KARACHI: Senior cueists may face stiff opposition from juniors in the 12th National Bank of Pakistan (NBP) Ranking Snooker Championship which cues off at the bank’s sports complex on Tuesday.

This is the first competition after seven months and second domestic event of the annual calendar as Covid-19 pandemic and nation-wide lockdown had put an embargo on activities, both at home and abroad.

The players haven’t undergone strenuous practice due to closure of clubs and snooker parlours and there is likelihood that that the cueist (s) who will perform outstandingly on the given day may lay his hands to the cup.

Incumbent world champion and title holder Mohammad Asif has however vowed to defend the title.

“I am looking forward to retain the crown,” the 38-year-old Asif who has arrived from his hometown Faisalabad told Dawn on Monday.

Another senior player Asjad Iqbal had the distinction of winning the NBP title for an unparallel four times.

Asif has been seeded on top in the draw which has been revised twice following late withdrawals of Sindh’s Sohail Shahzad and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Rambel Gul.

Sohail pulled out due to family problems while Rambel has been stuck in Dubai, officials told Dawn.

The number of players has been reduced to 33 fromoriginal list of 35.

Other seeded players are (2) Shahid Aftab, (3) Asjad Iqbal, (4) Mohammad Ahsan Javaid, (5) Babar Masih,(6) Mubahsir Raza (7) Mohammad Naseem Akhtar and (8) Ali Haider.

The group matches will be played over best of seven frames. As many as 15 matches are on the cards for the opening day in four sessions.

The winner will earn Rs100,000 while runner-up gets Rs40,000. The event concludes on Oct 6.

Tuesday’s fixtures:.

At 10am: Mohammad Naseem Akhtar (Punjab) vs Mohammad Umer Khan (Punjab), Hamza Akbar (Punjab) vs Sharjeel Mehmood (Khyber Pakhtun­khwa), A li Haider (Punjab) vs Haris Tahir (Punjab), Mohammad Ijaz (Punjab) vs Agha Bilawal (Sindh).

At 12noon: Mohammad Asif (Punjab) vs Umer Farooq (Punjab), Shahid Aftab (Punjab) vs Sheikh Mohammad Mudassir (Punjab), Mohammad Bilal (Punjab) vs Mohammad Ali (Sindh).

At 2pm: Asjad Iqbal (Punjab) vs Mohammad Ajmal (Punjab), Mohammad Saleem (Khyber Pakht­unkhwa) vs Mohammad Asif Toba (Punjab), Mohammad Ahsan Javaid (Punjab) vs Ali Hamza (Sindh), Zulfiqar A. Qadir (Sindh) vs M. Jawed Ansari (Sindh).

At 4pm: Babar Masih (Punjab) vs Mohammad Majid Ali (Punjab), Mphammad Sajjad (Punjab) vs Abdul Sattar (Sindh), Mubashir Raza (Punjab) vs Zubair Tahir (Punjab), Ahsan Ramzan (Punjab) vs Saad Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2020