Fair-weather fans turned off by rain-interrupted schedule at T20 World Cup in Australia

Fair-weather fans turned off by rain-interrupted schedule at T20 World Cup in Australia
Cricket has tried various ways over the past 250 years to ameliorate the negative effects of rain. (AFP)
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Updated 03 November 2022

Fair-weather fans turned off by rain-interrupted schedule at T20 World Cup in Australia

Fair-weather fans turned off by rain-interrupted schedule at T20 World Cup in Australia
  • Match abandonments in Melbourne, high prices, other distractions, could deter more casual cricket followers from attending short-format games

Abandonment of the Afghanistan versus Ireland and Australia against England matches at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Oct. 28, because of rain, raised many an eyebrow for those following the 2022 International Cricket Council Men’s Twenty20 World Cup.

There is little doubt that Melbourne’s weather can be mercurial. September to January are its wettest months.

This year, Australia’s east coast has been hit by an unusual combination of three climate drivers. In October, Melbourne received 149 millimeters of rain, more than double the month’s long-term average.

This is not to say that the other venues for the tournament are not prone to rain in October and November. Sydney has experienced its heaviest October rainfall on record but escaped the problems faced at the MCG.

On Wednesday, rain arrived in Adelaide to influence the outcome of the India versus Bangladesh game. Hence, it would be unfair to blame the schedulers for selecting Melbourne on rainfall statistics.

Faced with two matches between teams which attract the highest audiences – Australia and England, and India and Pakistan – who would not allocate them to the stadium with the largest capacity? The MCG can host 90,000 spectators.

One of the criticisms which has been levelled against the competition’s organizers is that, although the MCG does not have a retractable roof, there is another sports stadium in Melbourne, the Docklands (Marvel) Stadium, which does. Why could that not have been used instead, or have been part of a contingency plan?

It hosted the first ever indoor international cricket match against South Africa under a closed roof in 2000 and is currently used in the Big Bash League. However, its capacity for sports is 53,000 and reducing a crowd of 90,000 down to that level at short notice poses immense logistical issues.

The abandonments at the MCG have reignited discussions about cricket and rain, this time not in England.

As highlighted in earlier columns, cricket has tried various ways over the past 250 years to ameliorate the negative effects of rain. Usually, this reflected the desire not to lose income rather than concerns for player safety.

Although safety has become more prominent of late, the financial considerations have become even more acute with the emergence of hugely lucrative global sponsorship, advertising, and media deals. No play means that the exposure of these companies to their target markets is reduced.

It may not matter to these companies if there is low attendance at matches, as long as there is live play to be beamed around the world. On-ground merchandising companies may beg to differ, and the players will surely want to play in front of more rather than less spectators.

Has the point been reached when cricket must seriously consider if its stadiums need to have complete roof cover?

This is easier said than done. Cost is the first consideration, with estimates of between $150 million and $200 million.

Second, is the geometry of existing stadiums. Historic venues have developed in a non-uniform fashion over several centuries making them unsuitable for roof construction.

Third, in some countries, it would be difficult to obtain planning permission in urban areas.

Fourthly, there is potential for the ball to hit the roof, while a lack of natural conditions could negate bowling skills – something to avoid in a World Cup tournament.

Even with recent new-build stadiums in the UAE, India, and Australia, partial, rather than full roofs, have been built to protect spectators from both sun and rain.

Globally, there are around 100 sports stadiums with domed or retractable roofs, of which 25 are tennis specific. Almost half are in North America and one-third are used mainly for football. There are too many factors working against cricket to justify expenditure on full roofs. More concern should be focussed on attendances at this World Cup.

Apart from the sell-out India versus Pakistan match of 90,000, the next highest has been 44,250 for the double-header of Pakistan against the Netherlands and India versus South Africa in Perth last Sunday, followed by 36,400 to see South Africa take on Bangladesh and India face the Netherlands in Sydney on the previous Thursday. The opening Super 12 Australia versus New Zealand match on a Saturday attracted 35,000 in Sydney, which sounds below expectations.

