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Gladiators to celebrate PSL success in Quetta

F.P. Report

Karachi: The Pakistan Super League (PSL) season four Champions Quetta Gladiators are going to Quetta on March 23 with the PSL Trophy to celebrate with the fans on Pakistan Day.

The Gladiators’ contingent will be headed by the owner Nadeem Omar while others include Captain Sarfaraz Ahmad, Head Coach Moin Khan, Ahmad Shahzad, Anwar Ali, Ahsaan Ali, Team manager Azam Khan and Media Manager Nabeel Hashmi.

“We are very excited that the PSL Champions Quetta Gladiators will share their happiness with home fans in Quetta. We saw jubilant scenes in Quetta when Gladiators won the title and I’m hopeful that there will be even bigger celebration in the city on Saturday when the PSL Trophy arrives there with squad members,” Quetta Gladiators owner Nadeem Omar said.

“This is massive achievement not just for us as a team but Quetta and whole Balochistan because people now know the region globally because of Quetta Gladiators success. We are ambassadors of Quetta and Balochistan and this triumph will create a positive image of the province.”

The Gladiators contingent will meet Chief Minister Balochistan Jam Kamal Khan at the CM House Quetta while they will also meet the Head of Southern Command Pakistan Army Lt. General Asim Salim Bajwa.

“We want to promote sports in Quetta and Balochistan and I’ll try to talk to major stakeholders as to how we can create events together for the people of Balochistan. Quetta Gladiators becoming champion could be a big launch-pad to start sporting activities at a major in the region,” Nadeem added.

Meanwhile, Gladiators’ captain Sarfaraz Ahmad, who led Pakistan to ICC Champions Trophy title as well, stated he cannot wait to celebrate with the home fans.

“This is going to be one epic experience for us and the fans because this could probably be the biggest celebration for people of Quetta and Balochistan. We saw videos on social media how locals celebrated Gladiators becoming PSL champions and we cannot wait to see their happiness live,” Sarfaraz said.

“There was a crazy reception all over Pakistan when we won the Champions Trophy title and I’m hoping that there will be a same sort of reception in Quetta on March 23. There cannot be a better day to celebrate than Pakistan Day.”

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Falcao penalty earns Queiroz debut win

TOKYO (Agencies): Colombia’s record goalscorer Radamel Falcao scored from the penalty spot to defeat Japan 1-0 on Friday and hand new coach Carlos Queiroz a victory in his first game. Falcao’s 33rd goal for his country came after a penalty was awarded for a handball by Japan’s Takehiro Tomiyasu in the 64th minute in Yokohama.

Colombia’s triumph was a small measure of revenge for the defeat they suffered by Japan in the group stage of last year’s World Cup and gives former Iran boss Queiroz the perfect start to his tenure.

After Sebastian Villa struck the crossbar in the fourth minute for the visitors, it was Japan who were the better team in the first half, having a host of shots without really testing Colombia goalkeeper Camilo Vargas.

However, Colombia looked more comfortable with Queiroz’s system after halftime and had two goals disallowed, the first for handball and the second for offside, either side of Falcao’s winner. Falcao celebrated his goal by raising a shirt bearing the name of team mate Juan Fernando Quintero, who injured his anterior cruciate ligament playing for River Plate last weekend.

Tomiyasu had a great chance to make amends for his handball 13 minutes from the end but headed straight at Vargas. The ever-lively Shoya Nakajima, one of the players to shine for Hajime Moriyasu’s side, also went close, clipping the crossbar with a long-range effort.

Colombia substitute Luis Diaz also hit the bar in stoppage time but it didn’t matter as they secured victory to continue their preparations for the Copa America in Brazil in June. They next play South Korea on Tuesday, while Japan, as one of the two invited nations for the Copa, will have another chance to test themselves against South American opposition when they take on Bolivia.

They are without captain Maya Yoshida and striker Yuya Osako, who are being rested as some European clubs have raised concerns about the amount of football their Japanese players have been participating in. The loss to Colombia was their 13th match since going out to Belgium in the last 16 of the World Cup in Russia.

