Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend

Action from the opening match of the ILT20 Development Tournament. (ILT20)
Short Url
Updated 02 October 2023
Follow

Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend

  • Six squads finalized through a Player Draft are competing in the 18-match contest in Dubai
  • Preparations for DP World ILT20 season 2 in full swing following the success of first edition

DUBAI: The Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels have recorded impressive wins in the opening weekend of the ILT20 Development Tournament.

The contest is aimed at providing an opportunity for UAE players to grab 13 spots still up for grabs in the DP World ILT20 season two.

In the tournament opener, player of the match Usman Khan’s unbeaten 68 off 52 balls (nine fours, one six) ensured a comfortable seven wicket win for the Blitzers. The 115-run chase was delivered without any major hiccups, with 20 balls to spare.

Earlier, the Marvels lost opener Mayank Choudhry on the tournament’s very first ball, and struggled to get going in their innings after being asked to bat first. Young all-rounder Aayan Afzal Khan top-scored with 24 runs while captain Basil Hameed scored 20. Uzair Khan and Muhammad Zubair took three wickets each as the Marvels were bowled out for 114 in 18.1 overs.

The Pearls recorded a 19-run win against the Dynamos in the second match on Saturday — a competitive 151 for eight in their 20 overs. Asked to bat first, the Pearls were well served by their opener Aryansh Sharma who scored a blazing 63 off 41 balls with the help of six fours and two sixes. All-rounder Zawar Farid (player of the match) had a memorable game as he first contributed 26 useful runs with the bat in a 42-run fifth wicket partnership with Aryansh before taking four wickets with the ball.

The Dynamos got off to a flying start but failed to maintain the momentum as wickets fell at regular intervals. Opener Samal Udawaththa top scored with 28, and Muhammad Shahdad made a 23-run contribution. Zawar gave away a mere 20 runs in his 3.4 overs for his four wickets. Adhitya Shetty was also impressive with the ball, at three for 27.

In the opening match on Sunday and third of the tournament, Asif Khan’s 87 not out (59 balls, six fours, six sixes) for the Braves went in vain as the Thunderbolts powered through the 166-run chase for the loss of five wickets.

The Braves were asked to bat first and posted a competitive 165-run total on the back of Asif’s blazing innings, the opener hitting some lusty blows to propel his side past the 160-run mark. Junaid Shamzu smashed 31 off 10 balls (two fours, three sixes) in an unbroken 65-run alliance with Asif.

The Thunderbolts chased down the runs courtesy of an unbeaten 19-ball 45 by Ansh Tandon. The left-hander hit two fours and five sixes in his brilliant innings. Captain Rohan Mustafa scored 43 off 36 balls (six fours), and the Thunderbolts completed the chase with three balls left. Haider Ali took two wickets.

The Marvels registered their first win when they defeated the Pearls by seven wickets in the second match on Sunday. Batting first, the Marvels could only manage a paltry 121-run total. Player of the match Muhammad Zuhaib and Aayan Afzal Khan took four and three wickets respectively as the Marvels struggled to get going.

The 122-run chase was duly completed by the Marvels in 17.2 overs. Opener Mayank Choudhry top-scored with 47 off 49 balls (five fours, one six), and captain Rahul Chopra scored an unbeaten 31 off 23.


Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

Updated 16 min 13 sec ago
Follow

Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

  • Experience and inspirational qualities come to the fore as MI players chase club’s first IPL title since 2020

LONDON: West Indies legend Kieron Pollard can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher.

Pollard, who is now batting coach at the IPL giants, had a glittering career as a player with the franchise, winning five titles over eight seasons, including four as captain.

His experience and nous will be crucial in helping the current crop of MI players win the club’s first IPL title since 2020, said South African Boucher, who has been head coach since last season.

“(Pollard) is fantastic. He’s got so much character in the changing room; he’s a strong person and a lot of the players trust him and look up to him,” Boucher told sport news website SportsBoom.com.

“Whenever Polly opens his mouth in the dressing room, people listen. Not because he is going to hold them up against the side of the wall, but because they know what he’s done.

“Having him in the dressing room has a calming effect on the batting. You have a look at our stats in the batting, the aggressive nature we went about things (last year), the calmness in the dugouts, all that type of stuff. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Polly as well because of his way that he is and his whole demeanour and understanding that he’s got.

