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Bowling has traditionally been Pakistan’s strong suit but since that is unlikely to be the case in India, the onus will be on their batters, skipper Babar Azam in particular, to drive their bid for a second 50-overs World Cup title.
Pakistan were the number one ODI side a month ago and Babar’s team looked favourites as they began their campaign in the recent Asia Cup.
Pace spearhead Naseem Shah injured his bowling shoulder against India and was ruled of the World Cup disrupting his potent new-ball partnership with Shaheen Afridi.
Hasan Ali was drafted in but Pakistan would not rely to a large extent on Afridi to get those early breakthroughs.
Pakistan spinners, including vice-captain Shadab Khan, also struggled for wickets in the tournament but Babar believes in the players who put the side top of the rankings.
“We know we have lapsed in fielding and in our wicket-taking abilities in the middle overs but we are going to work on it and hopefully will not be repeating them,” Babar said before leaving for India.
The 28-year-old was not amused when asked if the 1992 winners would be happy with a top-four finish in India.
“The top four is a small goal for us. We want to come out as winners,” said Babar.
Although this is not the first time Pakistan would enter a World Cup looking slightly unsettled, they will have their work cut out in India.
A group of sports federations from Muslim-majority countries said on Monday that France’s move to bar its Olympic athletes from wearing the hijab would “send a message of exclusion”.
The 57-member Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation (ISSF), based in the Saudi capital Riyadh, voiced “profound concern” over the French decision, which was taken in line with the country’s strict rules on secularism.
French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera said last month the French government was opposed to any display of religious symbols during sporting events.
“What does that mean? That means a ban on any type of proselytising. That means absolute neutrality in public services,” she told France 3 television.
“The France team will not wear the headscarf.”
The ISSF said in its statement on Monday that the hijab was “an aspect of many Muslim women’s identity and should be respected”, adding that the French ban could prevent some French Muslim athletes from competing.
“The Olympics have historically celebrated diversity, unity and athletic excellence,” the statement said.
“By implementing a hijab ban for their athletes, a host would send a message of exclusion, intolerance and discrimination that goes against the Olympic spirit.”
The statement urged French authorities “to reconsider this ban” and called for “meaningful engagement with the Muslim sports community in France.”
The ISSF was founded in 1985 to serve members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah, “in all aspects of sports activities”, according to its website.
It has organised five editions of the Islamic Solidarity Games, most recently last year in Turkiye.
The UN human rights office has not addressed France’s hijab ban for its athletes directly, but a spokeswoman said last week that “no one should impose on a woman what she needs to wear or not wear.”
SALERNO: Lautaro Martinez came off the bench to score all four goals for Inter Milan as they secured a 4-0 victory at Salernitana on Saturday that propelled them back to the top of Serie A.
The hosts had kept Inter at bay for the first hour but fell apart after Martinez came on nine minutes after the break and bagged four goals in 27 minutes, including one from the penalty spot.
The feat made history for Martinez, who became the first player to score four goals as a substitute in Serie A since the three-points-for-a-win era began in 1994.
Inter had dropped three points below AC Milan in the table after their rivals won 2-0 against Lazio earlier on Saturday, but returned to the summit with 18 points from seven matches. Salernitana are 19th with three points.
In Saturday’s other fixture, Christian Pulisic gave Milan the lead on the hour at the San Siro when he slammed in a bobbling pass from Rafael Leao.
Leao was again involved as Milan made sure of the points in the 88th minute, the Portugal winger bursting into the area before cutting the ball back for Noah Okafor to slide home.
Lazio suffered their fourth defeat of the season and dropped to 14th place, with just seven points from as many matches.
Meanwhile, Napoli secured their second victory in four days as Victor Osimhen came off the bench and scored in a 4-0 win at Lecce, bumping the champions up to third.
After a run of three games without a win, Rudi Garcia’s side have rediscovered some form.
Centre-back Leo Ostigard headed Napoli ahead early on with his first league goal for the club, but it wasn’t until the half-time introduction of Osimhen that the visitors took control of the game.
