Cricket’s uneasy relationship with the environment

Cricket’s uneasy relationship with the environment
The Arun Jaitley Stadium in Delhi is shrouded in smog for the match between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka during the 2023 Cricket World Cup. (Getty Images)
Short Url
Updated 30 November 2023
Follow

Cricket’s uneasy relationship with the environment

Cricket’s uneasy relationship with the environment
  • Sport is not only a victim of climate change but also a contributor to it
  • Anyone who attended World Cup matches in Delhi, as did your columnist, cannot have failed to have noticed or been affected by the appalling air quality

Fallout from the 2023 World Cup continues. Some Indians have been enraged by pictures of an Australian player resting his leg on the trophy, labeling him disrespectful.

One supporter has lodged an official complaint to high level authorities calling for the player to be banned from playing in India. Needless to say, Australians have retorted by accusing Indians of being poor losers.

On the Indian cricket analysis sites which I access, reactions to India’s loss have ranged from highly emotional — one bizarrely suggesting a link between change of sponsor and failure to win trophies — to a recognition that Australia’s tactical plan was perfectly executed.

A form of redemption for India has come in the shape of winning the first two of five matches in a T20 series with Australia in India. This has come hard on the heels of the World Cup final and features few of the players who competed in that match.

Currently, New Zealand are playing a two-match test series against Bangladesh, England embark on a ODI and T20 series in the West Indies on Sunday, Pakistan travel to Australia for three tests before going to New Zealand, India will visit South Africa, all before the end of the year. Women’s cricket also has a busy schedule. England visit India, as do Australia, while Pakistan go to New Zealand and Bangladesh to South Africa in the next four weeks.

Those who wish to see the game grow and expand will be heartened by these schedules. Others are not so sure. In England, the Professional Cricketers’ Association has reacted to the 2024 domestic schedule as “unrelenting, involving dangerous travel windows and a feeling from the player body that the game is prioritizing commercial revenue over player welfare.”

Australia’s all-conquering captain, Pat Cummins, puts a different spin on it in saying that “realistically, the word rest and rotated gets thrown around a lot but you never miss a test if you are fully fit.”

Perhaps there is a different perspective on life in the domestic and international circuits.

There is another aspect to the substantial growth that has taken place in cricket, which is driven by the different formats and the expansion of women’s cricket.

As COP28 opens in the UAE, the England and Wales Cricket Board confirmed on Monday it is joining the UN Sports for Climate Action Framework. It is the first national cricketing governing body to do so and joins two English county clubs, Gloucestershire and Surrey. Marylebone Cricket Club has also signed up, along with Melbourne Cricket Club and the ILT20 franchise, Desert Vipers.

Signatories are encouraged to embed environmental thinking into their decision-making, along with targets of halving greenhouse emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2040.

Prima facie, the list of signatories within cricket is short. The sport is not only a victim of climate change but also a contributor. Examples of measures taken to reduce contribution by those who have signed up include reducing direct emissions, especially electricity consumption, improving operational processes and increasing amounts of recycling.

At Surrey, one stand has had solar panels installed on the rooftop and measures to reduce the significant proportion of emissions generated by external sources have been introduced. Similar concerns have been addressed at Edgbaston, Birmingham, which has no direct metro stop. The number of car parking spaces at the ground has been reduced and for big match days a shuttle bus service has been initiated. Changing people’s habits in this way is not an easy task.

At the recreational level, the ECB has made funding available to encourage water management and energy saving, including the use of electric mowers and rollers. It introduced extreme heat regulations after such conditions occurred in 2022, while assistance is available to alleviate the impact of drought, storms and floods, for which reparations have become increasingly costly.

Air quality is another issue. Anyone who attended World Cup matches in Delhi, as did your columnist, cannot have failed to have noticed or been affected by the appalling air quality. Training was canceled for the Sri Lankan and Bangladesh teams on Nov. 5 and there was talk of the match being canceled.

On match day, Delhi’s air quality index exceeded 400, officially hazardous. A representative of the International Cricket Council said it was monitoring the situation. Separately, India’s captain and England’s Joe Root expressed public concerns. Root commented that in Mumbai it was difficult to “get your breath.” A former West Indian captain, Daren Ganga has urged administrators to adopt measures to ensure player protection. He also called on them to be more explicitly concerned about the game’s environmental footprint.

Unless the ICC, the game’s governing body, displays leadership in this respect, addressing the issues will be left to local initiatives. There is no systematic approach across cricket. Indeed, there are actions which pull in the other direction. One is the amount of air travel generated by international cricket.

In this respect, it has been eye-opening to learn about the strategy of the Desert Vipers in the DP World ILT20. The franchise is the only one not owned by Indian interests. Its owners and leaders have placed sustainability at the heart of its operations. They seek to promote sustainability within the UAE and the broader cricketing community. Their motivation derives from awareness of climate change, pollution and natural resource depletion.

