Boost for UAE cricket after national team’s qualification for ICC T20 World Cup

Boost for UAE cricket after national team’s qualification for ICC T20 World Cup
Qualification for the ICC T20 World Cup represents a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for UAE cricket, which failed to qualify for the 2019 tournament. (AFP file photo)
Short Url
Updated 03 March 2022

Boost for UAE cricket after national team’s qualification for ICC T20 World Cup

Boost for UAE cricket after national team’s qualification for ICC T20 World Cup
  • Recent Emirati progress dramatic after failure to qualify for 2019 tournament under cloud of controversy

In last week’s final of the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup 2022 qualifying tournament in Oman, the UAE beat Ireland.

Since, by virtue of winning their semi-finals two days earlier, both teams had qualified for the finals in Australia, it could be argued that this was an insignificant match. However, apart from the prestige of becoming the tournament winner, the result contributes to future ICC rankings.

The other significance of the match was the margin of the UAE’s victory. This was by eight wickets, with Muhammad Waseem scoring 112 runs, following his 70 in the semi-final.

Waseem was spotted in 2017 while playing in Lahore and took up the offer of a residency visa to join a company in Dubai. He became eligible to represent the UAE in April, after completing his three-year residency requirement, as per ICC regulations.

Under these rules, a player can participate in an international match or an ICC event for a national cricket federation when at least one of three criteria has been met. These require that the player was born in the country, able to demonstrate they were a national of the country or had been a resident of the country for the immediately preceding three years prior to a submission being lodged.

In the team which beat Ireland in the final, six players had been born in Pakistan and four in India, arriving in the UAE at differing stages of their lives. Only the captain was born in the Emirates. Qualification for the ICC T20 World Cup represents a dramatic turnaround in fortunes for UAE cricket, which failed to qualify for the 2019 tournament, during which process the team unraveled.

This was caused by the revelation of match-fixing by some of the players. Three players, including the captain, were suspended before the tournament on suspicion of corrupt conduct, which involved trying to influence the outcome of a match in return for money provided by an Indian bookmaker.

In March 2021, after investigation by the ICC, two of them received eight years banishment from the game and one a five-year ban. Later, another two were suspended on suspicion of attempting to influence the course of a qualifying game and others of doing the same in matches between the UAE and the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. In April and July, bans of five and eight years were imposed on these players.

The reported amount of money involved seemed quite small, around $4,000. This has to be placed within the context of the players’ part-time status as cricketers, under which they had to juggle work commitments with their cricket. A number of them played for their company’s team in domestic competitions and were reliant on the company providing leave time to allow participation with the national team.

Given the suspensions of key players and the impact on morale, it is little wonder that the team floundered in its 2019 qualification bid. Recovery from this low point has been astounding.

A change in selection policy has seen the introduction of young players. One example is wicket-keeper batsman, Vriitya Aravind. Aged 19 and still at school in Dubai, he was called into the 2019 T20 World Cup qualifying team to replace the former wicket keeper who had absconded during the tournament. Aravind’s progress since that time has been stellar.

In this year’s ICC T20 World Cup qualifying tournament, the UAE was beaten by Bahrain in the group stage. This meant that each team had two wins and equal points, but the UAE progressed on net run rate. Chasing 173 to win, the UAE needed to reach 158 in order to achieve a superior net run rate. This target was reduced to 32 runs required from 16 deliveries and then 12 from the final over.

This was achieved, quite sensationally by Aravind as, with wickets falling regularly at the other end, he pummeled a series of sixes to not only reach 158 but also to bring his team to within two runs of victory.

There is more young talent available to the selectors. Apart from Aravind, who is now studying in the UK, there are two others, who have played for the national team, who are doing the same.

Previously, only players living and playing their cricket in the UAE were considered for selection. This is no longer the case and young players who move to study abroad may no longer be lost to UAE cricket. It is further hoped that there will be progression to the senior team by players from the under-19s who on Jan. 31 won the U19 World Cup Plate competition.

Another notable advance was the move by the Emirates Cricket Board in December 2020 to extend the number of central contracts to 20, equally divided between full and part-time. Seven of the latter were given to players aged 22 or under.

Young players also featured in the UAE women’s team which won all of its five matches in the Asia qualifying group in November. In the final match against Nepal, Samaira Dharnidharka, 14, bowled a spell of four overs in which she claimed four wickets and conceded only five runs.

