October 15, 2021

Pakistan off to Dubai for ICC T20 World Cup with optimism

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Captained by star batsman Babar Azam, Team Pakistan left for Dubai on October 15 with fair degree of optimism for the ICC T20 World Cup Cricket Tournament whose Super 12 round is due to commence from October 23. 

Before flying to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Babar dispelled the impression that Fakhar will be used as an opener, as he himself would continue to be opening the innings with Muhammad Rizwan. 

The continued downpour of hue and cry by former cricketers, media and others had finally compelled chief selector Muhammad Wasim to induct left-handed explosive opener Fakhar and former Pakistan captains, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Shoaib Malik, in the 15-member squad. 

Green shirts now look a balanced and potent combination. The whole nation and millions of Pakistani supporters are looking at the vastly experienced trio of Shoaib, Sarfaraz and Muhammad Hafeez alongwith the talented youngsters, Babar, Fakhar and Rizwan to inspire rest of the team to show their firepower in warm up matches and the main event to gladden their hearts. 

Short format specialist Shoaib will now be playing his sixth consecutive T20 World Cup and he is being expected to come up flying colors to bid farewell by bringing glory and honour for Pakistan. 

Australia will clash South Africa at Abu Dhabi and two-time champions West Indies take on England at Dubai on October 23. However the showpiece contest will be held the following day when the 2009 champions Pakistan will start their campaign against arch-rivals India, led by the flamboyant Virat Kohli. 

Although not many are rating Pakistan team very highly but their unpredictability makes them the most dangerous outfit and the Indians, who had won the inaugural T20 World Cup in 2007, will not commit the blunder of taking them lightly. 

Pakistan must win at least four matches of the group to have any realistic hope for a place in the semifinal. Besides India, New Zealand and Afghanistan may also prove to be hard nuts to crack but Pakistan will still be having a fair chance of moving ahead if they play to their potential. 

The qualifying phase of the event commence at Amert Stadium Oman from October 17 with eight teams in fray for four qualifying berths. Besides former champions Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Ireland, Netherlands, Scotland, Papua New Guinea, Namibia and hosts Oman will be battling it out in qualifiers. Oman will clash Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh will be up against Scotland on coming Sunday. 

In the meantime Pakistan hired fast bowling consultant Vernon Philander of South Africa, who has extensive training pace bowlers. The pundits, however, have expressed apprehension about immediate success due to limited time at his disposal. 

Pakistan’s newly appointed batting consultant and former Australia batting great Matthew Hayden, who is currently engaged in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL), will join the team in Dubai. With chief coach Misbah-ul-Haq and fast bowling coach Waqar Younis have stepped down, 

Pakistan’s cricketers have to adjust quickly to the methods pursued by interim coach Saqlain Mushtaq, to be assisted by Philander and Hayden.

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October 8, 2021

Fakhar, Haider and Sarfaraz finally inducted in Pakistan T20 World Cup squad

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By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Media pressure and public voice finally yielded results as the deserving trio of Fakhar Zaman, Haider Ali and Sarfaraz Ahmed was belatedly inducted in 15-member Pakistan squad for T20 World Cup starting in United Arab Emirates from October 23. 

It had seemed that career of the 2017 Champions Trophy winning captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was over. But fortunes have fluctuated dramatically and he has forced his way back into the team in place of the much criticized Azam Khan. 

Fast bowler Muhammad Hasnain was axed from 18-member which also included three travelling reserve players Shahnawaz Dahani, Usman Qadir and now Khushdil Shah. Haider came into the team in place of Hasnain. 

Chief selector Muhammad Wasim, who named the controversial squad a couple of weeks ago, was facing wrath of media in particular and public in general. He must, however, be complimented for finally having bowed down to pressure and selecting a balanced squad. 

Some questions still remained unanswered as to why Wasim had named the national squad long ago when Ramiz Raja was waiting in the wings to take over leadership of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

Interestingly Wasim had blamed the cancellation of New Zealand and England tours, stating that it caused problems in analyzing the performances of the players. 

Poor performances of Azam Khan as a batter and wicketkeeper in National T20 Cup was reason of his ouster. While his Quetta Gladiators captain Sarfaraz Ahmed’s fine batting and keeping resurrected his career. 

Highly talented Haider Ali, who was hailed by English media after blazing debut half century, was out of the team due to his inconsistent performances. A couple of classy knocks in T20 Cup have earned his place in national team. 

The veterans, Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz, however, have failed to secure a place in the team as was being predicted by some quarters. 

In the meantime the T20 World Cup-bound Pakistan squad will hold a seven-day training and conditioning camp under bio-secure protocols at the National High Performance Centre and LCCA ground, Lahore, from October 10. 

The squad members, along with their family members, will join the bio-secure and undergo Covid-19 testing upon arrival. After returning negative tests, the players will be allowed to commence their preparations with the gym sessions at NHPC, the PCB announced in a news release. 

The players will hold training sessions at the LCCA Ground at 1:30 pm on October 11 and 12 while they are scheduled to play a practice match under the lights on October 14 which will start at 6 pm. No training activity has been scheduled for October 13.

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September 29, 2021

PCB accepts Wasim Khan’s resignation

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

England import Wasim Khan, on September 29, resigned as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and his resignation was accepted by Board of Governor, it was confirmed officially. 

Wasim Khan’s resignation was being anticipated soon after former Pakistan captain Ramiz Raja had taken over as the Chairman of the board on September 13. But it was not expected so quickly. 

