Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test

England’s Jonny Bairstow celebrates after their win on the fifth day of the fifth cricket test match between England and India at Edgbaston in Birmingham Tuesday. (AP)
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Updated 05 July 2022

Police probe racism claims after fan abuse at England-India Test

  • The Bharat Army said "many" of its members at the Edgbaston ground had been targeted by "a very small minority" in Monday's fourth day of play
  • Inquiries are being made to identify an alleged offender whose image was circulated on social media

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom: Police have launched an investigation after India fans claimed they were racially abused during England’s fifth Test victory in Birmingham.
The Bharat Army, the official India supporters’ club, said “many” of its members at the Edgbaston ground had been targeted by “a very small minority” in Monday’s fourth day of play.
A post on the group’s Twitter account read: “Sad to say many of our members experienced racist abuse from a very small minority of individuals. We will work with @Edgbaston to share all your feedback.
“Thank you to those England fans who stood by us.”
West Midlands Police on Tuesday said they were liaising with officials at Edgbaston to understand what happened.
Inquiries are being made to identify an alleged offender whose image was circulated on social media.
The England and Wales Cricket Board said: “We are very concerned to hear reports of racist abuse at today’s Test match. We are in contact with colleagues at Edgbaston, who will investigate. There is no place for racism in cricket.”
Stuart Cain, chief executive at Edgbaston, added: “I’m gutted by these reports as we’re working hard to make Edgbaston a safe, welcoming environment for all.
“Having seen the initial tweets, I’ve spoken personally to the gentleman who raised them and we’re now speaking to the stewards in this area to establish what happened.
“Nobody should be subject to any form of abuse at Edgbaston. So, once we’ve got all the facts, we will make sure this issue is addressed swiftly.”
Former Yorkshire spinner Azeem Rafiq retweeted a thread detailing some of the alleged incidents along with the comment: “Disappointing to read.”
His evidence to a parliamentary select committee last year sparked an investigation into his claims of institutional racism at Yorkshire which resulted in ECB charges and major reforms.
England won the fifth Test on Tuesday’s final day after centuries from Yorkshire pair Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow.


'War minus shooting': partition created fierce cricket rivalry 

Updated 12 August 2022

'War minus shooting': partition created fierce cricket rivalry 

  • Any cricket match between Pakistan and India is one of the most watched events on global sporting calendar
  • 50-over World Cup clash in 2019 between India and Pakistan drew 273 million viewers while 167 million watched last year's T20 World Cup

KARACHI: When India and Pakistan were forged out of violent partition 75 years ago, the split also created one of sport's greatest rivalries.

Today, any cricket match between the two nations is one of the most watched events on the global sporting calendar -- and victory used to promote their respective nationalism.

So strong is the rivalry between the countries that they can't even share the date of the partition which gave them independence, with Pakistan celebrating it on August 14 and India a day later.

"India playing Pakistan involves the sentiments of millions," said Wasim Akram, one of cricket's all-time greats and now a commentator.

"You become a hero if you perform well... you are portrayed as a villain if your team loses," said the former Pakistan skipper.

Matches ignite great fervour but they have also defused military tensions between the two nations, which have fought four wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

During one period of sabre rattling in 1987, as troops massed along their frontier, Pakistan's military ruler General Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq showed up unannounced in New Delhi -- ostensibly to watch a match between the two.

The move, as crafty as any a cricket captain could conjure up on the field, led to a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and tensions eased.\

Still, the on-field rivalry has spilled off the cricket pitch for now.

The neighbours have not played a Test since 2007, instead meeting only in the shorter versions of the game and at multi-team competitions on foreign soil, rather than head-to-head series at home.

When they do play -- as they will at the Asia Cup later this month in the United Arab Emirates -- cricket fans around the world are glued to their TV screens, a multibillion-dollar bonanza for broadcasters.

The 2019 50-over World Cup clash between India and Pakistan drew 273 million viewers, while 167 million watched them in last year's Twenty20 World Cup.

"Nothing can match an Indo-Pakistan bilateral series because it is played in a different league," former prime minister and cricket captain Imran Khan, who led Pakistan to World Cup glory in 1992, said in a Sky Sports documentary.
"The atmosphere is filled with tension, pressure and enjoyment."

Pakistan Cricket Board chief executive Faisal Hasnain called games against India the "mother of all cricket matches".

"Fans want these two countries to play each other on a regular basis but resumption is only likely when there is a thaw in relations," he told AFP.

"We can only wait and hope that happens."

Introduced to the sub-continent in the 18th century, cricket was played mostly by its white colonial rulers, but locals learned the game by being used as bowling or batting fodder in the practice nets.

