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‘BPL not the place to make a player’ – Shakib Al Hasan slams mandatory-legspinners rule

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In a stinging retort to the BCB’s new rule that legspinners must bowl four overs in every innings of the Bangladesh Premier League, Shakib Al Hasan has said that the T20 league cannot be expected to “make” players. He also drew attention to the poor pay structure and training facilities in the country’s domestic set-up.

Of late the BCB has been stressing on the importance of legspin, so much so that it even fired two National Cricket League (NCL) coaches last week for not selecting legspinners in their respective first-class teams.

“I think that legspinners should bowl a lot of overs in first-class cricket to gain confidence and consistency,” Shakib told the Bengali daily Samakal. “The BPL is an international-standard competitive tournament where you will face scenarios that you are likely to face in international cricket. You share the dressing room with overseas cricketers. It is not the place to make a player.

“Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet should have a proper gym, running and indoor facilities. You cannot bat for more than 15 minutes in the Mirpur indoor facilities, it gets so hot.”

Shakib Al Hasan

“For so many years we couldn’t select a legspinner for the senior team, but suddenly we made plans to include seven legspinners in the BPL. This decision does come as a bit of a surprise, but I would still state that the board has taken a decision that it thinks is good.”

ESPNcricinfo understands that the order about including a the legspinner – and a 140kph quick bowler – in BPL XIs had come from the Bangladesh team management. At the time of announcing the rule, Bangladesh Cricket Board director Mahbubul Anam had said: “BCB wants this BPL to be about improving Bangladesh’s cricketers in T20s, so we want to make sure that our batsmen and bowlers get enough opportunities [against quicks and legspinners].”

Shakib also criticised the lack of increments in the salary of domestic cricketers, calling for better communication between players and “decision-makers”. He also expressed dissatisfaction about the fact that the BPL is no longer a franchise-run event, which means player payments are expected to be lower than before. The cash-rich Dhaka Premier League (DPL), which for four decades had operated with players transferred from club to club in an open market, also now has heavy caps and a draft in place to help clubs cut player payments.

“[First-class match fees] is very unacceptable,” Shakib said. “It is a very small amount for a cricketer to maintain the minimum standard of living in Bangladesh. Things are getting costlier. Government officers get increments every year, but we see that it is same for us every time. It even gets reduced. BPL and DPL are big examples of this.

“I always get a feeling that cricketers in our country are being suppressed. This is not right. Everyone should have equal opportunity. A player should be left to earn what he feels he deserves. If the team doesn’t want to take the player at that payment, the player will deal with it. But to stop him from [freely naming his price] is not right.

ALSO READ: Bangladesh’s first-class system struggles in a Test Championship world

“If the decision-makers don’t think that they need to sit with us, then we don’t have much to do. I think that discussion with players or a group of players will help cricket’s development. But I am glad that they are focused on cricket development. Like, the concern shown towards fitness, although they could have announced it earlier. Papon bhai (Nazmul Hassan, the BCB president) did say that fitness tests will become tougher but they will announce it earlier.”

Shakib also drew attention to the indoor facilities in Mirpur, where batsmen struggle while training during the summer months due to the lack of air-conditioning.

“Only focusing on the national team shouldn’t be the main job of the organisers. Places like Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet should have a proper gym, running and indoor facilities. You cannot bat for more than 15 minutes in the Mirpur indoor facilities, because it gets so hot. They haven’t installed ACs even after being told for ten years.

“It is quite disappointing, especially when we see indoors in other countries that have clear lighting and ACs.”



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Cricket Australia to tighten net around discriminatory sledging

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Penalties as severe as a life ban for on-field slurs related to sexuality may soon be added to a broader and tougher Cricket Australia anti-discrimination code as the Test batsman Matthew Wade admitted he has needed to significantly “tame” his verbal tendencies on the field in the face of changing times and steeper standards of player behaviour.

Wade’s former state team-mate James Pattinson was given personal leave from the Test squad in Brisbane on Monday as he dealt with the fallout from a one-match ban for obscene personal abuse of the Queensland seam bowler Cameron Gannon, alleged to have been of a homophobic nature, uttered during Victoria Sheffield Shield match at the MCG.

At the end of this summer CA will review its behavioural codes in line with new ICC regulations launched in August this year, which saw the previous anti-racism code greatly expanded to take a no tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination. The new standards will be set in conjunction with the Australian Cricketers Association, and may be in place in time for next summer.

