Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

West Indies legend Kieron Pollard (R) can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher (L). (Mumbai Indians/File Photos)
West Indies legend Kieron Pollard (R) can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher (L). (Mumbai Indians/File Photos)
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Updated 01 March 2024
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Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher

Pollard could be key to Mumbai Indians’ IPL success, says head coach Boucher
  • Experience and inspirational qualities come to the fore as MI players chase club’s first IPL title since 2020

LONDON: West Indies legend Kieron Pollard can play a big role in ensuring Mumbai Indians win the Indian Premier League this year, according to head coach Mark Boucher.

Pollard, who is now batting coach at the IPL giants, had a glittering career as a player with the franchise, winning five titles over eight seasons, including four as captain.

His experience and nous will be crucial in helping the current crop of MI players win the club’s first IPL title since 2020, said South African Boucher, who has been head coach since last season.

“(Pollard) is fantastic. He’s got so much character in the changing room; he’s a strong person and a lot of the players trust him and look up to him,” Boucher told sport news website SportsBoom.com.

“Whenever Polly opens his mouth in the dressing room, people listen. Not because he is going to hold them up against the side of the wall, but because they know what he’s done.

“Having him in the dressing room has a calming effect on the batting. You have a look at our stats in the batting, the aggressive nature we went about things (last year), the calmness in the dugouts, all that type of stuff. I think a lot of that can be attributed to Polly as well because of his way that he is and his whole demeanour and understanding that he’s got.

“He’s still playing in franchises around the world he’s in the know about who’s playing good crickets and we feed off that,” he added.

Boucher said the team had high expectations for the coming season, which starts on March 22 and will end, if successful in the grand final, on May 26.

“I think anytime you join Mumbai Indians, there’s a lot of expectation and the expectation is to win at all times. We have won the championship quite a few times. Once the owners and the fans get a sniff of that, then they want to do it every time,” he said.

He particularly praised the team’s batting display and its positive style of cricket last season, acknowledging the challenges faced in the bowling unit as a result of injuries. Although the Indians finished third, falling short of the intended win, Boucher said he viewed it as a commendable effort given the situation.

“Our bowling was a little bit shy because of the injuries that we picked up. The third position is not what we wanted; we wanted to win, but third was not a bad effort, judging what we had to go through last season. But a catch maybe taken here or there could have  put ourselves into a final and then who knows what happens in the final,” he said.

“We do believe in the spinners that we have in the side already. Piyush (Chawla) had a fantastic season last time around. No one really thought that he would probably have that kind of impact that he had. We are backing him to do something similar,” he added.

Boucher also played up the importance of getting results at the team’s home stadium at Wankhede, but also the ability of his team to adapt to different conditions at away grounds.

“In our home games at Wankhede spin doesn’t play a major part in the game. So our side is very much sort of geared toward our home conditions, but we do feel that we’ve got enough cover if we do go into a different venue and the ball is turning and gripping; we do feel that we do have the guys to sort of consolidate those conditions,” he said. 


Riyadh Season to hosts Crawford-Madrimov world title clash in Los Angeles

Riyadh Season to hosts Crawford-Madrimov world title clash in Los Angeles
Updated 13 sec ago
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Riyadh Season to hosts Crawford-Madrimov world title clash in Los Angeles

Riyadh Season to hosts Crawford-Madrimov world title clash in Los Angeles

RIYADH: Riyadh Season will hold the first boxing bout outside Saudi Arabia  as Terence Crawford challenges Israil Madrimov for the WBA and WBO interim World Super-Welterweight title.

The event will take place at Los Angeles’ BMO Stadium on Aug. 3, 2024, the Kingdom’s entertainment authority said on Wednesday.

Turki Alalshikh, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the General Entertainment Authority, announced that Visit Saudi, MDL Beast and Red Sea Global will be the sponsors of the event.

Promotion will be handled by Riyadh Season Card, Sela, League 1 and Matchroom Boxing in association with World Of Boxing, TGB Promotions, Golden Boy, Goldstar, Queensberry, Salita Promotions and Warriors Boxing Promotions.

“We are delighted for Riyadh Season to host its first overseas event in Los Angeles and this fight in the United States is a special one to mark this moment,” Alalshikh said.

“We want to give people around the world the opportunity to enjoy their own Riyadh Season experience and this is exactly what we hope to achieve by staging this and also future events around the world.”

Crawford (40-0 31 KOs) is gunning to become a Four-Weight World champion as he moves up to 154lbs after conquering the Welterweight division with a stunning KO win over Errol Spence to be crowned the undisputed champion at 147lbs in Las Vegas in July.

The Omaha star has already ruled the roost at Super-Lightweight and Lightweight, and now the pound-for-pound great is arrowing in on cementing greatness by claiming honors at a fourth weight.

Madrimov (10-0-1 7 KOs) is the man that stands in Crawford’s way, and the Uzbek champion makes his first defense of his title against the toughest opposition possible after winning the belt in spectacular fashion in his last outing in Saudi Arabia.

