KARACHI: The Doha-bound Pakistani cueists have expressed optimism to return with flying colours from the International Billiards and Snooker Federation (IBSF) World Snooker Championship which will be played from November 17-27.

“We’re in top form and looking forward to clinch the men’s as well as the master’s titles,” they told Dawn on the eve of their departure on Thursday.

The seven cueists including three who will compete in the master’s event, are set to fly to Doha on Friday afternoon. They have undergone 10-day rigorous training in a camp that was established at a snooker parlour in the city and concluded on Thursday.

“The morale of all the cueists is high and they are eager to once again keep the country’s flag aloft,” former world amateur snooker champion Mohammad Asif told Dawn.

Asif, who lifted the world title in his second attempt at Sofia, Bulgaria, in 2012, said veteran world champion Mohammad Yousuf’s presence and guidance in the camp served as a source of inspiration for the players.

This will be Asif’s sixth appearance in the annual IBSF world snooker championship, the previous five being in the year 2009, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

Asif won the third and last ranking tournament of the year recently to attain second spot in the national rankings behind Asjad Iqbal.

“I’m confident that all the Pakistani cueists will make the knockout stage in both the events from where they will have to go an extra mile in the following encounters,” he said.

He went on to say that one needs luck, favourable re-draw after making knockout stage and proper concentration for the remaining matches to win top honours in a tournament as big as world snooker.

“The team is a blend of experienced and youth and all have the potential to rise to the occasion on a given day,” he remarked.

Pakistan’s top cueist Asjad Iqbal, who won the NBP Cup this year, will be making his second appearance in the IBSF world snooker contest. Earlier, he had featured in the 2012 event.

Pakistan No 5 Mubashir Raza will make his debut in the world event. Promising Mubashir was preferred over third ranked Mohammad Bilal and fourth ranked Shahid Aftab by the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF) to groom him.

Reigning junior world champion Mohammad Naseem Akhtar, who has got a wildcard, will also appear in the IBSF world event for the first time. This will be his second representation for the senior team after featuring in the IBSF 6-Reds at Hurgadha, Egypt earlier this year.

Besides, he had represented the country in the Asian junior under-21 snooker championship at Chundigarh and the IBSF world junior championship at Beijing where he reached the zenith.

As far as the cueists for the master’s event are concerned, the trio comprising Imran Shehzad, Mohammad Yousuf and Khurram Agha brings rich experience under their belts and all of them have remained Pakistan No 1 during their prime.

Squad:

Asjad Iqbal, Mohammad Asif, Mubashir Raza and Mohammad Naseem Akhtar (men’s), Imran Shahzad, Mohammad Yousuf and Khurram Agha (master’s).

Officials: Munawwar Hussain Shaikh (delegate), Shabbir Hussain and Naveed Kapadia (referees).

Published in Dawn, November 17th, 2017

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