Pakistan Super League launches with star-studded ceremony, first playoff today

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Fireworks illuminate Pakistan's city of lights, Karachi, during the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League on February 20, 2021. (AN photo)
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Fireworks illuminate Pakistan's city of lights, Karachi, during the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League on February 20, 2021. (AN photo)
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Fireworks illuminate Pakistan's city of lights, Karachi, during the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League on February 20, 2021. (AN photo)
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Fireworks illuminate Pakistan's city of lights, Karachi, during the opening ceremony of the sixth edition of Pakistan Super League on February 20, 2021. (AN photo)
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Updated 20 February 2021

Pakistan Super League launches with star-studded ceremony, first playoff today

  • PSL opening ceremony featured Atif Aslam, Imran Khan, Humaima Malick, Naseebo Lal, Aima Baig and Young Stunners
  • In first match, defending champions Karachi Kings take on the Quetta Gladiators

KARACHI: Pakistan’s biggest cricketing event kicked off on Saturday with music and fireworks in Karachi after the edition was suspended last year following the coronavirus outbreak.
The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) said in a statement prior to the opening ceremony that it would allow 20 percent of stadium capacity during games — 7,500 fans in Karachi and 5,500 fans in Lahore — to cheer on their favorite T20 teams for a month of cricket played in two cities.
Last year, four matches were played in empty stadiums before the league’s suspension.
Performances by pop stars Atif Aslam, Imran Khan, Humaima Malick and PSL 6 anthem artists, Naseebo Lal, Aima Baig and Young Stunners marked the launch of the sixth edition of the annual cricketing competition at the national stadium in Karachi. They were, however, played on screens as artists did not perform live due to coronavirus health guidelines.
“Pakistan has opened the doors to the rest of the world and PSL was proud to lead this resurgence of international cricket,” PCB chairman Ehsan Mani during the ceremony.
“The best team will lift the trophy on March 22,” Mani said, as he thanked overseas players who arrived in Pakistan to take part in PSL matches.
The opening ceremony was followed by the first match of the season in which defending champions Karachi Kings are playing against Quetta Gladiators.
The first 20 matches will be played in the national stadium Karachi between Feb. 20 and March 7. The teams will then depart for Lahore to play the remaining 10 league matches and four playoffs.
The tournament will conclude with a final match at Lahore’s Qaddafi stadium on March 22.


Challenge accepted: Saudi national cricket team invites Peshawar Zalmi to play in kingdom

Updated 9 min 18 sec ago

Challenge accepted: Saudi national cricket team invites Peshawar Zalmi to play in kingdom

  • Peshawar Zalmi owner hinted last week of taking his team to Saudi Arabia for a friendly match
  • Arab News has been selected as the official media partner of the Saudi cricket team

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s national cricket team has accepted the challenge by the Pakistan cricket franchise Peshawar Zalmi inviting them for a friendly game.

The owner of one of Pakistan’s most popular cricket franchises, Peshawar Zalmi, hinted last week of taking his team to Saudi Arabia for a friendly match, soon after news emerged that Arab News had been selected as the official media partner of the Saudi cricket team.

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Arab News, Saudi Arabia’s leading English language daily, has been selected by the Saudi cricket federation to be the national team’s official media partner. Read more here.

Javed Afridi’s successful franchise is represented by cricketing legends like former West Indian skipper Daren Sammy, South African star batsman Hashim Amla, and Pakistan all rounders Wahab Riaz and Shoaib Malik, and others from the world’s biggest test playing teams.

“Best wishes to cricket KSA. How about Peshawar Zalmi VS KSA in Saudi,” Afridi wrote on Twitter.

Responding to it the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF) told Arab News: “We thank Afridi for the wonderful gesture, good wishes to the Saudi national cricket team and appreciation. We look forward to a lot of cooperation with all great cricket playing countries, such as Pakistan.

“As far as invitation to play a friendly game is concerned, we accept the challenge and look forward to playing the game at a mutually agreed date and place, here in Saudi Arabia," said Nadeem Nadwi, General Manager, SACF.

SACF, established in 2020, has lined up a series of major programs focused on promoting the game in the Kingdom and things are set to change rapidly.

In an exclusive interview with Arab News last week, SACF chairman Prince Saud Bin Mishal Al-Saud revealed the game-changing plans for cricket, outlining a series of major initiatives that will increase participation at community, club, and international level.

Among those competitions is the National Cricket Championship, played across 11 cities and part of four programs that SACF signed with the Saudi Sports For All Federation. Launched in February 2021, it is to date the largest cricket tournament held in the history of Saudi Arabia.

Moreover, there will be a corporate cricket tournament launched in October and November, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social cricket program introduced in various cities. Throughout the year, SACF is planning to have 20,000 participants taking part in these programs.

