Changing shape, nature of cricket’s international venues

Changing shape, nature of cricket’s international venues
The Narendra Modi Stadium, above, is the largest cricket stadium in the world with a 132,000-seating capacity. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 01 September 2022

Changing shape, nature of cricket’s international venues

Changing shape, nature of cricket’s international venues
  • Game’s modern economics have forced old, historic grounds of uneven construction to redevelop, fall by wayside

International cricket’s rapid expansion in the last 50 years, particularly over the last two decades, has created the need for more stadiums of international stature.

Since the first officially credited Test match was played at Melbourne in March 1877, a further 120 grounds have hosted Tests, 80 of them after 1970. An additional 92 have hosted one-day internationals from 1971, while around 60 more have staged Twenty20 internationals since 2005.

Many criteria can be used to categorize cricket venues. These vary from capacity to physical size, location, ease of access, history, atmosphere, and ambience. Facilities for players, spectators, broadcasters, and hospitality companies, viewing quality, and playing conditions also need to be assessed. Each stadium will have its own unique mix of these elements.

One common factor is that, in order to gain or retain the opportunity to host major international matches, venues have to find ways to increase their capacities and improve facilities. This can be achieved by redeveloping existing ones or building afresh.

As if to underline India’s growing dominance of cricket, the stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, was knocked down and rebuilt in 2017, thereby increasing its spectator capacity from 54,000 to 132,000. Now named the Narendra Modi Stadium, this makes it the largest cricket stadium in the world, surpassing the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which has 95,000 seats, plus 5,000 standing spaces.

The growth in T20 cricket, especially in India, has been one factor driving this desire for increased capacity. At 66,000, Eden Gardens in Kolkata, previously offered the largest capacity in India. It was built in 1864 and hosted India’s first ever Test match in 1934 against England, providing it with a special place in India’s cricketing history. Prior to the 1987 World Cup, the stadium’s capacity was expanded to 100,000 but was reduced in 2011 to meet international standards.

Eden Gardens has long been notorious for its feverish, noisy, crowds and hostile comments toward visiting overseas players. Despite this reputation, it is a venue that international cricketers have regarded as a rite of passage to play at, in front of a packed house.

There will be other grounds that fit this bill, Lord’s, in northwest London, being a certainty. Classed as the “home of cricket,” its capacity was expanded to 31,100 by recent rebuilding of stands opposite the Victorian pavilion.

On the south side of London, substantial redevelopment of The Oval, the first ground to host a Test in England in 1880, has lifted its capacity to 27,500. Further expansion is planned.

Another eight stadiums in England and Wales compete to host international matches. All have had to make significant investment in upgrading facilities. Failure to provide ones which are acceptable means loss of status and income.

One example is Trent Bridge, Nottingham, a venue with a rich history. Despite rebuilding of stands, it is hampered by the facilities in its pavilion, built in 1886, which has not been upgraded. As a result, coupled with its lowish capacity of 17,500, it lost out in staging prestigious matches against Australia in 2019 and 2023.

Another venue which lost out on hosting Ashes matches in the same years was the Aegas Bowl at Southampton. This is a relatively new stadium, opened in 2001, built to replace older in-town venues. It was awarded its first Test in 2011. Subsequent additions of a hotel, golf course, and nursery ground represent the new face of cricket stadia, built on sites offering room for planned expansion.

Historic Australian venues have faced similar issues. The main casualty was Perth’s Waca stadium, which did not have multi-use potential. Renowned for its lightning fast, rock hard, pitches, but unloved, largely uncovered, concrete stands and plastic seats, which served to exaggerate the fierce heat, it has been supplanted. Although it is being redeveloped, with cricket still to be played there, major matches since 2018 are now played at the new 61,000-capacity Perth stadium across the Swan River on a previously unconstrained site.

Other Test grounds in Australia have moved with the times rather than be replaced. Since completion of redevelopment in 2014, the beautifully set Adelaide Oval is now surrounded by imposing grandstands but has retained historic features such as the Hill standing area and heritage scoreboard. It has also kept its true oval shape, which makes the hitting of straight sixes an unusual occurrence.

At Sydney, although the infamous Hill has gone, the iconic green copper-topped pavilions have been retained. After major redevelopment in 2014, they are overshadowed now by concrete structures with steel seating terraces up to five levels.

One venue regarded as a special place by many cricket lovers is Newlands, in Cape Town, South Africa, which has Table Mountain as a backdrop but also, somewhat incongruously, a brewery. Newlands has undergone various developments since 1990 but its latest 2021-22 redevelopment reflects a common issue for grounds of its type. Used for only 35 days of the year, it was financially unsustainable. A new mixed-use development aims to produce year-round revenues.

