T20 break gives longer formats time in spotlight

T20 break gives longer formats time in spotlight
TOPSHOT - Chennai Super Kings' players celebrate with the trophy after their victory against Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League (IPL) Twenty20 final cricket match at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on May 30, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 01 June 2023

T20 break gives longer formats time in spotlight

T20 break gives longer formats time in spotlight
  • Fears franchise cricket remuneration would persuade top players to jettison Test matches proven unfounded

Finally, in the early hours of Tuesday in Ahmedabad, the 2023 Indian Premier League ended after a marathon 74 matches.

Chennai Super Kings triumphed dramatically over Gujarat Titans, last year’s winners, off the last ball, to claim their fifth IPL success.

Attention will now turn away from the Twenty20 format, which threatens to devour professional cricket, to the longer forms, both of which have existentialist concerns.

England began a sequence of six Test matches on June 1. The first of these, against Ireland at Lord’s, represents only the seventh Test played by Ireland since becoming an International Cricket Council full member in 2018. It is a prelude to a five-match Ashes series against Australia. While the match against Ireland will not be sold out, those against Australia will be, for sure.

In between England’s match against Ireland and the start of the Ashes, India and Australia will contest the World Test Championship at The Oval, in London. The two teams finished in the top two places out of nine full members who participated in the 2021 to 2023 cycle.

Each team was scheduled to play six series, three at home and three away. This meant that each team did not play each other equally, playing six of the other eight members. A series consists of between two and five matches, all scheduled to be played over five days.

The unevenness of the tournament led to teams playing a different number of matches. England played the most, 22, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh the least, with 12 each.

Final places were determined by ranking teams according to the percentage of points obtained out of the total number of points contested. Twelve points were awarded for a win, six for a tie, and four for a draw, with points deducted for slow over rates, England being the prime losers in that area. Australia achieved a 66.7 percentage of points available, India, 58.8, ahead of South Africa’s 55.6.

In mid-August 2022, South Africa led the table with a points percentage of 75. After that, they fell away, losing twice to England before succumbing to Australia in December and January.

In particular, South Africa’s batting was disappointing. The team was forced into transition, as some of its best players chose to focus on T20 franchise cricket. Indeed, at least one of them was playing in Australia’s Big Bash at the same time the Test team was struggling in Australia. Given that new T20 franchise tournaments were about to open in South Africa and the UAE, much soul-searching about the future of Test cricket occurred.

It generated various views and suggestions. One was that the 12 full members be divided into two equal groups with promotion and relegation between groups. This was based on the view that, if Tests became too one-sided, spectators would lose interest. Others argued that only by playing the stronger teams would the weaker ones improve.

In any event, the 12 full members have signed up to the Future Tours Program and WTC for the next eight years. The prize money available in the current cycle totals $3.8 million. The winning team will receive $1.6 million and the runner-up, $800,000. Teams placed between third and ninth positions will get between $450,000 and $100,000.

An often-expressed fear is that the remuneration available in franchise cricket will persuade top players to jettison Test cricket. Yet, most of these players continue to emphasize that Test cricket is the pinnacle of the game, the ultimate test of their physical, technical, and mental attributes.

There is little doubt that Test cricket is alive and well in Australia, England, and India. Concerns exist about other countries, largely because they do not generate sufficient income from Tests, as attendances are low. This means that national boards are either unable or unwilling to pay players sufficient salaries to prevent them turning their heads toward the more rewarding franchises.

Cricket South Africa’s financial problems led to its espousal of a T20 franchise tournament, while constrained opportunities for Pakistani players to boost incomes in the IPL and Indian-owned franchises are well documented.

Many people would like to peer into a crystal ball to foresee the landscape of cricket in 15 to 20 years’ time. In 2002, the prospect of T20 cricket being a dominant mode would have been laughed off. How wrong that view was, the format initially derided as “pyjama cricket.” Now, the straws in the wind appear to be forming a pattern.

T20 cricket, especially in franchise format, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, with one or, possibly, two additional franchises to come – the US Major League will start in July. Certain domestic structures, especially in England, pose challenges to further franchise expansion.

Test cricket is likely to prosper, primarily in three to four countries, with others playing their part according to finances and scheduling opportunities within the FTP.

One-day cricket is under threat but is set to continue at international level in World Cup format, with its extensive qualifying stages, at least until 2031.

There does appear to be a growing consensus among those who hold the future of the game in their gift that strategies to achieve co-existence between the various formats is the optimum way forward.

