T20’s original trailblazer Yuvraj Singh in danger of being left behind by IPL

In six innings for Kings XI Punjab this season in the IPL, Yuvraj Singh has eked out a dismal 65 runs. (AFP)
Updated 17 May 2018
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T20’s original trailblazer Yuvraj Singh in danger of being left behind by IPL

  • From the heady heights of 6 sixes of Stuart Broad in 2007, Yuvraj Singh has failed to light up the IPL
  • In six innings for Kings XI Punjab this season, Singh has eked out a dismal 65 runs

BANGALORE: Who let the Twenty20 genie out of the bottle? If that was a quiz question, the most common answer would be Lalit Modi, who first envisioned and then implemented the Indian Premier League (IPL). But that is not really the correct response.
Modi became a vice president and one of the most influential officials of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in late 2005. Even when the India team journeyed to the Caribbean in March 2007 to contest the World Cup, the IPL was not a dot on the horizon.
Nearly four years after England started its domestic Twenty20 competition, and Australia, Pakistan and South Africa followed suit, India showed no inclination to embrace what was considered a hit-and-giggle format. The standard response from BCCI office-bearers, Modi excepted, was derision.
That they then held a domestic T20 tournament in April 2007 was down to circumstances, and not any real desire. The team’s shocking World Cup exit, after losses to Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, had left a huge hole in the calendar and the hastily arranged tournament saw some suitably chastened superstars in action.
But attitudes did not change. At the end of a marathon tour of England in September 2007, several senior players including Sachin Tendulkar were not included in the squad for the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa. MS Dhoni, who had been a regular in the side for just two seasons, was made captain of a youthful side that journeyed to the southern cape with no great fanfare.
Then, Yuvraj Singh happened. The six sixes off Stuart Broad in Durban, after Andrew Flintoff had made the mistake of riling him with words, changed everything. Overnight, from being conscientious objectors, a huge chunk of Indian cricket fans embraced T20 adrenaline.
Yuvraj did not stop there. A 34-ball 70 inspired victory over mighty Australia in the semifinal. Again, the fluency with which he teed off captured imaginations, and the final against arch-rivals Pakistan became one of the most watched events in India’s TV history.
Within months, Modi’s blueprint, which dozens of people had turned down for over a decade, became lucrative, multi-billion-dollar reality. And all because a young man did not take too kindly to being sledged.
When the IPL began, Yuvraj found himself on home turf with Kings XI Punjab. But the heroics that triggered a sea change in the way Indians viewed cricket proved frustratingly elusive. In three seasons with Punjab, he managed just three half-centuries. Then came an underwhelming stint with the now-defunct Pune Warriors, after he had inspired a World Cup win and beaten cancer.
Bangalore broke the bank for him in 2014, paying 140 million rupees ($2 million). But after a decent season (376 runs), he went back under the hammer, with Delhi Daredevils shelling out an eye-watering 160 million rupees. He failed miserably there, and then spent two mediocre years in Hyderabad.
By then, he had already been pushed to the fringes and beyond with the Indian team. His treacle-slow innings was a big factor in India’s loss in the World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka in 2014, and other white-ball comebacks too did not last despite the odd flash of past glory.
But this latest return has been the biggest misstep of all. In six innings for Punjab this season, he has eked out a dismal 65 runs. On Wednesday night, after a magnificent 94 from KL Rahul had set the game up, Yuvraj made a three-ball one, having been sent out to bat after Axar Patel and the hopelessly out-of-sorts Marcus Stoinis. Punjab lost their fourth game on the bounce, by three runs, leaving their qualification hopes in near tatters.
As with Neymar, the fees forked out for Yuvraj down the years would have helped administer a small island nation.
But unlike the mercurial Brazilian with nomadic feet, Yuvraj has seldom delivered on T20 fields. The promise of Durban remained just that. The man who should have been the poster boy of the new league proved to be anything but.
And after the wretched few minutes last night, it would be a major surprise if the IPL saw him again. The player who changed everything has seen the game pass him by.


Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Updated 22 May 2018
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Saudi Arabian football clubs helped with debts by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs
  • Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million)

RIYADH: The General Sports Authority and Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF) have announced that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman will cover all external debts owed by Saudi Professional League clubs.
According to reports, the Crown Prince will provide 1,277,000,000 Saudi riyals (around $340 million) that will not only clear monies owed but also enable clubs to invest ahead of the 2018-19 season.
The issue of debt had become a major issue in the country’s football scene.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs are currently experiencing financial problems that require immediate and urgent intervention,” the General Sports Authority, which oversees Saudi Arabian sport, said in a statement released on social media.
The body noted that there are a total of 107 cases under appeal at world governing body FIFA regarding unpaid salaries in Saudi Arabia.
“Failure to intervene urgently to rescue clubs may result in damage to the reputation of the Kingdom in general and Saudi Arabian sport in particular,” added the GSA.
“Some Saudi Arabian clubs may face severe disciplinary sanctions because of the failure to meet financial obligations such as the
denial of the registration of players in general or the deduction of points.”
Unpaid salaries were also a factor in Al-Ittihad and Al-Nassr being unable to appear in this year’s AFC Champions League after they were denied AFC club licenses.
Al-Ittihad were the club with the highest debt of 309 million riyals ($82 million) and welcomed the news.
“We are delighted by the generous initiative of His Royal Highness,” Al-Ittihad president Nawaf Al-Muqairn said in an official statement released by the two-time Asian champions.
“This contributes to creating solid ground for all clubs to move toward achieving their goals.”
Legendary Saudi striker Sami Al-Jaber, recently appointed president of champions Al-Hilal, announced his gratitude on social media.
“Great thanks to His Highness the Crown Prince for the great support that the clubs have enjoyed which enables sport in our country to keep pace with the aspirations of our leadership,” Al-Jaber wrote.
The Crown Prince’s move followed the SAFF announcing a new raft of regulations in April that will come into effect next season and are designed to take the league forward. These included restricting club spending on transfers and salaries to 70 percent of revenue. The size of first-team squads has been reduced from 33 to 28, of which five must be homegrown players of 23 or younger.