These victories claimed a place for the UAE in the ICC Women’s T20 global World Cup Qualifier that will determine the remaining places for the finals of the competition due to be held in South Africa in February 2023.

As a result, UAE cricket is making its presence felt on three fronts, internationally. The shock surrounding the suspension and banning of seven experienced players from the national squad between October 2019 and December 2021 has been addressed.

Both the Emirates Cricket Board and the players have shown impressive resilience to emerge out of the crisis. A new set of selection policies and a trust in youth have earned the right to be pitched on the global stage against the world’s top teams in October.


Five things to look out for as Arab quartet finalize World Cup preparations

Five things to look out for as Arab quartet finalize World Cup preparations
Updated 26 September 2022

Five things to look out for as Arab quartet finalize World Cup preparations

Five things to look out for as Arab quartet finalize World Cup preparations
  • Herve Renard’s Saudi Arabia must produce more firepower upfront, while Qatar’s loss of form is cause for major concern

The four Arab teams preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup had mixed results in the first round of games in this crucial international break. There were plenty of talking points around the games, and below are just five things to look forward to as the quartet wrap up the last official international get-together before the action starts in Qatar on Nov. 20.

1. Saudi Arabia need to score against the US

There were some positives for Saudi Arabia to take from Friday’s 0-0 draw with Ecuador, not least that they avoided a third straight defeat since the end of qualification for the World Cup.

But the Green Falcons have failed to score in 295 minutes of football, and to be honest, they have not looked like scoring very often. In the three friendlies against Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, chances have been few and far between.

In the most recent, there were a couple of opportunities, and Firas Al-Buraikan and Nawaf Al-Abed should have done better with their efforts, but coach Herve Renard needs to find a way to get Salem Al-Dawsari into the game and into areas where he can use his creative talents.

Salman Al-Faraj, with his ability to retain possession and bring composure to the middle of the park, was missed in that regard, and it is vital that the skipper gets fit and stays fit.

There are not many striking options available for Renard so there needs to be goals from all areas of the pitch. Against strong teams like Argentina, Poland and Mexico at the World Cup, Saudi Arabia are going to have to take their limited number of chances and be clinical on the counter and at set pieces. Another failure to score on Tuesday will set the alarm bells ringing.

2. Tunisia get their test against Brazil

The North Africans extended their unbeaten run to seven games on Thursday with a 1-0 win over Comoros. It was not the most fluid of performances from the Carthage Eagles but the real test comes on Tuesday with a game against Brazil in Paris. There is going to be a lot of support for Tunisia at the Parc des Princes and they want to see if this team are the real deal. The wins over Chile and especially Japan in Japan in June were hugely impressive, but now come the five-time world champions.

Tunisia have been placed in a tough group with title-holders France, Denmark and Australia, and will get a great idea of what level they are at the moment against a Brazil team that are in great form. The Selecao have scored 21 goals in the last six games with just one goal conceded, and the standard of opposition has been decent, too.

It is very impressive and means that head coach Jalel Kadri is going to see how well his team can defend against world-class players.

3. Qatar need to rediscover their mojo

The World Cup host started last week with a comprehensive 3-0 loss to Croatia’s U-23 team. Bad results can happen but the 2-0 loss to Canada on Friday was more worrying. The opening period was truly poor, with the two goals from the North Americans both coming in the first 15 minutes.

Qatar’s performance improved after that but the damage had been done. There was a distinct lack of energy and concentration among the players.

Coach Felix Sanchez has really taken the team places over the past few years and it would be disappointing if the 2019 Asian champions were to lose their edge just as the tournament is within touching distance. The wake-up call from the Canadians has to be heard and the game against Chile on Tuesday has become even more important. Whether there is a win or not, there has to be a return to the mentality monsters that won the 2019 continental championships.

4. Moroccan smiles as Ziyech returns

Morocco gave new coach Walid Regragui a 2-0 win over Chile in his first game in charge after being appointed in August. The man who led Wydad to the African Champions League title earlier in the summer was a popular choice to replace Vahid Halilhodzic.

Most of the headlines focused on the return of Hakim Ziyech for the first time since June 2021, with the breakdown of the Chelsea star’s relationship with Halilhodzic being seen as a major reason why the French Bosnian coach was dismissed.

