Babar Azam enjoys ‘healthy lead’ in latest ODI rankings, Indian players make strides

In this file picture taken on January 9, 2023, Pakistan's captain Babar Azam (R) plays a shot during the first one-day international (ODI) cricket match between Pakistan and New Zealand at the National Stadium in Karachi. (Photo courtesy: AFP/File)
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Updated 25 January 2023

Babar Azam enjoys ‘healthy lead’ in latest ODI rankings, Indian players make strides

  • At 887 points, Babar Azam leads has over 120 points more than second-placed Rassie van der Dussen
  • Mohammed Siraj rises to top of ODI bowler rankings, Shubman Gill rises to number 6 on batter rankings

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani batter Babar Azam continued to enjoy a “healthy lead” on the Men’s ODI batter rankings on Wednesday, according to the International Cricket Council (ICC) with Indian cricketers Mohammed Siraj and Shubman Gill making huge strides in the worldwide rankings as well.

Dubbed Babar ‘King’ Azam by cricket fans worldwide, the Pakistani skipper is arguably one of the best batters in modern-day cricket today. Azam fared impressively this year, registering eight scores of more than fifty in the nine ODIs he played in total. Three of these scores he converted into hundreds.

In the 50-over format, Azam’s performance as captain also left little room for criticism. The maverick batter captained the green shirts to in three ODI series this year, emerging victorious in all. In the nine matches Pakistan played, Azam led his side to victory in eight and lost just one.

At 887 points, Azam sits pretty on the top position in the ODI batters rankings. However, with Gill’s impressive performances against New Zealand, there are now three Indian batters in the top 10 batter’s rankings vying for Azam’s position.

“Pakistan skipper Babar Azam still enjoys a healthy lead at the top of the ODI batter rankings, but there is now a total of three India players inside the top 10 and chasing the highest accolade,” the ICC said in a post on its website.

Gill astounded fans and critics alike in the recently concluded three-match series against New Zealand, scoring 208, 40* and 112. He equaled Azam’s record of scoring the most number of runs (360) in an ODI series but was unable to break it. With 734 points, Gill jumped a whopping 20 places to be placed at number 6 in the ODI rankings.

Former India skipper Virat Kohli, with 727 points, was pushed one place below. He is now placed at number 7 position in the rankings, one below Gill and two places above India skipper Rohit Sharma (719 points).

However, the biggest relief for India was Siraj’s rise to the top of the ODI rankings. The Indian bowler, who returned to the national squad after February last year, has collected 37 wickets from 20 matches to be one of India’s most consistent fast bowlers.

“On Tuesday, Siraj was named in the ICC Men’s ODI Team of the Year and on Wednesday the right-armer had another reason to celebrate as he went past Boult and Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood to become the top-ranked ODI bowler for the very first time,” the ICC said.

Pakistan’s baseball team beats Palestine to clinch West Asia Cup 2023

Updated 10 sec ago

Pakistan’s baseball team beats Palestine to clinch West Asia Cup 2023

  • Pakistan beat Palestine 11-3 to clinch the seven-nation tournament
  • Pakistan’s Amjad Hussain, Muhammad Shoaib fare well in final

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s baseball team on Wednesday defeated Palestine in the final to be crowned the winners of the West Asia Cup 2023, with Sri Lanka finishing in third place. 

The seven-nation event, organized by the Pakistan Baseball Federation (PBF), was held at the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad from January 27 till February 1. Apart from the host Pakistan, teams from Palestine, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan are participating in the event.

Pakistan, who reached the final of the tournament after emphatically defeating Sri Lanka 16-1, once again put up an impressive performance in the final against Palestine, ,defeating the Middle East team 11-3 to clinch the trophy. 

Pakistan the new West Asia Cup baseball Champ,” the Pakistan Federation Baseball wrote on Twitter. “Team Palestine wins the hearts of the people with their outstanding display.”

According to the PBF, pitchers Amjad Hussain and Muhammad Zohaib fared impressively against Palestine in the final. 

Palestine, who qualified for Wednesday’s final after defeating Bangladesh 14-3 in the other semifinal, lost out to Sri Lanka who finished with the bronze medal. 

The PBF partnered with Baseball United, first-ever professional baseball league that helps develop the game across the Middle East and South Asia, to host the West Asia Cup, an official World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) tournament.

