KUWAIT: The Kuwait International Table Tennis Tournament ‘Salwa Cup’ concluded Sunday night under the patronage of HH the Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah at the Late Khalid Yousuf Al-Marzouq hall in Salwa Sports Club in Qurain.
Representative of HH the Amir, Information Minister, State Minister for Youth Affairs Sheikh Salman Sabah Al- Salem Al-Humoud Al-Sabah attended the closing ceremony along with President of the Olympic Committee Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad, Chairman of the Higher Organizing Committee Sheikh Duaij Fahad Al-Duaij, Sheikha Naeema Al-Ahmad and a large crowd. Sheikh Salman said he is honored to represent the Amir in this dear tournament and expressed pleasure at the international interest to participate in it especially the top ranked players and thanked all those involved in its success. Meanwhile Sheikh Talal Al-Fahad said said the Salwa tournament began with an idea and reached this stage with a major international presence.
He thanked HH the Amir for supporting sports, representative of HH the Amir Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud, Salwa Sports Club Board of Directors, Table Tennis Federation and children of Late Sheikha Salwa. Sheikh Duaij Al-Sabah said the past years made the tournament the first in the world as Kuwait succeeded in attracting the best stars of the game in the world under one roof to compete for the prizes of a dear tournament to us.
As expected the Chinese players swept the singles and doubles events where the men’s singles was won by Malong who is number one in the world, while the Taipei team won the doubles which was a surprise. First place in the women’s singles went to Ding Ning while the doubles went to Ding Ning and Xhuo Yu Ling beating the German team. A traditional dance of Arda was performed, then representative of HH the Amir Sheikh Salman Al-Humoud along with Sheikha Naeema Al-Ahmad distributed the winners prizes.
NELSON: Ireland caused the first upset of the World Cup when an audacious 92 by Paul Stirling paved the way for a four-wicket win over the West Indies at Nelson's Saxton Oval on Monday.
Stirling stood in a match-defining 106-run stand with Ed Joyce for the second wicket as Ireland chased down a 305-run target with 25 balls to spare.
Stirling cracked his 92 off 84 balls, Joyce scored 84 off 67 and Niall O'Brien chimed in with an unbeaten 79 off 60 deliveries as they cashed in on wayward West Indies bowling.
It was Ireland's first win over the West Indies in six official matches and the first victory at this World Cup achieved by a team batting second.
The 12th-ranked Irish paid scant regard to the high-profile West Indians and enhanced their own reputation as giant-killers after beating other top-tier nations England and Pakistan in the previous two World Cups.
The victorious finish was a fitting reward for their spirited start to the match when they opted to bowl and rapidly reduced the West Indies to 87-5.
Chris Gayle again failed to fire as spinner George Dockrell carved through the upper order before a dashing century by Lendl Simmons and a personal-best 89 from Darren Sammy put some backbone into the West Indies innings.
Their power batting lifted the West Indies to what should have been a respectable 304 but they lacked the discipline in their bowling to defend the total.
Captain Jason Holder opened with a first ball that raced wide of slips to the boundary to give Ireland an immediate five runs from extras which started Stirling and William Porterfield on their way to a 71-run first wicket stand. With Porterfield's dismissal for 23, the left-handed Joyce joined right-hander Stirling to continue piling on the pressure.
Stirling's dismissal, caught behind off a Marlon Samuels delivery, saw O'Brien arrive to up the tempo further with the textbook formula of looking for an early boundary each over and accumulating what runs were on offer afterwards.
The West Indies were powerless to contain the onslaught, going through eight bowlers, as the Irish batsmen clobbered six sixes and 34 fours.
Joyce, on 42, was dropped by Darren Bravo when he belted Holder towards the boundary, and O'Brien was on 38 when he skied a Jerome Taylor delivery and Holder dropped what should have been a regulation catch. Taylor was the most successful West Indies bowler with three for 71.
Ireland started the day in the best possible fashion, winning the toss and ripping out the West Indies premier batsmen.