According to reports, Ramiz Raja desired to bring about sweeping changes in the PCB setup after sitting for few months in the office of the board headquarter at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. However Wasim Khan’s resignation seems to have made things easy for Ramiz Raja, who was observed making the smallest of decisions independently, without consulting anyone after assuming the charge of Chairman, PCB. 

Ramiz Raja, rather diplomatically, praised the services of the outgoing CEO, according to the PCB media release. “During his time with PCB, Wasim Khan provided excellent leadership, particularly during the time of outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The PCB owes Wasim Khan a debt of gratitude for his leadership and we wish him well in his future plans and career endeavors,” he complimented. 

The sources have indicated that Ramiz Raja was expected to appoint Director Cricket after amendments in the PCB constitution. According to reports, another former Pakistan captain Moin Khan, Head Coach of Quetta Gladiators and Lahore Qalanders Chief Coach, Aqib Javed, were also likely to be inducted in the PCB setup. But conflict of interest seemed the biggest issue as they can hold only one position at a time.

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September 28, 2021

APL is nothing more than club level cricket: Jalaluddin

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By Arif Afzal Usmani 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Pakistan’s former Test fast bowler and internationally acclaimed coach, Jalaluddin, has lashed out at the organizers of the ongoing American Premier League (APL) Cricket Tournament which has failed miserably in attracting the masses.

“APL has been founded in a dubious manner as the event organizers don’t have adequate experience of running franchise cricket which has its own demands and template. Franchise cricket tournaments are run on the basis of players participation and pumping of big money with both these elements clearly lacking in APL,” Jalaluddin, having relocated in the United States, commented in a brief chat with this scribe. 

“This event doesn’t seem to have any value. They had been granted the permission to hold the tournament on certain conditions which didn’t allow the participants of the Minor League to take part in this competition. APL is nothing more than club level cricket,” he reckoned.

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September 21, 2021

APL commence with local outfits at empty baseball grounds

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By Arif Afzal Usmani

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The American Premier League (APL) Cricket Tournament got off to a disappointing start as the spectators abstained from watching the action and the big baseball grounds remained deserted in the first three matches held on its opening day on September 21. 

The organizers had been claiming that the APL was going to become the greatest cricket event to be held in the United States but the presence of just a few hundred spectators in the first three games didn’t prove so. 

People had shown tremendous enthusiasm in collecting free tickets for the matches but they didn’t turn up to witness the matches. Even the presence of former Pakistan fast bowler Muhammad Asif in one of the participating teams could not lure people to visit the stadium. 

The organizers of the APL are attempting to reach the cricket enthusiasts by live streaming of action while a leading media organization, ARY, is also supporting the tournament but it has yet not succeeded in creating the kind of buzz which was being promised. 

The organizers of the APL consider theirs as the most successful cricket event in USA but the fact remains that the historic Double Wicket Championship organized by Worldwide Sports in New Jersey a couple of decades ago was a much bigger event which attracted huge media coverage globally as the action was televised live in 52 countries. The megastars of the era like Wasim Akram, Shahid Afridi, Vinod Kambli, Jimmy Adams and Sunil Joshi had taken part in the event.

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National T20 Cup explodes in action with top stars in fray

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The cream of Pakistan’s talent will be on display in the National T20 Cup which explodes into action at the Pindi Stadium in Rawalpindi on September 23. 

This premier event now holds the key in preparing for the ICC T20 World Cup being staged in Oman and United Arab Emirates after New Zealand deserted their tour to Pakistan minutes before first One Day International in Rawalpindi on September 17 and England followed by cancelling to next month’s visit for T20 International on mysterious security reasons. 

It will be Babar Azam versus Shaheen Shah Afridi, Muhammad Rizwan versus Shadab Khan, Sharjeel Khan versus Naseem Shah, Fakhar Zaman versus Shahnawaz Dahani and Hasan Ali versus Imam-ul-Haq, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) highlighted in its media release. 

The 18 Rawalpindi-leg matches, which were earlier planned for Multan, will now be played at the Pindi Cricket Stadium until October 3 while Gaddafi Stadium will remain the venue of the remaining 15 matches that will commence on October 6. Both semifinals will be played on October 12 with the first match to commence at 1500 and second match to begin at 1930. 

The National T20 is a fiercely-contested and highly entertaining tournament. It not only provides opportunities to cricketers to stake claims in the national side but leading performers get a chance to be included in the HBL PSL player draft and then picked up by the franchises. 

The event starting on September 23 has become even more important and critical as members of the Pakistan squad for next month’s ICC T20 World Cup will be in action. 

With each player to get at least, 10 matches, they will aim to strike form and fitness that can help them to be in their best shape when they arrive in the United Arab Emirates on October 15. 
“Following the postponement of the New Zealand series, the National T20 provides an opportunity to our elite cricketers to maintain their focus and composure show the world that they have not been distracted by the events of last week and continue with their preparations for the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup,” the PCB Chairman, Ramiz Raja, remarked. 

“The participation of our finest cricketers in the National T20 will also enhance the reputation, value and significance of the tournament, while providing the next generation of cricketers a chance to rub shoulders with the national stars and learn the art of preparing and performing at the highest level. With your enthusiasm, wishes and backing, Pakistan cricket will continue to move forward,” he added. 

Pakistan wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan will lead defending champions Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, runners-up Southern Punjab will be captained by hard-hitting top-order batter Sohaib Maqsood. Babar Azam, Pakistan’s all-format captain and second ranked T20I batsman, will captain Central Punjab and Pakistan’s ODI opener Imam-ul-Haq will lead Balochistan. Sindh have kept faith in former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed while Pakistan white-ball vice-captain Shadab Khan will be in-charge of Northern. 

