Category Archives: SPORTS

Novak Djokovic admits meeting journalist when he had Covid, submitting a false declaration to Australian govt

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic on Wednesday admitted meeting a journalist when he knew he had Covid-19, describing it as an “error of judgment”.

Djokovic also conceded he submitted a false declaration to the Australian government about his travel history between flying to Melbourne, though he blamed it on his agent.

The comments were in a statement posted to Instagram aimed at addressing the controversies surrounding his efforts to play at the Australian Open while being unvaccinated.

Despite the admissions, Djokovic insisted other reports about him appearing in public following his positive test for Covid-19 as “misinformation.

He said the reports of his public appearances after his claimed infection were “very hurtful” to his family.

The 34-year-old world number one entered Australia last week with a vaccine exemption due to a positive test for Covid-19 on December 16.

The following day, however, he appeared without a mask at the launch of a Serbian stamp bearing his image and at an event in Belgrade for young tennis players.

Djokovic said he only received the positive results of the PCR test for Covid-19 infection on December 17, after the youth tennis event.

He made no mention of the stamp ceremony.

The player said he had a negative rapid antigen test on December 16 and then had the PCR test out of an “abundance of caution”.

The following day, he took a second rapid antigen test, which was also negative, before going to the children’s tennis event.

“I was asymptomatic and felt good, and I had not received the notification of a positive PCR test until after that event,” he said.

But Djokovic admitted that he also went ahead with an interview and photoshoot with French sports newspaper L’Equipe on December 18.

“I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the L’Equipe interview as I didn’t want to let the journalist down, but did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken,” he said.

“On reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.”

Australian media have also focused heavily on the accuracy of Djokovic’s travel declaration, reportedly filled out before he flew in from Spain.

A copy of his declaration showed a tick in the box to confirm he had not and would not travel in the 14 days before landing in Australia on January 5.

But the player had reportedly been in Serbia before Spain.

“On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf,” Djokovic said on Instagram.

“My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia.

“This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.“

Mohammad Rizwan, Shaheen Afridi among nominees for ICC Men’s Player of the Year award

Ace batsman-wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan and star pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi have been included among four nominees for the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Men’s Player of the Year, the world cricket body announced on Friday.

The other two nominees are England captain Joe Root and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, the ICC said in a statement.

Shaheen — the man on fire

Elaborating on the achievements of the players, the ICC noted that Shaheen took 78 wickets in 36 international matches this year at an average of 22.20 runs. He also delivered his career-best figures in an innings this year in August against the West Indies, grabbing six wickets for 51 runs.null

“The tall Pakistani pacer was on fire throughout 2021, knocking some of the best batters over across all three formats of the game. He especially had a year to remember in Tests and T20Is, reaching his absolute peak during the T20 World Cup in UAE where he impressed one and all with his sheer speed and skills,” the statement said.

“He ruled the shortest format throughout the calendar year, scalping 23 wickets in 21 matches with his death bowling improving by leaps and bounds,” it added.

The statement made special mention of Shaheen’s performance against India in the T20 World Cup where it was the pacer’s double-wicket salvo up top that put India on the backfoot early and set the tone for the entire match.

It also recalled Indian captain Virat Kohli’s post-match statement in which he had heaped

Ramiz assures England, Australia and NZ will tour Pakistan with top players

KARACHI: Times were so turbulent after Ramiz Raja was elected Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman that he feels he’s aged 30 years in his three months in the job.

Things have calmed down since and as Pakistan looks ahead to an exciting cricketing year, the former captain vowed he will leave no stone unturned in bringing about the game’s renaissance in the country.

He spoke about breaking barriers, that the recent highs were just a pit-stop and about dealing with the pressure of his own expectations.

“There is a still a lot of work to do,” Ramiz told a news conference here on Wednesday, a day after the meeting of the PCB Board of Governors.

“The upcoming season is the real test,” he added, with Aust­ralia, England and New Zealand all set to tour the country over the next year.

Those tours seemed shrouded in doubt in September, barely days after Ramiz took over as chairman, when New Zealand abandoned their tour of the country hours before the first of three One-day Internationals in Rawalpindi due to a perceived security risk. It also meant that the three-match Twenty20 series, that was to follow, was also scrapped.