Osimhen nodded in a cross from Khvicha Kvaratskhelia on 51 minutes before late goals from Gianluca Gaetano and Matteo Politano sealed the rout. Napoli remain four points adrift of Inter and Milan.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023
ANTWERP: Kenta Chiba led the way as Japan dominated the men’s team all-around qualifiers at the world gymnastics championships on Sunday in Antwerp.
With 258.228 points, they are four points ahead of the United States and Britain.
They also occupy the first three places in the individual standings.
With a total of 85.799 points, Chiba finished first ahead of team-mate Kazuma Kaya (85.598) and Daiki Hashimoto (85.432), the reigning Olympic and world champion in the individual all-around.
Only two competitors from each country can compete in the all-around final, so Hashimoto should have been left out.
But his team, as the regulations allow, said they preferred to retain Hashimoto at the expense of Kaya.
The floor, pommel horse, rings and high bars were also dominated by the reigning Olympic champions of each apparatus.
The qualification rounds are also used to allocate the last team places for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
The United States, Canada, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Turkey, the Netherlands and Ukraine have secured their places joining China, Britain and Japan who were already qualified.
France, however, missed out on a berth at their own Olympics after finishing 19th in qualifying.
“We knew we had to achieve something almost perfect to qualify,” said one of the team, Jim Zona.
France also failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023
HANGZHOU: China swept four gold medals in track and field at the Asian Games on Sunday to celebrate national day, but their men’s football team failed to read the script and were dumped out by South Korea.
The hosts are running away at the top of the overall medals table in Hangzhou with 132 golds and still seven days of competition to go.
China is enjoying a long holiday for national day and patriotic fervour filled the 80,000-seater Olympic stadium in the eastern city for the evening’s athletics.
Waving mini flags and roaring on the home competitors, they were not to be disappointed.
Wang Jianan, nicknamed Eddie, leapt an impressive 8.22m on his first attempt in the long jump. It proved enough to defend his title.
Discus thrower Feng Bin, who like Wang was dethroned as world champion in August, also bounced back in style to claim gold with a throw of 67.93m, a Games record.
“I’m really happy. After all, today is national day, a very special day for every Chinese person,” the 29-year-old Feng said.
“To win my first Asian Games medal on this day makes me extremely happy and excited.”
There was more home success through Lin Yuwei in the 100m hurdles and Zheng Ninali in the women’s heptathlon.
China’s men’s football team is often derided at home and they once again failed to get in the holiday mood.
They were outclassed and soundly beaten 2-0 by South Korea in the last eight to disappoint a bumper crowd of nearly 40,000.
The Koreans, who are chasing a third gold medal in a row in the under-23 competition, face Uzbekistan in the semi-finals.
Japan beat North Korea 2-1 and will play Hong Kong, surprise 1-0 victors over Iran, in the last four.
The North Koreans rounded on the Uzbek match officials at the final whistle and at least one furious player had to be held back by his team-mates.
China also suffered a comprehensive loss in the final of the women’s team badminton competition.
The South Korean squad raced onto the court and some players were in tears after a 3-0 win for their first gold in the event for nearly 30 years.
South Korea’s coach Kim Hak-kyun called the gold “precious” and said they were already targeting more success at next summer’s Paris Olympics.
“This is thanks to the determination, mindset, mentality and unity of our players,” said Kim.
China did however recover to win the final of the men’s team competition 3-2 after going behind to India.
The home nation also enjoyed double gold in table tennis, with Sun Yingsha winning women’s singles gold and the duo of Fan Zhendong and Wang Chuqin taking the men’s doubles title.
In some of the first action of the day, Thailand’s Arpichaya Yubol snatched women’s golf gold after India’s Aditi Ashok blew a seven-shot overnight lead.
In the men’s event, rising star Taichi Kho kept his nerve despite a charge by PGA Tour star Im Sung-jae for a one-stroke victory.
It was Hong Kong’s first gold in golf at the Asian Games.
At the shooting range the Chinese women’s trap team of Li Qingnian, 42, Wu Cuicui, 35, and Zhang Xinqiu, 29, set a new world record of 357 points on their way to winning gold, eclipsing the previous world best of 354 points set by the United States in 2018.
In trap competitors wield shotguns and aim at clay-based targets being fired rapidly away from the shooter at different angles.
