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.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”