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Steve Rhodes urges Shakib Al Hasan to show the World Cup why he’s No. 1

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Thanks to the finger injury that kept him out of Bangladesh’s tour of New Zealand, the recently concluded tri-series in Ireland was Shakib Al Hasan‘s first taste of ODI cricket in nearly five months. He recovered from that injury in time for the IPL, but only got to play three matches for Sunrisers Hyderabad in the tournament.

In Ireland, Shakib played an important role in Bangladesh winning their first ever non-bilateral ODI tournament, scoring two unbeaten fifties and bowling economically. Though he missed the final with a side strain, the performance was enough to move him back up to the top of the ICC rankings for ODI allrounders, 20 points clear of Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.

Shakib is fit again in the lead-up to the World Cup, and, according to Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes, is looking to prove a point.

“Shakib is fine,” Rhodes told the ICC in Cardiff, after Sunday’s warm-up match against Pakistan was washed out. “He’s in a great position physically. He had a little problem in Ireland but he’s got over that and is raring to go.

“He’s looking forward to a wonderful tournament. I think he’s got a bit of a point to prove and he probably thinks that as well. He seems to have been a little bit forgotten but now he’s back as the world’s No.1 allrounder in ODI cricket – and that’s where we think he belongs.

“But he’s got a point to prove to make sure everybody else believes that.”

Another Bangladesh player who hasn’t been at full fitness of late is Mahmudullah, who has been playing as a specialist batsman in recent matches thanks to a shoulder issue that is keeping him from bowling his offspin. While admitting that the injury was affecting the balance of the side, Rhodes was confident Mahmudullah would be back to bowling in matches at some point during the World Cup.

“Mahmudullah’s shoulder is coming along a little slowly,” Rhodes said. “I don’t think it would have been possible for him to bowl against Pakistan. We’re very optimistic that we can get him up and running for the early stages of the World Cup.

“It may affect our balance slightly, but the good thing about Mahmudullah is that he doesn’t need a lot of practice to be good at bowling.”

Bangladesh’s squad is among the most experienced at the World Cup, featuring five players with 175 or more ODIs under their belt.

“People keep telling me that to win a world tournament you need experience,” Rhodes said. “I’m glad because we’ve got a wealth of experience there. I listen to them a lot because why wouldn’t you with that vast experience?

“It will be a good thing when it gets a little tight towards the end of the group. There are 10 teams in this World Cup, but when I looked at the odds, we were ninth favourites and Afghanistan were tenth favourites – but on our day we both could beat the favourites.

“There’s going to be a lot of winning and losing by all teams.”



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CA claims cuts will reduce A$142 million revenue hole

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Kevin Roberts, the Cricket Australia (CA) chief executive, has outlined his case for 25% across the board cuts to the governing body, the state associations and revenue due to the players. Roberts claimed that the game would be facing a cash deficit of A$142 million by the end of the next financial year without major cost reductions in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cricket Australia and Roberts have been mired in arguments with its state association owners, the Australian Cricketers Association (ACA) and within its own organisation since declaring in April that there was danger it would be “trading insolvent” by August without major cutbacks. New South Wales, Queensland and the ACA have all openly disputed CA’s course of action, while Western Australia has insisted that its own agreement to a reduction on distributions will not take effect unless all states agree.

Coinciding with the delayed deadline for CA’s projections of Australian Cricket Revenue to the ACA – a requirement inked into the MoU with the players that was last renewed in 2017 – Roberts attempted to articulate his and the CA board’s position on cutbacks on Wednesday, after briefing the state associations of NSW and Queensland earlier in the week.

The ACA’s response is expected on Thursday, with players looking at a reduction to their payment pool of around A$28 million. This would be smoothed out by drawing cash from the adjustment ledger that collects the extra cash made above CA’s conservative 2017 revenue projections – most of it from a A$1.18 million broadcast deal signed with Fox Sports and Seven in 2018.

According to its modelling, CA could improve its projected cash position by the end of June 2021 to a deficit of around half the A$142 million figure with cuts of around 25% to player pay, state association grants and staff cuts – an amount that would be covered by the provision of a credit facility worth A$100 million through the Commonwealth Bank. The plan has been pulled together by a financial crisis team featuring Roberts, the CA chairman Earl Eddings, fellow board members Paul Green and Michelle Tredenick and the acting chief financial officer Paul Reining, who previously worked with Roberts at the sports apparel company 2XU.

“Given the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations are working with scenario plans rather than developing precise financial projections that may need to be updated various times in ever-changing circumstances,” Roberts said in a statement provided to Nine and News Corp. “We face similar challenges in projecting cricket’s revenue, however we wanted to fulfil our obligation to provide the ACA with our outlook for the next two years, along with additional information on various possibilities for that period.

“We are continuing to do everything possible to deliver an exciting 2020-21 cricket season, including the men’s Test series between Australia and India that will see the world’s top two ranked teams face off against each other. Our planning for the 2020-21 season also needs to respond to ongoing uncertainty in relation to travel, mass gatherings and economic conditions that mean the season will most likely look quite different to what we are accustomed to.

“It’s important to note the revised revenue projection provided to the ACA will have zero impact on the value of player retainers, match fees, national team performance bonuses or domestic competition prize money in 2020-21 or 2021-22. As it stands, the revised revenue projection would impact the amount owing to the players at the end of the five-year MOU agreement in 2022, however we are focused on maximising revenue in the next two years.”