In 2018, the Climate Coalition reported that cricket would be the pitch sport most impacted by climate change. Five years on more evidence of this is apparent. As such, cricket has the potential, some would say responsibility, to acknowledge the relationship between environmental, social, economic and technological factors and address them for the long-term viability of the game. Slowly, very slowly, in the face of powerful, dissenting voices, parts of cricket’s ecosystem are waking up.


Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match

Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match
Updated 21 sec ago
Follow

Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match

Furor erupts over Ronaldo’s apparent obscene taunt in Saudi league match
  • Critcism of the 39-year-old Portuguese has been swift and media reports say that the Saudi football federation (SAFF) has opened an investigation
  • Portuguese star scored a first half penalty, before Brazilian Talisca’s late brace, including a goal four minutes from time, secured the win for Al-Nassr

RIYADH: Cristiano Ronaldo has come under heavy criticism after seemingly making an offensive gesture following Al-Nassr’s 3-2 victory over Al-Shabab in a Saudi Pro League match on Sunday.
The Portuguese star scored a first half penalty, before Brazilian Talisca’s late brace, including a goal four minutes from time, secured the win for Al-Nassr.
After the final whistle, videos posted on social media showed the five-time Ballon d’Or winner cupping his ear and repeatedly thrusting his hand forward near his pelvis, seemingly aimed at rival Al-Shabab supporters.
In the background, chants of “Messi” could be heard, referring to Ronaldo’s longstanding football rival from Argentina.
While the incident was not captured by television cameras, critcism of the 39-year-old Portuguese has been swift and media reports say that the Saudi football federation (SAFF) has opened an investigation.
Ronaldo, who completed a lucrative move to the Riyadh-based club in December 2022, has a league-leading 22 goals this season. Al-Nassr trail fellow big-spending rivals Al-Hilal by four points, having played a game more.
Al-Nassr is also in contention for the Asian Champions League — a tournament it has never won — and will play Al-Ain of the United Arab Emirates in the quarterfinals next month.


UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
  • Reigning champions Shabab Al-Ahli return to winning ways, while Al-Ain stay in second with win over Baniyas

Al-Wasl’s searing pace at the top of the standings continued, champions Shabab Al-Ahli returned to winning ways and there was more misery for promoted clubs during the ADNOC Pro League’s matchweek 14.

A first full schedule since late December — a lengthy pause for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was extended by multiple weather postponements — began with bottom-placed Emirates Club and second-bottom Hatta suffering 10th defeats of the season.

Goals for Raniel, on 10 seconds, and Uzbekistan midfielder Azizbek Amonov helped Khor Fakkan prevail 2-0 against the latter, while rampant Wasl breezed past the former via the same scoreline thanks to efforts from nine-goal UAE forward Fabio De Lima and prolific South Korea center-back Jung Seung-hyun. They now lead the table by eight points.

Shabab Al-Ahi, meanwhile, had a trio of Brazil-born scorers to thank when they ended a two-match winless streak in their comfortable 3-0 victory versus 12th-placed Ajman. Also, a 94th-minute tap-in from promising youngster Josna Epifani Loulendo kept the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League quarterfinalists Al-Ain in the hunt with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Baniyas.

There was drama in Abu Dhabi when Mirel Radoi’s league bow for Al-Jazira ended in a 3-2 defeat to Alfred Schreuder’s rapidly improving Al-Nasr, featuring iconic striker Ali Mabkhout’s 96th-minute saved penalty. Also, Caio netted when Sharjah beat Ittihad Kalba 1-0 and Al-Wahda came from behind to down Al-Bataeh 2-1.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Igor Jesus (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

It has been an eventful few weeks for Shabab Al-Ahli’s prodigiously talented, but injury impacted, youngster.

Months of speculation about a return to Brazil or a move to Europe’s major leagues looked to have been ended by this month’s announcement that Igor Jesus had gained Emirati citizenship. It has put the 22-year-old on a fast track to eventually represent the UAE senior side, which is a major boost following January’s disappointing round-of-16 exit at the Asian Cup.

On the pitch, the ex-Coritiba attacker has been rarely seen this term. Yet more knee problems had restricted him to just five league run-outs across 201 minutes, prior to Sunday’s visit of Ajman.

If anyone needed a reminder about Jesus’ residual ability, it came versus the Orange Brigade.

A precision-guided seventh-minute corner from UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was nodded home. Jesus would add an assist to his name in the second half when he played in Guilherme Bala, another naturalized Emirati/Brazilian, who did the rest with an adroit turn and impudent low finish.

