New UAE franchised cricket league boosts sustainable development prospects

New UAE franchised cricket league boosts sustainable development prospects
Titled the DP World ILT20, the tournament features six teams competing for a place in the final on Feb. 12 (ECB)
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Updated 05 February 2023

New UAE franchised cricket league boosts sustainable development prospects

New UAE franchised cricket league boosts sustainable development prospects
  • Emirates Cricket Board General Secretary Mubashshir Usmani talks exclusively to Arab News about the six-team DP World ILT20, the nation’s competitors and future plans

On Friday Jan. 13, after several years of delay beyond its control, the Emirates Cricket Board will launch its franchised T20 Tournament at Dubai International Stadium.

Titled the DP World ILT20, the tournament features six teams competing for a place in the final on Feb. 12. A few days prior to the opening match, I was able to conduct a question-and-answer session with ECB General Secretary Mubashshir Usmani, who is also an associate member representative on the International Cricket Council’s chief executives’ committee.

During the exchange, he outlined his hopes and aspirations for the tournament, for cricket in the UAE and for associate members in general.

Jon Pike: One of the guiding principles of DP World ILT20 is that it provides a platform to develop local talent. How will this be manifested?

Mubashshir Usmani: At its heart, the DP World ILT20 is focused on a sustainable model for UAE Cricket — development and financial. The league, as a first step, has recently agreed to fund the first-year central contracts for the UAE women’s team and also pick up the cost of a fulltime women development officer. Development programs have been committed to by the franchisees annually and will have significant impact on UAE cricket and will save funds that would otherwise have to be spent.

There are very clear goals that, by the sanctioning, the Emirates Cricket Board wants fulfilled and we are committed to fulfilling these. Once we have delivered a successful year-one, a women’s professional league is something that we would be interested in incorporating into the league in the years to come.

JP: In its inaugural year, the league has attracted players mainly from England, West Indies and Afghanistan, with each team allocated four UAE players, two of whom must play in each match. The fact that nine playing members in each team will be from overseas has attracted criticism from full ICC members. How this has been dealt with?

MU: The number of overseas players in a league is arbitrary. Yes, you will hear differing views on what is the right number of overseas players in a league. Some would say that the current practice in other leagues of four overseas players in (the) playing XI is at the cost of opportunity of four local talented players.

We think that, as an upcoming league, a guaranteed position for four UAE players in the official squad and two UAE players in (the) playing XI, as a start, is just the right number in the DP World ILT20. We believe it was a relevant and pertinent discussion and we believe this point has been listened to, time will be the decider as to how this is universally perceived.

JP: Currently, the ICC ranks the UAE T20 men’s team as 13th and 17th for ODIs. The women’s T20 team is ranked 15th. The men’s team qualified to participate in the T20 World Cup in October 2022. Has a timescale been set to break through to the next level?

MU: Our men’s team, and our under-19 and women’s team, have enjoyed impressive milestones over the past number of seasons in ICC tournaments, and Emirates Cricket’s management, support team and the board continue to seek opportunities and associations to expose the players to playing conditions that will raise the bar with the goal of securing a top-10 position (in the ICC rankings).

Our men’s side have already tasted victory of beating a full member outside of World Cups and that resonates deep with the players to replicate such a success. Our men are scheduled to embark on the next instalment of the ICC CWC series (as part of the ICC’s Road to India) and we have clear, quantifiable goals through our participation in such events.”

JP: Clearly, the ambitions of Emirates cricket are high. As an ICC associate member hosting a major T20 franchise league, to what extent could this initiative serve as an example to other associates to become self-sustainable, or is such sustainability only possible with Indian funding?

MU: It is important to note that the DP World ILT20 is one of the many leagues that work, and partner with entities from India, but not just from India — we are honored to have US interest in our league — which shows the power of cricket. Through this league, we are providing both our UAE players, and fellow associate players with the opportunity to rub shoulders with the best (in this format) and allow those that play the chance to take those learning experiences into their own international matches.

As mentioned in my previous answers, associates need to investigate and implement their own methods for financial security and sustainability: through the DP World ILT20 we hope they will embrace the concepts and adapt into their own markets.

“We strongly believe in representing your country, in whatever format, at an elite level is the pinnacle of our game. Associate members, who at best receive one-eighth of the (ICC) funding that a full member receives, need to continually manage their cash flow and revenue streams. Associates are becoming a more formidable force across two of the three formats, as we continue to see at events such as the Asia Cup and the ICC World Cups.