ALSO READ: James Pattinson misses first Test after obscene language outburst

The first step in a two-part process to reform the CA behaviour code was to expand the definition and scope of a level two or level three charge for abusing an opposition player, taking in personal abuse that may be directly addressing the player or a member of his or her family. At the same time a separate and more serious level three charge of abuse that discriminated against a player on the basis of their race, gender, sexuality or religion was merged into the wider definition, a change that came into effect in 2018-19.

That second, level three charge had a vexed history as the one under which Harbhajan Singh was initially suspended by the ICC during the “monkeygate” scandal in Australia in 2008. Harbhajan’s charge was subsequently downgraded from one of racial vilification of Andrew Symonds to another, lesser charge of abuse. The new code was used more recently when Shannon Gabriel was suspended for four matches under the abuse charge in February for asking Joe Root “do you like boys”, prompting the England captain to rebuke him with the words “there’s nothing wrong with being gay”.

However the second step, adopted by the ICC earlier this year, is to broaden the parallel and more legally robust anti-racism code into a catch-all discrimination code, devised to deal mainly with serious cases concerning repeat offenders. CA’s head of integrity Sean Carroll is currently undertaking a review of the governing body’s codes to bring about similar reform at CA level, threatening far harsher penalties for those who would repeat the sorts of slurs that Gabriel and Pattinson were alleged to have used.

The ICC’s discrimination code allows for bans of up to four Tests or eight ODIs/T20Is for a first offence, and a ban of anywhere between one year and life for a third. The specific charge reads: “Engaging in any conduct (whether through the use of language, gestures or otherwise) which is likely to offend, insult, humiliate, intimidate, threaten, disparage or vilify any reasonable person in the position of a Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire, Match Referee, Umpire, Support Personnel or any other person (including a spectator) on the basis of their race, religion, culture, colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, disability, marital status and/or maternity status.”

In all it signals a tightening of the net around player behaviour and on-field verbal exchanges, leaving Wade to acknowledge that he has had to change with the times. “I think I have to, otherwise I’ll be in the same kind of trouble that Patto finds himself,” Wade said. “You’ve got to be careful no doubt, the game’s changed over the 10 or 15 years I’ve been involved and there’s certainly nowhere near as much verbal on the ground and myself personally I’ve had to tame the way I’ve played and I think that’s no different to actually playing the game, you’ve got to evolve over time and thankfully I’ve done that a little bit.”

Asked about Pattinson and whether or not there was any danger that Test cricket was at risk of losing its uncompromising edge, Wade said that players would always adjust their actions based on where administrators set the boundaries of what is acceptable.

“It’ll just evolve the way it’s umpired to be honest, the way the officials hand the sanctions out will dictate the way that players play the game,” Wade said. “I don’t think good, hard Test cricket will ever go, I think once you get two countries out there and the contest’s on, I think there’s always going to be emotions that’ll spill over. If you’re doing the things and abiding by the laws I don’t think good, hard Test cricket will go anywhere.

“You can play aggressively with your body language without really saying anything anyway. We saw some really good contests and banter in England and everyone really enjoyed it. We all know there’s a line and if you cross that line you pay the price. Jimmy’s done that, I’ve done that in the past as well, you’ve got to learn from that and he’ll come back better.”

CA this year earned nationwide plaudits for introducing a new policy for the “inclusion of transgender and gender diverse players in elite cricket”, a process led by Carroll. “It doesn’t make any sense that today, people are discriminated against, harassed or excluded, because of who they are. And that’s not right,” CA’s chief executive Kevin Roberts said when launching the policy in August. “Discrimination of any sort has no place in the game and all of Australian Cricket is driven to ensure all cricketers can participate in a harassment-free environment.”



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Imran Khan backs Sarfaraz Ahmed to make international return

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Former Pakistan captain Imran Khan believes Sarfaraz Ahmed‘s axing does not necessarily spell the end of his international career. Imran, who is currently Pakistan’s prime minister, has almost completely stayed away from any public comment on the nation’s cricket team since he took over the top job. But, taking a weekend off from political duties, he touched upon a number of recent developments in Pakistan cricket, also backing the embattled head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq to come good.

“I don’t think the performance and form of a player should be judged by T20 cricket but through Test and one-day cricket,” Imran told reporters. “He can come back to the national team, but right now he should focus on domestic cricket.”

Sarfaraz Ahmed was relieved of his duties as Pakistan captain last month in all three formats after a sustained drop in both personal form and the team’s fortunes in all three formats. He also lost his place in the T20 and Test squads for Pakistan’s tour of Australia, and has spent the last three weeks captaining Sindh in the Quaid-e-Azam trophy, where, with 92 runs in four innings, his batting returns have been somewhat modest.

