Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team

Saudi Arabia has unveiled a series of initiatives in March aimed at promoting cricket among Saudis and the Kingdom’s expatriate residents. (ICC)
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Updated 14 May 2021

Lankan experts highlight Saudi Arabia’s potential to build own cricket team

  • Saudi Arabia urged to liaise with international allies to promote the sport

COLOMBO: Sri Lanka, a World Cup cricket champion, has welcomed Saudi Arabia’s interest in the sport, with experts saying the Kingdom has the “full potential” to develop its cricketing skills and compete in the field.

To facilitate the process, Saudi Ambassador in Colombo Abdul Nasser Al-Harthy told Arab News on Monday that he would coordinate with the Kingdom’s Sports Ministry to discuss “how best Sri Lanka and Saudi Arabia could cooperate in developing this sport.”

Earlier in March, Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud, chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation (SACF), announced a series of initiatives focused on promoting the game among Saudis and expatriate residents in
the Kingdom.

These included the launching of a corporate-level cricket tournament, a cricket league for expatriate workers, and a social cricket program across cities in the country to increase participation at the community, club, and international levels.

Several SACF initiatives have already been launched this year, among them the National Cricket Championship, played across 11 cities and part of four programs that the organization signed with the Saudi Sports for All Federation.

Launched in February, it is the largest cricket tournament ever held in the Kingdom.

Welcoming the initiative, cricket legend Roy Dias, who was the first Sri Lankan to score 1,000 test runs and 1,000 One-Day runs in 1984, told Arab News on Monday that the Kingdom has the “full potential to develop the sport at a competitive level.”

“I have watched Saudi cricketers playing alongside Pakistani sportsmen during friendly matches in the Middle East, and they performed very well,” Dias, 68, said, adding that he hoped that Saudi Arabia would form its indigenous cricket team soon.

Dias, who visited GCC countries between 2001 to 2010 as a national cricket coach for Nepal, said that Oman, Qatar, the UAE, Kuwait and Bahrain were “already active in the field of cricket.”

“Saudi Arabia is most welcome to this cluster,” Dias, a former cricket coach for the island nation and currently employed with the Sri Lanka Cricket Board, said, predicting that a Saudi team would bring in “new experiences coupled with resourceful skills.”

For this purpose, he added, Saudi Arabia could start by introducing school-level cricket for under-15 students, “which would kindle children’s and parental interest, which are sine qua non to develop good cricket.”

He also advised the Kingdom to coordinate with its international allies for expertise in the field.

“Sri Lanka can assist Saudi Arabian cricket in coaching through the Asian Cricket Council so that Sri Lanka could cooperate with the Kingdom in developing the cricket skills of its nationals by participating in council’s tournaments,” he said.

Shums Fahim, a senior editor of the Thinakaran Tamil daily and an expert on the game, agrees: “Saudi team is one of the active players in the Soccer World Cup and I sincerely wish that its cricketers could show better skills to reach the World Cup level in cricket too.”

According to data from 2017-2018, more than 30 percent of the Saudi

population are expats, with the total number of non-Saudis estimated to be 10,736,293.

In the early 1970s, cricket was played mainly by expatriates in the soccer-crazy country. This remains the case even today, with most players in its cricket team hailing from Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In 2001, under the royal patronage of Princess Ghada Bint Hamoud Bin Abdulaziz, Saudi attained legal status to organize cricket in the Kingdom.

In 2003, it became an affiliate of the International Cricket Council (ICC).


Rain delays West Indies-Pakistan first T20

Updated 28 July 2021

Rain delays West Indies-Pakistan first T20

  • Pakistan won the toss and opted to bowl first
  • 19-year-old all-rounder Mohammad Wasim to make his debut in the match

BRIDGETOWN: Rain has delayed the start of the first T20 International of the rescheduled four-match series between the West Indies and Pakistan at Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday.
Pakistan captain Babar Azam won the toss and put West Indies in to bat but steady showers prevented play from getting underway.
Following his success in the just-completed ODI series against Australia, the home side included left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein in their line-up.
He will complement wrist-spinner Hayden Walsh, the “Man of the Series” in the 4-1 T20I triumph over the Aussies in St. Lucia two weeks ago.
Pakistan are giving a debut to 19-year-old all-rounder Mohammad Wasim in a side which shows two other changes from the team which concluded the three-match T20I series in England earlier this month.
Sharjeel Khan comes in at the top of the order while Azam Khan slots into the middle-order.