The federation has signed several deals and MoUs with governmental, semi-governmental, and non-governmental entities setting out plans to raise awareness of the game, increase cricket facilities nationwide, and introduce the sport to Saudi youth through school programs.


What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander

Updated 11 April 2021

What We Are Reading Today: The Hospital by Brian Alexander

The Hospital by Brian Alexander is an eye opening account of America’s healthcare system as it plays out in a community hospital in Bryan, Ohio.

“It brings to life the fact that America’s healthcare system is in trouble and until we begin to address the root causes of this healthcare crisis, things will never change. Alexander gave a face to this issue by introducing us to people who are struggling right now,” said a review in goodreads.com. 

Alexander “has given us an unflinching, uncomfortable look at our healthcare system and challenges us to face the obvious: So many people in our country suffer from poor health and the role that we allow poverty to play in that neglect is costly,” said the review.

“The narratives of the Bryan residents and patients that are woven throughout the text are heartfelt and often tragic. Some die, some suffer needlessly, some recover. But it always seems to come down to systemic poverty,” the review added. 

“This is an excellent account of what it takes to keep a smaller hospital in business.”


Indian opposition takes jab at Modi over vaccine shortage, COVID-19 crisis

Updated 11 April 2021

Indian opposition takes jab at Modi over vaccine shortage, COVID-19 crisis

  • Most Mumbai vaccine centers closed, city mayor tells Arab News

NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been accused of complacency and missteps in the handling of the pandemic by the country’s main opposition party, after six states reported a shortage of coronavirus vaccines and more than 145,000 new infections were recorded on Saturday.

The Congress Party also blamed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for prioritizing “vaccine diplomacy” by exporting vaccine doses instead of reserving them for domestic use.

“The Modi government has mismanaged the situation – exported vaccines and allowed a shortage to be created in India,” Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi said during a special meeting on Saturday to address the COVID-19 crisis.

“We must focus on India’s vaccination drive first and foremost, then only export vaccines and gift them to other countries.”

She emphasized the need for “responsible behavior” and adhering to all laws and COVID-19 regulations “without exception.”

But the government insisted there were enough vaccines in stock, accusing the opposition of “playing politics” even as India grappled with a deadly second wave of infections.

“There is no shortage of vaccines,” BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma told Arab News, adding that state governments were following the “procedure laid down by the center.”

Six opposition-ruled states said earlier this week that they were running out of vaccines and would be forced to discontinue the vaccination drive if the central government did not send supplies.

One of the worst affected states is western India’s Maharashtra, which recorded 58,993 new cases on Saturday out of the nationwide total of 145,384.

“There are 108 vaccines centers in Mumbai, but most of them have been closed due to a lack of vaccines,” Mumbai Mayor Kishori Kishore Pandekar told Arab News.

“The number of doses we have cannot last more than two days. If this is the situation in India’s financial capital Mumbai, imagine the case in remote areas of the state.”

Pune, one of Maharashtra’s biggest cities, has also run out of vaccines.

“We have not been vaccinating since Thursday in Pune, and we don’t know when the next lot of doses will arrive in the city,” Dr. Avinash V. Bhondwe, president of the Indian Medical Association’s Maharashtra wing, told Arab News.

The eastern state of Odisha has reported a shortage in doses, leading to the closure of 700 vaccination centers, according to media reports.

Verma said the current situation was due to the “desperate” measures taken by state governments.

“People above 45 years was the target group for the vaccination (drive). Some state governments are getting desperate, and they want to give vaccines to one and all. This is not possible for a (country with a) size like India. Vaccine production and export needs have been calibrated.”

But the BJP’s explanation did not satisfy Pankaj Vohra, from the New Delhi suburb of Noida, who went to hospital on Friday for his second jab but could not get vaccinated due to a shortage.

“A day before going to the hospital, I got a confirmation that I should come for the second dose,” he told Arab News. “But when I reached the hospital, I was told that the Covishield vaccine was available and not Covaxin. If the government cannot fulfil its domestic demand, why is it exporting vaccines?”

India has allowed permission for the emergency use of Covishield – the local name for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine produced by the Pune-based Serum Institute of India – and Covaxin, directed by Bharat Biotech in the south Indian city of Hyderabad.

It launched its vaccination drive on Jan. 16 and has inoculated 94 million people, far below the initial target of 300 million.

Only 12.5 percent of the 94 million have received the second dose, based on an advisory by the Health Ministry, which recommends a 28-day gap between the first and second dose.

“The government did plan the vaccination drive,” Dr. Amar Jesani, a Mumbai-based public health expert, told Arab News. “Most of the developed countries made arrangements that they get enough doses of vaccines when they need them, but the Indian government did nothing about it.”