Imran threw his weight behind Misbah, praising both his integrity and ability. “It is a constructive move to appoint Misbah as he is an honest and unbiased person who has loads of experience behind him. I think Misbah will turn out to be a good choice and Pakistan will improve and do well in Test and ODI cricket under him. He has this talent in him that he can groom the players and also improve their performance.”

Imran also expressed confidence in the revamped domestic structure – which he had himself heavily championed – backing it to produce long-term results that improve performances of the national side. “If our domestic cricket improves, then Pakistan cricket will also move forward.”



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‘Standout’ Dom Sibley has earned Test chance, says old Surrey partner Rory Burns

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Rory Burns has only played a dozen Tests but looks set to link-up with his fifth* opening partner later this week in Mount Maunganui. But this time, at least, there will be a familiar face at the other end when he takes strike.

While Dominic Sibley may have left Burns’ county, Surrey, a couple of years ago, the pair played a huge amount of cricket together as they were growing up. As well as providing many lifts to training and matches, Burns was also at the other end when Sibley made his Surrey debuts for the first-team and the seconds, as well as his debut in an England shirt last week in Whangarei. (Indeed, it is probably a reflection of England’s reliance upon private schools that three of England’s last four openers – Burns, Sibley and Jason Roy – all attended Whitgift.)

ALSO READ: England settle for draw in tour match

As a result, Burns is well placed to offer a view on Sibley’s capabilities as opener.

“I’ve known Sibbo for – we were trying to work it out the other day – since I was 12 or 13,” Burns said. “I don’t really remember him at school because I left Whitgift at 16. But I remember seeing him down at academy stuff, Surrey stuff and he only lives a town down so I gave him a lot of lifts when he was coming through in the second team. I remember driving him to most of those games. I won’t have to drive him to this week: we’ve got the coach

“It would be a pretty cool feeling to open with him on his Test debut, too. I’m very proud of him to have got to where he has, particularly having left Surrey and doing what he’s done at Warwickshire. That’s a testament to him as a character.

“He showed all his attributes: his determination and his character to bat for days at a time, to put up the weight of runs he did and to bat the number of balls he did in tricky conditions you get in county cricket with a lot of assistance for bowlers a lot of the time. He’s earned his spot.”

While Burns is somewhat defensive of Roy’s record – and not just because Roy served as one of his best men only a few weeks ago (Surrey seamer Matt Dunn was the other) – he accepts that Sibley may be more obviously suited to the role of Test opener.

“Obviously Jason’s main grounding is white-ball cricket, but his red-ball cricket is very good as well. I don’t think we can judge him on his Test career batting out of position,” Burns said. “But I think him and Sibs’ styles are slightly different. Sibs is more traditional in terms of opening the batting in red-ball cricket because that’s where he’s learned most of his stuff.

“His concentration levels and determination to go about that process are his strong points. He likes batting time, he can bat days at a time and he’s willing to grind bowlers down and not necessarily race away at the start of an innings. He’s willing to build an innings and wait for people to come to him and pick them off when he can. Sibbo was the standout batter in the country regardless of position.”

There is little doubt Sibley has earned this opportunity. He not only scored more than 300 more runs than any man in Division One of the Championship in 2019, he faced more than a thousand deliveries more than anyone else in that division. But the New Zealand bowlers will have noted that he was struck on the grille of the helmet by an excellent short ball during the game against the New Zealand A side and flashed at one outside off stump a few minutes later. More short balls are likely.

As for Burns, he is probably as established as any England opener since the years of Andrews Strauss and Alastair Cook. He has already achieved something Cook never could – a century in a home Ashes series – while his tally of runs in that series (390) also surpassed anything Cook ever achieved against Australia at home. Bearing in mind how tough opening the batting was in the summer of 2019 – David Warner averaged 9.50, remember – his average of 39.00 was a fine effort.

He has also looked an asset in the field, taking some sharp catches in the cordon, and there have been early whispers that he could, one day, emerge as a leadership contender.

“You’re never truly settled because there’s always another Test coming,” Burns said. “New Zealand have got a fine bowling attack to try and expose any weaknesses in your game. It’s a summer to build on for me, but at the end of it there were a few scores I left out there. So there’s a lot to keep improving upon.”

There sure is. But, in picking two specialist openers to combat the new ball, England are, at last, giving themselves the best opportunity to improve in New Zealand.

*Oh, and just in case you are wracking your brain trying to remember Burns’ Test opening partners, they are: Keaton Jennings, Joe Denly, Jack Leach and Roy.



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