Now Ziyech is back ahead of the World Cup and it is a major boost with tough group games against Belgium, Canada and Croatia coming up.

His performance was solid rather than spectacular and the same can be said of the game in general but it sets up the game against Paraguay nicely. Another confidence-boosting performance against South American opposition would be welcome and reaffirm the widespread belief that the coaching change, while late, was necessary.

5. US toughest test so far for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia have faced Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador since qualifying and failed to win any of the three matches.

Things will not get easier against a US team ranked 14 in the world, and which is full of experienced internationals playing in some of the world’s best leagues.

Christian Pulisic is with Chelsea, fullback Sergino Dest is with AC Milan and Weston McKennie plays for Juventus. There are others in the English Premier League, Spain’s La Liga, Germany’s Bundesliga, France’s Ligue 1 as well as MLS.

After losing 2-0 to Japan on Friday, coach Gregg Berhalter will be keen to return to winning ways.

Just as in the 0-0 draw with Ecuador, there is going to be plenty of defending for Saudi Arabia to do but there is no reason to sit back too much. There is also no reason why the Asian team cannot go toe to toe with the team that reached the knockout stage at three of their last four World Cups before missing out last time around. If the midfield can be more involved in the game and can keep and use possession better, those elusive goals may not be far away.


Saudi Games sees huge interest, registration extended by a week

Saudi Games sees huge interest, registration extended by a week
Updated 26 September 2022

Saudi Games sees huge interest, registration extended by a week

Saudi Games sees huge interest, registration extended by a week
  • Sept. 30 deadline after surge of athletes seeking to participate

The organizing committee of the Saudi Games 2022 on Sunday announced a week’s extension to the registration deadline for the event in Riyadh from Oct. 27 to Nov. 7.

The extra period was added to give more athletes the opportunity to join after there was huge demand from across the Kingdom to participate in one of the biggest events of its kind in Saudi sporting history.

The extension was from Sept. 25 to Sept. 30 and interested athletes can apply through the competition’s website for spots in the following sports: Darts, athletics, beach volleyball, billiards, bowling, rock climbing, cycling, esports, indoor rowing, Muay Thai, padel tennis, skateboarding, squash, table tennis, taekwondo, triathlon, weightlifting and wrestling.


Tight fight for Extreme E title as X44 Vida Carbon Racing claim first win of season 2

Tight fight for Extreme E title as X44 Vida Carbon Racing claim first win of season 2
Updated 26 September 2022

Tight fight for Extreme E title as X44 Vida Carbon Racing claim first win of season 2

Tight fight for Extreme E title as X44 Vida Carbon Racing claim first win of season 2
  • Penalties for winners NEOM McLaren dropped the team down the standings

The X44 Vida Carbon Racing team claimed their first victory of the Extreme E season in a dramatic first Copper X Prix Final in Chile at the weekend.

Sébastien Loeb and Cristina Gutiérrez finished second but were handed a vital win after penalties for winners NEOM McLaren Extreme E dropped them down the standings.

A dramatic twist saw No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing enter the final as first reserve, after technical issues robbed championship leaders Rosberg X Racing a shot at securing the title this weekend.

The American team had finished the race in third, but in pushing hard to make the most of the opportunity, they received a penalty for missing a waypoint, which subsequently put No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing off the podium and into fourth.

Following those penalties for NEOM McLaren Extreme E and No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing, ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team took second place and ABT CUPRA XE secured their first podium of the second season with third.

The victorious Loeb said: “We are very happy with the result today, of course. We were surprised to see that Rosberg X Racing weren’t competing in the final, but we didn’t have a lot of time to think about it as we were racing straight away.

“It was a very strong fight against some great teams but Cristina was incredible, securing the fastest lap of all the drivers in the final.”

Loeb’s teammate Gutiérrez said: “Today was amazing, we are so happy to have won the Copper X Prix and to still be in the fight for the championship. Rosberg X Racing are a really strong team so for them to not be able to drive in the final was not good for them, but hopefully it is more interesting to have more than one team fighting for the championship in Uruguay.

“It was a very tough race so I was surprised to get the fastest lap, but it shows what an incredible opportunity Extreme E is providing for female drivers to prove ourselves and show we can compete against some of the best drivers in the world. Now we go to Uruguay, which is very good for me as I love to race in South America. Hopefully we can even get another race win and maybe the championship too.”