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25-ball century in T10 match

DUBAI (Agencies): Surrey batsman Will Jacks smashed a world record 25-ball century in a 10-over practice match against fellow English country side Lancashire in Dubai on Thursday. His incredible innings included eight fours and 11 sixes, including six maximums in a single over.

He is now the first player to hit a century in a T10 game. This knock by the former U-19 batsman enabled Surrey to post 176 runs on the scoreboard, which Lancashire failed to chase down by 95 runs. Jacks said that he was looking to play shots from the first ball. “From the first ball I just tried to play my shots, after the first few overs my intention was to try and hit every ball for six, and I think after four sixes I thought, ‘I could hit six sixes here’. I had never done it before and it was nice to do that and something I will cherish,” International Cricket Council quoted him as saying.

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Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir joins BJP before election

NEW DELHI (Agencies): Former Indian cricketer Gautam Gambhir joined Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party on Friday, leaving a panel to decide whether to field him as a candidate in India’s upcoming general election.

With 9 million followers on Twitter, Gambhir could give Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) some extra pulling-power in the campaign for an election which will run from April 11 till May 23. “I am joining this party influenced by our prime minister, his vision,” Gambhir, 37, told reporters after being inducted into the party by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

“I’ve done whatever I could in cricket, and this is a fabulous platform for me to do something really good for this country and take this party forward and make this country a better place to live.” Jaitley said the party’s election committee would decide if Gambhir will be nominated as a candidate.

Before Gambhir, fellow batsman Navjot Singh Sidhu was a lawmaker for the BJP until he jumped ship to join the main opposition Congress party in 2017. The BJP has many other celebrities, mainly actors, in its ranks including cabinet minister Smriti Z. Irani, MP Kirron Kher and Delhi party chief Manoj Tiwari.

Gambhir has urged India to forfeit matches against Pakistan in the next World Cup staring end-May.

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Bring on the World Cup, we fear no one: Afghan spin king Rashid Khan

KABUL (AFP): Trailblazing bowler Rashid Khan said Afghanistan will fear no one when the World Cup starts in May after a maiden Test win enhanced the reputation of the rising cricket nation.

Khan, who is one of the world’s leading bowlers in short-form cricket, said Afghanistan’s confidence was growing after beating Ireland on Monday in just their second Test match.

The 20-year-old leg-spinner, who tops the world Twenty20 bowling rankings and lies third in the 50-over standings, took five for 82 as Afghanistan beat their fellow Test newcomers in Dehradun.

Before an expected starring role for Sunrisers Hyderabad when the 2019 Indian Premier League (IPL) begins at the weekend, Khan said Afghanistan’s cricketers now need only to believe in themselves.

“We have the talent and we have the skills,” he told AFP in an interview.

At last year’s Asia Cup, Afghanistan made a breakthrough by topping their group in the 50-over competition ahead of established Test nations Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

‘Believe in your skills’

“How we played in the Asia Cup was totally different and we showed that we can beat any side,” said Khan, whose side even tied a match with heavyweights India in the last-four stage.

“The only thing is to believe in your skills. Just to be relaxed in big matches and enjoy your game,” he said.

“And that’s how we should be in the World Cup.”

War-torn Afghanistan only gained One-Day International (ODI) status in 2009 and Test status in 2017, but their recent rise has coincided with Khan’s emergence as a world-class spinner.

He made his ODI debut in 2015 as a 17-year-old and credits fast-paced Twenty20 tournaments such as the IPL for developing his bowling repertoire, which includes a mesmerising googly.

“The IPL gives you [a] lot of motivation. Once you play in these leagues, it gives you confidence playing with big players,” said Khan, who cost Hyderabad $597,000 in 2017 and took 21 wickets for them last year.

“And then you perform there on flat wickets like the IPL and that gives you a kind of satisfaction and confidence that I can deliver when I am in the national side.”

Khan has travelled the world to take part in Twenty20 leagues including Australia’s Big Bash, the Caribbean Premier League and the Pakistan Super League (PSL).