Apart from Babar, Rizwan, Shadab and Sohaib, other members of the ICC T20 World Cup squad to feature in the 33-match National T20 are Azam Khan, Khushdil Shah (both from Southern Punjab), Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez (both from Central Punjab), Imad Wasim (Northern), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh), Asif Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Nawaz (all Northern) and, Mohammad Wasim Jnr and Shaheen Shah Afridi (both from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Shahnawaz Dahani (Sindh) and Usman Qadir (Central Punjab) will also be in action. They have been named as the traveling reserves 

Squads 
Balochistan: Imam-ul-Haq (captain), Bismillah Khan (vice-captain and wicketkeeper), Abdul Wahid Bangalzai, Akbar-ur-Rehman, Akif Javed, Amad Butt, Ayaz Tasawar, Gohar Faiz, Haris Sohail, Jalat Khan, Junaid Khan, Kashif Bhatti, Khurram Shahzad, Mohammad Ibrahim Snr, Umaid Asif and Yasir Shah 

Central Punjab: Babar Azam (captain), Hasan Ali (vice-captain), Abdullah Shafique, Ahmed Safi Abdullah, Ahmed Shahzad, Ehsan Adil, Faheem Ashraf, Hussain Talat, Kamran Akmal (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Akhlaq (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Qasim Akram, Saif Badar, Shoaib Malik, Usman Qadir, Wahab Riaz and Waqas Maqsood 

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa: Mohammad Rizwan (captain and wicketkeeper), Shaheen Shah Afridi (vice-captain), Adil Amin, Arshad Iqbal, Asif Afridi, Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imran Khan Snr, Israrullah, Maaz Khan, Mohammad Haris (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Imran Khan, Mohammad Wasim, Mussadiq Ahmed and Sahibzada Farhan 

Northern: Shadab Khan (captain), Mohammad Nawaz (vice-captain), Rohail Nazir (wicketkeeper), Ali Imran, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Imad Wasim, Musa Khan, Nasir Nawaz, Salman Irshad, Sohail Akhtar, Sohail Tanvir, Umer Amin, Zaman Khan and Zeeshan Malik 

Sindh: Sarfaraz Ahmed (captain and wicketkeeper), Anwar Ali (vice-captain), Abrar Ahmed, Ahsan Ali, Danish Aziz, Hassan Mohsin, Khurram Manzoor, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Hasnain, Muhammad Taha, Ruman Raees, Saud Shakeel, Shan Masood, Shahnawaz Dahani, Sharjeel Khan and Zahid Mahmood 

Southern Punjab: Sohaib Maqsood (captain), Zeeshan Ashraf (vice-captain), Amir Yamin, Azam Khan (wicketkeeper), Dilbar Hussain, Faisal Akram, Hassan Khan, Imran Randhawa, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Ilyas, Naseem Shah, Salman Ali Agha, Tayyab Tahir, Umer Khan, Zain Abbas and Zia-ul-Haq

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September 20, 2021

Pakistan cricket may be further jolted if England don’t tour

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By Ehsan Qureshi

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It will be a double jolt for Pakistan cricket if England don't fulfill their commitment of touring for a couple Twenty20 Internationals, following New Zealand’s sudden departure for yet to be undisclosed security threat. 

Along with the millions of lovers in the country, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) is also eagerly awaiting the decision of England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) in this regard which is expected any moment now. 

England’s brief tour to Pakistan is of vital importance considering next year's visits to be undertaken by Australia and the West Indies. 

This will be a big test of the ECB as Pakistan have given a lot of sacrifices by touring England during Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and staying there for quite few months. 

The PCB and the Pakistani cricketers showed great character by touring England a time when the pandemic was peaking and their families back home had to keep praying for their safety. The players endured tough life inside the bubble, away from family and friends, without complaining. 

Former England cricketers, including captains, have expressed their solidarity with the PCB and cricket-loving public of Pakistan and millions of their supporters across the world. 

Different stories are doing the rounds on social media on Blackcaps abandoning Pakistan’s tour minutes before start of first One-Day International at the Pindi Stadiun Rawalpindi on fateful September 17 afternoon. 

It had shocked the world, PCB, Babar Azam Team Pakistan and in particular general public. 

Pakistan cricket has suffered greatly after the terrorists attack on the Sri Lankan bus in 2009 just outside Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore. Since then the PCB has had to work really hard to convince foreign teams to play on the Pakistan soil.

Teams from Zimbabwe, West Indies and South Africa have toured Pakistan and praised highest level security arrangements in the recent past. By successfully organizing the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in 2020 and 2021, the security apprehensions about Pakistan were dispelled as the dozens of foreign participants in the PSL highly appreciated the efficiency of Pakistan’s security agencies. 

The iconic West Indies batsman, Chris Gayle, warmed the hearts of Pakistanis with his tweet that he was going to Pakistan. Who was coming with him was to be seen! 

The T20 World Cup West Indies winning captain, Darren Sammy, complimented Pakistan’s security agencies besides praising excellent hospitality of people and franchise owner. Sammy led Peshawar Zalmi to the PSL crown as their head coach.

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September 19, 2021

Bridge fraternity grieved by Azwer-ul-Haq’s demise

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
The bridge fraternity mourns the loss one of its longest-serving administrators of the country, Muhammad Azwer-ul-Haq, who succumbed to multiple organ failure on September 16. He was buried the following afternoon in Karachi. He had celebrated his 75th birthday only a few days ago.