In cricket’s changing geo-politics, the UAE has become an important strategic location. Modern stadiums in Dubai, with capacity up to 30,000 (Sharjah, 20,000), and Oman provided outlets for the Indian Premier League and the T20 World Cup during the coronavirus pandemic. Their status also allows India and Pakistan to play each other on neutral territory. What is remarkable is that Sharjah has hosted more ODIs (244) and the Dubai International Cricket Stadium more T20 internationals (77) than any other stadium.

Cricket’s economics have created a duality among international venues. Old, historic grounds of uneven construction have been forced to redevelop or fall by the wayside. At the same time, purpose-built, enclosed, stadiums have emerged of a homogeneous, standardized format. Both are needed to host cricket’s three main formats amid varying demand levels and playing conditions in different countries.

Cricket traditionalists, however, are likely to have a distinct preference for those venues which have managed to weave new buildings and facilities into older, historic, ones. In their book, preservation of the integrity and cultural heritage of these grounds is paramount.


Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance
Updated 24 sec ago

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance

Al-Shabab’s Krychowiak voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week after two-goal performance
  • Polish midfielder scored twice as league leaders maintained perfect start to season with 2-1 win over Al-Fayha

Al-Shabab’s Grzegorz Krychowiak has been voted Roshn Saudi League player of the week by statistical website SofaScore after a match-winning performance in Round 5 of the season.

The Polish midfielder, on loan from Major League Soccer club New York City FC, managed a rating of 8.6 after scoring two goals from outside the penalty in his team’s 2-1 win over Al-Fayha on Sunday.

Team of the week for Round 5 of the Roshn Saudi League. (SofaScore)

The team of the week included Damac goalkeeper Moustapha Zeghba, who scored a historic goal in the 2-0 win over Al-Tai; defenders Saeed Al-Mowalad (Al-Ettifaq), Mohammed Salem (Al-Raed), Djamel Benlamri (Al-Khaleej) and Tawfiq Buhumaid (Al-Fateh); midfielders Aschraf El Mahdioui (Al-Taawoun), Faycal Fajr (Al-Wehda), Lucas Souza (Al-Khaleej), Abdullah Al-Ammar (Damac) and Krychowiak; and finally Alexandru Mitrita (Al-Raed) in attack.

The fifth of the Rosh Saudi League concluded with Al-Shabab top of the table with a maximum of 15 points, Al-Hilal in second with 12 and Al-Ittihad in third with 11.


Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds
Updated 04 October 2022

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds

Tennis star Kyrgios to fight assault charge on mental health grounds
  • Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law

CANBERRA: Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios will apply to have an assault charge dismissed on mental health grounds, his lawyer told an Australian court on Tuesday.

Lawyer Michael Kukulies-Smith appeared on behalf of Kyrgios in a court in the tennis star’s hometown of Canberra and asked for an adjournment so forensic mental health reports could be prepared.

Magistrate Glenn Theakston adjourned the case until Feb. 3, when Kyrgios’ lawyers are expected to apply to have the charge dismissed under a section of the local crimes law.

The 27-year-old Australian tennis star will appear in court in person on that date for the first time since he was charged by police by summons in July.

The law gives magistrates the power to dismiss a charge if they are satisfied an accused person is mentally impaired, and dealing with an allegation in that way would benefit the community and the defendant.

The common assault charge, which has a potential maximum sentence of two years in prison, relates to an incident in January 2021 that was reported to local police last December.

The charge reportedly relates to an incident involving his former girlfriend.

Kukulies-Smith told the court his client’s mental health history since 2015 made the application appropriate, citing a number of public statements made by Kyrgios.

In February, Kyrgios opened up about his performance at the 2019 Australian Open, saying what appeared to be a positive time in his life had been “one of my darkest periods.”

“I was lonely, depressed, negative, abusing alcohol, drugs, pushed away family and friends,” he wrote on Instagram. “I felt as if I couldn’t talk or trust anyone. This was a result of not opening up and refusing to lean on my loved ones and simply just push myself little by little to be positive.”

Kyrgios made further references to his mental health struggles during his runs to the final at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the US Open.

After ending Daniil Medvedev’s US Open title defense last month to reach the quarterfinals, Kyrgios expressed pride at lifting himself out of “some really tough situations, mentally” and “some really scary places” off the court.

Theakston questioned whether Kyrgios would need to appear in court for the February hearing, but Kukulies-Smith said his client wanted to attend.