The silver medal went to India, whose team included Rajeshwari Kumari, 31, daughter of acting president of the Olympic Council of Asia and former Asian Games champion in shooting, Randhir Singh.
In the men’s U23 3x3 basketball, Mongolia won their first ever Asian Games bronze medal in a team event, before Taiwan pipped Qatar 18-16 to win gold and trigger elation on the court and a huge roar from Taiwan journalists in the media centre.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023
NOTTINGHAM: Nottingham Forest came from a goal and a man down to salvage a point in a 1-1 draw at home to Brentford on Sunday.
The Bees looked set for their first league win in five games after Moussa Niakhate was sent-off and Christian Norgaard headed in the resulting free-kick.
But Forest fought back despite their numerical disadvantage thanks to Nicolas Dominguez’s looping header on his home debut.
A share of the spoils keeps Forest one point ahead of Brentford in 11th and 13th, respectively in the Premier League table.
Steve Cooper’s men nearly got off to a flying start when Taiwo Awoniyi turned home a corner at the back post, but was rightly flagged offside.
Brentford have struggled in the absence of suspended striker Ivan Toney due to breaches of betting regulations.
But the visitors were nearly gifted the opening goal by Forest ‘keeper Matt Turner.
The former Arsenal stopper was caught in possession by Yoane Wissa and bailed out by a goal-line clearance by Willy Boly.
Forest’s luck looked like it had run out when Niakhate was shown a second yellow card for catching Wissa 11 minutes into the second-half.
Norgaard then headed home Mathias Jensen’s cross to put Brentford in front.
The lead lasted just seven minutes, though, as Dominguez headed in Harry Toffolo’s cross.
Forest then saw out 13 minutes of added time to cling on to what could be a vital point in securing another season of Premier League football.
On Saturday, Tottenham Hotspur snatched a controversial 2-1 win Spurs win over Liverpool as refs admit ‘significant human error’ against nine-man Liverpool as Joel Matip’s last-gasp own-goal ended the Reds’ resistance and the visitors had a goal disallowed that the referees’ body admitted should have stood.
Video assistant referee (VAR) officials Darren England and Dan Cook were replaced for two games after the incident.
Liverpool went down to nine men as Curtis Jones and Diogo Jota were sent off in the feisty clash, before an own goal by Joel Matip sealed a stoppage-time win for Spurs.
The Merseyside club thought they had taken the lead in the first half through Luis Diaz who got behind the defence and fired into the bottom corner past goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario. However, the goal was ruled out by the referee for offside.
The referees’ body, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), later admitted it was the wrong decision to disallow Diaz’s effort, blaming human error, and “should have resulted in the goal being awarded through VAR intervention”.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023
HANGZHOU: Pakistan’s first outings on the track in the ongoing Asian Games was a disappointing one as sprinter Shajar Abbas failed to qualify for the semi-finals after finishing third in the 200m heats on Sunday. Meanwhile, Farhan Ilyas failed to finish in the 110m hurdles heat.
Shajar, who made it to the semis of the Commonwealth Games last year, was carrying expectations of a even a better finish at the continental extravaganza. He, however, missed out on progressing to the next round by 0.20 seconds.
After winning the silver medal in the team events, Pakistan continued to do well in squash as Mohammad Asim Khan and Nasir Iqbal, and Noor-ul-Ain Ijaz won their respective matches in the men’s and women’s singles competitions.
Asim had to fight back after losing the first set to Singapore’s Aaron Jon Widjaja 4-11. The former won the next three 11-9, 11-4, 11-6 to take the match. Nasir had an easy outing against Thailand’s Natthapat Theerasilp, winning 11-7, 11-6, 11-3.
Noor, meanwhile, beat Mongolia’s Khulan Purevjav in straight sets 11-0, 11-4, 11-4.
In the mixed doubles, however, Pakistan were undone by Indian opponents. In the Pool ‘A’ fixture, Pakistan’s pair of Noor Zaman and Mehwish Ali lost to India’s Harinder Pal Singh Sandhu and Dipika Pallikal Karthik 11-4, 11-1.
In the Pool ‘D’ match, Farhan Zaman and Sadia Gul were easily defeated by India’s Abhay Singh and Anahat Singh 11-3, 11-2.