Cricket Australia’s board and executive felt compelled to move in a drastic cost-cutting direction in late March, less than two weeks after the women’s Twenty20 World Cup final was watched by nearly 90,000 spectators at the MCG. This change of direction – after Roberts had publicly stated that CA was well placed to ride out the coronavirus pandemic – was not articulated beyond a small circle of executives and board members until about a month later in late April. It cannot have been driven by anything other than fears of massive reductions in the broadcast rights payments that are the bread and butter of the game’s wellbeing.

The first action made by CA was to stand down the majority of CA staff on 80% pay cuts until the end of June, returning a saving of just A$3 million. At the same time, it asked the state associations to accept cuts of 40% to their annual grants and also contacted ten senior contracted players individually rather than first approaching the ACA to declare the urgency of the situation.

Those actions set off a chain reaction of cutbacks among all the states apart from NSW, while the ACA reacted with understandable scepticism given the relatively recent history of a fractious pay dispute in 2017. Some of the state cutbacks, particularly in Victoria and Queensland, met an angry response from CA as they saw huge swathes of community cricket staff being removed despite the governing body’s previous statement of a strategic priority for funding cricket’s grassroots.

Negotiations between CA, the states and the ACA have subsequently been taken on primarily by the chairman Eddings and fellow board director Green, the second time Roberts has been moved to one side in critical talks after a similar turn of events during the 2017 pay dispute. This has left Roberts to deal with considerable disillusionment among his staff, who after being stood down in vast numbers in April are now bracing for the inevitable round of redundancies.

There is a sense among many of the game’s people of an opportunity lost, even in the time of coronavirus, for a more open and integrated approach to have been taken, rather than the piecemeal, state-by-state cuts that have resulted in recent weeks.



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India fielding coach R Sridhar: ‘Sharpest minds will take six weeks to get into Test match mode’

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R Sridhar, India’s fielding coach, believes players can return to peak fitness “within four to six weeks of resuming training” post the forced break due to Covid-19. Presently, the BCCI is still looking at the feasibility of starting training camps for the national players even as the Indian government has slowly relaxed lockdown norms.

“Fast bowler needs around six weeks, batsmen might take a bit less time,” Sridhar told PTI. “Once we get a date [on start of national camp] from the BCCI and approved by the government of India, we can start working backwards (starting from scratch). The challenge is to proceed in right phases, as players can get excited when they play after 14 or 15 weeks. It is pertinent that we move in right manner forward. Don’t want to look too much ahead.”

Sridhar, who has been part of India’s support staff since 2014 (barring a short period in between, when Abhay Sharma was fielding coach), stressed on the need to manage workloads well and was wary of pushing the players too hard early. Currently, training for the country’s top cricketers has been restricted to gym sessions and personalised training charts prepared by Nick Webb, the trainer.

“Initially, we have to give them progressive workload,” Sridhar said. “You can’t have a sudden spike in workload which could lead to injuries. First phase, it will be ‘low volume-low intensity’, followed by ‘moderate volume-low intensity’, ‘high volume-moderate intensity’ and then starts ‘high volume-high intensity’ training. This is how we will go.

“[To begin with] may be the fast bowlers will bowl two overs from half or quarter run-up. The deliveries will be bowled at 20 or 30% intensity. For a fielder, it will be at the maximum, six throws over 10 metres or six throws over 20 metres at 40-50% intensity. For a batsman, it will start with five to six minutes of batting against moderate pace bowling. For catchers, it will start with semi-soft balls, intensity will be slow and volumes will be less. Then we can slowly pick it up as we cross one phase after another.

“We can’t do same training every day as we start with low volume-low intensity training,” he said. “Once we get to the fourth week when high volume-high intensity training starts, the hands will get used to hard balls coming at 140km an hour, 130km an hour, that’s when match-training will start. The sharpest minds will take six weeks to get into Test match mode.”

In his second stint with the Indian team, after the Champions Trophy in 2017, Sridhar has helped up a process to record each ball at a fielding session and cumulative scoring for each player is arrived at through a rating and points systems. Catches are categorised into grade one, two and three, each having a set number of points. Such innovations have helped improve the overall approach to fielding and catching. Now, with players needing to ease themselves back after a long period of inactivity, Sridhar is working on few other innovative ideas to help make the transition smooth.

“I am still working on it,” he said. “There are few things on my mind and when we go back and start the camp, basically my mind is working on how to plan the sessions once we get back. In a phased manner, we will incorporate a lot of drills, external props would be used to increase their reflexes, reaction drills, deviation methods, all those things, I have a few things and once the camp starts, it will be there for everyone to see. We will be more realistic as to what elite level cricketers need, we will make innovations that are pertinent to our plans.”



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Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul turn down call-ups for England tour

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Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul have declined an invitation to be part of West Indies’ squad to tour England in July, with Nkrumah Bonner and Chemar Holder winning their first Test call-ups.

Jermaine Blackwood, the middle-order batsman who made his maiden Test hundred against England in 2015, and left-arm seamer Raymon Reifer have also been included in the 14-man squad, while Shannon Gabriel, Sunil Ambris and Oshane Thomas are named among the 11 reserve players.

ALSO READ: England-West Indies schedule confirmed

The squad will fly to England on June 8 on private charters, after being tested for Covid-19, and will spend three weeks staying at Emirates Old Trafford quarantining and training on arrival. They will then travel to the Ageas Bowl to train ahead of the first Test, before returning to Old Trafford for the second and third Tests.

West Indies squad to tour England: Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Jason Holder (captain), Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach

Reserve players: Sunil Ambris, Joshua Da Silva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shane Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican

More to follow



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