Tennis star Naomi Osaka crashes out of Tokyo Olympics

Japanese star Naomi Osaka lost 6-1, 6-4 to Marketa Vondrousova after an error-strewn performance. (AP)
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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.”


Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

Updated 26 October 2021

Dec. 14 confirmed as date for Maradona Cup match between Barcelona and Boca Juniors in Saudi Arabia

  • The match between the Spanish and Argentine giants, which is part of the Riyadh Season festivities, will honor the late Diego Maradona, who played for both

Spanish soccer giants Barcelona and Argentina’s Boca Juniors will contest the Maradona Cup on Dec. 14 at King Saud University Stadium in Riyadh, several sources confirmed on Monday, including the European side.

Turki Al-Sheikh, chairman of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, had previously announced in a message posted on Twitter this month that two of Argentine legend Diego Maradona’s former clubs would face off in a friendly match in November as part of Riyadh Season. On Monday night he posted update with the new date for the match.

The post included a short video that showed Maradona scoring his famous solo goal against England during the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, along with highlights from his time with Barcelona and Boca Juniors. It ends with the words “legend forever.”

The inaugural Riyadh Season in 2019 attracted more than 10 million visitors. After skipping 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the event returned this month. Described as one of the biggest global entertainment festivals, with a diverse program of events and experiences spread across 14 venues in the capital, it will continue until March 2022.


New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

Updated 25 October 2021

New Zealand hope Pakistan won't hold grudges when they meet in Sharjah

  • Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour last month
  • Pakistan to face New Zealand on Tuesday in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah

SHARJAH: Kane Williamson hopes Pakistan will not hold any grudges over New Zealand abandoning a tour on security fears last month, when they meet in a Twenty20 World Cup match in Sharjah on Tuesday. 
Pakistan cricket authorities were left fuming after New Zealand ended the tour minutes before the start of the first one-day international in Rawalpindi, citing an unspecified security alert. 
Williamson, not part of the squad in Pakistan as he was playing in the Indian Premier League in the United Arab Emirates, played down talk of a grudge match. 
“There are a lot of good relations within the two teams. Over the years they’ve played a lot against each other, and a number of players have played with each other, as well,” said Williamson on the eve of the match. 
“I am sure the game will be played in the right spirit.” 
A week after New Zealand left, England also withdrew their men’s and women’s teams from a tour to Pakistan due to concerns over the physical and mental health of the players. 
That prompted newly elected chairman of Pakistan Cricket Board Ramiz Raja to proclaim New Zealand will be one of the targets in the T20 World Cup.
“We had one team in our target, our neighbors (India), now add two more teams, New Zealand and England,” Raja said last month. 
Williamson, who admitted the decision to abandon the tour was based on New Zealand government advice, praised the Pakistan team. 
“I suppose the focus now is here at the T20 World Cup, and no doubt after the performance last night, Pakistan have some momentum and are feeling pretty good about their cricket,” said Williamson.
Pakistan thumped arch-rivals India by 10 wickets in the teams’ opening Super 12 match in Dubai on Sunday. 
Williamson labelled Pakistan as one of the “favorites.” 
“Yeah, I mean, it was a fantastic performance. I think Pakistan have come to the T20 World Cup full of confidence, having played in these conditions more than most,” he said. 
“They certainly put it on show last night and showed why they’re one of the favorites in the competition.” 
Spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi took 3-31 to keep India to 151-7 in 20 overs before openers Mohammad Rizwan (79 not out) and skipper Babar Azam (68 not out) wiped off the target in just 17.5 overs. 
“Tomorrow I’m sure they’ll be very strong again, so for us, it’s focusing on the cricket that we want to play and trying to adjust to conditions.” 
Pakistan can count on being well supported after playing most of their home matches in UAE in the wake of terrorist attacks on the Sri Lankan team bus in 2009. 
Williamson said Pakistan, who at third are ranked one place above New Zealand in T20, have a key blend of youth and experience. 
“They’ve got a very well-balanced side, and also a great mix between youth and experience with Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik in the middle order, as well, which brings a lot of experience to the side.” 
Williamson has declared himself fit after a recurrence of his elbow injury.
“My elbow is improving. It’s just a work in progress. But I think all in all, it’s showing improvement, which is good.” 


