Coronavirus: Premier League, NBA, F1 - when are suspended competitions aiming to return?

By Sports Desk March 15, 2020

The world's leading sporting competitions have been halted amid the coronavirus pandemic.

With almost 160,000 confirmed cases of the virus and close to 6,000 deaths, athletes across the globe are waiting to learn when they will return to work.

We take a look at the provisional return dates set out so far.
 

BASKETBALL

The NBA came to a sudden stop when a Utah Jazz player - later revealed to be Rudy Gobert - tested positive on Wednesday, and league commissioner Adam Silver warned the hiatus would "be most likely at least 30 days".

CRICKET

International cricket has been pushed back, but there are no firm dates as things stand for rescheduled matches. England's two-match Test tour of Sri Lanka was called off midway through a warm-up match, while the ODI series between India and South Africa was postponed after the first of three matches was washed out. Australia won an opening ODI against New Zealand behind closed doors, but the remaining two 50-over matches were delayed, along with a three-match Twenty20 series. There is at least a provisional date for the Indian Premier League to belatedly start: April 15, pushed back from March 29.

FOOTBALL

European football is at a standstill, with the Champions League among the elite-level competitions suspended. UEFA is set to meet to discuss the future of that tournament and Euro 2020 this week, while FIFA has advised postponements of upcoming international fixtures, for which clubs are no longer required to release their players. The Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A are all paused at least until April 3 although the Bundesliga has only called off one matchweek as things stand, while Ligue 1 is off "until further notice".

GOLF

The PGA Tour initially announced a three-week suspension, with The Players Championship stopped after its opening round. The Masters - won in 2019 by Tiger Woods - was therefore set to mark the Tour's return on April 9, but organisers soon announced the first major of the year would also be postponed. The RBC Heritage on April 16 is the next scheduled tournament. Organisers are planning "regular status updates in the coming weeks" amid "a very fluid situation that requires constant review, communication, and transparency".

MOTORSPORT

The Formula One season is still to start after races in Australia, Bahrain, Vietnam and China were postponed or cancelled. The Dutch Grand Prix on May 3 remains on at this stage, however, while managing director of motorsports Ross Brawn has suggested the calendar could be reshuffled, with races held in August. NASCAR has postponed events in Atlanta and Miami this and next weekend, and all IndyCar Series races through April have been cancelled.

RUGBY

Rugby league has largely been able to continue both in England and in Australia, but the same is not true of rugby union. Six Nations matches were among the first to fall by the wayside amid the crisis in Italy, with the Azzurri seeing matches against both Ireland and England postponed until later in the year. France versus Ireland was off, too, while Scotland's trip to Wales belatedly followed suit. Club action has ground to a halt, with Super Rugby finally paused this weekend and no return imminent.

TENNIS

After Indian Wells and then the Miami Open were cancelled, the ATP Tour announced its suspension up to and including the week of April 20. The WTA Tour preferred to call off individual events, but the schedule is now clear for five weeks. It was still to make a decision on the European clay-court season. The Fed Cup finals and play-offs - set for mid-April - have been pushed back, meanwhile, with the ITF vowing to address any impact the postponement may have on players' eligibility for Tokyo 2020.

OTHERS

Despite chaos surrounding various sports across the globe, Japan's prime minister Shinzo Abe says the country is still planning for the Olympic Games in Tokyo to go ahead as scheduled in July. The London Marathon and the Boston Marathon will both still go ahead this year, but with revised dates of October 4 and September 14, respectively. The Giro d'Italia will be postponed and a new date for the race will not be announced until at least April 3 when a decree in Italy banning sport ends. The NBA is not the only American competition to be disrupted, meanwhile, with the 2020 MLB season moved back "at least two weeks" from March 26, and the NHL campaign paused indefinitely.

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    West Indies legend Clive Lloyd does not believe discarded batsman Shai Hope should be playing T20 cricket as the sport's shortest format ruins his game.

    After a barren run of form, which has led to the player averaging 19.48 since December 2017 and just 14.45 since February 2019, Hope was dropped from the team ahead of the upcoming tour of New Zealand.  Not surprisingly, since his struggles in a 2-1 defeat against England, a place where he made headlines three years ago, saw his overall Test average slip to 26.27.

    The 26-year-old is one of a few players to represent the regional team in all three formats.  He has not had these struggles in One Day Internationals where he averages 52.20 from 78 games.  In T20s, however, he averages 21.63 in 13 matches with a strike rate of 136.

    It is his involvement in the later that the former West Indies skipper believes could be a problem.

    “I don’t think this T20 is for Shai Hope, he gets into bad habits,” Lloyd told the Mason and Guest radio program.

    “I know that you don’t want to take away money from people, but the point is that he should not be playing in T20s, it is destroying his cricket,” he added.

    Lloyd also believes the player should have been possibly included in some kind of A-team for the tour, instead of being left out of the squad entirely.

    “If we had A-teams and A-team tours, young Shai Hope should have had a stint with the A-team to build his confidence back as England did with Nasser Hussain and (Mark) Ramprakash."

  • Lukaku could miss Real Madrid clash as Inter striker suffers thigh injury Lukaku could miss Real Madrid clash as Inter striker suffers thigh injury

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    The Nerazzurri striker went for an MRI scan after feeling discomfort during the goalless draw with Shakhtar Donetsk on Tuesday.

