Short format, long wait for pandemic-affected T20 World Cup in Dubai

Pakistan cricket team arrives in Dubai for T20 World Cup in Dubai on October 15, 2021. (PCB)
Short Url
Updated 15 October 2021

Short format, long wait for pandemic-affected T20 World Cup in Dubai

  • The Twenty20 World Cup will finally kick off on Sunday with no clear cut favorites for the title
  • The opening Group 2 encounter between archrivals India and Pakistan will take place at the Dubai Cricket Stadium on Oct. 24

ISLAMABAD: It’s been a long wait for the marquee event in international cricket’s shortest, highest-tempo format.
The pandemic-affected Twenty20 World Cup will finally kick off on Sunday with no clear cut favorites for the title.
The tournament was pulled from the 2020 cricket calendar after Australia shut its international borders for the COVID-19 pandemic. India was then supposed to stage the event earlier this year, but it was delayed again after surge in the COVID-19 cases there. Cricket authorities finally decided it would be played in United Arab Emirates and Oman, with India remaining as official host.
For India’s leading players, the UAE has become like a second home in cricket terms and they’re familiar with the slow nature of pitches. The second half of the T20 Indian Premier League was played at Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, resuming last month after being suspended mid-year.
Based on that experience, Virat Kohli’s India squad has been loaded with four spin bowlers — Ravichandran Ashwin, Varun Chakravarthy, Ravindra Jadeja and Rahul Chahal — aiming to clamp down any power-hitters in the opposition ranks.
But it’s not only India which will benefit from the IPL being relocated to the gulf immediately before the T20 World Cup. Key players from around the world, including New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, Australian allrounder Glenn Maxwell and England veteran Eoin Morgan, have all had a taste of the conditions.
Then there’s Pakistan, which has used the UAE as a home-away-from-home for years.
That makes the opening Group 2 encounter between archrivals India and Pakistan all the more intriguing at the Dubai Cricket Stadium on Oct. 24. India has never lost a World Cup game to Pakistan in either the one-day or T20 formats. But Pakistan is unbeaten in six T20s at the stadium dating back to 2016.
“We know the conditions really well,” Pakistan captain Babar Azam told a pre-tournament news conference. “We know how the wicket will behave and the adjustments batters will have to make.
“On the day whoever plays the better cricket, wins the match. If you ask me, we will win.”
Pakistan went close to beating India in the inaugural T20 World Cup final in South Africa in 2007, but eventually Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s lineup went on to win the game when Misbah-ul-Haq’s was caught at short fine leg off an extravagant paddle shot.
“As a team, our confidence and morale are really high,” Azam said. “We’re not thinking of the past but the future. We are preparing for that.”
The T20 format tends to favor big-hitting batters and unorthodox stroke-makers, but the power-hitters could be overshadowed in this event by the bowlers because of the slow nature of wickets. Only the Mumbai Indians could cross the 200-run mark in the second half of the IPL’s round-robin stage, and totals of 170-180 were considered competitive.
Trends will emerge well before the leading title contenders get into action. The top eight teams have directly qualified for the Super 12 stage, which begins from Oct. 23. Four teams will join them by qualifying in Round 1, which kicks off Sunday with Oman taking on Papua New Guinea. Scotland and Bangladesh will continue the Group B action on Monday. Group A comprises 2009 finalist Sri Lanka, Ireland, Netherlands and Namibia. The two top teams from each group will advance.
In the second stage, the defending champion West Indies and 50-over World Cup champion England are in Group 1 with Australia and South Africa. England, despite being without Ben Stokes, is aiming to avenge its heart-breaking loss in the 2016 final when Carlos Brathwaite’s stunning flurry of sixes saw the West Indies winning its second title.
Liam Livingstone had a below-par stint in the IPL, but England will still be banking on him to challenge any bowling attack.
Brathwaite won’t be there this time around, but Chris Gayle, the self-described “Universe Boss,” and Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell are all still in the squad. So too is recalled 37-year-old fast bowler Ravi Rampaul, who was involved in the West Indies’ title win in 2012 but hasn’t played at international level in almost six years.
Neither South Africa nor Australia has won the World T20 title, but each squad features strong pace threats in Kagiso Rabada, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins.
Joining India and Pakistan in Group 2 will be New Zealand and Afghanistan.
New Zealand, which won the World Test Championship final against India earlier this year and took the 50-over World Cup final to an unprecedented Super Over after the game ended in a tie, is always a strong contender in an ICC event. Williamson is expected to recover from a hamstring niggle, and the Kiwis also have plenty of experience to draw on from Martin Guptill and Trent Boult.
Afghanistan has developed as one of the strongest emerging teams in the format, but the Taliban taking back control in Kabul has affected the national cricket team.
Also, high-profile spinner Rashid Khan stepped down as captain, leaving Mohammad Nabi — the top-ranked all-rounder in T20 cricket — to lead the squad.
Khan had a below-par IPL season for last-place Sunrisers Hyderabad, but his legspin is expected to cause trouble for any team in the group.
Afghanistan opens against one of the Round 1 qualifiers in Sharjah on Oct. 25 before taking on Pakistan on Oct. 30.
 


