World number one Novak Djokovic on Wednesday dismissed any suggestion of friction with Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal as tennis politics spilled over to the Miami Open. Tension between the three biggest names in men’s tennis appeared on the rise after Djokovic, president of the ATP Player Council, rebuffed a request by Federer to meet during the BNP Paribas in Indian Wells earlier this month to discuss the future of ATP chairman Chris Kermode. Despite a tenure which brought record prize money and growth, Kermode was ousted as ATP chief when players’ representatives on the ATP Board failed to endorse an extension of the Englishman’s contract. As head of the 10 member Player Council Djokovic had been pushing for change while Federer and Nadal backed Kermode or at the least felt the issue needed more discussion. “I saw Roger today, we were in the opening ceremony cutting the ribbon on centre court,” said Djokovic during his pre-tournament press conference on Wednesday. “We had a small chat there was no time to talk about the political stuff. “That is hopefully something we will have time in the next few days to go through. “It’s not necessary for you guys to create any tensions between us. In contrary I have a very good relations with both of them.” With Kermode’s status decided Federer said on Wednesday that he is still willing to talk to Djokovic but with the decision made saw no urgency to meet. “A lot of stuff has been decided already so we’ll see if this week is going to happen or not but we are not chasing each other at this point,” said Federer. “If it happens, it happens.” For his part Djokovic appeared eager to wash his hands of the entire affair reminding everyone that it was the three players representatives on the ATP board that voted not to renew Kermode’s contract and not the Player Council, which was only part of the discussion. The Serb added that if Federer and Nadal have opinions they were welcome to share them with the Player Council at any time. “The player council is only part of the structure,” said Djokovic. “We are not part of the board or deciding anything that is voted on later on. “We are in consultation and collaboration with our player board representatives. “Board members are the ones voting on what they think is appropriate for the players side. “Federer and Nadal have been icons of our sport for so many years and their opinions are extremely important to everyone. “If they want to be active and part of it, either officially or unofficially, I think it’s only positive news for us.”
Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud wants to move back to France when his contract expires at the end of the season after growing frustrated by a lack of playing time under manager Maurizio Sarri. Giroud has not started a Premier League game for Chelsea since the club signed Argentina international striker Gonzalo Higuain in January. “The future may be hectic this summer,” Giroud told French radio station RTL. “I’m not afraid to go down a level to have more playing time. It could be I end my career in France.” The striker, who won the World Cup with France last year, scored 33 goals in 73 league appearances for Montpellier before moving to Arsenal in 2012, and has attracted interest from Olympique Lyonnais, according to reports in the French media. The 32-year-old has been used mainly in the Europa League by Sarri and is the competition’s top scorer this season with nine goals in nine appearances, but does not believe he can force his way into the Italian coach’s Premier League plans. “Today, I have the impression there’s clearly no competition (for places in attack) since January. It’s like that, I know that I will only play in the Europa League,” Giroud added. “I try to do what it takes to be as effective and as important as I can for the team.” Chelsea are sixth in the Premier League, three points below the fourth and final Champions League qualification place currently occupied by Arsenal. Sarri’s side could also secure Champions League football for next season by winning the Europa League, where they face Slavia Prague in the quarter-finals.
The big-bucks Indian Premier League begins Saturday with disgraced Australian duo Steve Smith and David Warner back in action and looking to get some runs under their belts before the World Cup. The timing of the Twenty20 extravaganza, tentatively scheduled to end on May 12, is awkward, however, wrapping up less than three weeks before the start of the 50-over World Cup in England and Wales on May 30. Australia captain Smith and his deputy Warner were both given 12-month suspensions last March from state and international fixtures for their roles in an infamous ball-tampering scandal. The bans did not include club games but IPL’s governing council decided not to allow the banned duo in the 11th edition of the T20 league last year in a bid to stay clear of any controversy. Both played in the recent Bangladesh Premier League but both soon bowed out because of elbow injuries, and now they are keen to get noticed again by Australia’s selectors. The lucrative league kicks off with three-time winners and defending champions Chennai Super Kings, captained by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, hosting Virat Kohli’s Royal Challengers Bangalore on Saturday. Warner, now hipster-bearded, is expected to feature for Sunrisers Hyderabad along with Afghan spin sensation Rashid Khan and New Zealand’s Kane Williamson against Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday. Smith is likely to be in action for Rajasthan Royals, along with England’s Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler, on Monday against Delhi Capitals. Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting said that although their bans will expire before the World Cup, winning back their places is not a given, particularly given Australia’s blistering recent series victory in India in their absence. “Those guys have not played any high level cricket for a long time,” Ponting told the Times of India newspaper, saying Smith and Warner “still have to prove they are the best players”. “If they don’t have a good IPL, then there will be a few more question marks regarding their names,” said Ponting, who is head coach for IPL side Delhi Capitals.