Besides being the Chairman Emiretus of the Karachi Bridge Associates (KBA) he also served as Secretary General of the Bridge Federation of Asia & Middle East (BFAME) after having had long stints in different roles at the Pakistan Bridge Federation (PBF) which he also headed briefly. 

Although the soft-spoken Azwer became more famous in the role of an organizer, he was also a fine exponent of the game himself and he participated in innumerable national, regional and international events during a long career. 

The demise of Jan-e-Alam Fazli, Masood Saleem, Ehsan Abbasi, Sultan Siddiqui, Parvez Mirza, Kemal Shoaib and Syed Ameer Hasan with Azwer-ul-Haq becoming the latest casualty, has broken the back of Pakistan bridge during the recent past. 

“The bridge world has lost an irreplaceable asset with the death of Azwer. He and I worked together on the Managing Committee of the PBF for several years establishing a functioning secretariat and an organization that oversaw the creation of an institution to serve the administration and promotion of bridge in the country. He continued his excellent work both domestically and internationally as Secretary of the Asia and Middle East zone,” Khurshid Hadi, Chairman, Mind Sports Association of Pakistan (MSAP), and two-times President of PBF, observed. 

It may be recalled that Khurshid Hadi and Azwer-ul-Haq were elected unopposed as President and Secretary of the PBF respectively in 1998 and they were credited to have revived the mind sport of bridge in Pakistan by organizing several landmark events.

“All of us are mourning today with the passing of Azwer He was a gentle soul and his small stature didn’t stop him being a giant in the bridge community. He worked tirelessly and selflessly with his passion shared by all of us. Our hearts are with his family. We have all lost a member of our family,” Pakistan’s bridge legend Zia Mahmood narrated. 

"It is indeed a profound loss to intellectual sport of bridge in not only at levels of Bridge administration in Pakistan but also to all National Bridge Organizations (NBOs) in BFAME. I had picked him up and brought him in the international bridge at Asian geographical sphere. He established his worth with hard work and technical knowhow,” Mazhar Jafri, the longest serving member of World Bridge Federation (WBF), having mentored Azwer, stated. 

“It's really shocking news to hear the sad news about our dear friend Azwar. He was a dear brother and a real gentleman who had cordial relations with almost every one he worked with to promote bridge in our zone. He was a great organizer. I am sure he will be missed by all members of the bridge community in our countries,” Bahjat Majali, President BFAME, noted. 

“How do you learn to manage without your go-to man for all seasons and every kind of reason? When in doubt, ask Azwer. And now when he has left us and I don’t doubt that every bridge player in our BFAME community feels that the ground we stood on has been pulled from under our feet. Last night when I learnt of Azwer’s passing my first thought was: who is going to inform everyone that he has left us? He filled so many shoes, wore so many hats, and he was friend, colleague and companion in the struggle to keep the bridge flag flying,” Rehana Saigol, a former President of the PBF, remarked. 

“The sad demise of Azwer my friend who was just like a brother came as a real shock. His loss has deprived of an ardent bridge administrator, organizer and a great human being. The whole bridge fraternity will miss him particularly in Asia and Middle East,” Ihsan Qadir, Chief Tournament Director of the PBF, recognized.

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September 18, 2021

New Zealand’s abandonment of Pakistan tour may have huge impact

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By Ehsan Qureshi 

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
New Zealand have deserted the Pakistan tour abruptly which may have huge negative impact in a bid to fully restore international cricket in the country. Tom Latham's team, in a blink of an eye, called off Pakistan tour after a mysterious security alert. 

The Black Caps had landed in Pakistan after a wait of 18 years to play a short series of three One-day Internationals in Rawalpindi which were to be followed by five Twenty20 Internationals in Lahore. But a security alert shattered and shook everything. 

Scores of cricket enthusiasts waiting to enter the Pindi Stadium on and millions preparing to watch action on television across the globe on September 17 were obviously shell shocked upon hearing the news of cancellation of the tour. 

After NZ pulling off the tour, England’s men and women teams next month’s short tour is also in doubt while Australia and West Indies, scheduled to tour Pakistan next season, might also be jeopardized. So this abrupt cancellation of the series may harm the Pakistan cricket in a big way. 

Pakistan cricket was in wilderness after an attack on the Sri Lankan team in 2009 at Lahore. However things were rosy after Zimbabwe, West Indies, Sri Lanka and South African teams visited Pakistan and the Pakistan Super League (PSL), with dozens of foreign players, was also being staged in the country for the past few seasons. 

"This is a huge blow to Pakistan cricket," Javed Miandad, a former Pakistan captain, thought. 

"When our forces were providing New Zealand security of highest level, their calling off the tour was unjustified,” the legendary batsman, who had slammed 163 on his Test debut against New Zealand in 1976-77, pointed out. 

"Crazy day it has been! Feel so sorry for the fans and our players. Walking out of the tour by taking a unilateral approach on a security threat is very frustrating. Especially when it’s not shared!! Which world is NZ living in??NZ will hear us at ICC,” the newly elected PCB Chairman, Ramiz Raja, tweeted.

It was indeed a stressful and deeply disappointing day for top government, PCB officials, millions cricket lovers in Pakistan and across the globe. 

Federal Interior Minister, Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed, known for a calling a spade a spade, didn’t hide his feeling as he was shocked with the decision of the New Zealand government and their team to suddenly pull out of tour without sharing information with Pakistan’s security agencies.