“He’s still playing in franchises around the world he’s in the know about who’s playing good crickets and we feed off that,” he added.

Boucher said the team had high expectations for the coming season, which starts on March 22 and will end, if successful in the grand final, on May 26.

“I think anytime you join Mumbai Indians, there’s a lot of expectation and the expectation is to win at all times. We have won the championship quite a few times. Once the owners and the fans get a sniff of that, then they want to do it every time,” he said.

He particularly praised the team’s batting display and its positive style of cricket last season, acknowledging the challenges faced in the bowling unit as a result of injuries. Although the Indians finished third, falling short of the intended win, Boucher said he viewed it as a commendable effort given the situation.

“Our bowling was a little bit shy because of the injuries that we picked up. The third position is not what we wanted; we wanted to win, but third was not a bad effort, judging what we had to go through last season. But a catch maybe taken here or there could have  put ourselves into a final and then who knows what happens in the final,” he said.

“We do believe in the spinners that we have in the side already. Piyush (Chawla) had a fantastic season last time around. No one really thought that he would probably have that kind of impact that he had. We are backing him to do something similar,” he added.

Boucher also played up the importance of getting results at the team’s home stadium at Wankhede, but also the ability of his team to adapt to different conditions at away grounds.

“In our home games at Wankhede spin doesn’t play a major part in the game. So our side is very much sort of geared toward our home conditions, but we do feel that we’ve got enough cover if we do go into a different venue and the ball is turning and gripping; we do feel that we do have the guys to sort of consolidate those conditions,” he said. 


Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

Azeem Rafiq (L) and Colin Graves (R) during hearings on racism in cricket. (Screenshots)
Updated 01 March 2024
Follow

Desperate times at Yorkshire County Cricket Club amid racism scandal

  • Following allegations of racism at Yorkshire CCC, a number of complaints were upheld and formally accepted by the club

LONDON: My cricket column this week referred to a follow-up hearing on Feb. 20 by the UK House of Commons Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport into racism in cricket.

It focused specifically on what measures had been put in place since its initial hearing in November 2021, and after the recommendations of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket were published in June 2023.

The key catalysts for this have been Yorkshire County Cricket Club and one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq, who made allegations of racist behavior at the club. A number of the allegations were upheld and formally accepted by the club, although not, it seems, by all parties involved in cricket. Another figure in the saga has emerged, or rather re-emerged, in recent weeks.

Colin Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, and then chair of the England and Wales Cricket Board from 2015 until 2020. Prior to that he was part of a consortium that rescued YCCC from insolvency in 2002. Repayment of club debt was consolidated into Graves Trust funds, to which the club currently owes almost £15 million ($19 million).

Graves said that since his stint at the ECB ended four years ago, he “has not been involved with running any form of cricket.”

Ongoing financial difficulties at YCCC, exacerbated by costs generated by payouts to previous employees, have brought it, once again, to the brink of insolvency, and so the club’s board sought a financial rescue package.

A consortium led by Graves put forward a proposal that was accepted by a majority of the 25 percent of members who chose to vote. It seemed like there was a general feeling of inevitability about the outcome, inside and outside of Yorkshire.

Nevertheless, some have voiced concerns about the potential effects of Graves’ return to the club appointment as chair of the board. He accepted an invitation to appear at the last week’s hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee, during which its members articulated some of those concerns.

Asked whether he intends to bring back any of the previous backroom and coaching staff, his response was: “It has not been discussed by the board. We have our first board meeting on Monday (Feb. 26), and I am sure that the future, the structure, everything will be discussed. But at this point in time it has not been discussed.”

On the afternoon of Feb. 27, an article appeared in The Cricketer magazine, written by George Dobell, who has been closely associated with reporting on and supporting Rafiq’s case.

The article reported that, incredibly, the board of the YCCC was considering bringing back Mark Arthur, who was its CEO from 2014 until his resignation in November 2021. He stepped down days before the initial hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Nov. 16, 2021. During that hearing, Roger Hutton, who served as chair of the YCCC board between April 2020 and November 2021, alleged that the CEO had attempted to prevent further investigation into the racism allegations.

During his tenure, Hutton commissioned a law firm to conduct a review of the allegations of racism. Only a summary of its findings has been released publicly. During his appearance at the Select Committee hearing on Feb. 20, Graves referred twice to this fact, though it was not clear why.