England, who were due to send their men’s and women’s team in October — with the men’s team due to play two Twenty20s, then withdrew their teams due to concerns over their players’ mental health while travelling to Pakistan.

At that point in time, it seemed Australia’s scheduled tour in March next year would also not go ahead.

Ramiz needed to do some convincing. And he succeeded. After Australia assured it will not back out, England and New Zealand made peace with the PCB.

England agreed to play two extra matches during its tour in September as compensation for their cancelled tour while New Zealand has also agreed to play an additional series in April 2023, after its tour of the country in December next year.

“We have made the world realise about our presence at the International Cricket Council meetings,” Ramiz reflected, sitting alongside incoming PCB chief operating officer Faisal Hasnain.

That wasn’t the only challenge for Ramiz.

Ahead of his imminent election Pakistan’s head coach Misbah-ul-Haq and bowling coach Waqar Younis quit their roles, leaving the team without a coach months before the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE.

Wasim Khan, the PCB chief operating officer at that time, also tendered his resignation.

Despite that turmoil, the Pakistan team rose to the occasion at the T20 World Cup with a sensational run to the semi-finals where they lost to eventual champions Australia.

They then swept Bangladesh in the T20s (3-0) and Tests (2-0) there and earlier this month romped to another T20 series sweep (3-0) against the West Indies here at the National Stadium before the ODI series was called off due to a number of Covid cases in the tourists’ camp. That series has been rescheduled for June next year.

Ramiz termed the West Indies T20s as an “eye-opener” for the PCB as despite it being the first series for Pakistan at home since their stunning World Cup performance, the National Stadium never reached full capacity.

Part of it was also due to the West Indies arriving with their second-string squad.

“Of course for fans, so many security checks are a hassle,” Ramiz admitted. “At the BoG mee­ting, fan engagement was a crucial part of the discussion and we’re looking at options to upgrade the viewing experience for fans.

“Our fans are of course exposed to seeing good teams and that is one reason why we’ve planned the series against Australia, England, and New Zealand at a time when their best players are all available.”

Faisal, who has previously worked at the ICC and Zimbabwe Cricket, said Pakistan needed to work to change its perception across the world.

“It has to change,” he remarked, drawing his experience from his time at the ICC. “Of course, the players who come here don’t want to be locked up in the hotels during their tours.”

IMPROVING PITCHES

Since taking over, Ramiz has been very vocal about improving the quality of pitches in the country and Faisal backed the PCB chairman on that.

“International teams want better pitches, not slow pitches with no bounce,” the PCB chief remarked.

The PCB has recently struck a collaboration deal with the Arif Habib Group to install drop-in pitches from Australia in Karachi in Lahore in a bid to simulate Australian conditions for its players.

Pakistan has never won a Test series in Australia and the 2022 T20 World Cup is also scheduled to be held Down Under.

“We’re striving to make cricket a strong product,” Ramiz stated. “The aim is to beat Australia in Australia.”

Ramiz admitted that while Pakistan had formed a winning combination in T20s, it remains a work in progress in Tests and ODIs.

“We are a mid-tier team in Tests and ODIs and the good thing about that is that gives us a chance to experiment,” Ramiz said, when asked about his views on the appointment of a full-time head coach for the team.

Former Pakistan spinner Saq­lain Mushtaq has been interim coach since the World Cup, where he was assisted by former Aust­ralian batter Matthew Hayden and former South African all-rounder Vernon Philander as batting and bowling consultants.

“I don’t have a set opinion on coaches,” Ramiz said, saying he had an “old school thought process” where leadership mattered most.

“Long-term coaching contracts get stuck sometimes and we’d rather hire specialists on a series-by-series basis,” he said. “Saqlain has created an environment in the team but I believe the best coaches should be at the grassroots and youth levels.”

Ramiz informed that the BoG also discussed about creating pathways through which the best players can come up to first-class level and then get the best coaching at the National High Performance Centre.

“We discussed on how we can have youngsters growing up to become Test cricketers and we will award contracts to the best 100 cricketers at youth levels who will train at the NHPC,” he said.

Ramiz has long spoken about improving Pakistan’s cricket economy, and creating properties including an U-19 Pakistan Super League and Women’s Pakistan Super League.

“We have to create properties of commercial value in order to reduce our dependency on ICC funding,” he stressed.

