LISTEN: Full script of Episode 154 of Spodcast where we discuss Claudio Ranieri's sacking, India-Australia ODI venue shift and more
Welcome to Spodcast, where we cover the big sports headlines of the day. Today, we discuss Italian manager Claudio Ranieri's sacking from the Fulham job, a potential shift in ODI venues in the India-Australia series and more.
Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.
Following the escalation of tensions between India and Pakistan, the fourth and fifth ODIs between India and Australia could be shifted to safer venues. The fourth ODI was scheduled for 10 March in Mohali while the fifth ODI was to be played on 13 March in Delhi.
The Mohali stadium in Chandigarh is next door to an Indian Air Force base and is located directly in its flight path. That was the reason it was not given permission to erect conventional tall light towers in the first place.
Instead, the Mohali ground has an improvised design that provides the ideal lighting for international day-night cricket. It has 18 light towers, all erected at a very low height. While that works alright during peacetime, it is another matter altogether when relations with Pakistan, which is just a few miles away, are strained like they are at present.
On Wednesday night, Australian player Glenn Maxwell said his team had full faith in their embassy and the latter’s security personnel would sit with the team and issue guidelines, if required, and the team would abide by it.
Sources said the final ODI in Delhi could also be moved out. It is the last international match before the IPL that begins on 23 March. Bengaluru and Kolkata have been identified as possible alternatives and association officials of both centres have been asked to get their facilities ready. With both Bengaluru and Kolkata being asked to prepare for the matches, sources claimed the decision to shift the games would be a mere formality.
The England women’s cricket team won the third ODI in Mumbai to grab a consolation win for the three-match series.
England chased down India's total of 205/8 after some early hiccups. They were struggling at 49/5 before all-rounder Danni Wyatt, who scored 56 off 82 balls, stitched two crucial partnerships with skipper Heather Knight and Georgia Elwiss. Knight scored 47 off 63 balls while Elwiss finished 33 not out from 53 balls to take England to victory.
Importantly, England scored two crucial points - the three-game series is part of the ICC Women's Championship. The reigning world champions are currently in seventh place, and need to be in the top four to qualify directly for the 2021 World Cup.
Earlier, English medium-pacer Katherine Brunt grabbed a five-wicket haul to restrict India to 205/8. The Indians frittered away the foundation laid by Smriti Mandhana, who scored 66 runs, and Punam Raut who made 56. The two shared a 129-run second wicket stand.
But India suffered another middle-order collapse, going from 129/1 to 150/7 as Brunt, 33, proved the wrecker-in-chief. Deepti Sharma scored 27 and Shikha Pandey chipped in with 26 runs to ensured India crossed the 200-run mark.
India won the first two ODIs to clinch the series. The two teams now travel to Guwahati for a three-match T20I series.
Premier League update now. Fulham fired Claudio Ranieri on Thursday even as owner Shad Khan said the manager is not entirely responsible for failing to lift the London club out of the Premier League relegation zone.
Khan agreed that a “change was in the best interest of everyone” after Wednesday's 2-0 loss to Southampton left Fulham 10 points from safety in next-to-last place. He added, “No surprise to me, Claudio was a perfect gentleman, as always.
Claudio's tenure at Fulham didn't produce the outcome we anticipated and needed when I appointed him as manager in November, but be assured he is not solely to blame for the position we are in today.”
Since being hired in November, Ranieri has only collected 12 points from 16 matches. Khan explained, “Claudio walked into a difficult situation, inheriting a side that gained only one point in its prior eight matches...and he provided an immediate boost by leading our club to nine points in his first eight matches as manager.
Though we were unable to maintain that pace thereafter, I am grateful for his effort. Claudio leaves Fulham as our friend and he will undoubtedly experience success again soon.”
Ranieri said, “I am obviously disappointed with the recent results and that we could not build on the good start we made following my appointment.”
Fulham have appointed a caretaker manager almost half Ranieri’s age who is less than two years into his coaching career. Former Fulham midfielder Scott Parker was put in charge of the team until the end of the season, with his first game on Sunday at home to sixth-place Chelsea. 38-year-old Parker is a former English footballer of the year who played for Charlton, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham and Fulham before retiring in 2017.
Khan clarified, “Scott's immediate assignment is merely to help us stabilise, grow and rediscover ourselves as a football club. If Scott can answer that challenge, and our players respond to the opportunity, perhaps victories will follow in the months ahead. What's most important at this moment, however, is to regroup in a smart and deliberate manner that will serve our long-term vision for sustainable success.”
Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi has urged Formula One fans to boycott this year's Bahrain Grand Prix to protest human rights abuses, claiming he still feels threatened by authorities from his homeland.
The 25-year-old defender returned to Melbourne earlier this month after being detained during his honeymoon in Bangkok, and threatened with extradition to Bahrain. He is accused by Bahraini authorities of offences linked to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. However, his detention sparked a worldwide outcry and he was eventually allowed to travel to Australia, where he had been granted asylum.
He wrote in The Guardian, “Evidently, it is a myth that sports and politics do not mix. Some people consider my release as a great victory. While I'm happy to be home, I cannot help but think that my personal fight is not over...Even now, Bahrain has vowed to 'pursue all necessary legal actions' to drag me back to the place I fled. My brother remains imprisoned there, and I don't believe that I am safe from the Bahraini government.”
Al-Araibi claimed authoritarian states were using sports events to raise their profile, “but when athletes and individuals call attention to this practice they are imprisoned and forcibly silenced.” He pointed out the case of activist Najah Yousif.
Human rights groups say Yousif was jailed for three years after criticising the kingdom's hosting of the 2017 Bahrain Grand Prix. Prosecutors claimed she "broadcast false and biased news" about conditions in Bahrain and "promoted terrorist acts."
Al-Araibi wrote, “Fans of Formula One racing need to help Najah. Formula One needs to be told that human rights abuses cannot be tolerated. I urge you to boycott this year's Bahrain Grand Prix if Najah does not walk free before the Bahrain Grand Prix in March.” He added, “I believe they need to call for an investigation into the repression of athletes orchestrated by the (Bahraini) authorities in 2011.”
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