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

Updated 45 min 46 sec ago

FIFA aims at sexual offenses in updated ethics code

  • The code, said the governing body of world football, is intended "to enhance protection of football integrity"
  • It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees

LAUSANNE: FIFA has toughened its disciplinary proceedings for cases of sexual assault or harassment in a revised Code of Ethics that was announced and came into force on Wednesday.
The code, said the governing body of world football in a press release, is intended “to enhance protection of football integrity.”
It also targets match fixing and clubs that fail to pay transfer fees.
“The changes are aimed at improving the protection of certain parties to proceedings before FIFA’s judicial bodies, while providing FIFA with further instruments against illegal, immoral or unethical methods and practices,” said the release.
The revised code removes the 10-year limitation period on prosecuting sexual offenses.
The changes make the possible victims “parties to the relevant proceedings, who enjoy all procedural rights, such as that of being notified of the relevant decision and being entitled to appeal it.”
The code also obliges “member associations and confederations to notify FIFA of any decisions rendered on sexual abuse and match-fixing.”
A series of sexual assault scandals in recent years, notably in Gabon, Haiti, the United States and Afghanistan, forced FIFA into disciplinary proceedings, particularly in cases where the local authorities refused to act.
FIFA said it would appoint an independent integrity expert to investigate match fixing and coordinate with the public authorities in assessing potential offenses, and propose “appropriate disciplinary measures.”
FIFA said it was extending transfer bans on debtor clubs that do not comply with decisions by its Football Tribunal and could charge 18 percent interest on unpaid debts.

Injured Pakistani pacer Shaheen Afridi ‘very excited’ for PSL comeback

Updated 01 February 2023

Injured Pakistani pacer Shaheen Afridi ‘very excited’ for PSL comeback

  • Shaheen Afridi says there were times during injury when he ‘wanted to give up’
  • Afridi leads Lahore franchise, who begin PSL title defense against Multan on Feb 13

ISLAMABAD: Left-arm pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi said on Wednesday he is “very excited” to be making a comeback to the cricket field for the upcoming Pakistan Super League (PSL) 8 after a knee injury in November last year ruled him out of action for a couple of months.

Afridi, who made his international debut for Pakistan in 2018, has gone on to become one of the most lethal fast bowlers in the world. The lanky pacer, who spearheads Pakistan’s pace battery in all three formats of the game, has the ability to bowl toe-crushing in-swingers at a fiery pace while at the same time, surprise batters with plenty of bounce and variety. 

After missing an important white-ball series against England at home, Afridi returned to action in last year’s ICC T20 World Cup 2022 in Australia. However, a freak twist while taking a catch aggravated his injury further, ruling him out of action for a few more months. 

According to a statement released by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB), Afridi described the PSL, Pakistan’s professional T20 cricket league, as “one of the best” leagues in the world and an important event for him to make his comeback. 

“I am very excited to be making my comeback here and look forward to all the challenges that it will throw at me,” Afridi said. “Thanks to the Almighty, I am doing well. I am ticking both the bowling workload and fitness requirement boxes.”

Afridi, who led Lahore Qalandars to their maiden PSL title last year, will hope to take the field when the defending champions take on Multan Sultans on February 13 in Multan when the tournament kicks off. 

The bowler spoke of how he wanted to play in Pakistan’s home series against England and New Zealand but was unable to do so. “I was more distressed for missing the Tests, because I like Test cricket more. A bowler is measured on how he performs in Test cricket and I wanted to take wickets against England,” he added. 

“There were times when I wanted to give up,” he said. “I was working on only one muscle and it was not improving. Often during the rehabilitation sessions, I used to say to myself ‘this is enough, I cannot do this anymore’.

Afridi’s potency can be judged by the fact that he has taken the most wickets in the tournament since his debut. He is third on the list of the highest wicket-takers in the tournament history behind Wahab Riaz (103) and Hassan Ali (81) who have played 27 and 14 more matches than him.

While he missed several important fixtures at home, Afridi aims to make his return to international cricket at an important time. The third ICC World Test Championship cycle and 50-over Asia Cup and World Cup would both be played this year. 