– World Cup worries –Famous for its pyrotechnics, cheerleaders and huge pay cheques, the league has consistently attracted top foreign stars to play in India’s sweltering heat. Punjab spent big in the player auctions, snapping up little-known Indian spinner Varun Chakravarthy for $1.2 million — making him the top buy along with Indian paceman Jaydev Unadkat, who went to the Royals. Apart from India’s Test regulars making an impact for the eight franchises, the IPL is a breeding ground for young performers eyeing a place in the national side. But there are concerns that the gruelling, six-week IPL — eight teams all playing each other, plus the knockout stages — raises the risk of fatigue and injury ahead of the World Cup. Ponting told reporters in Delhi on Tuesday that he expected national selectors might “put restrictions” on some players, for example India and its fast bowlers, in the IPL’s closing stages. Kohli, India’s captain, said players should “enjoy” the IPL but that their workload would be “monitored”. “Everyone knows that no one wants to miss the World Cup and cost the team good balance,” he said. Senior batsman and Mumbai Indians skipper Rohit Sharma echoed his national captain’s advice, saying the World Cup — when India will be one of the favourites — is “our priority”. “Keeping everything in mind we would take a decision collectively (on workload) on each individual,” the top-order batsman added. This year’s IPL also faces another hurdle in India’s mammoth general elections that run alongside the glitzy tournament, and organisers are keeping their fingers crossed for its smooth running. Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) chief executive Venky Mysore said that staging the tournament just as 900 million people go to the polls in the world’s biggest democratic exercise to date is a “miracle”.
Pakistan’s federal government has decided to impose a ban on the telecast of Indian Premier League in the country following the recent political rifts between the two neighbouring countries. Recently, India terminated broadcast of Pakistan Super League in the country after the Pulwama attack and all the tension at the Indo-Pak border which followed the attack. A summary has already been sent to the federal cabinet, according to reports, the information minister, Fawad Chaudhary has signed it after which PEMRA will make sure that the rival cricket league is not shown in Pakistan. There was also a voice in India to ban international players from the IPL who has participated in the PSL. India has been trying to isolate Pakistan in every aspect, including the cricketing world, where they requested the ICC to ban Pakistan from the World Cup 2019, which the international cricket body turned down.
Paul Pogba said on Wednesday he is “happy” at Manchester United but that Real Madrid, “is a dream club.” Playing for Real, “is a dream for every kid, for every football player,” the midfielder told a press conference at France’s training base. “It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world. I’ve always said Real Madrid is a dream club for every player,” the 26-year-old said. The Spanish outfit recently re-appointed another World Cup winning French midfielder in Zinedine Zidane as head coach taking over from Santiago Solari. United have also changed bosses this season, bringing in Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to replace the sacked Jose Mourinho. “At the moment, I’m happy in Manchester. I play. There’s a new coach,” he said. Pogba, who was interviewed on British television earlier in the day, was asked again about his difficult relationship with Mourinho, and again attempted a sidestep. “What was wrong? Bah, We did not win,” he said. “That’s why they changed coaches. It’s not necessary to go into details. “If the results had been more positive, the coach would have stayed,” he added with a smile.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) on Wednesday called off the Indian propaganda against Umar Akmal and declared him clear to play International cricket. Umar is to feature for Pakistan against Australia in a five-match ODI series in the UAE starting from March 22. The right-handed batsman will be seen wearing Pakistan’s jersey in ODIs after almost two years. According to Indian media, the ICC is investigating against the stylish batsman after he confessed about being approached by the match-fixers during the World Cup 2015 in an interview to a Pakistan-based media channel. “They offered me $0.2 million to leave two balls in the cricket World Cup,” Umar stated. The right-handed batsman also said that he had been asked for fix matches against India but he kept Pakistan his priority. “I told them to not offer such things to me as my country is everything for me,” said Umar who reported the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) regarding this incident.
The Managing Director of Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) Wasim Khan on Wednesday confirmed that the board has paid the compensation of approximately $1.6 million to the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) after losing the case against them in the International Cricket Council. Earlier, the BCCI filed a compensation case of $2 million against the PCB in ICC’s Dispute Resolutions Committee as according to them they suffered financially during the case. It is pertinent to mention here that the PCB filed the $70 million compensation case against BCCI claiming that a huge loss cost to them as India refused to play the six bilateral series according to the Memorandum of Understand (MoU) out of which four were to be hosted by Pakistan. Talking about domestic cricket, PCB’s MD said that the current domestic structure is not benefitting the board hence they are keenly looking forward to restructuring it. “We are in talks with our stakeholders and soon will meet some solutions to take domestic cricket on high,” he said. Wasim said that they haven’t decided anything about the employes of regions but they are trying to adjust them in the domestic structure. “We will introduce some policies to make regions capable of paying salaries to their employes,” he said.
