Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges

Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges
West Indies' wicketkeeper Nicholas Pooran (R) dives to save a run during the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 Super Eight cricket match between England and the West Indies at Daren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet, Saint Lucia, on June 19, 2024 (AFP)
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Updated 20 June 2024
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Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges

Ambitious expansion of T20 World Cup throws up playing and logistical challenges
  • In modern cricket, an established statistical mechanism recalculates scores in rain-affected matches, with pitch and ground covering materials and more powerful equipment to disperse rainwater

Last week’s consideration of the pressures in professional cricket was followed by some real-time examples in the International Cricket Council Men’s T20 World Cup.

In Kingstown, St Vincent, South Africa scored only 115 against Nepal, who responded positively, cruising to 85 for two midway through the 14th over. Then four wickets fell quickly, leaving eight runs required from the final over, whittled down to two from the final two balls.

Those runs proved to be unattainable, a last ball run out sealing Nepal’s heartbreaking defeat by one run. Both batters, bowler and several fielders were under pressure to make crucial decisions in split seconds.

In St Lucia, Scotland scored a highly creditable 180 for five against Australia, aided by six dropped catches. This target challenged Australia’s batters as they slipped to sixty for three. A victory for Scotland would have elevated the team to the Super 8s stage; as it was, the pressure proved to be too great, as Australia’s extra experience took them to 186 for five with two deliveries remaining. The result meant that England, instead of Scotland, progressed. 

In Antigua, a few hours earlier, this had been very much in doubt. There it seemed the rain would not stop in sufficient time prior to the cut-off of 4.46 p.m. local time to allow mopping-up operations to be completed. One may wonder why the cut-off time should be so early in the day.

This relates to the ICC’s playing conditions for T20I men’s cricket, which stipulate that there should be two sessions of 1 hour 25 minutes, separated by a 20-minute interval between innings. Allowances also need to be made for one drink break per innings, umpire and player reviews, and any treatment of injuries. All of this equates to around 3.5 hours. There seems to be no flexibility on this and it would not be practical with matches that start at, say, 8 p.m. 

It is also pertinent to ask why a team — any team, let alone defending champions — should be at risk of being knocked out at the group stage by virtue of playing only two of its four group matches, courtesy of adverse weather conditions. England’s captain was pictured looking very mournful in the team area as rain continued to fall. Later, he admitted to it being a stressful day with real fears no play would be possible.

In the event, the match was only 46 minutes from abandonment. Ground staff worked incessantly to clear the outfield of water and the umpires were finally satisfied that play could start in a shortened match of 11 overs per team. This was reduced to 10 overs following a shower during England’s innings, which totaled 122 for five. Namibia fell 41 runs short to soothe England’s anxieties and relieve the pressure on its leadership. 

Although only four of the 40 group stage matches were washed out, three of them were in Florida. June is the start of the rainy season in the Caribbean and the Florida peninsula, so it is hardly a surprise the weather has affected matches. The ICC has been criticized for its decision to stage the 2024 T20 World Cup at this time of year in the knowledge of climatic conditions. In its defense, it would no doubt argue that the crowded cricket schedule allows no alternative.

The most favorable conditions for cricket in the Caribbean are between December and April. These months are when five T20 franchise leagues are played. The decision to include the USA as joint hosts in 2024 limits the options. Although Florida is sub-tropical, New York is not. The next T20 World Cups will be hosted by India and Sri Lanka in February 2026, followed by Australia and New Zealand in 2028. In all cases, except for northern India, weather issues should not be of concern. Given the capricious nature of the world’s climate patterns, it seems we are asked to accept that rain will interfere randomly with cricket, as it always has done.

In modern cricket, an established statistical mechanism is now deployed to recalculate scores in rain affected matches, while enhanced pitch and ground covering materials are used and more powerful equipment is available to disperse rainwater. What is needed to make best use of these is sufficient staff on hand. There have been several occasions at this World Cup when that did not appear to be the case.

Another area of discussion has surrounded the absence of reserve days in the group and Super 8 stages, apparently for logistical reasons. Reserve days are available for the semi-finals and final if the team batting second is unable to face ten overs. If the reserve day is invoked in the second semi-final, then the final is scheduled for the next day. This is high risk planning. 

