Short formats helping America revisit cricket dream

Short formats helping America revisit cricket dream
A new infrastructure is being built for cricket including stadiums, training facilities and pitches and a high-profile franchise league. (Via Twitter @USMastersT10)
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Updated 31 August 2023

Short formats helping America revisit cricket dream

Short formats helping America revisit cricket dream
  • New infrastructure for cricket includes stadiums, training facilities, pitches, high-profile franchise league
  • 26-team privately owned franchise Minor League Cricket League set up in 2021

On Sunday, Aug. 27, the final match in the inaugural US Masters T10 cricket tournament was played at the Central Broward Stadium, in Lauderhill, Florida.

Ten overs per side does not seem very long for a cricket match to develop the ebbs and flows generated by longer formats. Some players may not be able to contribute very much to the outcome. Bowlers, for example, are only allowed two overs each. Conversely, every ball is vital toward the outcome.

Promotion of the format occurred in the UAE in December 2017. Approved by the Emirates Cricket Board and sanctioned by the International Cricket Council, the competition is titled as the T10 league or Abu Dhabi T10.

Its founder and chair, Shaji UI Mulk, is an India-born UAE billionaire businessman. The tournament was launched and is owned by T Ten Sports Management, which is also behind the US Masters event. Other T10 tournaments have sprung up in the Caribbean, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.

The US Masters T10 followed on from the inaugural US T20 Major League Cricket. This comprised 19 matches and six franchise teams, namely MI New York, Texas Super Kings, Los Angeles Knight Riders, Seattle Orcas, San Francisco Unicorns, and Washington Freedom.

Although each name carries that of a city, the matches were played at only two locations, Grand Prairie, near Dallas, Texas and Morrisville, North Carolina. The former is a converted ex-baseball stadium on which $20 million has been spent to redevelop it just in time for the opening match. It has 7,200 seats, double the capacity at Morrisville.

This is hardly ideal if the league’s ambitions to be in the top three best global T20 tournaments are to be realised. A new stadium is planned to be built in each city where a franchise is based.

The vehicle for achieving this is American Cricket Enterprises which is reported to have raised $120 million for the purpose. All teams are owned by ACE, with investor-operators, who have invested in the company, assigned to each team.

Four of those investors are Indian, existing franchise owners in the Indian Premier League and in other T20 tournaments. The other two franchises have Asian Indian owner-entrepreneurs who have appointed Australian cricket coaching and high-performance analysts.

Despite the heavy Indian involvement, the tournament promoters understand it is vital to create an American brand, appealing to the American market, deploying marketing tactics honed in other US sports.

Skepticism exists about the chances of doing this beyond the Indian sub-continent diaspora. Matches were scheduled for the cooler evenings to target domestic audiences rather than television viewers in India. Tournament organizers reported 80 percent occupancy at Dallas and full occupancy at Morrisville, an aggregate attendance of some 70,000 people, a very encouraging outcome.

An obvious demographic to target in the MLC’s inaugural phase is the South Asian population. According to the US Census Bureau, the Indian population in the US has risen from around 800,000 in 1990 to 4.4 million in 2020. The broader Asian population is 20 million. These numbers have fuelled a growth to more than 200,000 players in 400 leagues.

Willow, the America-based dedicated cricket channel, broadcast MLC live in North America. CBS showed three MLC matches. Overseas networks broadcast matches in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and India.

Each of the six teams had a purse of $1.15 million to spend on a squad of between 15 and 18 players, of which nine could be overseas players. Domestic players were picked via an eight-round draft, each carrying a different salary. The average salary was $40,000. Overseas players were signed directly on an average salary of $80,000. Some well-known players were attracted, mainly from Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies, and South Africa, together accounting for 85 of the overseas complement.

Notably, only one current English player was recruited. July and August are the peak of the English season. This year saw the denouement of the Ashes in July and the Hundred occupied August alongside the one-day competition. Thus, the opportunities for MLC to attract contracted players was restricted. In future, this may well change. MLC has a limited pool of domestic players on which to call, which is one reason why it has allowed up to nine overseas players per franchise.

This has caused some disquiet within the ICC and more than one national board.

Calls for a limit on the number of overseas players in franchised squads and teams were heard to the extent of a four-seven split between overseas and local players. If implemented, this balance would have a seriously damaging impact on MLC and on the Emirates ILT20 because of their respective limited domestic talent pools. Each board needs time to develop local talent.

Fortunately for them, on July 13, the ICC board ratified a recommendation that no restrictions would be placed on already approved leagues but that future leagues may be subject to different regulations. In addition, players from associate members can be classed as local.

The MLC has medium-term plans to expand the number of teams, which will place even greater focus on the required number of overseas players. Tensions inherent in the relations between national boards, franchise leagues, and the ICC’s role of both governing and globally expanding the game are entering a new phase.