In moving toward that consensus, it is possible for everyone, or nearly everyone, to benefit. The game is nothing without high-quality players. That is why national boards must keep their elite players sufficiently remunerated. Failure to do so could lead to the crumbling of current structures.

Underneath the elite level, there are already signs of changing allegiances. A prime example is that of England’s Jason Roy, who asked for his incremental contract with his national board to be cancelled so that he could play more profitably in the US.

That does not mean he will never play again for England. However, the agreement signified a recognition by both parties of an action which represents another stage in the shifting relationships between players and boards.

Saudi athletes ready to shine at Riyadh’s 2023 World Combat Games

Saudi athletes ready to shine at Riyadh’s 2023 World Combat Games
Updated 27 September 2023

Saudi athletes ready to shine at Riyadh’s 2023 World Combat Games

Saudi athletes ready to shine at Riyadh’s 2023 World Combat Games
  • Total of 127 men and women from the Kingdom to challenge for gold
  • Athletes to compete in 12 disciplines

Riyadh: A total of 127 Saudi male and female athletes are set to compete in the prestigious Riyadh 2023 World Combat Games between Oct. 20-30.
A media statement on Wednesday said the Saudis were confident that their efforts will put them in with a realistic chance of a podium finish at the action-packed tournament which is to be held at the King Saud University Arena.
The Saudi contingent includes 87 male athletes, 40 females, and a dedicated team of 56 coaches and administrators.
Saudi contestants will compete in 12 combat disciplines: aikido, boxing, fencing, judo, ju-jitsu, karate, kickboxing, muaythai, sambo, taekwondo, wrestling, and wushu.
Wrestling and fencing will boast the most Saudi nationals with 24 in each. Aikido has 17 Saudis while muaythai will see 15 participating.
The statement added that the Saudi athletes’ aspirations are high and fueled by the hope of bringing honor to the Kingdom.
Tickets for the event can be purchased through the official website at https://tickets.riyadh2023.com/
Priced at SR15 ($4), each ticket grants access to all competition venues and the fan zone, while offering complimentary parking. Athletes’ families, children under 12, and seniors over 65 will be admitted free of charge.
Tickets for the competition’s final day will include access to the closing ceremonies.
The World Combat Games aims to promote physical excellence, cultural exchange and international collaboration.

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India
Updated 27 September 2023

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India

Australia end losing streak with consolation win over India
  • Glenn Maxwell returns career-best figures of 4-40 to spearhead Australia to victory
  • Mitchell Marsh led batting onslaught by scoring 96 runs to take Australia to 352-7

RAJKOT: Glenn Maxwell returned career-best figures of 4-40 to end Australia’s five-match losing streak with a consolation 66-run win over India in the third one-day international on Wednesday.
Mitchell Marsh led the batting onslaught with his 96 as Australia posted 352-7, a total their bowlers defended by bowling out India for 286 in Rajkot.
The hosts took the three-match series 2-1 but Australia finish on a high ahead of the World Cup starting October 5 in India.
Maxwell, who returned to the team alongside Mitchell Starc after the two players recovered from injuries, scored just five with the bat but made an impact with his impressive off-spin.
“I feel like I’ve come into this World Cup nice and fresh and I’m excited to hit the ground running,” Maxwell said after being named man of the match. 
“Nice to get a nice result tonight.”
The all-rounder added: “It’s nice to chip in, if Mitch Marsh was there on the field, we would have chopped and changed (on the bowling). Since he was not there, had to bowl more. That will be the role of the allrounders in this World Cup.”
Maxwell got the first three wickets including skipper Rohit Sharma, for 81, and star batsman Virat Kohli, for 56, after a brisk start by India.
Rohit raised his fifty in 31 balls and seemed to have the chase in control but Maxwell got the captain with a stunning caught and bowled in his second over.
He then sent back Kohli soon after the former captain’s 66th ODI fifty and, despite a fighting 48 by Shreyas Iyer, the Indian batting folded in 49.4 overs.
Pace bowler Josh Hazlewood took two wickets as Australia ended the losing streak which started in South Africa earlier this month.
Batsmen set up victory after Marsh tore into the Indian bowlers in attacking partnerships that included a second-wicket stand of 137 with Steve Smith, who hit 74.
The top four batsmen stood out with Marsh, David Warner (56), Smith and Marnus Labuschagne (72) all contributing to a mammoth total that looked like going beyond 400 before India hit back.
Indian pace spearhead Jasprit Bumrah took three wickets while left-arm wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav took two.
India had only 13 players to pick for their XI with some rested and a virus in the camp that made Ishan Kishan miss out.
Rohit said the players are fresh and raring to go.
“When we talk about the 15 we are very clear what we want,” said Rohit.
“We are not confused, we know where we are headed as a team. It’s a team sport and you need everyone to play their part and that’s how we win championships.”
Marsh took on Bumrah with three boundaries and a six in the paceman’s first two overs and the left-handed Warner soon joined in the charge.
Warner hammered Prasidh Krishna for three fours and a six in the seventh over and raced to his fifty in 32 balls in the next with another hit over the fence.
Marsh reached his half-ton in 45 balls but was denied a century when he casually slapped Kuldeep straight to cover. His 84-ball knock included 13 fours and three sixes.
Smith, Alex Carey and Maxwell fell at regular intervals, slowing the tourists down before Labuschagne took control until he was undone by Bumrah’s slower ball in the penultimate over.
The two teams now head into the World Cup warm-ups before they meet in the 50-over showpiece tournament on October 8 in Chennai.

