KARACHI  -   Pathetic lanes at Arena Bowling Club and repeated power interruptions deprived Islamabad bowlers of taking control in the masters’ singles category of the 5th PTBF National Ranking Tenpin Bowling Championship 2019 here on Friday.

It was not only Islamabad’s bowlers but former national champion Shabbir Lashkarwalaa, Aleem Agha and other Karachi-based bowlers, were also full of complaints against the poor arrangements at the arena, where the outdated lanes need to be replaced immediately. Had Ijaz Ur Rehman not given state-of-the-art oiling machine and also not invited the oiling machine expert from Islamabad, the things could have been worst.

The organisers must consider themselves highly fortunate that five national champions are taking part in the championship while current national champion Ijaz Ur Rehman, who has won national championships for a record number of three times, was also in action on the first night of the masters singles, which had the likes of former national champions M Hussain Chatha, Saleem Baig, Shabbir Lashkarwala and Ali Suria along with other top bowlers from across the country.

The organisers had decided to make masters category very difficult by allocating 24 games to each player. Never in the history of Pakistan tenpin bowling, such amount of games were played by the bowlers, as each bowler has to complete a set of eight games daily. Besides outdated lanes, there was also no electricity back-up, as the players had to suffer mentally due to power failures time and again as it vanished all the records of players but no heed was paid in this regard.

The country’s premier bowlers along with amateurs were left with no other option but to play on same lanes. Majority of players, including former champions, have announced to boycott this as well as upcoming events in Karachi, if the federation again allocates the event to the same organsiers at the same venue.

The masters’ singles was contested amongst 40 bowlers, but it was highly strange that the organisers allowed unknown players to play alongside the best in the country. The bowlers like Ijaz, Shabbir, Chatha, Saleem and Ali Suria were playing alongside fresh faces. The organisers should have included open category to accommodate the fresh and ordinary ones, rather than allowing them to play alongside top professionals of the country.

The masters singles were divided into two pools. The first pool of players started at 4:00pm, while the second squad started at 9:00pm. Ijaz, Chatha and Saleem were in the first squad of players. First game started with players looking rusty and finding it difficult to settle down. Top professionals were making childish mistakes and leaving behind splits, which was highly unusual. Chatha and Saleem had arrived only few hours back and they were straight asked to play, but when chips are down and it matters most, a true champion show his class. Saleem Baig started to hit smashes one after another while other Islamabad bowlers with the exception of Chatha were also showing what they are capable of. After the first 4 games, it was Saleem Baig, who was occupying the top spot, with Ijaz was in second, Saqib third, Asim 6th and Chatha in 18th. Saleem never let his lead slip and continued to dominate right throughout the 8 games and finished the first squad on top with a whopping 1566 pins.

But as the second squad starts, it was highly surprise package Aleem Agha, who stunned everyone with his brilliant bowling skills. Despite being the oldest bowler, he never showed any signs of weakness and played one of the best bowling of his life. He was playing like a true champion and kept pressure on all the leading bowlers, including former champions. Aleem Agha finished the first night grabbing top spot with total of 1567 pins, just one pin lead over Saleem.

Usman Ghani, another senior bowler from Karachi finished at number 3 with total of 1501 pins, Fazil Maniya was at 4th with 1498 pins, Farhan RIaz was at 5thwith 1450 pins, Shabbir Lashkarwala at 6th with 1448 pins, Sarim 7th with 1444 pins, Saqib 8th with 1436 pins, Tariq 9th with 1432 pins, Hye 10th with 1432 pins, while Ijaz was at 12th with 1406 pins, Muhammad Hussian Chatha was at 18th with 1364 pins, former national champion Ali Suria was at 21st place with 1296 pins.

While talking to The Nation Chatha said: “There is still long time to go. I will comeback in the game with stunning performances on day-2. It happens as lanes were not good. I was feeling tired, but we had witnessed such things in the past too. I am not worried at all, I know how to bounce back and I will prove that.”

The second round of master’s singles will start at 4:00pm, while the third and last round will continue throughout the day, as few bowlers will complete their squads in single day due to their commitments.