Apr 162014
 

Sachin Tendulkar may not be a part of the Mumbai Indians squad but as an ‘icon’ he is making his presence felt at the team’s training sessions. He is even a part of dressing-room strategizing. Tendulkar sat with his ‘former teammates’ in the dugout too, along with the other coaching staff. The master batsman’s MI jersey, however, is lacking sponsors.

While all other MI jerseys worn by players are packed with sponsorship credits, Tendulkar has a plain blue jersey which only sports owner Nita Ambani’s ‘Education For All’ campaign.

No team owners in the dugout

Team owners will not be sitting in the dugout, next to it or even anywhere around it. A designated area for team owners has been created at all venues here, some distance away from the dugout occupied by players, coaches and the immediate support staff. On Wednesday evening, Kolkata Knight Riders owner Shah Rukh Khan sat next to Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak, the minister of sport and youth development in Abu Dhabi and the man responsible for the IPL coming to the UAE. Mumbai Indians team owner Nita Ambani, meanwhile, sat in a separate enclosure with her franchise officials and other supporters.

Little to smile at gala dinner

The gala dinner hosted at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi to welcome the IPL in UAE was a strictly-on-invitation, VIP affair. One just couldn’t get through without the right accreditation, thanks to strict local security. That is how the IPL wanted it to be. N Srinivasan’s affidavit in the Supreme Court made all the news in the cricket circles in UAE and the possible after-effects of it gripped all those involved here. Nobody wanted any unnecessary conversation and news emerged that the ‘opening dinner’ had turned out to be a ‘pretty boring’ one. Only the BCCI, which didn’t have to shell out a single penny thanks to the Royal Family hosting the event, had something to smile about.

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Apr 152014
 
Kolkata and Mumbai test the waters
ABU DHABI: Mumbai Indians 10, Kolkata Knight Riders 2. That’s the head-to-head count of the result of matches between these IPL heavyweights.

Going by figures alone, there won’t be much debate over who the favourite is for Wednesday’s league-opener at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium here.

In fact, those who’ve been queuing up for tickets here have no doubt that Mumbai Indians are the one to watch out for.

They’re the defending champions, have been title-favourites last four years on the trot, have retained proven-match winners at the auction and arrived here with the necessary arsenal – attacking batsmen and a good set of spinners.

The Knights, on the other hand, have been quite unsteady at all times except for the year they won the title. From underdogs to wooden-spooners, they’ve seen it all, have let go of useful T20 players like Brendon McCullum and Eoin Morgan and may have to start from scratch yet again.

But if statistics and auction-strategies are kept aside, Mumbai Indians technically can’t claim the ‘favourites’ tag, simply because neither team has played a match at this venue before. For the same reason, the Knight Riders aren’t exactly in a spot because of what the head-to-head count reveals.

The pitch, the outfield, the weather – it is unbearably hot — and the toss will be important. As MI and KKR do battle, they’re likely to set a precedent for other teams to follow at this venue over the next two weeks.

“It (conditions) is the same for everyone so and I suppose it depends on how the teams handle it. We won’t know until the first few games are out of the way,” says Knight Riders coach Trevor Bayliss. “But it will be good to leave the UAE with a number of wins under your belt before we get back to India.”

While MI have retained the core of the team and have brought back Zaheer Khan at the cost of letting Mitchell Johnson leave, the Knight Riders have roped in some good young hands in Robin Uthappa and Manish Pandey.

The crowds, nevertheless, aren’t flocking to the stadium just to watch these two teams — they will also keep a keen eye on two stars who have backroom jobs.

Sachin Tendulkar is back in the Mumbai Indians dressing room as an ‘icon’ and will play a part in building the franchise’s strategy. Shah Rukh Khan is here to cheer for the Knight Riders and capable of swinging crowd support in his favour because of the immense fan-following he enjoys here in the UAE. On Wednesday, expect Tendulkar devotees and Shah Rukh-struck men and women to fill the stands.

Apr 152014
 
IPL 7 breathes life into the Emirates
ABU DHABI: The commotion at Mumbai’s swanky international terminal on Monday night turned into an eerie calm as hordes of cricket pilgrims finally took off for the first leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates.

Among them were players, team officials, coaches, support staff, sponsors, advertisers, fans, and a certain Shahrukh Khan.

Shane Watson, the ever-obliging Aussie all-rounder, had started looking tired after signing autographs and posing for pictures for over an hour at the new T2; but the uneventful three-hour flight, a hassle-free walk past immigration and no autograph-hunters or selfie-seekers outside brought the smile back to his face.

In that one instant, it became clear what this leg of the IPL could well turn out to be; it will surely be unlike all the other editions in India since its inception seven years ago, and quite possibly even from the one in South Africa in 2009. It will surely not feel like a fashion parade with internationals stars zipping from one city to another; there won’t be the usual after-match parties or even crazed fans everywhere.