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition
Updated 27 September 2023

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition

Saudi Olympic Committee president attends 19th Asian Games esports competition
  • Saudi handball team misses chance to qualify for 2nd round after 23-23 draw with Iran, which qualified along with Japan from the group
  • Table tennis players Ali Al-Khadrawi and Turki Al-Mutairi qualify for 32nd round in singles competition

HANGZHOU, China: Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, the Saudi Olympic & Paralympic Committee president, who is leading the Kingdom’s delegation to the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, on Wednesday attended the Saudi team’s esports competition.
The Saudi team reached the quarterfinals of the League of Legends game in the esports stadium, where they lost 0-2 to the Korean team.
Committee Vice President Prince Fahd bin Jalawi attended the Saudi handball team’s game against Iran as part of the handball competition group stage.
The Saudi team missed the chance to qualify for the second round after a 23-23 draw with Iran, which qualified along with Japan from the group.
A total of 193 Saudi athletes will compete in 19 sports at the Asian Games, which conclude Oct. 8.

Table tennis
Ali Al-Khadrawi and Turki Al-Mutairi qualified for the 32nd round in the singles competition after winning their 64th-round matches on Wednesday.
Al-Khadrawi defeated his Pakistani opponent 4-1, while Al-Mutairi beat a Mongolian rival 4-3.

Saudi rider Samantha Saifi concluded the qualifying round of the dressage competition, scoring 57.706 points in the second round of the competition on Wednesday. Saifi had previously scored 57.617 points in the competition on Tuesday, claiming 29th place in the overall standings.

Prince Saud Al-Saud, Hatem Al-Shammari and Saed Al-Mutairi, who are representing Saudi Arabia in the shooting competitions, concluded their participation in the individual shotgun.
Al-Shammari finished 21st in the overall standings with a score of 116 out of 125, while Al-Mutairi ranked 25th with a score of 113. Prince Saud ranked 25th with a score of 113.

Hisham Al-Dukhi and Mohammed Al-Suwaik exited the games in the quarterfinals of the taekwondo competitions after losing to China and the Philippines, respectively, on Wednesday.
Al-Dukhi defeated his Iraqi opponent Hussein Al-Lami 2-1 in the 32nd round before losing against China’s Chenming Xiao in the 16th round of the U-68 kg weight category. Al-Suwaik departed in the quarterfinals of the U-80 kg weight category.

The Saudi U-23 football team trained for the last time ahead of their match against India in the 16th round on Thursday. National coach Saad Al-Shehri led the training session, which included fitness recovery exercises, a midfield mini-match, shooting practice and stretching exercises.

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season
Updated 27 September 2023

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season

Increase in races and prize money for new Riyadh racing season
  • 700 races will be run at King Abdulaziz Racecourse with a total prize fund, excluding the Saudi Cup meeting, of $21.9m
  • Three other new cup races for Thoroughbreds have been added to the calendar

