The 44th National Snooker Championship will commence at the Karachi Gymkhana Billiards Hall here on Wednesday (today) As many as 56 players will vie for top honours in the event which was initially supposed to take place from February 3 to 13 but was postponed for a month due to the fourth edition of the Pakistan Super League which ended on last Sunday.Top 11 players of the latest national ranking, 10 from Punjab, nine from Sindh, eight each from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, four from Islamabad, four juniors and two wildcard participants will feature in the championship. The junior quartet includes reigning Under-21 champion Ali Haider, Under-18 champion Sheikh M Mudassir, Under-16 champion Hamza Ilyas and Under-18, Under-21 semi-finalist Ahsan Ramzan. The two wildcards are the 2017 Men’s World Snooker Championship pre quarter-finalist Mubashir Raza and last year’s Asian U-21 Snooker Championship semi-finalist Mohammad Shahbaz. Mohammad Asif Toba of Punjab, who is among the top 12 cueists of the country, will not take part in the event due to a domestic problem.Punjab and Sindh have been allowed to field two and one extra players respectively on request. Former world amateur snooker champion Mohammad Asif, who came at loggerheads with the Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Federation (PBSF) over not signing the 2019 central contract and had to pay the price, will defend his crown. It is pertinent to mention that the pair of Asif and Babar Masih were penalised by the PBSF and the duo failed to defend their world 6-Reds team event title after being dropped from the Marsa Alam-bound team. The event carries total prize money of Rs2,72,000 with the winner will receive Rs100,000 and the runner-up Rs50,000.Group A:Babar Musih (Punjab), Mohammad Mudassir (Islamabad). Rabish Pervez (Balochistan), Farhan Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Fazal Umar Butt (Sindh), Mohammad Nascem Akhtar (Punjab) and Mohammad Shahbaz (Punjab).Group B:Mohammad Asif (Punjab), M Hamza llyas (Punjab), Sirbuland Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Asjad lqbal (Punjab), M Rizwan Hashmi (Sindh), Samiullah (Balochistan) and Mubashir Raza (Punjab).Group C: Zulfiqar A Qadir (Sindh), Shaikh M Mudssir (Punjab), Amir Tariq (Punjab), Musaddiq Mehmood (Islamabad), Bahadur Khan (Balochistan), Fawad Khan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and 1mran Shehzad (Punjab).Group D:Mohammad Majid Ali (Punjab), Ahsan Ramzan (Punjab), Sultan Mohammad (Sindh), Saif Ali Khan (Balochistan), Abdul Jalil (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), M lmran Qamar (Punjab) and Ali Raza (Sindh).Group E:Mohammad Bilal (Punjab), Ali I Haider (Punjab), Abdul Raziq (Balochistan), Mohammad Saleem (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Mirza Waqas Baig (Punjab), Farukh Usman (Sindh) and Rashid Aziz (Punjab).Group F:Sharjeel Mehmood (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Haris Tahir (Punjab), Shafiullah (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Abdul Majid (Sindh), Saeed Khan (Balochistan), M Ahsan Javaid (Punjab) and Danish IIaroon (Sindh).Group G:Shahid Aftab (Punjab), Mohammad Ijaz (Punjab), Abdul Sattar (Sindh), Mohammad Sajjad (Punjab), Ameer Hamza Khan (1slamabad), S Habib Shah (Balochistan) and Amir Sohail (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa).Group H:Rambel Gul (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Aakash Rafique (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa), Abu Saim (Punjab), Munawar Khaliq (Islamabad), Sohail Shehzad (Sindh), Amir Shehzad (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Abdul Hamced (Balochistan).Published in Daily Times, March 20th 2019.