The ice pack applied to Jesus’ leg showed caution when he was called off to the bench which included an instant debut for prominent Iran center midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.

There is such youth and electricity among Shabab Al-Ahli’s attacking options. They must regularly spark to stand any chance of hauling back Wasl.

Goal of the week: Ahmad Nourollahi (Al-Wahda)

Ahmad Nourollahi’s garlanded career has contained many standout moments.

From representing his nation at the 2022 World Cup, to hoarding trophies with Persepolis and adding last season’s ADNOC Pro League crown to his resume at Shabab Al-Ahli.

Acrobatic scissor kicks, however, were not associated with him. That is, before, Sunday’s comeback triumph at Bataeh.

A hopeful cross from right-back Abdullah Al-Karbi was hung up towards the penalty box. There appeared little danger, at this point.

Nourollahi’s lethal combination of athleticism and imagination then sent the ball arrowing into the bottom corner, at the start of the second half. This would propel fifth-placed Wahda to victory, earned through impressive Uzbekistan winter recruit Khojimat Erkinov.

Coach of the week: Alfred Schreuder (Al-Nasr)

UAE football’s sleeping giant is showing signs of stirring.

Nasr have had the history, glamorous Dubai location and outstanding Al-Maktoum Stadium, plus a list of stellar previous players that includes Yohan Cabaye, Alvaro Negredo and Luca Toni. Yet even the hint of glory has eluded them for so long.

This might be changing under Schreuder. The former Ajax and Al-Ain tactician inspired a third win from their last five league run-outs at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

It came through a blend of ex-Benfica maestro Adel Taarabt, plus young stars Abdoulaye Toure and Moussa Ndiaye.

Nasr are now comfortably midtable in seventh, after flirting with relegation under Goran Tufegdzic.

It is now up to the club to provide Schreuder with the order required to create sustained success. With six permanent managers since October 2019, this is not guaranteed.

Assessing Al-Ain’s Asian outlook

Al-Ain are flying the flag for their nation in next month’s AFC Champions League quarterfinals.

No less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr await on March 4 and 11, in a West Asia side of the draw packed by three heavyweight Saudi Arabian challengers.

The task is a stern one if The Boss are to add to their 2002-2003 continental title. Certainly, it will require improvement from their last-gasp victory at Baniyas Stadium.

Those three points, however, came at a cost with leading 11-goal marksman Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba being removed through injury. There is no natural replacement for the Togo star within their ranks.

South Korea anchorman Park Yong-woo has gone deep into this tournament before at Ulsan Hyundai.

Steady progress under legendary ex-Argentine, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has seen six wins accrued from their last seven matches in all competitions. The Boss are also second domestically, with a game in hand.

Crucially, Crespo must learn lessons from the February 2023 7-0 blitzing of his Al-Duhail side by holders Al-Hilal.


108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel

108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel
Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel

108 drivers gearing up for all-female 2024 Rally Jameel
  • Participants from 38 countries will tackle a new route in the contest’s third edition between March 4-8

JEDDAH: The stage is set for Saudi Arabia’s all-female Rally Jameel, with 108 competitors from 38 countries poised to take on a challenging new route for the race’s third edition.

This year’s edition, themed “She Shifts the World,” begins in Hail on March 4 and concludes at King Abdullah Economic City on International Women’s Day, March 8.

The all-women’s off-road navigation rally includes five stages and covers 1,600 km of Saudi Arabia’s off-road terrain.

The 2024 Rally Jameel will traverse Hail, AlUla, Umluj, Yanbu, and KAEC in Rabigh.

The endurance competition is based more on precision driving and navigating than speed, with drivers having to utilize maps, compasses and roadbooks.

The event is supported by the FIA’s Women in Motorsport and the Saudi Automobile and Motorcycle Federation.

Munir Khoja, managing director, marketing communications at Abdul Latif Jameel Motors, said: “As we gear up for the third edition, we are deeply encouraged by the growing interest from participants, particularly on an international scale, with a remarkable increase in global participation from 38 countries, compared to 15 in the inaugural edition of the rally.”

“This enthusiasm underscores our commitment to support Saudi Arabia’s vision for empowering women,” he added. “With the addition of new and more challenging routes, we continue to champion and contribute to the advancement of motorsport regionally and globally, representing the core values of Rally Jameel. We extend our gratitude to all our partners, organizers, and sponsors for making this event a reality.”


Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla

Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla
Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla

Jon Albon edges out Ryan Atkins to win Tough Mudder Infinity at AlUla
  • The Brit defeated his Canadian rival to claim $80,000 prize, while Alisa Petrova triumphed in the women’s race
  • Over 1,000 athletes competed for record pot of $480,000, with over 40 countries represented

ALULA: Jon Albon and Alisa Petrova were the respective men’s and women’s winners of the inaugural Tough Mudder Infinity event, which took place in AlUla with an overall prize pot of $480,000, the largest in obstacle course racing history.

