Outbreak of new controversies continues to plague international cricket

Outbreak of new controversies continues to plague international cricket
Australia’s captain Matthew Wade plays a Twenty20 international match against India in Bengaluru on Dec. 3, 2023. Australian cricket fans will need to have a Prime Video subscription if they wish to watch Australia’s men’s and women’s teams playing in ICC competitions. (AFP)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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Outbreak of new controversies continues to plague international cricket

Outbreak of new controversies continues to plague international cricket
  • Two recent controversial developments have done little to improve the image of the game in Australia and Pakistan

All of a sudden cricket has been impacted by an outbreak of controversies. Amongst them have been a fierce dispute between former colleagues in the Australian men’s team, the loss of free-to-air viewing rights in Australia and the appointment of a disgraced Pakistani cricketer as an advisor on national selection.

On Dec. 4, the International Cricket Council announced that Amazon Prime had been awarded the broadcast rights in Australia for all ICC tournaments for the next four years, starting on Jan. 1, 2024.

This means that Australian cricket fans will need to have a Prime Video subscription if they wish to watch Australia’s men’s and women’s teams playing in ICC competitions, including Under-19 World Cup events. There are 11 of them up to the end of 2027. None of the tournaments will be held in Australia. This has provided an opportunity for the ICC and Amazon Prime to avoid so-called Australian anti-siphoning rules.

Unsurprisingly, the establishment of a paywall has been greeted with outrage. The CEO of Free TV Australia, the industry body which represents all free-to-air Australian TV networks, condemned the move, saying that “all Australians deserve the right to share our great sporting moments for free, and that right is in serious jeopardy.”

That view seems to be shared by the federal communications minister, Michelle Rowland, who has recently introduced a bill to parliament that updates anti-siphoning laws. Once in law, free-to-air services must be offered first refusal for important sporting events.

This measure may not go far enough. The Broadcasting Services (Events) Notice, as the anti-siphoning legislation is known, was first introduced in 1992 when the concern was related to subscription TV securing sports rights. The protective provisions apply to senior Australian cricket teams playing in Test, one day and T20 matches in Australia, New Zealand and the UK between Australia and England. Discussion has been reawakened as to whether this geographical coverage should or can be expanded.

It is too late for the timescale of the ICC/Prime deal. Social media comments have been quick to blame the minister and Cricket Australia for this to happen. Neither has any involvement or power in the broadcast deals which the ICC arranges. However, the introduction of Prime, as the fourth major broadcaster of cricket in Australia and the first which is entirely on-line, has added to the melange of cricket viewing options for Australian audiences.

They have been used to a 15-year long joint venture for ICC tournaments between Foxtel and Channel Nine, which ended with this years ODI Final. Cricket Australia’s domestic broadcast rights have been held by a partnership between free-to-air broadcaster Seven and pay TV channel Foxtel since 2018, when Channel Nine lost out after forty years of dominance. A new seven-year domestic rights deal was signed in January 2023 by Seven and Foxtel.

They, along with Foxtel’s video streaming subscription service, Kayo, will broadcast Australian men’s Tests and all women’s internationals on home soil. They will also show both the men’s and women’s Big Bash. Fox Cricket and Kayo broadcast Australian men’s limited-overs internationals on home soil, non-Ashes Australian men’s internationals and women’s outside of Australia.

The once dominant Channel Nine has the rights to broadcast the England v Australia Ashes series scheduled to played in England in 2027 and 2031. Domestic men’s and women’s competitions are broadcast by Cricket Australia’s Live app and cricket.com.au, with selected matches shown on Fox and Kayo. At least for the next four years, the broadcasting landscape for Australian audiences looks stable if not wholly acceptable, given the new loss of free-to-air.

