How cricket, football learned to co-exist in harmony

Special How cricket, football learned to co-exist in harmony
The wandering and touring cricket club that is Jack Frost XI. (Twitter/@jackfrostxi)
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Updated 28 September 2023

How cricket, football learned to co-exist in harmony

How cricket, football learned to co-exist in harmony
  • Gap between end of soccer season, start of cricket season, vice versa, getting smaller
  • Spurred on by the perceived sleight that football was encroaching into the cricket season, Jack Frost XI was born

Autumn is fast approaching in the Western world, a season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, according to the English poet John Keats. It also marks the end of the cricket season in England and Wales, as the final first-class matches ended on Sept. 29.

It is a month later than it used to be in my boyhood. Then, there was a fairly clear demarcation between summer and winter sports.

Sixty years ago, the 1964 first-class cricket season began on May 6 and ended on Sept. 1. The English football league matches kicked off on Aug. 22, the last match in the 1963 to 1964 season having been played on April 27. There was a gap of almost four months.

Times have changed. Setting aside long football World Cup tournaments, regional, international, and club competitions, and extended international pre-season events, domestic fixture schedules have been elongated.

The opening 2023 to 2024 English Premier League fixture was on Aug. 11. The last one is scheduled for May 19. In the previous season, the last fixtures were played on May 28. The gap has narrowed to less than three months.

This is anathema to diehard cricket lovers. Some of them have been known to take it to extremes.

One Saturday in early September 1961, when the cricket and football seasons marginally overlapped, a team of cricketers bought an evening paper, another relic of the past.

Much to their chagrin, they had difficulty locating the cricket scores among the football coverage. Spurred on by this perceived sleight that soccer was encroaching into their season, they resolved to fight back.

The outcome was a match played on Dec. 26. Interestingly, they chose the 20-over format, long before it was introduced professionally in 2002. Soup and baked potatoes comprised lunch between innings. Spirits were provided at 10-over breaks. The event was repeated in 1962.

Given that wintry conditions were ever probable, an appropriate team name was adopted – Jack Frost XI.

The origins of Jack Frost are uncertain, but he is usually caricatured as a mischievous boy who personifies frost, formed when water vapor is deposited onto freezing surfaces. However, he failed to stop the Jack Frost XI from blossoming into a healthy club, which exists until this day.

In 1975, it played in every month of the year and has undertaken both domestic and overseas tours. Cricket has also been played on ice, as early as 1826. An international tournament, Cricket on Ice, has been played on Lake St. Moritz since 1989.

Another consequence of the closing of the gap between the end of the football season and the beginning of the cricket season – and vice versa – was to eliminate the dual professional. These were players who excelled at both a summer and winter sport to the extent that they performed at the highest levels in both. There are four categories of these talented individuals in England.

First, there are 13 who were double internationals, representing England at both cricket and football, 12 men and one woman. The last man to achieve this was Arthur Milton in 1959, but Clare Taylor made her mark in the 1990s.

Secondly, there are 22 individuals who have played cricket for England and professional football. This group includes Denis Compton, who did play football for England, but in unofficial wartime matches. Ian Botham is also in the group. The last player to achieve the feat did so in 1985.

Thirdly, there are 72 individuals who have played first-class cricket in England and have turned out for the England football team. The latest was Geoff Hurst, who played one first-class cricket match in 1962 and is most famously known for scoring a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final.

The fourth group of 64 individuals played both first-class cricket and professional football.

Since 1980, these dual arrangements have been scarce. Currently, in English first-class cricket, there is only one player who has played professional football and is performing at county level.

It should be no surprise that there are many individuals who are multi-talented in sport. Increasingly over the last 50 years, they have had to make a choice on which sport they should focus.

Gary Neville, best known as a football pundit following a trophy laden career at Manchester United, played cricket for Lancashire at under-14 level.

Jonty Rhodes, a South African cricketer and outstanding fielder, was part of his country’s hockey team in the 1992 Olympics.

