Two Australian cricketing giants leave us with unmatched legacies

Two Australian cricketing giants leave us with unmatched legacies
An art school teacher makes a painting to pay homage to the former Australian cricketer Shane Warne in Mumbai on March 5, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 10 March 2022

Two Australian cricketing giants leave us with unmatched legacies

Two Australian cricketing giants leave us with unmatched legacies
  • In separate eras, Rod Marsh and Shane Warne delighted in making life for English cricketers and supporters very uncomfortable, and sometimes embarrassing

Cricket and the wider world have been stunned by the sudden loss of two greats of the Australian and international game, Shane Warne and Rod Marsh. I was fortunate to have seen them both play and watching their on-field personae gave some clues as to their off-field ones.

Warne’s hunting down of batsmen, physically and psychologically, implied a shrewd operator who pushed boundaries. He admitted as much, saying that he would not have liked to face himself on the pitch. He was, for many, the finest leg spin bowler of all time.

Former Australian captain, leg spinner and celebrated commentator Richie Benaud had no doubt, pointing out that when he took his final, 248th, Test wicket, he had played 63 Tests. It took Warne the same number to reach 300 Test wickets.

The art of leg spin bowling is the most difficult variety to master, especially in achieving consistent accuracy. Strong wrists and fingers are needed. In Warne’s case, these were developed after, aged six, he broke both of his legs and used his wrists to propel himself around on a trolley. Out of adversity came strength. However, Warne’s ambition was to play Australian rules football in Melbourne, but he did not make the grade. What a loss to cricket he would have been.

Unlike Warne, young Marsh was determined to make cricket his life, rising from the age of eight through the various cricket grades in Perth. Despite his tough and craggy competitiveness, Marsh had a keen sense of the spirit of cricket. This was apparent in several events. First, he was the wicketkeeper when his captain, Greg Chappell, ordered his younger brother, Trevor Chappell, to bowl the last ball of a match against New Zealand using an underarm delivery. This deprived the striker the opportunity to hit a six, which would have leveled the scores. Marsh stood arms folded, shaking his head in dismay, disbelief and disappointment at this blatant contravention of the spirit of cricket.

Although, at the time, it was not breaking the law, Benaud, commenting on the incident, called it “one of the worst things I have seen done on a cricket field.”

A second example was during the Centenary Test between Australia and England in 1977 when the match was in the balance. England’s Derek Randall had been given out, but Marsh insisted that he was recalled since Marsh knew that he had taken the ball on the bounce.

His brash and aggressive exterior, walrus mustache and squat physique concealed a humorous, thoughtful, astute person. The first impressions that Marsh made on the fearsome Australian fast-bowler Dennis Lillee, were that “he was a scruffy, overweight, beer-swilling intellectual, a pianist and a good singer.” Later, they became formidable allies.

After retiring from Test cricket in 1984, Marsh spent four years commentating, before spending 10 years as coach and director of the Australian Cricket Academy. Surprisingly, in 2001, he moved to head the England and Wales Cricket Board’s National Academy. The following year, much to the shock of many English cricket supporters, this one included, he also became a selector, staying until 2005, when England regained the Ashes. What a delicious irony this was, one of Australia’s most rugged competitors, fiercely “anti-pom” on the field, helping the old enemy to beat his own country, for which he played with such distinction in a long career.

It might have been so different. In his debut in the 1970-71 Ashes, Marsh made glaring errors and was christened “Iron Gloves,” leading to calls for him to be dropped. The selectors stuck by him and he went on to be the scourge of England and its long-suffering supporters for another 13 years.

There is a similarity with Warne in that his early performances for Australia were inauspicious. Midway through his third Test match in 1992, he had taken a single wicket and conceded 335 runs. Then, he claimed the last three wickets for no runs, clinching a remarkable 16-run victory for Australia. Such stunning match-winning performances were to characterize his career.

In 1993, Warne announced himself to England with his very first Test match delivery there. The so-called “Ball of the Century” swerved toward the leg stump, pitched outside it, turned sharply past the defensively positioned bat and clipped the off-stump bail. Warne described the ball as a fluke, but it immortalized his reputation as a showstopper. By the time he played his last Test at Sydney in January 2007, he had taken 708 Test wickets, of which 195 were English.

Needless to say, his landmark 700th wicket was taken against England in the previous month at Melbourne.

