the fourth and final national ranking event to be contested by only the top cueists of the country. 

The clash of personalities and the differences in opinion on both sides have deprived the country of the tournament which was instituted in the memory of the legendary Latif Amir Bakhsh, who died young. 

While the PBSA has staged its national ranking tournaments at different other venues of Karachi, from commercial parlours to five-star hotels, the Karachi Club has had to restrict itself to intra-club snooker activities. 

But the Karachi Club, lately, has shown the eagerness to revive snooker activities on a bigger scale and the renovated Amir Bakhsh Billiards Hall has been buzzing with competitive events its more.

A grand concluding ceremony was held on November 28 to celebrate the successful hosting of the 2nd KC Hakimuddin Sadiq Gold Cup Team Event Snooker Tournament 2013 which was clinched by quintet of Vishan Gir, Shahid Yaqoob, Ashok Kumar, Salman Qasmani and Ovais Mian Noor, having played by the name of A-1.

In the finals, A-1 overcame D-2 after a grim six-frame battle which the former won 4-2. Vishan Gir’s outfit managed to overcome Aneel Bherwani’s side, also having Shahid Dhehdi, Azhar Dawra, Zohaib Haroon and Saad Munaf.

The club’s President, Ashfaq Yousuf Tola, and Honorary Secretary, Jawed H Karim, both of them having rich background of sports, were the guests of honour in the prize distribution ceremony held soon after the conclusion of the final.

The winning team, captained by Vishan Gir, who has been among the leading cueists of the country for a number of years, received a cash award of Rs 25,000 while the runner-up side D-2, led by Aneel Bherwani, a former Pakistan number two, got a purse of Rs 15,000.

The losing semifinalists C-1 and C-4, skippered by Asim Ghani and Dilip Perwani respectively, was presented Rs 10,000 each while the losing quarter-finalists B-1, D-3, B-3 and A-3, captained by Farhan Idrees, Rizwan Jumbo, Zeeshan Merchant and Imran Meghani respectively, were compensated with Rs 5,000 each.

Vishan Gir also received a special prize for having registered the highest break of 54, with Abdul Ghaffar, Ovais Mian Noor and Umair Idrees being the next highest scorers. The 11-day tournament, which started on November 18, was contested by a total of 14 teams who were divided in four groups. There were four cueists each in the Groups A and B while there were three each in the Groups C and D.

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November 24, 2013

Record 17 century breaks chalked up as Asif retains Langnese Snooker Cup


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

World champion Mohammad Asif lived upto his big reputation and succeeded in retaining the Langnese Snooker Cup by overpowering surprise packet in the final at the Karachi Sheraton Hotel on November 24.

He didn’t look back after suffering a shock defeat in the opening match of the six-day event. He went on to conquer his other six opponents in the league matches before winning both the knockout games. 

In the best of 15-frame final he outgunned Mohammad Bilal, hailing from the town of Mandi Bahauddin, 8-4 with the frame scores of 37-96, 71-34, 71-29, 120-0, 71-50, 122-10, 72-22, 81-45, 5-84, 13-104, 27-67, 98-0. He followed a break of 71 in the fourth frame with an even better one of 116 in the fifth frame. 

The final, unlike some of the league matches, was played at a brisk pace with both the contestants in pursuit of potting consistently instead of going for safety. As a result the 12 frames were completed in a matter of just three hours and 45 minutes. 

At the end of the match the reigning world champion suggested that his rival Bilal, playing his maiden final of a national ranking tournament, did show sign of nerves at crucial stages of the title clash which was not surprising.

“It happens with everyone when playing in front of the television cameras for the first time. He must have been under pressure which didn’t allow him to play the way he would have liked in the final,” Asif felt. 

The 28-year-old Bilal, however, was credited to have a staged a fine comeback in the session, after having been blanked 1-7 in the morning session, despite having claimed the opening frame. 

He did take some positives from the final despite losing it 4-8 eventually. He chalked up a break of 55 in the first frame, one of 61 in the ninth frame and another one of 75 in the tenth frame. 