RIYADH: Prize money for the 2023-24 horse racing season in Riyadh, which begins on Oct. 16 and continues until Mar. 16, will increase by more than 7 percent compared with last season, and 56 additional races will be run at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, where the highlight remains the Saudi Cup in February.
The total prize money for the season, excluding the Saudi Cup meeting, will rise by $1.5 million to a total of $21.9 million, the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia said. The total number of races will increase to 700 across 59 meetings, all of which will comprise 12 races compared with the previous 11: 10 for Thoroughbreds and two for purebred Arabians.
This represents a significant increase in the number of races for purebred Arabians over the course of the season, the jockey club added, with 66 races added to the calendar. They include a new cup race, the $80,000 Abdulaziz bin Musa’id bin Jalooey Cup, which will be run for the first time on Feb. 10, 2024.
Five purebred Arabian contests have been introduced to the pattern, the highest level of races, this season and will be run as listed contests. The JCSA Cup will take place on Nov. 25, a week after a new, yet to be named listed race on Nov. 18. In the new year, the Imam Turki bin Abdullah Sword on Jan. 13, the Sprint Championship on March 8, and the King Abdulaziz Racecourse Championship on March 9 will be run as purebred Arabian listed events.
Three other new cup races for Thoroughbreds have been added to the calendar. The Imam Mohammed bin Saud Cup, worth $240,000, is a notable addition to the King’s Cup race day on Jan. 13, and the others are the $80,000 Prince Saad bin Abdulrahman bin Faisal Cup on Jan. 19 and the $80,000 Prince Fahad bin Jalawi Cup on Feb. 10.
A further development this season is the reduction of the distance in the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup to 1,800 meters, the same trip as the $20 million Saudi Cup, to better reflect its status as a key qualifier for that contest.
The dates for the Saudi Cup meeting have been confirmed as Feb. 23 and 24. It will once again carry an enormous prize fund of $35.4m, with the centerpiece $20 million Saudi Cup race itself maintaining its position as the most valuable in the world.
For the first time this season, the Saudi Cup meeting will feature three international G1 races, after the Al-Mneefah Cup for purebred Arabians, which takes place the day before the Saudi Cup, was promoted to G1 status this season.
Prince Abdullah bin Khaled, chairperson of the Jockey Club of Saudi Arabia’s Technical Committee, said: “The announcement of the 2023-24 Riyadh program marks the JCSA’s continued commitment to the growth of racing in the Kingdom.
“The Riyadh program, held throughout the autumn, winter and spring at King Abdulaziz Racecourse, builds on the success of the Ta’if summer season and leads the Saudi Arabian racing community into the Saudi Cup weekend and beyond, to the conclusion of the season in March and then potentially an international campaign for the top performers.
“This season the listed Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Cup will be run as an 1,800-meter race for the first time, making it a true prep for the Saudi Cup, which is held over the same course and distance.
“In addition we have added to our purebred Arabian program, with almost double the amount of races on offer. Every race night will now feature 10 Thoroughbred races and two purebred Arabian contests, underlining our continued commitment to developing this code of racing both in Saudi Arabia and beyond.”

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup
Updated 27 September 2023

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup

Pakistan cricket team arrives in India after 7 years for upcoming World Cup
  • Pakistan will play warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia on Sept. 29, Oct. 3 respectively
  • The last time Pakistan’s cricket team set foot on Indian soil was in 2016 during the T20 World Cup of that year

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s national cricket team arrived in India on Wednesday after seven years to take part in the upcoming ODI World Cup tournament, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed in a statement.
The last time Pakistan played cricket on Indian soil was in 2016 when former captain Shahid Khan Afridi led the green shirts in the T20 World Cup of that year.
Political tensions between the nuclear-armed South Asian neighbors mean they haven’t played a bilateral cricket series against each other in over a decade. The two teams only lock horns in global cricket tournaments at neutral venues.
“Pakistan team has landed in Hyderabad, India,” the PCB said in a statement. A video accompanying the statement showed Pakistan captain Babar Azam, vice-captain Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, and others exiting the plane with their suitcases.

This screengrab taken from a video shared by Pakistan Cricket Board shows the Pakistani team walking out of the passenger jetway at the Rajiv Gandhi International Airport in Hyderabad, India on September 27, 2023, ahead of ICC World Cup 2023. (Courtesy: PCB/Screengrab)

Pakistan left for India during the wee hours of Wednesday, traveling to Dubai where they were joined by Bowling Coach Morne Morkel while Team Director Mickey Arthur will join the squad in India, the PCB said.
Only two players from Pakistan’s current squad have traveled to India before: Mohammad Nawaz, who was part of Pakistan’s 2016 T20 World Cup squad, and Agha Salman, who was in the Lahore Lions’ squad for the Champions League T20.
Skipper Babar Azam’s side will play two warm-up matches against New Zealand and Australia on Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 respectively before they begin their World Cup campaign against the Netherlands on Oct. 6.
Pakistan will face India in Ahmedabad on Oct. 14 where over 100,000 fans are expected to attend the high-octane clash.