Cricket’s ability to mock itself

Matches in the imminent twenty-team T20 World Cup will take place in the US, and T20 cricket will be an Olympic sport in 2028. (X/@T20WorldCup)
Matches in the imminent twenty-team T20 World Cup will take place in the US, and T20 cricket will be an Olympic sport in 2028. (X/@T20WorldCup)
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Updated 30 May 2024
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Cricket’s ability to mock itself

Cricket’s ability to mock itself
  • Shorter forms of cricket started as “a bit of a joke” but are now behemoths threatening longer-established formats

LONDON: In cricket, what started out as a “bit of a laugh” but turned out to be much more serious? This is not a trick question. It could refer to Test cricket’s origins. England v Australia, five-day matches, players switching allegiance between countries, a jibe by Australians to create the “ashes” of English cricket in an urn. Although this turned a bit of fun into a deadly serious contest over almost 150 years, it is not the answer.

Another possibility is the start of limited-overs cricket. The first so-called international limited-overs match was played between Australia and England on Jan. 5, 1971 in Melbourne. The first three days of a Test match had been rained off and the authorities faced a significant loss of income. They decided to abandon the match, replace it with a one-off, one-day match and add a seventh Test at the end of the series. This was much to the surprise and reluctance of the players, who were not consulted.

The English players seemed more concerned about receiving money for being asked to play extra matches. They were used to the benefits of limited-over cricket, which had started in the English and Welsh professional game in 1963 as a response to falling attendances and defensive play. Although commercially successful, with a sponsor in Gillette, no other Test-playing nation displayed any enthusiasm for the format. The decision by the Australian authorities to stage the match did not raise a laugh among the players, while the Australian Cricket Board was not laughing in the face of a serious need to generate income.

On what would have been day five of the Test match, the one-day game went ahead in a format of 40 overs, each of eight deliveries, the standard in Australia at the time. The teams were billed as an “England XI” and an “Australia XI.” Press reports referred to it as a “one-day Test match.” Any skepticism about the match by players and authorities was not shared by spectators, 46,000 of them turning up to watch.

This was a light-bulb moment for the Australian Cricket Board, whose head, Sir Donald Bradman, proclaimed: “You have seen history made.” Australia won the match, the England captain admitting that his players did not take the game seriously, although they were relieved to play some cricket after having spent so much time in the dressing room, as well as receiving an extra £50 for participating.

In this rather grumpy and fragile set of circumstances history was, indeed, created without many of the participants recognizing the significance of the event. Some years later, one Australian player recalled his surprise that a game they thought a “bit of a joke” became part of cricket’s history.

A revolution had been set in train. In 1973, the first women’s one-day world cup was staged, followed by the men’s in 1975. Kerry Packer’s breakaway World Series Cricket in 1977 in Australia shook cricket’s authorities into realizing the commercial opportunities offered by the format. At that time, Australia, England and the West Indies were dominant. India did not take the format, often referred to as “pyjama cricket” because of the use of colored kit, at all seriously.

This all changed in 1983 when not only did India take the format seriously but its team also won the one-day world cup, defeating England, Australia and the West Indies along the way, inspired by the captain, Kapil Dev. In two months, the appeal of limited-overs cricket was transformed, as the Indian public fell head-over-heels in love with it and its heroes. Triangular and quadrangular tournaments were spawned on the Indian subcontinent and Sharjah. A joke became a joyful and serious commercial activity.

Yet, this is still not the answer to the original question. At the turn of the 20th century, falling attendances in England and Wales, poor performances by the national team and the imminent banning of tobacco advertising in sport combined to create a new crisis. Based on focus groups and surveys, the England and Wales Cricket Board concluded that the population wanted a form of cricket with wider appeal in terms of both duration and form of delivery. Reduced-over formats, such as 15 eight-ball or 20 overs of six balls, had been used for decades in club cricket in mid-week evening cups. In 2002, the board proposed a new Twenty20 Cup competition for the professional game.

