Australia T20 skipper Finch quits international cricket

Australia T20 skipper Finch quits international cricket
Aaron Finch hits a boundary during the T20 World Cup cricket match between Australia and Ireland, in Brisbane on Oct. 31, 2022.Finch, Australia's men's T20 cricket captain, announced his retirement from all international cricket Tuesday (AP/File)
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Updated 07 February 2023

Australia T20 skipper Finch quits international cricket

Australia T20 skipper Finch quits international cricket
  • Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson said Finch finished as one of Australia’s best limited-overs players

MELBOURNE: Aaron Finch has retired from all international cricket after leading Australia in a record 76 games as captain of the Twenty20 squad.

Finch guided Australia to their first T20 world championship in 2021 and was captain again last year in its unsuccessful title defense on home soil.

The 36-year-old top-order batter also won a Cricket World Cup title with Australia in the 50 overs format at home in 2015 and played five Test matches across an international career spanning 12 years.

“Realizing that I won’t be playing on until the next T20 World Cup in 2024, now is the right moment to step down and give the team time to plan and build toward that event,” Finch said in a news conference Tuesday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Fast bowler Pat Cummins became captain of Australia’s ODI team when Finch retired from the one-day format last October to focus on T20 cricket. Cricket Australia hasn’t announced a replacement for the T20 team.

Australia were dominant in the traditional one-day format, winning four of the last six World Cups, but wasn’t able to convert that into the T20 version of the game until Finch’s squad won an against-the-odds title in the UAE in late 2021.

In all, Finch played 146 ODIs at an average of almost 39, and 103 T20 internationals at an average of 34.28 and a strike-rate of 142.53. He has twice held the record for highest score in a T20 international, posting 156 against England in 2013 and then setting the current mark of 172 against Zimbabwe at Harare in 2018.

Cricket Australia chairman Lachlan Henderson said Finch finished as one of Australia’s best limited-overs players.

“In full flight, there were few batters more powerful than Aaron, illustrated by the fact he holds two of the three highest ever scores in T20 International cricket,” Henderson said. “While he was a tough competitor on the field, Aaron always played the game with a smile on his face and in the right spirit.”

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories
Updated 23 March 2023

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories

Nepal and the UAE taking different cricketing trajectories
  • A win in Kathmandu over the GCC country sees Nepal advance in World Cup qualifiers

Evidence of cricket’s deepening and widening appeal is apparent in its growth in an increasing number of countries. The game’s ability to generate occasions of high drama and tension is being witnessed in diverse locations.

Last week, this was nowhere more apparent than in Nepal, a country not normally considered a cricket playing nation in many people’s minds.

Until the 1980s, the game was a niche activity, limited to Kathmandu. A major development program, introduced in the early 1990s, boosted playing participation and facilities. This led to the first appearance of a Nepal men’s team in an international tournament, the Asia Cricket Cup, in 1996. In the same year, Nepal became an Associate member of the International Cricket Council. Steady growth in performance was rewarded with ICC T20I status in 2014 and ODI status in 2018.

This was achieved in dramatic fashion, something that has become a hallmark of Nepal’s cricketing personality.

Nepal needed to win its final match in a World Cup qualifying tournament and then hope that the Netherlands beat Hong Kong, which they did. All of this was against a backdrop of Nepal’s cricket board having been suspended by the ICC in 2016 for a breach of ICC regulation Article 2.9, which prohibits government interference and requires free and fair elections. Conditional readmittance was granted by the ICC in October 2019.

After ODI status had been secured, Nepal’s captain at the time, Paras Khadka, referred to “years and years of toil, persistence, sacrifices, commitment and hard work.” He also referred to the need to stabilize domestic structures, if ambitions to reach an ODI World Cup and even Test playing status, were to be realized. In 10 years since 2008, Nepal has risen from being in Division 5 to being within touching distance of the big players.

One factor that is not missing domestically is the level of fan support. Nepal is recognized as being the most fervently supported ICC Associate member. This fervor has spilled over on occasions. In February 2010, when Nepal looked to be losing a Division 5 match against the US, the crowd threw objects onto the field, causing an hour’s delay. This led to a revised target, which helped Nepal, who edged into Division 4 on net run rate at the expense of Singapore, who appealed. A conditional ban was imposed, with the height of stadium walls ordered to be increased. In December 2011, a similar crowd disturbance occurred in a match with the UAE, leading to a ban on hosting ICC events in 2012.

