Kashmiri cricket bats receive boost from Oman’s T20 appearances

Kashmiri cricket bats receive boost from Oman’s T20 appearances
Oman's Sandeep Goud, right, and teammate captain Zeeshan Maqsood touch their bats during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between Oman and Scotland at the Oman Cricket Academy Ground in Muscat on October 21, 2021. (AFP/File)
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Updated 12 November 2021

Kashmiri cricket bats receive boost from Oman’s T20 appearances

Kashmiri cricket bats receive boost from Oman’s T20 appearances
  • Omani cricketers use Kashmiri-made bats at ICC Men’s T20 World Cup tournament

NEW DELHI: Cricket bat manufacturers in Indian-administered Kashmir have welcomed the boost to their profile provided by Oman’s cricketers, some of whom have been using their equipment during the ongoing International Cricket Council’s Men’s T20 World Cup.

There are more than 400 producers of cricket bats in Kashmir, which is reportedly the only place in the world apart from the UK that makes cricket bats from the wood of willow trees — which were introduced to the region in the 19th century during British colonial rule — which is considered to be the best material for cricket bats.

Kashmir produces an estimated 3.5 million cricket bats every year, but most of them are sold within India. However, Kashmiri-made bats have been in the international spotlight during the ICC World Cup as the squad of co-hosts Oman have used them in their matches.

The bats used by the Omani cricketers in the tournament came from GR8 Sports, a producer in Sangam in Kashmir’s southern Anantnag.

“This is the first time that a Kashmiri willow bat made by a Kashmiri brand has been chosen by international players,” GR8 Sports owner Fawzul Kabir Dar told Arab News. His company produces around 60,000 willow bats every year but he expects that will now increase.

“It will be a boon and a boost to the Kashmiri economy,” he said. “It’s long overdue recognition for the Kashmiri willow bat.”

Omani player Naseem Khushi is one of those using a bat made by GR8 Sports.

“I have been playing cricket for 20 years and for Oman for the last six years,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. “This is the first time I have used a bat made in Kashmir. It is more than satisfactory.”

He told Arab News there are four players in Oman’s squad using Kashmiri bats for the T20 World Cup and said they would “use this bat not only for this tournament, but for all future events.”

Dar and other industry stakeholders say that having Omani players use Kashmir-made equipment is proof that their bats are as good as those made in Great Britain. 

“So far, people did not understand that Kashmiri willow is of the same quality as the British willow. Now it’s proven that we are on par with our international competitor,” Dar said. “This has really brought cheer to the industry, which has been yearning for international recognition for a long time.”

Mudassir Dar of Good Luck Sports, another Anantnag-based manufacturer, said he was “elated with the newfound recognition” of Kashmiri-made bats. “We are making progress,” he said. “God willing, we will introduce it in next year’s Indian Premier League.”

Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Sheikh Ashiq Ahmad said: “So far, Kashmiri manufacturers were supplying raw materials to outside companies, but now they are making the finished products themselves. It’s a great achievement.” He expressed his hope that the government would help to expand the industry, which currently involves 10,000 families in the region.

“Some small support in terms of branding and marketing from the government will help the local manufacturers a lot,” Ahmad said. “The expansion of the industry will engage more families in this business.”


US confident Nord Stream 2 ‘will not’ proceed if Russia invades

US confident Nord Stream 2 ‘will not’ proceed if Russia invades
Updated 21 sec ago

US confident Nord Stream 2 ‘will not’ proceed if Russia invades

US confident Nord Stream 2 ‘will not’ proceed if Russia invades
  • German FM Annalena Baerbock told parliament that her government was ‘working on a strong package of sanctions’ alongside Western allies ‘including Nord Stream 2’ if Russia attacks Ukraine
  • Germany pursued the pipeline with Russia, a vital source of gas to Europe’s largest economy, despite concerns that it will reduce Ukraine’s leverage by allowing Moscow to bypass its neighbor