Dockrell, who finished with three for 50, claimed the prized wickets of Gayle (36), Samuels (21) and Ramdin (one) in the space of just eight deliveries.
It was another disappointment for Gayle who has not passed 50 since playing Bangladesh in August and the last of his 21 centuries was against Sri Lanka in June 2013.
Simmons and Sammy gave the innings respectability with a West Indies sixth-wicket record stand of 154 Simmons — whose uncle Phil, the former West Indies batsman, is Ireland's coach — was eventually dismissed in the last over for 104, his second one-day international century.
ADELAIDE: If Pakistan were looking for answers for its wretched losing streak against arch-rivals India in the World Cup, they need to cut to the chase and begin with the captain's luck with the toss.
When Misbah-ul Haq called incorrectly before Sunday's 76-run defeat at the Adelaide Oval, it was the fifth time in six World Cup outings that Pakistan had lost the toss to India.
In all those five games, Pakistan failed to chase down the target. The only time India batted second, at the Centurion in 2003, the genius of Sachin Tendulkar took the game away from Pakistan.
Former Pakistan captain Inzamam-ul Haq is convinced India's luck with the toss has played a major role in its 6-0 scoreline against the old foes in the sport's premier 50-over showpiece.
“I believe batting first is always an advantage as batsmen tend to get under pressure while chasing in big games,” Inzamam wrote in a guest column for the tournament's official website.
“I can't find a suitable word to describe what goes wrong when we chase against India, but it's more like a mental blockage of players.
On Sunday, after Virat Kohli's 107 had set up a 301-run target, Pakistan folded up for 224 with only skipper Misbah contributing a valiant 76 off 84 balls.
In previous World Cup games against India, Pakistan failed to chase down totals of 216 in Sydney (1992), 287 in Bangalore (1996), 227 in Manchester (1999) and 260 in Mohali four years ago.
India's latest win came without the reassuring presence of retired batting superstar Tendulkar, who had proved a stumbling block for Pakistan in at least four of the five previous encounters.
In 2003, Tendulkar tamed a star-studded pace battery of Wasim Akram, Waqar Younis and Shoaib Akhtar to fashion India's six-wicket win with a scintillating 98 off 75 balls after Pakistan had piled up 273-7.
Misbah was at a loss to explain another failure on Sunday.
“I don't know what happened,” he said.
“But it is important to forget this loss and look to the future. The game is gone now, so we have to just concentrate on the next one.”
Six straight losses will hurt more because Pakistan enjoy a superior overall one-day record over India, having won 72 games and lost 51.
Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni had some comforting words for Pakistan, saying the unbeaten run would not stay for ever.
“This World Cup record is good and we are proud of it,” he said.
“But a time will come when we will lose to them. This record won't stay for the rest of our lives. “That opportunity could come in the ongoing tournament itself if the two sides clash again in the semi-finals or the final.
In 1992 when the World Cup was held Down Under, Pakistan recovered from a 43-run loss to India in the league to win the tournament under Imran Khan.
Pakistan need to win at least three of their remaining five matches against South Africa, the West Indies, Ireland, the United Arab Emirates and Zimbabwe to confirm a quarter-final placing.
Former batting great Javed Miandad, the only other player besides Tendulkar to play in six World Cups, reminded the current squad that all was not lost yet.
“In a way it is good that Pakistan has got an early jitter,” said Miandad.
“Pressure should be now off from their shoulders and they should concentrate on the remaining five group matches.”
As Pakistan prepares to face arch-rivals India for the sixth-time World Cup encounter on February 15, star all-rounder Shahid Afridi hoped that the Greenshirts would put an end to their losing trail.
“The team is not disheartened by their poor record against India in the World Cup,” Afridi was reported as saying.
“There is always a first time. I know it is a crunch game and fans from all over the world are coming to see it.
“We have the confidence and the ability to surprise any team on any given day. But, both the teams know how to handle pressure. On our part, we plan to treat it as just another game,” said Afridi.
The 34-year-old all-rounder believed that both teams would be desperate to kick off their World Cup campaign with a win and “take the momentum and confidence to the rest of the tournament”.