However, lack of funds affects and drives every aspect of business: play this tournament and gain valuable points to remain ICC-compliant, miss that tournament and lose an opportunity to develop talent. It is a delicate balancing act and, to be very transparent, we firmly stand behind our belief that the associates are the future of worldwide cricket — our game is not to be monopolized — in whatever format, UAE cricket has the opportunity to set an example for those that need to become self-sustainable.

JP: At present, cricket boards in Australia, India, Pakistan and South Africa have restraints on their contracted players, which make it difficult for them to play in tournaments such as DP World ILT20. What likelihood is there of a relaxation of these restraints or how likely is it that the players themselves, especially those coming to the end of their international careers, could break rank?

MU: While we won’t speak on behalf of the players, we can share that we have and continue to work with each board to find an agreeable outcome for players who excel in the T20 format to play and reap the rewards of playing in leagues such as the DP World ILT20.

JP: Looking to the future, what is the ECB’s ambition to become an ICC full member, despite the strict entry criteria and difficulty of arranging bilateral matches against full members.

MU: Emirates Cricket’s ambition to become an ICC full member is unwavering and we continue to work toward this goal. As previously mentioned, our team, collectively, works tirelessly to create associations that will assist us on this path, most recently our association with Bangladesh (Cricket Board) and now Afghanistan (Cricket Board) — with both of whom we enjoy a very strong, deep affiliation and relationship.

JP: In keeping with its pioneering ethos, the DP World ILT 20 will deploy innovative Smart Ball Technology. Who stands to benefit?

MU: A number of initiatives that will be implemented during the inaugural edition of the DP World ILT20 have been in the planning from day one — such as the Smart Ball — and now that we are fast approaching the opening match between Dubai Capitals and Abu Dhabi Knight Riders, on Friday Jan. 13, we are looking forward to seeing what this technology brings.

The technology contained within these handcrafted Kookaburra balls sends information from the ball to the end user in no more than 2.2 seconds — split-second information which is an extremely valuable tool for any commentator, high-performance manager, as well as hardcore cricket fan wanting to know more about the swing, the pace off the pitch, from the air and how much it spins. It is extremely exciting technology.

JP: Finally, what will success look like at the end of the tournament and what are the most significant risks or concerns which have the potential to create sleepless nights.

MU: When the winning team lift the magnificent DP World ILT20 trophy to the world — that moment will mark an incredible, emotional, successful milestone on which the league will have established itself.

Right now, I and this group of very talented, thorough professionals (involved in delivering the league) are approaching every day, every minute with complete dedication and focus to ensure every facet of delivering a successful inaugural edition is being met, so I can honestly say that once we reach the end of the day, not much is keeping me awake.

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place

Updated 12 sec ago

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place

Tunisia dodge bottles to secure Cup of Nations place
JOHANNESBURG: Tunisia qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations by winning 1-0 in Libya on Tuesday while dodging dozens of plastic bottles flung on the pitch by home supporters.
Haythem Jouini scored the match-winner on 16 minutes in the eastern city of Benghazi, powerfully heading an Ali Maaloul corner into the net.
By the final whistle the pitch was littered with bottles as Libyans vented their anger after Tunisia dominated for long periods and inflicted a second loss in five days on their neighbors.
Victory assured Tunisia of a top-two finish in Group J and a place at the 24-nation African football showpiece in the Ivory Coast next January and February.
They are likely to be joined by Equatorial Guinea, who are six points ahead of Libya with two rounds remaining in June and September.
Tunisia are the seventh qualifiers after the Ivory Coast, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, South Africa and Burkina Faso.
Elsewhere, veteran forward Cedric Bakambu scored for the Democratic Republic of Congo and was later sent off as they drew 1-1 with Mauritania in Group I.
Bakambu netted after nine minutes in Nouakchott, Mohamed Soueid levelled 12 minutes into the second half, and the 10 Congolese then repulsed endless Mauritanian attacks.
All four teams remain in contention with Gabon having seven points, Sudan six, Mauritania five and DR Congo four.
The last of 44 matchday three and four fixtures is scheduled for Wednesday in Kigali, where Rwanda can climb above Mozambique into second place if they defeat Benin in Group L.

Ronaldo’s embrace of Saudi Arabian adventure could pave the way to Messi reunion

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least
The word is that, for Messi, a deal with Al-Hilal is a preferred option to returning to former club Barcelona. (FILE/AFP)
Updated 25 min 49 sec ago

Ronaldo’s embrace of Saudi Arabian adventure could pave the way to Messi reunion

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least
  • The Portuguese superstar’s successful start to his Al-Nassr career could also lead to the signing of Karim Benzema, Sergio Ramos and Luka Modric

The rumor won’t go away. In fact it’s getting stronger by the day.

