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Delhi’s Dhruv Shorey impresses, but can’t stop Gujarat from making Vijay Hazare semis

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Dhruv Shorey‘s career has been full of paradoxes. When he plays first-class cricket, his attractive strokeplay makes you think he will be better suited for 50-over cricket. When he bats in one-dayers, you wonder he’s probably going a tad slower. A List-A strike rate of 73 backs that observation.

Shorey is supposed to be a mainstay of Delhi’s batting. He has a more than decent first-class record but averages in the low 30s in List A cricket with just one hundred from 42 games.

At 27, Shorey’s career is yet to fully take off. Still he finds himself leading Delhi in the 2019-20 Vijay Hazare Trophy, and on Sunday, in the middle with his side at 17 for 2 against a rampant Gujarat in the second quarterfinal. What does Shorey do? He dodges almost all the paradoxes to produce a near masterclass.

Chintan Gaja had just dismissed Delhi openers Shikhar Dhawan and Anuj Rawat, while Roosh Kalaria had kept things quiet from the other end. But Shorey not only stabilised the innings – along with Nitish Rana – but also accelerated towards the end to finish with a 109-ball 91.

But just like his career, this innings too proved to be a paradox. He played a captain’s knock but failed to take his side to a winning total. In the end, Delhi were all out for 223 in 49 overs, and Gujarat chased the VJD-adjusted target of 225 in 37.5 overs with six wickets in hand.

Earlier, Dhawan’s lean run with the bat continued. After failing to open his account in the first six balls, he skipped down the track to Gaja only to chip it towards short extra cover. But the fielder there spilled the straightforward chance, the sort of thing you hope for as an out-of-form batsman. But Dhawan failed to take any advantage of that. He sashayed down once again on the next ball, only to splice it towards mid-off this time. Piyush Chawla made no mistake. Four overs later, Rawat tried to do a similar thing and was taken at cover.

With the side in trouble, Shorey and Rana decided to bid their time on a two-paced wicket. The team fifty came in the 14th over, and it took Delhi another 14 overs to reach the hundred-run mark.

But Shorey batted with a calm demeanour, hitting mostly along the ground and reached his fifty in 67 balls. At the other end, Rana smashed two fours in one Arzan Nagwaswalla over but mostly found it difficult to get the ball off the square. Despite Rana’s struggles, the two had added 90 for the third wicket in 129 balls.

It was once again Gaja who provided his side with a wicket. In an attempt to provide momentum to the innings, Rana ended up flicking one straight to short fine leg and was dismissed for 33 off 61.

Shorey had moved to 77 off 98 without much fuss before he decided to take on Axar Patel. Using his feet, he lofted the left-arm spinner over wide long-off. Three balls later, when Axar pitched on short, Shorey got down on one knee to sweep-pull it for another six over fine leg. Suddenly, he was on 90 off 102 balls.

With Himmat Singh for company, Shorey took Delhi to 150 in the 37th over, with the last 50 runs coming at almost run a ball. The platform was set, the hundred was there for the taking but then the paradox struck again. Or maybe it was just the nervous nineties. After all, last season he was dismissed thrice in the 90s in first-class cricket.

Shorey had looked to play in the ‘V’ until then. But in the 38th over, while trying to steer Nagwaswalla towards third man, he ended up edging one to Parthiv Patel. Another unfulfilled promise as Shorey admitted after the match.

“I should have stayed there till the end,” Shorey said. “Initially the wicket was doing a bit but after I got settled, it appeared a very good wicket to bat on. But the way I got out, or Nitish got out, it was a little disappointing. Maybe on this wicket, we could have gone on till the 45th over to pace our innings as anything around 270-280 or 300 would have been a good total.”

A brief shower in the 40th over further disrupted Delhi’s momentum and when the teams returned – with the match reduced to 49 overs per side – the lower-order batsmen couldn’t do much against Chawla’s guile.

Parthiv and Priyank Panchal then got Gujarat off to a quick start, with the former happily feasting on the buffet of short balls served by the Delhi seamers. Delhi’s fielding didn’t help their cause either. Panchal was on 28 when Rana dropped a sitter at mid-on, while wicketkeeper Rawat failed to grab an inside edge off Parthiv with the batsman on 57.

The two added 150 in just 23.1 overs to make light work of the chase. Though Delhi struck back, by then there were not enough runs left to make a match out of it. Only if Shorey had stayed in there for a little longer, but that’s how his career has been so far.



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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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