Pakistani man takes internet by storm with Danny Morrison cricket commentary impression

Pakistani Tiktoker Waqar Bettani speaks during an interview with Arab News in Peshawar on March 13, 2024. (AN Photo)
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Updated 14 March 2024

Pakistani man takes internet by storm with Danny Morrison cricket commentary impression

  • Zoology student Waqar Bettani hails from northwestern Pakistan, works two jobs to earn a living
  • Bettani invited for commentary at local tournaments, hopes to be invited to international series

PESHAWAR: The young man held the hammer up to his mouth as a makeshift microphone, looked straight at the camera and burst into spirited commentary about an imaginary cricket match.

The accent is distinctive: that of famed New Zealand cricket commentator and former cricketer Danny Morrison, but the man behind the voice is a 21-year-old Pakistani who became an overnight sensation after a social media influencer captured his commentary on video and the footage went viral.

Waqar Bettani hails from the impoverished and volatile settlement of Lakki Marwat in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, but moved with his family, including five sisters and four brothers, to the provincial capital of Peshawar two decades ago, where he is currently pursuing a zoology degree and juggling two jobs.

Speaking to Arab News, Bettani said the success of his first video clip inspired him to set up his own social media accounts on TikTok and Instagram.

“I started posting videos over there and they started going viral,” he said.

“When I talk, I say my name is ‘Danny Morrison Lite’, so I am a lite version of him because I love his commentary and my accent is just the same as his.”

Bettani said people widely told him he sounded like Morrison: “So, probably I will say that he is my ideal in commentary.”

He said he had enjoyed speaking in and polishing his English since he was a school-going child.

“I try everyday to polish my English speaking skills. In school, I would speak in English with my teachers and friends randomly and got the confidence to speak it in public and on social media.”

Bettani said he would fanatically watch cricket since he was a kid and listened to television commentary on high volume, which inspired him to start mimicking commentators and doing commentary at local cricket grounds.

Morrison has been his favorite for years:

“Danny Morrison is my inspiration and I like his aggression in commentary for which he is admired across the globe in different cricket leagues."


Like many of his friends in the northwestern city, Bettani is a fan of Peshawar Zalmi, a Pakistani franchise Twenty20 cricket team which plays in the Pakistan Super League and represents KP capital Peshawar.

“I support my own team, Peshawar Zalmi, the Yellow Storm,” Bettani said. “We love cricket, we love PSL, we are supporting our teams and we are behind them.”

He is also a huge admirer of Zalmi captain Babar Azam, one of the top performers in the ongoing PSL tournament and a former all-format captain of the Pakistan cricket team.

“I love the one and only King Babar Azam. He is on top in the world [rankings], and he is one of the greatest batsmen of present time in PSL and BPL [Bangladesh Premier League].”

Bettani has himself also received widespread recognition for his commentary and was recently invited at district-level tournaments to showcase his skills.

“I look forward to being part of the international cricket commentary box and in national level games like PSL,” he said. “I will find my place there.”

But the fan following has not made his life's challenges easier. He still has to work to support his family, which owns a small shop along the Ring Road in Peshawar.

The zoology student attends classes three days a week at a local private college and spends the remaining time working two jobs.

“I work in a quartz stone factory which exports to China,” Bettani said. “In the daytime, I work there and on the night shift, I work as a security guard. This is my life.”

Actress Laila Abdallah sparks global headlines after beach day with Joe Jonas

Updated 12 June 2024

Actress Laila Abdallah sparks global headlines after beach day with Joe Jonas

DUBAI: US singer Joe Jonas was spotted enjoying a beach day in Greece with Lebanese actress Laila Abdallah as they attended the opening of the One&Only Aesthesis in Athens along with other celebrities.

The paparazzi shots sparked an international internet manhunt for Abdallah, who was previously identified by magazines around the world as a “mystery brunette,” according to the Daily Mail.

The pair did not attend the opening event together, and mingled among other high-profile guests, including former Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach, actor Welsh actor Luke Evans, French designer Olivier Rousteing and Australian pop icon Kylie Minogue, among others.