The Indian diaspora has been buoyant in holding up attendances and will, no doubt, continue as the team seeks to progress to the semi-finals, despite defeat by a South African team looking to exorcise past traumatic failures at previous tournaments.

It is the take up of tickets by the Australian public, outside of diaspora, that has caused most concern. There have been some dismal attendances. At the qualifying group stage in Geelong and Hobart average attendances were around 5,500. Matches which do not involve Australia or India do not appear to be attractive.

Why may this be? The weather may be a turn-off for casual spectators, ticket prices may be high, schools are not on holiday, the cricket season only started on Oct. 3, and the Australian Football League Grand Final was on Sept. 24.

October is a transition month between winter and summer sports. Despite some gripping T20 cricket, it is difficult to avoid the feeling that this is a tournament too far for the non-partisan spectator, at least in Australia. It comes hard on the heels of the delayed 2020 tournament held in the UAE and precedes the 2024 tournament scheduled for June in the West Indies and the US. Apart from the apparently insatiable appetite of Indians, could it be that T20 cricket is beginning to lose some of its allure?

Melbourne has been unlucky. Only one of the five matches scheduled to be played there so far has been completed – India versus Pakistan. England’s match against Ireland was curtailed by rain leading to the use of a statistical method to determine the result. Two more matches are due to be hosted at the MCG, India and Zimbabwe on Nov. 6 and the tournament’s final on Nov. 13.

Scheduling the tournament in Australia at this time of year always carried a weather risk. Although reserve days have been allocated for the semi-finals and final, the organizers will be hoping fervently that the rain will stay away, otherwise more than eyebrows may be raised.

Stefanos Tsitsipas sorry for disparaging Andrey Rublev, still positive about 2022 season

Stefanos Tsitsipas sorry for disparaging Andrey Rublev, still positive about 2022 season
Updated 18 sec ago

Stefanos Tsitsipas sorry for disparaging Andrey Rublev, still positive about 2022 season

Stefanos Tsitsipas sorry for disparaging Andrey Rublev, still positive about 2022 season
  • Greek has failed to make top 3 this year
  • Player now readying for Mubadala champs in UAE

Greek tennis star Stefanos Tsitsipas feels he owes fellow top-10 player, Russia’s Andrey Rublev, an apology.

After losing to the world No. 8 in the ATP Finals last month in Turin, Tsitsipas said he felt like he was the better and more creative player on the court that day compared to his opponent, adding that Rublev “prevailed with the few tools that he has.”

Rublev’s group-stage triumph secured him a ticket to the semifinals in Turin and spelled the end of Tsitsipas’ 2022 season.

Tsitsipas, understandably, drew lots of criticism online for the statements he made about Rublev’s game and in response taunted his critics in an Instagram post that read: “Dear haters, I have so much for you to be mad at, just be patient.”

Two weeks have passed and the Greek now admits he regrets what he said about Rublev and explained why he made such comments in the first place.

“What I said in that press conference against Rublev was very unfair towards him and not correct,” Tsitsipas told Arab News in an interview on Thursday ahead of his upcoming participation in the Mubadala World Tennis Championship in Abu Dhabi.

“I saw it from a sort of different approach; I wanted him to be mad going into his next match (against Casper Ruud), trying to play even better. I’m not going to declare the reasons why because I think it’s quite obvious the situation I was dealing with in the next match if (I) had played that opponent.”



Tsitsipas had wanted to finish the year ranked in the world’s top three but that loss in the ATP Finals, coupled with Rublev’s subsequent defeat to Casper Ruud in the semifinals, meant the Greek fell just short of his goal and concluded his campaign in the No. 4 spot behind Carlos Alcaraz, Rafael Nadal and Ruud.

“I really wanted Andrey to win the next match and my approach was to add fuel to the fire a little bit, to make him want to be more hungry and more concentrated on his next match,” Tsitsipas continued.

“I think that was wrong to do, because it felt like, I don’t know, he wasn’t able to perform, I saw the match, I don’t think he performed as good as I would have expected him to perform. That was my only way to finish in the top three if he had won that match.