Meanwhile Carlos Sainz Snr. of ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team, said: “It was a very exciting weekend and now we need to look to Uruguay and make sure we do a good final race.

“Even though we made it to the final it was not easy from where we were. We have been consistent and have been improving, and in life you have to keep improving, although it’s difficult at my age.”

Race Results:

1. X44 Vida Carbon Racing 8:59:728

2. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team +6.093

3. ABT CUPRA XE +8.612

4. No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing +10.159 (penalized)

5. NEOM McLaren Extreme E +18.935 (penalized)

Championship Points Standings:

1. Rosberg X Racing: 83

2. X44 Vida Carbon Racing: 66

3. ACCIONA | SAINZ XE Team: 60

4. No. 99 GMC HUMMER EV Chip Ganassi Racing: 55

5. NEOM McLaren Extreme E: 34

6. Genesys Andretti United Extreme E: 33

7. XITE ENERGY RACING: 29

8. JBXE: 25

9. ABT CUPRA XE: 21

10. Veloce Racing: 8


Double podium for Team Abu Dhabi as Shaun Torrente edges to 3rd world title

Double podium for Team Abu Dhabi as Shaun Torrente edges to 3rd world title
Updated 26 September 2022

Double podium for Team Abu Dhabi as Shaun Torrente edges to 3rd world title

Double podium for Team Abu Dhabi as Shaun Torrente edges to 3rd world title
  • American finished third in Grand Prix of Italy, with Emirati teammate Thani Al-Qemzi in second behind Dutch rookie Ferdinand Zandbergen of Sharjah Team

SAN NAZZARO: Team Abu Dhabi’s Shaun Torrente took another step toward a third UIM F1H2O World Championship crown as Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen recorded a memorable victory in the Grand Prix of Italy at the weekend.

Torrente’s third place just adrift of teammate Thani Al-Qemzi in San Nazzaro means he now holds a 17-point championship lead over the Emirati, with two deciding rounds to follow in Sharjah in December

For the second time in 24 hours, the technically demanding Po River circuit produced a string of casualties, with only eight of the 12 starters completing the 40-lap race.

After his convincing victory in Saturday’s Grand Prix of Regione Emilia Romagna, Torrente had to call on all his experience to grab a podium place after failing by one position to reach the six-boat qualifying shoot-out earlier in the day.

Zandbergen, in his F1H2O rookie season, took his first pole position in impressive style, and went on to produce another composed performance to score his maiden Grand Prix win.

Al-Qemzi’s second place means the veteran Emirati driver still retains hope of a first individual drivers’ title, while his partnership with Torrente already looks like delivering a fifth consecutive team championship to Abu Dhabi.

Sweden’s defending champion Jonas Andersson, meanwhile, kept his hopes alive with fourth place as a pulsating Grand Prix double-header reached its conclusion.

He now trails Torrente by 21 points in third place, however, with the impressive Zandbergen climbing to fourth to underline his challenge.

Fresh from his superb win on Saturday, Torrente had earlier maintained his momentum by winning today’s first qualifying round, with Al-Qemzi clocking the sixth fastest lap.

After his crash 24 hours earlier following a mechanical exit while leading the season opener in France, Sharjah Team’s Sami Selio looked to have put all that behind him as he initially set the best time in Q2.

But the Finnish driver made a spectacular exit as his boat suddenly lifted off the water and flipped 360 degrees. He was unhurt, but ruled out of the Grand Prix, although his consolation was in using the radio to guide teammate Zandbergen to success.

Portugal’s Duarte Benavente and Norway’s Marit Stromoy were also non-starters after yesterday’s mishaps, while Frenchman Peter Morin, Finns Alec Weckstrom and Kalle Viippo and Poland’s Bartek Marszalek failed to reach the finish.