Indian cricket star ‘horribly abused’ online after Pakistan humiliation

Updated 25 October 2021

Indian cricket star ‘horribly abused’ online after Pakistan humiliation

  • Mohammed Shami, India’s only Muslim player, became target of social media vitriol after defeat in Dubai
  • A host of Indian cricket legends, fans, and politicians also spoke out against the hate onslaught

NEW DELHI: A torrent of social media abuse was aimed at India’s only Muslim player, the bowler Mohammed Shami, after his side were thrashed by arch rivals Pakistan at the cricket T20 World Cup. 
Violence against Muslims was also reported after the emphatic 10-wicket win on Sunday, Pakistan’s first against India at any World Cup. 
Cricket clashes between Hindu-majority India and Muslim Pakistan frequently heighten tensions between the neighbors, who have fought three wars since their independence in 1947. 
The 31-year-old Shami became the main target after the defeat in Dubai, even though India captain Virat Kohli acknowledged that his side had been “outplayed.” 
Thousands of vitriolic messages were left on social media, including Shami’s Instagram account, calling him a traitor and alleging he had taken money to throw the game. 
But a host of Indian cricket legends, fans, and politicians also spoke out against the hate onslaught and urged support for him. 
“The online attack on Mohammad Shami is shocking and we stand by him. He is a champion and anyone who wears the India cap has India in their hearts far more than any online mob,” said former Test player Virender Sehwag. 
“We support every person who represents Team India,” said batting legend Sachin Tendulkar. Shami “is a committed, world-class bowler. He had an off day like any other sportsperson can have.” 
Omar Abdullah, a former chief minister of the Indian administered Kashmir, called on Indian players to reject the hate messages just as they had backed the Black Lives Matter movement. 
“Your BLM knee-taking counts for nothing if you can’t stand up for your teammate who is being horribly abused and trolled,” Abdullah said on Twitter. 
“Ignore the haters, most of India’s grateful for your effort,” said another supporter on Instagram. 
People set off celebratory gunfire in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Karachi after the famous win, while hundreds ignited firecrackers in Indian administered Kashmir, where troops are fighting an insurgency. 
Gautam Gambhir, a former India Test cricketer who has become an MP for the ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said it was “shameful” that people were celebrating Pakistan’s win. 
And in Punjab state students from Indian administered Kashmir said they were beaten up. 
A student at a technology institute in Sangrur said dozens of men armed with hockey sticks and batons attacked them as they watched the closing stages of the game. 
“They entered our room, switched off the lights and beat us. They destroyed our laptops,” the student told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity because of fears of more trouble. 
“We are safe now and we have support from our college. But we didn’t expect this at all. We are Indians.” 
The match also sparked violence in neighboring Bangladesh. Two Pakistan supporters were beaten by India fans as they celebrated the win in one southern district, media reports said. 


India win important but focus on World Cup trophy, legend Miandad advises Pakistani captain 

Updated 25 October 2021

India win important but focus on World Cup trophy, legend Miandad advises Pakistani captain 

  • Pakistan beat India in T20 World Cup match for first time ever with 10-wicket romp 
  • Javed Miandad says all Pakistan need to do is stay at crease and absorb pressure 

KARACHI: Former cricketing legend and Pakistani captain Javed Miandad on Monday said Pakistan’s Sunday victory against archrivals India was “brilliant and convincing,” but the Babar Azam-led side should not prioritize one match but aim to bring home the Twenty20 World Cup trophy.
Babar and Mohammad Rizwan smashed unbeaten half-centuries as Pakistan crushed India by 10 wickets to register their first win over the archrivals in the high-voltage T20 World Cup opener in Dubai on Sunday. 
This was Pakistan’s first-ever victory by 10 wickets against any opposition in a T20 while India also lost by such a huge margin for the first time. India had beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50-over World Cups. 
“Pakistan played brilliantly. This was a very convincing victory with the best display of talent in all departments and a big achievement to defeat India but the team should focus on the World Cup for which they are in UAE,” Miandad told Arab News. advising Pakistan to stay at the crease and absorb pressure: “The team is there for the World-Cup, which will be a bigger achievement.”
He said Pakistan were favorites to reach the final in his opinion. 
“Babar and Rizwan played so well and took it to the finish line. But not only these two, Pakistan have a strong batting line and if there was a need, others would have also performed well,” said Miandad, who was a key member of the Pakistan squad that brought the 1992 World Cup home. 
Indeed, praise for Pakistan’s win also came from people across the border, including former Indian captain Mohammed Azharuddin who said Pakistan was the better team on Sunday. 
“Give credit where it’s due. Pakistan played better today. It was a complete team effort. As for India nothing is lost, there is still time to learn from these mistakes and move forward,” Azharuddin said in a Twitter post. 

Former Indian spinner HarbHajjan Singh complimented Pakistan for their “brilliant win,” saying India would learn from their mistakes and come back stronger. 