A more recent South African player, AB de Villiers, who retired from cricket in 2021, is one of few players to average more than 50 in both Test and one-day international cricket. He was also a talented tennis player, but practice sessions clashed unforgivingly with cricket.

An all-time cricketing great, Vivian Richards, represented Antigua in a qualifying match for the 1974 football World Cup. Botham, his friend and foe, had to choose between football and cricket in his youth, having been offered an apprenticeship by a First Division club.

Although he did play 11 matches for a lower division club, Botham’s choice of cricket proved to be a wise one.

One of India’s most famous dual sporting personalities was Subimal “Chuni” Goswami. He captained India at football, most famously to gold in the 1962 Asian Games. In that year, he made his debut for the Bengal cricket team, playing with distinction until 1973.

Since 1980, the opportunities for multi-talented individuals to pursue a prolonged dual-sport professional career have become practically impossible.

A classic case is Ellyse Perry. At 16, in 2006, she made her debuts for both the Australian women’s cricket and football teams. Between 2012 and 2016, clashes between cricket and football demands resulted in a focus on cricket, in which she is regarded as one of the greatest ever female players.

The spread of multi-format cricket for both men and women, accompanied by increased remuneration, demands that players are full-time, single sport, professional athletes. Effectively, this renders futile any nostalgia for demarcation to exist between sporting seasons.

Pakistan aims to revitalize football after first-ever collaboration with Saudi Arabia

Pakistan aims to revitalize football after first-ever collaboration with Saudi Arabia
Updated 19 sec ago

Pakistan aims to revitalize football after first-ever collaboration with Saudi Arabia

Pakistan aims to revitalize football after first-ever collaboration with Saudi Arabia
  • Pakistan Football Federation signed an MoU with Saudi counterpart in Riyadh last month to promote the sport
  • PFF also wants to arrange visits from international teams to ensure that fans get to watch high-quality matches

LAHORE: Pakistan is looking to reshape the future of football in the country after reaching out to Saudi Arabia for first-ever international collaboration in the field, the top official of the FIFA-backed Normalization Committee (NC) currently running the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), said in a recent interview.

Last week, the PFF announced its chairman, Haroon Malik, had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) in Riyadh to foster strong ties for the mutual benefit, promotion, growth and success of the sport in both countries.

Pakistan has faced many challenges in international football over the years, including multiple suspensions of the country’s domestic premier division in the last six years. The last one was in April 2021, when FIFA banned PFF due to “third-party interference” after a “hostile takeover” of the body’s headquarters in Lahore and the ousting of a FIFA representative by a rival group.

The international sports governing body restored PFF’s membership in June 2022.

“I think the benefit [of signing the MoU] is that SAFF considers Pakistan to be a brotherly country and they want to develop football across Asia and they are making sure that it helps to raise the standard,” Malik told Arab News on Friday.

The PFF official said the federation was working on next year’s calendar, which will include friendly matches with Saudi Arabia.

“We are very happy that it covers not only the men’s national team but it also applies to the women’s national team,” he added. “On the youth side, we hope that we will play some games, under 16, under 19.”

Football recently came into the spotlight in the cricket-dominated country after Pakistan got its first-ever qualification for the second round of FIFA qualifiers, edging out Cambodia after ending a 13-match losing streak that dated back to 2018.

The faceoff was attended by over 13,000 fans in Islamabad as the country hosted its first international match after eight years, sparking jubilant celebrations not just for the victory but a homecoming of international football too.

The 193rd-ranked Pakistan, however, has suffered two consecutive setbacks in the first two matches of the second round and is currently the lowest-ranked team in Group G, which includes Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan.

‘Neutral venue’

Pakistan is scheduled to play its home matches of the FIFA qualifiers against Jordan and Saudi Arabia on March 21 and June 6, respectively, though the football federation appears to be facing challenges in hosting night matches against the two teams.