There was no ban in 2013, when Nepal hosted the Asia Cricket Cup, reaching the final, only to be beaten by Afghanistan. Crowds of between 15,000 and 20,000 were reported to have attended group stage matches, rising to 25,000 for the semifinal and final, which was free of crowd disruption.

Hundreds of thousands watched the match live on television. The explanation for such support may lie in the composition of the team, which comprises indigenous players, who have progressed through the age group ranks. It may also lie in the absence of ticketing arrangements in the past.

Although this was not the case for Nepal’s match against the UAE on March 16, 2023, it may as well have been, according to reports. The occasion was infused with expectation. It was the final match of 134 played in League 2 of the ICC 2023 ODI World Cup qualifying phase.

The outcome would finalize the third team which would progress to the next stage, one step away from playing in the World Cup in India in October and November. Scotland and Oman had finished first and second, with Namibia holding third place, one point ahead of Nepal.

In early February 2023, Nepal seemed to have little chance of making the third place, languishing in the second to bottom spot. The UAE were much better placed, but imploded in their last 10 matches, winning only three.

Surprisingly, their defeats included three by bottom team Papua New Guinea. Nepal, on the other hand, won 10 of its last 11 matches prior to the final match against the UAE, which was out of the running for third place.

Long queues formed several hours before the start of play. Later, people climbed the surrounding walls and trees, before the main gate and its defenders were breached. The Tribhuvan University Cricket Ground, Kirtipur, Kathmandu, is one of only two grounds to host international matches in Nepal. Its capacity is 18,000 but eyewitnesses suggest that more than 25,000 gained access to the ground. They were disappointed by the UAE’s progress, which saw a huge score of 310 being posted, including the fastest century by an ODI Associate cricketer.

In response to this mammoth target, Nepal lost three wickets cheaply, before rebuilding. A rain shower tightened the nerves of spectators, as Nepal was behind in the par score at that point. They became even more tense as they witnessed the UAE’s tactics to slow the game down.

Fears of disturbance rose. Some Nepalese players pleaded with supporters to stay calm. Then, at 5:37 p.m. local time, with 44 overs bowled, the umpires decided that it was too dark for play to continue. Nepal had scored 269 for six. According to the DLS system used to calculate interruptions to play, Nepal’s target at that point was 260. Another victory had been achieved in dramatic circumstances, against old foes, who were mightily displeased.

The UAE will now join a playoff competition in Namibia between March 26 and April 5. This comprises the bottom four teams in League 2, plus Canada and Jersey, who won feeder Challenger leagues.

ODI status is at stake for the UAE, since the two highest placed teams out of the UAE, Namibia, Canada and Jersey will secure ODI status for the 2023-2027 World Cup cycle. The UAE’s leading players participated in the DP World ILT20 League in January and February.

Since then, the team’s performance has stalled badly, whereas Nepal’s star has risen.

Pakistani cricket legend sees sports growth in Saudi Arabia with optimism

Pakistani pace legend Wasim Akram speaks with Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan
Pakistani pace legend Wasim Akram speaks with Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan
Updated 19 March 2023

Pakistani cricket legend sees sports growth in Saudi Arabia with optimism

Pakistani pace legend Wasim Akram speaks with Arab News in Karachi, Pakistan
  • Wasim Akram met with head of Saudi Cricket Federation on his first visit to Riyadh
  • Former Pakistan cricket captain wants to return to the Kingdom to see the talent he didn’t get a chance to see emerging cricket talent in the Kingdom, he would like to visit again

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistan cricket captain, Wasim Akram, has said he is optimistic about cricket growth in Saudi Arabia and is eager to see the sport’s talent from the Kingdom, after a visit to Riyadh last month.

Akram was in the Saudi capital for the first time in February where he met with the chairman of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, Prince Saud bin Mishal, to discuss the future of the sport in the Kingdom. 

Chairman of Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation, Prince Saud bin Mishal, left, presents a special jersey to Pakistan cricket legend Wasim Akram in Riyadh on Feb. 2, 2023. (SACF)

His visit comes as the two countries strengthen ties in cricket, and the sport grows increasingly popular in Saudi Arabia. The Pakistan Cricket Board, which controls the South Asian nation’s domestic and national teams, earlier in January said it was ready to share sports expertise with the Gulf nation. 

