Keshav Maharaj, South Africa’s premier left-arm spinner, has been ruled out of the third Test against India, which starts on Saturday in Ranchi. Maharaj sustained a shoulder injury during the second Test in Pune and will require two-to-three weeks’ recovery time. Cobras left-arm spinner George Linde has been called up to the squad as a replacement.
Losing Maharaj is a major blow to South Africa, who are already 2-0 down in the three-Test series but have 40 points of the World Test Championship to still play for in the final fixture. Though Maharaj has not had the success of India’s spinners, he is South Africa’s highest wicket-taker of the series with six scalps – albeit with an average of 85.66 – and has also bowled the most number of overs. He was also one of the few players who showed fight with the bat, scoring a career-best 72 in the first innings in the second Test and featuring in a ninth-wicket stand of 109 with Vernon Philander, after he had already picked up the injury.
Maharaj was bowling his 50th over in India’s only innings of the Test when he tried to stop a run after Virat Kohli punched the ball towards long-on. Maharaj fell on his right shoulder and immediately rolled over, clutching it in pain. He was treated on the field and completed the over, but left the field for scans shortly after. His first set of scans were inconclusive and he was sent for a second scan on Saturday morning when he was also required to bat. Maharaj was strapped up and batted in a marathon stand, only occasionally grimacing after attempting shoulder-intensive shots like the pull. Nonetheless, Maharaj has been diagnosed as having hurt a muscle and will not be fit in time for the Ranchi Test.
South Africa have two other spinners in the squad, left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy and offspinner Dane Piedt. Both played in the first Test in Visakhapatnam, where they were largely ineffective, and Piedt was dropped for Pune. He may come into contention again for the third Test, unless the team management is after a like-for-like replacement for Maharaj, in which case Linde may make his debut.
Linde has made a good start to the domestic season, which began earlier in the week, and sits atop the wicket-takers’ chart with 11 for 131 from his first match. Those figures need to be taken in context, as they were claimed on a pitch where 39 wickets fell in two days.
However, Linde has been on the national selectors’ radar. He was part of the South Africa A side that toured India for a List A series prior to the senior side’s arrival, and was in the T20I squad, although he did not play a game.
‘BCCI amendments, if permitted, will mean ridiculing of the Supreme Court’
The adoption of the amendments proposed by the BCCI to its constitution would, if unchallenged, be tantamount to “ridiculing” of the Supreme Court and its endeavour over the past several years to introduce reforms in the richest and most powerful cricket board.
That’s the opinion of Gopal Sankaranarayanan secretary of the RM Lodha Committee, whose recommended reforms were approved by the Supreme Court on July 18, 2016. The Lodha Committee, appointed by the court in 2015, was headed by former Chief Justice of India Lodha along with former Supreme Court Justices RV Raveendran and Ashok Bhan.
Sankaranarayanan, speaking to ESPNcricinfo, said he believed the highest court in the country still “had a role to play” in the issue and that the BCCI’s proposed changes, if adopted, could be challenged by any member of the public. He did, however, concede that the court itself was partly to blame for gradually “diluting” the reforms it had first approved three years ago.
Sankaranarayanan is the first person closely involved with the drafting of the reforms to react to the BCCI’s proposals. Chief Justice (Retd) Lodha, when contacted by this reporter on Monday, said he had stop commenting on BCCI matters.
The proposals to change the constitution came to light last Saturday when the BCCI’s new secretary, Jay Shah, circulated the agenda for the board’s annual general meeting, to be held on December 1. The constitution, which had been registered in August 2018, had been drafted by the committee of administrators (CoA).
The most radical amendments include altering the rules concerning the cooling-off period for office-bearers, relaxing various disqualification criteria and removing the need for any changes to the constitution to be approved by the Supreme Court.
Adopting of the proposals, Sankaranarayanan said, would mean the reforms had ceased to exist. “If this is permitted to be done and if it remains unchallenged in court and the Supreme Court does not either have a challenge before it or it does not take up suo motu, it will mean ridiculing of the Supreme Court and everything that it did over the years,” he said. “It will completely mean going back to square one as far as cricket administration and reforms are concerned. Most of the significant changes would have ceased to exist.”