"Our security agencies have no reports of any attack on New Zealand team nor they shared any information with us,” he declared. 

Shaikh Rasheed said that a small hoax security alert caused a massive fiasco and Black Caps calling off the tour on the basis of hearsay was upsetting and disappointing. 

Without naming anyone, Interior Minister thought the New Zealand action to be a conspiracy against Pakistan and Pakistan cricket. “Our enemies don’t want to see security and stability returning to our region after withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan and formation of Taliban Government,” he said, alleging that enemies and foreign elements had joined hands to sabotage Pakistan cricket. 

While the television channels broke the news in afternoon and kept debating the issue late into the evening, the national newspapers carried banner headlines of the New Zealanders calling off tour the following morning.

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September 12, 2021

Azeem Sarwar: My Top Mentor

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By Syed Khalid Mahmood

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

It’s extremely painful to narrate obituary of someone whom who have idolized all your life or those who are the dearest to your heart. Azeem Sarwar Saheb was both to me. He has left this mortal world, after a brief illness, on September 12, having celebrated his 79th birthday not very long ago. 

Having conceived, anchored and produced ‘Aalami Sports Round Up’ and ‘Subh-e-Pakistan’ which are considered blockbusters due to their record-breaking audience and following, he was also credited to have scouted, trained and groomed a number of promising youngsters who later became success stories in the media industry. 

Azeem Sarwar has been the top mentor in my life. Having first interacted with him in June 1985, he remained the greatest source of inspiration and motivation to me for the past 36 years. His teachings and lessons will continue guiding me until I live in this world. 

I was among one of his millions of ardent fans and followers when Ehsan Qureshi had taken me to the Broadcasting House, located at Karachi’s bustling M A Jinnah Road, on another warm June evening of 1985. Little had I comprehended that this moment was going to lead a turnaround in my life.

The amount of confidence he instilled in my veins by picking up the brief report transcribed by me and choosing to narrate it himself that night in ‘Aalami Sports Round Up’ was hard to describe in words. The following day he made me super confident by offering a contract which was at par with the top broadcasters doing the programme. It was incredible.

Besides providing the much needed opportunity of showcasing talents, nurtured and groomed me and all my teammates in such a manner that we had actually become destined for success after the stints at Aalami Sports Round Up and Subh-e-Pakistan both of which were among radio blockbusters. 

Lots of people all over the world are aware about his accomplishments as a voice-over artist, producer, playwright, presenter, compere, announcer, commentator, editor and columnist because he became a legend in his own lifetime, but only those like me, who have had the honour of working with him for a long time, are aware of his other outstanding qualities like leadership and mentoring. 

The whole world knows that he has immortalized himself by having conceived, planned and produced iconic programmes like ‘Rung hee Rung Jaidi Kay Sang’ and ‘Jaidi Kay Mehman’ but it’s probably not common knowledge yet that he has been chiefly responsible, through ‘Aalami Sports Round Up’ and ‘Subh-e-Pakistan’ for discovering and developing a young crop of sports enthusiasts into acclaimed journalists, broadcasters, anchors, analysts and presenters who went on to rule the media industry for the next quarter of a century. 

Like Abdul Majid Bhatti, Arif Afzal Usmani, Ehsan Qureshi and Syed Muhammad Soofi, I also have had the good fortune of being a part of his team in both the programmes. Shahid Akhtar Hashmi, Owais Naseer and Abdul Rasheed Shakoor were among those who excelled from ‘Aalami Sports Round Up’ while Ibrahim Khan and Farooq Ahmad Khan also played their roles admirably. 

It was an honour for me to have been reunited with the living legend when, upon assuming charge as the Chief Editor of Ahang and Pakistan Calling, he invited me to join their editorial team. His wealth of knowledge on national and international affairs, besides his expertise in writing and editing, transformed both the publications from an official gazette into proper magazines which were dispatched with pride to the Pakistan’s embassies and trade missions all over the world. 

He retired from Radio Pakistan in 2002 and it was my good fortune to accompany him when he completed his last day at office. I found him to be perfect mentor in many ways as he always led by example, believed in teamwork and was in the forefront in taking up the most challenging of roles. He remained a firm believer of quality who didn’t lose any artistry even when working at incredibly fast pace. Meeting and beating deadline was his passion. 

Blessed with unmatched humane qualities, he was hard task master during the working sessions but his sense of humor, besides care and generosity, kept all his associates glued to him at all times. He was the troubleshooter and the father figure for all of us all long. And he will remain so when resting in Heavens.

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September 6, 2021

US Open 9-Ball Pool Championship 2021 to feature maiden Pakistan appearance

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Pakistan News & Features Services

Cue sports around the world feature a variety of games, such as Snooker, 9-Ball Pool, 8-Ball Pool, Billiards and 3 Cushion Carom. While Pakistan’s cueists have regularly participated in snooker events organised by the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports (ACBS) and the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) the country’s appearance in other cue sports has remained negligible. 

Pakistan boasts a number of titles in amateur snooker, both at the global and continental level. However, while enjoying an equal or even greater status in the world, 9-Ball is a rarity in the country. 

The Islamabad-based Shahram Changezi is currently the only cueist from Pakistan pursuing 8-Ball Pool as well as 9-Ball Pool along with snooker. He already has snooker medals and honours under his belt. Besides being the national ranking champion 2007 and 2008, he secured bronze medals in the 2010 Asian Games Snooker Team Event (China), the 2015 Asian Team Snooker Championship (Iran) and the 2015 World Team Snooker Championship (Pakistan). 

