Recently the owners at Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) carried out a complete overhaul of the coaching staff, brining in former New Zealand coach Mike Hesson as team director and appointing former Australia batsman Simon Katich as the head coach.
On Friday, in Bengaluru, both Hesson and Katich had a media interaction where they discussed a wide range of issues including why they feel Royal Challengers, which is lead by India captain Virat Kohli, can be realistic about winning their maiden IPL title in 2020.
Royal Challengers Bangalore haven’t made the playoffs for three seasons now. How can you turn it around?
Mike Hesson: We have spent a lot of time in the last two weeks looking at how we want to structure things as a support staff. With the structure we have got and people we’ve got around us, we’re well aware that we have to make a few tweaks in the squad to get the balance that we think we need moving forward. We are not going to talk about player names, obviously we are not going to give too much away, but there has certainly been a lot of behind the scenes thinking about how we want to structure things.
Has there been any thought at all at looking at a different captain?
Simon Katich: Not at all.
How will the team management set-up work in the new structure?
Hesson: I will be having input pre-game, but Simon and Virat will be in charge on game days in terms of the XI they put on the park. The dealings I had with both are inclusive as well. I am sure coaches that have experience at certain venues against opposition, but it’s a collective agreement. But Simon and Virat will be in charge on game days.
“You need to have guys who are prepared to put the team first over their individual needs of trying keep getting a game, or just potentially do well for the next option.”
RCB’s head coach on what he expects
Kohli has lead for the past seven seasons. The outside perception is he calls the shots. Is that a strength or do you have any apprehensions about working with him?
Katich: From our point of view, we have been aligned about how we are going to go about things. We haven’t got that perception about Virat at all. Potentially there is a learning from that and the fact that what he has done in the past, maybe he has learnt from that and wants to go about things differently moving forward. But from what we’ve discussed with him so far, he is very much been aligned about how we want to move forward, and happy to take advice from our experience and how we see things.
There is always going to be different opinions, but it is about what is best for the team and I think we have both (him and Hesson) spoken about it over the last couple of weeks. There’s no question, for us Virat is captain.
How easy or difficult is it to talk to with superstar players like Kohli or Brendon McCullum (at New Zealand when he was head coach) to have an open discussion on decision-making?
Hesson: Simon, Virat and myself, everybody have been working together to this point and so far those relationships have been very good. There is a time and place for everything, but the three of us have to be brutally honest with each other behind closed doors around every decision.
There will be decisions we all make where we might say: “hang on, what we were thinking there?” And it might not necessarily be saying you have done something wrong. It’s just asking for clarity on what you were thinking. I think this is responsibility of all of us to challenge the three of us as a leadership group to make sure we are getting the best out of each other. We are not gonna be passive and not be afraid of having honest discussions. There is no value in that for anybody.
Royal Challengers have never been short of talent. As a coach how do you get that talent work together?
Katich: A big part of it is identifying what sort of style of players will bat well with each other or potentially bowl well in partnerships together in different phases of the innings. So that’s something we are working through at the moment. But then when it comes to a team’s style of play, you need to have guys with that character that they are prepared to put the team first over their individual needs of trying keep getting a game, or just potentially do well for the next option.
So that’s the balancing act of trying to put a squad together and that’s where the character side of it comes into it because yes, they are a lot of players out there with lots of talent but are they playing in winning teams and how are they contributing in being part of winning teams? So that’s all the things we have to weigh up when we are making these judgments over the next few months.
How do you make sure the Chinnaswamy pitch will favour RCB so that they utilise home advantage, a crucial determining factor in making play-offs?
Katich: It was probably the first thing I mentioned when I first came on about the job, was asking the question about the wicket because I have seen it evolved over the last four years. Obviously in 2017, it was a different type of wicket given what happened with the drainage. And obviously it affected the balance of the team because it was playing differently to what the team had been used to in the past. So that was one of the first questions asked because you want to really utilise your home ground advantage for seven games and if you make it a fortress which others teams have done at their venues, whether it’s at Chennai (Chennai Super Kings) or whoever it is, that becomes a big determining factor whether you can make it to the playoffs. So that’s one thing we certainly will be taking into account and making sure that it suits the balance of our team and so we have to understand how it is going to play.
Ben Stokes would make a ‘fantastic’ Test captain, says Joe Root | Cricket
Ben Stokes would make a “fantastic” Test captain if he was required to step up to lead the side during the forthcoming series against West Indies, according to the man he would replace, Joe Root, who says he will attend the birth of his second child in July, even if it means stepping out of England’s bio-secure “bubble”.