“I just played a little bit with it and tried to use my chances as much as I could. But of course the best thing would have been to win my match.”

Tsitsipas and Rublev have established a tight on-court rivalry over the last four seasons and they have evenly split their 10 tour-level meetings so far.

“Andrey is an excellent player. He has a great array of weapons that he uses extremely well on the court. He can hit the ball really hard, he’s sort of like the Marat Safin of the new generation,” said Tsitsipas.

“I don’t think he’s limited in his game, I think he’s put himself over many years now on the tour that he’s capable of competing against the best. He’s one of the most disciplined guys out here, who is very professional towards his work. He’s a very funny guy, a very nice soul, I enjoy being around him. He’s extremely friendly and likes to make fun of himself.

“So if I regret saying that? I do regret saying that, yes. It was not very good for me, I was extremely hurt that I wasn’t able to go all the way at the ATP Finals, it hurt me a lot, I tried to let some bad energy out but that wasn’t the responsible or the good way, even if I wanted something out of it, it wasn’t the right way to do it.

“Definitely if I would see him I would like to apologize to him for thinking like this about him because it’s definitely not how I think about him in reality.”

This is the fourth consecutive season that Tsitsipas has ended inside the top six and the Monaco resident is not dwelling too much on the fact he missed out on a top-three finish.

“There are a few things I can improve and manage better in order to get there, but overall if you think about it, I was literally two matches away (from) finishing (as) world No. 1,” he said.

“If I would have won 63 instead of 61 matches — but of course selective, if I had to select which matches I should have won, I could have ended No. 1 this season. So that is to show that I was extremely close to get that privilege of being world No. 1.”



Tsitsipas, who will face Cameron Norrie in his Abu Dhabi opener on Dec. 16, amassed a 61-24 win-loss record in 2022, including two title runs in Monte Carlo and Mallorca.

“I think maintaining that kind of base and taking the right initiatives tournament after tournament is eventually going to give it to me one day,” he said of the No. 1 ranking.

“But I’m not here really for the sprint, I’m here for the marathon. I’m going to be on the tour for many more years and finishing in the top 10 is no easy feat, and it’s extremely challenging to be doing it year after year.

“You need consistent good results to get there, you need to be very focused on your job and have zero to no distractions during the year and you have to be a soldier. You have to wake up thinking about tennis and be extremely disciplined in what you do and include that with some hard work and some dedication to your craft. It never gets easier.

“You might want to make it easier in your mind, you try to find small exits and ways to make this process easier, but trust me it never gets easier. You cannot cheat codes on the ATP tour to make your way through.”


Not so long ago, Tsitsipas was the young up-and-comer trying to pose a threat to tennis’ “Big Three” of Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

He has posted wins against all three of them but has yet to secure a maiden Grand Slam title — his runner-up showing at Roland Garros last year was his best result at a major so far.

At 24, Tsitsipas is now facing a new generation of talent rapidly rising through the ranks with 19-year-old Alcaraz occupying the No. 1 spot and 19-year-old Holger Rune cracking the top 10 last month (he is a combined 0-5 head-to-head against them).

Djokovic, 35, and Nadal, 36, are also still around and winning majors and Tsitsipas finds himself grappling with both generations, the teenagers and the veterans.

“They’re extremely talented and good at what they do,” he said of the younger crew.

“They’re the most challenging thing we have ahead of us going forward. They can hit the ball extremely well, move very good around the court, athletic, have good intuition when it comes to their tennis.

“Of course I was kind of the new generation when I walked in facing Novak and Roger and Rafa the very few first times. I felt like I didn’t have much to lose because I was young and I kind of realized it early on and I was able to perform well against them.

“But now we have to deal with the even younger generation, I’m not 18 anymore, I’m 24 years old and that’s a different phase in my career now, a different step and a different approach that I need to take.

“I see it as a color index, before I was in the blue index where I’m really young and getting to know the tour and now I’m more like in the yellow index. And the next index, which will probably come at the age of 27 or 28, it will be the red index where more experience kicks in, you’ve been around and you’ve seen a lot of things. So I’m still somewhere in-between the middle I would say.”