Why, here in Abu Dhabi, you won’t find Virat Kohli selling you a pair of denims from a giant-sized poster; or Sachin Tendulkar trying to help you make your mind up on a certain credit card. The last one heard discos and night clubs are not planning happy hours either, just to add spice to the cricket jamboree.

Sharjah, however, could turn out to be a more passionate affair, at least for the memories it holds, as it will be hosting any kind of cricket involving India after 14 long years. But the stretch between Abu Dhabi, and its more outgoing cousin Dubai, aren’t bursting at the seams, at least as yet.

Shahrukh, who performed at the Emirates Palace — the fanciest five-star hotel in Abu Dhabi — told TOI a day before the jig: “Well, they asked if I could do it and I said yes, sure.”

It was certainly unlike 2012 when he flew Pitbull down to Kolkata.

The people who have been waiting for a cricketing feast here in UAE, with all the Bollywood essentials attached, are the large India and Pakistani expats who want nothing more than an encounter between the two countries. The last they saw he Asian giants battle in the UAE was in 2006, though it was not in Sharjah.

“The IPL is something people look forward to and I’m hearing the tickets have all gone. There should be a good turnout,” says Mumbai Indians coach John Wright.

“The one big difference is there are not too many people greeting you at the team hotel or the grounds. So, it is a bit more laid back and relaxed which I think the players are enjoying. Obviously, the Indian boys would much rather be playing at home. But they understand that is what needs to be done. But I think some of the bigger guys are probably enjoying it,” says Trevor Bayliss, the KKR coach.

UAE cricket needs BCCI on its side to develop and it may have it, depending on how well this event goes. The expats are in awe of the stars from India and they’re in for a treat. The franchises find this trip a great exercise in cost-cutting. The broadcasters are fine with the prime-time slot made available to them. The title-sponsor sees the Gulf as its domain and is happy it’s not any country further west.

The UAE leg may not offer the glitterati quotient that surrounds the league annually; but it is still excited as this will mark the return of India’s cricket stars after a long hiatus.

FACTOIDS

Youngest player: Pradeep Sangwan (17 years 179 days) Oldest player: Brad Hogg (42 years 86 days) Leading run-getter: Suresh Raina, with 2802 runs at 35.02 in 99 matches for CSK Best strike rate (Min 1000 runs): 168.21 (1270 runs in 72 matches) by Virender Sehwag for Daredevils Leading wicket-taker: 103 wickets (ave.17.95) in 73 matches by Lasith Malinga for MI Best economy rate (Min 10 matches): 5.47 by Sunil Narine in 31 matches for KKR

IPL winners over the years

2008: Rajasthan Royals 2009: Deccan Chargers 2010: Chennai Super Kings 2011: Chennai Super Kings 2012: Kolkata Knight Riders 2013: Mumbai Indians

Apr 152014
 
Watson upbeat about Royals's chances

MUMBAI: Having been part of Rajasthan Royals’ campaign in all six previous editions, including the triumphant one in the inaugural year 2008, star Australia all-rounder Shane Watson feels the Jaipur franchise has its strongest-ever team in the Indian P…

Apr 032014
 
IPL News: Second leg of IPL 7 to be held in India

The seventh edition of the Indian Premier League will return to India on May 2 after the first leg in UAE. The IPL organizing committee released the schedule and fixtures for the remaining 40 matches.

As the General election dates clashed with the IPL schedule, there was an uncertainty over the security availability and Bangladesh was kept as a stand by to host the second leg in case the government refused the permission to hold the matches.

Ten cities – Ranchi, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore, Ahmedabad, Cuttack, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Mohali will host the remaining 40 matches of IPL 7.

While the Qualifier 1 and Eliminator will be held at Chennai’s M A Chidambaram Stadium on May 27 and May 28, the Qualifier 2 and the final will be hosted by Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai on May 30 and June 1 respectively.

No match has been scheduled for May 1, May 16 and May 17.

Each franchise will play nine matches in India, with five of the eight teams playing at least four matches in their home stadium. Chennai Super Kings will play two matches at Ranchi, while Kings XI Punjab will play two games at Cuttack. Rajasthan Royals will play four matches at Ahmedabad. 

After discussions with the authorities in India, the BCCI is pleased to announce that a total of 36 regular season matches, plus the four playoffs of the Pepsi IPL 2014, will be played in India, starting Friday, 2 May 2014,” BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel said in a statement.

The organisers also made two changes to the UAE leg of the schedule. The evening match on April 26 in Abu Dhabi, between Kings XI Punjab and Kolkata Knight Riders, will now be designated as a home match for Kolkata Knight Riders while the match April 28 in Dubai, between Royal Challengers Bangalore and Kings XI Punjab, will be designated as a home game for Kings XI Punjab.

“Following on from the launch of ticket sales for the UAE leg today, I am pleased that we are now able to confirm the dates for the rest of the season. It is great news that the fans back home in India will be able to watch a large part of the Pepsi IPL 2014. Given the various challenges and the logistical complexities, we have spent a considerable amount of time in crafting a balanced schedule,” said interim president of BCCI-IPL, Sunil Gavaskar.

