UAE T20 set for 2023 launch in crowded cricket calendar

UAE T20 set for 2023 launch in crowded cricket calendar
Although no specific start date has been confirmed, franchisees have already been lined up for the six on offer. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 02 June 2022

UAE T20 set for 2023 launch in crowded cricket calendar

UAE T20 set for 2023 launch in crowded cricket calendar
  • New competition organizers have signed long-term global media rights’ contract to air league on channels, OTT platform of ZEE in India, around world to almost 200 countries

After 73 matches and nine weeks, the Indian Premier League final was played on May 29. It was won by one of the two new teams, Gujarat Titans, who finished top of the table, qualifying automatically for the final.

In this, they convincingly beat Rajasthan Royals, who finished second but reached the final by virtue of beating the third-placed team Lucknow Super Giants, and fourth-placed Royal Challengers Bangalore, in eliminating matches.

Present in India for the end of the tournament was the International Cricket Council chairman, who is of the view that India should be thanked, rather than vilified, for developing T20 cricket to the level of skill and entertainment now on show.

However, he does recognize that the growth and expansion of T20 cricket will further squeeze an already congested cricket calendar. One element in this process could be the proposed UAE T20 franchise league, licensed by the Emirates Cricket Board.

Although no specific start date has been confirmed, franchisees have already been lined up for the six on offer. They fall into two groups. Three of them have existing IPL franchises. In November, Reliance Industries, which runs the Mumbai Indians in the IPL, announced its acquisition of a franchise, while the GMR Group, which shares ownership of the Delhi Capitals with JSW Group, announced its involvement in February.

On May 13, the Knight Riders Group, announced its participation. It already runs the Kolkata Knight Riders franchise in the IPL, along with the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Caribbean Premier League and is the founder promoter of Major League Cricket in the US. Thus, KRG is a major player in T20 franchise cricket and is seeking to broaden its involvement via the Abu Dhabi team franchise in UAE T20.

The other three companies all bid successfully for the two new IPL franchises in 2022. One was Lancer Capital, owned by Manchester United co-chairman Avram Glazer, the second Indian finance firm Capri Global, and in early May, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed that the Adani Group, based in Ahmedabad, had acquired a franchise. It is understood that between $40 million and $60 million have been paid for each of the franchises, spread over 10 years.

Given the limited number of both players and spectators in the UAE, the new tournament will be dependent on its ability to attract top-quality international cricketers and live media coverage. So, its timing will be vital.

The summer heat of more than 40 degrees Celsius between May and August rules out those months, while April and May are taken up by the IPL. The Australian Big Bash League is set to run through December until the end of January. This coincides with the time when temperatures in the UAE are around 24 degrees Celsius. It also coincides with the Bangladesh Premier League, scheduled between Jan. 3 and Feb. 17, 2023, not to mention the Pakistan Super League between Feb. 15 and March 31.

Another factor to consider is the Abu Dhabi T10 tournament, which took place in October and November. If the same dates are maintained, then it is hard to resist the conclusion that the space for the UAE T20 lies within the time that the Bangladesh Premier League is due to take place – mid-January to mid-February. During this time, because of the Big Bash, some Australians would be ruled out, but Pakistanis, depending on national commitments, would not be, likewise English cricketers. Indian cricketers outside of the international teams – and there are many talented ones – would also be available, depending upon the scheduling of domestic competitions.

Thirty-four matches are planned to be played over 25 days. It is reported that each team will have a salary cap of around $2 million and players may earn up to $300,000, tax free. In addition to this, the three venues that are likely to be used – the Dubai International Stadium, the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, and the Sharjah Cricket Stadium – all have proven pedigree as world-class venues which have hosted international and IPL cricket.

With franchises in place, a media deal was announced on May 24. The UAE T20 League has signed a long-term global media rights’ contract to air the league on the channels and over-the-top platform of ZEE in India and around the world to almost 200 countries. Live streaming will be via ZEE5 and on global radio. This will be crucial in helping to build reach and awareness, especially in the Indian market, where the time difference with the UAE is only one-and-a-half hours.

As discussed in an earlier column, a change of policy toward younger, home-grown talent was adopted by the Emirates Cricket Board in 2019-20. The introduction of UAE T20 will enhance this policy by providing an additional platform for this talent to learn from and watch established international cricketers.

This week, the UAE team is playing in America in League 2 of the qualification process for the 2023 one-day international world cup. On Tuesday, in a close contest, it lost to Scotland, which had been surprisingly beaten by the US on May 28 but recovered to avenge that result on May 29. The UAE has another match against Scotland on Friday, and the US on June 4.