Kyrgios was scheduled to play at the Japan Open later Tuesday against Tseng Chun-hsin of Taiwan.

Speaking in Tokyo before his matter returned to court, Kyrgios said it was “not difficult at all” to focus on tennis despite the pending charge.

“There’s only so much I can control and I’m taking all the steps and dealing with that off the court,” he told reporters. “I can only do what I can and I’m here in Tokyo and just trying to play some good tennis, continue that momentum and just try to do my job.”


Saudi Arabia to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

Saudi Arabia to  host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM
Updated 04 October 2022

Saudi Arabia to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

Saudi Arabia to  host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at NEOM

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday it has won a bid to host the 2029 Asian Winter Games at a planned mountain resort in the Gulf state’s $500 billion flagship NEOM project.

The Trojena development is expected to be completed in 2026 and will offer outdoor skiing, a man-made freshwater lake and a nature reserve, according to the project’s website.

In August, a letter of interest to the Olympic Council of Asia included a brief of the Saudi Vision 2030 which will support Trojena host one of the most significant sporting events in Asia in which more than 32 countries are expected to participate.

The Olympic Council of Asia welcomed the official request. The decision made during the council’s executive board meeting and general assembly being held in Cambodia on October 3-4.

“With the unlimited support by the Saudi leadership & HRH Crown Prince to the sport sector we are proud to announce we have won the bid to host AWG TROJENA2029 as the first country in west Asia,” Sports Minister Prince Abdulaziz Bin Turki Al-Faisal said on Twitter.

NEOM is Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s most ambitious project under the Saudi Vision 2030 development plan to reduce reliance on oil and transform the economy, including by developing sports.

NEOM, a 26,500-square-kilometer high-tech development on the Red Sea, will include zero-carbon city “The Line” as well as industrial and logistics areas.

Saudi Arabia will be the first West Asian nation to host the Asian Winter Games.

with Reuters


Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football
Updated 04 October 2022

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football

Independent probe blows lid off ‘systemic’ abuse and sexual misconduct in US women’s football
  • The investigation began after a 2021 report by The Athletic about abusive behavior and sexual misconduct by former Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley
  • The 172-page report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players

WASHINGTON: An independent investigation into allegations of misconduct in US women’s soccer released Monday found “systemic” abuse and sexual misconduct by coaches.

The probe by former acting US attorney general Sally Yates and the King & Spalding law firm uncovered verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct, including a pattern of “sexually charged comments, unwanted sexual advances and touching and coercive sexual intercourse.”

The 172-page report included interviews with more than 200 National Women’s Soccer League players — many of them members of US national teams — and detailed patterns of abuse from team coaches, manipulation and tirades plus retaliation for those who complained.

“Our investigation has revealed a league in which abuse and misconduct — verbal and emotional abuse and sexual misconduct — had become systemic, spanning multiple teams, coaches and victims,” Yates wrote in the report’s executive summary.

“Abuse in the NWSL is rooted in a deeper culture in women’s soccer that normalizes verbally abusive coaching and blurs boundaries between coaches and players,” she added.

“The players who have come forward to tell their stories have demonstrated great courage. It’s now time that the institutions that failed them in the past listen to the players and enact the meaningful reform players deserve.”

The investigation began after a 2021 report by The Athletic about abusive behavior and sexual misconduct by former Portland Thorns manager Paul Riley.

That report said complaints were brought to former US Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati but no action was taken by USSF against Riley. Although he eventually was fired by the Thorns, Riley was hired to coach another NWSL team.

“The verbal and emotional abuse players describe in the NWSL is not merely ‘tough’ coaching,” Yates wrote.

“And the players affected are not shrinking violets. They are among the best athletes in the world. They include members of the US Women’s national team, veterans of multiple World Cup and Olympic tournaments.”

Rory Dames coached the Chicago Red Stars from the NWSL’s start until resigning last November. The report outlined his obscenities and verbal abuse and insults to players, saying a sexualized workplace led to multiple improper sexual relationships with players.

Christy Holly was a coach with Sky Blue for half a season in 2016 before departing after complaints of verbal abuse and an improper relationship, the report said.

Holly was hired last year by expansion club Racing Louisville, where verbal and emotional abuse was repeated and he was fired after sexually coercing and groping a player.

The NWSL, in a statement, promised “systemic reform” to make the league one “with safe and professional environments to train and compete” and acknowledged the “anxiety and mental strain” for women reliving traumatic incidents.

“We continue to admire their courage in coming forward to share their stories,” it said. “We know we must learn from and take responsibility for the painful lessons of the past in order to move the league into a better future.”