This was narrowly approved by the county cricket clubs and launched in May 2003 on a roof garden in central London with members of a quickly forgotten pop group appearing in a tacky photoshoot. They were accompanied by the captains of the two county teams that were to contest the first match. One of them admitted to cringing when he saw the result of the photoshoot. He also said that he found the first match, on June 13, 2003, a “bit of fun.” It was not taken too seriously, as the general view was that it would not last.

How wrong could they have been? Another piece of cricketing history had been made, without anyone understanding the significance of the event. Counties used increasingly garish methods to entertain their new breed of spectators, who responded positively, thus ensuring that the format lasted longer than many thought would be the case. Once again, India was slow to adopt the format, but when it did cricket was transformed, the subcontinent effectively hijacking the new format.

The impacts of this continue to reverberate and encroach on other formats, as well as driving the game’s global expansion. Matches in the imminent twenty-team T20 World Cup will take place in the US, and T20 cricket will be an Olympic sport in 2028. So, from being a “a bit of a laugh,” it has become the dominant format and a commercial behemoth of existential threat to longer-established formats, both of which started as a “bit of a joke.” Cricket has a way of making fools of those who joke.


Michael Phelps returning to NBC broadcast booth for Paris Olympics swimming coverage

Michael Phelps returning to NBC broadcast booth for Paris Olympics swimming coverage
Updated 58 min 50 sec ago
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Michael Phelps returning to NBC broadcast booth for Paris Olympics swimming coverage

Michael Phelps returning to NBC broadcast booth for Paris Olympics swimming coverage
  • Phelps retired after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, having captured more gold medals (23) and total medals (28) than any athlete

INDIANAPOLIS: Michael Phelps will be back in the broadcast booth for the Paris Olympics.
NBCUniversal announced Friday that Phelps will be a part of its coverage team for the second Olympics in a row, following his role at the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Games in 2021.
Phelps retired after the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, having captured more gold medals (23) and total medals (28) than any athlete.
He will offer commentary and analysis on the primetime and daytime shows in Paris on NBC and Peacock. In addition, Phelps will join Dan Hicks and Rowdy Gaines in the booth for select swimming nights at París La Défense Arena.
Former Olympian Elizabeth Beisel will serve as a correspondent and analyst, with Melissa Stark serving as a reporter at the swimming venue.
“We are excited to have Michael return to our coverage across both daytime and primetime, and of course, the place where no one knows more about winning — at the pool,” said Molly Solomon, the executive producer and president of NBC Olympics Production. “With his ability to analyze and entertain, our viewers are in for another gold-medal performance.”
Phelps will actually begin his broadcast duties on Friday, when he joins the coverage of the US Olympic trials in Indianapolis. The meet, which is being broadcast on NBC and Peacock, runs through Sunday.


Olympics- “Islamist terrorism” main concern ahead of Paris Games, city's police chief says

Olympics- “Islamist terrorism” main concern ahead of Paris Games, city's police chief says
Updated 21 June 2024
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Olympics- “Islamist terrorism” main concern ahead of Paris Games, city's police chief says

Olympics- “Islamist terrorism” main concern ahead of Paris Games, city's police chief says

PARIS: “Islamist terrorism” is the main security worry ahead of the upcoming Paris Olympics, the French capital’s chief of police Laurent Nunez said on Friday.
France is on its highest level of security alert as the Games approach, with the country additionally preparing for snap legislative elections at the end of June.
French authorities also recently foiled an attack on a sports stadium in another French city.
“Islamist terrorism remains our main concern,” Nunez told a press conference seven weeks before the Olympics opening ceremony, which will be held on and along the River Seine on July 26.
“There is no clear-cut threat yet against the Games and our country but I’d like to remind you that at the end of May, two individuals were arrested in Saint-Etienne and were plotting a project aimed directly at the Olympic Games.
“The terrorist threat remains just as important as the protest threat posed by radical environmental groups, the ultra left and the pro-Palestinian movement,” Nunez said.
Last month, an 18-year-old Chechen man was arrested in the city of Saint-Etienne, suspected of planning an attack in the name of Islamic State at the city’s soccer stadium during the Olympics.


Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024

Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024
Updated 25 min 43 sec ago
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Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024

Fulfilling dreams and finding new friends: fans camp out at Euro 2024
  • “In 1990 I was with some friends in Italy at the World Cup there and it was so funny and I said at that time, okay, I will do it again,” Harald Goerz, a Germany fan from Aachen told Reuters

STUTTGART: International rivalries have been put to one side in a campsite in Stuttgart as fans from various nations live in motorhomes next to one another and share the common joy of following their team at Euro 2024.
While the action intensifies on the pitch, the fans are making new friends, sharing drinks and creating a festival atmosphere in a unique holiday that could end next week or next month.
“In 1990 I was with some friends in Italy at the World Cup there and it was so funny and I said at that time, okay, I will do it again,” Harald Goerz, a Germany fan from Aachen told Reuters outside his rented motor home.
“In that time I met my wife, we have been married for 32 years. And last year we had the idea to start this traveling with the German team around Germany to all their games.
“That was ever my dream, I said to her if any time a new European Championship or World Cup is in Germany, then we will do that.”
Harald’s wife Martina, sitting beside him in her Germany jersey, said they would make a photo album of their journey across the country that has taken in Munich and Stuttgart so far and then on to Frankfurt next to show their family.
“We want to have a photo album... for our grandchildren to show them: Look. When I tell our daughter about it, she watches it herself, she lives in Cologne, and she will say: ‘That’s amazing, it’s a shame I couldn’t come with you’. She is crazy about football too.”
Germany have two wins from their opening two matches, the second a 2-0 victory over Hungary at the Stuttgart Arena, which is a five minute walk from the campsite.
However, there was no animosity from Hungarian fans also were camping out.
“It’s amazing. That’s the word... after the game we came here and we just sit in the ‘pub’ and drink with the Scottish fans and they are the best,” Hungary fan Tamas Szucs said, camping with his friend Zsolt Kiraly who he met five years ago and now travels with for international matches.
“We had some German fans here, we said to them well done, good job.
“Everyone is friendly,” he added.

’NO SCOTLAND, NO PARTY’
The Scottish fans are proving to be popular at this tournament with thousands having made the journey. At the Stuttgart campsite, groups made their way separately on the long journey from Scotland but are already one big family.
“We left Glasgow 10 days ago and drove 24 hours solid to get here. And the three guys here, they fell right out the bus. They didn’t stop drinking for 24 hours. 80 cans of beer in 24 hours,” Scotland fan John Gilmour said as his fellow fans cheered and raised fresh bottles of beer.
Scotland were part of the last Euros but that one had COVID restrictions, so for some fans it has been their first real chance to see their team at a European Championship since 1996.
“This was my dream,” said Tony, a Scotland fan who lives in Blackpool, England.
“When I was younger I can remember the football but I was too busy with children. So this time was my dream. I wasn’t missing it. And I brought my son. He was born during Euro 96, so I managed to get him here as well.”
There will be more Scottish arrivals in Stuttgart ahead of their crucial Group A match against Hungary on Sunday, with both teams needing a win to be in with a shout of reaching the next stage.
The chant of “No Scotland, no party” will be heard right across the campsite and the city this weekend.