Seven of the 43 allegations made by Rafiq were upheld on Sept. 10, 2021, by an independent panel appointed by YCCC. It confirmed he had been the “victim of racial harassment and bullying.” Perhaps the fact that 36 allegations were not upheld provides YCCC’s new board with some hope for exoneration.

Much water has flowed under the bridge since that verdict. Part of that has been an acceptance, albeit in some cases reluctantly, that racism has been present in the game. Indeed, Graves proffered an apology during the recent Select Committee hearing to those from ethnic-minority backgrounds who had experienced discrimination or racism at the club, including Rafiq.

He said it “should never have happened, it never will be acceptable, and it certainly will not be going forward.”

Arab News asked Rafiq whether he felt the timing of the apologies ahead of the YCCC’s extraordinary general meeting to decide whether Graves would return as chair of the board, and those made during the Select Committee hearing last week, were coincidental and whether they could they be accepted as sincere. He declined to comment.

During the recent Select Committee meeting, Graves was asked whether he or his representatives had sent a legal letter to the publishers of “It’s Not Banter, it’s Racism,” a book by Rafiq that is due to be published in April. He said solicitors acting on behalf of YCCC had asked to see an advance copy. He denied that the tone of the letter was intimidatory and agreed to make public its contents. The reasons for requesting a copy of the book were not clear.

It is difficult not to feel a sense of unease about how the latest turn of events at YCCC might unfold. Graves deflected any detailed discussion during the Select Committee meeting of senior management appointments on the grounds that the club’s board had not yet met to discuss them.

This prompted one of the committee members to note that Graves “did not say that he would not bring back any of the old guard who were fired.” It was further noted that such people were those who had failed to notify the chair of problems that were subsequently shown to have existed.

Graves offered assurances that equality, diversity and inclusion measures put in place in the past two years would be guaranteed and fully supported. A new board member, Sanjeev Gandhi, will be appointed specifically to oversee the development of these EDI measures. Gandhi previously worked with Graves at the ECB on the creation of The Hundred tournament.

There was no mention or recognition of the measures to address EDI issues that were initiated by Kamlesh Patel, senior independent director of the ECB, during his time as chair of YCCC between November 2021 and March 2023. Instead, he has faced heavy criticism as the person who purged the old guard at a damaging cost to the County.

As far as can be seen, none of the British media has picked up the The Cricketer’s story. YCCC has not responded to requests for confirmation of its claims.

The ECB seems to be impotent in terms of intervention in a matter that, so far, is solely the YCCC’s business. It is difficult to avoid the feeling, however, that there is an underlying process of retrenchment at play, in which financial considerations are to the fore.

There is an old adage that suggests a strong Yorkshire (in cricket terms) means a strong England. The truth of this is about to be tested off the field. Graves has a responsibility not to undermine the progress that has been made since Rafiq’s allegations came to light, and to match his own words of apology and his commitment to equity with commensurate actions for the good not only of Yorkshire, but for English and Welsh cricket as a whole.

Trust needs to be reestablished. A good place to start might be to rebuild some trust with Rafiq, rather than reappointing a previous CEO.


PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

PSL 2024: Rutherford blitz ensures Quetta snatch last-ball win over Karachi

  • Sherfane Rutherford scores 58 runs from 31 balls to hand Quetta the victory
  • Quetta spinner Abrar Ahmed returns figures of 3/31 to put Karachi Kings at bay

ISLAMABAD: West Indian batter Sherfane Rutherford handed Quetta Gladiators their fourth victory of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2024 tournament on Thursday, smashing a fiery half-century as the Gladiators edged out Karachi Kings, the home side, in a last-ball thriller.

Batting first, the Kings were considerably troubled by the Gladiators’ bowling line-up. Spinner Abrar Ahmed returned figures of 3/31 while Usman Tariq and Akeal Hosein finished with figures of 2/16 and 2/34 respectively.

James Vince top-scored for the Kings, scoring 37 runs from 25 balls while all-rounder Anwar Ali contributed with an impressive 25 runs from 14 balls. The Kings finished with a score of 165-8 from their 20 overs.

“#PurpleForce breathe.. we have won the thrilling encounter,” the Gladiators wrote on social media platform X after securing the win.