A few months ago, the notion of Lionel Messi signing for Al-Hilal would have been fanciful to say the least. But Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Al-Nassr, and above all, his embrace of his new home, has altered things dramatically.

So much so, the word is that, for Messi, a deal with Al-Hilal is a preferred option to returning to former club Barcelona, a new adventure in the US or a homecoming in Argentina.

An enticing precedent has now been set.

Let’s face it, few people believed that Ronaldo would make the move to Saudi Arabia when rumors began swirling during the World Cup, particularly as no specific club was initially mentioned.

Surely a move from Manchester United to a Champions League club in Europe would be his preferred choice?

But on Dec. 30, 2022, the rumors became a reality. Ronaldo was presented as an Al-Nassr footballer to millions of fans, many of them disbelieving, around the world.

While many have cast doubts about the reasons behind his move, and his future intentions, the Portuguese legend has gone about his business in exactly the professional manner you’d expect, on and off the pitch.

“I did everything in Europe, and it’s time to share my experience in Asia,” he said.

Ronaldo, like Messi, has had a successful international break, scoring doubles in the 4-0 win over Liechtenstein and the 6-0 defeat of Luxembourg. He returns to Riyadh in buoyant mood, having reminded the world that his golden touch remains intact since his move to Saudi.

Looking at his Al-Nassr spell so far, accusations that his prime motivation was money seem off the mark.

He has fitted seamlessly into the Al-Nassr setup, and so far has scored eight league goals — including four against Al-Wehda and a hattrick against Damac — to close in on top scorer Talisca’s tally of 13. He has also been named Roshn Saudi League player of the month for February.

Off the pitch, he has embraced his new surroundings.

Many believed he would be spending his time travelling between Saudi and Europe, but his family seems to have settled in Riyadh in double quick time, and they have been seen visiting many famous spots and historical landmarks such as AlUla, while his children have been taking Arabic lessons.

He further endeared himself to the local population by celebrating Saudi Arabia’s Founding Day in traditional attire.

Since his move, the world’s press has been focused on his every move, while football fans are increasingly targeting Riyadh as a tourist destination thanks to his presence.

No doubt the support for the Ronaldo deal by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the government, as confirmed by Saudi Minister of Sports Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki, has had a significant impact on how the Kingdom will be seen as a home for the world’s best players, with the promise that all clubs will receive similar backing.

This has led to speculation that players like Sergio Ramos, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric could be next to make the move to Saudi.

But it’s Messi’s name that has caused the most excitement, not least for the potential renewal of his rivalry with Ronaldo.

The idea, unthinkable a few years ago, is very much a possibility now, with good reason.

Over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has established itself as a hub of Middle Eastern and Asian football, with Al-Hilal claiming two Champions League titles and the national team excelling at different age-group levels.

Where the Chinese, Japanese and South Korean leagues had been seen as superior in the past, the Saudi Pro League is now arguably the most competitive.

Messi’s camp will be aware of all these developments.

The Argentine captain’s father was recently in Riyadh and will have been tempted with offers that could dwarf even Ronaldo’s deal.

And should Messi make the move to Al-Hilal, Saudi football fans and media will be the big winners. From watching two of the world’s greatest ever footballers duel it out in Spain’s El Clasico, the rivalry will be there for all to witness in the heart of Riyadh.

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
Updated 29 March 2023

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39

WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, Logan Paul set for WrestleMania 39
  • Event will take place at SoFi Stadium in California April 1-2

RIYADH: WWE Superstars John Cena, Roman Reigns, and Logan Paul are set for matchups at WrestleMania 39 taking place at SoFi Stadium in California on April 1 to 2.

The two-day premium live event will feature 12 matches as legendary WWE Superstars face off against the new generation on The Grandest Stage of Them All.

After passing the unprecedented 900-day milestone as the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion, Reigns has his eyes firmly set on retaining the title against his latest challenger, Cody Rhodes at WrestleMania 39.

A victory for the champion would allow Reigns to surpass the 1,000-day streak at WWE King and Queen of the Ring, set to take place in Jeddah in May.

Meanwhile, social media sensation Paul will take on his latest opponent in a long line of rivals, as the new superstar goes head-to-head with Seth Rollins to continue his meteoric rise in the sport.

In the women’s championship battles, SmackDown Women’s Champion Charlotte Flair will defend her title against Rhea Ripley. Ripley enters the match following her spectacular victory at Royal Rumble to earn her title shot at WrestleMania 39, presenting a career defining moment for the Australian as she takes on Flair, an opponent she has never conquered.