But paparazzi at the resort were solely focused on Jonas and Abdallah, who enjoyed a beach day on Monday.

Jonas, who filed for divorce from British actress Sophie Turner in September, was photographed swimming in the sea and lounging on the shore along with Abdallah and others.

Although the snaps sparked international headlines and speculation amongst fans, neither camp has commented on the photographs and according to multiple reports they are just friends.

The 28-year-old actress was born in Kuwait to Lebanese parents on Jan. 8, 1996, and began acting in the early 2010s, landing roles in Arab TV series.

Laila Abdallah attended the opening of the One&Only Aesthesis in Athens. (Getty Images)

Abdallah can speak in sign language as she was raised by parents who are deaf and mute. The actress is the oldest of four siblings and previously spoke to Emirati podcast host Anas Bukhash about that responsibility.

“Because I’m the oldest among my siblings, and always I’m the one who does everything… I mean, I call myself the man of the house, the father, the big sister, I’m everything, so it’s impossible for anyone to see me cry, impossible,” she said.

Abdallah previously starred in a music video for Saudi singer Abdul Majeed Abdullah but her first acting role was in the TV show “Saher Al-lail” in 2010,  which was directed by Muhammad Daham Al-Shammari. The director also cast her in a recurring role in his series “Tu Nahar.” Abdallah most recently starred in the TV series “London Class” in 2023.

She boasts five million followers on Instagram and is known for sharing behind-the-scenes shots from her international travels, as well as her red carpet moments — notably, she recently hit the red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

In December 2017, she married Iranian actor Abdallah Abass, but they divorced in 2018.

‘Ultraman: Rising’ sees iconic Japanese hero take on an ‘emotional, entertaining’ new challenge

Updated 12 June 2024

‘Ultraman: Rising’ sees iconic Japanese hero take on an ‘emotional, entertaining’ new challenge

  • ‘He is massive in a way that we don't understand (in the US) – for people in Japan, and all over Asia, he’s bigger than Superman or Spider-Man,’ the director said
  • In this film, the titanic superhero meets his match when he adopts a 35-foot-tall, fire-breathing baby kaiju

DUBAI: Set to release on Netflix on June 14, 3DCG-animated feature film “Ultraman: Rising” sees Tokyo threatened by rising monster attacks when baseball star Ken Sato returns home to take on the mantle of Ultraman.

Ultraman is already an international pop-culture phenomenon and has been a fan favorite since the Japanese television series “Ultra Q” in 1966, with countless reboots and sequels across different mediums released over the years.

In statements shared exclusively with Arab News in the Middle East, Emmy-winning artist and filmmaker Shannon Tindle shares how his childhood influenced the decision to create “Ultraman: Rising.”

“When I was a kid, I loved sitting on the floor with my parents, watching kung fu movies, Godzilla, and, most of all, Ultraman. The image of a towering, monster-fighting superhero was forever burned into my brain (and heart) and would eventually inspire this film,” he said.

In this film, the titanic superhero meets his match when he adopts a 35-foot-tall, fire-breathing baby kaiju whom he protects from nefarious outside forces.

“Although family has always been a part of the Ultraman legacy, we’re leaning into parenthood in a way that hasn’t been explored before. What does it feel like to have this incredible power and still be overwhelmed by a child? There’s something deeply emotional and incredibly entertaining about that shared experience,” Tindle explained.

As for the responsibility of creating the next step in a revered Japanese franchise, the Kentucky-born director and writer says it is not something he took lightly.

“I learned that he is massive in a way that we don't understand (in the US) – for people in Japan, and all over Asia, he’s bigger than Superman or Spider-Man,” Tindle explained, adding: “Our goal was for Japanese folks to see themselves in the film, from how people engage with one another to what their houses and signage look like … we worked with our cultural consultant, Mayumi Yoshida, who is a talented filmmaker in her own right, and we also had our own internal team that included both Japanese and Japanese-American folks who would have weekly meetings to review all of our materials,” he said.