“It really helps to improve your skills working with different coaches and players,” he said.

“Pick their thoughts and experience and that really helps you improve your game.”

Khan, one of 12 siblings, learnt his cricket with a tennis ball in the remote and humble province of Nangarhar before making his international debut against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo.

The world took notice when he became the fastest bowler to 100 ODI wickets, completing the milestone in 44 games, eight fewer than Australia’s Mitchell Starc. He now has 123 in 57 matches.

‘I don’t pressure myself’

Khan says the key to his success is that he focuses only on practising and playing despite bearing the huge expectation that he will take wickets every time he bowls.

“I don’t put that pressure on myself. I keep trying to enjoy myself. Enjoy my bowling whether I take wickets or not,” he said.

“I focus on doing the right things and bowl well. I don’t focus on the result but focus on my hard work.”

Khan, who is a big fan of all-round great Shahid Afridi, said it was tough learning to play cricket in a country ravaged by war for decades.

While many of Afghanistan’s players learnt the game in refugee camps across the border in Pakistan, Khan played with his seven brothers to hone his skills.

“It was tough because of the lack of facilities. No good grounds and equipment. But we still enjoyed our cricket,” said Khan with a smile.

“We never put it in our mind that we don’t have facilities or stuff like that and tried to focus on our game.

“My brothers used to watch and play cricket and that’s how I became a big fan of the game.”

Afghanistan lost their debut Test to top-ranked India inside two days in 2018, but came back a much-improved side against Ireland a year later.

“The win against Ireland will help motivate our first-class cricketers,” Khan said.

“People will start loving Tests rather than Twenty20s and ODIs.”

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Finch’s century helps fire Australia to eight-wicket win over Pakistan

SHARJAH (AFP): Aaron Finch’s fine century drove Australia to a convincing eight-wicket win over a new-look Pakistan in the first one-day international on Friday.

The Austraian skipper scored 116 off 135 balls for his 12th one-day international century that helped his team overhaul the 281-run target in 49 overs on a flat Sharjah stadium pitch.

The win gives Australia the lead in the five-match series and has come on the back of their 3-2 series win in India earlier this month.

Finch’s match-winning knock overshadowed Haris Sohail’s maiden one-day hundred (101 not out) which helped Pakistan to 280-5 in their 50 overs.

The 32-year-old smashed Shoaib Malik for a huge six towards deep mid-wicket to complete his century — his first since June last year against England at Chester-Le-Street — off 120 balls.

Finch, who knocked four sixes and eight boundaries, added an innings-building 172 runs for the second wicket with Shaun Marsh who scored an unbeaten 91 off 102 balls with four boundaries and two sixes.

With 46 needed Finch became Mohammad Abbas’s maiden wicket but Peter Handscomb hit 30 not out to help Marsh cross the line.

Finch and Marsh came together after opener Usman Khawaja fell for 24 to medium pacer Faheem Ashraf, the only other success Pakistan’s new-look bowling attack could achieve.

  • Inexperienced Pakistan –

Pakistan rested six of their key players including regular skipper Sarfraz Ahmed in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup starting in UK from May 30.

But the young and inexperienced Pakistan led by Malik proved no match for Australia, who are on a roll after their win in India earlier this month.

Left-hander Sohail, who reached 1,000 runs in his 27th one-day international when on 40, anchored Pakistan’s innings, adding 98 for the third wicket with Umar Akmal who made a 50-ball 48 in his first international match for two years.

Sohail took a single to complete his hundred in the last over, finishing with six boundaries and a six.

Pakistan had handed one-day debuts to opener Shan Masood and Abbas — who have played 15 and 14 Tests respectively.

Masood put on 35 in an opening stand with Imam-ul-Haq (17) before off-spinner Nathan Lyon dismissed Imam in the seventh over, caught and bowled.

Masood, who hit five boundaries in his 62-ball 40, was then bowled by paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile who finished with 1-38 in his 10 overs.

Umar smashed three sixes in one Jhye Richardson over but fell one short of his half century.

