Byline: Anwar Zuberi
PAKISTAN snooker witnessed two contrasting scenarios in a span of almost one year - from Dec 2018 to Nov 2019. Celebrated cueist Mohammad Asif, who was a persona non grata and barred to travel with the Pakistan team to Egyptian city of Marsa Alam to compete in World 6-Reds and Team Event by the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF), suddenly became a hero for re-capturing the world title for second time at Doha.
Quartet of senior cueists including pre-selected Asif and Babar Masih, along with Asjad Iqbal and Mohammad Sajjad and the games controlling body came at loggerheads after former took the plea to sign the annual central contract before start of season in Jan 2019 to which the latter refused.
Eventually, the cueists signed the central contract on Jan 6 and were asked to withdraw their complaint lodged with the PSB.
In this backdrop and after a wait of seven years, Asif once again did the country proud to emulate the feat of four cueists in winning the world title twice. Indian Pankaj Advani, however, stood tall for crowning three world snooker titles. Asif's meteoric rise to the top of world ladder again was the major silver lining of the year that has just ended.
The 37-year-old Asif, who was seeded second for the knockout round, bulldozed unseeded Jefrey Roda of Philippines 8-5 with the scores being 68-35, 88-0, 69-17, 28-73, 5-118, 93-0, 69-1, 72-57, 10-93, 77-4, 21-65, 54-66, 68-51 in the epic final in the Turkish port city of Antalya. It is pertinent to mention that Asif had laid his hands on the world title earlier at Sofia in Bulgaria in 2012.
All in all, Pakistani cueists fetched four gold, three silver and five bronze medals in the global competitions and carried country's flag aloft.
Two of the remaining three gold medals came in the team events courtesy Babar, Zulfiqar A. Qadir (Asian Team Event) at Doha in June and Asjad, Mohammad Bilal (IBSF World Team Cup) at the same venue. In both the finals Pakistan's opponent was India.
In an all-Pakistan final, Asjad coasted to 7-6 victory over Bilal to capture gold in the inaugural Saarc Snooker Championship at Dhaka in Sept.
Babar went down to Iran's Amir Sarkhosh 4-7 to get silver in Asian 6-Reds while Asif earned silver in IBSF World 6-Reds at Mandalay, Myanmar, also in Sept after losing to Indian Laxman Rawat 5-6 in the final besides Bilal's Saarc silver.
The cueists who returned with bronze include Bilal (inaugural IBSF-Qatar 6-Reds World Cup)...