WASHINGTON: The United States is confident Germany will not open the Nord Stream 2 pipeline with Russia if Moscow invades Ukraine, a top US official said Thursday.
“If Russia invades Ukraine, one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,” Victoria Nuland, the State Department’s number three official, told reporters.
“I think the statements coming out of Berlin even today are very, very strong,” she said.
Asked why the United States was confident, she said that the pipeline still had not been tested or certified by German regulators.
“We will work with Germany to ensure that the pipeline does not move forward,” Nuland said.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told parliament earlier Thursday that her government was “working on a strong package of sanctions” alongside Western allies “including Nord Stream 2” if Russia attacks Ukraine.
Germany controversially pursued the pipeline with Russia, a vital source of gas to Europe’s largest economy, despite concerns that it will reduce Ukraine’s leverage by allowing Moscow to bypass its neighbor.
President Joe Biden drew domestic criticism last year by not imposing sanctions on the operator of Nord Stream, arguing that the pipeline was nearly finished, but his administration instead reached an understanding with Germany to use the project as leverage.
Nuland also said that the United States had asked China — like Russia, a US adversary — to discourage action by Moscow, which has amassed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s borders.
“We are calling on Beijing to use its influence with Moscow to urge diplomacy because if there is a conflict in Ukraine, it is not going to be good for China either,” Nuland said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke late Wednesday Washington time about the crisis in a phone call with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Russian President Vladimir Putin next month visits Beijing for the Olympics, which the United States is boycotting on the official level due to human rights concerns.


UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones
Updated 58 min 24 sec ago

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones

UK Home Office admits unlawful secret policy to seize Channel migrant phones
  • Phone seizures may have been related to misunderstanding that Channel crossings were illegal
  • Policy meant hundreds or thousands of people were cut off from loved ones

LONDON: The UK Home Office has admitted exercising an unlawful secret policy of seizing cell phones from migrants crossing the English Channel in small boats.

Lawyers representing the home secretary made the admission at the High Court on Thursday, while fighting legal action brought by three asylum seekers.

The men, from Iraq and Iran, were all arrested on arrival in the UK and were stripped of their possessions, despite committing no crime.

Government authorities kept their mobile phones for several months, leaving them unable to contact friends and family.

One of the men feared for the lives of his wife and seven-year-old child, but had no means to check on them.

The unnamed claimants are asking the High Court to make declarations of “serious illegality,” award damages and require the Home Office to alert everyone affected by the unlawful policy.

Their lawyers estimate that hundreds or possibly thousands of mobile phones have been unlawfully seized since 2018.

The Home Office initially denied the seizure policy existed, and then later apologized for failing a “duty of candor” by withholding the information.

Alan Payne QC, representing the Home Office, told the High Court: “The home secretary is accepting that the seizure policies were unlawful, were not in accordance with the law for the purpose of the European Convention on Human Rights and did not provide a lawful basis for the processing of data.”

Payne also admitted that a separate policy to keep asylum seekers’ phones for a minimum of three months was a “disproportionate interference” with human rights.

Lawyers for the claimants argued that the concessions were “manifestly incomplete and inadequate to reflect the extent of the illegality,” but Home Secretary Priti Patel’s team argued that the remaining grounds of legal challenge were “academic” and should be dismissed.

Home Office lawyers said the policy’s “precise origins are not known” and that it “appears to have developed organically.”

The confusion, they argued, derives from the misunderstanding that all people arriving in small boats from the Channel had committed a crime — this is not the case.

Sir James Eadie QC, representing the home secretary, said there was a “misunderstanding permeating that an illegal entry offense was always committed by passengers” on small boats at the time.

In December, a court ruled that crossing the Channel with the aim of being intercepted and claiming asylum did not amount to illegal entry, and that a “legal heresy” had developed among authorities and caused a series of wrongful prosecutions.


Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit
Updated 27 January 2022

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit

Afghanistan tops agenda of India’s first Central Asia summit
  • Presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan participated
  • Modi says five Central Asian republics key to India’s vision of ‘integrated and stable extended neighborhood’

NEW DELHI`: India held its first summit with five Central Asian states on Thursday to address joint concerns over Afghanistan, and to develop regional security cooperation.

Held virtually, Thursday’s summit, hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi,was also attended by the presidents of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

“Our aim and concerns for regional security are the same,” Modi said in his opening remarks. “We are all worried about the happenings in Afghanistan. In this context our cooperation for regional security and peace are all the more important.”

Like India, three of the Central Asian republics — Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan — also border Afghanistan.

Modi, the first Indian leader to visit all five Central Asian countries, said they are key to New Delhi’s vision of “an integrated and stable” extended neighborhood.