Shahram has also been making arrangements in his personal capacity to participate in 8-Ball Pool and 9-Ball Pool international events. His prominent performances included finishing runner-up in the 2008 All Arab 9 Ball Pool Championship (Kuwait) and being a quarter-finalist in the 2018 US Open Chinese 8 Ball Pool Championship. 

The US Open Championship is the biggest event in 9-Ball Pool in the world. The event will take place in Harrah’s Resort, Atlantic City, USA, from September 13 to 18. As many as 256 players take part in this prestigious event, which, for the first time, will feature a Pakistani player. Beside all the prominent Pool players of the world, world professional snooker champion, Judd Trump, has also confirmed his entry and will make his 9 Ball Pool debut in this event. 

Pakistan’s lone participant in the US Open Championship, Shahram Changezi, is a full-time employee at National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) in Islamabad, where he works as the Assistant Director Sports. The institution has consistently supported Shahram in his national and international participation.

“The amount of support and respect I have received from NUST is extraordinary. Although primarily an academic institution, it offers full support to any student or staff participating in sports at national and international levels. Once again, NUST has stepped up to support me for my US Open 9 Ball Championship 2021 endeavour, and I am deeply grateful to them,” the ace cueist acknowledged. 

“It is going to be an invigorating experience to compete among the world’s best 256 players. Personally, it is a matter of pride and honour for me to see my name as the first Pakistani cueist to take part in the US Open 9 Ball Championship. I hope my participation will create a stir in the cue sports community in Pakistan and will be a source of increased interest in 9 Ball Pool in the country,” he added. 

“I have been practicing in a local Islamabad club (Breakers Snooker F-11), where they have an international standard 9 Ball Pool table. On my request, they immediately recovered the cloth and changed the balls to facilitate me. I am practicing as many hours as possible on a daily basis and I will try to give my best in my maiden US Open 9 Ball Championship,” he concluded.

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September 1, 2021

Fantoni’s inclusion in Italian line-up mars Bermuda Bowl qualifiers

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Pakistan News & Features Services

The ongoing European qualifiers for the Bermuda Bowl World Bridge Championship 2022, currently taking place 100% online due to COVID-19, have been rocked following the inclusion of the controversial Fulvio Fantoni in the hosts Italy line-up. 

According to details, the Scottish team refused to play the Italian team on the opening day of the qualifiers, resulting in their 0-12 defeat. Wales, Slovenia, Lithuania, Ukraine and another seven nations were reported to have declined to play Italy, with the same dire consequences for their ranking. 

Italy, as the host country, has already qualified for the Bermuda Bowl 2022, scheduled to be held from March 27 to April 9 in Salsomaggiore Terme. The inclusion of Fantoni, having been accused of cheating in the past, in the Italian team, has angered the other participating countries although the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) had overturned his convictions. 

Scotland stood out as the first nation to raise its concerns, along with the great Norwegian player Brogeland and the German players Auken-Welland, all three of whom resigned from their respective teams in protest. 

The 57-year-old Fantoni is a six-time world champion besides being a World Grand Master. Claudio Nunes, the second-ranked World Grand Master in 2011, has been his regular partner for many years. In September 2015, Fantoni and Nunes were publicly accused of cheating by orienting a played card to show a missing high honour in the led suit at the European Bridge Championship in 2014. 

Three separate investigations were conducted and they were found guilty. The players' appeal to the CAS resulted in a judgement in their favour in January 2018. Since then only the American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) sanction has remained in place and all others have been overturned.

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August 28, 2021

Jawed Karim to represent Pakistan in Asian, world bodies AGM

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Pakistan News & Features Services

The newly elected President of the Pakistan Billiards & Snooker Association (PBSA), Jawed Karim, will be representing the country for the first time at the continental as well as the global body of cue sports next month. 

Having served the PBSA in various capacities, including Senior Vice President, he has now been elected unopposed as for the term of next four years. 

The PBSA media spokesman has announced that Jawed Karim will be attending the annual general meetings (AGM) of the Asian Confederation of Biliards Sports (ACBS) as well as the International Billiards & Snooker Federation (IBSF), scheduled to be held in Doha, Qatar, on September 16 and 17 respectively. 

The AGMs of the ACBS and the IBSF will be taking place on the sidelines of the twin events, the ACBS 36th Asian Men Snooker Championship 2021 and the IBSF Qatar 6-Red Snooker World Cup 2021 being hosted by the Qatar Billiards & Snooker Association (QBSA). 

Meanwhile the PBSA has selected Muhammad Asif, a former world champion, and Babar Masih to represent Pakistan in both the events while Haris Tahir has been chosen as stand-by cueist.

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August 9, 2021

Legendary teammates meet ailing cricketer on deathbed

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Pakistan News & Features Services

Mike Hendrick, former England and Derbyshire bowler, died at the age of 72 a few days ago as he was suffering from bowel cancer and was in his last stage. 

This reunion took place in Derbyshire just a week or so before his eventual demise. John Lever, Ian Botham, Bob Taylor, Geoff Miller, Derek Randall, John Emburey and Geoff Boycott, all of them his contemporaries and mates for decades, gathered to bid their farewell to their beloved ‘Hendo’ being aware that his days were numbered. 

It was a noble and praiseworthy gesture on part of Hendrick’s illustrious teammates, quite a few of them living legends, to have taken the time out of their busy schedules during summer to attend to one of their buddies who was literally on deathbed.

