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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World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

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Updated 27 June 2022

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
  • She will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32

LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur eased into the Wimbledon second round on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.
Jabeur, a quarter-finalist in 2021 and fresh from the grass-court title in Berlin, will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32.


2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
Saudi Arabia recently won the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. (SAFF)
Updated 27 June 2022

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
  • The Young Falcons won the Kingdom’s debut U-23 Asian Cup title
  • Saudi women’s team took second pace in the WAFF Futsal Championship

RIYADH: The triumph of the Young Falcons at the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the recent successes of the women’s national team has marked yet more milestones for Saudi Arabian football this year, after the senior team qualified for the World Cup in Qatar and the Kingdom’s clubs rack up great results in continental competitions.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “The success of the Saudi national teams demonstrates that our strategy is yielding positive results. Bringing back to the Kingdom the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time ever with our very own Saudi national coach, Saad Al-Shehri, is a source of great pride and satisfaction.

“The players who achieved this great feat will be part of the main drivers of the success of our National Team going forward.”

He added: “This gives us greater confidence and trust in our younger generation, beside the achievements we had this year for both men’s and women’s football. We are working on developing a pathway tailored for every up-and-coming Saudi footballer on the grassroots level.

“We are working on extending a very large pool of Saudi talent with the support needed for the upcoming generations of Saudi football to match the highest professional levels of the game, be it in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, as well as the dietary, psychological, physical and athletic aspects.”

The U-23 victory comes soon after the senior Green Falcons team qualified for their sixth World Cup participation ahead of this year’s tournament in Qatar. Herve Renard’s team topped their qualification group, which featured continental giants such as Japan and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League continues to grow in quality and importance at the Asian level, with Al-Hilal currently the holders of the AFC Champions League title. This year, three Saudi teams are set to feature in the competition’s round of 16, with Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Faisaly having topped their respective groups in the first round.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Futsal National Team also grabbed the silver medal in the West Asian Football Federation’s Futsal Championship. The Green Falcons demonstrated incredible quality throughout the tournament, before narrowly losing 5-3 to hosts Kuwait in the final. The team continued their fine run of form on the road reaching the quarterfinals in the Futsal Arab Cup taking place in Dammam following a thrilling 3-2 encounter against Iraq that ended their campaign.

Saudi women have also enjoyed their fair share of success in football this year. In February, the newly launched Saudi Women’s National Team played its first ever official games against the Seychelles and the Maldives, winning both games with the same 2-0 result. 

The Kingdom concluded their successful hosting of the 2022 West Asian Football Federation’s Women’s Futsal Championship in Jeddah, where the Saudi Women’s Futsal National Team made its debut in the competition and claimed a silver medal following a 4-2 defeat in the final against Iraq.


WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.


Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions need to match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin to secure a record 18th championship

DUBAI: Al-Hilal take on Al-Faisaly on Monday night at King Fahd International Stadium knowing that if they match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin, they will be crowned Saudi Pro League champions for a record 18th time.

It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions.

The Riyadh giants trailed Al-Ittihad by 16 points earlier in the campaign but a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season now sees them lead the SPL table on goal difference. A win tonight will guarantee the title, regardless of what the team from Jeddah, who have suffered a late loss of form and nerve, does.

Although Al-Hilal are strong favorites to defeat Al-Faisaly and claim the league title, Argentine coach Ramon Diaz will warn against any complacency, particularly as he will be missing the services of defenders Ali Al-Bulaihi and Jang Hyun-soo.

History suggests, however, that Al-Hilal’s fans will be celebrating tonight, having seen their team defeat Al-Faisaly 17 times in their 23 meetings, with the other six ending in draws.

Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly, in 11th place, go into the match still unsure of whether they will be playing top tier football next season, an indication of just how many clubs are still fighting relegation as the season comes to a close.

Having played 12 consecutive seasons in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Faisaly are flirting with the drop going into the last day, as they did in the 2016-17 season.


Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
Updated 27 June 2022

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final

Morocco and Iraq to meet in 2022 Arab Futsal Cup final
  • Victories over Egypt and Kuwait see the reigning champions and Iraq face off at the Green Hall in Dammam on Tuesday

DUBAI: Morocco and Iraq will meet in Tuesday’s final of the 2022 Arab Futsal Cup after successfully navigating their last-four clashes against Egypt and Kuwait respectively on Sunday night at the Green Hall in Dammam.

Morocco, who had beaten Libya in Friday’s quarterfinal, defeated Egypt 5-2 in their all-African clash, while Iraq — conquerors of hosts Saudi Arabia in the last eight — overcame Kuwait 2-1 in the other semifinal.

The 10-team tournament, organized by the Union of Arab Football Associations and hosted by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, kicked off on July 20, and is the sixth edition of the competition.

Previous winners include Egypt in 1998 and 2005, and Libya in 2007.