Pakistan’s athletes couldn’t make a mark in the archery events as well. In the recurve men’s individual qualifying round, Israr-ul-Haq finished 51st out of 84 participants with 634 points while Mohammad Nadeem and Idrees Majeed finished 76th with 596 points and 77th with 594 points respectively.
In the women’s side of the competition, Pakistan’s Nighat Naheed finishes 81st out of 84 participants with 459 points.
Published in Dawn, October 2nd, 2023
Spin bowling all-rounder Shadab Khan on Sunday said the team with the strongest bowling unit, capable of stemming the runs on India’s batting-friendly pitches, will win the World Cup.
The 24-year-old is leading Pakistan’s spin attack that has come under severe criticism for not taking wickets in the middle overs.
Khan himself managed just six wickets in five Asia Cup games last month with four coming against outsiders Nepal in a tournament where Pakistan crashed out in the Super Four stage.
But Khan hoped Pakistan’s bowling can stage a comeback at the World Cup which gets underway on Thursday.
“I think the team that has the best bowling will win the World Cup because the pitches will produce high totals,” he told a news conference.
Pakistan suffered a five-wicket loss to New Zealand in their first warm-up match of the tournament on Friday.
They face Australia in their second warm-up game — also in Hyderabad — on Tuesday before opening their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands at the same venue three days later.
Despite losing frontline pacer Naseem Shah to a shoulder injury, Khan insists Pakistan still boast a world-class attack.
“Of course, Naseem will be missed, but our bowlers are world-class so if we perform well in bowling then we can achieve the best results.”
Leg-break bowler Khan, who has 88 wickets from 64 one-day international matches, vowed to lift his own game in the seven-week World Cup.
“Maybe there was a mental barrier and I think that will not be there now because of the rest I have had. The past is past and when the World Cup matches come I will be playing with a fresh mindset.”
Khan also backed out-of-form Fakhar Zaman who was not asked to bat in Friday’s warm-up game.
“Fakhar is an impact player, we all know that,” he said of the left-hander who managed just 65 runs in four Asia Cup innings.
“We have given him mental space and we need to back an impact player like him.”
Khan also said the players were overwhelmed by the hospitality since their arrival in Hyderabad under tight security on Wednesday.
“It’s been a superb welcome. People coming to the hotel and their hospitality has been fantastic.
“The food is delicious. I fear our fat levels and weight will go over the limit!” he added.
“Hopefully, we get the same hospitality in Ahmedabad when we play India,” said Khan of Pakistan’s high-voltage game against their arch-rivals on October 14.
HANGZHOU: First, there was a close defeat in the men’s squash team gold medal match. Then, there was a walloping in hockey.
Pakistan suffered at the hands of India at the Asian Games on Saturday, seeing their arch-rivals come from behind and condemning them to silver medal at the squash court before they were taught a hockey lesson in a 10-2 thrashing.
It was India’s biggest-ever win over Pakistan, capping off another disappointing day at the quadrennial spectacle for the country’s athletes.
Squash provided the only silver lining, the medal adding to the bronze won in shooting the other day by Kashmala Talat.
Pakistan went into their clash with India at the Gongshu Canal Sports Park Stadium on the back of three straight victories but were brought crashing down by their rampaging rivals for whom skipper Harmanpreet Singh scored four times.
India’s biggest victory margin prior to Saturday’s clash was a 7-1 win in 2017 and they toyed with Pakistan for large parts on their way to a record-breaking win.
India’s Mandeep Singh gave India the lead in the eighth minute after his team-mate Abhishek ran into the Pakistan circle before Harmanpreet converted a penalty stroke three minutes later.
Another powerful drag-flick from Harmanpreet in the 17th made it 3-0 before Sumit added another on the stroke of halftime.
Harmanpreet converted a penalty stroke in the 33rd as India continued to overrun Pakistan before the skipper made it 6-0 with a penalty corner conversion a minute later.
Mohammad Sufyan converted a drag flick to pull one back for Pakistan four minutes later but India soon restored their six-goal advantage through Varun Kumar in the 41st.
Pakistan got their second when Rana Abdul Waheed converted a penalty corner right on the end of the third quarter but India snuffed any hopes of a miraculous comeback with further goals by Samsher Singh (46th), Lalit Kumar Upadhyay (49th) and Varun (54th).