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June 24, 2021

Detroit ready to host Champions Cup 2021 in July

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services) 

Cricket returns to Detroit in a big way as all is set for the second edition of the Champions Cup to be staged here from July 2 to 5. Global Sports Inc. is ready to organize the annual event again, which was launched in 2019 but could not be held last year due to the pandemic of COVID-19. 

Cricketers from all parts of the United States will be assembling in Detroit once more as a handsome prizemoney of US$18,000 will be at stake during the four-day extravaganza. 

The winners will be pocketing a jackpot of US$10,000 while the runners-up will be collecting a purse of US$3,500. There will also be individual prizes of US$4,500 for the outstanding performers. 

Besides hosts Michigan, participants from the states of Ohio, California, Pennsylvania, Texas and North Carolina among others will be in action during the upcoming Champions Cup 2021. 

A couple of teams from neighbouring Canada had also confirmed their entries for the event but sadly they won’t be able to come over to Detroit due travel restrictions. 

The Champions Cup provides greater opportunity for the local cricketers as the tournament rules, unlike most other events, don’t allow teams to field players from other states. It’s good for the younger players who can make it to the state outfits. 

Having been associated with Global Sports Inc. for the last many years, I have personally witnessed the passion and commitment of their top functionaries who remain eager to promote cricket not only in Michigan but all over the US. 

It may be recalled Troy Tigers had emerged triumphant in the inaugural Champions Cup in 2019. Let’s wait and see which team steals the limelight among 10 participants this time round. 

Let me acknowledge the contribution of Shahid Ahmed and Dr Shaukat Rashid in launching the Champions Cup which is expected to become one of the most sought after annual cricket events in the region. 

Meanwhile Global Sports Inc. will also be organizing Level-II Coaching Course from July 2 to 4. Pakistan’s former Test fast bowler, Jalaluddin, who pioneered the concept of modern coaching there, will be the centre of attraction once more as he will pass on his terrific knowledge about the game to the American teenagers. 

Having played lots of cricket with Jalaluddin for Pakistan Customs, where he was also our captain, it’s always a privilege and pleasure to work alongside him and once again I will be there to assist him in the three-day coaching course. I am eagerly looking forward to the action packed weekend in Michigan early next month.

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April 28, 2021

Sarfraz Ahmed: Scapegoat or good luck omen?

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Pakistan cricket authorities have devised a unique strategy to tackle Sarfraz Ahmed. The former all-format captain and a wicketkeeper-batsman, is allowed to play only when the series or the prestige is at stake and they’re being subjected to extreme criticism by media and experts over selection follies. 

This has happened for three series now. In England last summer, there was great uproar when Pakistan had lost the first couple of games and he was played in the third and final outing which Pakistan went on to win. 

The series against South Africa was hanging in balance when Sarfraz was blooded in the decisive third encounter which Pakistan managed to win and the most recently the T20 series against Zimbabwe was also locked at one-all when he was finally chosen for the do-or-die third fixture which was won by Pakistan again. 

Interestingly Sarfraz has been drafted in the playing eleven only upon the hue and cry in media and public in general. 

Obviously the cricket-loving Pakistanis get upset when the team starts losing and the selectors and the tour management committee were left with no option to play Sarfraz to silence their critics.

It’s an open secret that the present set-up is not fond of Sarfraz. Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis have had history of victimizing him even when he was at the peak of his career. How can they be expected to support him at a time when he needed care and understanding to overcome a lean patch? 
Let me remind both these gentlemen, still holding key positions despite their controversial tenure that Sarfraz, even today, deserves to be in the playing eleven in all three formats if merit is the sole criterion for selection. He has better strike-rate than every Pakistani batsman other than Babar Azam. 

There’s absolutely no problem in picking him automatically for the white-ball outfits. Many of the international teams are fielding more than one wicketkeeper-batsman in their playing eleven these days. Australia, England, India and Sri Lanka in particular are doing it most frequently. 

Therefore hell will not break loose if Pakistan also engages two wicketkeeper-batsmen in their line-up since they are good enough to make the cut. 

Muhammad Rizwan, who has been supported generously and extravagantly by the powers that be in an effort to displace Sarfraz by hook or by crook, has become the darling of the Pakistani commentators and former Test cricketers. These same guys were playing similar tune when Sarfraz was at the peak of his career not very long ago. 

Coming to selection matters, it’s really mind boggling to find Asif Ali and Haider Ali such an extended run at the international stage after so many failures. If the policy is not corrected and the current Pakistan team is not altered then I don’t see them going anywhere in the World T20 Championship due to be held later this year. Changes are needed and time is fast running out. The concerned authorities will be advised to take remedial actions rather than using their energies in counterproductive pursuits.

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April 10, 2021

India make amends for toss losses by winning series across formats

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Everyone knows and understands the importance of winning tosses in sub-continental conditions where pitches in Tests tend to get slower as the match progresses while it’s much easier to set targets rather than set one in limited overs games where dew makes it difficult for bowlers and fielders. 

It’s really incredible that India, under the leadership of Virat Kohli, managed to win the series in all three formats recently at home against England despite lost 10 of the 12 tosses. The hosts pocketed the Test series 3-1 while they emerged triumphant 2-1 in both ODI as well as T20I series. 

By doing so, the Indians proved themselves as the top team not only in Tests but also in white ball segments. India’s rotten luck with the coin allowed England to win the first Test at Chennai against all odds. 