In a recent interview with Arab News, Akram expressed his optimism about Saudi Arabia’s cricket growth.

“I am sure they can form a proper cricket team where they can actually beat the associate countries,” Akram said.  

“But for that they have got to have domestic regular leagues, and that too, like I said earlier, on turf pitches. That’s very important for Saudi cricket to evolve.”

Cricket matches have been organized in Saudi Arabia since the 1960s, when the game was introduced by expatriates from Pakistan and India. The sport has become more structured in the years since, and local clubs began to form.

The Kingdom became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council in 2003 and, in 2016, was promoted to associate membership.

But the game saw a real boom only recently, after the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation was established in 2020, and has since lined up a series of programs to promote the sport at home and prepare national teams to compete with the world’s best in the future.

Among the sport's leading nations is Pakistan, where cricket is the most popular sport — played, watched and loved by people across the country that for decades has been one of the top players in the ICC’s Test, ODI and Twenty20 rankings.

In January, Javed Afridi, who owns the Pakistan Super League franchise Peshawar Zalmi, announced that his team was going to play exhibition matches in Saudi Arabia.  

Akram, who is revered as a cricket legend, said he was eager to visit Saudi Arabia again to “see the talent,” adding that he was “amazed” with the country during his visit.

“The country is evolving. It has evolved so much,” he said.


YCCC racism crisis local battle with widespread implications for cricket

YCCC racism crisis local battle with widespread implications for cricket
Updated 16 March 2023

YCCC racism crisis local battle with widespread implications for cricket

YCCC racism crisis local battle with widespread implications for cricket
  • 16 months after former Yorkshire County Cricket Club player Azeem Rafiq made racism allegations, the case is finally being heard by an independent panel of the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission

“Vacancy: YCCC Chair” appeared rather starkly on the website of Yorkshire County Cricket Club on Feb. 10.

And behind this job advertisement lies a salutary tale with implications for cricket around the world.

It is less than 16 months ago that YCCC was engulfed in a crisis brought about by allegations of racism by one of its former players, Azeem Rafiq.

His testimony to the Parliamentary Select Committee of the UK Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport on Nov. 16, 2021, sparked a chain of events which are still in train and unresolved.

How the matter attracted the attention of a parliamentary committee, with the hearings being live streamed nationally, lies in the procedures and governance adopted by YCCC and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the sport’s governing body.

It is understood that Rafiq made his initial complaints in 2017 to YCCC, formalizing them in 2018, a year in which his contract was not renewed.

Following the appointment of a YCCC chair with a reforming agenda in 2020, Rafiq’s issues were revealed in a media interview. This provoked the chair to appoint a law firm to conduct an independent review of the allegations.

Its report was submitted in August 2021 to YCCC. The club chose not to make it public or share it with the ECB. A summary was made available on Sept. 10 and a redacted copy to Rafiq on Oct. 13.

YCCC apologized to Rafiq, accepting that he had been the victim of “racial harassment and bullying,” but insisted there was insufficient evidence to prove or disprove institutionalized racism. An announcement in late October 2021, confirmed that no individuals would face disciplinary action.

This dead-batting was too much for those seeking to make a breakthrough.

YCCC’s chair was called to appear before the select committee, key sponsors withdrew support, the ECB suspended YCCC from hosting international matches, and YCCC’s chief executive officer resigned, as did the chair. Lord Kamlesh Patel, a member of the British House of Lords, took over a fragile situation.

Under Patel’s stewardship, significant developments occurred. On Dec. 3, 2021, 16 members of staff were removed from their posts at YCCC, including the director of cricket and head coach. This looked to be a draconian move.

The context to the move was a letter written in early October 2022 to YCCC by 14 staff members to indicate that they would not support any level of criticism or blame being attached to current members of staff. They made clear that blame should only attach to Rafiq, who they regarded as, “having a one-man mission to bring down the club.”

Furthermore, they added that Rafiq had demanded significant staff support while at the club, and “became an underperformer on the field, problematic in the dressing room, and a complete liability off the field.”

Battle lines had been drawn by those in denial of malfeasance and opposed to the types of reforms demanded by external forces.