While India qualified for the semi-finals courtesy of their victory, Pakistan are left needing to beat Japan in their final pool clash to make the last four.
Hours earlier at the Hangzhou Olympic Centre Squash Court, Pakistan took the lead against India in the squash final when Nasir Iqbal overwhelmed Mahesh Mangaonkar 11-8, 11-2, 11-3 in the opening tie of the final to give his side the advantage.
But Saurav Ghosal levelled matters when he beat Mohammad Asim Khan 11-5, 11-1, 11-3 to set up a winner-takes-gold match between his team-mate Abhay Singh and Pakistan’s Noor Zaman.
Pakistan had beaten India in the pool stage by winning the decisive match but here, the tables were turned in a battle of attrition that Abhay won 11-7, 9-11, 8-11, 11-9, 12-10.
Noor was in tears at the end of the 64-minute duel, crushed after having led 9-7 in the fourth game and 10-8 in the deciding game, only for Abhay to come back and seal victory for India and deny Pakistan a first gold in the event since the 2010 Games in Guangzhou.
A day after securing Pakistan’s first medal at the Games, Kashmala fell narrowly short of winning another bronze alongside Gulfam Joseph in the 10m air pistol mixed teams event. The duo lost 14-16 to Iranian opponents in the bronze medal match.
On Friday, Kashmala had finished third in the women’s event behind India’s Palak and Esha Singh. “The medal has come after eight years of hard work,” she told reporters after getting a total score of 218.2 points.
Kashmala had also participated in the 25m air pistol event but failed to make the final eight. “I think I was better prepared for the 25m event but that’s sport for you,” she added.
Elsewhere at the athletics track, Pakistan’s Gohar Shahbaz clocked a season’s best of 10.49 seconds in his 100m semi-final but finished seventh and way off the qualifying mark for the final.
Mohammad Afzal leapt 6.73m in the long jump and was last in his heat. Similar was the case with Ghazala Ramzan, who finished last in her heat of the women’s 100m hurdles with a time of 15.43 seconds.
In the boxing ring, Mohammad Qasim lost his 51-57kg last-16 bout to China’s Ping Lyu on points — the Chinese winning with all five judges scoring in his favour across three rounds.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023
KARACHI/LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has written to the International Cricket Council urging the sport’s global governing body to help expedite the visa process of Pakistani fans and journalists willing to visit India for the World Cup.
“The Pakistan Cricket Board has again raised the matter of visas for the Pakistan fans and media with the ICC,” a PCB spokesperson told Dawn on Saturday. “In an email, the PCB has moved the ICC to take prompt action on the visa policy so the media and fans can apply for the Indian visas in a timely manner and can cover and cheer, respectively, the touring side.”
A number of journalists across Pakistan are waiting for clarity from the Indian High Commission in Islamabad regarding their applications as the 50-over showpiece nears fast, with the national team set to open its campaign against the Netherlands in Hyderabad on Oct 6.
Dawn has learnt that the ICC had given Pakistan a quota of 50 journalists but there were 206 applicants from the country. Those who were unable to get a place in the quota are yet to receive a reply citing the reason for refusal.
Fans, meanwhile, have been kept in the dark, with reportedly no correspondence whatsoever having taken place between visa application centres and the Indian High Commission regarding their process.
“It is alarming that the media and fans are yet to be informed about the visa policy, as Pakistan have already played their first of the two warm-ups and will play their first World Cup contest in six days,” the PCB spokesperson added. “The PCB expects that the ICC and other relevant authorities will expedite the matter as there is a growing anxiety amongst Pakistan fans and journalists who wish to support and cover their team in the ICC CWC 2023.”
According to one of the visa service providers in Pakistan, the Indian High Commission is yet to provide clarity on how to go about the visa applications of journalists — who have to travel across the border as soon as possible — given that the standard visa processing time is 90 days.
Applications of fans, on the other hand, are hardly being catered to. The PCB had to take up the matter of visas of the Pakistan team World Cup contingent with the ICC similarly on Sept 26, hours before it was granted those and the issue was put to rest. The team reached Hyderabad a day later and played their first warm-up match, against New Zealand on Friday.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023