Shoaib Ahmad Siddiqui, Commissioner, Karachi, was the chief guest in the prize distribution ceremony which was presided over by Saquib Riaz, Chief Executive Officer, Anjum Asif Limited. Ahmed Chinoy, Chairman, Citizen-Police Liaison Committee, and Sikander Mahmood, Chairman, Pakistan Hotels Association, were also present on the occasion.

Shoaib Siddiqui, in his brief speech, acknowledged the rising standard of snooker in the country and pledged to facilitate the government support for its further promotion and development. He urged the corporate sector to come forward to patronize the sport. 

Alamgir Anwar Shaikh, President, Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), in his welcome address, praised the cueists for registering as many as 17 century breaks during the tournament. 

Shoaib Siddiqui and Saquib Riaz presented Mohammad Asif a purse of Rs 70,000 for winning the Ranking Cup while runner-up Mohammad Bilal received a cash award of Rs 40,000. Top seeded Shahid Aftab, who couldn’t make it to the semifinals, picked up a prize of Rs 10,000 for registering the highest break of the tournament (140) while second seed Imran Shahzad and unseeded Babar Masih, the losing semifinalists, were compensated with Rs 15,000 each.

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November 17, 2013

Recalling Tendulkar’s Test debut at National Stadium Karachi


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

While the recent farewell of the Indian batting great Sachin Tendulkar is reported to have brought tears in many eyes, it’s the mention of his Test debut which continues to shake me even though more than 24 years have lapsed now.

My childhood friend, Ali Rizwan, who was a Tendulkar in his own right in many ways, died in a tragic road accident less than a week before the much talked 16-year-old from India was set to make his debut against Pakistan at the National Stadium, Karachi. 

Rizwan remained my closest friend all along and we had played a lot of cricket together, besides having started writing on cricket and doing detailed scoring at the same time. We were into cricket by all means. Together we used to visit the National Stadium, initially to do the ball-to-ball scoring and then to cover the matches, for a number of years. 

We were very excited at the prospect of accompanying each other for the coverage of the first Test of a new series between Pakistan and India in which talented youngsters from both sides were expected to make their debut. For Pakistan it was going to be fast bowler Waqar Younis, besides all-rounder Shahid Saeed, while for India, schoolboy Tendulkar and medium-pacer Salil Ankola were to receive a Test cap. 

Little did we know that I would be left ‘alone’ for good and it was a very painful exercise for me personally to go to the National Stadium for the whole week with Rizwan having quietly left this mortal world just four days before the start of the Test match. In normal circumstances I would have stayed back but a daily visit to the ground was necessitated to fulfill my reporting commitments with The Frontier Post, a national daily published from Peshawar.

Tendulkar’s name featured in India’s playing eleven which was announced on the evening before the match. But there was no mention of Mohammad Azharuddin in it and Raman Lamba was due to bat at number four. The Indian team, presumably with instructions from back home, was changed overnight and Azharuddin was drafted in place of Lamba, on the eve of the toss which left the commentators and the covering journalists stunned.

Tendulkar’s first day in Test cricket was on November 15, 1989 but he came into bat for the first time the following day. There was a lot of buzz at the stadium as the youngster walked out to the middle with his team reeling on the second afternoon. 

Pakistan’s speedsters, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis, were firing on all cylinders and the Indian top-order was getting blown away. Four of their top batters, including Sanjay Manjrekar, were back in the dressing when he arrived at the fall of the Manoj Prabhakar’s wicket, with total on 41. 

Tendulkar’s maiden innings lasted little less than half an hour but it did show flashes of brilliance. He was castled by Waqar, after scoring 15 off 24 balls. His 32-run fifth wicket partnership with Azharuddin came at better than run a minute and it did help in releasing the pressure. India avoided the follow-on and he was not required to bat a second time with Manjrekar’s unbeaten hundred saving the game on the fifth day.

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November 16, 2013

Tendulkar’s farewell speech


Pakistan News & Features Services

“All my friends settle down let me talk. I will get more and more emotional. My life, between 22 yards for 24 years, it is hard to believe that that wonderful journey has come to an end, but I would like to take this opportunity to thank people who have played an important role in my life. Also, for the first time in my life I am carrying this list, to remember all the names in case I forget someone. I hope you understand. It's getting a little bit difficult to talk but I will manage.” 

