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.


‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

Updated 20 June 2018
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‘Good, but not good enough’: Juan Antonio Pizzi on Saudi Arabia’s defeat to Uruguay

  • A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half gave Uruguay a 1-0 win
  • Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance

ROSTOV-ON-DON: Good, but not good enough.
That was what Juan Antonio Pizzi stated as he declared himself pleased with his team’s performance in the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday night.
But he lamented his side’s lack of firepower as they exited the World Cup after just two matches.
Pizzi had spoken passionately about the need for his side to demonstrate a higher level of focus and performance in Rostov-on-Don after losing their opening game 5-0 to hosts Russia in Moscow last week.
The Argentine got his wish with a display that saw the Green Falcons fight throughout and edge possession against a Uruguay side ranked 14th in the world.
A Luis Suaréz goal midway through the first half after poor goalkeeping from Mohammed Al-Owais, however, was enough to hand the Green Falcons a 12th successive World Cup defeat.
The result means that even with a win against Egypt on Monday, the Green Falcons are no longer capable of progressing to the knock-out stages from Group A.
“We had a lot of ball possession and were able to impose our style of play and distribution,” said Pizzi. “We conceded a goal from a random play and didn’t have the weapons or tools to try to equalize. We kept the ball well and weren’t really troubled defensively, but lacked that ability to score.”
Indeed, for all their possession, Saudi Arabia have managed just three shots on target in 180 minutes of football. Against Russia, they failed to muster a single effort on target and the managed just three against Uruguay, two of which came in the final minutes when they knew they had to score or face elimination. None of the three shots came from a striker.
“This is our weakness. We have good ball possession, but no effectiveness. We lack the depth and skill required to win these games,” Pizzi added. “We have that deficiency and have looked for solutions, but we haven’t quite come up with one yet. But that is one of the reasons great forward are in high demand and are the elite players in world football.”
Pizzi had made four changes ahead of the match, dropping goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf in favor of Al-Owais and introducing Ali Al-Bulayhi at the heart of the defense alongside Osama Hawsawi. Further upfield, Hattan Bahberi came in for Yahya Al-Shehri and Fahad Al-Muwallad replaced Mohammed Al-Sahlawi. The changes, particularly the inclusion of Bahberi, seemed to give the side more impetus in midfield.
“The difference between the performance in the first game and this game is enormous,” Pizzi said. “The only way to compete at this level is to play at the level we did here. And even then it was not enough even to get a draw. Undoubtedly there were other factors aside from the pressure of playing in the opening game that made a difference, but it’s true that the difference was enormous.”
Many critics had predicted a deluge of goals from the likes of Suarez and Cavani, yet both were kept at bay. Save for a couple of half-chances early on, neither came close to scoring until the 23rd minute.
A corner from Carlos Sanchez sailed into the area and when Al-Owais came for it but failed to connect with his punch, Barcelona forward Suaréz was left with the simplest of tap-ins. He was so caught off-guard, he actually looked surprised as he reeled away in celebration.
“I believe you cannot be relaxed in any match,” Suarez said when asked by a Uruguayan journalist whether he had taken it easy against the Saudis.
“We wanted to win and to progress to the knock-out stage and this game simply showed how difficult it is. That’s the World Cup for you though and we are obviously delighted with how we have performed so far to progress.”
Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez did not share his striker’s sentiments.
“Saudi Arabia wanted to excel and give a better account of themselves after losing to Russia,” he said.
“They did that very well and we have to respect them. But what surprised me the most is how we played. We underperformed.”