For now, it is the HBL Pakistan Super League which remains PCB’s biggest property. The seventh edition of the league begins next month and Ramiz said the PCB was going all out to ensure that it will not be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Last season, the league had to be shifted from Pakistan to the UAE due to several breaches of its bio-secure bubble while its matches were being played in Karachi.

“We’ve learnt from the past and we will ensure that the whole of the PSL is held in the country,” he said.

PCB appoints Faisal Hasnain as new chief executive

The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Monday appointed Faisal Hasnain as its new chief executive, according to a statement issued by the cricketing body.

Hasnain replaces the post left vacant by Wasim Khan, who stepped down in September, following the appointment of Ramiz Raja as the board’s new chairman.

The PCB statement said Hasnain was selected after a “robust recruitment process” and will formally take charge from January 2022.

“Hasnain is the UK qualified Chartered Accountant and has had a professional career of over 35 years in high-profile finance and sports administration roles with some of the world’s leading blue-chip organizations. This includes his role in Monaco and Dubai as the chief financial officer (CFO) of the International Cricket Council (ICC) and as the Managing Director of Zimbabwe Cricket (ZC),” the statement said of his credentials.

PCB Chairman Ramiz Raja said he was “delighted” to confirm the appointment and welcomed Hasnain to the Pakistani cricketing family.

“Faisal is a familiar figure in world cricket and is highly regarded, respected and trusted for his excellence in corporate governance, financial management and commercial acumen. With the plans I have for the PCB, Faisal will be a perfect fit as he can utilize his vast experience and knowledge to help us achieve our commercial and financial objectives of making Pakistan cricket bigger and stronger,” he was quoted as saying by the statement.

The new chief executive said he was “honored and privileged” to have been given the opportunity and thanked Raja and the Board of Governors for their confidence in him.

Hasnain said he was committed to playing his part in delivering the chairman’s vision for cricket, fulfilling fan expectations, strengthening old relationships and developing new partnerships.

“These are highly exciting times in Pakistan cricket and I look forward to working very closely with my colleagues at the PCB so that we can collectively further enhance the image, reputation and profile of this great institution,” he said.

As the ICC’s CFO, Hasnain managed an overall financial portfolio of around $3 billion, the PCB press release said, and was also involved in the sale of the ICC’s commercial rights for the 2007-2015 and the 2016-2023 commercial cycles.

With ZC, he was instrumental in the refinancing of their commercial debts, arriving at the financial arrangements between ZC and the ICC, securing ZC’s funding and status within the ICC and securing hosting rights for the ICC Cricket World Cup Qualifier 2018, the PCB added.

Kohli lost ODI captaincy as India wanted sole white-ball skipper: Ganguly

Virat Kohli’s decision to relinquish the 20-overs captaincy resulted in him being removed as India’s one-day skipper as selectors did not want to have two different white-ball captains, Board of Cricket Control of India (BCCI) chief Sourav Ganguly said.

Opener Rohit Sharma took over as one-day captain on Wednesday, a month after succeeding Kohli as T20 skipper following their disappointing World Cup campaign.

The board, which rarely explains even routine decisions, did not even mention Kohli by name in conveying the leadership change in a single sentence at the bottom of a press release announcing the Test squad for the upcoming tour of South Africa.

“The board and selectors had asked Virat to rethink his decision to quit T20 captaincy. He had declined the suggestion at the time,” former captain Ganguly told Friday’s Times of India newspaper.

“The selectors were uncomfortable with the idea of having two captains for white-ball cricket.” India reached the semi-finals of the 50-overs World Cup in 2019 under Kohli but exited from the group stage at this year’s Twenty20 World Cup.

While happy to play under Rohit in the Twenty20 World Cup in Australia next year, Kohli, who remains the Test captain, was keen to lead India in the 50-overs showpiece on home soil in 2023.

“He has done well even as an ODI captain. But it was not going to be easy to have two captains in white-ball cricket with two World Cups in two years,” Ganguly said.

“The selectors felt the team needed one vision and varied styles of captaincy could disrupt the planning,” Ganguly said, adding that he and chief selector Chetan Sharma spoke to Kohli before making the change.

“We explained the vision to him. He understood the situation and it was only then that Rohit was named the captain of the ODI team.”