Asked about the situation, Malik said he was hopeful the PFF would be able to get floodlights installed under FIFA regulations by January.

“The [Pakistan vs Jordan] game on the 21st of March, I do not think can be played during the day,” he said, adding that his team was working with the government for requisite lighting to ensure they were in place for both matches.

“If not, we will have to consider a neutral venue,” he added.

‘PSL-like football league’

In a major boost for the sport, he said the PFF had been working on formalizing domestic football, promoting talent development through encouraging commercialization.

“If there is not enough commercial opportunity, the people, of course, will not choose [football] as a career option,” he maintained.

“We have All Pakistan Championship that is currently going on to find the best clubs that play in the country,” he said. “The second is to have a championship-style competition, something like the Pakistan Cricket League [Pakistan Super League].”

Discussing the national women’s team, the PFF chief said the federation was planning a football championship to establish a women’s league, to enable female footballers to display their talent and playing style.

The PFF, he noted, is also arranging visits from international teams to Pakistan, ensuring fans can enjoy high-quality matches.

Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series

Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series
Updated 04 December 2023

Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series

Sarfaraz Ahmed banks on Pakistani batters ahead of Australia Test series
  • Pakistan will play first Test against Australia in Perth on Dec. 14, before traditional Boxing Day Test at Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • Ex-captain Sarfaraz Ahmed says Pakistan are ‘well-equipped’ for the challenge with Abdullah Shafique, Babar Azam and other batters

ISLAMABAD: Seasoned Pakistani cricketer Sarfaraz Ahmed has pinned his hopes on Pakistani batters for the upcoming three-match Test series against Australia. 

Pakistan will play the first Test against Australia in Perth on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. The third Test will be played in Sydney and begin on January 3. 

Sarfaraz said on Monday he was ready to face the challenges, according to the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB). 

“Australia boasts good batters, but we are no less,” the former Pakistan captain said. “With Abdullah, Babar, Imam, Saud, and Agha in our ranks, we are well-equipped for the challenge.” 

Sarfaraz also praised the quality bowling lineup. 

“Shaheen and Hasan are exceptional, and we have the likes of Mir Hamza, Khurram Shehzad, and Fahim, who have proven their mettle in domestic competitions,” the wicketkeeper-batsman said. 

Ahead of the Test series, Pakistan will play Prime Minister’s XI on December 6 at Manuka Oval. 

Sarfaraz said he was inspired by West Indian Chris Gayle 200-run innings at Manuka Oval and the Pakistan side was bracing for the warm-up match. 

“I remember watching Chris Gayle’s incredible innings of 200 runs against Zimbabwe at Manuka Oval. Now, as we brace ourselves for a four-day clash in Canberra against Australia, the weather seems to be good,” he said. 

“This match holds an immense significance as it kickstarts the three-match Test series against the formidable Australian team.” 


Shan Masood (captain), Aamir Jamal, Abdullah Shafique, Abrar Ahmed, Babar Azam, Faheem Ashraf, Hasan Ali, Imam-ul-Haq, Khurram Shahzad, Mir Hamza, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Mohammad Wasim Jr., Noman Ali, Saim Ayub, Salman Ali Agha, Sarfaraz Ahmed (wk), Saud Shakeel and Shaheen Shah Afridi 

Usman Khawaja defends David Warner against stinging criticism ahead of Pakistan Test

Usman Khawaja defends David Warner against stinging criticism ahead of Pakistan Test
Updated 04 December 2023

Usman Khawaja defends David Warner against stinging criticism ahead of Pakistan Test

Usman Khawaja defends David Warner against stinging criticism ahead of Pakistan Test
  • Warner was criticized by former Australian cricketer Mitchell Johnson for recent Test performances
  • The three-match home series against Pakistan is expected to be Warner’s farewell to Test cricket