LONDON: Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp says Mohamed Salah should use Sadio Mane as inspiration as the Egypt star looks to hit peak form after an inconsistent season. Salah scored 44 times in his debut season with Liverpool, but his second campaign has not been so smooth. Although Salah has 20 goals in the current campaign, his goalless run of seven matches is the longest he has experienced since a 10-game streak for Roma in 2015-16. That is a concern, with Liverpool chasing their first English title since 1990 and also through to the Champions League quarter-finals. Fortunately for Liverpool, Senegal winger Mane is in fine form and has moved level on 20 goals with Salah, after netting 11 in as many games. Mane had gone goalless in eight outings in November and December during a spell of 17 matches in which he scored just three times. Having seen Mane work through his drought successfully, Klopp believes Salah will soon see his luck change in front of goal as well. “Sadio played pretty much always like this but now he is always in the right spot in the right moment. In football it’s sometimes like this,” Klopp told Liverpool’s website. “He is in a really good moment, of course. The only thing he did when he was not always in the right spot was work and work and work. “That’s exactly what Mo has to do, exactly the same, just work, do the right things and it will come again. “He’s just rather unlucky, where Sadio is lucky in the moment — he is in brilliant shape, that’s true. “But then, he is in the right shape and maybe a yard away from him is Mo, but somebody else scored. That’s how it is, all good.”
MIAMI: Rain wiped out the opening day play at the Miami Open on Tuesday, delaying the start of the tournament at its new Hard Rock Stadium home. Having outgrown the cramped quarters of Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, and unable to secure the necessary approvals to renovate and expand, the Miami Open has moved to the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins but the day-long rain spoilt the moment. With a 25 percent jump in ticket sales, tournament director James Blake, the former world number four, had been expecting a record crowd but instead the 14,000 seat temporary show court inside the stadium stood empty and the luxury boxes were silent. Germany’s Andrea Petkovic and 17-year-old American Amanda Anisimova were scheduled to christen the action on the main show court with Mari Osaka, the sister of Japanese world number one Naomi Osaka, taking on Whitney Osuigwe in the nightcap. Tuesday’s first-round play was supposed to be a dress rehearsal for Wednesday’s official opening, which will see Serena Williams, who is a part-owner in the Dolphins, Roger Federer and world number ones Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka taking part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony. “When we get through the first day or two and see what we are in store for I have a feeling we will be announcing a lot of (attendance) records broken this year,” American Blake told Reuters in a pre-tournament interview. “I don’t want to be too pie-in-the-sky but I do think we are going to break records.” Once the rain disappears fans can expect a wide open tournament if the season follows the current trend. There have been 19 ATP Tour events this season and 13 WTA events each producing a different winner. Bianca Andreescu, the 18-year-old Canadian who stunned the field in Indian Wells last week to claim her first career win, is on that list and comes to Miami looking to complete what would be an even more unlikely Sunshine Double. Sloane Stephens, the reigning Miami champion, and Serena Williams, an eight-time winner of what she considers her home event, can count on having the American crowd in their corner as will John Isner, who is back to defend his crown. Serena, whose name is not among the 13 women’s winners this season, has sister Venus in her quarter of the draw along with the always dangerous second-seeded Romanian Simona Halep. The men’s draw is also thick with former champions led by six times winner and world number one Djokovic and three-time winner Federer. The Swiss comes to Florida in superb form after collecting his 100th career win in Dubai and coming off a finals appearance in Indian Wells but will be on alert after crashing out in the first round here a year ago. World number one Osaka will also be wary with in-form German Angelique Kerber, a losing finalist in Indian Wells, lurking in her quarter.
Manchester United interim boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has restored the confidence and freedom they lacked towards the end of Jose Mourinho’s tenure and the Norwegian deserves to take over full time, midfielder Paul Pogba has said. Former United striker Solskjaer has rejuvenated the team since replacing the sacked Mourinho in December, helping them win 10 out of the 13 Premier League games since his appointment and reaching the Champions League quarter-finals. “We want him to stay. The results have been great. I have a great relationship with him, he has a great relationship with the players,” Pogba told Sky Sports. “When a player is happy, he wants to keep being happy. Solskjaer deserves it. He knows the club, he knows everything about the club. He is a really happy coach that gave confidence back to the players. “This gave us the freedom to play and enjoy football again because maybe we lost that with the results that we had before.” Despite winning the World Cup with France last year, Pogba struggled for form under Mourinho who benched him, but the 26-year-old is back to his best under Solskjaer with nine goals and seven assists in all competitions. “Maybe we lost confidence, maybe things went wrong. A lot of talking outside that we weren’t used to,” Pogba said, reflecting on the final part of Mourinho’s tenure. “I don’t like to talk about the past. I like to talk about the future because that’s what matters. We’re better now and the results have been brilliant.” United are fifth in the Premier League with 58 points from 30 matches and within three points of third-placed Tottenham Hotspur. They take on Barcelona in the last eight of the Champions League next month.