Although Root admitted that the exact protocols for the birth would be determined by the latest government advice, the likelihood is that he would be required to miss at least one, and maybe two Tests of England’s condensed schedule, given that all three West Indies Tests are set to take place in a three-week block between July 8 and July 28 at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.
And if that was the case, then Stokes, who was last year reinstalled as Root’s official vice-captain, would be the frontrunner to lead the side in his absence – quite the turnaround for a player who had been left fearing for his future following the events in Bristol in September 2017, the last occasion that West Indies visited for a bilateral tour.
“I think if Ben was captain he would be fantastic,” said Root. “One of his great qualities as vice-captain, and as a leader, is he sets the example. The way he goes about his training, how he wants to bowl in difficult circumstances, the way he stands up in different scenarios with the bat … he drags people with him and gets the best out of the players around him.
“I think that’s a great quality to have as a leader and something he can take into captaincy if he was to get the opportunity. I could see him doing a very good job.”
England have had a mixed record with allrounders at the helm. Ian Botham was famously sacked midway through the 1981 Ashes after 12 winless matches, while Andrew Flintoff’s initial success as Michael Vaughan’s stand-in on the 2006 tour of India gave way to ignominy the following winter when England’s hold on the Ashes was ended in a 5-0 whitewash.
The general consensus with both of those players was that the responsibility of the England captaincy eroded the spontaneity of their best performances. However, while Root agreed that Stokes would rise to the occasion in a one-off capacity, he was also happy to talk up his credentials as a potential long-term successor.
“I think those qualities will serve him well,” Root said. “People will always look up to him and want to play for him, whether [he’s] captain or not. But especially as captain, he’ll have people wanting to play for him and, short-term, he’d be a huge success.
“Until you get the opportunity to do it longer, you just never know, it might be a huge success … I wouldn’t put it past him. Throughout his career he’s always responded well and Test captaincy is more than just a bit of added responsibility.
“Over time it does take a lot out of you, but he’s a very impressive player and man in our dressing room. I’d never say Ben Stokes can’t do anything, he’s pretty much proved that.”
After 39 Tests as captain, however, Root insisted he was not yet ready to contemplate the end of his three-year tenure, adding that the enforced break from action had been a welcome opportunity to take stock of a career that – had it not been for the postponement of the recent tour of Sri Lanka – would have been closing in on 100 Tests and 8000 runs this summer.
“I’ve enjoyed it and benefited from it, having a bit of time to think about the game as a batter and as a captain,” Root said. “Take a bit of stock [about] the best way to take the team forward and how I will get the best out of myself for the next couple of years. I could see that having a big impact on my longevity.
“Hopefully that has a positive impact on both sides of my cricket, and we can start seeing a few more converted scores and England winning plenty of games.”
Root’s official return to training began on Monday at Trent Bridge, rather than his county home of Headingley, a decision he said had been made for the sake of his daily commute, as well as for the opportunity to be reunited with his former England coach, Peter Moores, with whom he underwent a one-on-one session.
“I obviously spent a good couple of years working with Pete on my batting and you could argue that some of my best years batting-wise were whilst he was in charge,” said Root, who made four unbeaten hundreds in ten Tests under Moores in 2014-15, including a best of 200 not out against Sri Lanka at Lord’s.
“It has been nice to touch base with him again,” he said. “There wasn’t much coaching done yesterday. It was more about getting back into it, hitting some balls, and feeling good. It would be nice to get his input on things as the week progresses, leading into the next phase.
“To start with everything seems a million miles an hour,” Root added. “Slowly, as a few hours went on, it seemed to come back to me. By the end of it I felt really good. It was really nice to enjoy batting again. I think a lot of players will have found positives from having a period of time away from cricket, and feel really refreshed and energised coming back into it.
“For me, having played almost consistently for such a long period of time and some quite high-pressured cricket in the last couple of years in particular, to get a chance to get away, I definitely feel that will benefit me moving forward into this next phase.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. He tweets at @miller_cricket
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
CPL submits proposal to stage tournament in Trinidad
The Caribbean Premier League (CPL) organisers have submitted a proposal to Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, to stage the entirety of this year’s tournament in the country, starting in mid-August.
Last week, Rowley told the local press that he was waiting for a formal approach from the CPL, but said his government was “cautiously optimistic” about hosting the tournament, subject to clearance from the country’s health authorities.
As part of the proposal, the CPL has said it would want to host the entire tournament, comprising 34 matches, at Trinidad’s two main grounds, the Queen’s Park Oval and the Brian Lara Academy. Games might be played back-to-back on the same day at 10am and 6pm local time, meaning the tournament would be played over 25 days rather than last year’s 39.
Tournament officials hope that overseas players will be willing to participate, with the first round of international signings due to be announced next week, and remain optimistic that some fans will be able to attend games while adhering to social-distancing protocols.