Ranjib Biswal, chairman of IPL Governing Council, said “We are delighted to have the season back in India at the start of May. Organising an event of this scale at multiple venues in two countries is an enormous organisational undertaking and we are very grateful to the Government of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the police authorities in the various states for their support.”

The first leg of IPL 7 was shifted out of the country after the government refused to provide security as its schedule was clashing with the general elections, scheduled to be held in nine phases from April 7 to May 12 and the counting day being May 16.

In 2009, the entire tournament had to be shifted to South Africa.

The complete schedule of IPL 7 can be viewed at www.iplt20.com

Apr 022014
 
IPL News: Online ticket sale to begin for UAE leg

The online sale of tickets for the seventh edition of the IPL will start on Thursday.

The tickets will be available on www.iplt20.com and www.ticketmaster.ae.

They will also be available at select Lulu Hypermarkets in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, from April 6 while stadium box-office sales will start on April 10. 

The tickets will be available in different denominations. The minimum price for the Abu Dhabi matches is AED (United Arab Emirates Dirham) 20 for a single match, and AED 30 for double-headers.

In Dubai, a ticket for one match will start at AED 30, and AED 50 for double-headers. In Sharjah, tickets will start at AED 30 for a single match, and AED 40 for the double-headers.

IPL governing council chairman Ranjib Biswal said that the event would be exciting for the cricketing fraternity and people of the UAE.

“I want to thank the UAE government, the Emirates Cricket Board, the administrations of Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi, as well as the three sports councils, for their support and commitment to host the IPL. The 20 matches to be played in the UAE will feature top cricketers from all over the world. I am sure that the opportunity to witness their heroes in action will prompt them to flock to the stadiums,” he added.

Dubai International Cricket Stadium, Sharjah Cricket Stadium and Sheik Zayed Stadium are the three stadiums to host twenty matches from April 16 to April 30.

The opening match will be played in Abu Dhabi.

Mar 212014
 
ICC World Twenty20 2014: Chigumbura leads Zimbabwe to victory

Led by Elton Chigumbura’s explosive 53 runs off 21 balls, Zimbabwe cruised to victory in just 13.4 overs. Earlier, UAE could only manage 116 in their alloted 20 overs with only one solid partnerships. The win lifted Zimbabwe to the top spot in Group B and gave themselves a chance to make it to the Super 10s but only to be denied all thanks to a blistering performance from the Netherlands against Ireland, thereby qualifying from the group.

Match Review: Qualifiers: Group B: Match 11: Zimbabwe vs UAE – 21st March 2014, Sylhet Stadium, Sylhet, Bangladesh

Zimbabwe were reduced to 34/4 earlier in the innings due to the disciplined bowling of Shadeep Silva and Manjula Guruge.  Brendan Taylor tried to up the ante with two fours and a six but skied one to be dismissed for 15. Sean Williams was caught and bowled off Guruge, and then Ahmed Raza had Sikandar Raza caught by Kamran Shahzad at extra cover.

But fortunately, Vusi Sibanda and Chigumbura collaborated together as the duo hit 29 off 14 balls to give momentum back to the batting side. 

The twist came when Khurram Khan brought himself on in the 10th over and claimed Sibanda’s crucial wicket. But there was no respite for the UAE bowlers as Elton Chigumbura smashed an unbeaten 53 which included 6 fours and 3 sixes to help Zimbabwe chase down with 7.2 overs left. 

Put into bat, UAE lost two wickets in the second over of the game. Anwar edged a delivery from Tendai Chatara behind the stumps. Two balls later, Faizan Asif followed him throwing his wicket away on a run out. However, Williams and his left-arm spin put Zimbabwe back on track as UAE lost 6 wickets in the space of 22 runs, sulking at 88/8. Some critical runs from tailender Kamran Shazad helped the batting team to play all the 20 overs and get past 115.

A striking feature of Zimbabwe’s play was their sharp fielding in contrast to some lousy efforts from their counterparts.

UAE head home winless in the World T20 while Zimbabwe would rue their missed chances in the game against Ireland where a slightly better performance could have seen them qualify for the Super 10s.

Scorecard: 

Zimbabwe: 118/5 in 13.4 overs (E. Chigumbura 53*, T. Maruma 22* ; AM Guruge 2/18) beat UAE: 116/9 in 20 overs (SP Patil 30, Khurram Khan 26; SC Williams 3/15, Sikandar Raza 2/15) by 5 wickets

Player of the day: Elton Chigumbura (Zimbabwe)

Disappointment of the day: Ahmed Raza (UAE)

Umpires – B Bowden (New Zealand) and B Oxenford (Australia)
TV umpire -M Erasmus (South Africa)
Match referee – DC Boon (Australia)
Reserve umpire – I Gould (England)

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