Viktor Hovland shoots 64 in the sun and mud of Bahamas for 3-shot lead

Viktor Hovland shoots 64 in the sun and mud of Bahamas for 3-shot lead
Updated 04 December 2022

Viktor Hovland shoots 64 in the sun and mud of Bahamas for 3-shot lead

Viktor Hovland shoots 64 in the sun and mud of Bahamas for 3-shot lead
  • Hovland was at 13-under 203, and he made it look easy

NASSAU, Bahamas: The warm sun in the Bahamas brought out plenty of mud on the rain-soaked fairways and created some wild shots for just about everyone but Viktor Hovland. He made 10 birdies Saturday to build a three-shot lead in the Hero World Challenge.

Hovland ran off six birdies on the back nine at Albany and finished with a bogey from a mud-shot on the 18th for an 8-under 64, putting him in position to join tournament host Tiger Woods as the only back-to-back winners of this tournament.

“I hit a lot of just good quality iron shots to give myself 7 to 12 feet. It wasn’t like I hit one just incredible shot and stuff it or make it like I did the other days, but it was just kind of consistently giving myself looks,” Hovland said.

He was at 13-under 203, and he made it look easy. It wasn’t that way for the rest of the 20-man field, even with some of the best scoring of the week.

Scottie Scheffler, who can go to No. 1 in the world with a win, dropped only one shot and had an eagle on the par-5 15th for a 66 that put him in the final group with Hovland. It was a good day on his card. It was tough on the emotions seeing so much mud on his ball that he had no idea where it was going.

“Who’s good at those? You pretty much have no idea what the golf ball’s going to do,” Scheffler said. “It’s not something that I would practice at home just because it’s not something that I believe should happen on the golf course.”

The Masters champion’s best work was not so much his five birdies and his eagle, rather not letting the mud balls get in his head.

Everyone had to deal with it, some worse than others. Justin Thomas figures the one guy who caught a break was PGA Tour official Rick Wild, who records all the scores at the end of the day. Good thing it’s a small field.

“Only 20 people coming in and complaining versus 120. I think that’s probably a little easier on him,” Thomas said. “It’s unfortunate. And you can get some really, really unlucky breaks and unfortunate situations. But like I said, everybody has to deal with it and the more you let it get to you, probably the worse off you are.”

Thomas was bogey-free for a 66, tied for third with Cameron Young (68).

Young, the PGA Tour rookie of the year, handled his misfortune well. With a 31 on the front nine and his sixth birdie of the round on No. 10, he was leading by two and in the middle of the fairway on the par-5 11th.

He went to lay up with a 4-iron and saw the ball shoot straight out to the right and into the bush, leading to a penalty shot before playing the next one and making bogey. He had another bogey on a par 5 and had to settle for a 68, leaving him five shots behind.

“The one that really hurt me was on 11,” Young said. “I feel like I made a pretty good swing and it was into the weeds. It just takes a mediocre shot there to give yourself a pretty good look at birdie. So that definitely, definitely hurt. Yeah, there were a few.”

Kevin Kisner had a hole-in-one on the 12th hole with a 6-iron, the lone bright spot on a day when he shot 77.

“I was putting probably the worst of my career today so I decided just to make it from 189 yards,” Kisner said. “But it was a lot easier on par 3s because you got to hit a clean golf ball.”

Because a majority of the course was in reasonable shape, the PGA Tour decided to play the ball down. Officials were concerned about four or five fairways, but the mud made its presence felt from fairways that were deluged with rain on Wednesday.

Hovland carded three straight birdies early on the front nine, all from 15 feet or longer, and then he really took off on the back nine. He twice two-putted for birdie. He hit 6-iron to 12 feet on the par-3 12th, hit 9-iron to 7 feet on the next hole and then got some separation with an 8-iron to 15 feet on the 16th and a 7-iron to 8 feet on the par-3 17th.

“He played so good I almost felt bad about my round,” Xander Schauffele said after a 69 left him six back. “It was clean. It was so good I didn’t even realize what he was doing until he got to the end.”