These contests will shape the positions at the head of League 2. Currently, Oman leads the way but has played 32 of its 36 matches. Scotland and the UAE are in second and third places, followed by the US, each having played only half of their matches. Since the top three teams will progress to the next stage, the pressure is on.

The UAE men’s team has already booked its place in the T20 World Cup tournament later this year. It has its sights on progress in the ODI World Cup qualifying and has a new franchise tournament in prospect that will enhance both its local talent pool and its presence in international cricket. The overall strategy is clear.  

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Veteran Sjostrom, teenager McIntosh complete golden doubles at swimming worlds

Veteran Sjostrom, teenager McIntosh complete golden doubles at swimming worlds
Updated 26 June 2022

Veteran Sjostrom, teenager McIntosh complete golden doubles at swimming worlds

Veteran Sjostrom, teenager McIntosh complete golden doubles at swimming worlds
  • The Swede took her first European title at 14 and her first world title a year later in 2009
  • McIntosh claimed her fourth medal in Budapest in four minutes and 32.04 seconds

BUDAPEST: Sarah Sjostrom, who has been winning world titles for 13 years, and Summer McIntosh, who has been winning them for four days, both collected their second gold medals of the week in Budapest on Saturday.

Sjostrom, a 28-year-old Swede who won the 50m butterfly less than 24 hours earlier, added the 50m freestyle, her 10th world gold.

McIntosh, a Canadian 15-year-old, held off 16-year-old American Katie Grimes to win the women’s 400m medley title.

McIntosh, who won the 200m butterfly gold on Wednesday, claimed her fourth medal in Budapest in four minutes and 32.04 seconds.

Grimes was 0.63sec back, while another American, Emma Weyant, was a distant third ahead of Hungarian 33-year-old Katinka Hosszu, the defending champion.

“I tried to push my body as much as possible,” said McIntosh. “The crowd gave me so much adrenaline.

“I really felt my body in the backstroke.

“Katie is a top competitor, I like racing against her since we are in the same age group.”

Sjostrom finished her sprint in 23.98 seconds, 0.20sec ahead of Pole Katarzyna Wasick, with Australian Meg Harris and American Erika Brown tied for bronze.

The Swede took her first European title at 14 and her first world title a year later in 2009. This was her 20th world championship medal.

“Maybe my mind-set and also a lot of hard work, but also I love what I do,” she said of her longevity.

Sjostrom narrowly missed another medal when she anchored Sweden to fourth in the women’s 100m medley relay that closed the championships.

“It’s been a busy four days for me,” she said.

“I feel like it’s business for me too, I just go in and do my job I guess.”

The US won, anchor ed by 17-year-old Claire Curzan. Australia were second and Canada, with Penny Olesiak holding off Sjostrom, third.

The men’s 50m backstroke gold medal was presented twice, with the US anthem played twice.

In the first race of the evening, Justin Ress was disqualified after video review for finishing entirely under water as he touched the wall first.

His training buddy Hunter Armstrong was awarded gold, winning in 24.14 seconds.

Ksawery Masiuk, a 17-year-old Pole, initially took silver, 0.35sec back, with Italian Thomas Ceccon, who set a 100m backstroke world record on Monday, taking the bronze on loan.

Armstrong wiped a tear away as he stepped off the podium after accepting the gold in the evening’s first medal ceremony.

“I’m very disappointed my team-mate was disqualified and hopefully Team USA’s protest will be successful,” he said.

He got his wish, when a jury upheld the appeal. Ress came out alone to stand on the top step of the podium and receive his medal in the last medal ceremony of the championships.

Ceccon had taken pre-emptive revenge by swimming the breaststroke leg as Italy edged the Americans, the reigning champions and world record holders, in the 100m medley relay final. Britain were third.

That was a fifth gold for Italy after Gregorio Paltrinieri earlier swum the second fastest time in men’s 1500m freestyle history to win his third world title in the distance.

The 27-year-old Italian surged away from the start, setting a breakneck pace.

He was on world record pace for much of the race before fading at the end to finish in 14min 32.80sec and miss Sun Yang’s mark by 1.78sec.

American Bobby Finke was second, 3.90sec back, with Florian Wellbrock third at 4.14.

Paltrinieri said he had been motivated by finishing fourth out in the 800m

“I came out with the mindset that I wanted to destroy the pool,” he said after becoming the oldest ever 1500m world champion.

“I’m 28 in a couple of months,” he said. “But I’m still learning.”

Lithuanian Ruta Meilutyte won her first world gold since 2013 when she edged Italian 17-year-old Benedetta Pilato by 0.10sec in the women’s 50m breaststroke final. South African Lara van Niekerk was third.

