Cricket unites South Asian expats in second home Saudi Arabia

1 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (Riyadh Cricket Association)
2 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
3 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
4 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
5 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
6 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
7 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
8 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
9 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
10 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
11 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
12 / 12
Cricket in Saudi Arabia, for decades, was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country. (AN Photo/Rashid Hassan)
Short Url
Updated 22 February 2024
Follow

Cricket unites South Asian expats in second home Saudi Arabia

  • SACF has lined up several programs to promote the sport in KSA
  • Pakistani greats Wasin Akram and Shoaib Akhter have been in Riyadh and met the SACF chief

RIYADH: Cricket is a game that has an almost magical ability to unite South Asian expatriates in their second home Saudi Arabia.

On every weekend and whenever there is a time to play, mostly on public holidays, they gather at some grounds, parks and open spaces to play street cricket.

For decades, early-morning gatherings were the only way for the South Asian diaspora to play cricket.

Expatriates from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh had few entertainment options other than cricket in the Kingdom before social reforms in line with Saudi Vision 2030 were unveiled in 2016, so would play friendly matches.

For decades, cricket in Saudi Arabia was a game played almost exclusively by the South Asian diaspora, but now it is set to take a giant leap across the country, with the game’s ruling body in the Kingdom introducing a series of competitions and programs to encourage the nation’s youth to take up one of the world’s oldest and most popular sports.

The Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, established in 2020, has lined up a series of major programs to promote the game among Saudis and expatriates in the Kingdom.

With Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud as chairman of the federation, long-term plans have been put in place to ensure that Saudi Arabian national teams can compete with the world’s best in the future.

Arab News, in an exclusive interview, spoke to the diaspora from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan who shared their memories and experiences of playing cricket in Saudi Arabia.

Mohammed Azimooddin Abdul Rahiman Karajagi, who is an ICC-certified curator and umpire, and head coach of the Riyadh Cricket Association, told Arab News: “I have seen cricket being played in this region for almost 25 years now. In the beginning there was very limited opportunity to play the game by expatriate communities from the South Asian countries, they would gather at some open space for a friendly match. Then club cricket started and now the SACF headed by Prince Saud is doing a lot for the development of cricket in the Kingdom, starting with the National Cricket Championship, the biggest ever cricket tournament in the history of Saudi Arabia.”

He added: “As result of the mega-competition a formidable Saudi national cricket team was formed and they went on to lift ACC Men’s Challenger Cup consecutively, last year and this year, taking the game to another level (and) now will play the Premier Cup to qualify for the Asia Cup.

“We, the cricket lovers in the Kingdom, congratulate the SACF for taking initiatives to develop the game; we are delighted to see that world-class cricketers are emerging from the Kingdom, and wish all the best to the Saudi team qualify not only to the Asia cup but also to the Cricket World Cup,” he said.

Arab News caught Syed Salman Hussain from Pakistan, who was busy in net practice at Mark Cricket Academy, which is affiliated to the RCA at its home ground in Al-Sulai Industrial Area, Al-Mashael District in Riyadh.

Hussain enjoys playing cricket whenever he has time off work, and hopes to play one day in the Saudi national cricket team.

On playing cricket in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, he said it is tougher here as the cricket kit is not fully available, and must be brought from his homeland. Moreover, to play on the grassless pitches in Riyadh is tough.

“Here the ground is full of stones and sand, as against green grassy playground in Bangladesh,” said Nojmul Hasan from Dhaka, blaming the sandy area beside a shopping mall’s parking lot for his team’s slow run buildup in a friendly match.

“There are no carefully manicured grass pitches for cricketers in this city carved out of the desert. In Riyadh, there is hardly any grass. But the good thing is, after the formation of the SACF, things are changing, we have heard that there is work in progress for turf wicket here, so that’s great news.”

Obaidullah Zaman from Afghanistan, who is working in Riyadh for several years and plays cricket with the Mark Cricket Academy in Al-Mashael District every Friday, is happy with the pace of change, saying: “We are really excited to see the development around cricket in Saudi Arabia with the federation planning to have professional cricket academies, more grounds, better facilities with entertainment and other services around them to attract Saudi as well as the diaspora to the game. I look forward to finding a place in the national team either here or in my Afghan team, so I come religiously to practice at my academy and be prepared to play the matches organized by the RCA.”

Mohamed Sauky, a Sri Lankan expat playing cricket in Riyadh, told Arab News: “We are very passionate about cricket. My favorite cricketer is Angelo Mathews from Sri Lanka. One day I aspire to be like him and represent the national team, therefore, I participate in all the training sessions by the RCA and as a result I am the highest wicket taker so far this season. With the coaching facilities, practice sessions on the net and practice matches, we are enhancing our skill. Playing together, we the South Asian diaspora enjoy our diversity and share our experiences to help each other in enhancing the skill to become a better player.”