Woods won the World Challenge in 2006 and 2007 when it was at Sherwood Country Club in California. He is not playing this week because of plantar fasciitis in his right foot that caused him to withdraw on Monday.

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers
Updated 04 December 2022

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers

Big day at World Cup looms for France, Poland goalkeepers
  • Lloris is a naturally quiet and courteous leader of this talented France team
  • Szczęsny is the only goalkeeper at this World Cup to have saved two spot kicks — one against Saudi Arabia and the second against Lionel Messi

DOHA: It’s a huge day for goalkeepers with big reputations when defending champion France face Poland in the round of 16 at the World Cup on Sunday.

Hugo Lloris will tie a national team record for Les Bleus four years after lifting the trophy as captain. Opposite number Wojciech Szczęsny is a penalty-saving, wise-cracking No. 1 who seems to be enjoying the tournament more than any other player.

Both get a stage to shine at Al Thumama Stadium trying to deny two of the most feared forward in Qatar — Kylian Mbappe and two-time FIFA player of the year Robert Lewandowski.

“The key to stopping Mbappe? It’s me,” Szczęsny quipped when Poland’s place in the knockout bracket was confirmed.

Lloris will face Lewandowski in an international game for the first time when he matches France’s record of 142 appearances held by Lilian Thuram, the right back in the 1998 world champion team.

“It’s quite something and I’m very honored,” Lloris said Saturday. He was in the same France squad as Thuram as an uncapped 21-year-old in 2008 though was never played with him.

France coach Didier Deschamps, who played often with Thuram and was captain in the 1998 final in Paris, paid tribute to them.

“They have shown exemplary professionalism for the national team,” Deschamps said Saturday.

Lloris is a naturally quiet and courteous leader of this talented France team and he praised Szczęsny, who he previously faced at opposite ends of the north London rivalry between Tottenham and Arsenal.

“He’s playing a magnificent tournament,” Lloris said. “Poland deserve to be here at this stage and they’ve got a great goalkeeper as well.”

Szczęsny is the only goalkeeper at this World Cup to have saved two spot kicks — one against Saudi Arabia and the second against Lionel Messi. Szczęsny himself conceded the latter one for brushing the Argentina great’s face with his glove when stretching for a cross. It was scoreless at the time in a game Argentina won 2-0 on Wednesday.

Szczęsny’s told the story of how he bet Messi during a lengthy video review that the penalty wouldn’t be awarded, only adding to his quirky time in Qatar.

The character of the 32-year-old Juventus goalkeeper, who is set to play his 70th game for Poland, is no surprise to long-time teammates.

“It’s not that Wojciech Szczęsny started to be such a great goalkeeper in this tournament — he’s been a great goalkeeper for years,” forward Arkadiusz Milik said Saturday through an interpreter. “It’s not a coincidence that in his career he played for wonderful clubs.”

Poland likely will need Szczęsny and Lewandowski to excel in their first knockout game at a World Cup since 1986. Since that 4-0 loss to Brazil, France won both their world titles and also was a beaten finalist.

Deschamps highlighted Lewandowski’s qualities as clever, technically gifted and knows how to use his body intelligently against defenders.

“He didn’t get a lot of the ball in the group stage, but with just one chance he can be very dangerous,” the France coach said.

Giving Poland some hope is that France lost in the round of 16 last year at the European Championship against Switzerland. Mbappé had the decisive penalty saved in a shootout after a 3-3 draw.

“We talked about that a lot,” said Lloris, who couldn’t stop any of the five Swiss spot kicks that night in Bucharest. “You have to be confident, but if a penalty is well taken, then the goalkeeper has no chance of stopping it.”

In Qatar, Szczęsny might be just the one to prove that wrong.