VFX supervisor Hayden Jones and animation supervisor Mathieu Vig took aesthetic inspiration from manga and anime for the film, that The Wrap critic Rafael Motamayor described as featuring “dazzling and memorable stances and shots.”

More acts pull out of UK festival Latitude in protest against sponsor Barclays’ links to Israel

Updated 12 June 2024

More acts pull out of UK festival Latitude in protest against sponsor Barclays’ links to Israel

  • Comedians Sophie Duker, Grace Campbell and Alexandra Haddow are the latest performers to withdraw from the event in Essex next month
  • Barclays has been accused by the protest group Palestine Action of having financial interests in Israel’s weapons trade and fossil fuel industry

LONDON: Three comedians said on Tuesday they were pulling out of the UK’s Latitude Festival in protest against ties between the event’s main sponsor, Barclays, and Israel.

The withdrawals by Sophie Duker, Grace Campbell and Alexandra Haddow follow a similar decision last week by Irish singer-songwriter CMAT. Other musicians that have pulled out include Pillow Queens, Mui Zyu and Georgia Ruth, Sky News reported.

Acts such as Keane, Kasabian and London Grammar are still scheduled to perform at the event in the English county of Suffolk from July 25 to 28.

Barclays has been accused by the protest group Palestine Action of having financial interests in Israel’s weapons trade and fossil fuel industry. Members of the group this week splashed red paint on 20 of the bank’s branches across England and Scotland.

Comedian Duker posted a short video on social media in which she confirmed she would no longer be performing at the festival, despite her experience there being “magical in the past,” because she said Barclays was “profiting from the production of weaponry” used by Israeli forces in Gaza.


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“I am committed to minimizing my complicity in what I consider to be a pattern of abhorrent, unlawful violence,” she said, adding that her stance had attracted “violent abuse, targeted pile-ons and death threats.”

Haddow shared a similar message on Instagram in which she said she could not “in good conscience take the fee” for performing at the event and that boycotting it was “one of the only things I can actively do.”


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Barclays said it recognizes “the profound human suffering” caused by the war in Gaza but added: “We provide vital financial services to US, UK and European public companies that supply defense products to NATO and its allies.

“Barclays does not directly invest in these companies. The defense sector is fundamental to our national security, and the UK government has been clear that supporting defense companies is compatible with ESG (environmental, social and governance) considerations.

“Decisions on the implementation of arms embargoes to other nations are the job of respective elected governments.”

Jeddah university alumna’s film selected for Tribeca festival

Updated 11 June 2024

Jeddah university alumna’s film selected for Tribeca festival

  • ‘Kum Kum,’ directed by Dur Jamjoom, has been chosen for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York
  • Jamjoom completed the film as her graduation project at Effat University in 2022

JEDDAH: Dur Jamjoom’s graduation film from Effat University, “Kum Kum,” has been chosen for the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Founded by actor Robert De Niro, Tribeca is one of North America’s most important festivals. This year’s event began on June 5 and runs until June 16.

Jamjoom completed the film as her graduation project at Effat University in 2022. She said: “I’m incredibly honored and blessed to be the first Saudi female as part of the shorts program at the Tribeca Festival. This opportunity wouldn’t have been possible without my incredible team.”

The autobiographical film is deeply personal, centering on the untimely passing of Jamjoom’s best friend in 2012. Just 12 years old at the time, the tragic event introduced her to a range of unfamiliar emotions.

As the story unfolds, each person recounts the event from their own perspective. Jamjoom brings these diverse narratives together to form a cohesive story, highlighting the profound impact of one person’s suffering on the lives of others.

She said: “I was hesitant to delve into the memory of my friend who is no longer with us, fearing disrespect. But I realized I’m actually honoring my friend, who made me into the person I am today.”

During production, Jamjoom faced numerous challenges. “We shot the movie in the sea, but the waves were uncooperative, and many people were getting seasick,” she said.

“The underwater housing case for the camera posed unique challenges I had never encountered before. I had to trust my team and stay focused on directing.”

She hopes the film inspires audiences to see the light after darkness, emphasizing that “where there is grief, there can also be healing, and the transformative power of overcoming life’s challenges.”