He pointed out the BCCI was trying to further loosen the reforms, which had already been revisited by various benches of the court after the principal judgement in July 2016 delivered by TS Thakur, the then Chief Justice of India. “It suggests that they are almost completely effacing what is left of the reforms after the Supreme Court had stepped in. They feel that there might be some kind of lacuna left behind after the Supreme Court has been looking at stuff for several years.
“They could possibly try and argue that, ‘Look, the Supreme Court has not barred us from amending our own constitution so we are more than capable of amending it and making all sorts of changes to it.’ That is a narrow way of looking at things. They will somehow ensure whatever is left after Supreme Court itself had reversed much of the [original reforms] so that old cliques can continue to operate in a big way.”
The amendments will be voted on at BCCI AGM on December 1 by the general body, comprising elected representatives of the state associations, and need a three-fourth majority to be passed. After that, the board will need the court’s approval to alter the constitution to accommodate the amendments.
Sankaranarayanan said regardless of whether the amendments were approved unanimously or not, the court “will have a role to play” even if the BCCI might not believe so. “They are trying to imply that they will no longer need the Supreme Court’s imprimatur when it [the board] makes changes [to the constitution],” he said. “It is very clear, the way the Supreme Court has approached this over the years, that any reforms that have come by way of its judgement are full and final. Those changes which came because of the judgement cannot be trifled with without the court’s consent. Anything the court has dealt with, you will have to go back to the court if you want to make any changes.
“It makes no difference if the amendment is unanimous or third-fourth majority or anything – in my view the court will have a role because the court had a role all this while. It was specific when it approved the initial reforms [in 2016], then it approved the constitution that was drafted and submitted by the CoA last year.”
The upheaval in the BCCI was prompted by then Bihar Cricket Association secretary Aditya Verma’s petition in the Supreme Court concerning the 2013 IPL corruption scandal. Sankaranarayanan said that an outsider could once again knock on the court’s doors to draw its attention to the BCCI’s latest move. “An outsider will definitely have locus standi because that is how it came to the Supreme Court to start with, with the Bihar Cricket Association representative bringing it to the court.”
Although there is a feeling the court’s intervention has failed to make any impact on the BCCI, which is once again threatening to become an exclusive club, Sankaranarayanan said he thought otherwise because he said cricket was followed by the masses who were “invested” in the sport.
He agreed, though, that the Lodha Committee could have put in place more safeguards to make the reforms more complete and said he believed the court had shot itself in the foot when it revised the 2016 set of reforms. That has allowed the BCCI and the state associations to raise objections. “I would have of course wished the Supreme Court had not just kept changing its views and diluting the reforms more and more every time a new bench came to look at the matter because that is precisely what has happened.
“What we are seeing now as the final version of the constitution that the BCCI wants to amend even further is quite a shadow of what was initially was proposed by the reforms. Small tweaks I can understand, but after a final judgment of the Chief Justice Thakur’s bench and a review being dismissed there should never have been an exercise of jurisdiction which allowed further changes, which is what has happened now. The rule of law has been utilised very flexibly, much to the advantage of the BCCI in this case. Let’s hope it doesn’t see a repeat of that.”
Mahmudullah blames lack of ‘game sense’ after 8 for 34 meltdown
Despite giving India a good run for their money in their three-match T20Is series, the result ultimately went against Bangladesh, and Mahmudullah, leading the side after Shakib Al Hasan was banned for a year, conceded afterwards that his team had “a long way to go” in the format.
On the night, Bangladesh lost their last eight wickets for just 34 runs in the space of 6.2 overs – Deepak Chahar picking up a hat-trick on his way to record-breaking returns of 6 for 7 – to collapse from a commanding 110 for 2 in the 13th over to be bowled out for 144.