SYDNEY: Usman Khawaja jumped to the defense of his opening partner David Warner on Monday after stinging criticism of the veteran batsman from Australian great Mitchell Johnson.
Former fast bowler Johnson hit out after Warner kept his spot in Australia’s squad to face Pakistan in the first Test later this month despite a poor run of red-ball form.
The three-match home series against Pakistan is expected to be Warner’s farewell to Test cricket.
The decision to keep faith with Warner provoked a strong response from Johnson, who questioned why his former team-mate should be given a “hero’s send-off” in light of his poor Test form.
“Can somebody please tell me why?” he wrote in The West Australian newspaper at the weekend, also bringing up Warner’s central role in the notorious “Sandpaper-gate” ball-tampering scandal in 2018.
Steve Smith and Warner were both banned for a year for their part in the scandal, but Khawaja told reporters on Monday: “Davey Warner and Steve Smith are heroes in my mind.”
“No one’s perfect,” Khawaja added.
“Mitchell Johnson isn’t perfect, I’m not perfect, Steven Smith isn’t perfect, David Warner isn’t perfect.
“What they’ve done for the game from a positive point of view... far outweighs anything else they’ve done.
“So for (Johnson) to imply that Davey Warner or anyone else involved in the sandpaper (scandal), is not a hero, I strongly disagree with that.”
The first Test against Pakistan in Perth starts on December 14, before the traditional Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, then Sydney, beginning January 3.
Warner has indicated he plans to quit the five-day game after the Test at his home Sydney Cricket Ground, but will continue in white-ball cricket.
Warner was in scintillating form at the recent 50-over World Cup, but he has scored just one Test century since early 2020 and averages only 28 since the 2019-2020 summer in Australia.

Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s

Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s
Updated 04 December 2023

Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s

Australia women, South Africa men claim victories at Emirates Dubai 7s
  • Opening round of HSBC SVNS 2024 season took place at Sevens Stadium in Dubai

DUBAI: Australia women and South Africa men claimed the first titles of the HSBC SVNS 2024 season with victories over Argentina and New Zealand respectively at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai on Sunday.

In the men’s final, South Africa’s Blitzboks overcame a spirited Argentina 12-7 to lift their fifth straight Emirates Dubai 7s trophy – equalling the record for successive titles at a single location. Although Argentina had to settle for silver it represented their best result in Dubai.

Impi Visser had already crossed for the Blitzboks when Shilton van Wyk, player of the final in 2022, went over in the fifth minute to take the score to 12-0.

Argentina’s Matias Osadczuk cut the deficit to five points early in the second half, after Ryan Oosthuizen was yellow carded for a dangerous tackle.

Rosko Specman came within inches of a spectacular score but lost the ball – and ploughed into a steward – in the corner, as South Africa held off the Argentinian fightback.

With the series heading to South Africa next week, their run to the title in Dubai could not have come at a better time. Fans will be hoping they can go back-to-back in Cape Town next weekend.

South Africa’s acting head coach Philip Snyman hailed his squad’s “amazing performances throughout the weekend.”

He said: “We said we wanted to leave everything on the field. It doesn’t matter what happens with the result – we want to look each other in the eye and have smiles on our faces.

“Even with the yellow card tonight, they really played each other, they played for their jersey, and they restored the pride in the Springbok Sevens jersey.”

South Africa started the day strongly with a 24-7 quarter-final defeat of Australia, before overcoming Fiji 14-7 in an intense semi-final.

Argentina overcame Samoa 21-14 in the quarter-final before narrowly beating New Zealand’s All Blacks Sevens 21-19 in a pulsating semi-final.

New Zealand recovered from the disappointment of their semi-final defeat to take home the bronze medals with a 17-12 victory over Fiji.

The women’s final was another epic encounter between the top two teams in the world. In a replay of last year’s final, Australia overcame their archrivals 26-19 to end New Zealand’s winning run on 41 matches, which spanned since their loss in the Dubai final last year.

Teagan Levi touched down either side of halftime as Australia ended New Zealand’s winning streak to claim their fourth consecutive title in Dubai.

