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.


Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
Updated 15 July 2024
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Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title

Spain beat England 2-1 to win record fourth European Championship title
  • Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time

BERLIN: Spain won a record fourth European Championship title on Sunday after Mikel Oyarzabal’s 86th-minute goal clinched a 2-1 victory over England, whose painful decades-long wait for a major trophy goes on.
Oyarzabal slid in to poke home Marc Cucurella’s cross, just when the game at Berlin’s Olympiastadion seemed destined for extra time after the latest show of resilience by England at the tournament.
Substitute Cole Palmer equalized for England in the 73rd minute to cancel out Nico Williams’ opener in the 47th from 17-year-old prodigy Lamine Yamal’s pass.
Spain also won the title in 1964, 2008 and 2012.
“I did my job and what I had to and was lucky enough to score the goal for the win,” said Oyarzabal, who came on as a substitute for captain Alvaro Morata. “When you are among the 26 names to be picked, that is special enough, but then to get to help the team like I did, that is the most important part.”
England men’s team has now lost back-to-back Euro finals and is still without a major title since winning the 1966 World Cup.
It is another agonizing loss for one of the world’s most underperforming national teams, this one coming in front of Prince William and Spain’s King Felipe at the venue built for the 1936 Olympics.
“This time it just wasn’t meant to be,” the prince wrote on social media. “We’re all still so proud of you.”
There were joyous scenes after the final whistle among the Spanish players, with Williams putting his hands to his face before he was embraced by his teammates. Dani Carvajal slumped to the field and was piled on by jubilant teammates.
Yamal, Marc Cucurella and Dani Olmo were among the first to jump over the advertising hoardings to reach the Spanish fans in the stadium’s east end of the stadium.
It was fitting that Yamal and Williams combined for the crucial first goal as they are the poster boys of this exciting, multicultural team that mirrors the new reality in Spain.
Yamal’s mother is from Equatorial Guinea and his father is from Morocco, while fellow winger Williams has Ghanaian parents who made the long journey to Europe looking for a better life. To make it to Spain, they had to ride on the back of a crowded truck and walk barefoot through the Sahara desert.
“Euphoria! We are so happy. We deserved this,” said Williams, the player of the match. “This is for our fans and our parents, who have supported us throughout.”
Unlike his brother Inaki, who is a Ghana international, Nico chose to play for Spain and will now be regarded as a national hero there.
As, indeed, will Oyarzabal and the rest of the Spain team, who have won all seven of their matches at this tournament — an unprecedented feat — and beaten heavyweights Germany, France and England, back-to-back in the knockout stage.
Spain is back as a major player in senior soccer after winning both the Women’s World Cup and the men’s UEFA Nations League in 2023.
Since 2001, Spanish men’s teams have won 23 consecutive major finals in club and international soccer.


India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1
Updated 14 July 2024
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India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1

India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in fifth T20 to win series 4-1
  • Sanju Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs
  • In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 from 3.3 overs

HARARE: Sanju Samson scored 58 as India beat Zimbabwe by 42 runs in their fifth Twenty20 on Sunday to win the five-match series 4-1.
Samson, who was part of India’s T20 World Cup-winning squad, hit four sixes in his 45-ball innings to help India score 167-6 in 20 overs after losing the toss and batting first.
In reply, Zimbabwe was bowled out for 125 runs in 18.3 overs with medium pacer Mukesh Kumar taking 4-22 in 3.3 overs.
Zimbabwe had won the first T20 by 13 runs, with India then rebounding with four consecutive wins. It won the second, third and fourth T20s by 100 runs, 23 runs, and 10 wickets, respectively.
India’s top-order batters got double-digit starts Sunday but couldn’t build on them.
Yashasvi Jaiswal, who scored 93 not out on Saturday, was bowled for 12 off five balls. Skipper Shubman Gill was caught for 13, while Abhishek Sharma was dismissed for 14 as India reached 40-3 in five overs.
Samson and Riyan Parag (22) added 65 off 56 balls for the fourth wicket and stabilized the innings as India crossed the 100-mark.
The acceleration came late and cost India a few wickets, with Samson holding ground at one end. Shivam Dube scored 26 off 12 balls, hitting two sixes, and putting on 30 off 19 balls for the fifth wicket.
Zimbabwe pacer Blessing Muzarabani finished with 2-19 in four overs.
Kumar disturbed Zimbabwe’s start as opener Wessly Madhevere was bowled for a three-ball duck. He also sent back Brian Bennett for 10 runs.
Zimbabwe fought back with a 44-run partnership between Tadiwanashe Marumani (27) and Dion Myers (34).
Washington Sundar (1-7 in two overs) got the breakthrough in the ninth over, while Dube (2-25) dismissed Myers.
The hosts couldn’t fight back thereafter, especially with captain Sikandar Raza run out for eight. Zimbabwe crashed from 85-3 to 94-7 in the space of 15 deliveries.
Faraz Akram scored 27 off 13 balls to take Zimbabwe past 100, but the hosts never looked like winning.
Gill was leading India this series for the first time. He called it an “excellent series” for the young side.
“The hunger that we showed after the first loss was phenomenal to watch,” Gill said. “A lot of our players weren’t used to these conditions, some of them were on long flights, and we adapted very well.”


Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown
Updated 14 July 2024
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Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown

Carlos Alcaraz dominates Novak Djokovic to retain Wimbledon crown
  • Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under

LONDON: Carlos Alcaraz overpowered seven-time champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets to retain his Wimbledon title on Sunday in a brutal statement that the new era of men’s tennis has arrived.
The Spanish third seed produced a performance combining awesome power with delicate touch to win 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7/4), collecting the fourth Grand Slam of his young career.
Alcaraz equals the Open Era record for most Grand Slams won at the age 21 or under, joining Boris Becker, Bjorn Borg and Mats Wilander.
And he is just the sixth man to win the French Open and Wimbledon back to back.
Djokovic, 37, who had knee surgery just weeks ago, was aiming to win a 25th Grand Slam — which would have been a record in the men’s and women’s game.
But he had no answers in the Center Court sunshine as the electric Alcaraz pounded him from the back of the court and treated the crowd to an array of his trademark drop shots.
“Honestly, it is a dream for me winning this trophy,” said the Spaniard. “I did an interview when I was 11 and I said my dream is to win Wimbledon.
“For me this is the most beautiful tournament, the most beautiful court and the most beautiful trophy.”
Alcaraz paid tribute to his beaten opponent, who only found his range in the third set.
“Djokovic is an unbelievable fighter, I knew he was going to have his chances,” said Alcaraz who had needed five sets to defeat the Serb in the 2023 final.
“It was difficult but I tried to stay calm going into the tie-break and tried to play my best tennis. I was glad at the end I could find the solutions.”
Alcaraz seized the initiative in a first game of breathtaking quality lasting 14 minutes, taking advantage of his fifth break point.
The Spaniard settled quickly into his routine on serve and went up a double break when Djokovic double-faulted in the fifth game.
The shell-shocked Serbian, playing in his 10th Wimbledon final, held serve to love to close the gap to 5-2 but dumped the ball into the net to hand the Spaniard the first set.
Alcaraz was immediately on the front foot in the second set, forcing a break in the first game and fending off pressure on his own serve to take a 2-0 lead.
A Djokovic backhand into the net in the seventh game handed Alcaraz another break point and a double fault put the defending champion 5-2 up and on the cusp of a two-set lead.
The Center Court crowd, including Catherine, Princess of Wales, looked on in disbelief as their hopes for a titanic tussle evaporated.
The under-par Djokovic fended off another of clutch of break points early in the third set to stay alive and showed signs that he was finding his rhythm.
But Alcaraz broke for a 5-4 lead and moved to 40-0 on his own serve, only to suffer a wobble as Djokovic saved all three championship points, breaking for the first time in the match.
He recovered his composure quickly and the set went to a tie-break.
Djokovic went wide with a forehand to give Alcaraz a 5-3 lead and the Spaniard won the title with his fourth championship point, clambering up to the players’ box to celebrate with his family and coaching team.
The champion struck 42 winners to Djokovic’s 26 over the course of the match.
Princess Catherine, patron of the All England Club, handed over the trophy.
Last month she tentatively returned to British public life for the first time since her diagnosis, attending a military parade in London to mark King Charles III’s official birthday.
Djokovic, still without a title this year, will now turn his attention to the Paris Olympics as he seeks to win gold for the first time.
“It obviously was not the result I wanted but of course in the first couple of sets the level of tennis wasn’t up to par from my side,” he said.
“But credit to Carlos for playing elite tennis, especially from the back of the court, he had it all today.”


Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season
Updated 14 July 2024
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Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season

Top level padel event to be hosted in Dubai as part of 25-tournament season
  • Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs

LONDON: Top level padel will be returning to Dubai as part of a newly unified 25-tournament season spanning 18 countries, it was announced on Sunday.

The Dubai Premier Padel P1 event will be held at Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium and feature the world’s best players. 

Organized by Dubai-based Gallop Global, the event will feature 256 players in separate formats for male and female pairs. The accumulated prize pool for both categories is €470,000 ($513,263).

The sport is coming to Dubai following a multi-year hosting agreement between the UAE Padel Association, the Department of Economy and Tourism, Dubai Sports Council, Premier Padel, and Gallop Global.

“The support of the inaugural Dubai Premier Padel P1 from His Highness Sheikh Mansoor will be a significant motivating factor in organising more events in the country,” said Sheikh Saeed bin Maktoum bin Juma Al-Maktoum, UAEPA president.

“Since the sport’s formal introduction to the UAE in 2013, the UAE leadership has supported various padel events, as well as other events that followed in subsequent years.

“For example, the World Padel Championship, hosted by Dubai in 2022, was held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Executive Council of Dubai. We thank the leaders for their invaluable support, which has led to the development of the sport in the emirate, as evidenced by the constantly growing infrastructure in line with the sport’s popularity over the years,” Sheikh Saeed added.

Saeed Mohammed Hareb, secretary-general of the Dubai Sports Council, said padel had experienced huge growth in the UAE, especially in Dubai.

Padel in the UAE is governed by UAEPA, which was founded in 2014 and is one of the first padel federations in Asia to be established. It has been affiliated with the International Padel Federation since 2016.

In 2014, the General Authority of Sports decreed the official recognition of padel as a sport with the government’s full support. Today, the UAE is home to 30 percent of padel courts in Asia and two percent of all courts worldwide.

“We have witnessed tremendous development and growth of padel in the UAE in general, and Dubai in particular, in terms of the number of practitioners and courts, as well as the organization of international tournaments, attracting top-ranked players in the world,” he said.
“This reflects the hard work of the UAE Padel Federation, headed by Sheikh Saeed and showcases the efforts to spread padel culture and the numerous benefits of playing the sport.

“This event plays a pivotal role in the growth of the padel community, not just in Dubai but also on a global scale, while also cementing Dubai’s position as a global hub for sports and events. Bringing world-class players to Dubai will also serve as a further catalyst for the growth of the sport and the emirate,” he added.


Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
Updated 14 July 2024
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Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe

Spain and England to meet in European Championship final in front of Prince William and King Felipe
  • Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time and for the first time since 2012
  • England lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer and hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup

BERLIN: Spain and England will meet in the European Championship final on Sunday, with much of the focus on a teenage wonderkid and whether one of the world’s most underachieving teams can end its decades-long wait for a title.
The match is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) in Berlin and is expected to be attended by Prince William, Spain’s King Felipe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Keir Starmer, Britain’s new prime minister.
Spain is bidding to win the Euros for a record fourth time, breaking a tie with Germany/West Germany, and for the first time since 2012. The team’s new superstar is winger Lamine Yamal, a prodigy who turned 17 on Saturday.
England, who lays claim to be the birthplace of soccer, hasn’t won a major title since the 1966 World Cup and that was on home soil. This is the team’s second straight European Championship final, having lost in a penalty shootout in the final to Italy three years ago.
The teams have taken different paths to the final, which will take place at Berlin’s Olympiastadion — the 71,000-seat venue built for the 1936 Olympic Games and which hosted the 2006 World Cup final that featured Zinedine Zidane’s infamous headbutt.
Spain has won all six of its matches and is widely regarded as the best team at Euro 2024, having seen off Germany and France in the knockout stage. England was unimpressive in the group stage and has shown resilience in coming from behind in all three of its knockout-stage games.