A 2021 risk-free IPL sets the stage for T20 World Cup

By Mariah Ramharack April 11, 2021

On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they have seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these trending issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT the 2021 edition with Mariah.

   A 2021 risk-free IPL sets the stage for T20 World Cup.

The 14th edition of the Indian Premier League, IPL is off to a competitive start despite concerns over spikes in Covod-19 infections in India. India has averaged 90,000 new infections daily but the richest T20 tournament has proceeded with eight teams playing 52 games at six venues.

On April 1, India became the second country after the U.S to report 100,000 new cases in a single day.

Before the start of the tournament, four cricketers and a team consultant tested positive for Covid-19 and were isolated. In addition, 10 members of the ground staff at Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium tested positive.

The stadium has been earmarked to host 10 games, and as such, the number of infected grounds men raised questions regarding the tournament being played in six cities when spectators are not allowed.

There is no doubt that managing these bubbles will be difficult but once executed properly it will go some way into reassuring organizers of the ICC men’s T20 World Cup scheduled for October.

Cancelling the tournament would cause massive financial losses and have a potentially disastrous ripple effect if a large number of players become infected. The spillover could significantly impact India’s cricket calendar which includes 14 tests, 12 ODI’s, 22 T20’s as well as the World T20.

What is making a difference are the vaccines that are now available.

  Real Madrid looks dangerous.

Saturday’s El Clasico had a bit of everything as defending La Liga champions Real Madrid beat Barcelona 2-1 at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium to move to the top of the table.

There was controversy, yellow cards, goals, rain, and a thrilling end.

Los Blancos, fresh of their 3-1 Champions League win over Liverpool on Tuesday, went into the match with similar energy. When Karim Benzema scored the opening goal, his ninth in the last seven games, he became one of four Real Madrid players to ever score in consecutive El Clasico encounters joining Ruud van Nistelrooy, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Toni Kroos doubled the lead before half-time and even though Óscar Mingueza García pulling one back late in the second half, Real Madrid was simply tactically superior.

 The firepower and finesse displayed by Real Madrid clearly demonstrate that they are not ready to concede the title without a fight.

  Draymond Green knows better and should do better.

Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green last Thursday said his tweets about the pay disparity between men and women’s sports have been “misconstrued”. “I am on their side,” he declared.

His response came after U.S women’s soccer team star Megan Rapinoe lashed out saying Green’s tweets were “unfortunate” and that she expected he would have had a more informed opinion.

In his tweets posted on March 27, Green blamed women for making “complaints rather than taking action to reduce the pay gap between men and women playing the same sport.  Green’s response that they want the same thing is not enough.

Initially, I found his tweets quite alarming, especially his use of the word “complaints” because he comes from a household where his mother Mary Baker is very expressive and he has been cited saying he has adopted that quality from her. There is no doubt that Green wants to see the women thrive but he can do better.

The first step to allyship is listening and then assisting. The first response of posting on Twitter did more harm than good.  The fact that he is now the centre of the conversation shifts the focus from the issue of wage parity. It would be only fair that Green use his political capital and resources to assist where he can.

 

 

 

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  • Zidane vows Real Madrid will 'go to the end' in LaLiga title race Zidane vows Real Madrid will 'go to the end' in LaLiga title race

    Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane says his side will go until the final minute in the LaLiga title race after closing within two points of leaders Atletico Madrid on Thursday.

    Madrid won 4-1 away to Granada to keep the pressure on the leaders with games to go, while moving ahead of third-placed Barcelona who are a further two points back after their 3-3 draw at Levante earlier in the week.

    Atletico remain in the box seat to clinch their first LaLiga title since 2013-14, but Zidane's side remain in the hunt should there be any slip-ups.

    "We'll keep going; there are two games left and we'll go to the end, until the final minute, we'll give it our all," Zidane said post-game.

    Atletico's final two league games are at home to 11th-placed Osasuna and away to 18th-placed Valladolid, while Real go to ninth-placed Athletic Bilbao and host seventh-placed Villarreal on the final day.

    Madrid are unbeaten in their last 16 games in LaLiga (W11 D5), the best current unbeaten run in the competition. In addition, Los Blancos have equalled their best unbeaten run in a single league campaign under Zidane, achieved in 2016-17 (P16 W12 D4).

    Zidane was delighted with the win at Granada which loomed as a tricky assignment in the run home.

    "It's not just about the goals," the Frenchman said. "We played very well, defensively too.

    "We started the game very well, it was a complete performance. I say that because at 2-1 we didn't let our intensity drop, we scored again quickly and that shows our character.

    "Thibaut [Courtois] made two or three saves, as he has been doing lately, but it's all good. In general terms it was a good win against a decent side at a tough place to come, because Granada are a side who have had a fantastic year."