India won Test status in 1932, but after partition most Muslim players -- including three who had played for the national team -- migrated to Pakistan, who had to build from scratch.

Pakistan's first Test, appropriately, was against India, in 1952 -- and they were led by Abdul Hafeez Kardar, one of the three double internationals.

Since then Pakistan and India have played 59 Tests, with Pakistan winning 12, India nine, and the rest drawn.

In ODIs Pakistan also have the edge, but India have won seven of their nine T20 encounters.

In the women's game, India have won all 11 of their ODIs and 10 of their 12 Twenty20s since first meeting in 2005.

The advent of one-day cricket has only boosted the rivalry with one commentator calling their clashes "war minus shooting".

In 1991, Aaqib Javed's seven-wicket haul, including a hat-trick, helped Pakistan win the Wills Trophy in Sharjah in a match that ended in near-darkness, sparking outrage from the losing Indian side and fans.

"They whinged about it for months," Aaqib said drily.

But Pakistan fans have also shown their bile, sending death threats to Wasim Akram after he withdrew from a key final against India because of injury.

"At times the fans' reaction is intolerable," Akram said.

Former Indian batsman Sanjay Manjrekar said he misses regular clashes against Pakistan.

"It was my favourite opposition for all the entertainment they provided on the field with their banter," he told AFP.

"Plus the fact that they were a damn good side." 


Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

Updated 12 August 2022

Kyrgios hammers de Minaur for Montreal Masters quarter-final spot

  • The Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes

MONTREAL: Nick Kyrgios crushed fellow Australian Alex de Minaur 6-2, 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP Montreal Masters.

Kyrgios carried on constant backchat with his player box, giving almost a running commentary of his state of mind on court in a display that seems second nature to him.

Nevertheless, the Wimbledon runner-up dominated in the all-Aussie match, winning the opening set at a clip of three minutes per game in a contest which took just 64 minutes.

The second-set pace was just as torrid, with Kyrgios breaking in the opening game.

He failed to serve out the win leading 5-2, missing on a drop shot and sending a forehand into the net.

But de Minaur lost the next game to love as Kyrgios prevailed in front of a packed-out stadium.

The winner of last week’s Washington 500 series title suffered his only recent loss to Novak Djokovic in the Wimbledon final. Victory means he’ll be in the top 30 next week, meaning a seeding at the US Open which starts on Aug. 29.

“That was my goal, so I didn’t have to play one of the (tennis) gods in the first round,” Kyrgios said.

“Today was a tough one. there was a lot on the line. I’m happy with the performance today.

“After beating (world number one Daniil) Medvedev yesterday, my confidence is incredibly high.

“It’s never easy to play a friend, but against Alex I went out and got the job done, I played how I had to play,” said Kyrgios who next faces eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, a 6-7 (6/8), 6-2, 7-6 (7/3) winner over Albert Ramos.

Kyrgios has now won 15 of his last 16 singles matches, “The days are blending into each other,” he said. “It’s tiring but that’s the sport.”

He added: “I’m missing home a lot but there are only a few more tournaments until I can go home and see my family.”

Casper Ruud kept his title hopes alive as he dueled for more than three hours to overcome Roberto Bautista Agut 6-7 (4/7), 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.

The Norwegian, who at fourth is the highest seed still standing, said he regrouped during a 69-minute interruption as thunderstorms passed over the area after two sets had been completed.

He said time in the locker room was the perfect antidote for a game which had gone slightly stale as he battled the Spaniard.

“Thanks to the weather gods,” he said. “It was a tough battle, the first two sets, two hours 20 minutes of good intensity.

“But I was feeling it a bit in the legs, it was tough to find my intensity. The rain gave me time to breathe and regain some energy.”

Ruud wrapped up a long afternoon on his fourth match point, ending with 54 winners and 39 unforced errors.

“I’m still surviving, there will be another match tomorrow and I’ll try to survive it,” added the seventh-ranked Ruud, who is the top target remaining after the second-round exits of Medvedev, Carlos Alcaraz and Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The Norwegian owns three titles this season with a match record of 37-13. He reached the Miami final in April but lost to Alcaraz.

He’ll play Canadian sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime, who dispatched Britain’s Cameron Norrie 6-3, 6-4.

Unseeded briton Jack Draper advanced, moving through when French veteran Gael Monfils retired with an injury while trailing 6-2, 0-2.

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Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

Updated 12 August 2022

Swiatek ambushed by Brazil’s Haddad Maia in stunning upset at Toronto Masters

  • Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults

TORONTO: Brazilian outsider Beatriz Haddad Maia toppled world No. 1 Iga Swiatek 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the WTA Toronto Masters.