The 29 year old took on Magomed Kurbanov for the vacant title in Riyadh in March, and stopped the Russian in five rounds with a dominant performance to continue his impressive unbeaten run in the paid ranks, following a glittering amateur career.

British boxing promotor Eddie Hearn said: “This is a fantastic fight between a pound-for-pound great and one of the best World champions in the sport.”

“Terence is a pound-for-pound great and continues to strive to be the very best, but in Israil, he meets a hungry champion that has no intention of relinquishing his title in his first defense - this promises to be one of the fights of the year.”

“I cannot wait to get back in the ring in my fourth weight class and remind the world why I’m the best pound for pound fighter in the world,” said Terence Crawford. “Israil Madrimov is a tremendous and entertaining fighter, but on August 3, he will be my next victim. This is the Terence Crawford era.”

“Terence Crawford is one of my favorite boxers and one of the best boxers in the world,” said Israil Madrimov. “I am very excited to get this opportunity to make a statement, and I will Inshallah.”

The main event is complemented by an undercard that is set to captivate fight fans.

Recently crowned WBA Super-Lightweight champion Isaac Cruz defends his title for the first time against United States southpaw Jose Valenzuela.

Two of the United States’ most fearsome boxing Heavyweights will do battle with former unified Heavyweight champion Andy Ruiz returning to the ring for the first time since a unanimous decision win against Luis Ortiz in September 2022, to face Jarrell Miller, who will be going all out to produce a winning outcome after losing his undefeated record in Riyadh in December last year.

Former Super-Welterweight world champion Tim Tszyu awaits Vergil Ortiz Jr, subject to the outcome of his fight against Thomas Dulorme this weekend, while David Morrell of Cuba will seek to preserve his unbeaten record in a Light Heavyweight contest against US fighter Radivoje Kalajdzic.

Andy Cruz, the Olympic Lightweight gold medalist, continues his Lightweight campaign when he takes on Mexico’s Antonio Moran.


Saudi Arabia’s Joud Bukhari wins bronze at Asian 9Ball Ladies & Girls Tournament

Saudi Arabia’s Joud Bukhari wins bronze at Asian 9Ball Ladies & Girls Tournament
Updated 14 min 23 sec ago
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Saudi Arabia’s Joud Bukhari wins bronze at Asian 9Ball Ladies & Girls Tournament

Saudi Arabia’s Joud Bukhari wins bronze at Asian 9Ball Ladies & Girls Tournament

RIYADH: Saudi billiards national team player Joud Bukhari won the bronze medal at the Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports 9Ball Ladies and Girls Tournament 2024 currently held in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

As Saudi Arabia marks its first official participation in the tournament, Bukhari became the first Arab, gulf, and Saudi woman to win a medal during the championship.

Separately, eight Saudi male and female officials completed a course held on the sidelines of the Asian tournament, enabling them to officiate international billiards and snooker matches.


Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP

Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP
Updated 24 April 2024
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Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP

Xavi to remain Barcelona coach: club to AFP
  • The 44-year-old decided on his dramatic change of mind after a day of meetings

BARCELONA: Xavi will remain as coach of Barcelona, the Spanish giants told AFP on Wednesday, despite having announced in January that he planned to quit at the end of the season.
Spanish media reported that the 44-year-old, who had signed a contract extension until 2025 last autumn, decided on his dramatic change of mind after a day of meetings with club president Joan Laporta and sporting director Deco.


Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final

Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final
Updated 24 April 2024
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Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final

Kewell’s Yokohama beat Ulsan to reach Asian Champions League final
  • Yokohama will host Al Ain in the first leg of the final on May 11, with the return being held in the UAE on May 25

YOKOHAMA: Harry Kewell said his Yokohama F-Marinos players can “handle any pressure” after beating Ulsan Hyundai 5-4 on penalties on Wednesday to set up an Asian Champions League final against Al Ain.

Former Liverpool and Leeds forward Kewell’s side came through a pulsating semifinal that ended 3-3 on aggregate to reach the Champions League final for the first time.

Trailing 1-0 from last week’s first leg in South Korea, Yokohama scored three goals in the opening 30 minutes in Japan but then conceded twice and had a man sent off before halftime.

Goalkeeper William Popp saved from Ulsan’s Kim Min-woo in the shootout to hand Yokohama the advantage in constant driving rain, before Carlos Eduardo converted the decisive spot kick.

Kewell, who took over as Yokohama coach at the start of the year, said he told his players that “the hardest games you will play are semifinals.”

“I said: ‘Nothing easy in this game’,” said the Australian.

“You are going to get pushed to the limit where I believe you can handle it.

“I think it showed them tonight, they believe now they can handle any kind of pressure.”

Yokohama will host Al Ain in the first leg of the final on May 11, with the return being held in the UAE on May 25.

Al Ain beat Saudi Arabia’s Al-Hilal 5-4 on aggregate on Tuesday to reach the final.