Speaking about the film’s deeper meanings, she said: “In the movie, ‘Kum Kum’ serves as a traditional Saudi game that holds symbolic significance. The game metaphorically represents how life presents unexpected moments, and individuals must adapt to the changes. ‘Kum Kum’ explores the intricate connections between faith, suffering, resilience, and personal growth.”

Mohamed Ghazala, chair of the Cinematic Arts School at Effat University, expressed his pride and joy in celebrating this incredible achievement. He said: “Jamjoom, one of our finest graduates, has dedicated countless hours to honing her craft at our campus, passionately writing, filming, animating, directing, and documenting real stories.

“The selection of her graduation film for the esteemed Tribeca Film Festival is a tremendous honor for us and for Saudi Arabia as a whole. To be shortlisted from a pool of 8,000 submissions is a remarkable feat that showcases the incredible talent being nurtured within our institution. We are filled with optimism and enthusiasm as we look forward to witnessing more groundbreaking achievements from our talented students in the future.”

He added: “This remarkable accomplishment is a true testament to the impactful teaching at Effat University, empowering students with the strong tools necessary to bring their stories to life, captivating not only local audiences but also international viewers.”

‘This is for Palestine,’ says chef Michael Rafidi after coveted James Beard Award win

Updated 11 June 2024

‘This is for Palestine,’ says chef Michael Rafidi after coveted James Beard Award win

CHICAGO: A Palestinian chef using ancient cooking techniques, a Senegalese restaurant in New Orleans and an upscale Thai restaurant in Oregon won coveted James Beard Awards Monday at a red carpet awards ceremony in Chicago.
More than 100 restaurants were finalists across 22 categories for the culinary world’s equivalent of the Oscars with diverse range of cuisine and chef experience, a recent shift following turbulent, pandemic-era years for the James Beard Foundation. Just being a finalist can bring wide recognition and boost business. The most anticipated categories included awards for outstanding restaurateur, chef and restaurant.


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Michael Rafidi, whose Washington, D.C., restaurant Albi was awarded a coveted Michelin Star in 2022, won outstanding chef among five finalists. Albi, which is Arabic for “my heart,” pays homage to Rafidi’s Palestinian roots by using Old World food preparation techniques. Everything is cooked over charcoal, including grape leaves stuffed with lamb and sfeeha, a meat pie.

“This is for Palestine and all the Palestinian people out there," Rafidi told The Associated Press after winning the award. Rafidi, who wore a traditional black-and-white checkered keffiyeh, said he kept thinking of his Palestinian grandfather, who was also a chef, and how he paved the way for him.

Restaurants apply for the awards. Judges, who mostly remain anonymous, try the cuisine before voting. Nominees are reviewed for the food, as well as for a behavioral code of ethics, including how employees are treated. On Monday, winners announced at the Lyric Opera of Chicago venue were given engraved medallions.


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The award for best new restaurant went to Dakar NOLA, a Senegalese restaurant in New Orleans.

“I always knew that West Africa has something to say,” said chef Serigne Mbaye. “That kept me going.”

The James Beard Foundation has bestowed awards since 1991, except in 2020 and 2021 when the organization scrapped them as the restaurant industry was reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic. The foundation was also facing criticism over a lack of racial diversity and allegations about some nominees’ behavior. Foundation officials vowed to improve ethical standards and be more “reflective of the industry.”


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An upscale Thai restaurant that uses Pacific Northwest ingredients, Langbaan won outstanding restaurant, while Chicago restaurant Lula Cafe, a bistro that opened in 1999 on the city's North Side, won an award for outstanding hospitality.
Erika and Kelly Whitaker, a Colorado couple, won outstanding restauranteur.

Their Id Est Hospitality Group runs several Colorado restaurants including The Wolf’s Tailor, which serves wild game like smoked venison. Its restaurants have a focus on zero waste and sustainability practices.

“We don't particularly chase these awards," Kelly Whitaker said. “But we definitely chase the platform this brings.”