TEAMS

West Indies — Kieron Pollard (captain), Evin Lewis, Lendl Simmons, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran (wicketkeeper), Andre Russell, Jason Holder, Dwayne Bravo, Hayden Walsh, Akeal Hosein.
Pakistan — Babar Azam (captain), Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Rizwan (wicketkeeper), Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Azam Khan, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Wasim, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Usman Qadir.
Umpires: Gregory Brathwaite (BAR), Nigel Duguid (GUY)
Match Referee: Richie Richardson


American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

Updated 28 July 2021

American gymnastics star Simone Biles withdraws from Olympic all-around competition

  • She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders
TOKYO: Simone Biles will not defend her Olympic title.
The American gymnastics superstar withdrew from Thursday’s all-around competition to focus on her mental well-being.
USA Gymnastics said in a statement on Wednesday that the 24-year-old is opting to not compete. The decision comes a day after Biles removed herself from the team final following one rotation because she felt she wasn’t mentally ready.
Jade Carey, who finished ninth in qualifying, will take Biles’ place in the all-around. Carey initially did not qualify because she was the third-ranking American behind Biles and Sunisa Lee. International Gymnastics Federation rules limit countries to two athletes per event in the finals.
The organization said Biles will be evaluated daily before deciding if she will participate in next week’s individual events. Biles qualified for the finals on all four apparatuses, something she didn’t even do during her five-medal haul in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
The 24-year-old came to Tokyo as arguably the face of the Games following the retirement of swimmer Michael Phelps and sprinter Usain Bolt. She topped qualifying on Sunday despite piling up mandatory deductions on vault, floor and beam following shaky dismounts.
She posted on social media on Monday that she felt the weight of the world on her shoulders. The weight became too heavy after vaulting during team finals. She lost herself in mid-air and completed 1 1/2 twists instead of 2 1/2. She consulted with US team doctor Marcia Faustin before walking off the field of play.
When she returned, she took off her bar grips, hugged teammates Sunisa Lee, Grace McCallum and Jordan Chiles and turned into the team’s head cheerleader as the US claimed silver behind the Russian Olympic Committee.
“Once I came out here (to compete), I was like, ‘No mental is, not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself,’” Biles said following the medal ceremony.
The decision opens the door wide open for the all-around, a title that was long considered a foregone conclusion. Rebeca Andrade of Brazil finished second to Biles during qualifying, followed by Lee and Russians Angelina Melnikova and Vladislava Urazova. The four were separated by three-tenths of a point on Sunday.
Carey now finds herself in the final, capping a remarkable journey for the 21-year-old from Phoenix. She spent two years traveling the globe in an effort to pile up enough points on the World Cup circuit to earn an individual nominative spot, meaning she would be in the Olympics but technically not be part of the four-woman US team.
Carey posted the second-best score on vault and the third-best on floor during qualifying, earning trips to the event finals in the process. Now she finds herself competing for an all-around medal while replacing the athlete considered the greatest of all-time in the sport.