What appears to be lower risk planning is the timing of matches. These are weighted heavily in favor of Indian audiences. All matches involving India in the group and Super 8 stages start at 8 p.m. IST. Additionally, this is the scheduled start time for all but seven of the other 47 matches, ensuring that Indians can watch most matches in the evening. In contrast, the local time for viewing Australia’s matches is either 3 a.m. or 10.30 a.m. Furthermore, India’s semi-final venue is pre-planned. 

This T20 World Cup is the first to comprise 20 teams. It was bound to create logistical challenges for the ICC. On top of these, the performances of the expanded number of associate members will be scrutinized by those who disagree with their inclusion. In that sense the biggest disappointment for many about the tournament — the sub-standard quality of pitches — may have helped the associate teams.

Many batters in the Full member teams have struggled to adapt to the pitches, creating unexpected opportunities for associates to achieve shock results. Under pressure, they failed to do so on most occasions. Only by playing more regularly against Full members can associates learn to maximize these chances.


Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
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Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years

Nadal defeated in first tour final in two years
  • Borges dominates Spanish star as the latter struggled to find fluency

BASTAD, Sweden: Rafael Nadal lost his first final in two years on Sunday as the Spaniard went down 6-3, 6-2 to Portugal’s Nuno Borges at the clay-court Bastad Open.

The Spanish tennis great had shown signs of a return to form in Scandinavia as he made an impressive run to the final, just one week before tennis at the Olympic Games gets underway on the clay in Paris.

But Nadal, rather than celebrating his 64th title on the surface and first since Roland Garros 2022, was dominated by Borges as he struggled to find fluency with his serve and ground strokes.

“I don’t know what to say. I think I was wishing for this moment for a while already,” said Borges in his post-match interview.

“It’s crazy; in tennis, it doesn’t happen when you expect it sometimes. I know we all wanted Rafa to win; a part of me wished that too, but something even bigger inside of me really pushed through today ... I’m just really happy overall. I really don’t know what to say, I’m very emotional.”

Elsewhere, Matteo Berrettini breezed to a 6-3, 6-1 win against France’s Quentin Halys in the Gstaad final, earning the Italian his second clay-court title of the year. 

The sixth seed Berrettini capped off a fine week in Switzerland by needing just 59 minutes to dispatch the world No. 192 Halys.

“It feels unbelievable. It feels like it was yesterday that I won my first title here six years ago, but a lot of matches and a lot of things happened,” said Berrettini.

“I’m just so glad that I can keep playing and enjoying, and I think I found the energy of six years ago during this week. This place is special for me. I’m just so happy,” added the 28-year-old who has struggled with injuries since reaching a career-high world number six in May 2022.

Berrettini’s second title on clay this season, after winning in Marrakech in April, will ensure he breaks back into the ATP top 50 on Monday.

Currently ranked 82, Berrettini was outside of the top 150 in March but a return to fitness and a fine 16-6 record for the current season has seen the 2021 Wimbledon finalist begin to refind his best level.

Sunday’s final was briefly interrupted for rain just after Berrettini secured a crucial first break in the opening set.

When the players returned 30 minutes later, the Italian won six of the next seven games to claim his second Gstaad title.


Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix
Updated 21 July 2024
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Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix
  • Finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris
  • Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes

BUDAPEST: Oscar Piastri claimed his maiden Formula One victory on Sunday when he finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, after a vexed radio argument produced an extraordinary finish to an incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
In a race of fluctuating fortunes and many quarrels on and off the track, the McLaren duo secured a comprehensive one-two after starting from the team’s first front row lockout since 2012, Norris finally obeying team orders to hand his team-mate his first career win.
Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes to claim his record 200th podium finish.
He survived a late collision with Red Bull’s three-time champion and series leader Max Verstappen, who flew off, but recovered to finish fifth.
Charles Leclerc came home fourth and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz sixth, sandwiching a grumpy Verstappen who was called to see the stewards to explain his collision with Hamilton.
Sergio Perez finished seventh for Red Bull, having started 16th on the grid, ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes, who started 17th, and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda. Lance Stroll was 10th for Aston Martin.
“It’s very special,” said Australian driver Piastri.
“I dreamt of this as a kid and if it was a bit complicated at the end, I did put myself in the right position at the start of the race.
“It’s a hell of a lot of fun racing with McLaren. This is an incredible feeling.”
Norris was first to congratulate his team-mate, after he had appeared to reject team orders and allow the Australian to pass in the closing stages.
“Well done, a good 1-2 and lots of good points for the team. Well deserved,” he said.
Norris had made an uncertain start and he, Piastri and Verstappen were three abreast into Turn One where Piastri exited in the lead as the Dutchman ran wide and cut back into second place, gaining a clear advantage and pushing Norris down to third.
This prompted an exchange of messages before race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Verstappen to allow Norris to pass, a command that clearly irked him.
“So, you can just run people off the track?” barked the Dutchman.

By lap 10, Piastri led Norris by 2.7 seconds with Verstappen third adrift by two seconds ahead of Hamilton and the two Ferraris, led by Leclerc.
Hamilton eventually reeled off a series of fastest laps to rise to third, but Verstappen on younger tires reeled him in, waiting to pounce as the Briton endured a lurid slide out of Turn 12 before pitting again on lap 41 after fending off the Dutchman.
At the front, Piastri was in cruise mode ahead of Norris with Verstappen third, 11.5 seconds adrift. Hamilton rejoined fifth behind Sainz, but with Leclerc, on new mediums, on his tail.
Norris pitted again for mediums on lap 46, rejoining fourth ahead of Hamilton, followed by Piastri on 47, handing the lead to Verstappen with Norris up to second, but told to “re-establish the order at your convenience.”
Verstappen made his second stop, for mediums, on lap 50, rejoining fifth behind Leclerc, but adrift of the Ferrari by 4.5.
In the lead, Norris was reminded of his team instructions and responsibilities as Piastri closed in.
“We know you’ll do the right thing,” said McLaren, but Norris, knowing he could reduce Verstappen’s championship lead, stayed silent when told not to stress his tires.
“Tell him to catch up, please,” he said.
As McLaren’s tensions boiled over, Verstappen lunged down the inside of Hamilton at Turn One on lap 63, but locked up and clipped the Mercedes. The collision sent him airborne briefly before he bounced clear and wide before rejoining in fifth.
McLaren then issued an ultimatum to Norris.
“There are five laps to go. The way to win a championship is not by yourself. It is with the team. You are going to need Oscar and you are going to need the team.”
With three laps remaining, Norris slowed dramatically to gift Piastri the lead.


Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming

Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming
Updated 21 July 2024
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Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming

Cecile and Laurent Landi helped Simone Biles reach new heights. The Olympics serve as a homecoming
  • The Landis say the key to their coaching success is making it a point to adjust to each athlete rather than the more rigid style they grew up with in France
  • The Landis are moving on after the Olympics. Cecile Landi was named co-head coach at the University of Georgia in April

