LAHORE - Former Davis Cupper and PLTA Secretary General Rashid Malik has urged Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister Ehsan Ur Rehman Mazari to build sports nurseries across the country as it is the only way to take Pakistan sports on top.

Talking to The Nation, Rashid Malik (Tamgha-e-Imtiaz) said this during a meeting with IPC Minister Ehsan Ur Rehman Mazari at his office, where IPC Secretary Ahmad Hanif and Director General Pakistan Sports Board Col (R) Asif Zaman were also present. Malik briefed the Minister about the mission and projects of the PLTA, which has been working very actively under the dynamic leadership of its Chairman Iftikhar Ahmad Rao, President Raheel Siddiqui, Finance Secretary Zahid Zafar and others including himself as Secretary General.

Malik, who remained Pakistan No. 1 from 1985 to 1992 and has been captain/coach of senior and junior national tennis teams for last 20 years and has been very active for development of junior tennis in Punjab, due to which the PLTA was awarded the best performance trophy by PTF, said: “We need to build nurseries of all the sports across the country if we want to see Pakistan sports back on top.

“I am already doing my job that is junior development in Punjab, that’s why the performance of our juniors have improved tremendously. I know the needs of the players because I represented Pakistan for 15 years. If the current IPC Minister takes initiative of building sports nurseries across Pakistan, it will be like planting seeds now and with the passage of time, these saplings will become full-grown trees, who, in return, will start producing fruits in shape of international medals,” he asserted.

The Davis Cup captain said that the IPC Minister is a very positive person with great vision and understanding of sports and sportsmen. “It was my first meeting with Mr. Mazari and I was really impressed the way he gave time and listened to all the players who visited him and also announced cash awards of Rs 1 million each for youngest ever world snooker champion Ahsan Ramzan and young mountaineer Shehroze Kashif, which is really commendable. Such steps will surely motivate the national players to give their best in international events and win glories for the country globally.”

Malik said that all the junior top players are from Punjab and doing great at national and international circuit. “The credit also goes to PLTA Chairman Iftikhar Ahmad Rao, whose efforts bore results in form of wonderful tennis infrastructures at Bagh-e-Jinnah and Nishtar Park Sports Complex. He is very passionate tennis promoter and has been doing great work for betterment of tennis in Punjab.

“The age between 10 to 16 years is the age to spend to the circuit players so that one day they may play for Pakistan at international level and hold Pakistan flag aloft across the world. Aisam-ul-Haq is one of my students, who started junior international circuit at the age of 14 years and made his place after struggling for a while. All the players are not as lucky as Aisam and they can’t even afford travel abroad for training and playing circuit so the support of government and corporate sector is direly required,” he added.

The PLTA Secretary also proposed the idea of holding Rs 2 million ZA Bhutto National Ranking Tennis Tournament in Lahore in the coming season, which the Minister accepted, saying such an event would be helpful for the top players to gain ranking points along with lucrative cash prizes. “I am really impressed with the way Rashid Malik has been looking after tennis development in Punjab. His influence and hard work have helped him win the PTF’s best performance shield. Every effort will be made to start the ZA Bhutto National Ranking Tennis in Lahore. I have already taken up the matter with the Punjab government regarding the initiative and I am hopeful of a positive outcome,” added the Minister.