Pogacar confident in his UAE team to deliver third Tour de France title

Pogacar confident in his UAE team to deliver third Tour de France title
Updated 21 June 2024
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Pogacar confident in his UAE team to deliver third Tour de France title

Pogacar confident in his UAE team to deliver third Tour de France title

PARIS: Tadej Pogacar believes he has the right team in place to help him fight for a third Tour de France triumph with an eight-rider UAE roster confirmed on Friday.
“It’s already my fifth time coming to the Tour and I’m really excited about it,” said Pogacar, a back-to-back winner in 2020 and 2021 who finished runner-up in the past two editions to Jonas Vingegaard.
“We’ve worked really hard all year as a team to prepare for this. We’ve spent a lot of time together as a group training at altitude and put in a lot of hours in the saddle. We’re in a really good place as a group.”
Pogacar, 25, will also be bidding for the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double, last achieved by the late Marco Pantani in 1998, with this year’s Tour starting in Florence on June 29.
The Slovenian will be accompanied by Britain’s Adam Yates, Spaniards Juan Ayuso and Marc Soler, France’s Pavel Sivakov, Portuguese Joao Almeida, Belgian Tim Wellens and Germany’s Nils Politt.
“We know what we have to do to support Tadej,” said Yates, third in last year’s Tour de France.
“We’re aiming for the win and we know if things go our way it’s possible so it’s just a matter of staying focused and pulling together all the way to Nice.”
Ayuso, winner of the Tour of the Basque Country and third in the 2022 Vuelta, and Almeida, third in last year’s Giro, will compete in their first Tour de France.


Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024

Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024
Updated 21 June 2024
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Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024

Cristiano Ronaldo back in action as Portugal and Turkiye look for second straight win at Euro 2024

DORTMUND, Germany: Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal play Turkiye in their second group game at the European Championship. Both countries opened Group F play with a win, with Portugal beating the Czech Republic 2-1 and Turkiye defeating Georgia 3-1. Kickoff is at 6 p.m. local (1600 GMT) in Dortmund. Here’s what to know about the match:

Match facts

  • The 39-year-old Ronaldo lost his place in the Portugal team at the World Cup in 2022 but he looks to be as guaranteed a starter as ever under Roberto Martinez, who took over as coach after the tournament in Qatar. Ronaldo is captain and played the full game against the Czechs, though didn’t score.
  • Portugal encountered a Czech Republic team which sat back and defended in numbers in Leipzig. Turkiye is unlikely to do that, given its strength in attack, so expect Ronaldo and company to have more space going forward.
  • Arda Guler is the one to watch for Turkiye. The 19-year-old attacking midfielder from Real Madrid scored one of the goals of the tournament against Georgia — a long-range screamer into the top corner — to take Ronaldo’s record as the youngest debut scorer at a European Championship.
  •  Turkiye is playing a second straight game at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion. Its fans turned the stadium into a sea of red against Georgia and look sure to outnumber the Portuguese support on Saturday.
  •  Portugal or Turkiye will guarantee a first-place finish in the group with a win in Dortmund and if Georgia-Czech Republic is a draw in Hamburg earlier Saturday.
(AFP)

Team news

  • Portugal’s entire 26-man squad has been in training so Martinez again has some tough decisions to make, given the strength in depth of the group. Joao Palhinha is pushing for a return as the anchorman in midfield.
  • İrfan Can Kahveci missed the win over Georgia because of injury and has yet to return to full training with Turkiye.

By the numbers

  • Ronaldo will look to add to his record 14 goals in European Championships. That is five more than his nearest rival — Michel Platini, whose nine goals all came in the same tournament (1984). It will also be Ronaldo’s record-extending 27th appearance at the Euros.
  • Portugal won all 10 of its qualifying games for Euro 2024 and then its opening group game. The team has also beaten Turkiye in each of their last six competitive matches, and in all three of their meetings at the Euros.
  • By starting against the Czechs, Portugal defender Pepe became — at 41 years and 113 days — the oldest player to feature in a European Championship.
  • By beating Georgia, Turkiye ended a run of losing its opening match in each of its last five appearances at the Euros.

What they’re saying
“We’re expecting a completely different game. Turkiye have better players (than the Czech Republic) and they will want a different kind of match.” — Portugal forward Diogo Jota.
“Even in bad weather, they were at the stadium for us and were so loud. With them, we feel like we are playing with 12 men.” — Turkiye defender Ferdi Kadıoğlu on his team’s loud and passionate fans.