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Paras Khadka resigns as captain, one day after ICC readmits Nepal

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Paras Khadka, the 31-year-old Nepal allrounder, has resigned from his role as team captain. He made his decision public through a tweet one day after the ICC restored Nepal’s membership.

In January 2019, Khadka led Nepal to their first-ever ODI series win, against UAE, where he became the first man from his country to score an ODI century. In September 2019, he also became the first Nepal batsman to score a T20I century, against Singapore.

ALSO READ: Nepal’s cricket addicts celebrate with their kingpin

Sandeep Lamichhane, the Nepal legspinner who began his career under Khadka and is now a much sought-after in various T20 leagues, paid tribute to his captain.

Although Nepal’s readmission comes on a conditional basis, it is a move towards the right direction as they are once again eligible for ICC funding. They were suspended in 2016 for breach of ICC regulations that prohibit government interference while also requiring ‘free and fair elections’. Following the election of a 17-member Central Working Committee for the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) earlier this month, the ICC readmitted the Nepalese board. A transition plan for Nepal’s full reinstatement will now be developed.

On Monday, ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar had said: “Given the progress made in Nepal, a transition plan will now be developed for the Cricket Association of Nepal to support full compliance with Associate Membership criteria, which will also involve controlled funding.”





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Anil Kumble: ‘Let’s get spinners back in Test cricket’

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Anil Kumble, the former India captain and chairman of the ICC’s cricket committee, believes cricket should utilise pitches to even up the contest between bat and ball. The legspinner, who is the third-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket, said that it was time for teams to consider playing two spinners even in Australia and England by roughening up the pitch.

“The advantage that cricket has over other sports is that there is an element of adjustable variance in the pitch, which not many sports have,” Kumble said during a webinar, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) on Wednesday. “You could manage the pitch in such a way that you could bring about a better balance between bat and ball.”

Incidentally, Kumble made this suggestion a few hours after Sri Lanka head coach Mickey Arthur told ESPNcricinfo that his bowlers preferred saliva over sweat to shine the ball. Arthur is part of the ICC cricket committee that recently recommended that saliva should not be applied on ball in cricket as Covid-19 is a respiratory infection and rubbing spit could result in spreading the virus, which is highly contagious.

However, bowlers remain unconvinced. In a chat with the former fast-bowling pair of Ian Bishop and Shaun Pollock recently on the ICC’s video series Inside Out interviews, India quick Jasprit Bumrah said there needed to be an “alternative” to shine the ball other than sweat.

ALSO READ: Sweat not as effective as saliva, SL bowlers tell coach Arthur

“Based on medical advice, we believe that saliva could be the major contributor to carrying this disease and that’s why we banned the use of saliva, although it’s second nature in cricket,” Kumble said. “That’s something that players will find hard to manage.”

According to Kumble, the pandemic offered another opportunity to “bring spinners” back into Test cricket. Outside the Indian subcontinent, especially in SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand or Australia) countries, the norm has been to include just one spinner on pitches favouring seam bowling.

“You can probably leave grass on the surface or even rough it up and have two spinners,” Kumble said. “Let’s get spinners back in the game in a Test match. Because if it’s a one-day or T20 game, you’re not worried about the ball or shining of the ball. Sweat can certainly take care of that.

“It’s [a] Test match that that we’re taking about and in a Test match why not get two spinners? [I] would love to have two spinners playing in Australia, two spinners playing in England, which never happens. Not often do you see that happening. Of course in the subcontinent, you have two spinners playing. So, in cricket you have the surface you can play around with and bring about a balance between bat and ball. All of us are yearning to start the game and not really worried about saliva or sweat or condition of the ball – we just want to play cricket.”

‘They’ve all been injured for the last three months’
According to Kumble, the other key factor team managements would need to pay close attention to is managing the workloads of the bowlers. Last month, while releasing guidelines for players returning to cricket at all levels, the ICC suggested teams would need to exercise extreme caution over bowlers’ workloads to avoid serious injuries like stress fracture of the spine.

ALSO READ: ICC sets bowlers’ workload guidelines for resumption of cricket

Kumble concurred with that. “That’s why I believe that at training, they’ll have to start slowly. Because it’s not just about coming back and playing in a match,” he said. “It’s also about coming back from two-and-a-half months of lockdown. Especially if you are a bowler, you need to have those bowling overs under your belt before you start competing. So it’s important that you slowly and gradually come back into the sort of normalcy that you can.”

He also said that a safe way for squads returning to sport would involve training in a “bio-secure zone” followed by playing practice matches between themselves before playing a Test match. “I know England have announced a potential Test series against West Indies, subject to the government allowing them, but there again the players will have to have some sort of a cushion [or] a back-up in terms of loading up their body to be able to sustain a Test match because bowling 30 overs for a fast bowler… 30-40 overs for a spinner is not going to be easy,” Kumble said. “And even for a batsman, the muscles which you use when you’re batting are totally different. In a match situation, you’re doing everything in a split of a second and you’re not training for those, especially in a home condition. So, you need to build it up and probably have a few friendly games before you get into an important Test match.”

Kumble also said one good way to build the players’ confidence was to treat the current situation as if the entire team was returning from an injury, and handle the players with care. “It’s like when someone is injured and he’s coming back from injury, how do you monitor him? That’s how you need to look at the entire squad now,” he said. “They’ve all been injured for the last three months and they’re now coming back into training. So, you need to slowly load them up and then start building their skill levels. I think it’s mostly [about] the confidence. Once the players are out and training it comes back very quickly. It doesn’t go away; you’ve been doing this for all your life. It’s just a matter of being out there and training with the team. Within a few weeks, you’ll be back to your usual self.”



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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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