“We had our chance when we needed 50 runs off 30 balls, but we lost a few wickets rapidly. It cost us the match,” Mahmudullah said. “If you analyse these three games, we played good cricket. It is hard to get the momentum back once you lose it in T20 cricket. As I have mentioned, we were very close in this game. We lost three or four wickets in six or seven balls. It was the crucial part of this game. We can’t make these mistakes again and again.
“Honestly, we have a long way to go in T20s. We are a team dependent on skilled hitting, not big hitters. If we can be consistent with our game sense and mentality, we can improve in this format.”
“I think we are not overdoing in giving opportunities. It is important to back players in T20Is where it is hard to be consistent”
Having arrived in India without two of their best players in Shakib Al Hasan and Tamim Iqbal, and the emerging Mohammad Saifuddin, and on the back of the much-publicised players’ strike, there were doubts about the team’s ability. But newcomer Mohammad Naim played a sparkling innings in the last game, while Shafiul Islam and Al-Amin Hossain took responsibility with the new and old ball. Legspinner Aminul Islam showed glimpses of his skills, and Mushfiqur Rahim played a match-winning knock in the first game.
But prominent players like Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das and Mustafizur Rahman didn’t have a good time at all.
“I think we are not overdoing in giving opportunities,” Mahmudullah said. “It is important to back players in T20Is where it is hard to be consistent. As a team and the management, we should back players who are going through a rough time.
“Every cricketer has a time in their career when they go through a patch of five or six games. I think we expect a lot from [Mustafizur, who went wicketless in all the games]. He is a champion bowler. I don’t think we should give him a rethink. We should support him. He is working hard. It is a matter of one match.”
Where Mustafizur faltered, Al-Amin returned to the T20I side after three years displaying all the guiles that have helped him become a strong performer in the domestic scene. “Al-Amin was brilliant. He is one of our best T20 bowlers, if you look at his track record. I was confident that he would do well here.”
It went 2-1 to India, but could well have been 2-1 to the visitors had they batted with more purpose in the last game, where young Naim scored a 48-ball 81 but Mohammad Mithun’s 27 was the next best. In fact, the two of them were the only ones to get into double-digits as Nos 5, 6, 7 and 8 scored 17 runs between them.
“It was an attractive innings,” Mahmudullah said of Naim’s innings. “I felt bad for him that we couldn’t finish what he had done with his innings.”
Recent Match Report – South Australia vs Tasmania, Sheffield Shield, 11th Match
South Australia 1 for 359 (Weatherald 195*, Hunt 132, Neil-Smith 1-74) against Tasmania
Openers Jake Weatherald and Henry Hunt both made centuries as they broke a 52-year-old South Australia record with an opening stand of 293 runs to put the Redbacks in command against Tasmania at Adelaide Oval.
Hunt made his maiden Sheffield Shield century – 132 – while Weatherald thumped his highest first-class score of 195 not out and his third score of 150-plus in Shield cricket.
Their partnership passed the previous South Australian record of 281 set by Les Favell and John Causby against New South Wales back in 1967.
Tasmania, who were asked to field after losing the toss, managed to take just one wicket on the day on what was an excellent batting strip. Their attack lacked penetration without the extra pace of Riley Meredith, who is away on Australia A duty.
Weatherald and Hunt cashed in. Weatherald’s performance was quite against the run of his recent form; since scoring 150 in February, also against Tasmania in Adelaide, he had made just 123 runs in 11 Shield innings with a highest score of 37 and four ducks. But he plundered 29 boundaries in his career-best knock, and was particularly savage square of the wicket.
Late in the day, Tasmania had three gullies and a deep point and Weatherald was still able to find the rope with his powerful cut. He finished the day five runs shy of a maiden double-century.
Hunt showed the same patience and diligence he had in his 75 on debut against Victoria. He struck 16 fours and a six and brought up his century with a classy late cut before becoming the only wicket to fall. He succumbed to a top edge when he attempted a front-foot pull late in the day. Callum Ferguson made an easy 20 not out to take his team to stumps alongside Weatherald.
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