Skipper Joe Root extended his brilliant form of Sri Lankan series with yet another double hundred as England piled up the runs and agony for the home side who eventually succumbed to the scoreboard pressure to suffer an unexpected defeat after a memorable tour of Australia where they had come from behind to clinch the Test series despite losing key players to injury. 

The Indians were frustrated by injuries in the home series against England too. Ace all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja was unable to take part in any game while his replacement Axar Patel was also sidelined from the first Test. 

I have a strong feeling that India would have whitewashed their opponents in the Tests if Jadeja or Patel were available in the series opener. 

England’s poor selection strategy cost them dearly and the outrageous decision to send back Moeen Ali after just one Test was bewildering to say the least. 

Picking up three fast bowlers for the pink ball Test, dominated by spinners from the outset, was as strange as their so-called rotation policy which didn’t let them field a settled eleven. Batting or bowling on turning track is an art. 
As we witnessed in the first Test, left-arm spinner Shahbaz Nadeem, due to lack of expertise and experience, was hit all over the place by the England batsmen. He clearly didn't have an idea where  to bowl on a pitch offering purchase. 

Ravinchandra Ashwin was brilliant but India badly missed Jadeja and Patel in the first Test because they have the desired skills set for such strips. Patel, as we saw in the next three Tests, was spot on as he was proficient in exploiting the conditions. 

Jadeja is an even better exponent of that art and England would have been clueless facing him on these pitches while the ball turned square. As a matter of fact England’s batsmen panicked with the amount of turn which was on offer and it played on their minds leading to their downfall. 

Among the Indian batsman, their wicketkeeper Rishabh Pant was outstanding. He has shown incredible promise and if he continues batting like this for a few more years, I fancy him toppling the records held by his illustrious predecessor Mahendra Singh Dhoni. 

India’s batting, jolted occasionally, continued to have embarrassment of riches. It’s really hard to believe that world class batters like Shikar Dhawan and K L Rahul could not be slotted in the Test line-ups and the selectors cannot be faulted for this. 

If you have the quintet of champion batsmen like Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, Virat Kohli, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane in your folds it’s not possible to fit someone else there. India’s batting has the potential to come good in all conditions and they continued delivering in the toughest of circumstances during the last season. 

The Indian fast bowlers were not tested in the home series against England but they had done enough in Australia to remain trump cards. The emergence of Mohammad Siraj has boosted them further with the tried and tested quartet of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammad Shami, Ishant Sharma and Umesh Yadav all of whom are expected to fire in the coming summer where India, besides tackling New Zealand in the final of World Test Championship, will also be taking on England in five-Test series.

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February 17, 2021

New chief selector accords importance to domestic performance

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By Naeem-ul-Haq in USA

(Pakistan News & Features Services)
Although the battle in the middle didn’t reflect this kind of total supremacy for the home side but lady luck continued smiling on Pakistan all along and they managed to whip South Africa 2-0 in the two-Test series and followed it up with 2-1 victory in the three-match series of Twenty20 Internationals. 

Both the Test matches were keenly contested and while South Africa’s big guns, notably skipper Quinton de Cock and his predecessor Faf du Plessis, failed consistently with the bat, Pakistan rallied through their tail-enders to undo the good work of the South African bowlers who continued to be troubling and testing the local batsmen. 

Already the big news has broken from South Africa with du Plessis having announced his retirement from Test cricket. He didn’t mention it but it’s obvious that his miserable failure in the Pakistan series was the reason of his sudden decision to hang his boots. He had not looked out of form or jaded in either of the two Tests in Pakistan but his inability to convert starts into something substantial cost his team both the matches. 

The newly appointed Pakistan’s chief selector, Muhammad Wasim, has every right to celebrate the victories over South Africa both series even though neither of the two conquests could be considered emphatic. The bottom line, however, was that Pakistan emerged triumphant in both the formats against a fancied outfit. 

Wasim’s policy of blooding the top performers of the domestic tournaments into the national team looks a good move and I will like to compliment him for doing it. 

The domestic events deserve to be accorded due significance in order to maintain their sanctity and allow them to be competitive. It’s heartening to watch Pakistan’s debutant left-arm spinner Nauman Ali picking up wickets in both Tests and also contributing vital runs down the order. Hasan Ali made a forceful comeback while Fawad Alam extended his brilliance to prove how wrong the national selectors were in having sidelined him for nearly a decade. 

The performance of the newcomers also remained impressive in the T20 series. Zahid Mahmood made a dream debut in the decisive third game while Usman Qadir continued to remind us of illustrious father, the great Abdul Qadir. 

The chief selector will be advised, in the larger national interest, to provide opportunities to other fringe cricketers as well in order to create a larger pool of youngsters who could be pressed into service anytime to fill vacuum created by sudden injuries or illness to the established players. Similarly those talented cricketers, who sparkled and showed promise in the limited chances coming their way, should also not be ignored or treated harshly which will be detrimental to their confidence. 

One example is that of speedster Muhammad Hasnain. He surely deserves to get more matches after having proved his mettle earlier. He had bowled so brilliantly and it was really shocking to watch him getting dropped.

New edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) is round the corner and there’s excitement all over the country. We hope to see the best players of the country engaged in highly competitive matches that would indeed be enjoyed by the spectators and television viewers. 

Wicketkeeper Muhammad Rizwan has become a star overnight. Without going to details, let me say that the kind of luck and support he’s enjoying at the moment 

I won’t be surprised if he starts picking four or five wickets in every match when choosing to bowl. He has been batting well undoubtedly and the new feather in his cap is the captaincy of Multan Sultan in the PSL, having taken over from Shan Masood.

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