SPRING: Cecile Canqueteau-Landi fit “in the box,” as she put it. She was skinny. She was blonde. She was pretty good at gymnastics.
And so at 9 years old, she was whisked away to become part of the French national team program, a path that ultimately led her to the 1996 Olympics.
There was reward in that journey. Yet looking back nearly three decades later, Landi wonders how many promising young athletes had their careers and their lives altered — and not for the better — because they didn’t fit someone’s preconceived notion of what a gymnast needed to look like by the time they reached their 10th birthday.
When Landi transitioned into coaching in the early 2000s, she vowed not to make the same mistake.
So maybe it’s not a coincidence that when Landi and her husband Laurent — himself a former French national team member — walk onto the floor at Bercy Arena for women’s Olympics qualifying next Sunday, they will do it while leading the oldest US women’s gymnastics team — headlined by 27-year-old Simone Biles — the Americans have ever sent to a modern Games.
A healthy partnership
In another country in another era, maybe Biles becomes something other than an icon. Maybe she becomes a casualty.
“An athlete like Simone would never have reached her full potential in France,” said Cecile. “Because she would have been put aside because she didn’t fit that box.”
For the Landis — who began coaching Biles in 2017 — there is no “box.” There can’t be.
“It’s not the athlete that needs to adjust to the coaches,” Laurent Landi said. “The coaches need to adjust the athletes and the athlete’s abilities.”
Biles was already 20 and the reigning Olympic champion when the Landis agreed to helm the elite program at World Champions Center, the massive gym run by the Biles family in the Houston suburbs.
They knew Biles fairly well at the time having already coached gymnasts who competed alongside Biles at several world championships and the 2016 Olympics. During the interview process, all three agreed there was no point — and no fun — in having Biles merely try to hold on to her otherworldly talent. To keep her engaged, they needed to make sure she kept moving forward.
The result has been perhaps the best gymnastics of Biles’ remarkable career, a stretch that includes three world all-around titles and another handful of entries in the sport’s Code of Points with her next name next to them, from the triple-double on floor exercise to the Yurchenko double pike vault that drew a standing ovation at the Olympic trials last month.
Biles views her relationship with the Landis as more of a partnership.
“They’ve been big mentors in like my adulthood (because) they got to see and harness the more mature Simone,” Biles said. “They’ve helped me a lot not just in the gym but out of the gym too.”
When Biles moved into her first house, Cecile who came over and showed her how to operate the dishwasher. When a gymnast who had just gotten their driver’s license had a problem with one of her tires, Cecile went to a nearby gas station and gave a tutorial on how to use the air pump.
“If we can help and they want the help, then why not?” she said with a laugh.
Changing with the times
The trick is finding a way to provide that help safely and productively, particularly amid a culture shift in the sport aimed at empowering athletes to take ownership of their gymnastics. It is a delicate needle to thread. What serves as motivation for one athlete could be construed negatively by another.
It’s a reality the Landis are well aware of as they try to find the proper balance between being too rigid and too lax. They grew up in a time when the coach/athlete relationship was one-sided. There was no back and forth. There was no discussion. The coach set the standards and expectations. The athlete met them or they didn’t last long.
The shift toward a more cooperative approach was overdue, but that doesn’t mean it is always easy. Laurent Landi admits he’s not the most patient coach, though those around him say he has mellowed a bit over the years. He also understands if he wants to keep doing this for a living, he didn’t have much of a choice.
“Yeah, there will be frustration,” he said. “But you can always go around some stuff and just take your pride (as a coach) away and make sure that the athletes still get the skill done.”
It’s an approach that helped World Champion Center’s elite program send five athletes to the Olympic trials, with Biles and Jordan Chiles making the five-woman US team while Joscelyn Roberson and Tiana Sumanasekera were selected as alternates.
It’s the kind of success Roberson envisioned when she moved to the Houston suburbs a few years ago to train under the Landis. She was intimidated at first before realizing her new coaches “have a million different ways to coach one skill,” a marked departure from what she was used to.
The goal is to meet the athletes where they are at on a given day, understanding no two gymnasts are the same and what works for one might not necessarily work for another. Perhaps even more importantly, they have learned to evolve as the nature of coaching evolves.
“We’re not always right,” Laurent said. “If you do your own way all the time, you will hurt the majority of the athletes. Maybe one will survive and will be an amazing person, amazing athlete but the (other) 90 percent, they will be broken. ... We had to adjust to Simone, otherwise we would have broke her.”
It’s not just Biles’ age they had to accommodate, but her schedule. She is no longer a precocious teenager who buries herself in the gym. She’s a newlywed whose schedule is packed with everything from corporate commitments to building a house and a family with her husband, Chicago Bears safety Jonathan Owens.
“When (we) tell him he just hears ‘you’re missing practice’ and kind of freaks out,” Biles said. “Because he sees all the end goals and then he gets the calendar and then he’s like, ‘Oh, OK, that’s fine. We’ll do this today, we’ll do that.’ So it just takes time for him to process.”
Biles certainly appears well-prepared. She arrives in Paris at the height of her powers more than a decade after ascending to the top of her sport. She’ll be accompanied by a pair of coaches who view the trip as more of a business trip than a homecoming.
A new challenge awaits
While the Landis have been approached to take over the women’s national team program in France in recent years, returning never made much sense to them even with the women’s program is in the midst of a resurgence.
“I think our family will be very proud, probably more than we are,” Cecile Landi said. “Because in a weird way, it’s just work for us.”
And perhaps, goodbye too.
Cecile, long a supporter of NCAA gymnastics, earlier this year agreed to become the co-head coach at the University of Georgia. Laurent will remain at World Champions Center in the short term until the Landis’ daughter Juliette — who will dive for France during the Games — graduates from high school next spring.
After that, who knows? The young gymnast who was put in a box has become a coach who no longer puts limitations on anyone, herself maybe most of all.
“I think I’ve done everything I could do in elite, and beyond what I could ever have imagined as a little French girl in a little town,” Cecile said. “I’ve coached the greatest of all time. I’ve coached many kids. I’ve had many great athletes in NCAA and elite that I feel like I want to try what’s next, a new challenge.”


SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif

SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif
Updated 21 July 2024
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SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif

SAFF launches first edition of Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif
  • Top talents from academies across 14 cities, provinces, and regions are featuring in the tournament
  • The competition will provide valuable experience for young up-and-coming referees who have been selected from SAFF Referees’ Academy

RIYADH: The Saudi Arabian Football Federation has launched the first edition of the Regional Under-13 Championship in Taif, running from July 18–30.

Currently in its third day, the 12-day tournament features 14 regional teams, showcasing top talents from academies across 14 cities, provinces, and regions.

The 14 regional teams competing in the championship are from Al-Ahsa, Jazan, Najran, Jouf, Hail, Al-Qassim, the Eastern Province, Riyadh, Jeddah, Asir, Madinah, Makkah, Hafar Al-Batin, and Tabuk.

SAFF’s Technical Director Nasser Larguet said: “The championship represents the result of the significant work supported by the Saudi Arabian Football Federation, and the outcome is the creation of the Regional Under-13 League. Clear goals and strategic plans have been set to discover and support young talents.”

Additionally, the tournament will provide valuable experience for young up-and-coming referees, who have been selected from the SAFF Referees’ Academy, further contributing to the development of skilled officials in the sport.

Manuel Navarro, president of the SAFF Referees Committee, said: “The Regional Under-13 Championship is an opportunity to develop promising referees, especially since it will witness the participation of 32 young referees. The committee aims to increase their refereeing hours and enhance their experience.”

This tournament is a significant part of SAFF’s strategy to scout and develop over 4,000 young talents by 2025, supporting the growth and future of Saudi football.


Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh
Updated 21 July 2024
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Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

Esports World Cup: Stage set for sensational Sunday in Riyadh

RIYADH: Gaming fans and esports enthusiasts are gearing up for a sensational Sunday of action-packed drama at the Esports World Cup with two new champions set to be crowned at Boulevard Riyadh City.

After delighting audiences ever since the Esports World Cup began, the Dota2 Riyadh Masters concludes at the SEF Arena with Saudi Arabia’s Team Falcons among the last three clubs vying to win the $5 million tournament.

After overcoming Tundra 2-0 in Saturday’s lower bracket semi-final, the hometown heroes face the Netherlands’ Team Liquid in the lower bracket final on Sunday afternoon. The victor will progress to the Grand Final, where they will meet Canada’s Gaimin Gladiators later on Sunday evening for glory and the $1.5 million first prize.

Also sharing the Esports World Cup spotlight is the Counter-Stike 2 Grand Final. Germany’s G2 booked their place in Sunday’s showpiece — overcoming Russian outfit Virtus.pro to move within one match of the $400,000 first prize and valuable Esports World Cup Club Championship points. Awaiting them in the Grand Final is NAVI of Ukraine — who set up a highly anticipated showdown with G2 after defeating MOUZ of Germany.

The Sunday action in Riyadh concludes Week 3 of the Esports World Cup. Alongside the Dota2 Riyadh Masters and CS2 grand finals, fans can also catch PUBG Mobile World Cup 2024 group stage matches.

For more information on scheduling and results, visit the Esports World Cup website.