No rapprochement with Rafiq was offered. Instead, a counterattack ensued in which Rafiq was portrayed as a troublemaker and received threats to himself and family. He now receives 24/7 security provided by the ECB.

A former Yorkshire chair, Robin Smith, has been openly critical of Patel. In March last year, he called for him to step down. This was shortly after the ECB had conditionally lifted its ban on YCCC hosting international matches, a major boost to its financial prospects.

In June, the ECB charged YCCC and seven individuals with breaching its directive 3.3. This relates to conduct which is improper, may be prejudicial to the interests of cricket, or which may bring the ECB, the game of cricket, or any cricketer into disrepute. It has taken until early March of this year for the cases to be heard by an independent panel of the ECB’s Cricket Discipline Commission.

In early February, YCCC admitted liability to four amended charges, including a failure to address systemic use of racist language. One of those charged has admitted using racist language, but five others have refused to engage with the CDC, citing a lack of faith in the process. It seems extraordinary that the commission does not have the power to order attendance, although the charges will be considered in absentia.

This weakness has provided opportunities for criticism of the ECB’s overall stance, which is that YCCC’s handling of Rafiq’s case was unacceptable and causing serious damage to the game’s reputation.

Although former players have admitted to the use of a derogatory racist word in relation to Rafiq and referring to Asians as “you lot,” they believed that this constituted banter rather than racism.

During a follow-up hearing of the DCMS committee on Dec. 13, 2022, Rafiq suggested that the Yorkshire Post had carried out a “campaign to discredit and intimidate” him. This was vehemently rebuffed by the newspaper’s editors, who regarded the accusation as “scurrilous,” and noted that they had given voice to others who were voiceless, including the staff sacked by YCCC.

In early March this year, the paper reported on YCCC’s accounts for the year ended Dec. 3, 2022.

A pre-tax loss of £2.2 million ($2.6 million) was incurred, of which £1.6 million related to remaining settlement payments, legal fees, and governance costs.

YCCC’s perilous financial position jeopardizes payment of some £3 million due to be made to the Graves Family Trust later this year. Colin Graves is a former chair of both YCCC and the ECB, spanning 2002, when he rescued YCCC, to 2020. Currently, YCCC’s debt to the trusts stands at £15 million.

Patel will stand down at March’s annual general meeting, criticized for being the first chair to receive remuneration. Graves has made public his willingness to be chair, for which he wants no financial reward. No doubt, this sits well with many YCCC members, who see this as a perfect solution. Others, especially externally, see the prospect differently.

The Rafiq case has been turned into one about YCCC’s survival, rather than being a catalyst to tackle racism.

In May, in conjunction with cricket journalist, George Dobell, a book will be published about Rafiq’s experiences. It will also draw upon similar experiences of people from other walks of life, keen to have a conversation about an issue that has proved so troublesome for YCCC and its leadership.

‘Our aim is to make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination’: SACF chairman

‘Our aim is to make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination’: SACF chairman
Updated 11 March 2023

‘Our aim is to make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination’: SACF chairman

‘Our aim is to make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination’: SACF chairman
  • Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud expresses joy at Kingdom’s triumph at ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023