The report found teams, league officials and the USSF “repeatedly failed to respond appropriately when confronted with player reports and evidence of abuse,” and “failed to institute basic measures to prevent and address it, even as some leaders privately acknowledged the need for workplace protections.”

That allowed abusive coaches to move from club to club with positive remarks that concealed misconduct.

“Those at the NWSL and USSF in a position to correct the record stayed silent,” the report said. “And no one at the teams, the league or the federation demanded better of coaches.”

USSF president Cindy Parlow Cone, a former US women’s national team player who took charge in 2020, said measures are already underway to prevent such violations from happening again.

“This investigation’s findings are heartbreaking and deeply troubling,” Cone said. “The abuse described is inexcusable and has no place on any playing field, in any training facility or workplace.

“US Soccer is fully committed to doing everything in its power to ensure that all players — at all levels — have a safe and respectful place to learn, grow and compete.”

Federation initiatives include online and text systems for reporting incidents, tighter verifying of coaches and referees, and background screening.

“US Soccer and the entire soccer community have to do better,” Cone said. “I have faith that we can use this report and its recommendations as a critical turning point for every organization tasked with ensuring player safety.”

A new office of participant safety will be established to address the findings and act on recommendations.

“We’re taking the immediate action that we can today,” Cone said. “We can create meaningful, long-lasting change throughout the soccer ecosystem,” Cone said.


French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life
Updated 04 October 2022

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life

French star Wembanyama set for his first taste of NBA life
  • Wembanyama at 7-foot-2 is listed as a center but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame

LAS VEGAS: Victor Wembanyama and Scoot Henderson have been linked constantly over the last couple years, with just about every prognosticator anointing them as the top two picks in the 2023 NBA draft.

Thing is, they don’t know each other.

That’s about to change. Wembanyama — he’s listed at 7-foot-2, some say he’s 7-foot-4 — and the Paris-based club Metropolitans 92 are in Las Vegas to take on Henderson and the G League Ignite in a pair of exhibitions, the first on Tuesday and the second on Thursday.

“We’re playing against an NBA team, with NBA rules, on an NBA court,” Wembanyama said Monday. “This is really going to be a first for me. I’m curious to know how it’s going to go. I know it’s going to go well, but I’m still curious.”

Victor vs. Scoot. Scoot vs. Victor. They’re not playing 1-on-1, but they are the clear headliners and the reasons why these first-of-their-kind games were put together.

Wembanyama is listed as a center but plays all over the floor with guard skills in a big-man frame; Henderson is a point guard who has been getting tons of attention for years.

“Out of all the prospects I’ve heard about in our class, I think he’s my favorite one,” Wembanyama said. “I think he’s the most reliable that I’ve seen. He’s really a great player. If I was never born, I think he would deserve the first spot.”

Henderson — a five-star recruit from Georgia who signed with the Ignite last year and played in 10 games — sees these two games as an opportunity, downplaying the 1-on-1 storyline.

“People always try to compare and contrast whoever. I don’t look at it like that,” Henderson said. “I look at it as two good ballplayers.”

The Ignite program exists to develop young prospects in preparation for the NBA Draft, mixing them with veteran talent to help guide them along the way. It has featured three eventual top-10 picks — Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga last year, Dyson Daniels this year — in its first two seasons.

Henderson is a huge draw for the Ignite this year. The Ignite also have Shareef O’Neal, the son of Shaquille O’Neal. But much of what the Ignite would ordinarily be doing right now would be barely noticed nationally; hence, the games against Wembanyama were put together.

The Los Angeles Lakers are playing in Las Vegas this week, a pair of preseason matchups against Phoenix and Minnesota. Wembanyama is going to those as a fan; he’ll have a slightly different view of NBA games next season.

“He’s one of those type of players, honestly, where you say like there’ll never be like another Shaq or there’ll never be another that,” Ignite coach Jason Hart said. “He’s that. You’ll never see another one of those. The scouting report on him is tough. ... I’m honored that I’m getting to play him at 18, because at 24, he’s going to be something different.”

Wembanyama has been a pro for three seasons already, spending last season with ASVEL in France — a club owned by San Antonio Spurs legend Tony Parker. He made the decision this year to join Metropolitans in part to be coached by Vincent Collet, who also coaches the French national team.

Collet is welcoming the chance.

“I think he’s the best prospect we’ve ever had in our league,” Collet said. “He’s amazing, not only by his size, but incredible skills. Despite that, he still needs to learn the game. He’s very young. ... We will try to give him this experience. That’s the deal we have together, him and me. We want to give him the experience before he gets to the league. It’s most important to get him ready for what will follow next year.”