The Gladiators had a strong start to their batting, with opener Jason Roy scoring 53 runs from 31 balls while left-handed Saud Shakeel scored 24 runs from 20 balls. Middle order batters Khawaja Nafay, former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed and Gladiators skipper Rilee Rossouw fell in quick succession, all failing to score in the double digits.

However, an 80-run stand between Rutherford and Hosein proved to be fatal for the Kings, who lost to Quetta by five wickets in the end.

Rutherford scored 58 runs from 31 balls, smashing six sixes and a four at a strike rate of 187.10. Hosein, on the other hand, scored 22 runs from 17 balls.

For the Kings, Hasan Ali and Zahid Mahmood were the best bowlers, returning figures of 2/39 and 2/17 respectively.

The Gladiators remain at number two on the PSL points table, with four wins from their five matches so far. The Kings remain at the number five spot with only two wins from their five matches in this year’s PSL.


Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Racism in sport: a local or global issue?

  • Cricketer Azeem Rafiq’s upcoming book detailing his troubling experiences in the English game will provide lessons for some — and pose difficult questions for others

On Feb. 23, I participated in the inaugural gathering of the Cricket Research Network. This has been initiated by a group of British academics whose research specializations focus on cricket. Their focus is to bring together researchers, writers on cricket, journalists and others with an interest in the game. Their purpose is to provide a forum for disseminating research results to a wider audience than achieved currently on a fragmented basis. It is hoped that a more coordinated approach may lead to a greater voice and input into decision making by the game’s policymakers.

Although there were several papers on issues in other countries, the focus at this stage is on cricket in England and Wales. In that sense, it was fitting that the venue for the conference was Sophia Gardens, Cardiff, the home of the only non-English county cricket club, one fiercely proud of its heritage. This was well exemplified by the displays on view in the Museum where the sessions were held. Proceedings were well-mannered, the only hints of discord arising in relation to two of English and Welsh most emotional topics — The Hundred and structural racism in the game.

The latter had been given an adrenaline shot three days before the conference took place. This was in the form of a hearing of the Parliamentary Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, which was continuing the work it began in 2021. At its first hearing, on Nov. 16, 2021, Azeem Rafiq testified about his experiences at Yorkshire County Cricket Club.

Earlier, in March 2021, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced the setting up of the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket to look at issues of diversity, inclusion and equity in cricket, at all levels and in all roles. Terms of reference were established in July 2021, followed by an online call for evidence in November 2021 that generated about 4,200 responses. A call for written evidence in March 2022 resulted in 150 responses. The findings, based on the evidence and underpinning research, were published in June 2023.

No punches were pulled by the commission, which concluded that “structural and institutional racism” exists within the game, women are treated as “subordinate” to men at all levels of the sport, Black cricket has been failed, and there is a prevalence of “elitism and class-based discrimination.” It was left to the ECB, under new leadership, to formulate how it would respond and draw up measures to address the ICEC’s recommendations.

A major part of the select committee hearing last week, also under new leadership, was to explore how much progress has been made since June 2023. In the first part of the hearing, three ICEC commissioners reported that the ECB had accepted all of their findings, most of their recommendations, along with displaying a commitment to tackle the issues. However, several press headlines focussed on the disappointment that the ICEC chair expressed about Lord Botham’s disparaging response to the report, given that he chairs a county cricket club.

In the second part of the hearing, the ECB’s chair revealed that he had spoken privately to Lord Botham to say that he did not agree with his views. It may safely be assumed that they would not be welcomed by the ECB’s leadership. They are faced with a herculean task to implement the ICEC’s recommendations. Failure to do so will pose questions about the board’s fitness for purpose and caliber of personnel. Finance is also an issue. In the last cycle up to 2024, sale of media rights accounted for 75 percent of the ECB’s income, about $260 million. In his testimony to the select committee, ECB’s chair said that in the new cycle to 2028, media rights have been sold that equate to around 90 percent of income.

This is a highly vulnerable, seemingly unavoidable, position. The need to attract additional funding into the game, partly in order to finance the ICEC’s recommendations, is encapsulated in the conundrum of The Hundred. It is now highly probable that private investment will be allowed into the competition using a model that is still to be finalized. Into this equation steps the returning Chair of YCCC, Colin Graves. He accepted an invitation to appear in front of the select committee for the third part of its hearing, alongside YCCC’s retiring chair. Cricket’s ability to polarize views seems to know no bounds, and Graves is a potent example. Even the committee chair remarked that he is “a gentleman who divides opinions.”