This means that audiences will have to pay for all international limited-overs cricket played by Australia’s men’s and women’s teams. The next ICC event scheduled to be hosted in Australia is the T20 World Cup in 2028, after the timeframe of the Amazon deal. The battle is on to preserve an Australian way of life — the opportunity for all to enjoy free TV coverage of iconic sporting events,

Alongside this development, two former colleagues in the Australian men’s team have locked horns. Mitchell Johnson, who retired in November 2015, has criticized the decision of opening batter David Warner to choreograph his retirement. Warner announced his plans on June 3, 2022, targeting the third test against Pakistan in Sydney in January as his Test swansong.

Johnson thinks it wrong that a player can attempt to influence team selectors in this way. He argues that Warner’s recent performances do not justify his selection. Furthermore, Johnson has rekindled the tensions over Warner’s involvement in a ball-tampering incident in South Africa in 2018 over which Johnson feels that Warner displayed insufficient contrition.

Current colleagues have come to Warner’s defense and former players have commented that the affair paints a bad image for Australian cricket. Johnson also criticized the chair of selectors for being too close to the players, implying that this is a contributory factor to Warner’s continuing presence in the team. When Warner made his original announcement, it did appear to be rather presumptuous. Johnson has a point, but he could have expressed it in a less vituperative manner. It seems that he may have been prompted into action by a text which he received from Warner on another issue.

In Pakistan, those who replaced the leaders of the men’s team in the 2023 World Cup caused an embarrassment by appointing a former captain, Salman Butt, as a selection consultant. Butt received a five-year ban from cricket and served a seven-month prison sentence for spot-fixing in Test in 2010. A wave of criticism from commentators, journalists and ex-players, caused the chief selector to reverse his poorly judged appointment after one day.

Two of the three controversies are not good for the image of two countries — Australia and Pakistan. Whether the ICC’s broadcasting rights deal will damage its image will take longer to be emerge. No doubt, the ICC will be happy with the undisclosed funds it has generated, but incurring the wrath of Australians, seemingly without consultation, may have unintended consequences.


Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
Updated 27 February 2024
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Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL

Mir’s six-wicket haul hands Lahore sixth straight defeat in PSL
  • Leg-spinner picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs

LAHORE: Usama Mir became the first spinner in Pakistan Super League history to grab a six-wicket haul as Multan Sultans beat Lahore Qalandars by 60 runs Tuesday, handing the two-time champions their sixth straight loss.
Leg-spinner Mir picked up 6-40 and bowled out Lahore for 154 in 17 overs.
Table-topper Multan posted this season’s highest score of 214-4 despite resting overseas players Dawid Malan, Chris Jordan and David Willey.
Usman Khan of the United Arab Emirates filled Malan’s shoes with a blistering knock of 96 off 55 balls and Iftikhar Ahmed provided a perfect finish by smashing unbeaten 40 off 18 balls.
Multan captain Mohammad Rizwan fell without scoring for the second time in the last three games when Shaheen Shah Afridi clean bowled him with a delivery that perfectly shaped into the batter in the first over.
But Usman kept counterattacking and hit 11 fours and two sixes as he capped his half-century stands with Reeza Hendricks (40), Tayyab Tahir (21) with a 60-run partnership with Ahmed off just 28 balls in the death overs.
Usman, who was dropped by Carlos Brathwaite on 89 at point, holed out to deep square leg in the last over to give Afridi (2-39) his second wicket.
Mir ran through Lahore’s middle-order in quick time when he had Rassie van der Dussen (30) caught in the deep, found the outside edge of George Linde’s bat and then bowled Jahandad Khan off a full pitched delivery in one over.
Mir claimed the last two wickets in his final over as Multan moved to the top of the table with five wins in six games.


Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
Updated 27 February 2024
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Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series

Namibia spring surprise in ICC League 2 opening series
  • African side clocks up three wins from four games in Nepal
  • Next round of matches in UAE will feature hosts, Scotland, Canada

KATHMANDU: The opening series of matches in the new International Cricket Council World Cup League 2 cycle ended this week with a shock victory for Namibia in Nepal, as the tournament prepares to move on to the UAE, who will host Scotland and Canada.