Not to be overshadowed by her younger sister, Maddison Levi broke her own tournament try record, her 12th try of the weekend in the 13th minute was the decisive one.

The match kicked off at an astonishing speed – and did not let up. Bienne Terita scored the opening try with just 23 seconds on the clock to set Australia on the road to the title in the 23rd final meeting between the two sides.

But the Black Ferns Sevens made it difficult for the champions. Jorja Miller touched down twice in the first five minutes en route to a hat-trick in a losing cause, before Maddison Levi settled the tournament in the closing minutes.

Australia’s captain Charlotte Caslick said: “She’s (Maddison Levi) unbelievable. She’s had an amazing pre-season so we’re all just getting to see the hard work that she’s done this year.”

On the game plan for becoming the first team to beat New Zealand since last year’s final in Dubai, Caslick added: “We wanted to hold the ball as much as possible because we know when they touch it, they’re dangerous. That was key for us – restarts and holding on to the ball.

“We love coming to Dubai, we love the fans here, playing in front of you guys. It’s a great team and we’re so proud of them. We worked really hard for this, so it’s really special for us.”

New Zealand’s passage to the final saw them beat Brazil 26-14 in the quarter-final before overcoming Canada 21-19 in a nail-biting finish to an exhilarating match.

Australia began the day with a convincing 32-5 quarter-final win over the US before running out 21-14 winners against France in a high-quality semi-final.

Canada missed out on their first medal since winning silver in Sydney in 2020 as they were well beaten 26-5 by France who claimed the bronze medal and put in a strong performance throughout the weekend with the returning Anne-Cecile Ciofani contributing to building excitement ahead of the Olympic Games in Paris next July.

Team Abu Dhabi face familiar rivals as new powerboat series launches in Khor Fakkan 

Team Abu Dhabi face familiar rivals as new powerboat series launches in Khor Fakkan 
Updated 04 December 2023

Team Abu Dhabi face familiar rivals as new powerboat series launches in Khor Fakkan 

Team Abu Dhabi face familiar rivals as new powerboat series launches in Khor Fakkan 

ABU DHABI: Team Abu Dhabi will be up against familiar rivals when they seek victory in the new UAE Class-3 Offshore Powerboat Championship in Khor Fakkan on Thursday. 

The experienced pairings of Faleh Al-Mansoori with Shaun Torrente in Abu Dhabi 4 and Rashed Al-Tayer alongside Majed Al-Mansoori in Abu Dhabi 5 expect a highly competitive opening round as part of the Khor Fakkan Marine Festival. 

The revival of Class-3 racing in the UAE began earlier this year, with Arif Al-Zaffain and Nadir Bin Hendi taking Fazza to victory in Abu Dhabi. They will be among the leading contenders in the new championship, which will see further rounds in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah. 

Team Abu Dhabi can also expect serious challenges from Sharjah Team’s Konstantin Ustinov and Dmitry Vandyshev, and Scott Williams and Martin Campbell of Team GB. Kuwait’s Bader Al-Dousari and Abdullatif Al-Omani will be aiming to win in Raheeb17.  

Three-time F1H2O world champion Torrente is happy to return to Class-3 action.  

He said: “I’m looking forward to racing in Khor Fakkan. It’s a new venue for me. It will be a nice course, with about three-quarters of it protected and the rest not protected, making it a nice mix. 

“Faleh and I have raced so much together. He knows what I want, and I know what he wants. He’s really done a good job over the years, growing into his role as a driver and being confident and comfortable in the boat. 

“His confidence is high now, and he knows that if we do our job well, it will be difficult for anyone to beat us. I love having him in the boat with me.” 

Torrente and Al-Mansoori will miss the second Class-3 race on Friday. This will allow the triple world champion to take part in official practice on Khalid Lagoon for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Sharjah, the final round of this year’s F1H2O world championship.