This potential was aptly demonstrated in response to a question asking why he had not picked up the phone to apologize to Rafiq. Graves’ response was that he “did not feel that was appropriate at the time.” Graves was executive chair of YCCC between 2012 and 2015, before becoming ECB chair between 2015 and 2020. It has always been difficult to understand why, during those years, he claims to have been unaware that racism might exist in cricket. He says that he “read about the complaints in the papers, just like everyone else.”

This has been and still is a sordid affair, which is not yet over. My sense, from listening and taking to people in the game, is that English and Welsh cricket is tired of the matter. They feel that the issue is being addressed, so leave us alone. Rafiq is branded as a controversial character. He is now exiled from the UK. Graves has returned to be in charge of YCCC. Where, one might ask, is the equity in this? Money, power and control appear to rule the roost.

In late April a book is due to be published under Rafiq’s name, chronicling his unsavory journey. It is likely to have lessons for others. One such lesson is that someone who has the bravery to stand up for their cause may, not for the first time, be downed by those with vested interest. It is for this reason, alone, that racism in sport is a global matter.


Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller

Updated 28 February 2024
Follow

Saudi Arabia keep ICC U19 Cricket World Cup qualification hopes alive after Bhutan thriller

  • Bhutan finished on 178 all out after 47 overs
  • Faisal hit the winning boundary for the Saudis

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia beat Bhutan by one wicket in a thrilling ICC U19 Cricket World Cup Asia Group B qualifying match in Bangkok on Wednesday, keeping their tournament progression hopes alive.

Bhutan won the toss for the match, held at the Thai capital’s Terdthai Cricket Ground, and elected to bat first. They started well against the medium pace of Fahad Munir and slow left-arm spin of Ahmed Faisal.

Faisal took the opening wicket as Tshering Rigden was bowled for 18 from 18 balls, but number three batter Tenzin Rabgay went for his shots and played well with opener Ronak Pradhan, who batted more cautiously. They combined to bring up a 50-run partnership for the second wicket and Bhutan were well-placed at 83 for the loss of one wicket after 15 overs.

Rabgay’s innings ended on 44 from 38 balls after he was bowled by Arhan Arif with the score on 85, and Saudi Arabia took their third wicket as Anuj Pradhan was dismissed by Taha Vaseem.

Bhutan were 95 for 3 after 20 overs, progressing to 152 for 3 by the 36th. However, Saudi Arabia’s bowlers were containing their opponents well, having been in the field for 50 overs against Oman in their previous match.

Vaseem was the pick of the Saudi bowling attack, managing to claim four wickets for 27 runs as Bhutan lost their last seven wickets for just 26 runs. They ended up on 178 all out after 47 overs.

Saudi Arabia’s openers both looked confident in pursuit, but Shahzad Sami was bowled lbw to Sangay Dorji for 9 and captain Rayyan Khan was caught behind off Ugyen Dorji for 12, leaving the young Greens on 24 for 2 after just four overs.

Mohammad Zuber and Mohammad Rehan came together in the middle needing to rebuild for Saudi Arabia. The score reached 47 in eight overs and 56 for 2 by the end of the 10-over powerplay.

By the time the third Saudi wicket went down, Rehan had been joined by Hashir Ahmad. With the target less than 100 runs away, the match turned into an intriguing battle between the Saudi batsmen and the Bhutan spinners.

Bhutan’s captain, Tshering Rigden, alternated his bowling attack well and forced Saudi Arabia into a collapse of their own in the middle batting order. The Greens fell from 96 for 3 to 117 for 8, still needing 54 runs for victory.

Number 10 batter Faisal, who hit 22 runs off 62 deliveries, played a superb anchor role and forged a priceless 52-run ninth wicket partnership as Saudi Arabia crawled towards their target, even while losing their penultimate wicket on 169 still needing 10 to win.

With just four runs required in the final over, it was player-of-the-match Faisal who won the match for the Saudis, hitting a crucial boundary with just four balls remaining.

The win means Saudi Arabia’s hopes of progress in the tournament are still alive and in their own hands — a victory over Hong Kong on Friday will secure them a semi-final place.

Oman confirmed their place in the semi-finals in Group B on Wednesday, with a 53-run victory over Hong Kong at the Asian Institute of Technology Ground.