Afridi also expressed hope for India and Pakistan to play each other other than the World Cup.
The all-rounder is closing in on a unique double of 8,000 runs and 400 ODI wickets and seemed confident to lead the spin department in the absence of seasoned Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.
Shahid Afridi has already announced his retirement from ODIs after the World Cup and wanted to end his career on a high note. “We want to emulate the efforts of the 1992 World Cup winning team,” he said.
The flamboyant Afridi agreed that repeating the 1992 World Cup heroics was not an easy task as most players are plagued with injuries.
“The 1992 team was a combination of seniors and youngsters. This team has got some talented youngsters as well and we're expecting a lot from them,” Afridi said.
LAHORE: Pakistan spin bowling coach Mushtaq Ahmed has said his team might be behind in preparations for the World Cup but this is not an excuse as they are professionals and want to enter the field with complete confidence.
He was speaking to the media on the last day of the training camp, set up at the Gaddafi Stadium for preparation for the World Cup, on Friday.
“Our batsmen have practised on marble pitches to make themselves familiar with pace and bounce they will face in Australia and New Zealand, and I request the media and the nation to believe on us that we will try our best to win,” a member of the 1992 World Cup winning squad said.
“We played like a unit in 1992 as the nation had a belief that we would win,” he said.
“Head coach Waqar Younis is inculcating self confidence and belief in players. I myself badly want to win the Cup and expect a lot from the players,” he added.
Mushtaq showed complete faith in leg-spinners Shahid Afridi and Yasir Shah, saying, “In my personal experience, Australian pitches are quite bouncy and if a leg-spinner finds a bounce he can be lethal.
“My own success ratio in Australia was good where I toured five times, so both Afridi and Yasir will make a difference,” Mushtaq said.
He reminded the journalists that in the 1992 World Cup, Pakistan had been playing either with him or another leg-spinner Iqbal Sikandar and in some matches they both had played together.
Mushtaq said Pakistan had to resort to leg-spinners following ban on off-spinners Saeed Ajmal and Mohammad Hafeez.
But when he was reminded that Hafeez’s chances were still alive to bowl at the World Cup after clearing the biomechanics Test, Mushtaq admitted that analysts and academy coaches were helping him overcome his flaws and that he could be available to bowl at the mega event.
He said Waqar Younis had to miss the 1992 event on fitness grounds but they managed to lift the Cup and now Ajmal had to miss it due to his bowling action and he was again hopeful of winning the Cup.
“No team depends on some individual performers in such big tournaments. It is the team work which is important,” he said.
He said they would plan for matches after examining wickets and weather of venues.
He said Pakistan wanted to beat India in their opening match as they would be looking for a perfect start.
Mushtaq was expecting a lot from newcomer Haris Sohail, both with bat and ball.
“Haris has inspired us against New Zealand in the UAE as he did bowl full quota of his overs conceding less runs as compared to regular bowlers. His temperament is good and he will do well for Pakistan,” Mushtaq said.
Meanwhile, the training camp was concluded, one day before the schedule.
More surprisingly, the formal announcement about camp’s conclusion was made when the players had left the stadium after attending the last session on Friday.
In another development, the PCB has decided to send some players and officials to Army Public School in Peshawar on Saturday to show solidarity.
Earlier, the entire team was to visit the school. The players who will visit include captain Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Shah, Umar Akmal, Mohammad Irfan, Ehsan Adil and Ahmad Shehzad. Manager of the Pakistan team Naveed Akram Cheema, security manager Col Azam and assistant coach Shahid Aslam are three officials.
PAKISTAN: Pakistan announced their 15-man World Cup squad on Wednesday, leaving out Fawad Alam and Umar Gul and including pace bowler Sohail Khan who last played international cricket in 2011.
Veteran batsman Younis Khan, who hit a purple patch in Test cricket but was mediocre in the recent ODIs against New Zealand, was also included in the squad.
Left-hand middle-order batsman Fawad Alam, who has been Pakistan's most reliable ODI batsman of late, will feel unlucky to have missed out, the selectors instead preferring another player in similar mould, Haris Sohail.