In his last Test match in England at the Oval in 2005, drama continued to follow Warne. Although he claimed 12 wickets in the match and bowled a spell of 31 overs, he will be remembered for dropping a crucial and straightforward catch. This was offered by Kevin Pietersen, who saved the match for England, when he had scored 15, surviving to reach 158. In an effort to recover Australia’s advantage, Warne bowled a spell of 31 overs, at the end of which he received a standing ovation, coupled with chants of “Warnie dropped the Ashes.”

It was also the time when the crowd was variously reported to have chanted “bet you wish you were English” or “we only wish you were English,” to which Warne took off his hat, doffed it and bowed. How they loved it.

Warne was theater, a cricketing genius, with a shrewd cricket brain and relatable human frailties. His blond hair, earring, sunblock and tendency to chubbiness oozed nonconformity. He strolled to his delivery stride, before looping the ball with unerring accuracy, capable of spinning it prodigiously. The respect that spectators and most fellow professionals had for him was clear, as it was for Marsh. Both harbored largely unrealized captaincy aspirations. As players in separate eras, they made cricket life for English cricketers and supporters very uncomfortable, sometimes embarrassing. Nevertheless, it was a privilege to have watched these skilled entertainers in action.


Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
Updated 28 January 2023

Victory for Pascal Werhlein and Porsche on day one of Diriyah E-Prix

Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix
  • Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack

DIRIYAH: Pascal Wehrlein of the TAG Heuer Porsche team stormed from ninth to win the first of two races at the Diriyah E-Prix, with standings leader Jake Dennis of Avalanche Andretti Formula E following home in second after starting in 11th.

Wehrlein looked the quickest on the track as he picked his way through the points-paying positions to the front of the pack.

The move for the lead came on lap 30 at turn 16, with Sam Bird in the Jaguar TCS Racing car unable to hold back Wehrlein’s 99X Electric Gen3.

Both driver and car looked dominant for a second straight race. It was an emotional win for the 28-year-old, who once again credited his team with a monumental amount of work off-track to get things so right on it.

Jake Dennis in the Porsche-powered Avalanche Andretti took the fight all the way to the line with his factory Porsche counterpart from all the way back in 11th on the grid, but he couldn't find a way beyond Wehrlein - who sealed his second Formula E win on his 50th start.

The result was a reversal of the one-two we saw two weeks ago in the 2023 Hankook Mexico City E-Prix - and both TAG Heuer Porsche and Avalanche Andretti look to have thrown down the challenge to the rest of the field as the GEN3 development race continues at pace.

Sam Bird was overjoyed to make the podium for the first time since winning in New York City in Season 7 - calling it a "mini victory" for himself and Jaguar after a tough Season 8 for the Brit - the only season he has failed to claim Formula E silverware.

Sebastian Buemi started in pole position and finished in fourth, his best finish since the Season 6 finale in Berlin.

NEOM McLaren Formula E Team’s René Rast started fifth and ended fifth following a long battle in middle of the points-paying positions. He also sealed the TAG Heuer Fastest Lap.

Nick Cassidy made it two Envision Racing cars in the top six. Jean-Éric Vergne fought from 12th to the points for DS PENSKE, winding up just ahead of Jake Hughes in the sister McLaren. André Lotterer and Mitch Evans rounded out the top 10 - the latter slipping from sixth on the grid.

That leaves Dennis as standings leader at just a point over Werhlein - 44 to 43 points - while Avalanche Andretti retain their Teams' advantage over TAG Heuer Porsche, 58 to 49 points, with Envision Racing third.

Formula E’s return to Diriyah, a historical and cultural destination in Saudi Arabia, marks a groundbreaking move as it continues to prioritise sustainability and shift the paradigm in the sports industry.


Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
Updated 27 January 2023

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG

Galtier concedes goalkeeper Keylor Navas could leave PSG
  • Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Gianluigi Donnarumma
  • “Keylor is a great competitor," Galtier said

PARIS: Paris Saint-Germain coach Christophe Galtier is unsure if he can retain goalkeeper Keylor Navas amid reported interest from Premier League club Nottingham Forest.
With the January transfer window closing soon, the 36-year-old Navas has been linked with a move after losing his starting position to Italy’s European Championship-winning goalie Gianluigi Donnarumma. Navas only plays in the French Cup.
“Keylor is a great competitor. He has been exemplary in terms of his work since the start of the season. I have total faith in him,” Galtier said Friday. “But you have to consider what he’s feeling and the directors and president are attentive to his needs.”
French sports daily L’Equipe’s website reported Friday that the Costa Rica international has agreed to terms with Forest.
Galtier suggested he would not try to block a move.
“Because of the person he is and his career, we must respect him and listen to him,” he said.
Navas joined PSG in 2019 from Real Madrid, where he won the Champions League three times, and has played 108 games for the French champions. He was outstanding during the 2020-21 season, when he stood out with remarkable performances in the Champions League against Bayern Munich and Barcelona.
Navas has played 110 times for Costa Rica.


Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
Updated 27 January 2023

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading

Sancho could return from Man Utd exile to face Reading
  • Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund
  • Sancho last played for United in October's 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England's World Cup squad

LONDON: Erik ten Hag is set to end Jadon Sancho’s Manchester United exile as the England forward eyes his first appearance in 14 weeks against Reading in the FA Cup fourth round.
Sancho has struggled to reach peak form since moving from Borussia Dortmund and Ten Hag claimed he was not mentally or physically ready to feature for United earlier this season.
The 22-year-old was sent to do an individual fitness program in the Netherlands rather than travel to the squad’s training camp in Spain during the World Cup last year.
But Sancho resumed group training last Tuesday having returned to Carrington earlier in January and could be involved when second tier Reading visit Old Trafford on Saturday.
“He is training with the team and we will see,” Ten Hag told reporters on Friday.
“So, he’s improving, he’s making steps and we will make the decision after training.”
Sancho last played for United in October’s 1-1 draw at Chelsea and was left out of England’s World Cup squad.
He has failed to justify the hype that saw him hailed as one of Europe’s brightest young stars when he moved to United in 2021.
“I said he’s on the way back, he’s making steps. He’s back in team training and now we have to see when he’s ready to go back into the games,” Ten Hag said.
United have flourished in Sancho’s absence, climbing into the Premier League’s top four and advancing in both domestic cup competitions.
Chasing the club’s first major trophy since 2017, United won 3-0 at Nottingham Forest in the League Cup semifinal first leg on Wednesday.
That result means Ten Hag could rest key players in next week’s second leg, but the Dutchman will also be tempted to rotate against a Reading side managed by former United midfielder Paul Ince.
“Football is never decided on paper, we have to be ready for every game, every opponent will be tough and especially in the cup,” Ten Hag said.
“That is, for them, a perfect chance. We have to be aware of that. We have to be on the front foot, fully focused and full of energy.
“I think tomorrow we will have a strong selection for this game.”


Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
Updated 27 January 2023

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers

Jaguar TCS chief: Formula E is a ‘startup' with unrivaled line-up of teams and manufacturers
  • Team Principal James Barclay talks exclusively to Arab News about the early stages of Season 9, strength of the championship and ‘formidable’ Diriyah track

For a “startup,” Formula E is not doing badly at all.

Friday and Saturday will see the second and third rounds of Season 9 at the Diriyah E-Prix night-time double-header, and James Barclay, team principal of Jaguar TCS Racing, believes few other sports can match the pace, metaphorical and literal, the sport has set since its inception.

“I think the first thing to say is Formula E is only 8 years old,” he said. “That’s the amazing thing. It’s still a startup by definition, which is exciting to think about. We’ve come a long way in eight years. It’s one of the fastest forms of motorsport in terms of growth in the world, which is incredibly exciting to see. We have an incredible lineup of teams and manufacturers, which in single-seater racing is unrivaled.”

The first race of the season in Mexico City saw the launch of Formula E’s Gen3 car — the all-electric series’ fastest and most efficient vehicle yet.

“I think the first race has been something we’ve been anticipating for a while, so it’s nice to have done it,” Barclays said.

“It’s fine when you’re developing and testing, but there’s nothing like competition to really start to see where things are at. We’ve had mixed fortunes but also a lot of positives to take out of it. Other than one other manufacturer, Porsche, we had more cars in the top 10,” he added, attributing the achievement to Jaguar’s efficiency.

This season, the Jaguar line-up is made up of Mitch Evans from New Zealand and Sam Bird of Britain. The team performed solidly in Mexico City and are now sixth in the standing with four points.

Barclay says that whether it’s getting to grips with new tires or other emerging factors, teams will need some time to adjust in the coming weeks.

“I think what we’ll see in the first four or five races this year is potentially a real swing of performance and form,” he said. “There are some very competitive teams and drivers, which are out of position, us included. Those teams who got it right last week, do they know the reasons why they got it right? And will they get it right this week?