“The most important person in my life, and I have missed him a lot since 1999 when he passed away, my father. Without his guidance, I don't think I would have been standing here in front of you. He gave me freedom at the age of 11, and told me that I should chase my dreams, but make sure you do not find short cuts. The path might be difficult, but don't give up, and I have simply followed his instructions. Above all, he told me to be a nice human being, which I will continue to do and try my best. Every time I have done something special [and] showed my bat, it was for my father.” 

“My mother, I don't know how she dealt with such a naughty child like me. I was not easy to manage. She must be extremely patient. For a mother, the most important thing is that her child remains safe and healthy and fit. That was what she was most bothered and worried about. She took care of me for the last 24 years that I have played for India, but even before that she started praying for me the day I started playing cricket. She just prayed and prayed and I think her prayers and blessings have given me the strength to go out and perform so a big thank you to my mother for all the sacrifices.” 

“In my school days, for four years, I stayed with my uncle and aunt because my school was quite far from my home, and they treated me like their son. My aunt, after having had a hard day's play, I would be half asleep and she would be feeding me food so I could go again and play tomorrow. I can't forget these moments. I am like their son and I am glad it has continued to be the same way.” 

“My eldest brother, Nitin, and his family, have always encouraged me. My eldest brother doesn't like to talk much, but the one thing he always told me is that whatever you do, I know you will always give it 100%, and that I have full faith and confidence in you. His encouragement meant a lot to me. My sister, Savita, and her family, were no different. The first cricket bat of my life was presented to me by my sister. It was a Kashmir willow bat. But that is where the journey began. She is one of those many who still continue to fast when I bat, so thank you very much.” 

 “Ajit, my brother, now what do I talk about him? I don't know. We have lived this dream together. He was the one who sacrificed his career for my cricket. He spotted the spark in me. And it all started from the age of 11 when he took me to Archrekar sir, my coach, and from there on my life changed. You will find this hard to believe but even last night he called to discuss my dismissal, knowing that there was a remote chance of batting again, but just the habit we have developed, the rapport we have developed, since my birth, has continued and it will continue. Maybe when I'm not playing cricket we will still be discussing technique.” 

“Various things we agreed upon, my technique and so many technical things which I didn't agree with him, we have had arguments and disagreements, but when I look back at all these things in my life, I would have been a lesser cricketer.” “he most beautiful thing happened to me in 1990 when I met my wife, Anjali. Those were special years and it has continued and will always continue that way. I know Anjali, being a doctor; there was a wonderful career in front of her. When we decided to have a family, Anjali took the initiative to step back and say that 'you continue with your cricket and I will take the responsibility of the family.” 

“Without that, I don't think I would have been able to play cricket freely and without stress. Thanks for bearing with all my fuss and all my frustrations, and all sorts of rubbish that I have spoken. Thanks for bearing with me and always staying by my side through all the ups and downs. You are the best partnership I've had in my life.” 

“Then, the two precious diamonds of my life: Sara and Arjun. They have already grown up. My daughter is 16, my son is 14. Time has flown by. I wanted to spend so much time with them on special occasions like their birthdays, their annual days, their sports day, going on holidays, whatever. I have missed out on all those things. Thanks for your understanding. Both of you have been so, so special to me you cannot imagine. I promise you [that] for 14 and 16 years I have not spent enough time with both of you, but the next 16 years or even beyond that, everything is for you.” 

“My in-laws, Anand Mehta and Annabelle, both have been so, so supportive [and] loving and caring. I have discussed on various things in life, generally with them, and have taken their advice. You know, it's so important to have a strong family who is always with you and who are guiding you. Before you start clapping, the most important thing they did was allowing me to marry Anjali, so thank you very much.” 

"In the last 24 years that I have played for India I have made new friends, and before that I have had friends from my childhood. They have all had a terrific contribution. As and when I have called them to come and bowl to me at the nets, they have left their work aside to come and help me. Be it joining me on holidays and having discussions with me on cricket, or how I was a little stressed and wanting to find a solution so I can perform better". 