Pete Russell, CPL’s chief operating officer, has said that officials will hold a virtual meeting with cabinet ministers on Thursday, June 4, in order to talk through details such as possible quarantine periods upon arrival in Trinidad, health protocols, and any assurances that need to be given.
“We’re ready to play,” Russell told ESPNcricinfo. “If you get the second wave that everyone hopes won’t come, we’d be back to square one, but the only other thing that will derail us is the government not allowing us to play for safety reasons. It’s just a case of getting the green light from them.”
The cricketing part of the Caribbean has avoided the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic, with death tolls remaining low after governments imposed strict lockdowns before the virus could spread. The region’s relative success in managing the pandemic has raised hopes that the CPL might be able to proceed, and the tournament has appointed a medical board of four doctors who are putting health protocols in place. The Caribbean has already hosted competitive cricket in the form of the Vincy T10 Premier League at the Arnos Vale Sporting Complex, where there were sanitising stations on and off the field.
Under current plans, all six CPL teams would stay in the same hotel in Trinidad, with each team being cordoned off and treated as a single household. Within that household of around 25, teams would be broken down into ‘clusters’ of four or five, within which social distancing could be relaxed. Players and support staff would also be subject to daily temperature checks, as well as viral and antibody tests both in the days before they would fly to Trinidad and on arrival.
While organisers had initially discussed the possibility of hosting games at Kensington Oval in Barbados, Trinidad is currently “Plan A” on account of the fact it has two international-standard grounds, which would reduce the prospect of pitches becoming worn and slow by the end of the tournament. Playing games in the morning will also be an attractive commercial proposition: the CPL’s business model relies heavily on India for broadcast revenue and sponsorship, and a 10am start time in Trinidad (7.30pm IST) would suit that market. The second game would be played at some point in the evening, with 6pm the provisional local start time.
However, the government approval remains the main stumbling block. “We don’t have a proper handle yet but we are cautiously optimistic if the CPL authorities would like to host the tournament in Trinidad,” Rowley had said last week.
Rowley said that once the proposal was submitted, the country’s chief medical’s officer would need to give his approval, with public safety the top priority. “We have to be careful… but we want to look at [staging the CPL] positively and we will,” he said.
Russell admitted that the tournament will make a financial loss this year, but said that all six franchises had confirmed they wanted to take part after being given the option not to. “They want continuity, and they want their teams to be represented,” he said. “Our thought was that if we had the option to play, we should; it’s good for the Caribbean.
“The Caribbean relies on tourism, that’s its bread and butter. So it needs to show the rest of the world that it’s open, and beaming live cricket around the world is a very good way of doing that.”
While plans to allow fans into grounds remain at an early stage, the tournament’s organisers have developed various contingency plans for behind-closed-doors cricket. These include the possibility of having socially-distanced cheerleaders, LED screens with videos of fans, and playing stadium sounds on the global TV feeds even if no fans are physically present.
With Cricket West Indies announcing last week that players across the region would be asked to take a temporary 50% pay cut, Russell said that the CPL felt a “sense of responsibility” to get players earning again following the lockdown.
“These guys’ livelihoods have been decimated through no fault of their own,” he said. “CPL isn’t just about the guys who have their IPL riches, but it’s about the journeymen, and the up-and-coming players who want to make a name for themselves. It’s very important for the whole cricketing ecosystem in the Caribbean that we get it on and these guys can earn money.”
Travis Head’s Sussex contract deferred until 2021
Sussex have announced that Travis Head‘s contract with the club has been deferred to 2021.
Head, who was due to play across all three formats in the 2020 season, has worked under Sussex’s head coach Jason Gillespie at the Adelaide Strikers, and was set to become the latest in a line of players to represent both teams, after Alex Carey, Chris Jordan, Rashid Khan and Phil Salt.
He had initially been recruited to play for the county last summer, but the move fell through after he was named in Australia’s Ashes squad, meaning Carey was signed instead.
The ECB announced last week that no professional domestic cricket would be played until August 1 at the earliest, and while plans are being drawn up to stage a reduced County Championship and T20 Blast competition, the majority of counties have cancelled or pushed back contracts for their overseas signings due to uncertainty over international travel and as a cost-cutting measure.
Gillespie said that Sussex were “delighted” that Head had committed to playing for the club next year. “It is clear that this season is going to be difficult and we are keen to develop a longer-term relationship between Travis and the club, so this suits both parties,” he said.
“Whilst it is very disappointing, it is clear that there are many difficulties surrounding the 2020 English domestic cricket season and we all agree this is in the best interests of all concerned,” Head said.
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