“We need to let that play out over the first four or five races.”

Teams, including Barclay’s own Jaguar, are keeping their cards close to their chests in the early rounds of the season.

“Because it’s a brand-new car, people are still getting used to overtaking with it,” he said. “You didn’t want to take too many risks in the first race of the season because you want to get a full race under your belt; you want to get the mileage. So, you saw people being a little bit cautious and maybe not having the big moves that we’ve seen in Formula E in the past. That will come.”

Friday night will see the first of the two Diriyah races taking place under the floodlights, and the Jaguar boss is happy to be back in Riyadh.

“It’s fantastic to be back here,” Barclay said. “What we love about this race is, firstly, the location in the historic part of Diriyah. It’s a really challenging circuit. It’s a formidable track. The drivers enjoy it, which is always a positive sign.

“Sector one and sector two are incredibly technical and fast. You have to be very accurate. A small mistake has a big penalty. It’s like threading the eye of the needle, basically. There’s no room for error. And it’s been a roller coaster down that first section.

“Add to that the fact that this is the night race, our only night race to Canada. And I think that adds something really special to it.”

Barclay says the relevance of Formula E continues to rise as the world shifts toward electrical mobility.

“Regulation is driving that,” he said. “If you look at the majority of car manufacturers, they make clear statements, so for us, we made a statement that from 2025, Jaguar would become an all-electric model luxury car company.”

Daimler and Volkswagen have also made similar announcements.

“In summary, most manufacturers here made a clear statement toward becoming all-electric car companies at different points in time. In our case, this will happen very soon, but all within the next 10 years, which is incredibly exciting,” Barclay said.

Barclay calls Formula One “the pinnacle” of internal combustion engine racing and says Formula E plays a similar role in electric racing.

“What starts to happen in the future, beyond 2030, when in many markets, you can’t sell ICE engines, no one knows,” he said. “But the reality is, I think Formula E is incredibly well placed if you look at the main automotive market, and the shift toward electric mobility, or the uptake of electric cars. So we see Formula E being a positive space going forward in terms of what’s at the core of a championship.”

Beyond the environmental aspects, Formula E currently has a structure that other motorsports cannot match.

“We don’t have any driver that brings budget to racing Formula E. Everyone has a full professional employed by the team,” Barclay said. “I can’t think of any other category where that happens. It doesn’t happen in Formula One. It doesn’t happen in IndyCar. It doesn’t happen in NASCAR. Basically, I think it’s the most perfect professional driver lineup in the world and one that has so much strength in depth.”

Add to that an expanding calendar that last year saw a new race in Jakarta and this year has added Sao Paolo, Cape Town and Hyderabad, and the popularity of Formula E could be about to rise even further.

“I come back to that point: We’re a startup sport,” said Barclay. “I think what is incredible is if you look at the short space of time, we just came back from Mexico City where we had just under 60,000 people. The stadium was absolutely full, sold out, all tickets in the grandstand, in hospitality sold. In Jakarta, we had 60,000 people last year.

“So genuinely, wherever we are, we’re sold out.”


WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown
Updated 27 January 2023

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

WWE Superstars gear up for colossal Royal Rumble showdown

RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA: This weekend sees colossal battles inside the WWE ring as Royal Rumble makes its entrance for 2023 with championships on the line and more than 60 WWE superstars set to face off on Sunday, Jan 28 January.

In the main event encounters, this year’s Royal Rumble will raise the stakes higher than ever, with the winner of both the male and female headline matches guaranteed a World Championship match at WrestleMania 39 in Hollywood in April.

In the 30-man Royal Rumble contest, superstars from across eras, including Drew McIntyre, Cody Rhodes, Rey Mysterio, Sheamus, and current United States champion Austin Theory, will battle it out for the ultimate spot as the last wrestler standing.

(WWE)

Meanwhile, the 30-woman Royal Rumble match will see superstars, including Liv Morgan and Rhea Ripley, enter the ring for a chance to earn a title matchup on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

In the championship matches, undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Roman Reigns will face off with Kevin Owens following their high-profile bouts to start off the year, with Reigns aiming to maintain his ongoing dominance over the WWE universe.

Raw Women’s Champion Bianca Belair will also have her eyes set on retaining her title, as she stands toe-to-toe with Alexa Bliss in the title showdown on Saturday evening.

WWE fans in the Middle East can catch the encounters at Royal Rumble from 4 a.m. KSA on Sunday, live on Shahid.