In the US, a new infrastructure is being built for cricket. This is not just stadiums, training facilities, and pitches, or a high-profile franchise league. To support the development of local talent, a 26-team privately owned franchise Minor League Cricket League was established in 2021.

It provides a pathway for domestic players to progress to the MLC and the national team.

Investors are providing strong financial backing and long-term commitment. They accept that immediate success and return on investment is unlikely and are prepared to take a 10-year view.

Amidst on-going skepticism, the double-headed attack by T10 and T20 formats on North America may succeed where previous attempts to establish cricket as a mainstream sport failed.

NBA, Mavericks and Timberwolves to engage with youth players in UAE

NBA, Mavericks and Timberwolves to engage with youth players in UAE
Updated 02 October 2023

NBA, Mavericks and Timberwolves to engage with youth players in UAE

NBA, Mavericks and Timberwolves to engage with youth players in UAE
  • ‘Jr. NBA Week’ will return to Abu Dhabi and bring together more than 2,500 youth and 250 coaches from the local community and region
  • The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2023 presented by ADQ will feature the Mavericks and Timberwolves facing off twice at Etihad Arena

ABU DHABI: The National Basketball Association has announced a series of social impact programming for youth, coaches and basketball stakeholders that will be hosted in collaboration with the Dallas Mavericks and the Minnesota Timberwolves as part of The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2023 presented by ADQ.

The week of activities, which will be highlighted by the return of Jr. NBA Week to Abu Dhabi following its debut in 2022, will run from Monday Oct. 2 until Sunday, Oct. 8 and reach more than 2,500 youth and 250 coaches from the UAE and across the Middle East and Europe. 

Jr. NBA Week will feature youth clinics and basketball development programming focused on teaching the game, promoting health and wellness, and empowering the next generation of players, coaches and referees, and will feature appearances by Mavericks and Timberwolves players and coaches, NBA and WNBA legends, and USA Basketball Youth and Sport Development coach director, Don Showalter.

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2023 will feature the Mavericks and the Timberwolves playing two preseason games at Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on Thursday, Oct. 5 and Saturday, Oct. 7.

The event follows last year’s preseason games between the Atlanta Hawks and the Milwaukee Bucks, which marked the league’s first games in the Arabian Gulf.  

Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend

Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend
Updated 02 October 2023

Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend

Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels register wins in ILT20 Development Tournament’s opening weekend
  • Six squads finalized through a Player Draft are competing in the 18-match contest in Dubai
  • Preparations for DP World ILT20 season 2 in full swing following the success of first edition

DUBAI: The Blitzers, Pearls, Thunderbolts and Marvels have recorded impressive wins in the opening weekend of the ILT20 Development Tournament.

The contest is aimed at providing an opportunity for UAE players to grab 13 spots still up for grabs in the DP World ILT20 season two.

In the tournament opener, player of the match Usman Khan’s unbeaten 68 off 52 balls (nine fours, one six) ensured a comfortable seven wicket win for the Blitzers. The 115-run chase was delivered without any major hiccups, with 20 balls to spare.

Earlier, the Marvels lost opener Mayank Choudhry on the tournament’s very first ball, and struggled to get going in their innings after being asked to bat first. Young all-rounder Aayan Afzal Khan top-scored with 24 runs while captain Basil Hameed scored 20. Uzair Khan and Muhammad Zubair took three wickets each as the Marvels were bowled out for 114 in 18.1 overs.

The Pearls recorded a 19-run win against the Dynamos in the second match on Saturday — a competitive 151 for eight in their 20 overs. Asked to bat first, the Pearls were well served by their opener Aryansh Sharma who scored a blazing 63 off 41 balls with the help of six fours and two sixes. All-rounder Zawar Farid (player of the match) had a memorable game as he first contributed 26 useful runs with the bat in a 42-run fifth wicket partnership with Aryansh before taking four wickets with the ball.

The Dynamos got off to a flying start but failed to maintain the momentum as wickets fell at regular intervals. Opener Samal Udawaththa top scored with 28, and Muhammad Shahdad made a 23-run contribution. Zawar gave away a mere 20 runs in his 3.4 overs for his four wickets. Adhitya Shetty was also impressive with the ball, at three for 27.

In the opening match on Sunday and third of the tournament, Asif Khan’s 87 not out (59 balls, six fours, six sixes) for the Braves went in vain as the Thunderbolts powered through the 166-run chase for the loss of five wickets.

The Braves were asked to bat first and posted a competitive 165-run total on the back of Asif’s blazing innings, the opener hitting some lusty blows to propel his side past the 160-run mark. Junaid Shamzu smashed 31 off 10 balls (two fours, three sixes) in an unbroken 65-run alliance with Asif.