Yokohama looked certain to join them after a barnstorming start to the second leg but two goals for Ulsan and a 39th-minute red card for defender Takumi Kamijima cranked up the tension.

Ulsan laid siege to the Yokohama goal but Kewell said his players grew in stature as the game went on.

“The players were composed, they were confident,” he said.

“They were getting stronger and stronger as they got closer to the final whistle.”

Ulsan, who had already booked their place in next year’s 32-team Club World Cup in the US by winning the semifinal first leg, were looking for their third Champions League title.

“My players kept going until the end,” said coach Hong Myung-bo.

“It’s unfortunate because we had a lot of chances to score in both the first and second legs.”

Yokohama took the lead in the 13th minute when a defensive mix-up between Kim Young-gwon and Hwang Seok-ho allowed Asahi Uenaka to streak through and score.

Anderson Lopes added a second in the 21st minute, firing home a left-foot shot from just inside the box.

The home side kept up the pressure and Uenaka notched his second of the game on the half-hour mark when he slipped his marker and curled a shot past goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo.

But just as it looked like turning into a rout, Ulsan hit back when Matheus Sales headed home direct from a corner in the 35th minute.

Moments later, Ulsan had a penalty and Yokohama were reduced to 10 men when Kamijima was red-carded for a handball as he slid in to make a tackle.

Substitute Darijan Bojanic, who had come on in the 34th minute, made no mistake from the spot.

Kewell admitted Yokohama “rode our luck at times” as they held off Ulsan but said his players “deserved everything they got.”

“We’re going to enjoy the final,” he said.

“You don’t get a chance to play many finals in your career so when you do, enjoy it and play the way that you’re born to play.”


India’s Pant boosts World Cup hopes with IPL batting blitz

India’s Pant boosts World Cup hopes with IPL batting blitz
Updated 24 April 2024
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India’s Pant boosts World Cup hopes with IPL batting blitz

India’s Pant boosts World Cup hopes with IPL batting blitz
  • Delhi posted 224-4 courtesy of a 113-run stand between Pant and fellow left-hander Axar Patel, who hit 66
  • Hosts kept Gujarat down to 220-8 to win by four runs after David Miller’s 23-ball 55 and an unbeaten 21 off 11 deliveries by Rashid Khan

NEW DELHI: Rishabh Pant smashed an unbeaten 88 as he led Delhi Capitals to a tense IPL win over Gujarat Titans on Wednesday, boosting his chances of playing for India at the T20 World Cup.
Delhi posted 224-4 courtesy of a 113-run stand between Pant and fellow left-hander Axar Patel, who hit 66, after they slipped to 44-3 inside six overs at their home Arun Jaitley Stadium.
The hosts kept Gujarat down to 220-8 to win by four runs after David Miller’s 23-ball 55 and an unbeaten 21 off 11 deliveries by Rashid Khan.
Mukesh Kumar kept his nerve in the final over for Delhi’s fourth win in nine matches as they kept their playoff hopes alive in the T20 tournament.
Pant, 26, struck his third half-century of this season after 14 months away from top level cricket following a frightening car accident when his Mercedes rammed into a barrier, flipped and caught fire in December 2022.
Pant, a wicketkeeper-batsman, suffered multiple injuries and was rushed to hospital before being airlifted to Mumbai for further treatment and surgery.
“Everyday that I’m in the middle, I feel better,” man of the match Pant said after his 43-ball blitz studded with five fours and eight sixes.
“Every hour on the field matters, I love being on the field. I try to give it my 100 percent. I think the first six in the match gives me the confidence in a game.”
Pant has not only fired with the bat in the IPL but his sharp work behind the stumps prompted Delhi’s director of cricket Sourav Ganguly and coach Ricky Ponting to back the India star for making the national team for the World Cup in June.
Up and coming Australian batsman Jake Fraser-McGurk gave Delhi a strong start with his 14-ball 23 but medium-pace bowler Sandeep Warrier took three wickets including two in one over.
Patel, a bowling all-rounder promoted to number three in the batting, brought up his fifty with a boundary off Rashid before another Afghanistan spinner Noor Ahmad had him caught at long-on.
Pant reached his fifty in style with a six off Mohit Sharma and then hammered the medium-pace bowler in a 31-run 20th over when he finished with a six, four and three hits over the fence to raise the roof.
South African Tristan Stubbs watched the blitz from the other end after he smashed Sai Kishore in the 19th over, which went for 22 runs, for his unbeaten seven-ball 26.
In reply, Gujarat lost skipper Shubman Gill for six off Anrich Nortje before impact substitute Sai Sudarshan smashed 65 off 39 balls.
Gujarat lost regular wickets but the left-handed Miller smashed Nortje for three sixes and a four to give Delhi a scare before his departure in the 18th over.
Rashid kept up the fight till the end as Gujarat needed 19 off the final over and five on the last ball.
“I think we played some really good cricket, disappointing to lose in the end, but great character shown by everyone,” said Gill. “Great fight till the end and we never thought we were out of the game at any point.”