Kannan K. Gopi, an Indian who has lived here for decades and plays cricket, was selected in the Saudi national cricket team to play the 40 overs tournament, but could not join because of the age factor. He still joins the players in the practice sessions and also coaches new players aspiring to be professional cricketers making it to the national team.

Sharing old memories, Gopi said: “Earlier, expats formed some clubs to play the game, now things are progressing well. We are looking forward to our favorite sport taking a big leap in the Kingdom, with the SACF keen to introduce a series of programs and domestic leagues.”

Speaking to Arab News last year regarding the plans, Prince Saud said: “Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the region with the biggest number of teams and players. So there will be leagues on all levels. We have developed throughout our time in the federation great relationships with the International Cricket Council, the global governing body of cricket, and the Asian Cricket Council, the organization that promotes and develops the sport of cricket in Asia, as well as some successful international cricket boards and big cricketers globally.”

High-profile figures from the world of cricket have offered their expertise and backing for cricket in the Kingdom.

Pakistani greats Wasin Akram and Shoaib Akhter, Indian pacer Irfan Pathan, and British cricketer Kevin Pietersen have been in Riyadh and met the SACF chief to discuss cricket and share expertise on how to develop the game.


Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Pakistani woman cricketer Nida Dar completes 100 ODI wickets

  • Dar becomes second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat in her 108th ODI match against West Indies
  • Prior to her, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone, has 151 wickets from 120 ODIs

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani off-spinner Nida Dar on Sunday achieved her 100th One-Day International (ODI) wicket as her side lost their second game to West Indies at the National Stadium in Karachi.
This was 108th ODI match played by Dar, who became the second Pakistani woman to achieve the feat.
“Congratulations to Nida Dar being the second Pakistani female player to get over a hundred ODI wickets,” Lisa Sthalekar, former Australian woman cricketer and broadcaster, commented after the Pakistan-West Indies match.
“This shows you the long journey she has had. She is a fiercely character that loves that competitiveness.”
Prior to Dar, former Pakistan captain Sana Mir reached the milestone. She has taken 151 wickets from 120 ODIs.
In July 2021, the International Cricket Council announced that Dar had become the country’s first cricketer, male or female, to take more than 100 wickets in Twenty20 internationals.
She had accomplished the feat while playing a match against West Indies, though Pakistan were defeated in that game too.


Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

Updated 21 April 2024
Follow

Nikola Jokic leads NBA champions Nuggets past LeBron James, Lakers

  • The Nuggets continue dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings
  • Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers also win their NBA playoff openers

LOS ANGELES: The defending champion Denver Nuggets, powered by 32 points from Nikola Jokic, shook off a slow start to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 114-103 in game one of their NBA playoffs first-round series on Saturday.
The Nuggets, who swept the Lakers in four games in the Western Conference finals on the way to their first title last season, continued their dominance of star-studded Los Angeles, who had dropped all three regular-season meetings.
The game was the finale of the first day of the playoffs, which saw the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Phoenix Suns 120-95, the New York Knicks beat the Philadelphia 76ers 111-104 and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Orlando Magic 97-83.
In Denver, Jokic added 12 rebounds and seven assists, Jamal Murray added 22 points with 10 assists and Michael Porter Jr. scored 19 for the Nuggets, who used a 13-0 scoring run to take charge in the third quarter — in which they limited the Lakers to 18 points.
James scored 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds and Anthony Davis added 27 for the Lakers, who cut a 15-point deficit early in the fourth quarter to six only for the Nuggets to pull away again.
Jokic’s only three-pointer of the game pushed the Nuggets’ lead to 103-93. He added a dunk over James, who took a hard fall with a minute remaining but stayed in the game to the bitter end.
“Mindset needed to change,” Jokic said of the Nuggets’ third-quarter resurgence. “I think for the second half defense was amazing.”
Lakers coach Darvin Ham said the Nuggets’ 15-6 superiority in offensive rebounding was key as Denver piled up 18 second-chance points.
“You can’t allow them to get multiple possessions,” said Ham, who added that he still believed the best-of-seven series, which resumes Monday, will be a “hard fought” affair.
In Minneapolis, Anthony Edwards scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half as the Minnesota Timberwolves thrashed Kevin Durant and the Phoenix Suns in their Western Conference clash.
Against a team that also had their number in the regular season, Minnesota’s Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert — bolstered by a strong supporting cast — turned the tables.
Towns scored 19 points, Gobert added 14 points and 16 rebounds and the Timberwolves reserves — led by 18 points from Nickeil Alexander-Walker — out-scored the Suns bench 41-18.
Up by 10 at halftime, the Timberwolves took full control in the third quarter, with Edwards scoring 18 points and taking the opportunity to needle Durant.
“I think everybody here knows that’s my favorite player of all time,” Edwards said of two-time NBA champ Durant. “That was probably one of the best feelings ever in my whole life, for sure.”
Durant finished with 31 points and seven rebounds. Devin Booker added 18 and Bradley Beal 15, but the Suns couldn’t find a way through the Timberwolves’ stifling defense keyed by Gobert.
“It’s just one game,” Edwards said. “They’re going to be ready the next time we play them.”
In New York, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart scored 22 points apiece for the Knicks and Miles McBride came up big off the bench with 21 — 13 of them in the second quarter.
The 76ers got a jolt shortly before halftime when NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid came down from a highlight reel dunk and appeared to hurt his surgically repaired left knee.
He returned for the third quarter coming up with a steal and feeding Kelly Oubre Jr. for a dunk that gave the Sixers a three-point lead late in the period.
The Sixers, led by 33 points from Tyrese Maxey, couldn’t stay in front, and with less than two minutes remaining Hart drilled a pair of three-pointers and OG Anunoby made another to help the Knicks seal it.
The Knicks host game two on Monday, with the Sixers breathing a sigh of relief that Embiid, who finished with 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists, apparently will be ready as they try to even the series.
In Cleveland, Donovan Mitchell scored 30 points and Jarrett Allen added 16 points and 18 rebounds to lead the Cavaliers in a wire-to-wire victory that Allen hoped would set the tone for their Eastern Conference series.
“We keep saying ‘throw the first punch,’” Allen said in an on-court postgame interview. “I think it was the perfect example tonight.”
Orlando’s Paolo Banchero scored 24 points but had nine of the Magic’s 12 turnovers.


‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

‘On a roll’: Travis Head blitz fires Sunrisers Hyderabad to 266 and big IPL win

  • Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287

NEW DELHI: Australia’s Travis Head smashed 89 off 32 balls to lead Sunrisers Hyderabad to another huge IPL total of 266-7 in a crushing 67-run victory over Delhi Capitals on Saturday.
Hyderabad have twice broken records this season with IPL totals of 277 and 287 and threatened to breach the mark once again at Delhi’s Arun Jaitley Stadium.
Delhi skipper Rishabh Pant won the toss and put Hyderabad into bat on a batting-friendly pitch, which produced the fourth highest total of the T20 tournament.
Delhi were bowled out for 199 in 19.1 overs, with left-arm quick T Natarajan returning impressive figures of 4-19.
Hyderabad jumped to second spot behind Rajasthan Royals with five wins in seven matches.
Head remained the hero after he blasted a 16-ball 50 in an explosive opening stand with fellow left-hander Abhishek Sharma to tear into the opposition attack as Hyderabad reached 100 in five overs and 125 in six.
“On a bit of a roll there,” Head said of his form after he took second place in the batting chart with 324 runs including a century and two fifties. “Enjoyable, boys are on a roll.”
He said: “When you’re in good form, just trying to keep it simple. Reacted to the ball.”
Head and Sharma hit 12 sixes between them as the innings witnessed a joint IPL record of 22 hit over the fence and Hyderabad equalled their effort from the previous match when they smashed 287-3 in a win over Royal Challengers Bengaluru early this week.
Left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav checked the carnage with two wickets in the seventh over as he sent back Sharma, out for 46 off 12 balls, and then Aiden Markram, for one.
Hyderabad then lost two wickets in the space of two deliveries after Kuldeep dismissed Head and fellow spinner Axar Patel bowled Heinrich Klaasen, for 15, at the start of the next over.
Shahbaz Ahmed then steadied the innings and kept up the attack as he hammered an unbeaten 59 off 29 balls.
Ahmed, a left-handed batsman, put on 67 runs with Nitish Kumar Reddy, who made 37, before Kuldeep dismissed Reddy to finish with four wickets.
Hyderabad lost two wickets in the final over including skipper Pat Cummins to a run out but Ahmed reached his first IPL fifty with a four and ended the innings with a six.
“I think powerplay was the difference,” said Pant.
“We were just catching up throughout the match. That was the massive difference. Hopefully we will come back with more thought process and clear mindset.”
Washington Sundar came in as the impact player in place of Head as Hyderabad added a spinner to defend the total.
Sundar opened the bowling and was hit for four straight boundaries by Prithvi Shaw, who was Delhi’s impact player, but got his revenge on the fifth when he dismissed the opener for 16.
David Warner fell to Bhuvneshwar Kumar for one before up and coming Australian batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk smacked an 18-ball 65 and put on 84 runs with Abishek Porel, who hit 42.
Leg-spinner Mayank Markande dismissed the pair and the rest of the batting failed to live up to the challenge despite Pant’s 44.
fk/mw


US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

Updated 21 April 2024
Follow

US tops medal tally in World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships in Riyadh

  • More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries
  • US first with 11 medals, Italy second with 14, France third with 6

RIYADH: American fencers won 11 medals to top the table of medal winners at the World Cadets and Juniors Fencing Championships, which concluded in Riyadh on Saturday.
Sheikh Salem Al-Qasimi, president of the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations, and Abdul Muneim Al-Husseini, vice president of the International Fencing Federation, crowned the winners on the final day of the championships held in King Saud University’s Arena Hall.
More than 1,700 athletes represented over 100 countries during the competition, which took place on April 12-20.