Malik fell for 11 and Ashraf and Imad Wasim scored 28 each.

Wasim hit four boundaries and a six during his 13-ball unbeaten knock, helping Pakistan to 55 runs in the last five overs.

Sunday’s second ODI is also being played in Sharjah, with the third in Abu Dhabi (March 27) and the last two in Dubai (March 29 and 31).

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Djokovic ready to play tennis not politics at Miami Open

MIAMI (Agencies): World number one Novak Djokovic on Wednesday dismissed any suggestion of friction with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal as tennis politics spilled over to the Miami Open.

Tension between the three biggest names in men’s tennis appeared on the rise after Djokovic, president of the ATP Player Council, rebuffed a request by Federer to meet during the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells earlier this month to discuss the future of ATP chairman Chris Kermode. Despite a tenure which brought record prize money and growth, Kermode was ousted as ATP chief when players’ representatives on the ATP Board failed to endorse an extension of the Englishman’s contract.

As head of the 10 member Player Council Djokovic had been pushing for change while Federer and Nadal backed Kermode or at the least felt the issue needed more discussion. “I saw Roger today, we were in the opening ceremony cutting the ribbon on centre court,” said Djokovic during his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. “We had a small chat there was no time to talk about the political stuff.

“That is hopefully something we will have time in the next few days to go through. “It’s not necessary for you guys to create any tensions between us. In contrary I have a very good relations with both of them.”

With Kermode’s status decided Federer said on Wednesday that he is still willing to talk to Djokovic but with the decision made saw no urgency to meet.

“A lot of stuff has been decided already so we’ll see if this week is going to happen or not but we are not chasing each other at this point,” said Federer. “If it happens, it happens.”

For his part Djokovic appeared eager to wash his hands of the entire affair reminding everyone that it was the three players representatives on the ATP board that voted not to renew Kermode’s contract and not the Player Council, which was only part of the discussion.

The Serb added that if Federer and Nadal have opinions they were welcome to share them with the Player Council at any time.

“The player council is only part of the structure,” said Djokovic. “We are not part of the board or deciding anything that is voted on later on.

“We are in consultation and collaboration with our player board representatives.

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Williamson, Kerr win awards

Auckland (Agencies): New Zealand captain Kane Williamson and women’s all-rounder Amelia Kerr picked up national player-of-the-year awards at a ceremony in Auckland on Thursday. Williamson, who led the Black Caps across all three formats, won the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal for the men’s player of the year and was also named their best test player after scoring 801 runs in the season at a remarkable average of 89.

In the limited overs formats, Ross Taylor, who became New Zealand’s leading run scorer in one-day internationals (ODIs) last month with 8,026 runs, was named the ODI player of the year while Colin Munro won the Twenty20 gong. Kerr, 18, was crowned the women’s ODI player of the year for scoring 415 runs at an average of 59, which included a world record knock of 232 not out against Ireland last June in a game where she also took five wickets for 17 runs. Kerr also picked up the Phyl Blackler Cup for women’s domestic bowling while Williamson and fast bowler Trent Boult picked up the awards for first-class batting and bowling, respectively. Sophie Devine, who has also played hockey for New Zealand, was named the women’s T20 player of the year. The awards ceremony also included a tribute to the victims of the attacks in Christchurch that killed 50 people last week.

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Pak athletes bag 61 medals

Monitoring Desk

KARACHI: Pakistani athletes have displayed astonishing performances at the Special Olympics World Games, held in Abu Dhabi from March 14 to 21. Pakistan clinched 60 medals including eighteen gold medals in the grand event.

While, 28 silver medals and 15 bronze medals across 10 different sports, in which a total of 92 athletes from the country participated. Maham Zehra bagged gold in the 2km cycling event, while Imran Ghaffar won the 2km and 5km cycling event. Hur Mushtaq claimed gold in the 1500m race. A team of Hur Mushtaq, Noman Riaz, Ammar Shahid and Zohib Shahid also won gold in 4x100m race. Farzana Rehmat will also bring home gold with her best performance in shot put event and long jump. Shumaila Rubab won a gold medal in the 200-metre race.

