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Tuesday,19-October-2021

International

Virat Kohli’s absence hurts Channel 7, company hits out at CA

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Virat-Kohli

Broadcasters Channel 7 hit out at Cricket Australia (CA) on Thursday after its ongoing dispute took a turn for the worse following India skipper Virat Kohli’s decision to withdraw from three of the four Tests. Kohli’s absence has left Channel 7 at a major disadvantage but it has given a major boost to its rivals Fox Sports.

Channel 7, a free-to-air, holds the rights for the four-match Test series while Fox Sports, a pay channel, has the rights to broadcast the two white-ball series — three T20Is and as many ODIs. Both channels will, however, be able to broadcast the first Test, a pink-ball affair to be played at the Adelaide Oval, where Kohli will play.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Monday granted Kohli paternity leave, allowing him to return home after the first Test to be with wife Anushka Sharma who is due for delivery around that time.

It will mean that while Fox Sports will get to broadcast 14 days of cricket with Kohli — six white-ball series games, a warm-up match, and the day-night Test — Channel 7 will broadcast only the five-day first Test featuring one of the best batsmen in the world. Channel 7 will have to broadcast the remaining 15 days of Test cricket sans talismanic Indian.

Kerry Stokes, chairman of Seven West Media, which owns Channel 7 was quoted by The Age as saying in the company annual general meeting, “Our company loves cricket. We couldn’t be more excited about cricket, the people who play it and the games and watching Australia represent us at the middle of the oval.”

Stokes told investors at Seven’s virtual AGM that CA administrators have let them down.

“It is outside the oval and at the administrative offices where we have some issues. The company paid a lot of money — a record amount of money — for a quality product and that hasn’t been delivered to us, and nor have they offered us anything in return to make up for what they haven’t delivered, and will continue to push your company’s rights to achieve a fair outcome,” he said.

According to reports in the Australian media, both channels, Channel 7 and Fox Sports had built their promotion on Kohli who is one of the top selling sports personalities in the world.

“Football superstars Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and basketball icon LeBron James are the only international athletes on earth with a bigger marketing and social media footprint than ‘King Kohli’, and his ‘limited time only’ summer has now put a premium on every game he plays on Fox,” a report in The Australian newspaper said.

“Both networks have based their summer promotion almost entirely on Kohli, and while Channel 7 will now have to re-cut their advertising to reflect the fact he’s missing the last three Tests, including Boxing Day, Fox Sports will double down on ramming home the fact they’re the home of a megastar with a social media reach of more than 100 million people.”

It may be noted that Channel 7 has been involved in a dispute with Cricket Australia and had threatened to pull out of a $450 million deal.

The dispute emerged after the channel sought a cut in annual fees as the BCCI forced a change in the tour schedule, bringing the two white-ball series to the start of the season and Tests to the back-end, with only one Test before Christmas and the final two Tests running through second and third week of January when the holiday season ends and many people are back at work.

They also sought a cut due to less crowds in international season during Covid-19 pandemic and availability of less international stars in the Big Bash League (BBL) as Australia named a 27-member squad for Test squad and its ‘A’ squad which will play next month when the BBL starts.

As per India’s original schedule, the T20Is were to take place in October, as a pre-cursor to T20 World Cup, and the Tests were to start on December 3. The ODI series was to happen around mid-January.

However, now the tour is scheduled to commence with the three ODIs at the Sydney Cricket Ground (November 27, 29) and Manuka Oval, Canberra (December 2). That will be followed by the three-match T20I series at Manuka Oval, Canberra (December 4) and the SCG (December 6, 8).

After that, India will then begin the defence of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with the pink-ball Test in Adelaide from December 17. It will be followed by Tests at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (December 26), the SCG (January 7) and the Gabba (January 15).

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ICC T20 World Cup: Bangladesh high on confidence as they begin campaign vs Scotland

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 Bangladesh will be high on confidence when they take on Scotland in a First Round, Group B match at the Al Amerat Cricket Stadium here on Sunday (October 17), having hit top-gear with victories against the two best sides in the world — New Zealand and Australia — at home in August-September this year.

Bangladesh come into the tournament with nine T20I wins in the calendar year, only behind South Africa who have 12. Since losing to New Zealand in March away from home, Bangladesh have been unstoppable in T20Is, registering series wins over Zimbabwe (2-1), Australia (4-1) and New Zealand (3-2).

Over the years, Bangladesh have done enough to shed the tag of underdogs, showing marked improvement across all formats. At the T20 World Cup 2021, they have a chance to showcase just how far they have come in the shortest format of the game.

With form on their side, Bangladesh are favourites to top Group B in the First Round where they have been drawn alongside Scotland, Oman and Papua New Guinea.

The T20 World Cup has not been the happiest of hunting grounds for Bangladesh. They were one of the stories of the inaugural tournament in 2007, when they made it past the first group stage and into the Super 8s but through the 2009, 2010 and 2012 editions they failed to register a single win.

They returned to winning ways in 2014 when the tournament was expanded to 16 teams, topping Group A of the First Round only to lose all four matches in the Super 10 stage. It was a similar story in 2016, where they crashed out in heartbreak after a devastating loss to India. Needing 11 off the last over to stay alive in the tournament, they brought the equation down to two off three balls, only to lose three wickets across those three deliveries, bringing an end to their World Cup dreams. They would once again finish winless in the second stage of a T20 World Cup, going down in their final game against New Zealand.

