Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament

Virender Sehwag could be one of the stars playing cricket in Saudi Arabia. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2018
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Saudi Arabia in the market to stage T10 cricket tournament

BANGALORE: Saudi Arabia, in keeping with its desire to host elite sporting events, could soon stage a T10 cricket competition, as the tournament — held with much fanfare in Sharjah last December — looks to spread its wings and establish a following across continents.
Shaji Ul Mulk, the chairman of the T10 League and its creator, signalled his intention this week “to take T10 global” and the general manager of the venue that hosted the first staging of the tournament in December revealed the Kingdom was being considered as a serious option to stage a franchise event of the shortest form of the game.
“Saudi Arabia has shown a lot of interest and is keen to stage the (T10) event at the earliest opportunity,” said Mazhar Khan, general manager of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium. “The first final was watched by a 15,000-capacity crowd and, according to ground officials, another 7,000 people were left outside.”
The first T10 tournament was telecast in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, and featured stars such as Virender Sehwag, Eoin Morgan and Shahid Afridi. Those still playing at the highest level included Dwayne Bravo, Mohammed Amir, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Alex Hales. Kerala Kings, a franchise owned by Ul Mulk and captained by Morgan, won the competition.
Purists may bemoan the idea of a T10 hit-out in the unlikely setting of Saudi Arabia, but if it helps to spread the game, as Ul Mulk hopes it will, there will be few complaints. It could also help cricket finally establish a foothold in the Kingdom and be the spur to reach the standards set by Middle East neighbors the UAE and Oman. Nearly a decade ago, Saudi Arabia shocked the UAE in the 2008 ACC Trophy Elite in Kuala Lampur, but there have been few other achievements since.
Now, the large expatriate population, many from the subcontinent, can potentially look ahead to seeing some of their cricket heroes in the flesh.
The admission that talks are underway is further evidence of the General Sports Authority’s ambition to increase and diversify its portfolio of sports events. Boxing promoter Kalle Sauerland told Arab News earlier this month that “some of the plans that the Saudis have to bring big sporting events are very ambitious” and a tournament featuring cricket’s marquee names would definitely fall into that bracket.
Until this year, sport in Saudi Arabia has almost been synonymous with football. The national team reached the second round of the World Cup in the US in 1994, with Saeed Al-Owairan scoring one of the greatest goals in the competition’s history in the 1-0 victory over Belgium. The King Fahd Cup, held in 1992 and 1995, was the precursor to the Confederations Cup, which the Kingdom hosted in 1997.
But recently, the horizons have widened. The King Abdulaziz Horse Championship, with a total prize money of $17 million, has just been announced, and earlier this year the country hosted the Saudi PSA Women’s Squash Masters. February’s Race of Champions, won by David Coulthard, was the first-ever motorsport to take place in the Kingdom.
Boxing aficionados, meanwhile, can look forward to one of the bouts of the year in May when Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev touch gloves to decide who will be the undisputed cruiserweight champion of the world.


Unai Emery wants Arsenal to treat Al-Nasr friendly as if it was a Premier League clash

Updated 25 March 2019
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Unai Emery wants Arsenal to treat Al-Nasr friendly as if it was a Premier League clash

  • Gunners to open Al-Maktoum Stadium with friendly against Dubai side.
  • Emery calls for focus ahead of such for Champions League spot.

LONDON: Unai Emery has told his Arsenal team to take today’s friendly against Al-Nasr seriously as they aim to grab a top-four spot in the Premier League.
The north London side are in Dubai for warm-weather training during the international break. They currently lie fourth in the Premier League and would qualify for the Champions League if they were to stay there. And Emery wants Mesut Oil and Co. to treat the Al-Nasr match as if it was a key clash in the battle for a European spot.
“For us it’s very important to continue being competitive in each match,” the Gunners boss said.
“It’s a friendly against Al-Nasr, but we can use different players and take more confidence and rhythm for the next matches that are coming. And the first of that is against Newcastle.
“If we were in London, then we would have been doing the same things that we are doing here.
“The main thing for us is to have the continuity going into this friendly match where all of our players get an opportunity (to play).
“We need to give the players a platform to remain confident and keep their rhythm heading into the remainder of the season.”
The players have been out and about in Dubai trying to get some relaxation in before the final straight of the season. They have been spotted on a bus tour of the emirate, visited the Dubai Frame and four players — Rob Holding, Danny Welbeck, Hector Bellerin and Petr Cech — visited a children’s hospital to dish out gifts.
Of the trip to Dubai Emery added: “The atmosphere is continuing like in London and we’re also enjoying a big city and the very kind people with us. They’re giving us all the good things to continue our work.
“We are happy to see our fans and happy with our work here with the big facilities.
”And in preparing also for the match on Tuesday with Al-Nasr and enjoying the city. We are also very happy with all the people who are giving us everything to make it easy to work and to stay here.”
The Gunners will face Benat San Jose’s Al-Nasr side to officially open Al-Maktoum Stadium — which was refurbished for the Asian Cup.
Emery will be without a number of first-team faces, with many currently on international duty. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Mohammed Elneny just four of the names who will be missing.
The lack of many first-team regulars means Emery has a chance to look at some young players as he readies the squad for the last two months of the season. Of all the top-four hopefuls — the Gunners are battling it out with Tottenham, Chelsea and Manchester United — Arsenal’s run-in is the easiest. They no longer have to face any top-six side and, but they do have five away games out of their remaining nine matches.
Of the training in Dubai striker Alexandre Lacazette added: “It’s interesting for the club. We have to say thank you. For us, it’s a pleasure to play in this match.”