Bianca Belair will be determined to retain her Raw Women’s Championship as she heads into the ring for a mammoth clash with Asuka, who earned her place in the title match after emerging victorious at Elimination Chamber in February.

WWE fans are also set to see legends of the past with Hollywood star and WWE icon Cena bringing his two decades of experience to WrestleMania 39.

Cena will face off with the new generation of local talent in the form of US Champion Austin Theory in an unmissable moment in WWE history.

The recent feud between former allies, Scotland’s Drew McIntyre and Ireland’s Sheamus, has led to a three-way title fight for the Intercontinental Championship against German Giant, Gunther, in an explosive clash of the European heavyweights in California.

With more matches still to be announced, WWE fans in the Middle East can get ready for the epic showcase of WrestleMania 39 with weekly SmackDown and Raw episodes showing live and exclusively on Shahid.

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
Updated 29 March 2023

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit

Saudi football coming to terms with Herve Renard exit
  • Frenchman leaves to take over his country’s women’s national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup

Saudi Arabia’s fans, players and football officials are today coming to terms with the news that Herve Renard has left his position as head coach of the national team to take charge of the women’s team of France.

Rumors of his exit have been circulating for over a week, and following his last two international matches in charge of the Green Falcons, 2-1 friendly losses to Venezuela and, last night, Bolivia, they became a reality.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation confirmed Renard’s departure with a statement posted on its Twitter account.

“The Saudi Arabian Football Federation Board of Directors has agreed on the contract termination of the Head Coach of the Saudi National Team Mr. Herve Renard upon his request,” said the statement.

“A legal settlement has been (completed) to end the contract between the two parties. The President and the Board of Directors of SAFF wish Mr. Renard every success in his future career.”



Meanwhile, Renard released his own farewell message in a three-tweet thread following the loss to Bolivia.

“Having been the coach of (the) National team of Saudi Arabia is a great pride for me. Since August 2019, I had the chance to be an integral part of the life of this beautiful country. I have seen this team grow alongside me and achieve a fabulous World Cup,” he posted.



“This fantastic and unforgettable win against Argentina. Very proud to have been able to show to the world the progress and a good image of the Saudi football. It’s time for me to fly to another horizon but with this memories engraved in me,” he added.

He also thanked the minister of sport, the head of SAFF and everyone at the national team. “Special thanks to @AbdulazizTF @Yalmisehal @SaudiNT and to all the players, the staff, and all the fans for their incredible support,” the final tweet said.

The official account of the Saudi national team also followed up with a video message from Renard.



The Frenchman has presided over a period of success during his four years in Riyadh and while that has been welcomed in the Kingdom, it has also been noticed elsewhere, not least in his home nation.

His move to France will come as a blow to the Saudi Arabia Football Federation who looked like they had a respected coach who loved the job and was in it for the long haul. After taking over in 2019, he signed a contract extension in 2022 that would have taken him to 2027.

Renard has improved the team, established a style and, most importantly, delivered on the pitch.

All of Asia was impressed during qualification for the 2022 World Cup when the Green Falcons finished above Japan and Australia in a tough group. Placed in a difficult group in Qatar, Saudi Arabia more than held their own.

The world watched in awe as Renard’s men defeated eventual champions Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game. It was not only a come-from-behind victory, and not only achieved courtesy of fine goals from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari but, most importantly, it was deserved. Once they took the lead, Argentina quickly ran out of ideas in the face of determined and organized defending.

It was immediately hailed as one of the best results in the history of the World Cup and it certainly sparked the 2022 tournament into life. In the end, Saudi Arabia could not quite make the second round but returned home with heads held high and reputations enhanced.

Renard’s next task was to prepare for next January’s Asian Cup. It started with friendly games at the end of March against Venezuela and Bolivia but now it has ended, and somebody else will have to continue that journey.

It could be that Renard would not have left a job he seemed to enjoy for any other nation except his homeland. The 54-year-old takes over a troubled women’s team, however.

In early March, Corinne Diacre was sacked as head coach following a revolt from players. After six years in charge, a number of senior stars said that they would not play at this summer’s World Cup as they were dissatisfied with the standard of the coaching setup. The French Football Federation had little choice but to make the change, acknowledging that changes needed to be made. It was rumored that they wanted Thierry Henry but the former French international striker is said to be interested in the US women’s national team.

It is no surprise that the FFF have turned to Renard. He has shown that he can win tournaments, leading Ivory Coast and Zambia to the African Cup of Nations titles. He impressed at the 2018 World Cup with Morocco and did the same four years later with Saudi Arabia. With just four months before the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand, there is not much time but Renard has demonstrated in the past that he can turn teams around and achieve success.