The South American ranked 24th in the world beat her third top-10 opponent this season, but notched her first career win over a world No. 1 as she clawed out the victory in three hours.

Haddad Maia, who won titles at Nottingham and Birmingham in June, became the first Brazilian to reach the quarters at a WTA 1000 tournament.

She was the first from her country to face a No. 1 since Telian Pereira lost to Serena Williams at Roland Garros in 2016.

Swiatek, whose six titles this season include the French Open, missed her chance at a 50th match win this year.

Her run of 23 straight wins at the Masters 1000 level was snapped in difficult playing conditions.

“At the beginning I struggled to find my rhythm, probably because she’s lefty and I had a hard time adjusting to her serve,” Swiatek said.

“Without the wind I would manage. But it was pretty crazy out there.

“In the third set I knew (the mistakes) I’d made. So I know what I want to work on and what I want to improve before the next tournament, for sure.”

Swiatek added: “She just used the conditions better than me. When she was playing with the wind she was playing really strong balls.

“I made more mistakes than her. She was a little bit more solid.”

Haddad Maia put Swiatek on the defensive, forcing her to save 15 of 19 break points while committing nine double-faults.

She limited her own unforced errors to a dozen, backed up by 23 winners while Swiatek ended with 33 winners and 28 unforced errors.

“I’m happy and proud of myself and my team, it’s a special moment,” she said. “It’s not always easy to beat the number one on a huge stage and against all the crowd.

“I think I passed through very tough moments in my career to live this moment. I just want to enjoy a little bit.

“I don’t want to think about my next match. But, yeah, I feel happy. I believe in myself.

In other third-round action, Coco Gauff survived 15 double-faults to squeeze out a 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (7/4) win over Aryna Sabalenka.

The American teenager contributed just under half of the miscues in the error-strewn affair, with her opponent accounting for 18 additional doubles.

Tenth seed Gauff, who fell to Swiatek at Roland Garros in her first Grand Slam final this year, battled for three and a quarter hours against sixth-seeded Sabalenka.

Gauff finished with nine aces and saved 10 of 14 break points that she faced.

“The conditions weren’t easy today, a lot of wind,” Gauff said. “I think I hung in there mentally and that’s what I’m most proud of.”

Victory for the 18-year-old came a day after she beat Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina in the third round in a match that took two and three-quarter hours.

The American admitted that trailing 3-0 in the final set, she had to give herself a serious talking-to.

“I said if I was going to lose, I’m not going to lose like this. I had to change, and that’s what I did.”

“She is frustrating to play. She plays big tennis — sometimes you hit a good shot and she hits a winner.”

Gauff will face off on Friday against two-time Grand Slam winner Simona Halep after the former No. 1 from Romania defeated Switzerland’s Jil Teichmann 6-2, 7-5 in 91 minutes.

Seventh-seeded American Jessica Pegula advanced, beating defending champion Camila Giorgi of Italy 3-6, 6-0, 7-5.

Pegula will face Kazakhstan’s Yulia Putintseva, who beat Alison Riske 6-3, 7-5.

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FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

Updated 12 August 2022

FIFA officially advances World Cup start by a day to Nov. 20

  • Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change

DOHA: FIFA on Thursday officially brought forward the opening match of this year’s World Cup by one day to Nov. 20 in a rare change so that hosts Qatar feature in the gala game.

Football’s top officials universally approved the decision, FIFA said in a statement while Qatar said it would give unspecified help to fans affected by the change.

On the old schedule, Qatar against Ecuador was to be the official inauguration match on Nov. 21 but Senegal against Netherlands would be the first match of the day. England against Iran would have been second.

Qatar had also been frustrated as it has invested in a huge opening ceremony show.

“Host country Qatar will now play Ecuador on Sunday 20 November as part of a stand-alone event,” said FIFA.

“The opening match and ceremony of this year’s tournament at Al Bayt Stadium have been brought forward one day following a unanimous decision taken by the bureau of the FIFA Council today.”

The bureau is made up of FIFA leader Gianni Infantino and the six heads of the contintental confederations.

“The change ensures the continuity of a long-standing tradition of marking the start of the World Cup with an opening ceremony on the occasion of the first match featuring either the hosts or the defending champions,” added FIFA.

Under the new plan, the Group A game between Senegal and the Netherlands has been shifted from 1:00pm (1000 GMT) on November 21 to a 7:00pm start. There is no change to England’s opening Group B clash against Iran.

Qatari organizers, who have spent billions of dollars preparing for the event, immediately welcomed FIFA’s gesture.

“Opening the first FIFA World Cup to be held in the Middle East and Arab world is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Qatar,” said the organizing committee in a statement.