“We have to prepare an ambitious roadmap for our cooperation, through which, in the next three years, regional connectivity cooperation will be able to adopt an integrated approach,” he said.

As other global powers look to cement their grip on the region following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the Indian government has been largely sidelined, while other players such as Pakistan and China have been increasingly involved in Afghan politics on both domestic and international fronts.

Foreign policy experts see the summit as “significant” in view of the situation in Kabul.

“The Central Asian countries’ importance has increased very significantly as a result of what has happened in Afghanistan,” India’s former ambassador to Kazakhstan, Ashok Sajjanhar, told Arab News.

“After the departure of the NATO and American troops, it’s the regional countries’ responsibility to maintain peace and security in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that India and the Central Asian republics are “on the same page and want an inclusive government in Afghanistan, respect for rights of minorities, and women and children.”

Anil Trigunayat, former Indian ambassador to Russia, said the summit provides “excellent reconnect for the sharing of ideas and concerns and a future roadmap with our extended neighborhood,” adding that “the developments in Afghanistan are mutual interests for New Delhi and the Central Asian republics.”

Thursday’s summit follows a lower-level security meeting on Afghanistan that India hosted in November, where, besides officials from the five post-Soviet republics, representatives from Russia and Iran were also present.


Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February
Updated 27 January 2022

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February

Indonesia expects omicron wave to peak by end of February
  • Health minister says government will no longer be focusing on the number of new cases but on the rate of hospitalization
  • Survey shows 86 percent of Indonesians have already acquired COVID-19 antibodies

JAKARTA: Indonesia is bracing for COVID-19 cases to peak by the end of February, its health minister said on Thursday, as the country faces a third wave of infections driven by the omicron variant.

Home to 270 million people, Indonesia recorded its first case of the highly transmissible variant in December. The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecast the number of daily cases there to surpass 387,000 by April.

“If we started at the end of December, maybe the peak will occur at the end of February or early March,” Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told reporters.

He added that the government would be changing its approach to focus on the rate of hospitalization rather than the number of reported cases as omicron was less severe than the delta variant that swept the country last year and overwhelmed its medical facilities.

“Omicron will increase fast and high, there is no need to be surprised, no need to panic,” Budi said, adding that Indonesians were “adequately protected.”

While fewer than half the population are fully vaccinated, a government-commissioned survey showed in early January that 86 percent of Indonesians had acquired COVID-19 antibodies.

The country reported 8,077 new COVID-19 cases in the past 24 hours, a near tenfold increase in just two weeks.

However, Dicky Budiman, an epidemiologist at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia, said the official numbers did not give an accurate picture of the infection rate, given Indonesia’s limited testing and tracing capabilities.

“For sure, the current numbers, the government figures, still do not reflect even half of the real cases,” he told Arab News.

He said he expected the hospitalization rate to increase in the coming weeks, and as face-to-face learning had resumed at schools, the government should consider closing them again until at least March, as “it’s too dangerous for kids.”

“Otherwise, we will see many cases among children, not only in hospitalization but also mortality.”


Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease
Updated 27 January 2022

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease

Greece allows music in bars and restaurants again as COVID cases ease
  • The country last month forced bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight
  • Capacity restrictions will remain in place for sport events, while a double mask is mandatory in supermarkets and transport

ATHENS: Greece will allow music in restaurants and bars again and extend their operating hours as it lifts some of the restrictions imposed last month now that coronavirus infections and the pressure on hospitals are easing, authorities said on Thursday.
The country last month forced bars, nightclubs and restaurants to close at midnight, with no standing customers and no music, following a surge of cases over the Christmas holidays due to the fast-spreading omicron variant.
“We have decided to scale back the restrictions, taking into consideration the course of the pandemic in terms of cases which have been declining in recent weeks,” Health Minister Thanos Plevris said in a televised statement.
He said that despite ongoing pressure on the health system, the rate of hospital admissions and discharges and a shorter duration and less severe illness for the omicron variant compared to Delta allowed authorities to ease the curbs.
Capacity restrictions will remain in place for sport events, while a double mask is mandatory in supermarkets and transport.
Greece reported 19,712 new cases on Thursday. Infections have been easing since a record high of around 50,000 in early January.
A total of 23,083 deaths linked to COVID-19 have been reported since February 2020 and 1,867,935 cases out of a population of 11 million people.