KARACHI, April 22: Pakistan and world No.2 Saleh Mohammad begins the defence of his snooker crown when he takes on Sindh's Bilal Ahmed in the Eighth Style Snooker Championship which gets under way at the Karachi Gymkhana on Friday morning. Arriving from Bahrain the previous evening, where he coaches the Bahrain snooker team, Saleh said that he will go all out to retain his crown.
Last year, Saleh beat Khurram Agha 6-4 in the final. Although he lost to Saleh, Khurram Hussain Agha is still rated the top seed. However, a month ago Khurram broke his hand while playing cricket. Although he told this correspondent that all is well, it will have to be seen if Khurram plays his shots fluently without any hindrance of pain.
The former world, Asian and National champion Mohammad Yousuf is ranked at No.3 and former Pakistan snooker captain Naveen Perwani is at No.4. Lahore's exciting strokemaker Imran Shehzad has climbed up to No.5 and since Farhan Mirza, the former national junior and senior champion seeded sixth will not be participating in this tournament, joining his family in Sweden, his place will be taken by Atiq Latif Bux, a youngster oozing with immense talent but somehow always fails to deliver the goods.
Vishan Gir, a promising left-hander who can beat the best on his day is ranked at No.7 and Amit Parwani, another player from the Karachi Club who displays his talent in fits and starts is seeded at No.8.
All in all 40 of the top players in the nation are participating in this tournament which will, apart from Farhan Mirza, will also be missing Faik Malik from Punjab and Arifullah from the NWFP.
Mohammad Amin, a youngster from Larkhana joins the ranks for Farhan Mirza, and two reserves from Sindh, Bilal Ahmed and Saqib Zia take the places of Faik Malik and Arifullah.
The players will be divided into eight groups with five players in each group. Sindh will be represented by 18 cueists, Punjab (12), NWFP eight and Balochistan two.
The winner will receive a handsome purse of Rs.60,000. The runner-up will have to be content with Rs.35,000. The two semi-finalists will receive Rs.15000. apiece and the four quarter-finalists Rs.8000. each, while the eight quarter-finalists will have to be content wit Rs.3000.00
The player registering the highest break in the tournament will receive Rs.6000., making it a grand total of Rs.1,87000. Sixteen matches will be played a day will be played for five days till the qualifying rounds.
After that the knock-put stage begins with the last 16, quarter-finals and semi-finals. The final will be played on Friday, April 30 from 2-30 p.m. onwards in the best of 11 frames.
Following are the names of the participating cueists.
Khurram Hussain Agha (Sindh), Saqib Butt (Punjab), Raees Khan (Punjab), Zia ul Islam (NWFP) and Saqib Zia (Sindh).
Saleh Mohammad (NWFP) Rambel Gul (NWFP), Shahid Ilyas (Punjab), Kamran Shah (Balochistan) and Bilal Ahmed (Sindh).
Mohammad Yousuf (Sindh), Shah Khan (NWFP), Danish Karim (Sindh), Shahid Ali (Punjab) and Mohammad Amin (Sindh).
Naveen Perwani (Sindh), Imran Mughal (Punjab), Shehram Changezi (Punjab), Farrukh Usman (Sindh) and Mudassar (NWFP).
Imran Shehzad (Punjab), Minhas Malik (Sindh) Masood Ahmed (Sindh), Mohammad Jamshed (Sindh) and Janan Khan (Balochistan).
Atiq Latif Bux (Sindh), Abu Saim (Punjab), Mohammad Asif (Punjab), Shahid Ali Saghar (Punjab) and Nauman Awan (NWFP).
Vishan Gir (Sindh), Mohammad Nazir (Punjab), Shakir Rafiq (Sindh), Imtiaz Tipu (Punjab) and Mohammed Ayub Khan (NWFP).
Amit Parwani (Sindh), Shakeel Bhatti (Sindh), Mohammad Akhlas (Sindh), Hanif M. Bux (Sindh) and Wajed Khan (NWFP).