The Thunderbolts chased down the runs courtesy of an unbeaten 19-ball 45 by Ansh Tandon. The left-hander hit two fours and five sixes in his brilliant innings. Captain Rohan Mustafa scored 43 off 36 balls (six fours), and the Thunderbolts completed the chase with three balls left. Haider Ali took two wickets.

The Marvels registered their first win when they defeated the Pearls by seven wickets in the second match on Sunday. Batting first, the Marvels could only manage a paltry 121-run total. Player of the match Muhammad Zuhaib and Aayan Afzal Khan took four and three wickets respectively as the Marvels struggled to get going.

The 122-run chase was duly completed by the Marvels in 17.2 overs. Opener Mayank Choudhry top-scored with 47 off 49 balls (five fours, one six), and captain Rahul Chopra scored an unbeaten 31 off 23.

Ronaldo targets first AFC Champions League goals for Al-Nassr against Istiklol

Ronaldo targets first AFC Champions League goals for Al-Nassr against Istiklol
Updated 02 October 2023

Ronaldo targets first AFC Champions League goals for Al-Nassr against Istiklol

Ronaldo targets first AFC Champions League goals for Al-Nassr against Istiklol
  • The Portuguese legend is the record goalscorer of the UEFA Champions League with 140

Al-Nassr captain Cristiano Ronaldo will look to get his AFC Champions League goalscoring account up and running on Monday night when the Riyadh giants welcome Istiklol of Tajikistan to Al-Awwal Park in the second round of matches in Group E.

The Portuguese legend is the all-time record goalscorer in the UEFA Champions League with 140, in a career that saw him win the competition once with Manchester United and four times with Real Madrid.

The match will be Ronaldo’s third in Asia’s premier club competition, having taken part in a successful qualifier against Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai, and on Group E Matchday 1 against Persepolis of Iran, which Al-Nassr won 2-0.

Ronaldo is currently the top scorer in the Roshn Saudi League with 10 goals, four ahead of his nearest challengers, after eight rounds of matches.

Andersson takes individual title, Team Abu Dhabi cling on to their team championship for now

Andersson takes individual title, Team Abu Dhabi cling on to their team championship for now
Updated 02 October 2023

Andersson takes individual title, Team Abu Dhabi cling on to their team championship for now

Andersson takes individual title, Team Abu Dhabi cling on to their team championship for now
  • UAE’s Al-Qemzi cousins take the fight to Sharjah as Swedes close in on their team crown

SARDINIA: Sweden’s Jonas Andersson clinched the UIM F1H2O World Championship for the second time on Sunday with a convincing victory in the Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy.

Andersson’s start-to-finish success in Olbia also puts Team Sweden in a strong position to secure the team title won for the last five times by Team Abu Dhabi.

While the defending champions had a disappointing day in Olbia, with Thani Al-Qemzi finishing eighth and Rashid Al-Qemzi 10th, they will still take the fight into December’s final round in Sharjah, which has produced many dramatic finishes over the years.

Andersson was crowned champion in Sardinia after an impressive third successive Grand Prix victory, cruising home from Frenchman Peter Morin, with Sharjah Team’s Ferdinand Zandbergen taking the third podium spot to go second in the championship standings.

The Dutchman will now look to secure the silver medal in Sharjah, although he can expect to come under pressure from his two closest challengers, Victory Team’s Erik Stark and Morin.

After his pole position success yesterday, Andersson looked in complete control following his superb start to take an immediate lead, which he never looked like surrendering.

Stark instantly swept past Italy’s Alberto Comparato to initially grab second place, but later dropped back to fifth and slipped to third in the championship.

Team Abu Dhabi’s two Emirati drivers were unable to recover from their qualifying setbacks. Thani Al-Qemzi, winner in Olbia last year, gained one place from his starting position but could not mount a climb through the field.

After securing his fourth F2 world title earlier this month, Rashed-Al Qemzi had problems at the start of the qualifying sprint race, and while he could not find a recovery, has clearly shown himself to be a rising star in top level powerboat racing.

The championship now reaches its conclusion Dec. 8 to 10 in Sharjah, which over the years has provided some dramatic finishes, and twice brought triumph for Team Abu Dhabi at Andersson’s expense.

In 1999, Shaun Torrente retained his UIM F1H2O world title when he edged out the Swede on a countback after Andersson won the Grand Prix on Khaled Lagoon. Two years ago, Team Abu Dhabi’s Torrente won his third drivers’ title in Sharjah after technical problems forced Andersson’s late retirement.