Minnows Comoros send Ghana crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations

Updated 23 sec ago

Minnows Comoros send Ghana crashing out of Africa Cup of Nations

  • Ahmed Mogni, who plays for French third-tier club Annecy, scored the winner when he pushed a low cross from Ben Djaloud past goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott
  • Comoros finish third in the group and must wait until Thursday to know if they are among the best four third-placed teams to get last 16 spots
YAOUNDÉ: Four-time champions Ghana were eliminated from the Africa Cup of Nations after crashing 3-2 to minnows Comoros in Group C on Tuesday in Garoua.
The Black Stars had captain Andre Ayew sent off after 25 minutes and, after wiping out a two-goal deficit, lost when Comoros’ Ahmed Mogni scored his second goal five minutes from time.
Morocco and Gabon drew 2-2 in Yaounde in the same group to retain first and second places respectively and qualify for the round of 16, which kicks off on Sunday.
Comoros, representing a tiny island nation off the south east coast of Africa, finished third and must wait until Thursday to know if they are among the best four third-placed teams, who get last 16 spots.
A disastrous night for Ghana started after just four minutes when Serbia-based El Fardou Ben Mohamed fired the first-time qualifiers in front.
Mogni, who plays for French third-tier club Annecy, added a second just past the hour only for 10-man Ghana to hit back through goals from Richmond Boakye and Alexander Djiku.
Mogni struck again when he pushed a low cross from Ben Djaloud past goalkeeper Joseph Wollacott to give the islanders a stunning triumph.
In Yaounde, Gabon led twice through Jim Allevinah and a Nayef Aguerd own-goal while Sofiane Boufal and Achraf Hakimi netted for Morocco.

Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid

Updated 18 January 2022

Messi back in full training for PSG after Covid

  • The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter
  • Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1's winter break

PARIS: Lionel Messi was back in full training with Paris Saint-Germain on Tuesday for the first time since testing positive for Covid-19 at the end of last year.
The Argentina attacker was seen warming up with his PSG teammates in a video clip posted by the club on Twitter.
Messi contracted the virus whilst on holiday in his hometown of Rosario in Argentina during Ligue 1’s winter break.
PSG announced on January 5 that he was back in France after testing negative but the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner is only now feeling fit enough to resume normal service.
He missed the French Cup match against Vannes and two league games, the 1-1 draw with Lyon and last Saturday’s 2-0 defeat of Brest.
Messi’s emotional move from Barcelona to the French capital side has not gone according to the script he, the fans, and his new employers would have liked.
Messi has scored only one goal in 11 league appearances for PSG, although he has netted five times in the Champions League.
He has missed a total of 10 Ligue 1 games since August through injuries, late return from Argentina duty, and then Covid-19.
He resumed individual training last Thursday, after which he told his fans on Instagram: “It has taken me longer than I thought to be OK but I’m almost recovered and I’m looking forward to getting back on the field.”
Messi could make his league return against Reims on Sunday.


Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

Updated 18 January 2022

Trial of former Manchester United player Giggs delayed until August

  • The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behaviour and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister
  • Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail

LONDON: The trial of former Manchester United soccer player Ryan Giggs has been delayed to August 8 due to a lack of court space, the BBC reported after a hearing on Tuesday.
The former Wales national manager is charged with controlling and coercive behavior and assault against his ex-girlfriend and her sister. The trial at Manchester Crown Court had been due to start on Jan. 24.
Giggs, 48, has pleaded not guilty to all charges and remains on bail.
“Unfortunately it has become necessary to vacate this trial from the list,” the BBC quoted Judge Hilary Manley as saying. “The reason for this is because there is not a court available to accommodate this trial.
“Due to the large backlog of court cases, which has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the need for social distancing, this is a situation which is a daily reality for the criminal courts.”
Giggs’ lawyer said his client was “extremely disappointed.”
The former player was charged last April when a magistrate’s court heard a prosecutor read out a summary of charges including that he struck Kate Greville with a “deliberate headbutt.”
He was first arrested in the case and released on bail in Nov. 2020.
Giggs made 963 appearances over 23 years for Manchester United as a player, a club record, winning a haul of honors including 13 Premier League winner’s medals and two UEFA Champions League winner’s medals.
He represented Wales as a player 64 times between 1991 and 2007 and took over as national coach in 2018.


Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

Updated 18 January 2022

Murray roars into round two as Medvedev sets up Kyrgios clash

  • Top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges
  • "It's amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn't ask for any more," said Murray

MELBOURNE: Former world number one Andy Murray turned back the clock in typically combative style and favorite Daniil Medvedev set up a blockbuster second-round showdown with Nick Kyrgios at the Australian Open on Tuesday.
In the women’s draw, top-10 seeds Garbine Muguruza, Iga Swiatek and Anett Kontaveit all made comfortable starts to their Melbourne title charges, while Simona Halep and Aryna Sabalenka also won despite struggling with their serves.
Emma Raducanu, the US Open champion, was also victorious on her tournament debut but there was defeat at the first hurdle for her fellow 19-year-old Leylah Fernandez — the woman Raducanu beat in the Flushing Meadows decider.
Canada’s Fernandez, the 23rd seed, went down 6-4, 6-2 to Australian wildcard Maddison Inglis, to the delight of the home crowd.
After Sunday’s deportation of men’s defending champion and top seed Novak Djokovic, the first Grand Slam of the year is now in full swing and many are eager to move on from the visa saga.
That is easier said than done and Tennis Australia (TA), organizers of the so-called “Happy Slam,” said in a statement Tuesday that they “deeply regret the impact” it has had on the other players.
“As the Australian tennis family, we recognize that recent events have been a significant distraction for everyone,” TA said, without mentioning Djokovic by name.
If it has been a distraction for Murray, he did not show it.
The 34-year-old, there as a wildcard, showed all the fighting qualities that made him a three-time Grand Slam champion.
His epic five-set victory over 21st seed Nikoloz Basilashvili was hugely symbolic — the Briton departed Melbourne Park in 2019 not knowing if he would ever be back because of hip trouble.
But here he was, rolling back the years and heading into round two.
“It’s amazing to be back and winning a five-set battle like that, I couldn’t ask for any more,” said Murray.
There was no such problem for Russia’s Medvedev, the second seed and favorite to lift his second major, who made light work of 91st-ranked Henri Laaksonen on Rod Laver Arena, dismantling the Swiss 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (7/3).
With Djokovic out of the picture and Roger Federer not in Melbourne because of injury, the draw has opened up for the 25-year-old Medvedev and Spanish great Rafael Nadal.
Medvedev, who lost last year’s final in Melbourne to Djokovic but then beat the Serbian in the US Open final in September, plays combustible but talented Australian showman Kyrgios in round two.
Another of the “Next Gen” young talents challenging the “Big Three” of Djokovic, Nadal and Federer is Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The fourth seed was a comfortable winner in three sets over practice partner Mikael Ymer to get his tournament up and running.
In the women’s draw, Spanish world number three Muguruza, a finalist at Melbourne Park two years ago, eased past 77th-ranked Frenchwoman Clara Burel 6-3, 6-4.
There was also little trouble for Kontaveit, despite some early nerves, and Swiatek, but Romania’s Halep was far from comfortable.
The former number one labored into round two 6-4, 6-3 after an error-strewn clash with Poland’s Magdalena Frech which saw 11 service breaks.
Second seed Sabalenka, who was reduced to tears and serving underarm in a disastrous lead-up to Melbourne, had Mark Philippoussis to thank after she revealed the Australian former world number eight helped iron out some of her serving problems.
She was far from perfect on her serve but survived to beat Storm Sanders 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.
In the last action of the day, Raducanu ousted the American Sloane Stephens — a former US Open champion — 6-0, 2-6, 6-1 in a performance that will make the Briton’s rivals sit up and take notice.


Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

Updated 18 January 2022

Novak Djokovic has to comply with rules to go to Spain, PM says

  • ‘Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain’
  • Novak Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella

MADRID: World men’s tennis No. 1 Novak Djokovic will have to comply with Spanish health rules to be able to travel to Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Monday.
Answering a question on whether Djokovic would be allowed to enter Spain to compete after Australia deported him for being unvaccinated against COVID-19, Sanchez said: “Any sportsperson who wishes to compete in our country must comply with the health rules of Spain.”
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who was visiting Spain on Monday and stood beside Sanchez during the news conference, also insisted the different rules in the different countries must be respected. “We all have to abide by them, no matter who we are,” he said.
Djokovic travels regularly to Spain where he owns a house in the southern resort of Marbella. He spent a few days in late December and early January and video footage showed him training there.
Spanish rules currently require people to have either a vaccine certificate, a PCR negative test or a certificate of having recovered from COVID-19. The country imposes strict quarantines on people who test positive.
During the same news conference, the Spanish Prime Minister made an impassioned call for vaccination. Even though vaccination is not mandatory in Spain, the vaccination rate is one of the highest in Europe.