Pakistan-born Aussie batter Khawaja's India visa delayed ahead of Test tour

Updated 01 February 2023

Pakistan-born Aussie batter Khawaja's India visa delayed ahead of Test tour

  • Khawaja, who moved to Australia aged four, has toured India before, but also faced delays on that occasion
  • Pakistan and India have had tense ties since partition in 1947 and those tensions have routinely seeped into sports

SYDNEY: Pakistan-born Australian batter Usman Khawaja said on Wednesday he was still waiting for an Indian visa, even as his teammates began departing for a four-Test tour that starts on February 9.

Khawaja — who moved to Australia aged four — has toured India before, but also faced delays on that occasion with his visa taking longer than Australia-born teammates.

“Waiting for my Indian Visa,” Khawaja said on Instagram, above an image from Netflix series “Narcos” where a forlorn Pablo Escobar — played by actor Wagner Moura — sits alone on a swinging seat.

The left-handed opener is now scheduled to fly out on Thursday.

Australian media reported that touring players and support staff began receiving visas in early January, and some have already begun arriving in Bengaluru, where the team will set up pre-match camp.

Pakistan and India have had fraught relations since partition in 1947 and those tensions have routinely seeped into sports.

The two countries last played a bi-lateral series a decade ago and Pakistani players have been barred from the prestigious T20 Indian Premier League.

Australia is trying to win its first Test series in India in almost a decade. Tests will be played in Nagpur, Delhi, Dharamsala and then in the world’s largest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad.

After being left out of the Test side for about two years Khawaja made a stunning return against England in the 2021-2022 Ashes.

He notched his 4000th Test run in a recent match against South Africa in Sydney, where he was 195 not out.

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

Updated 01 February 2023

Ukraine on mission to ban Russia from Olympics, IOC says sanctions stand

  • Kyiv wants ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes
  • IOC has opened door to them competing in qualifiers

KYIV: Ukraine hopes to secure widespread international support for banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from the Paris Olympics in 2024 due to Moscow’s invasion, the sports minister said on Tuesday.

Vadym Huttsait, 51, a former Olympic fencing champion, told Reuters the idea of allowing Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals was unacceptable.

“It is impossible for us at a time when the full-scale war is going on, when our athletes, our soldiers are defending our homeland,” he said in his Kyiv office, beside a wall with portraits of athletes killed in the war.

Last week the International Olympic Committee said it was open to including Russian and Belarusian athletes as neutrals at the Games and opened a door to them competing in qualifiers, prompting an international campaign by Kyiv to keep them out.

Moscow said on Tuesday it would welcome any IOC moves to allow its athletes to compete in the Olympics. But hours later the IOC said it was standing by sanctions imposed against the countries over Russia’s invasion.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video address on Tuesday that “Russian politization of sport would invariably mean justification of terror.”

At least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died in the war, said Huttsait, who won an Olympic fencing team gold in 1992 for the so-called Unified Team, which comprised 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics. He also coached Ukraine’s winning team at the 2008 Games.

“Ukraine will unite with many countries ... and it (Russians competing) will not be allowed,” he added, saying 40 nations had given Ukrainian athletes housing and training assistance abroad during the war.

There has been little public support yet from other nations for an outright ban on Russians at Paris.

The IOC’s initial recommendation to ban Russians and Belarusians has been applied by many sports federations.

But last week, it backed a proposal by the Olympic Council of Asia to allow them to compete in Asia, which could potentially include Olympic qualifying events.

Should that happen, Ukraine’s sporting authorities and athletes will face a “very difficult decision” whether to boycott Paris, Huttsait said.

“When we lose so many people, so many athletes, the lives of Ukrainians are more important to us than any medal at international competitions,” he said.

Ukrainian officials have turned on the IOC in recent days for promoting “violence, mass murders, destruction” with the idea of giving Russia a “platform to promote genocide.”

The IOC has called that defamatory and said such words do not promote constructive discussion.

Zelensky said “only the free world acting together can protect sport from those sports bureaucrats who for some reason are ready to close their eyes to reality.”

On Tuesday, former boxing champion Wladimir Klitschko called on IOC head Thomas Bach not to betray the Olympic spirit and become an “accomplice in this abominable war.”

Moscow is trying to turn the page on years of doping scandals after its teams were forced to compete without their flag or anthem at the Olympics and major international events.