RIYADH: Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Chairman Prince Saud bin Mishal Al-Saud has expressed his delight at seeing the Kingdom’s national team win their first international trophy since the SACF’s formation in 2020.
Last Sunday, Saudi Arabia won the inaugural ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 in Bangkok, beating Bahrain by 10 wickets in just four overs.
The men in green maintained a perfect record of five wins from five matches in the tournament.
“It’s our first win as a federation since we were established more than two years ago, and that would’ve never happened without the endless support of our government, the Ministry of Sports, the Olympic Committee and all regional associations,” said Prince Saud in an exclusive interview with Arab News after returning from Bangkok. “They honestly made our job easier to perform and reach this point.”
When asked if a professional cricket league system in the Kingdom is on the cards, he replied: “As we know, Saudi Arabia is the biggest country in the region with the biggest number of teams and players. So there will be leagues on all levels, not just one league.
“And to answer that question precisely, we’ve developed throughout our time in the federation great relationships with the International Cricket Council, the global governing body of cricket, and the Asian Cricket Council, the organization that promotes and develops the sport of cricket in Asia, as well as some successful international cricket boards and big cricketers globally.”
High-profile figures form the world of cricket have offered their expertise and backing for cricket in the Kingdom.
“And then we hired experts to help us develop a model of a league that engages Saudi club brands along with all regional associations,” said Prince Saud.
“Of course, a lot of infrastructure and development are required, but we’ll announce when it’s time.”
Outlining his vision for the sport — including producing a competitive international team in Saudi Arabia — and his ambitions for domestic and international cricket over the coming years, he said: “Our aim is to create a sustainable industry for locals and expats living in the Kingdom and make Saudi Arabia a global cricketing destination.”
The Saudi team’s comprehensive victory in the ACC Men’s Challenger Cup in Thailand came in a 50-over one-day international competition.
The Challenger Cup is the first staging post in the ACC’s restructured three-tier pathway toward the Asia Cup 2023 to be hosted by Pakistan.
It was composed of eight teams divided into two groups, and was designed to provide increased opportunities for a larger number of its members to display their talents.
The Saudi cricket team will now play the first edition of the 2023 ACC Men’s Premier Cup in Nepal, a tournament that provides a qualification pathway toward the Asia Cup 2023 in Pakistan.

Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation targets grassroots to change perception of the sport across the Kingdom, says CEO

CEO of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Tariq Ziad Sagga
CEO of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Tariq Ziad Sagga
Updated 11 March 2023

Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation targets grassroots to change perception of the sport across the Kingdom, says CEO

CEO of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Tariq Ziad Sagga
  • Tariq Ziad Sagga insists that through extensive school and community programs, a cricketing culture can be introduced across the Kingdom

RIYADH: CEO of the Saudi Arabian Cricket Federation Tariq Ziad Sagga has outlined the plans that set the Kingdom’s nascent national team on the path to winning the inaugural ACC Men’s Challenger Cup 2023 in Bangkok last week, highlighting the domestic and grassroots level programs that have been implemented in percent years.

Cricket is one of the world’s oldest popular sports and has been part of many cultures for centuries. Now the SACF, established as recently as 2020, has been thriving and has introduced a cricketing culture across the Kingdom in the blink of an eye by lining up a series of major programs focused on promoting the game among locals and expatriates.

“The Saudi cricket federation was established (just over) two years ago, and we have plans to implement domestic programs for cricket locally,” said Sagga in an exclusive interview with Arab News. “For example, our main championship is the National Cricket Championship, which started in 2021 with 11 cities and featured more than 400 teams, clubs and Under-16 associations, and over 30,000 participants. This year, participation will exceed 50,000.

“The second tournament we had was softball cricket in six cities and total participation exceeded 10,000 in 2022. This year hopefully it will exceed 15,000,” said the CEO.

Other programs include community cricket programs, such as Father’s Day and Mother’s Day cricket.

“Some of the national events are for National day and Founding Day of Saudi Arabia. For other cricketing nations like India and Pakistan, we do social events, and we have a different program,” Sagga said.

“We had the school cricket program, which we implemented in international schools in the main cities like Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam,” he added. “We also had talent hunt programs and workforce programs. We did many of these events in workforce camps, like Amaala, and expat camps in Dammam. So, we had a good number of tournaments locally and we are planning to do the Saudi League later this year, as well as the school championship.”

Sagga said that these programs are also part of the Kingdom’s mission to promote a healthy and active lifestyle under the Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life initiative, with the SACF, supported by the Ministry of Sports and Saudi Arabian Olympic Committee, mandated to increase physical activity levels by 40 percent over the next decade.

“We are covering most of the regions in Saudi Arabia, and this year we are going to cover all 13 regions,” he said.

On introducing cricketing culture across the Kingdom in such a short period of time, Sagga said that the challenge they are facing is the perception most Saudis have that cricket is a dangerous street sport, played in risky places and not organized.

“So, we need to change this perception first,” he said. “We have short-term and long-term plans. For the short term, we are going to focus on marketing campaigns, creating videos and developing a proper ground to enable us to broadcast some of the matches and to change some of the perceptions the locals have about the sport itself,” he said.

“Our (long-term) plans involve focusing on the grassroots and the kids, introducing cricket to them in schools and implementing entertaining activities for them so that in the future they can play cricket at a more professional level,” he added.