Rashid Khan emerges as new hero for Sunrisers Hyderabad — it’s just a shame the ground was less than a third full

Rajasthan Royals' Jos Buttler is bowled by Rashid Khan during the IPL match in Hyderabad. (AP)
Updated 10 April 2018
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Rashid Khan emerges as new hero for Sunrisers Hyderabad — it’s just a shame the ground was less than a third full

  • Afghanistan star takes two fine catches and bowls Jos Buttler
  • But cost of tickets and location of stadium result in poor attendance
The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium isn’t the easiest venue to get to. The traffic can be a nightmare and the staircases and passages in the stadium’s innards resemble the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Along with Mohali, where Kings XI Punjab have made the playoffs in just two of ten seasons, this is an Indian Premier League (IPL) ground that struggles to put backsides on seats, inexpensive or posh.
By the league’s standards, the tickets are moderately priced, with the cheapest at 500 rupees, and the costliest a little less than 4,000. But when only 18,886 turn up at a venue that can accommodate 60,000, you know there’s a problem. More than a decade ago, Indian cricket made a conscious decision to abandon dilapidated old stadiums in the heart of cities for more modern ones on their outskirts. The problem in cities like Hyderabad and Nagpur is that they are so far out it may as well be in another city. When even a rickshaw back into town costs you upwards of 300 rupees, the average punter just isn’t going to fork out.
For Hyderabad, the problem is twofold. Thanks to the Sandpaper-gate fiasco, they have also lost the captain who led them to the title in 2016, while smashing 848 runs along the way. David Warner would both bang the drum and lead from the front, and his replacement, Kane Williamson, left no one in any doubt as to his worth.
“I don’t think anyone can replace Davey,” he said after leading Hyderabad to a facile nine-wicket win against Rajasthan. The fans, however, are slightly more conflicted. “He was a great captain,” said Manmohan Singh, an executive director with a Swiss investment bank based in the city. “The team is undoubtedly weaker without him.
“At the same time, it’s probably a good thing he’s out. When there are integrity issues around, it’s never easy for people to believe in the team or the leader.”
In contrast to the sheer bedlam outside the grounds in Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai — where crowds in excess of 10,000 watched practice games — the atmosphere in Hyderabad was fairly subdued. The hawkers selling cut-price jerseys and flags were far fewer in number, and the stadium DJ often had to exhort the crowd to pump up the volume.
Jaipur is 1,500km away from Hyderabad, and it was understandable that there was little by way of royal blue on the terraces. Back in the early years of the league, when Shane Warne was sprinkling some stardust around, Rajasthan were the neutrals’ team. These days, they inspire no such loyalty.
And it was not as though Hyderabad needed the proverbial 12th man to see off a Rajasthan side that were so poor on the night. Warner may not have been there as Pied Piper, but the thousands dotted across the stands had a new hero to acclaim.
A year ago, in his first IPL season, Rashid Khan was still an associate player. Now, Afghanistan are two months away from their first Test in Bangalore, and Rashid has led them to the 2019 World Cup as well. He elicited some of the biggest cheers of the night for sensational running catches that dismissed Ajinkya Rahane and Sanju Samson, and the googly that made a mess of Jos Buttler’s stumps. His arched-back celebration, with shades of Shahid Afridi, got the most animated response from the Orange army.
In a match that featured Ben Stokes, the most expensive auction recruit, Williamson, Buttler and Bhuvneshwar Kumar, it was the teenager from cricket’s Cinderella side that was the standout performer. And an adoring crowd weren’t shy of letting him know it.


Egypt's Olympic body ratifies sanctions on Zamalek chief

Updated 21 October 2018
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Egypt's Olympic body ratifies sanctions on Zamalek chief

  • Zamalek teams would be given until Oct. 28 to play home matches, but would lose the privilege if Mansour does not make himself available by that date for questioning by the Olympic committee

CAIRO (AP) — The general assembly of the Egyptian Olympic Committee has ratified a two-year suspension of the chairman of one of Egypt's top soccer clubs.
Comprising national sports federations, the assembly decided on Saturday to write to President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi about the "illegal" use by Murtada Mansour of Zamalek FC of his parliamentary immunity to escape legal proceedings over financial irregularities and verbal abuse of sports figures.
It said Zamalek teams would be given until Oct. 28 to play home matches, but would lose the privilege if Mansour does not make himself available by that date for questioning by the Olympic committee.
Mansour has for years been a thorn in the side of Egypt's sports scene, with his use of profanities a feature of his TV appearances.