The big difference for Bangladesh in this edition of the tournament is unlike in the previous six campaigns, they won’t be underdogs — not in the First Round and not in the Super 12 stage if they reach it.

Bangladesh have made steady progress since the 2016 heartbreak, and have hit top gear just in time for the 2021 World Cup. They sit sixth on the ICC T20I team rankings, ahead of the likes of Australia, West Indies and Afghanistan. Their T20I series wins over Australia and New Zealand this year — their maiden series wins over either nation — are testament to how well they are playing this season.

Captain Mahmud Ullah, who recently became the country’s most successful T20I captain after surpassing Mashrafe Mortaza in the first T20I against New Zealand, is one of several seasoned campaigners in the Bangladesh squad along with Shakib Al Hasan, Soumya Sarkar and Mushfiqur Rahim. They will form the backbone of the batting line-up. The presence of Afif Hossain lower down adds more depth to the batting lineup.

In the absence of Tamim Iqbal, Bangladesh will be hoping that Mohammad Naim and Liton Das can fill the void at the top of the order. In just 11 games together, the two have become the country’s third most prolific opening partnership in T20Is and Bangladesh will want them to set the World Cup ablaze.

With the ball, Mustafizur Rahman will be tasked with the responsibility to lead the attack. The emergence of Nasum Ahmed since making his T20I debut in March has further strengthened the attack that also consists of Taskin Ahmed, and Mohammad Saifuddin among others.

The squad: Mahmudullah (captain), Mohammad Naim, Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das, Shakib Al Hasan, Mushfiqur Rahim, Afif Hossain, Nurul Hasan, Mahedi Hasan, Nasum Ahmed, Mustafizur Rahman, Shoriful Islam, Taskin Ahmed, Saifuddin, Shamim Hossain.

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Biennial World Cup would allow teams ‘to dream’, says FIFA chief Infantino

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Gianni

 FIFA president Gianni Infantino says that a plan to stage the World Cup every two years would provide “a chance to dream” for countries and regions that have never won football’s showpiece tournament.

FIFA’s member associations are set to vote on the proposal in December and, if approved, a radically revamped international calendar could be implemented as soon as 2025.

“Our job is to constantly think about how we can improve football in the world, to make football truly global,” Infantino said at an event in Venezuela’s capital Caracas.

“The FIFA president is president of the 111 countries (and regions) and all those countries (and regions) have the right to dream, a dream like the Vinotinto [Venezuela’s national team] dream. They also have to be able to achieve that dream because if you have to dream for eternity, in the end, you prefer to do other things.”

Infantino said the minds behind the inaugural World Cup in 1930 could not have imagined how much the game would grow and downplayed suggestions that staging the event on a more regular basis would diminish its prestige, reports Xinhua.

“When it was decided to organize a World Cup every four years, more or less 100 years ago, FIFA had 40 countries,” Infantino said. “It’s time to re-analyze the issue.”

He added: “If Messi has to travel 350,000 kilometres to play a World Cup and Cristiano Ronaldo 50,000 to play … I think it’s normal that in June the South Americans are a bit more tired than the Europeans.

“Since 2002, Brazil have not won a single World Cup knock-out match against a European side … Not for 20 years, and that’s Brazil.”

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) and European governing body UEFA have expressed their opposition to the idea of a biennial World Cup. The Confederation of North, Central America, and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) have said they are open to discussing the proposal.

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Dimitrov stuns Medvedev with grand comeback at Indian Wells

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Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov rallied from a set and a double-break down to shock top seed Daniil Medvedev to reach the quarter-finals at the ATP Tour BNP Paribas Open here.

Dimitrov, the 23rd seed rolled back the years as he battled back from 4-6, 1-4 down to move past the Russian 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 and produced one of the comebacks of the season on Wednesday, reaching the quarter-finals in Indian Wells for the first time.

After appearing in total control, Medvedev lost his way, making just 34 percent of his first serves in the second set as Dimitrov forced the World No. 2 into errors with his aggressive game. The Bulgarian won eight straight games and eventually advanced after two hours and 16 minutes.

It is the first time Dimitrov has defeated a top-two opponent since 2016 when he overcame Andy Murray in Miami. The World No. 28 has now reduced his ATP Head2Head deficit with Medvedev to 2-3. Dimitrov will next face eighth seed Hubert Hurkacz after the Pole defeate’ Russia’s Aslan Karatsev 6-1, 6-3.

With his victory, the eight-time tour-level champion is into the quarter-finals at an ATP Masters 1000 event for the first time this season. Dimitrov enjoyed a run to the last eight at the Australian Open in January, where he also beat a top-five player, then-World No. 3 Dominic Thiem.

Fuelled by momentum, Dimitrov, who hit 25 winners in the match, did not let up as he continued to frustrate Medvedev in the decider. He continued to approach the net effectively and sealed his victory when Medvedev hit a forehand long.

Medvedev had won 18 of his past 19 matches on North American soil, capturing his fourth Masters 1000 title in Toronto and his first major at the US Open. The Russian was aiming to reach the quarter-finals in Indian Wells for the first time.

Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas too advanced to the quarter-finals, beating Alex de Minaur of Australia 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 6-2 in three hard-fought sets.

In other matches, Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman defeated Casper Ruud of Norway 6-3, 6-3; Hubert Hurkacz of Poland beat Aslan Karatsev of Russia 6-1, 6-3, Taylor Fritz beat Jannik Sinner of Italy 6-4. 6-2; Nikoloz Basilashvili beat Russia’s Karen Khachanov 64, 7-6(6).

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