    Marvin was substituted at half-time after a hamstring issue, while Marcelo did not play due to a minor injury concern as Zidane fielded his youngest starting XI all season.

    "Marvin picked up a knock. I hope it's nothing serious but yes, he felt something in his hamstring," Zidane said.

    "Marcelo didn't play because of an injury and we didn't want to take any risks, as always. The injury is the reason why he didn't come with us."

  • Granada 1-4 Real Madrid: Los Blancos keep LaLiga title hopes alive Granada 1-4 Real Madrid: Los Blancos keep LaLiga title hopes alive

    Real Madrid kept alive their LaLiga title hopes with an emphatic 4-1 win over Granada at Nuevo Estadio de Los Carmenes on Thursday. 

    The result moved Zinedine Zidane's side above Barcelona into second, two points behind leaders Atletico Madrid with just two games remaining in the season.

    Luka Modric got them on their way early on with his fourth league goal of the campaign – the first time he has achieved that since 2011-12 with Tottenham in the Premier League – before Rodrygo doubled their advantage on the stroke of half-time.

    Jorge Molina threatened to set up a dramatic finale with a goal 19 minutes from time, but Los Blancos comfortably sealed an 18th win in their last 19 games against Granada thanks to goals from Alvaro Odriozola and Karim Benzema.

    Madrid started on the front foot and almost went ahead after 14 minutes, Benzema's header forcing a smart stop from Rui Silva. 

    Zidane's men opened the scoring three minutes later, though, when Modric latched onto Miguel Gutierrez's sumptuous flicked ball over the top and rolled through Silva's legs from a tight angle. 

    The visitors' dominance was rewarded again in first-half stoppage time when Rodrygo powered into the penalty area down the right-hand side and fired across Silva for his first LaLiga goal of a frustrating campaign.

    Granada reduced the deficit inside the final 20 minutes, Molina stroking into an empty net after Thibaut Courtois had parried Luis Suarez's strike into his path. 

    Substitute Odriozola settled any Madrid nerves, though, powering home after Eden Hazard's cross had fallen kindly to him in the 75th minute. 

    Benzema added gloss to the scoreline a minute later, expertly  into an unguarded net from 35 yards after Silva's slapstick attempt to cut out Casemiro's long ball over the top.

  • Jokic a worthy MVP favourite, but don't count out Embiid Jokic a worthy MVP favourite, but don't count out Embiid

    When has a player averaged at least 29 points and 10 rebounds per game in a season but failed to win the NBA MVP award?

    Here's a hint: the internet was in its infancy, Hootie and the Blowfish were selling albums by the millions and the Orlando Magic, of all teams, were the league's biggest thing.

    Not since Shaquille O'Neal in 1994-95 has a player reached those numbers without taking away the NBA's most cherished piece of individual hardware. Shaq actually did it twice without winning an MVP, losing out to Hakeem Olajuwon in 1993-94 and David Robinson the following year. O'Neal did average 29 and 10 while winning an MVP with the Lakers in 1999-2000, and the two players who have hit those marks since (Russell Westbrook in 2016-17 and Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2019-20) each came home with the Maurice Podoloff Trophy.

    Joel Embiid appears destined to buck that recent trend.

    If money talks, it's given an emphatic answer as to who will seize the honour in 2020-21. Nikola Jokic has emerged as an overwhelming favourite in betting markets across the globe to claim his first MVP, with Embiid holding the second-shortest odds and a rising Stephen Curry emerging as a clear third in the public's mind.

    Jokic's credentials are unquestionably worthy. The Denver Nuggets big man is closing out an unprecedented season for a player who spends his time predominately in the post, having posted averages of 26.5 points, 10.8 rebounds and 8.4 assists heading into Denver's final three regular-season outings.

    Only two players in league history have averaged 25-10-8 in a season, and neither was a frontcourt player. The great Oscar Robertson did it three consecutive times across 1960-63, and Westbrook had two straight across 2016-18.

    Jokic's immense value to a Nuggets team who have successfully withstood the season-ending injury to Jamal Murray to secure a top-four seed in the Western Conference is perhaps best illustrated by his share of the team's combined points, rebound and assists. No player this season has accumulated a higher percentage than his 24.5, with the Mavericks' Luka Doncic and the Knicks' Julius Randle tied in second at 22.8 per cent.

    Embiid is well down on the list, ranking 16th overall due to the 20 games the somewhat fragile seven-footer has missed this season. His dominance and importance to the Eastern Conference front-running Philadelphia 76ers would show, however, if the chart were adjusted to exclude games in which a particular player was absent.