He wondered why just two companies in India were producing vaccines, and suggested the government use a compulsory licensing policy and allow other local companies to produce them.

“That way, you could have a large number of vaccines available,” he added.

There has been increased demand for COVID-19 vaccines in the past few weeks following a leap in cases, with Saturday’s daily infections rising by a record for the fifth time this week.

Last week experts told Arab News that India was on its way to becoming the “ground zero and global epicenter” for the coronavirus outbreak.

“The rising number of cases is due to the government’s failure to implement preventive measures,” Jesani said. “Political leadership is unhindered in their political campaigns addressing huge gatherings without following any COVID-19 protocol.”

Bhondwe urged the government to allow more companies to produce vaccines in India and to allow more foreign vaccines to come to India.

“People are in a state of panic, and they see some hope in vaccines. The government should not disappoint its people.”


EU proposes six-month tariff freeze with US

Updated 10 April 2021

EU proposes six-month tariff freeze with US

  • Brussels seeks compromise in 16-year-old dispute over aircraft subsidies

BERLIN: The EU has suggested that it and the US suspend tariffs imposed on billions of dollars of imports for six months, EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis was quoted as telling Germany’s Der Spiegel on Saturday.

That would go beyond a four-month suspension agreed to last month, and send a signal that Brussels is seeking compromise in a 16-year-old dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The dispute about airplane subsidies is one of two ongoing trade fights with Europe. Former US President Donald Trump in 2018 imposed a tariff on steel and aluminum imports, using an obscure provision of US code that allows him to do so on issues of national security. 

European leaders, whose manufacturing industry was hit hard by the measures, decried the reasoning because most of them are longtime US allies. The EU imposed a retaliatory set of tariffs that same year.

The two sides exchanged proposals for a solution but disagreements over ensuring future compliance and aid repayment derailed efforts. The US offered a truce on Oct. 14, 2020 if Airbus agreed to repay state loans at a level of interest assuming a 50 percent product failure rate; however, the EU declined and decided to move forward with tariffs. 

“We have proposed suspending all mutual tariffs for six months in order to reach a negotiated solution,” Dombrovskis told the news magazine.

“This would create a necessary breathing space for industries and workers on both sides of the Atlantic,” he added.

In March, the two sides agreed on a four-month suspension covering all US tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU imports and all EU duties on $4 billion of US products, which resulted from long-running World Trade Organization cases over subsidies for planemakers Airbus and Boeing.

Dombrovskis also said the EU would closely monitor US President Joe Biden’s “Buy American” laws which provide for US public contracts to be awarded exclusively to American firms.

“Our goal is to push for procurement markets that are as open as possible all over the world,” he told Der Spiegel.


Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

Updated 10 April 2021

Syria juice vendor gears up for Ramadan as crisis bites

  • The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during Ramadan
  • On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst

DAMASCUS: In a busy market in Syria’s capital, 53-year-old Ishaaq Kremed serenades customers and agilely pours tamarind juice from the ornate brass jug on his back ahead of Ramadan.
The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during the Islamic holy month starting next week, during which many favor the drink to break their day-long fast at sundown.
But he says his trade of more than 40 years has also taken on new meaning since the war-torn country has been plunged into economic crisis.
“My main job is to make customers smile,” says the moustachioed father of 16, dressed in billowing trousers, a patterned waistcoat and red fez.
“What’s most important is that they leave me feeling happy — that whoever turns up stressed leaves feeling content,” adds the street vendor.
On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst, often taking pictures of him and his traditional get-up with their cellphones.
As he nimbly pours juice in long streams into plastic cups, he distracts them for a while with a song.
A surgical face mask lowered under his chin, Kremed intones lyrics for a mother and her two young daughters, before handing her a cup of the dark brown beverage.
He takes his fez off to collect his payment, then places it back on the top of his head.
Another man, dressed in a long white robe, joins Kremed in a song then gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves.
Syria’s economic crisis has sent prices soaring and caused the national currency to plummet in value against the dollar on the black market.
In a country where a large majority of people live in poverty, Syrians have also had to contend with several lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.
“For three years, Ramadan has been different because of people’s financial worries,” Kremed says.
“When people come to the market, you see them bumping into each other as if they were in a daze.”
The Damascus government blames the economic crisis on Western sanctions, but economists say the conflict, the pandemic and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon are also major factors.
Some state institutions have temporarily been closed over the pandemic and the economic crisis, but for now, markets remain open.
Although he does his best to keep up a cheery demeanour, Kremed says he too is feeling the effects of the economic crunch.
Tamarind and sugar are becoming increasingly costly, he says, and not everyone has enough spare cash for a refreshment.
“People’s priorities have become putting food and drink on the table, before tamarind juice,” he says.