“All those moments my friends were with me. Even for when I was injured, I would wake up in the morning because I couldn't sleep and thought that my career was over because of injuries, that is when my friends have woken up at 3 o'clock in the morning to drive with me and make me believe that my career was not over. Life would be incomplete without all those friends. Thanks for being there for me.” 

“My cricket career started when I was 11. The turning point of my career was when my brother Ajit took me to Achrekar sir. I was extremely delighted to see him up in the stands. Normally he sits in front of the television and he watches all the games that I play. When I was 11/12, those were the days when I used to hop back on his scooter and play a couple of practice matches a day. The first half the innings I would be batting at Shivaji Park, the second half, at some other match in Azad Maidan. He would take me all over Mumbai to make sure I got match practice.” 

“On a lighter note, in the last 29 years, sir has never ever said 'well played' to me because he thought I would get complacent and I would stop working hard. Maybe he can push his luck and wish me now, well done on my career, because there are no more matches, sir, in my life. I will be witnessing cricket, and cricket will always stay in my heart, but you have had an immense contribution in my life, so thank you very much.” 

“My cricket for Mumbai started right here on this ground, the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA), which is so dear to me. I remember landing from New Zealand at four o'clock in the morning, and turning up for a game here at eight o'clock just because I wanted to be a part of Mumbai cricket, and not that somebody forced me. That was for the love of Mumbai cricket, and thank you very much. The president is here so thank you very much, along with your team, for taking care of me and looking after my cricket.” 

“The dream was obviously to play for India, and that is where my association with BCCI started. BCCI was fantastic, right from my debut they believed in my ability and selecting me into the squad at the age of 16 was a big step, so thanks to all the selectors for having faith in me and the BCCI for giving me the freedom to express myself out in the middle. Things would have been different if you had not been behind me, and I really appreciate your support. Especially when I was injured, you were right with me and making sure that all the treatments were taken care of and that I got fit and fine and playing right back for India.” 

“The journey has been special, the last 24 years, I have played with many senior cricketers, and even before that there were many senior cricketers with whom I watched on television. They inspired me to play cricket, and to play in the right way. Thanks to all those senior cricketers, and unfortunately I have not been able to play with them, but I have high regards for all their achievements and all their contributions.” 

“We see it on the mega-screen, Rahul, Laxman, Sourav, and Anil, who is not here, and my team-mates right here in front me. You are like my family away from home. I have had some wonderful times with you. It is going to be difficult to not be part of the dressing room, sharing those special moments. All the coaches for their guidance, it has been special for me. I know when MS Dhoni presented me the 200th Test match cap on day one morning. I had a brief message for the team. I would like to repeat that. I just feel that all of us are so, so fortunate and proud to be part of the Indian cricket team and serving the nation.” 

“Knowing all of you guys, I know you will continue to serve the nation in the right spirit and right values. I believe we have been the lucky ones to be chosen by the Almighty to serve this sport. Each generation gets this opportunity to take care of this sport and serve it to the best of our ability. I have full faith in you to continue to serve the nation in the right spirit and to the best of your ability, to bring all the laurels to the country. All the very best.” 

“I would be failing in my duties if I did not thank all the doctors, the physios, the trainers, who have put this difficult body together to go back on the field and be able to play. The amount of injuries that I have had in my career, I don't know how you have managed to keep me fit, but without your special efforts, it would never have happened. The doctors have met me at weird hours. I mean I have called them from Mumbai to Chennai, Mumbai to Delhi, I mean wherever. They have just taken the next flight and left their work and families to be with me, which has allowed me to play. So a big thank you to all three of you for keeping me in good shape.” 

“My dear friend, late Mark Mascarenhas, my first manager. We unfortunately lost him in a car accident in 2001, but he was such a well-wisher of cricket, my cricket, and especially Indian cricket. He was so passionate. He understood what it takes to represent a nation and gave me all the space to go out and express myself, and never pressurized me to do this ad or promotion or whatever the sponsors demanded. He took care of that and today I miss him, so thank you Mark for all your contribution.” 