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title
Updated 04 December 2022

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

Fury stops Chisora to retain WBC heavyweight title

LONDON: Tyson Fury retained his World Boxing Council heavyweight title with a decisive stoppage win over British rival Derek Chisora on Saturday.
Fury, still unbeaten as a professional, dominated from the start, and with Chisora's eyes starting to close, referee Victor Loughlin stopped the fight shortly before the end of the 10th round at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.
The 34-year-old now boasts a record of 33 wins from 34 fights with one draw.
Fury's latest win also paved the way for a unification bout with Oleksandr Usyk, the IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion.
Usyk was at ringside on Saturday as he returned to the venue where he deprived Britain's Anthony Joshua of all those titles in September last year before defeating him again in Jeddah this July.
Soon after Fury's hand was raised in victory, he was involved in a ringside face-off with Usyk with only the ropes separating him from the Ukrainian.

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands
Updated 04 December 2022

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

Messi stars as Argentina set up World Cup quarter-final date with Netherlands

DOHA: Lionel Messi finally scored a goal in the knockout rounds of the World Cup on Saturday as he inspired Argentina to a 2-1 win over Australia that sets up a mouthwatering quarter-final showdown with the Netherlands, who proved too strong for the United States earlier.
The Argentina captain marked his 1,000th career appearance with his 789th goal to open the scoring in the first half at Doha’s Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
It was a classy finish from a player appearing at his fifth World Cup but who had never previously found the net in a knockout tie at the tournament he is looking to win for the first time at the age of 35.
It looked like Argentina were going to run away with the game when Julian Alvarez took advantage of a goalkeeping mistake to double their lead just before the hour mark.
Yet an Australia team who had already defied all expectations in Qatar just in reaching the last 16 went down fighting.
They pulled one back when a Craig Goodwin shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez for an own goal and only a last-ditch challenge from Lisandro Martinez prevented Aziz Behich, of Dundee United in Scotland, from scoring a remarkable late equalizer.
“It was a really physical game but I am very happy with the victory and that we have taken another little step forward,” Messi told Argentine television.
Argentina were one of the pre-tournament favorites and have since bounced back from losing to Saudi Arabia in their opening game to progress to the last eight.
Australia, meanwhile, go home after failing in their quest to reach the quarter-finals for the first time, but it has been a memorable campaign for Graham Arnold’s Socceroos.
“It’s all about making the nation proud and I’m pretty sure we did that,” Arnold said.
“Everyone said we were the worst Socceroos to ever qualify for the World Cup and the worst Socceroos ever.
“That’s gone now.”
Argentina can now look forward to a last-eight tie next Friday against the Netherlands, a pairing that evokes memories of some classic World Cup contests, including the 1978 final won by the South Americans and a 1998 quarter-final decided by a brilliant Dennis Bergkamp goal.
Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side also started slowly in Qatar but they still topped their group and on Saturday they produced their best performance yet to beat the United States 3-1.
Their victory was set up by a wonderful early opening goal at the Khalifa International Stadium, with Memphis Depay finishing at the end of a 20-pass move.
Daley Blind got their second goal just before half-time and a late strike from Denzel Dumfries sealed a deserved victory after Hajji Wright had pulled one back.
“We always want to improve and, since the start of the tournament, it’s been getting better and better with each game,” Van Gaal said.
For the United States it was a familiar story — they enjoyed plenty of the ball but were hampered by the lack of a cutting edge.
USA coach Gregg Berhalter’s men head home after scoring just three goals in their four matches.
“When you look at the difference of the two teams, there was some offensive finishing quality that Holland had that we were lacking,” said Berhalter.
“We don’t have a Memphis Depay right now, who’s scoring in the Champions League, playing for Barcelona, experienced at scoring at this level.”
The last-16 action continues on Sunday as holders France take on Poland before England meet Africa Cup of Nations winners Senegal.
While Kylian Mbappe and Robert Lewandowski will attract most of the attention when the French and Poland face off, the game will also be significant for France captain Hugo Lloris as he equals Lilian Thuram’s national record of 142 caps.
“It is no small achievement. I am really honored at the figures and very proud, even if it is very much secondary to the fact that we are on the eve of the last 16 of the World Cup,” Lloris said.
England are expected to see off Senegal at Al Bayt Stadium but their manager Gareth Southgate has no intention of underestimating Aliou Cisse’s men.
“They have some excellent individual players who can cause problems, but a good structure as well,” he said.