The race featured over 1,000 participants for the first event of its kind in the Middle East North Africa region. More than 40 countries were represented, and there were also several local athletes participating including Nelly Attar, the first Arab woman to climb K2, and Rakan Al-Thaqafi, a Saudi Arabian amateur boxing champion.

As expected, the men’s race came down to a battle between long-time rivals and obstacle course racing legends Albon, from the UK, and Canada’s Ryan Atkins. The two men have been involved in several epic contests over the years and this was no exception, as they led from the front for long spells. It was the Brit who eventually crossed the line to take the $80,000 prize, with Mark Batres, from the US, finishing third.

“It was tough, it was a tough course in its own way, the sand and the terrain and the fact it was flat made it really challenging as your legs got stiff on the sand,” Alton said.

“It was over two years since I last did an obstacle course race, so it was nice to come back and find out whether I can do some obstacles. I really enjoyed the rings — I realized I hadn’t lost my touch.”

On the prize money, he added: “Not too shabby — it’s the best payday I’ve had from a race which is the cherry on the cake.”

He also provided his thoughts on AlUla. “I had no idea where I was coming, the rock formations were nice and then I went into the Old Town — it was the most interesting town, lit up old school buildings in the valley of these cliffs. It was a nice place, it’s going to develop so quickly and it’s interesting to see how many events will come here in the future.”

The women’s race was equally exciting, as Petrova edged out the US’ Nicole Mericle and Switzerland’s Janka Pepova to walk away with the $80,000.

She said: “It was the first Tough Mudder race I’ve ever done — I’ve never ran so long before. I did 90 km, the longest race I did.

“I tried sky running before, which was 50 km, and it was so tough. The last two laps were so tough and my body started rejecting food and I could only drink water.

“My legs are so sore, and I’m so tired but so happy. First time winning a big race — I’ve never been first at a world championship. Thanks to my training, my supporters, and my husband, I’m so happy. Now I need to eat and sleep.”

There were also competitions for teams of two and four.

The two-person race was won by French duo Thibault Jean and Gregory Basilico, who finished ahead of Tyler Veerman and Kris Brown.

In the four-person race, meanwhile, it was the European elite, made up of Jesse de Heer, Stijn Lagrand, Luca Pezzani and Goncalo Prudencio, who came out on top.

Nic Cartwright, Tough Mudder Middle East license holder, said: “We’re thrilled to bring the first ever Tough Mudder Infinity in the Middle East, right here in AlUla, Saudi Arabia. Athletes from over 40 nations battled it out for the largest prize pool in OCR history, while a total of 1,000 participants pushed their limits across all race courses — a testament to the growing sport of obstacle course racing in the region.

“Our incredible partners at the Royal Commission of AlUla were instrumental in bringing this vision to life and showcasing AlUla’s breathtaking landscape to the world. After this successful inaugural event, we look forward to bringing more exciting OCR experiences to the region in years to come.”


England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test
Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test

England take three wickets but India closing in on series victory in 4th test
  • India were 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs to attain unassailable 3-1 lead in series
  • Skipper Rohit Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal to give India upper hand

RANCHI, India: Rohit Sharma scored a half century to set India on course for victory on day four of the fourth test, before England snared three wickets to keep their slightest hopes alive of achieving a dramatic turnaround.

India was 118-3 at lunch on Monday, needing 74 more runs for victory and an unassailable 3-1 series lead in the five-test series.

Sharma shared an 84-run opening stand with Yashasvi Jaiswal, before the latter was spectacularly caught by veteran James Anderson off Joe Root for 37 to give the tourists a much-needed breakthrough against the seemingly comfortable Indian opening pair.

Jaiswal’s wicket sparked a mini-collapse as India went from 84-0 to 100-3 inside nine overs as England sniffed a chance of victory.

Left-arm spinner Tom Hartley had Sharma caught behind in the 26th over for 55. It was initially judged as a stumping, but on review, the television umpire also detected an edge from the batter while keeper Ben Foakes held on to a sharp catch.

Off-spinner Shoaib Bashir then had Rajat Patidar caught at short leg for a six-ball duck as India lost its second wicket in eight deliveries.

Shubman Gill (18 not out) and Ravindra Jadeja (3 not out) watchfully navigated the remaining overs before lunch, with a grandstand finish in the offing.

At the break, Gill was batting on 18 runs with Jadeja (3 not out), and England stayed in the hunt needing another seven wickets for an improbable win.
India has a 2-1 lead in the five-test series, after winning back-to-back tests in Visakhapatnam and Rajkot by 106 and 434 runs, respectively. England had won the first test in Hyderabad by 28 runs.