    Inter confirmed the Belgium international has strained a muscle in his left thigh and that "his condition will be monitored daily".

    Lukaku is expected to sit out the Serie A match against Parma on Saturday and is reportedly likely to miss next Wednesday's visit to the Santiago Bernabeu.

    The news is a blow to head coach Antonio Conte, whose side have drawn each of their opening Group B matches with Borussia Monchengladbach and Shakhtar.

    Lukaku has scored nine goals in 11 appearances in all competitions this season.

  • Bad hitting, not questionable managing, sealed Rays' World Series fate Bad hitting, not questionable managing, sealed Rays' World Series fate

    In a year where very little has gone as expected, it is perhaps fitting that a backfired strategy contributed to the end of the Tampa Bay Rays' otherwise remarkable 2020 season.

    With one highly controversial – and very questionable – managerial manoeuvre, Kevin Cash became a strong contender for Public Enemy No. 1, with his ill-fated decision to remove ace Blake Snell after 73 pitches and 5 1/3 virtually spotless innings in Game 6 of the World Series drawing the ire of the Twitterverse. 

    Everyone knows the outcome by now – a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead turned into a 2-1 deficit two batters into replacement Nick Anderson's stint, and the Los Angeles Dodgers would end the night celebrating their first championship in 32 years.

    As unfathomable and unpopular as Cash's move was, the numbers – for the most part – do support it. Snell was as dominant as any pitcher during the truncated 2020 season in his first 50 pitches of a start, limiting hitters to a miniscule .149 average and a .498 OPS.

    He was considerably less effective in pitches 51-75 and struggled substantially beyond that threshold, as opponents batted .321 with an .892 OPS off the left-hander after the 75-pitch mark.

    The reality is that Cash has been consistently – and successfully – employing the very same tactic with Snell not only for this season, but for the past three.

    Only 11.3 percent of Snell's batters faced in 2020 came during the third time through the lineup, the exact point when he was lifted in Game 6. That's the lowest percentage of any pitcher with at least 50 innings pitched this season.

    Going back to his brilliant 2018 AL Cy Young Award campaign, only three pitchers with at least 300 innings faced a smaller percentage of batters during the third time in the order.

    Lowest Pct. of Batters Faced – 3rd Time Through Lineup vs. Total Batters Faced Since 2018 (min, 300 IP)

    Chase Anderson 13.0

    Ryan Yarbrough 16.3

    Wade LeBlanc 17.3

    Blake Snell 17.7

    So, was it the right move? The answer is no, only because it didn't work out. But no eyebrows were raised when Cash did the exact same thing in Game 1 of the Rays' opening round playoff series with Toronto, when Snell was yanked after 83 pitches with Tampa Bay holding a 1-0 lead with two outs in the sixth inning. The Rays went on to win 3-1.

    The real takeaways from the series were twofold. First off, the Dodgers, with their parade of All-Stars past and present and cavernous financial advantages over the bargain-shopping Rays, were simply the better team like they were during the regular season, where their +136 run differential towered over the rest of baseball (in contrast, the Rays tied for the AL lead with a +60 differential). Secondly, the Rays didn't win in large part because they didn't hit.

    The performance of overnight sensation Randy Arozarena notwithstanding, Tampa Bay's run production was abysmal for the majority of the six games as an offense that succeeded with patience and resourcefulness during the regular season morphed into a free-swinging, home run-dependent unit.

    Rays hitters struck out in an astronomical 33.2 per cent of their plate appearances, the highest rate in World Series history, and reached base just 26.5 per cent of the time. Of Tampa Bay's 23 runs scored for the series, 13 came via the home run (56.5 per cent).

    The Rays were the 37th team in World Series history with an on-base percentage of .265 or lower. Only six of those clubs wound up with the title, and three of them (the 1911 A's, 1939 Yankees, 1983 Orioles) had a higher OBP than their opponent.

    Reliance on the long ball also hasn't historically been a recipe for World Series success, as only nine of 28 teams with over 50 per cent of their runs scored coming from homers went on to win a Fall Classic.

    Tampa Bay were not that way during the regular season, as their .737 winning percentage (14-5) in games in which they failed to homer was by far the best in the majors. The Rays often offset that lack of big power by drawing walks, a part of their game that was too often non-existent against the Dodgers.

    Tampa hitters induced free passes on 10.7 per cent of their plate appearances in the regular season, the fourth-highest rate in the majors. In the four games they lost in the World Series, the Rays walked a mere seven times in 132 appearances (5.3 per cent).

    Now, the Rays were hardly an offensive juggernaut during the regular season, as they led the majors in strikeouts and ranked in the bottom third in batting average with runners in scoring position.

    Tampa Bay were still able to produce the AL's best record due in large part to their terrific implementation of Cash's analytics-based strategy of "run prevention", utilising their deep pitching and strong defense to permit the fourth-fewest runs in the majors.

    Those offensive shortcomings weren't exposed during the Rays' run to the World Series, mainly because their three earlier opponents (Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros) weren't good enough to do so (none of those teams finished higher than 12th in the majors in runs allowed).

    The Dodgers, who yielded the second-fewest runs, were a far greater challenge, and that superiority in overall depth and talent ultimately proved to be too difficult an obstacle to overcome.

    In essence, the Rays needed to be close to perfect to take the series. In Game 6, they simply weren't.

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