Ammar Shahid won another gold medal in the high jump Samreen Fazal won 500m cycling gold, while Amber Ikhlaq bagged gold in 3000m athletics. Pakistan’s men’s football team bagged gold as well: Ahtisham Ahsan, Muhammad Khizar, Ghulam Nabi, Muhammad Anas, Muhammad Waseem Riaz, Tayyab Siddique, Raja Fahad and Muhammad Husnain. Pakistani athlete Affan, meanwhile, clinched four medals in powerlifting with one medal each in a combined squat, bench press, deadlift and individual events. Pakistan’s Bocce team, comprising of Hina Arif, Nimra Tariq, Mohammad Anas and Mohammad Fraz won gold medals in Bocce doubles. Muneeb Siddiqui and Shanza Munir won silvers in a 50m freestyle swimming event.

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Australia series offer claims for World Cup spots, says Mickey Arthur

SHARJAH (PPI): Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur is confident new players will grab the opportunity to fill a few available places for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 through the five-match ODI series against Australia starting in Sharjah today (Friday).

Pakistan has rested six players including captain Sarfaraz Ahmed. Hasan Ali, Babar Azam, Fakhar Zaman, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Shadab Khan have also been rested to provide an opportunity to the other leading performers to stake a claim for the tournament to be held in England and Wales from May 30 and July 14.

Mickey believed it was a well-thought out and a sensible decision. “We designed this series for our players for the simple fact that we want to test our best bench players,” said Mickey. “There was planning, sometimes people think that its ad hoc. We want to test our bench-strength so that we could have a look at our final squad and combination. We know our major players for the World Cup.”

Openers Shan Masood and Abid Ali have been prolific scorers in domestic and “A” series, while batsman Saad Ali scored 900 plus runs in the 2017-18 first-class season. Paceman Mohammad Abbas is an established Test spearhead who has the knock of doing well in limited overs as well. Rookie 18-year-old Mohammad Hasnain has impressed with his pace in the recently concluded HBL Pakistan Super League.

Middle-order batsman Umar Akmal has also been recalled after impressing with his match fitness in the HBL PSL. “After this series, we go to England and there we go with a very very settled squad and the roles will be defined. We want to know where the squad stands. We felt that we have done everything possible to be the best possible prepared team for the World Cup.”

Pakistan also plays five one-day internationals against England before the 10-team mega event. Mickey believes trying new players will help in long term. “For us, it isn’t so much about Australia, this is about us and those positions for the World Cup and the opportunity created for a lot of players because for us, we need to find who our players are for every position.

“If we could do that out of this series, then it would be good for us. “To be honest, it’s a new squad. This is a series of opportunities. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to work-out that a few positions are available for the World Cup. There are probably four available. Inzamam-ul-Haq and I have discussed that. So, these young players need to raise their hands up and try make those places their own. It’s an exciting time going into the World Cup.”

Mickey backed the decision to rest skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and five others. “Sarfaraz needs rest,” said Mickey of the skipper of Pakistan across all three formats. “So as Babar Azam and all other guys, who have been rested. I was telling the Australian boys we have been in the hotels since September 12. If we just keep playing our guys, they gonna get injured and fatigued.”

“We will have a series in England, which will give us a perfect preparation for us going into the World Cup and we would have been silly not to use this series as a rest going into the biggest challenge, the World Cup.”

Mickey, who also coached South Africa and Australia, believes Australia are a resurging side after a turbulent period in the wake of last year’s ball tampering episode.

“Australia is a fantastic side and they have bubbled away, they have gone through much publicised crisis and they seem to be playing some very good cricket at the moment.

“To win the series from 0-2 down was a fantastic achievement,” said Mickey of Australia’s 3-2 ODI series win in India before this tour. “They have got some fine players, (Usman) Khawaja is in good nick, Pat Cummins is in good nick.

“They have some good young guys. I am sure they will rotate their players through the series as they also need their major players firing.”