UIM F1H2O World Championship leading points positions:

1. Jonas Andersson 63 (champion)

2. Ferdinand Zandbergen 39

3. Erik Stark 35

4. Peter Morin 33

5. Thani Al-Qemzi 22

6. Bartek Marszalek 20

7. Shaun Torrente 17

8. Filip Roms 16

9. Sami Selio 15

10. Brent Dillard 13

Team standings:

1. Team Sweden 65

2. Sharjah Team 54

3. China CTIC Team 46

4. Abu Dhabi Team 44

5. Victory 38


India ready to raise curtain on Cricket World Cup

India ready to raise curtain on Cricket World Cup
Updated 02 October 2023

India ready to raise curtain on Cricket World Cup

India ready to raise curtain on Cricket World Cup
  • The World Cup features 10 nations playing 48 matches over 46 days at 10 different venues
  • India will face Pakistan on October 14, arguably the tournament’s most anticipated clash

NEW DELHI: India target a third World Cup when cricket’s global showpiece gets underway on Thursday with the country buoyed by a growing, international self-confidence and with a sport which unites and divides the sub-continent like no other on the verge of joining the Olympic elite.

The epic tournament features 10 nations playing 48 matches over 46 days at 10 different venues.

However, the build-up has been far from smooth after arch-rivals Pakistan considered a boycott when India refused to travel across the border for the Asia Cup.

As a result, the announcement of the schedule for the World Cup was delayed until just three months before the first ball was to be bowled.

Fears over security for the India-Pakistan World Cup blockbuster in Ahmedabad then saw the match moved back a day, sparking a domino effect of nine rescheduled fixtures.

Pakistan’s visit to India is their first since the 2016 Twenty20 World Cup but they were welcomed warmly when they arrived in Hyderabad last week despite only receiving visas just 48 hours before their departure.

“It’s been a superb welcome. People coming to the hotel and their hospitality has been fantastic,” said leg-spinner Shadab Khan.

In an indication of the security tensions, Pakistan’s opening warm-up match with New Zealand on Friday was played behind closed doors at an eerily silent 55,000-capacity Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium.

Torrential rain has also caused an early headache with two warm-up games abandoned without a ball being bowled and a third a reduced overs affair.

The opening match on Thursday between champions England and New Zealand as well as the final on November 19 are being staged at Ahmedabad’s Narendra Modi Stadium, named after the prime minister, the world’s biggest cricket arena boasting a capacity of over 130,000.

India will face Pakistan at the mega-venue on October 14.

The city which independence hero Mahatma Gandhi called home for 15 years is tipped as a potential host city should India bid for the 2036 Olympics.

Cricket itself — albeit in its short-format T20 — is expected to be named an Olympic sport for the 2028 Games in Los Angeles when the International Olympic Committee meets in Mumbai later this month.

The gathering of the best players of India’s favorite game will be the sporting culmination of a year that saw India overtake China as the world’s most populous country, after displacing former colonizer Britain as its fifth-biggest economy in 2021.

Now Modi is seeking a place on the global stage to match.

Courted by the West — despite rights concerns — as a bulwark against Beijing, the prime minister used the G20 summit he hosted this month as a catalyst to position New Delhi as a representative of many others outside traditional power blocs.

His Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party is widely regarded as a certainty to win next year’s general election by a crushing majority.

India are two-time champions having added the 2011 title on home soil to their 1983 triumph.

They boast superstar Virat Kohli who has made more than 13,000 runs in the ODI format.

“The memories of past World Cup victories, especially the iconic 2011 win, are etched in our hearts, and we want to create new memories for our fans,” said Kohli.

Pakistan, the 1992 champions, have lost seven times out of seven to India at past World Cups.

However, skipper Babar Azam will be key to turning around that run as he leads the way in the batting rankings. His average of over 58 betters even that of Kohli.

Defending champions England, who triumphed in a nail-biting 2019 final against New Zealand at Lord’s, can harness the destructive firepower of Ben Stokes who smashed 84 in that game which went to a Super Over conclusion.

The tournament will likely see the farewell ODI performance of Bangladesh skipper Shakib al Hasan, the top-ranked all-rounder in ODI cricket.

The 36-year-old has made more than 7,000 runs in the format with 55 half-centuries and 308 wickets.

Never far from controversy, Shakib arrives in India after a public spat with axed batsman Tamim Iqbal who he blasted as “childish.”

Australia are five-time champions and boast veteran David Warner who has amassed over 6,300 ODI runs.

South Africa, who have endured a roller-coaster relationship with the World Cup, undone by rain rules in 1992 and 2003, have also been hit by injuries, losing key pacers Anrich Nortje and Sisanda Magala.

For Afghanistan, slow bowlers Rashid Khan, Mohammad Nabi, Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who made his international debut at 16, and Noor Ahmad will be key on welcoming Indian pitches.

Sri Lanka, the 1996 winners, will be fired up by the indignity of being bowled out for just 50 and losing the Asia Cup final to India by 10 wickets.

Netherlands complete the line-up and are match-tough after negotiating the qualifying round in July where two-time champions West Indies crashed out.