Meilutyte had not won a major championship medal of any color since 2015.

“It’s nice to be a world champion,” she said.


Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship
Updated 26 June 2022

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship

Chun balloons to 75 as her lead shrinks to 3 at Women’s PGA Championship
  • On a day the leaders had plenty of trouble, Chun was holding her own until she made a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole

BETHESDA, Maryland, USA: This was the moment the rest of the field needed: In Gee Chun standing near the trees, contemplating her situation and then eventually heading back to the point of her previous shot.

A shaky third round cut her lead at the Women’s PGA Championship in half.

Chun shot a 3-over 75 on Saturday, leaving her three strokes ahead going into the final round at Congressional Country Club. On a day the leaders had plenty of trouble, Chun was holding her own until she made a double bogey on the par-5 16th hole.

“Looking forward to an exciting final round already,” she said. “If it’s going to be too easy, then I feel it is boring.”

It looked like the final round might be boring — or at least anticlimactic — as Chun maintained a comfortable lead through much of Saturday. She bogeyed Nos. 1 and 11 but birdied 2 and 12. Her lead was at five when she had to play her third shot from some tall grass on the 564-yard 16th.

That shot put her in even more trouble, in an area with tall grass and some trees. She took an unplayable lie and went back to the previous spot to re-hit.

An 8-iron from there went over the green, but Chun did manage to get up and down for a 7. The two-time major champion from South Korea led by five shots after the first round and six at the halfway point. After the third round, she had an 8-under 208 total.

Lydia Ko (76) and Jennifer Kupcho (74) — Chun’s playing partners — had their own problems, but Lexi Thompson and Hye-Jin Choi both shot 70 and were tied for second with Sei Young Kim (71) at 5 under.

Thompson will play in the final group as she tries for her first major victory since 2014.

“You always want to be in the final group in any tournament,” she said. “I love that the hard work has been able to pay off for me. I’ve been putting in the time, so to see it pay off and pay dividends means the world to me.”

Ko wasn’t able to take advantage of Chun’s struggles. She bogeyed four of five holes during one stretch on the front nine, then birdied four of the next seven. She wrapped up the round with four straight bogeys.

Kupcho had three birdies and three bogeys in the first seven holes and couldn’t gain much ground on the leader.

Kim, who won this event two years ago, had a comparatively drama-free round with two birdies and a bogey. Choi shot 34 on the back nine while playing in a group with Thompson. They’ll be together again Sunday.

“It was the first time playing with her, and I actually watched her as a fan when I was an amateur,” Choi said. “It was a good experience to play with her. Of course, I tried to focus on my game.”

Thompson made three birdies on the back nine, including a putt from about 30 feet on No. 15. She has 11 LPGA Tour victories but none since 2019. She’s played her way into contention after a first-round 74.

Thompson finished second at Crown Colony in February and at Upper Montclair last month.

“I know I’m in a good state with my game and just my mental state, so going out tomorrow enjoying the walk with my caddie and hopefully a lot of fans out there supporting us,” she said. “Whatever score I shoot, I shoot.”

Hannah Green (72) was fifth at 4 under, a stroke ahead of Atthaya Thitikul (68), who was so far behind at the start of the day she was in one of the groups sent off on No. 10. Brooke Henderson (73), Kupcho and Jennifer Chang (73) were tied for sixth with Thitikul.

NOTES: US Women’s Open champ Minjee Lee (73) was 2 under. ... Defending champion Nelly Korda (72) was tied for 29th.


Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead
Updated 26 June 2022

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead

Schauffele leaves it late to retain Travelers lead
  • Schauffele is looking forward to a final round duel against close friend and Ryder Cup playing partner Cantlay

NEW YORK: Xander Schauffele produced a late birdie spree to hold onto a slender lead at the PGA Tour’s Travelers Championship Saturday with a 3-under par 67.

Schauffele, who led by five shots after Friday’s second round, will take a one-shot advantage into Sunday’s final round at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Connecticut.

But the 28-year-old from California left it late to ensure he would remain on top of the leaderboard on Saturday with a pair of birdies on the 16th and 17th holes to drop to 17 under for the tournament.

He rolled in a 16-foot birdie putt at the par-3 16th and then drilled an iron from the fairway to a few feet for a further birdie on the 17th.

That ultimately allowed Schauffele to finish the day just in front of red-hot Patrick Cantlay, who had a bogey-free 7-under 63 to move to 16 under.

Schauffele is looking forward to a final round duel against close friend and Ryder Cup playing partner Cantlay.

“It will be fun. I’ve been looking forward to playing with Pat in a final round,” he said.