“The impact of this decision on fans was assessed by FIFA. We will work together to ensure a smooth tournament for the supporters affected by the change,” they added without giving details.

Some Ecuador fans may have to change flights to arrive in Qatar earlier and football sources said the date switch could force changes to some World Cup contracts.

But many companies linked to the World Cup expressed confidence that disruption would be overcome.

“It is something we will deal with,” said Jaime Byrom, chairman of Match Hospitality, which has a deal with FIFA to organize hospitality packages for World Cup matches and has locked in 450,000 tickets for the tournament.

“It is really not — compared to the other challenges that we could have faced or have faced in the past — a particularly large problem,” Byrom told AFP.

“We have to focus on those customers who are most affected and I guess in this case we will be looking at our Ecuadorian customers who are traveling from overseas, and making sure that they are on time for the match.”

Official countdown clocks for the event were quickly changed. The 100 day countdown to the opening match will now start on Friday, instead of Saturday.

The decision was also announced as Qatar staged the first official match at the Lusail stadium which will host the December 18 World Cup final.

Before more than 10,000 fans, and with players engulfed in air conditioning to ward off stifling summer heat, Al Arabi beat Al Rayyan 2-1 in the Qatar championship.

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Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

Updated 11 August 2022

Barcelona sell off assets to make signings in attempt to restore glory days

  • Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga's financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings
  • They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic "levers"

MADRID: Barcelona’s attempts to establish themselves once again as a force in La Liga and the Champions League this season have seen the heavily-indebted Catalans gamble with their future to enable a striking summer spending spree.
A year after being forced to let Lionel Messi go as eye-watering reported debts of 1.35 billion euros ($1.39 billion) crippled the club, Barcelona have spent 153 million euros on transfer fees alone to strengthen their squad, with Robert Lewandowski the most notable new arrival.
“This is a really exciting season. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to make all the fans happy,” coach Xavi Hernandez said before last weekend’s 6-0 friendly win over Mexican side Pumas UNAM.
“That means winning trophies. That is our main objective.”
After three years of struggles, on and off the field, the summer has seen hope return to the Camp Nou, with president Joan Laporta talking of an exciting “new era” when the club unveiled Lewandowski as a Barcelona player.
“Euphoria” was the headline on the cover of local daily Sport the same day.
Even partisan Madrid-based sports daily Marca admitted that Barca were “frightening” in the wake of their drubbing of Pumas UNAM last weekend, when Lewandowski scored his first goal since his arrival from Bayern Munich.
Yet how Barcelona have gone about raising the funds to sign Lewandowski, as well as center-backs Jules Kounde and Andreas Christensen, AC Milan midfielder Franck Kessie, and Leeds United’s Brazilian winger Raphinha has raised eyebrows.
Faced with severe limits on spending in order to comply with La Liga’s financial controls, Barcelona knew they needed to raise money quickly to be able to invest in any signings and, crucially, to register any new players.
They quickly set about selling off assets to bring in money by activating a series of what have been called economic “levers.”
The club sold 25 percent of their domestic television rights for the next quarter of a century to US investment firm Sixth Street for some 400 million euros.
Barcelona sold 24.5 percent of Barca Studios, which manages the club’s digital business and audiovisual productions, to Socios.com for 100 million euros on August 1, and then another 25 percent to US investment firm GDA Luma for 100 million euros more.
In the space of a few weeks, 600 million euros had been brought in to fill the coffers.
The aim was to clean up the club’s finances, make it possible to increase the salary limit set by La Liga and allow the new signings to all be registered for the start of the season.
On top of that, Barca signed the biggest sponsorship deal in their history with Spotify, bringing in a reported 435 million euros for the music streaming giant to feature on the club’s shirts and to have naming rights to the Camp Nou.
And so Barcelona look well placed to become serious title contenders again as they prepare to host Rayo Vallecano this weekend.
Only time will tell if mortgaging part of the club’s assets in exchange for an immediate influx of cash will bear fruit.


Yet, Barcelona are still waiting for La Liga to allow them to register their new signings, although they hope to be able to do so in time for the season.
They are also hoping to further ease their financial problems by reducing their wage bill.
The Catalans have been trying to persuade Frenkie de Jong to leave, with suggestions even made that a contract he signed in 2020 was not legal. The Dutch midfielder says he wants to stay.
Martin Braithwaite, Samuel Umtiti and Memphis Depay are also candidates to depart the Camp Nou, with the latter reportedly a target for Juventus.
On top of that, efforts have been made to persuade certain players, including Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, to accept wage reductions.
Barca’s “economic miracle,” as the press have called it, still has to be transformed into a footballing miracle.