“We did consider both of them [Fawad and Malik], but in the end we believe Haris Sohail bowled well in the series against New Zealand with his left-arm bowling,” chief selector Moin Khan said.
“He also gives us an added advantage of being a left-handed batsman.”
Fast bowler Junaid Khan also returned from a knee injury after missing the series against New Zealand, and will lead Pakistan's pace attack with Mohammad Irfan.
Pakistan, placed in Group B, will open its campaign with a highly-charged clash against arch-rivals and defending champions India in Adelaide on February 15 followed by matches against the West Indies, Zimbabwe, the United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Ireland.
The top four teams from each of the two groups will qualify for the quarter-finals, leading up to the final in Melbourne on March 29.
Khan said the team was selected after consultation with Misbah and coach Waqar Younis.
“We selected the squad after thorough consultation... and although no one can give assurances of results, we are hopeful that the team will do well,” said Khan, a member of Pakistan's only World Cup winning side in Australia in 1992.
Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz ahmed, Younis Khan, Harris Sohail, Misbah ul Haq, Umar Akmal, Shoaib Maqsood, Shahid Afridi, Yasir Shah, Mohammad Irfan, Junaid Khan, Ehsan Adil, Sohail Khan, Wahab Riaz
DUBAI: Pakistan’s hopes of gaining a morale boosting one day series win over New Zealand ahead of the World Cup next year have been hurt by yesterday’s announcement that Mohammad Hafeez has been suspended from bowling because of an illegal action. The 34-year-old-who joins top Pakistan spinner Saeed Ajmal in being suspended for the same offence-will still be able to bat in the five-match one-day series which begins in Dubai today.
However, he gives Pakistan an option of an extra bowler and his suspension will badly hurt the team’s preparations for next year’s World Cup. “It’s a setback for us,” said team manager and chief selector Moin Khan after Hafeez was suspended by the International Cricket Council. “Hafeez’s suspension can affect our preparations for the World Cup but we have no doubt over his ability as a batsman and he will play today.” Both the teams will remain focused on the World Cup to be held in Australia and New Zealand in February-March. The series promises to be a keenlyfought contest after they ended honours even in both the three-Test series and the two-match Twenty20.
Pakistan skipper Misbah-ul Haq admitted his team can build confidence and momentum. “This is one of our last chances before the World Cup, to look how we will go into the World Cup so the focus is on that,” said Misbah on Saturday. “Pitches are different here (from Australia and New Zealandwhere the World Cup is being hosted) but I still think the confidence and the momentum of this series will help us and it will not matter even if we are playing on different pitches here.” Pakistan have recalled experienced batsman Younis Khan after dropping him from the three-match one-day series against Australia which they lost 3-0 in October-also played in the United Arab Emirates.
Misbah believes Younis will provide valuable experience. “His experience will help us,” said Misbah, also hinting Pakistan will go with a specialist opening pair instead of using wicket-keeper batsman Sarfraz Ahmed at the top of the order. “We want to go in with genuine openers and want the first four batsmen settled before going to the World Cup. “New Zealand have adaptability and they have allrounders and good spinners who can win matches for their team,” said Misbah.
New Zealand’s stand-in captain Kane Williamson-Brendon McCullum left after the Tests to prepare for the home series against Sri Lanka-said Pakistan remain a dangerous side even without Ajmal. “We know it ’s a big challenge because Pakistan play well here, they have depth and even without Ajmal whichever side they put out is strong,” said Williamson. New Zealand play two Tests and seven one-day internationals against Sri Lanka starting later this month. “There is so much cricket before the World Cup and this series is the focus but we are conscious of the big event,” said Williamson. All-rounder Corey Anderson will return after missing the second Twenty20 as a precautionary measure after being hit by a bouncer in the first Twenty20 on Thursday, but opener Martin Guptill is still being monitored for a tight hamstring. The remaining oneday matches will be played in Sharjah (December 12 and 14) and Abu Dhabi (December 17 and 19). —AFP