The US team won the gold medal in the Sabre (team) under 20, defeating Romania who won silver, while Italy won bronze.
Lamia Al-Fawzan, a member of the Saudi Fencing Federation board, and Ahmed Al-Sabaan, president of the Saudi Fencing Federation, awarded the winners of the Sabre (female teams) under 20. France won gold after beating Italy, while Hungary won bronze.
Al-Sabaan presented the championships’ flag to the representative of China as the upcoming hosts of the 2025 edition.
American fencers won four gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals. Italy came second on the table of medalists with 14 medals — two gold, five silver and seven bronze. France ranked third with six medals — two gold, one silver and three bronze.
The organizing committee honored the participating sponsors: MOTUS, Al-Arabiya, Dr. Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospital, Gormet, Nova, and the Hadaya Alam Association.


Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

Updated 20 April 2024
Follow

Silva strikes late as Man City sink Chelsea to reach FA Cup final

  • Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal
  • Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time

LONDON: Bernardo Silva fired Manchester City back into the FA Cup final as the Portugal midfielder’s late strike sealed the holders’ 1-0 win against Chelsea at Wembley on Saturday.
Pep Guardiola’s side were second best for long periods of the semifinal, but Chelsea wasted a string of chances before Silva delivered the knockout blow six minutes from full-time.
Shaken by their Champions League quarter-final loss against Real Madrid on penalties in midweek, City took a while to shake off the gloom from the end of their treble bid.
They were hampered by the absence of Norway striker Erling Haaland after he suffered a knock against Real, with Julian Alvarez unable to make an impact as his replacement.
City were bailed out by Chelsea striker Nicolas Jackson’s profligacy and Guardiola will hope the hard-fought success provides a timely lift as they chase a Premier League and FA Cup double.
City face Manchester United or Coventry, who meet on Sunday, in the final on May 25 and will retain the Premier League title if they win their last six games.
It will be City’s 13th final in the competition and potentially a repeat of last year’s 2-1 win over United in the Wembley Manchester derby.
Beaten by Liverpool in the League Cup final in February, Chelsea’s wait to win their first domestic trophy since the 2018 FA Cup goes on for another season.
It was a bitter blow for Blues boss Mauricio Pochettino, who has endured a difficult first season in charge and remains without silverware in England.
The semifinal was billed as in-form Chelsea forward Cole Palmer’s chance to punish his old club for selling him to the Blues in September.
Guardiola said Palmer was asking to leave City for two years before he eventually joined Chelsea, where he has scored 23 goals in all competitions this, including 11 in his last six games.
Palmer, who scored four times in Monday’s 6-0 rout of Everton, was a constant threat for Chelsea, but ultimately it was his team’s lack of killer instinct that proved decisive.
Palmer’s pin-point pass sent Jackson racing into the City area early on, but his strike lacked the accuracy to beat Stefan Ortega in a miss that foreshadowed Chelsea’s fate.
Jackson wasted a golden opportunity to give Chelsea the goal their dominance deserved.
Enzo Fernandez’s pass split the City defense, but Jackson opted to go around Ortega rather than shoot and the chance was gone as Nathan Ake scurried back to clear.
Playing with more purpose and quality than City, Pochettino’s team threatened again as Palmer cleverly shimmied past Rodri for a low drive from 12 yards that was well saved by Ortega.
It was the first time lethargic City had failed to muster a first half shot on target since a game against Everton in February.
Jackson, in the midst of a terrible debut season, was put clean through on goal by Conor Gallagher immediately after the interval.
But the much-maligned striker’s shot was palmed away by Ortega, who clawed away a close-range header from Jackson seconds later.
City finally tested Djordje Petrovic through Phil Foden’s snap-shot, but the Serbian was equal to his powerful strike.
Chelsea appealed in vain for a penalty when Jack Grealish’s arm blocked Palmer’s free-kick, while Moises Caicedo was fortunate to escape a second booking for a crunching tackle that forced Grealish to limp off.
Grealish’s replacement Jeremy Doku drew an immediate save from Petrovic with a near-post blast.
Doku’s presence lifted City and the Belgian played a part as they stole the victory in the 84th minute.
Advancing with intent toward the Chelsea area, Doku slipped a pass to Kevin de Bruyne, whose low cross was pushed out by Petrovic to Silva for a close-range finish that deflected home as Guardiola punched the air in relief.