“We don’t get paired together very often in regular tournaments, only in those team ones.

“So there’s a certain level of comfort we have playing with each other and hopefully that pays off and hopefully we can make a lot of birdies.”

Cantlay was similarly enthused by the prospect of a final day shootout with his friend.

“We actually haven’t played that much together in tournament play, maybe only three times in the last three, four years. So it will be good to go out there again with him,” Cantlay said.

“It’s always nice to be out with him, if he’s on my team or if he’s not. I’m going to go out there tomorrow and try as hard as I can and let the chips fall where they may.”

Sahith Theegala is three off the lead on 14 under after his six-under-par 64.

The highlight of Theegala’s round came with a brilliant eagle three on the par-5 13th, when he reached the green in two before rolling in an 11-foot putt.

The only blemish on an otherwise flawless round came at the 18th, where he made bogey.

Kevin Kisner is one behind Theegala on 13 under after his four-under-par 66.

Scotland’s Martin Laird is tied for fifth with Lee Kyoung-hoon on 12 under. Laird and Lee both carded four-under-par 66s.

Four players including first round co-leader J.T. Poston are tied for seventh on 11 under, while Scottie Scheffler heads a quartet on 10 under after a five-under-par 65.

But there was more disappointment for Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy.

The four-time major-winner who shot an 8-under 62 in the first round had fallen away on Friday after a second round that included a quadruple bogey eight on the 12th hole.

McIlroy navigated his return to the 12th safely on Saturday with a par, but was already struggling after making a double-bogey and bogey on the front nine.

Two more bogeys on the 14th and 16th holes left him tied for 31st place on six under, 11 shots off the lead.


McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record
Updated 26 June 2022

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record

McLaughlin books athletics worlds berth with 400m hurdles world record
  • McLaughlin's performance capped a day of 11 finals and a farewell to the US championships for Olympic great Allyson Felix — 21 years after she ran in her first
  • Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs was not at his best but took victory in 10.12 seconds, four hundredths of a second quicker than second-place Chituru Ali, after posting 10.17sec in the heats

EUGENE, OREGON: Sydney McLaughlin punched her ticket to the athletics World Championships with a world record 51.41sec victory in the 400m hurdles at the US trials on Saturday.

McLaughlin shaved five-hundredths of a second off the world record of 51.46 she set in winning Tokyo Olympics gold last Aug. 4, delivering a dominant performance at Eugene’s Hayward Field that saw runner-up Britton Wilson cross the line more than a second back in 53.08sec.

Shamier Little was third in 53.92. The trio will represent the US on the same Hayward Field track in July — when reigning world champion Dalilah Muhammad also aims to defend her title.

With a bye as champion Muhammad — who beat McLaughlin in Doha in 2019 but took silver behind her in Tokyo — received a waiver to skip the trials to recover from a hamstring injury.

McLaughlin showed she didn’t need her great rival to push her to new heights in this championship season.

Her performance capped a day of 11 finals and a farewell to the US championships for Olympic great Allyson Felix — 21 years after she ran in her first.

Felix finished sixth in the 400m, making her almost certain to earn consideration for a relay at the World Championships.

Felix is calling time on a career that includes 29 world and Olympic medals — including seven Olympic golds.

After a gritty semifinal performance to earn a place in the final, Felix — greeted by a massive ovation — clocked 51.27sec.

Talitha Diggs, daughter of four-time Olympian Joetta Clark-Diggs and the NCAA collegiate champion, used a powerful finishing kick to win the women’s 400m in 50.22, overhauling early pace-setter Lynna Irby and Kendall Ellis in the final 20 meters.

Ellis took second in 50.35 and Irby was third in 50.67.

Michael Norman, seeking World Championships gold to help expunge the memory of a disappointing fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Games, delivered an emphatic victory in the men’s 400m with a world-leading 43.56sec.

NCAA collegiate title holder Champion Allison broke 44 seconds for the first time, taking second in 43.70, with Randolph Ross third in 44.17.

World record-holder Keni Harrison won the 100m hurdles in another world-leading time of 12.34sec. Alaysha Johnson was second in 12.35 and Alia Armstrong was third in 12.47.

World champion Nia Ali opted out of the final but will complete the formidable US contingent in the event next month.

In other events, world 200m champion Noah Lyles clocked 19.95sec to top the first-round times, and revealed he was rebounding from a bout with Covid.

Lyles said he learned after his win in New York on June 12 that he had coronavirus, not realizing until after the event that his muscle soreness and chills were symptoms of illness.

“To be honest I’m so in shape I’m not too worried about it,” Lyles said.