    Using that criteria, Embiid has accounted for 23.2 percent of the 76ers' points, rebounds and assists in games that he's taken the floor. That number is right in line with that of the defending two-time MVP Antetokounmpo and would put him in the top five. For the record, Doncic would move ahead of Jokic for the top spot at 24.8 percent.

    Embiid's scattered availability is no doubt detrimental to his case, more so when factoring in that Jokic hasn't sat out a game all season. Just once has a player missed 13 or more games in a season and been named MVP, when Bill Walton earned the award in 1977-78 despite playing in only 58 of the Trail Blazers' 82 games.

    On the flip side, it's hard to find anyone who's been more instrumental to his team's success than Philly's All-Star center. The Sixers are 9-11 when Embiid has missed a game and 38-11 when he plays, a .776 winning percentage that would tower over the rest of the NBA this season.

    Embiid's importance becomes even more apparent when viewing the 76ers' performance when he's been on the court as opposed to off.

    Their points per 100 possessions drop to 105.1 from 117.2, while opponents' points climb slightly from 103.9 to 105.8. That means a point differential of +13.3 falls dramatically to -0.7. Their shooting from the field (50.5 per cent to 45.4 per cent) and from three-point range (40.4 per cent to 34.7 per cent) also decreases.

    Though the Sixers have remained an elite defensive team without Embiid, all of those off-court offensive splits would rank near the bottom of the NBA. It's not hyperbole to summarise that without their franchise player, Philadelphia would be scrapping for a spot in the play-in round instead of being on the verge of claiming a conference regular-season title.

    Embiid is far from the only star whose team perform at a significantly lower level when he's not around, though. The Warriors have won just one of the eight games Curry has missed, while defending champions the Lakers are a mediocre 12-15 when LeBron James has been injured or rested and have been 11.6 points per 100 possessions better when 'The King' has taken the court compared to off it.

    Like Embiid, the slew of missed games is going to be hard for James to justify in the minds of voters, and he's not playing for a team set for the top playoff seed in his conference. And the Lakers' descent into the West's middle tier can't all be attributed to James' absences – they also were without Anthony Davis in two-thirds of the games LeBron hasn't played.

    Curry also represents an interesting case, and if there were an MVP for only the season's final month-plus, he'd be a hands-down winner. The veteran sharpshooter has averaged an insane 36.7 points per game since April 10, a stretch in which the Warriors have gone 13-5 to elevate themselves from a postseason question mark to a lock for the play-in round.

    The two-time MVP also has the on/off split factor working in his favour, as the Warriors are +4.0 points per 100 possessions better than their opponent when he's on the court and a lottery-level -4.9 differential when he's not. Another potential feather in Curry's cap would be if he can hold off Washington's Bradley Beal for the league's scoring title, as four of the past seven MVPs led the NBA in points per game.

    Curry has rightfully received the most credit for Golden State's late-season surge, but a closer look shows it hasn't been a one-man show. Andrew Wiggins is finally at least bearing some resemblance to the player the Minnesota Timberwolves thought they were getting back in 2014, one teams build franchises around, and the Warriors have posted a league-low 105.1 defensive rating since their hot streak began.

    For all his heroics on the offensive end, Curry hasn't been a primary contributor to the Warriors' recent stretch of lockdown defense. Since April 10, opponents score fewer points (98.6 per 100 possessions, down from 107.6) when Curry is off the court and are less accurate from the field (41.9 per cent, down from 44.9), beyond the arc (27.9 per cent, down from 35.4) and in their effective field goal percentage (47.6, down from 51.9).

    Jokic also won't be adding any All-Defensive Team mentions to his expanding resume, and it is a bit harder to quantify exactly where the Nuggets would be without him simply because he hasn't missed a game.

    One thing's for certain, however – no player this season has had a larger impact on his team's offensive performance than the Serbian star. Their points climb to 118.2 per 100 possessions when he is involved, meaning a +6.0 point differential versus -0.7 when he is absent – despite the team allowing more points with Jokic on the court. The field goal percentage improves to 50.4, while their assists per 100 (28.4, from 22.1) are up and their turnovers (12.7, from 15.7) are down.

    The Nuggets are arguably the league's most efficient offensive team with Jokic on the floor. Combine that with a unicorn quality of being the best passing big man of the digital age and a consistency edge on his main rivals, and you've got a recipe for a likely MVP winner. Curry and Doncic's otherwise strong candidacies take a hit by their teams currently standing eighth and sixth, respectively, in the West. Antetokounmpo likely gets hurt by recency bias (no one wants to vote for the same player three straight years) and his own team's success (the Bucks have still played at a relatively high level when he's missed games or not been on the court).

    In reality, though, the race shouldn't be as lopsided as the betting odds suggest, provided voters can overlook Embiid's spotty attendance record. History shows, however, that will be a factor that ultimately works in Jokic's favour.

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