Namibia won three out of their four matches in tough conditions, including a double over the hosts.

Nepal came back from the defeat in their second match to spring a shock of their own by beating perennial World Cup participants the Netherlands. It was a torrid tournament for the Dutch, who lost their first match to Namibia.

The series ended with Namibia on six points, the Netherlands on four and Nepal on two.

Namibia’s coach Pierre de Bruyn told Arab News he was “over the moon” with his team’s performance in the opening round.

“Last year we lost four games in Nepal and we learned a lot from that,” he said. “Winning six points in Nepal is incredible, beating them twice at home and taking points off them. It’s early days but we realized how important a point could be last time and that we should be ruthless in order to take points.”

Nepal, who only lost two home series in the entire 2019-23 League 2 campaign, had a series to forget this time round, with inconsistent batting from an ever-changing middle order.

Head coach Monty Desai said his team would now be doing all they could to win away from home.

“Losing at home hurts, but if you want to be known as the associate’s top team, away games are equally important,” he said. “We have been working very hard and need to bring maturity to it.”

Netherlands coach Ryan Cook rejected the notion that his team’s two defeats were a shock, despite their higher One Day International ranking.

“Shocking? Not at all. This is a very competitive league and it’s completely different game of cricket,” he said. “We’ve got to be able to adapt to those conditions. We are entering a new era in terms of the league.”

The next series of games feature the UAE, Scotland and Canada.

Canada’s coach Pubudu Dassanayake, who led Nepal in the 2019-23 League 2 cycle, said he was happy with his team’s performances in a series of warmup games played recently in Nepal.

“More than winning and losing, we were exposed in all three departments (of batting, bowling and fielding). More than just winning, I am happy we could find out our weaknesses. We expect to have our fast bowlers back to full fitness and perform in those conditions (in the UAE),” he said.

Oman and the US make up the eight teams that feature in the 2023-27 League 2 competition. Each side will play 36 matches — 12 at home, 12 away and 12 at a neutral ground — across nine triangular series. The top four will advance to the ICC Cricket World Cup qualifier and the chance to secure a place in the tournament proper.


Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
Updated 27 February 2024
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Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller

Babar, Arif star as Peshawar beat Islamabad in last-over PSL thriller
  • Babar Azam scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries to help Peshawar set a 202-run target
  • Arif Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs as Peshawar restricted Islamabad to 193 for nine

ISLAMABAD: Babar Azam hit a blistering century and Arif Yaqoob registered a five-wicket haul as Peshawar Zalmi defeated Islamabad United in their exciting match of the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 9th edition at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Monday.

Islamabad won the toss and sent Peshawar in to bat. Babar orchestrated a relentless assault on Islamabad and scored an unbeaten 111 runs from 63 deliveries, laying the foundation of his side's win.

Saim Ayub and Paul Walter respectively added 38 and 19 runs to help Peshawar set a 202-run target for Islamabad. In response, Islamabad could reach 193 runs in 20 overs.

"Comeback for the ages," PSL wrote on its official account on X. "Islamabad United lose 6 wickets for just 10 runs as Peshawar Zalmi clinch a last-over thriller."

For Islamabad, Shadab Khan returned 2/28 figures, while Salman Ali Agha and Naseem Shah took one wicket each.

In the second innings, Azam Khan hit 75 runs from 30 balls as Islamabad attempted to chase the mammoth 202-run target.

Colin Munro partnered with Khan and added 71 runs from 53 deliveries, but Islamabad faltered towards the end, losing six wickets in quick succession.

Yaqoob claimed five wickets for just 27 runs, while Ayub and Luke Wood dismissed one each to guide Peshawar to an eight-run win in the last over.

This was Peshawar's third consecutive win in their five matches, while Islamabad have won only one of their four games this season.


Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
Updated 26 February 2024
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Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis

Hong Kong, Oman take charge in U19 Cricket World Cup qualifier on disappointing day for Saudis
  • All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track

BANGKOK: Saudi Arabia’s International Cricket Council U19 World Cup qualifying campaign got off to a bad start on Monday when the team were beaten resoundingly by Oman.

The Omanis became the first side in the Asian qualifying tournament so far to bat their full 50 overs as they hit 222 for the loss of eight wickets.

In reply, Saudi Arabia could not mount a serious challenge to their target of 223 and they were bowled out for 81 in less than 20 overs.

Oman started their innings steadily, but Fahad Munir claimed the first wicket in the eighth over when he bowled Thineth Sumanasekera for seven, which left the Omanis on 29 for one. The other opener, Jeet Shah, steadied the nerves, hitting 55 from 92 balls.

As more wickets began to fall to the Saudis, Oman, on 93 for six in the 29th over, were looking likely to be bowled out for a modest total.

Shah was still at the crease but No. 8 batsman, Nitish Nadendla, changed the course of the innings with a superb 60 from 65 balls — including three fours and two sixes — as he added 56 in nine overs before departing with the score at 149 for seven.

Prathiesh Ramesh also made a half-century, adding 61 runs for the eighth wicket partnership with Nadendla before being the eighth wicket to fall with the score on 210.

Saudi Arabia could not bowl out Oman who reached 222 for eight, a total which also included 43 extras and had the Saudis feeling the heat of the sun for more than three-and-a-half hours.

The Saudi team’s response was to lose five wickets for 32 inside the first 10 overs. Opening bowler Puladith Medagoda took two wickets but it was the left-arm spin bowling of Arya Sampat that did most of the damage as he took four wickets for 21 runs.

Munir made the highest score of the innings with 15 and Ahmed Faisal was the only other batter who managed double figures, scoring 12.

All is not lost for Saudi Arabia in Group B, and they will look to their match with Bhutan on Wednesday as a chance to get their qualification campaign back on track.

Bhutan were bowled out for 85 in their match against Hong Kong, also on Monday, but pushed their opponents all the way, forcing the loss of six wickets as they reached their total of 86 within 25 overs.


Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
Updated 26 February 2024
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Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance

Defeat to Bermuda leaves Saudi Arabia’s ICC CWC Challenge League play-off hopes in the balance
  • Now require favor from Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure Saudis progress

LONDON: Saudi Arabia fell to an agonizing defeat to Bermuda in the ICC Cricket World Cup Challenge League play-off in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday as they lost by four runs.

The defeat is the second in a row for the Saudis and leaves their qualification for the Super Sixes stage of the tournament hanging in the balance and out of their hands.

They now require a favor from their Gulf rivals Kuwait, who must beat Bermuda in the final Group A match on Monday to ensure the Saudis progress.

It was a crucial win that kept hopes alive for Bermuda — who had lost their opening group match by 157 runs to Italy — and ended their 16-game losing streak in the 50-over format.

Bermuda won the toss and scored 227 all out from 44.3 overs, with captain Delray Rawlins top-scoring with 75 runs from 95 balls.

He was ably supported by Dominic Sabir, who hit 51, including five fours and a six, off 45 balls.

The Saudi bowling attack was led by Usman Najeeb and Zain Ul-Abidin, who both claimed three wickets and finished the match with economy rates below five runs.

In reply, Saudi Arabia’s batsmen made their way to 223 for the loss of nine wickets, with captain Hisham Shaikh top-scoring with 45 and Waji Ul Hassan hitting 41 in the middle order.

Needing to score five runs off the final three balls for victory, Ishtiaq Ahmad was run out by Allan Douglas Junior as he attempted to come back for a second run with just two balls of the match remaining.

Sabir, whose exploits with the bat were backed up with three wickets for 33 runs with the ball, was awarded the player of the match.