Cricket’s ‘magic’ up in smoke without live audience: Kohli

India's Virat Kohli says playing cricket without fans around is not fun. (Reuters File Photo)
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Updated 09 May 2020

Cricket’s ‘magic’ up in smoke without live audience: Kohli

NEW DELHI: India captain Virat Kohli believes cricket will be robbed of its “magical moments” if games are forced into empty stadiums when the sport emerges from its pandemic lockdown.

“It might happen. I honestly don’t know how everyone’s going to be able to take that, because we are used to playing in front of so many passionate people,” said the star batsman.

“It will be played at a very good intensity, but that feel of the crowd connecting with the players, everyone feeling that tension around the stadium, those emotions are difficult to recreate,” he told the Star Sports television channel.

The coronavirus pandemic has halted all major sports and cricket is suffering without its cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL) which should now be reaching its final stages.

“We will play the sport how it’s supposed to be played but those magical moments would be very difficult to come by,” Kohli said.

Some European football leagues are already making plans to restart in empty stadiums.

But the IPL has not announced its intentions and there are now major doubts on whether the Twenty20 World Cup will start in Australia in October.

The International Cricket Council has said it is “exploring all options” for the tournament.

Australia’s wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey, who was to play for the Delhi Capitals in the IPL, said it would be a “hollow feeling” if games are played in front of empty stands.

“Cricket as we’re used to is going to be different for a bit. There’s the T20 World Cup and the IPL that we’re all looking to play, but it’s hard to picture anything without the fans,” Carey said in an instagram session with Delhi’s official website.

“It’s going to be a hollow feeling, but I feel the fans will at least have some live cricket to look forward to on TV.”

Australia batsman Usman Khawaja, meanwhile, said that playing against India behind closed doors in the much-anticipated test series at the end of the year might end up being an advantage for the home side.

“It’s definitely an advantage” he told Fox Sports News with a laugh on Saturday. “I remember the last time they came over for a one-day series, the roar for India was much bigger.

“Especially in Melbourne, the amount of expats they have over there, they flock in. And when India’s on top they really let you know it.

“It’s a really weird feeling. When you’re in India, you expect to be outnumbered massively but you can be outnumbered in Melbourne, as well as Sydney to some extent also.”

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Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

Updated 12 August 2020

Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

  • A victory against Leipzig will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since 2017

LISBON: So far so good for Atletico Madrid in the quest for their first Champions League title.

Diego Simeone’s team have caught all the breaks going into the decisive final-eight tournament in Lisbon.

Old foes Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are gone. They drew Leipzig instead of a more traditional powerhouse for the quarterfinals. And their rival lost its top player after Timo Werner left for Chelsea. Even when things went wrong and the squad was hit by COVID-19, Atletico avoided the worst as only two players were infected and they could still make the trip to Portugal.

Things have been looking good for Simeone and his players.

A victory against Leipzig on Thursday will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since it was eliminated by Ronaldo’s Madrid in the last four in 2017. Ronaldo and Madrid had defeated Atletico in the final in 2014 and 2016, and also ended the rival’s run in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Ronaldo again was Atletico’s nemesis last season after joining Juventus. Atletico lost to the Italian team in the round of 16 after Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the decisive second leg in Turin.

But this time Ronaldo and Juventus were eliminated by Lyon in the last 16, the same stage in which Madrid were knocked out of the tournament by Manchester City. Only two past champions are still left in the competition — Barcelona and Bayern Munich — and they play against each other in the opposite side of the draw, meaning Atletico could only meet one of them in the final.

Leipzig are a relative newcomer to the Champions League, having reached the group stage only twice. This is the first time they made it to the knockout round. They eliminated Tottenham in the round of 16, but now they won't count on top scorer Werner, who did not extend his contract by a few weeks to finish the season with the German club before moving to Chelsea.

Atletico stunned defending European champion Liverpool in the last 16, advancing after a 3-2 win in England.

“The game against Liverpool will go down in history and was one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” Atletico striker Diego Costa said. “It gave fans high expectations and we will give our best to try to meet those expectations. Hopefully we will play well and luck will stay on our side.”

Costa said Atletico will not take Leipzig lightly despite  the rival’s lack of experience in international competitions.

“They are very strong on the ball and know what they are about,” he said. “They have made it to the quarterfinals and have no pressure.”

There was a scare within Atletico this week when it announced two positive test results for COVID-19 among the group that was traveling to Lisbon. There were concerns that an outbreak within the club could have affected the team’s participation in the tournament in Portugal, but new tests showed that only Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko were infected and the squad could travel to Lisbon.

Vrsaljko was not even going to play because he is nursing an injury, while Correa isn't among Atletico’s top stars even though he led the team in assists this season.

After coming agonizingly close recently, Atletico hope the breaks will keep going their way and that they  will finally get to lift the coveted European trophy.