The Frenchman is giving up plenty, however. Not just the chance to lead Saudi Arabia at the Asian Cup next January but there is the 2026 World Cup — and with the expanded tournament, it would be a surprise if the boys from Riyadh do not make it — as well as the 2027 Asian Cup that will be held in Saudi Arabia.

The Frenchman has swapped all that for the chance to take his home nation to a World Cup that will be held this summer and one that France, grouped with Brazil, Jamaica and Panama, have the potential to win.

While fans in Riyadh, Jeddah, Dammam and elsewhere will perhaps have a passing interest in how France performs Down Under, now the focus is on finding the right person to lead Saudi Arabia forward.

After the World Cup and the improved reputation of football in the country, there should be plenty of interested parties.

Curry scores 39 to lead Warriors rally over Pelicans

Curry scores 39 to lead Warriors rally over Pelicans
Updated 29 March 2023

Curry scores 39 to lead Warriors rally over Pelicans

Curry scores 39 to lead Warriors rally over Pelicans
  • Boston Celtics’ chances of overtaking Milwaukee Bucks for the top seed in the East took a hit with an ugly 130-111 loss to the lowly Washington

LOS ANGELES: Golden State erased a 20-point deficit to beat the New Orleans Pelicans 120-109 on Tuesday, with Stephen Curry scoring 39 points as the Warriors edged ahead of Minnesota into sixth place in the Western Conference.

Curry drained five of his eight three-pointers in the second half as the reigning NBA champion Warriors came alive, surging past the Pelicans to win a sometimes sloppy, often scrappy contest and boost their chances of avoiding the play-in tournament for teams placed seventh through 10th in each conference.

Golden State star Draymond Green and New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram received double technical fouls with 3:45 left in the second quarter after they exchanged words in the wake of Green’s foul on the Pelicans player — which was upgraded to a flagrant.

Green’s collision with Herbert Jones sparked some more shoving, and with 14 turnovers in the testy first half, the Warriors were down 17 at the break.

They opened the third quarter on an 8-0 scoring run and had cut the deficit to four points going into the fourth.

“We started playing with some heart and intensity,” Green said of the difference in the second half.

Jordan Poole’s reverse layup early in the fourth gave the Warriors their first lead since the first quarter, 95-94, and they didn’t trail again.

Poole scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter, and Klay Thompson added 17 for the Warriors.

Ingram led the Pelicans with 26 points and Trey Murphy added 21, but New Orleans coach Willie Green said his team’s lackluster start to the third quarter was fatal.

“We started, I believe it was eight-zip,” he said. “Two turnovers. You can’t give this team any life. Once they get going, once this building gets going, it’s tough to stop them.”

Elsewhere, the Boston Celtics’ chances of overtaking the Milwaukee Bucks for the top seed in the East took a hit with an ugly 130-111 loss to the lowly Washington Wizards.

Perhaps caught looking ahead to a Thursday clash with the Bucks, the Celtics were lackadaisical on defense, unable to stop a Wizards team missing two key players in Bradley Beal and Kyle Kuzma.

Kristaps Porzingis scored 32 points for the Wizards and Deni Avdija added 25.

Jayson Tatum returned from a one-game absence to lead the Celtics with 28 points. Marcus Smart had four three-pointers in the first half, but overall, Boston connected on just 11 of 44 from three-point range.

They trailed by 13 at halftime and by as many as 23 in the second half.

“It was just one of those nights,” Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla said. “Very rarely has that happened to our team. Just one of those off nights.”

The Toronto Raptors outscored the Miami Heat 62-36 in the paint in a 106-92 victory.

Pascal Siakam scored 26 points and Scottie Barnes added 22 along with a career-high 12 assists for the Raptors — as the Heat failed to gain ground in their bid to avoid the play-in round.

With Jimmy Butler sidelined by a sore neck, the Heat dropped a second straight game.

Tyler Herro scored 33 points and Bam Adebayo added 21 points and 12 rebounds for Miami, who cut the deficit to 10 with less than four minutes to play only for their charge to stall.

Dejounte Murray starred late as the Atlanta Hawks edged the playoff-bound Cleveland Cavaliers 120-118.

Murray made three free throws to put the Hawks up 115-113 with 2:14 remaining, then came up with a steal and a basket that pushed the lead to four in the final minute.

He finished with 29 points to lead the Hawks, who remained tied with Toronto for the eighth-best record in the East.

Atlanta withstood a 44-point effort from Donovan Mitchell, who tied LeBron James’s Cavaliers franchise record of 10 games of 40 or more points in a season.