Erriyon Knighton, who owns the fastest time in the world this year of a 19.49, was second-fastest in the heats in 20.08.

Reigning 100m world champion Christian Coleman advanced to the semis with a time of 20.13 but said he still wasn’t sure if he’d pursue a 100-200 double at worlds.

Fred Kerley, who dazzled with a 9.76sec semi on the way to winning the 100m on Friday, booked his 200m semifinal spot with a time of 20.29.

Abby Steiner, coming off a world-leading 21.80sec to win the NCAA collegiate title this month, topped the women’s 200m heat times in 22.14sec.

Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Gabby Thomas, who owns the third-fastest time in history, made it safely into the semis with the seventh-quickest time of the day 22.59.

Sha’Carri Richardson, who shockingly failed to advance from the 100m heats on Thursday, also advanced with a time of 22.69 — finishing second to Thomas in their heat.

Reigning world champion and Tokyo Olympics silver medalist Grant Holloway and Devon Allen stayed on course for a 110m hurdles showdown with the top two times in the heats.

Holloway, whose American record of 12.81 is one one-hundredth off the world record, won his heat in 13.11sec, second-fastest of the round ahead of recently crowned NCAA champion Trey Cunningham’s 13.13.

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Allen, who stunned Holloway with the third-fastest time in history of 12.84sec in New York two weeks ago, won his heat to qualify third-fastest in 13.27.

Olympic champion Jacobs wins Italian 100m title

In Rieti, Lazio, reigning Olympic champion Lamont Marcell Jacobs continued his preparations for next month’s World Championships by winning the Italian men’s 100 meters title on Saturday.

The 27-year-old was not at his best but took victory in 10.12 seconds, four hundredths of a second quicker than second-place Chituru Ali, after posting 10.17sec in the heats.

Jacobs, who also won the world 60m indoor title earlier this year, only ran his first two 100m races of the season last month in Savona.

“It was useful to resume competition,” he told RAI Sport on Saturday.

“I’m not yet able to manage a complete 100m, especially with two races in an hour. In training I had to do everything at a moderate pace.

“So it was more difficult to manage at a high intensity. In the closing stages, I had a little more trouble and decided to hold back a little to avoid any fitness problems.”

Jacobs is scheduled to run in Stockholm next Thursday before flying to the worlds which get underway in American city Eugene on July 15.

There, he will lock horns again with reigning world champion Christian Coleman, who he beat to the indoor title in Belgrade in March.


Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles
Updated 26 June 2022

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles

Two-time Wimbledon champion Kvitova, Fritz win Eastbourne titles
  • Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve

EASTBOURNE, England: Two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova tuned up for the Grand Slam tournament by overpowering Jelena Ostapenko 6-3, 6-2 to win the Eastbourne title on Saturday.

Also, Taylor Fritz outlasted Maxime Cressy 6-2, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (4) in an all-American men’s final for his second Eastbourne title.

Kvitova earned her first grass-court title in four years — and 29th trophy of her singles career — after breaking Ostapenko, the defending champion, early in both sets of the final and feasting on the Latvian’s second serve.

Kvitova saved five break points in the fourth game of the second set to stay in control of the match at 3-1.

“Playing on the grass is very special for me every time,” the Czech player said on court. “It’s the best preparation for Wimbledon, as well.”

Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, begins another campaign on Tuesday against Jasmine Paolini of Italy.

She is 5-1 in grass-court finals. Her most recent was in 2018 in Birmingham.

The eighth-seeded Ostapenko, a Wimbledon semifinalist four years ago, won the 2017 French Open.

After the final, Ostapenko withdrew from the women’s doubles final alongside Ukrainian partner Lyudmyla Kichenok because of a toe problem on her right foot. The walkover handed the title to Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia and Magda Linette of Poland.

Ostapenko is the 12th seed at Wimbledon and has a first-round match scheduled on Monday against Oceane Dodin of France.

Fritz could rely on his serve in his first meeting with Cressy. Fritz didn’t face a break point in the final, he won 92 percent of his first serves, and launched 17 aces. Even so, it took him more than two hours to get on top of Cressy, who was playing his first ATP final. Fritz didn’t drop his serve all week.

“My grass season wasn’t going great before I arrived here,” Fritz said. “But it is great to beat these players and it gives me confidence. I played really well all week and going into Wimbledon, I feel good.”

Fritz, ranked 14th, won his third ATP title, second in Eastbourne beside 2019, and second this year after Indian Wells in March.

Fritz has drawn Lorenzo Musetti of Italy in the first round of Wimbledon next week.

Cressy, ranked 60th, has sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada.