Four-member snooker team comprising former world snooker champion M Asif, former world snooker team champion M Sajjad, M Bilal and Sohail Shahzad will represent Pakistan in the 32nd Asian Snooker Championship 2016 starting from April 16 in Doha, Qatar.

Pakistan is the defending champion of the individual event, which was won by Pakistan’s lone professional player Hamza Akbar last year in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Now he has turned professional, so Pakistan will rely on experienced M Asif and M Sajjad, while first timer M Bilal is optimistic about his chances of doing well for the country and helping it retain the title.

Talking to The Nation, Pakistan Billiard and Snooker Association (PSBA) media coordinator and camp commandant Naveed Kapadia, who was satisfied with the players’ training and preparations, said: “I am sure that these boys’ will not let country down as they have huge international experience of winning world cup and team world cup. Although we will miss Hamza Akbar, who was champion in the event, yet he is now a professional player and our best wishes are with him.

“Last time, three players Hamza Akbar, Asif and Shahram Changazi represented Pakistan and this year, being the champions, an extra player was accommodated and we have opted to unleash Bilal, who had won a lot of national events including national championship. Bilal is upbeat about his performance and eager to excel for the country in the mega event,” he said.

Naveed said they had established the camp at the PSB on March 23 and had to conclude it on Tuesday. “The players will leave for a day for their homes and will reach Karachi on April 8 and then leave for Doha on April 9, where they will practice for almost a week prior to the start of the event. The PBSA is bearing all the expenses of the players, while we will also provide them with daily allowances,” he said.

Naveed said: “The PSB has done a fantastic job as they have changed the cloth of the tables, provided fresh balls, polished the tables and above all, the accommodation and meal were quite good. Now fresh lights were also installed and players were really happy with it.

“The cueists had been trained for eight hours daily and even on Sundays. It is my humble request to private sector and government to pay some heed towards snooker, as the country is blessed with natural talent but we still have been facing acute shortage of funds but despite all the odds, the PBSA is still doing a remarkable job under tough financial restrains,” Naveed concluded.

M Asif said he was quite satisfied with his preparations and would try his level best to add Asian Snooker title to his already decorated cap. “Despite lapse of three years, I am still running from post to pillar to get my long overdue prize money announced by the government as per PSB rules. I owe Rs25million, while only Rs 1 million were given to me. It is almost impossible to concentrate on game due to financial crisis. We have quite realistic chances of retaining the title, as we are eager to excel in international event.”

National snooker champion Bilal was very excited about his international debut and said: “Yes it is my very first international assignment. I am mentally and physically relaxed and there will be no pressure on me. I have played a lot of national events, instead it will be a golden opportunity for me to excel at the top and show the world Pakistanis are read champions. The government must help snooker and players to further flourish it in the country.”