Cricket analyst and journalist Faizan Lakhani said it was a “special win” for Pakistan and the manner in which the team achieved the victory made it even more special. 
“India was totally outplayed by Pakistan,” he said, saying opting to field after winning the toss was a brilliant decision by Babar. 
“The best thing about Pakistan’s win was to see them playing like a unit, everyone was playing like a team, the body language last night was very different from what it used to be in the past,” Lakhani said. 
While a lot has been said about Babar and Rizwan’s batting, the journalist said, and they deserved the appreciation, “Shaheen’s bowling also deserves to be applauded.” 

“We can’t ignore the impact Haris Rauf put in death overs. He didn’t concede any single boundary in his two death overs, gave only 11 runs — including one leg bye,” he said. “He used different variations as well. His calculated bowling restricted India from posting a comparatively big total.”


Star at night: Shaheen Afridi, latest high-end product of Pakistan's fast bowling factory

Updated 25 October 2021

Star at night: Shaheen Afridi, latest high-end product of Pakistan's fast bowling factory

  • 21-year-old shattered the hopes of India with a mesmerizing spell of fast bowling at T20 World Cup opener
  • Pakistan is known for its great bowlers like Wasim Akram, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Irfan

DUBAI: Standing at an imposing 6ft 6ins (1.98m), Shaheen Shah Afridi, the first-strike destroyer of India at the T20 World Cup, is the latest high-end product of Pakistan’s fast bowling factory — left-arm division.
From Wasim Akram to Mohammad Amir, with passing hat tips in recent years to the likes of Wahab Riaz and the giant Mohammad Irfan, Shaheen on Sunday devastatingly proved his star quality.
Unburdened by carrying the same name of one of his country’s iconic white-ball pioneers — as well as inheriting Afridi’s number 10 shirt — the 21-year-old shattered the hopes of India with a mesmerising spell of fast bowling.

His 3-31 off four overs was the prelude to Pakistan finally ending their jinx against India with a first win in 13 attempts in World Cup competition.
Even India skipper Virat Kohli, one of Shaheen’s victims in Sunday’s landmark 10-wicket rout, appreciated the bowler’s four-over blockbuster.

Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi (L) and team captain Babar Azam celebrate after the dismissal of India's KL Rahul (not pictured) during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. (AFP)

“In T20 cricket you need good execution to pick up wickets with the new ball and he certainly did that,” Kohli said. “He put our batsmen under pressure immediately with the new ball and ran in with intensity.”
A blistering yorker pinned Rohit Sharma on the back foot for an lbw decision as cut-and-dried as any.
KL Rahul followed, his T20 International average no match for the velocity of the ball that swept through the gate and demolished his stumps.
Shaheen returned to see off Kohli for good measure.
It was a big-stage performance which echoed fellow left-arm fast bowler Amir’s brutal three-in-a-row dismissal of Sharma, Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan at the 2017 Champions Trophy final at The Oval.
Shaheen is one of eight brothers who grew up in the Khyber Pass on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Pakistan's Shaheen Shah Afridi delivers a ball during the ICC men’s Twenty20 World Cup cricket match between India and Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium in Dubai on October 24, 2021. (AFP)

One of those brothers Riaz — who played a single Test for Pakistan — inspired a passion for fast bowling.
Shaheen switched from tape ball to cricket and has not looked back.
“He (Riaz) keeps in touch over the telephone even when I am on tour. He is my first coach after all,” Shaheen told the ICC in an interview.
Graduating from the Under-19 World Cup in 2018, Shaheen made a headline-grabbing first class debut, taking 8-39 in the Pakistan domestic tournament.
He was picked for the Lahore Qalandars in the 2018 Pakistan Super League where he first faced his namesake, Shahid Afridi.
“He hit me for six first ball in the PSL, but with the next one I got him out. I was very happy about that,” he told cricinfo.com.
Shaheen made his Test debut in a defeat against New Zealand in December 2018.
But he has now played 19 Tests, taking 76 wickets at an impressive average of a shade over 25 with a best match haul of 10-94 against the West Indies this year.
Proving to be a master of all formats, Shaheen took 6-35 against Bangladesh in the 2019 50-over World Cup.
In franchise cricket, he picked up 6-19, including four wickets in four balls, playing for Hampshire in a T20 game against Middlesex last year.
Not surprisingly, Middlesex have snapped him up for a large part of the 2022 English county season.
“Shaheen is a world-class pace bowler and a genuine match winner,” said Middlesex chief executive, Andrew Cornish.