“My current management team, WSG, for repeating what Mark has done, because when I signed the contract I exactly told them what I want from them, and what it requires to represent me. They have done that and respected that.”

“Someone who has worked closely with me for 14 years is my manager, Vinod Nayudu. He is more like my family and all the sacrifices, spending time away from his family for my work, has been special, so big thank you to his family as well for giving up so much time for my work with Vinod.” 

“In my school days, when I performed well, the media backed me a lot. They continue to do that till this morning. Thank you so much to the media for supporting and appreciating my performances. It surely had a positive effect on me. Thank you so much to all the photographers as well for those wonderfully captured moments that will stay with me for the rest of my life, so a big thank you to all the photographers.” 

“I know my speech is getting a bit too long but this is the last thing I want to say. I want to thank all the people here who have flown in from various parts of the world, and have supported me endlessly, whether I scored a 0 or a 100-plus. Your support was so dear to me and meant a lot to me. Whatever you have done for me.” 

“I know I have met so many guys who have fasted for me, prayed for me, done so much for me. Without that life wouldn't have been like this for me. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart, and also say that time has flown by rather quickly, but the memories you have left with me will always be with me forever and ever, especially "Sachin, Sachin" which will reverberate in my ears till I stop breathing. Thank you very much. If I have missed out on saying something, I hope you understand. Goodbye.”

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November 9, 2013

Fantastic debutants, not retiring legend, set Eden Gardens alight


By Syed Khalid Mahmood
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Not surprisingly the young guns, not the retiring maestro, ruled at the Eden Gardens, Kolkata, where India flattened the West Indies by an innings and 51 runs inside three days in the first of the hurriedly-arranged two Test matches.

In fact it were two debutants, Mohammed Shami and Rohit Sharma, who stole the limelight in the game which the hosts won very comfortably after being in dire straits on the second morning. 

As we have seen often during the latter half of the great Sachin Tendulkar’s career, he was unable to contribute anything of note when the team needed him. 

Although Sharma, extending his brilliant ODI form, was declared Man of the Match for his game-changing knock of 177 but there were many who thought that the award should have gone to the young fast-medium bowler Shami instead for claiming as many as nine wickets on a pitch tailor-made for spinners. 

The performance of both the debutants was fantastic and they could be considered as new shining lights of Indian cricket. Their immediate objective would be to cement their place in the side and their efforts at Kolkata make them more or less guarantee their spots in the squad that will be touring South Africa in a few weeks of time.

If Sharma and Shami are able to sustain the form they are in at the moment, there’s very little doubt in one’s mind that they would return from South Africa with their reputation enhanced. 

Sharma is regarded as the most daring of all Indian batsmen, whose forte is cutting and pulling. He has demonstrated his prowess in ODIs. It seems a matter of time for him to make his presence felt in the Test arena as well. 

Shami, who also started his international career with limited overs contests, looks a much improved bowler now and he should be picking up wickets regularly on the South African pitches that are more conducive to swing and seam bowling than the ones at home. He does have the pace to make it count. 

The Indian skipper, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, was quick in acknowledging the superlative performances of Sharma and Shami on debut.

"I think it was a disciplined bowling performance. Shami was fantastic. Most of the fast bowlers got reverse swing, but his line and length was the key. He got the right length and that's why I think he got nine wickets in this game,” Dhoni complimented. 

"You need a bit of pace to dominate. You can get a bit of reverse swing, and he's got very good seam positioning which means he can reverse the ball away from the right-handed batsmen. So on wickets that have a bit more bounce, I think he will be even more effective with the ball going both ways. We're all very happy with the performance," he added. 

Dhoni was equally generous in praising Sharma. "Well, you have to believe in destiny. I remember in Nagpur, there was a game he was supposed to play, but during the warm-up he injured his ankle and missed the Test. So I think it's good to see him bat the way he has batted. He is very talented, but now that it is reflecting on the field, he's really enjoying his cricket. Hopefully he'll go ahead and take more responsibility," the skipper reckoned.

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