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

Updated 28 July 2021

Environmentalists slam All Blacks tie-up with petrochemical firm

  • The tie-up puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team

WELLINGTON: New Zealand Rugby confirmed a deal Wednesday for petrochemical giant Ineos to sponsor the All Blacks, in an agreement slammed by environmental watchdog Greenpeace.
Ineos has signed a six-year deal which will put its logo on the shorts of the 15- and seven-a-side men’s and women’s All Blacks teams as well as the Maori All Blacks and the New Zealand under-20 side.
The tie-up, reported in local media to be worth NZ$8.0 million ($5.6 million), puts the All Blacks into the high-performing Ineos sports stable along with the Mercedes F1 team, Grenadiers cycling team and Team UK sailing, as well as the Nice and Lausanne-Sport football clubs.
However, Greenpeace campaigner Juressa Lee said it was “gutting” to see New Zealand Rugby sign a sponsorship deal with the oil and gas conglomerate.
“Many of our rugby players are of Maori and Pacific descent, and come from communities which are on the frontline of sea level rise and extreme storm events, and they shouldn’t be expected to wear the brand of a climate polluter like Ineos,” she said.
“We also want to see our people living their dreams donning the black jersey, but now they will carry the Ineos brand, and Ineos is one of the world’s worst oil and plastic polluters.”
Announcing the deal, New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson had said: “We are committed to nurturing the development of rugby over the next six years with Ineos Sport and are looking forward to working alongside some of the best sports teams in the world.
“Ineos will bring an innovative approach and dedication to the partnership with our Teams in Black, qualities we see across all aspects of their business, particularly around sustainability with their commitment to deliver a zero-carbon emission future in line with the Paris Agreement.”
The 2015 Paris climate accord aims to limit temperature rises to “well below” 2.0 Celsius above pre-industrial levels and try to limit them to 1.5C.
All Blacks Captain Sam Whitelock said he welcomed being involved in the Ineos high-performance sport group.
“The All Blacks are looking forward to being part of this performance partnership and learning from some of their incredible sporting partnerships as well,” he said.


Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

Updated 27 July 2021

Man Utd agree deal to sign Real Madrid’s Varane

  • Varane will undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions
  • British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons

LONDON: Manchester United have agreed a deal with Real Madrid to sign France center-back Raphael Varane, the Premier League giants announced Tuesday.
“Manchester United is delighted to announce the club has reached agreement with Real Madrid for the transfer of French international defender and World Cup winner, Raphael Varane, subject to a medical and to player terms being finalized,” said a club statement.
It is not expected, however, that Varane will be able to undergo a medical until next week because of current UK coronavirus restrictions.
No fee has been disclosed but British media reported value the deal at £34 million ($47 million) rising to £48 million with add-ons.
The 28-year-old Varane, a 2018 World Cup winner, has one season left on his contact at the Santiago Bernabeu.
He moved from French club Lens to Madrid in 2011 and has since made 360 appearances across all competitions for Madrid, winning 18 major honors — including four Champions League titles.
In a statement, Real — confirming they had agreed a fee with United — acknowledged Varane’s time in the Spanish capital by saying: “Our club thanks the player for his professionalism and exemplary conduct throughout his ten seasons representing our colors, during which time he has won 18 titles: 4 Champions Leagues, 4 Club World Cups, 3 European Super Cups, 3 LaLiga titles, 1 Copa del Rey and 3 Spanish Super Cups.
“Real Madrid would like to express their gratitude to Raphaël Varane and his family and wish him the best of luck in this new stage of his career.”
Should his move to Old Trafford be completed, Varane would find himself vying for a place in the center of United’s defense with club captain Harry Maguire, Eric Bailly and Victor Lindelof.
United finished second in last season’s Premier League but were a huge 12 points adrift of title-winners and local rivals Manchester City in the race to be crowned champions of England.
The Red Devils have not won a major trophy since the 2017 Europa League, with United’s last Premier League title success coming in celebrated manager Alex Ferguson’s final season before retirement eight years ago.


Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Updated 27 July 2021

Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

  • The 23-year-old had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health

TOKYO: Japanese star Naomi Osaka crashed out of the Tokyo Olympics tennis competition on Tuesday as Brazil’s Italo Ferreira and America’s Carissa Moore claimed the first-ever gold medals in surfing.
Osaka, who lit the Olympic cauldron in the opening ceremony, lost 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova after an error-strewn performance, ending her cherished dream of winning on home soil.
The 23-year-old — one of the faces of the Tokyo Games — had not played since May, when she walked out of the French Open saying media commitments were harming her mental health.
The second seed will be bitterly disappointed at missing out on a chance of Olympic gold, especially after the early exits of world number one Ashleigh Barty and third seed Aryna Sabalenka.
“How disappointed am I? I mean, I’m disappointed in every loss, but I feel like this one sucks more than the others,” said the four-time Grand Slam-winner.
Asked what went wrong, she replied: “Everything — if you watch the match then you would probably see. I feel like there’s a lot of things that I counted on that I couldn’t rely on today.”