The World Championship points positions (provisional):

 

1. Shaun Torrente (US) 52

 

2. Thani Al-Qemzi (UAE) 35

 

3. Jonas Andersson (Sweden) 31

 

4. Ferdinand Zandbergen (Netherlands) 27

 

5. Peter Morin (France) 21

 

6. Alec Weckstrom (Finland) 21


Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again
Updated 26 September 2022

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again

Spieth goes 5-0 as Americans rule Presidents Cup again
  • The International team lost at least four players who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour

CHARLOTTE, US: The Americans won the Presidents Cup again, no asterisk needed.
Sure, the International team lost at least four players — maybe more — who defected to Saudi-funded LIV Golf and were deemed ineligible by the PGA Tour.
It had eight rookies asked to play a new format before 40,000 flag-waving fans chanting for the home team. And the Internationals have never won on American soil since these lopsided matches began in 1994.
No matter.
The Americans are tough to beat right now in any cup, under any circumstances. 
Jordan Spieth made putts from all over Quail Hollow and capped off a 5-0 week, Xander Schauffele delivering the cup-clinching point and lit up his big cigar, and the Americans won the Presidents Cup for the ninth straight time.
Anyone surprised?
“I think that the biggest challenge for us this week was staying within ourselves and not letting the outside noise get to us,” Spieth said. “We saw notes ... put up all over the place that we were supposed to win and we’re favorites and all that.
“What was so cool — which has been very consistent in the previous few Cups that I’ve been involved in — is everyone’s really, really good at what they do.”
The plucky International team still made them work for it.
Spieth and Patrick Cantlay were in control of their matches and set the tone. Even so, the Internationals kept it interesting, a resilient effort considering they were down 8-2 going into the weekend.
But then Tony Finau flipped his match, Collin Morikawa played like a two-time major champion, Schauffele delivered the winner and another celebration was on.
International captain Trevor Immelman referred to the LIV disruption as one of many hurdles facing his team. And he reacted strongly to any notion his 12 players — only three of them among the top 25 in the world — never had a chance.
“When you consider that we were 8-2 down on Friday evening, this team is no joke, and I’m sick and tired of it being spoken of as a joke,” Immelman said. “We love this event, and we love our team. And we cannot wait to run this back and have another shot.”
The Internationals showed plenty of fight. They just don’t have a cup to show for it.
That stays squarely in the hands of an American team that was coming off a record romp over Europe in the Ryder Cup last year before another one-sided crowd.
Even the American newcomers produced, starting with Max Homa. He rallied from 3 down by winning four straight holes and then holding off Tom Kim for a 1-up victory that gave Homa a 4-0 week in his Presidents Cup debut.
The final score was 17 1/2-12 1/2, not quite the rout it was at Liberty National in 2017 when this US team started to take shape.
US Captain Davis Love III paid tribute to Immelman for having to fill out his team three weeks ago after British Open champion Cameron Smith and Joaquin Niemann were among the latest batch to join the rival LIV Golf series.
This was a mismatch. The Internationals still made a game of it, and at one point the matches were tight enough that a shocker at Quail Hollow was still possible. But they needed everything to go right, and it didn’t.
“Trevor and his team did an incredible job of rising to the occasion,” Love said.
Love had all 12 players ranked among the top 25 in the world ranking, and just like last year at Whistling Straits in the Presidents Cup, most of them played like it.
“We really don’t have to do much,” Love said. “All we have to do is not mess it up.”
Spieth was in the second match out and made putts from 25 feet, 20 feet and 30 feet for par after driving into the water and 45 feet that made Cameron Davis feel hopeless. He closed out the Australian on the 15th hole.
Spieth became only the sixth player to win all five matches in the Presidents Cup, winning all four of his team matches with Justin Thomas.
Spieth, a three-time major champion and former No. 1 player in the world, first qualified for US teams when he was 20. But he had never won a singles match — 0-3 in the Presidents Cup, 0-3-1 in the Ryder Cup.
And then he fell 2 down after two holes before turning it around in a big way.
“I was more nervous than I should have been because I wanted to get that monkey off my back,” Spieth said. “When you get off early on a Sunday, they’re looking for red on the board. And it feels good to provide it.”
Thomas was trying to join him, but he lost to Si Woo Kim in a match that came down to 10-foot birdie putts on the last hole.
Cantlay put red American numbers on the board quickly for a 3-up lead over Adam Scott and had lost only two holes in a 3-and-2 victory.
For Scott, it was another dose of disappointment. His first Presidents Cup was in 2003 in South Africa that ended in a tie. He has played on every team since then, all losses.
Still, he saw enough out of a scrappy team and the shield on their shirts with which they are starting to identify to not lose all hope.
“It still hurts not to win,” he said. “I think the big difference I felt the last couple years is what’s going on in our team room, what’s going on between the captains and the players, the caddies, everybody involved on our team. I think good things are really starting to happen in that environment.
“A cup is coming our way soon.”