The big hitters and class closers in Arab News’ IPL XI 2018

Sunrisers Hyderabad captain Kane Williamson (L) and Chennai Super Kings captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni pose with the Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy during the pre-match press conference ahead of the 2018 IPL Twenty20 final cricket match between Chennai Super Kings and Sunrisers Hyderabad in Mumbai on May 26, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018

The big hitters and class closers in Arab News’ IPL XI 2018

LONDON: At the end of the most competitive Indian Premier League (IPL) season since the competition began in 2008, picking an XI from the eight franchises is harder than ever. We will play by the rules though. In the IPL, no team can field more than four foreign players — our XI has the same composition.

KL Rahul: Had his teammates not underperformed so badly, Rahul’s batting would have taken Kings XI Punjab into the playoffs. He scored six half-centuries for a team in which only one other batsman crossed 350 runs for the season.

Jos Buttler: A man transformed after being asked to open, Buttler’s innovative and powerful strokeplay were instrumental in Rajasthan Royals sneaking into the playoffs. With Ben Stokes having a poor season, it was all the more important that he stepped up.

Kane Williamson: Did not have the impact he would have liked in the playoffs, but with eight half-centuries in the league phase, he was a byword for consistency. Shouldered the burden of captaincy and a weak batting side.

Rishabh Pant: He destroyed Bhuvneshwar Kumar, the league’s best bowler in previous seasons, while making a 63-ball 128 against table-topping Hyderabad. Despite Delhi’s season never taking off, Pant was relentless, pounding out the runs at a heady rate.

MS Dhoni: Smashed 30 sixes as he rediscovered his batting mojo. His three half-centuries were as many as he had made in three previous seasons, and his leadership was marked by the usual glacial calm. Got an aging side past the finish line.

Dinesh Karthik: Some would say he overachieved by taking a new-look Kolkata side into the playoffs. But for a heroic display from Rashid Khan, they could even have made the final. Rotated his bowlers cleverly and was exceptional at closing out tight games with the bat.

Krunal Pandya: Hardik Pandya may have the India cap and the rockstar image, but it was his older brother who was more consistent for Mumbai Indians. Krunal was his tidy self with the ball, and he offered a big-hitting option down the order, scoring faster than his sibling.

Rashid Khan: Probably the best T20 bowler in the world. He has been around a couple of seasons now, but so few batsmen continue to pick him from the hand. He is usually too quick to play off the pitch. The list of batsmen he flummoxed — Kohli, de Villiers and Dhoni included — reads like a who’s who of the game.

Deepak Chahar: He was the perfect sidekick for Lungi Ngidi, swinging the new ball accurately and giving little away. After a few seasons of struggle in domestic cricket, he is back in the limelight.

Umesh Yadav: A regular wicket-taker for a Bangalore side that had few others. Whether he pitched full or short, Yadav’s pace made him a potent threat. He and Yuzvendra Chahal seemed to be the only bowlers Kohli trusted.

Andrew Tye: Another whose stellar displays could not cover up the inadequacies of his Punjab teammates. The Tye knuckle-ball confounded most and played a massive part in the team starting the season 5-2.

‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

Updated 11 July 2020

‘Fight Island’ concept debuts in Abu Dhabi on Sunday

  • Plan to be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island

DUBAI: When mixed martial arts supremo Dana White first floated his “Fight Island” concept, with its echoes of the Bruce Lee blockbuster “Enter the Dragon” where fighters were drawn into combat at a private getaway, eyebrows were raised.

“‘Fight Island’ is real. It’s a real thing,” said the Ultimate Fighting Championship boss when he announced the plan in April. “The infrastructure’s being built right now, and that’s really going to happen.”

White’s vision will be unveiled on Sunday with the staging of the 13-fight UFC 251 event on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.

The event will be headlined by a welterweight world title encounter between the Nigerian-American champion Kamaru Usman and Cuban-American challenger Jorge Masvidal.

It’s one of four “Fight Island” cards to be staged without an audience inside an arena on the resort and entertainment island throughout July, kicking off with three world title bouts and a title challenge eliminator.

Usman said during a virtual media event that he had been impressed by what he’d seen since arriving in the UAE on Thursday.

“I’m grateful for everything that’s been done,” said Usman, gunning for the second defense of his title. “All the precautions have been taken. After I go out there on Saturday and get my hand raised I’ll be glad to be heading home COVID-free.”

The UFC has made the move to Abu Dhabi from its Las Vegas base in an effort to isolate its fighters during the coronavirus pandemic.

Safety has been a major motivator, as has the promoter’s need to keep staging events — and collecting revenue — during a crisis that has shut down or forced massive overhauls to the staging of the world’s major sporting events.

Strict lockdown measures have been imposed on athletes, their entourages, officials, staff and media for the duration of their stay on Yas Island, on a site that has been completely sealed off until the event concludes on July 26.

Tests were taken before people arrived — initial headliner Gilbert Burns of Brazil failed, and stayed home, Masvidal’s coach Mike Brown suffered the same fate — and after landing there has been more testing, and 48 hours in-room quarantine.

“We were able to lock away with some mats and pads in our room and keep training as much as we could,” said Russian welterweight Muslim Salikhov, who fights Brazil’s Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in Sunday’s preliminaries.

“The main thing everyone is saying is that we are here, and we are ready to fight because that’s what we do for a living.”

Abu Dhabi’s executive director of tourism and marketing, Ali Al-Shaiba, said protocols were stringent in the expansive “safe zone,” patrolled by police and expected to house around 2,000 people for the duration of the month-long event. Staff will be tested every 72 hours.