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Smith apologises to team-mates for dissent charge

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Steven Smith fronted his Australian team-mates to apologise for drawing a dissent charge and fine in the Sheffield Shield as the captain Tim Paine reminded all members of the squad that they need to maintain standards of behaviour “regardless of who we’re playing for”, as they ramped up preparations for the Pakistan Test series.

After a period of more than a year in which the Australian team had earned significant respect for improved behaviour, while being lauded by Cricket Australia’s board for making only one ICC code of conduct transgression – an audible obscenity by Adam Zampa during the World Cup – in 18 months since the Newlands scandal, standards have slipped this season with no fewer than eight code of conduct breaches being recorded across state, second XI and under-age tournaments. The pair of breaches in the last Shield around arrived from two of Australia’s most high-profile players.

In addition to James Pattinson‘s suspension for abusive language while playing for Victoria against Queensland, Smith was fined 25% of his match fee for obvious dissent when given out caught behind while playing for New South Wales against Western Australia at the SCG. At one of the team’s recurring “values” meetings, held at the start of every major assignment since Justin Langer was appointed coach, Smith told his team-mates he was sorry for raising the ire of officials and admitted he needed to improve his body language and conduct when dismissed.

ALSO READ: James Pattinson out of first Test after code of conduct suspension

“I came in and apologised to the group yesterday for getting a code of conduct,” Smith said in Brisbane. “I don’t think there was a great deal in it but I’ve copped it and I have to look at when I get out and the way I sort of conduct myself. I know lots of kids watch me play and watch all of us play and the way we conduct ourselves when we get out as well as when we’re batting.

“So we have to be very mindful of that and sometimes just bite the bullet and just conduct ourselves in, I guess, a better manner at times. Sometimes your emotions can get the better of you out on the field. We’re playing a game [where] everyone is trying to do their best and sometimes that happens.”

The transgressions of Smith and Pattinson underline the fact that occasionally, international players are given to dropping their guard in matches not subject to major international broadcast or media attention, even though all domestic matches are streamed online in their entirety. Smith noted that, within reason, the place for letting out frustrations about a dismissal or decision disagreed with is within the dressing room itself, away not only from cameras but also spectators.

“You’re going to get fines, breach notices or whatever it is, but to be honest, the feeling around the group is enough of a punishment”

Pat Cummins on players staying in line

“When you get behind closed doors, go for your life, do what you need to do to let your frustrations out,” he said. “Within reason – you probably don’t want to punch anything. Mitch Marsh can probably attest to that. We’re Australian players regardless of where we’re playing and what we’re doing. We sign up to values and in our contracts we’ve got a code of conduct there we have to play by. I got pinged and so be it. I felt I should apologise for that.”

Paine said that greater consistency in behaviour across all levels of the game was something that all team members were clear about trying to achieve. “I think it’s more just a reminder that we’ve got to set those standards all the time,” Paine said. “Whether we’re playing for Australia or we’re playing club cricket or we’re playing for our states or we’re not playing cricket, there are standards we set ourselves to live by day in and day out so it’s important we do that whether we’re on the field off the field, regardless of who we’re playing for.

“We’ve had a couple of instances this week but we always revisit them. We did again last night, just to brush up on what’s expected and what we expect of the group. Both of those guys apologised, they know that they fell a little bit short of what we set ourselves in the Test team. And the fact that it’s important that we maintain that when we go back to state cricket and lead the way there. They’re disappointed with that but we are going to keep on top of it and maintain the level that we’ve set so far in the last couple of years.”

Pat Cummins, one of the joint vice-captains, said that more often than not, the knowledge of team-mates that mistakes had been made and values not lived up to provided as stinging a punishment as any fine or ban. “It’s pretty clear how we want to play and go about it and our standards we set ourselves,” he said. “You’re going to get fines, breach notices or whatever it is, but to be honest, the feeling around the group is enough of a punishment. You now when you’ve stepped out of line. He [Pattinson] has owned up to it, he’ll be super remorseful and it’s a good lesson for him to learn.

“We’ve identified five key values, and we just want to stay on top of those, so every few months it’s just trying to talk about them and say ‘what does this look like’. We’ll break up in groups, talk about different values and also it gives us something to measure against that at the end of the series to see how we’re tracking. It’s run by the players, we own it, we know what standards we have to uphold, and it’s a good little reminder and it’s no different for the T20, one-day or Test side, if someone comes in, these are the expectations.”



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Can Jay Shah attend BCCI Apex Council meet on July 17?

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Alka Rehani Bharadwaj, the representative of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India (CAG,) has asked the BCCI to “ensure” that only “eligible” office bearers attend the board’s Apex Council meeting on July 17. Although she has not spelt out any names, Bharadwaj’s letter puts a question mark over the participation of BCCI secretary Jay Shah, whose tenure has reportedly come to an end under the provisions of the current board constitution

In an email sent on July 4, Bharadwaj has asked BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and joint secretary Jayesh George to check the eligibility of all those attending the July 17 Apex Council meeting. Bharadwaj pointed out that any office bearer whose tenure (six years) is complete would need to provide legal backing to justify their participation.

“The President/ Joint Secretary BCCI (who would be presumably officiating as Secretary after vacation of Secretary BCCI post) need to also ensure that 4th Apex Council meeting is attended by only members, el(i)gible as per the Constitution,” Bharadwaj said in her email, accessed by ESPNcricnfo. “Any decision on this matter may please be backed by facts and endorsed legally. This is being reiterated only to ensure compliance with Honourable Supreme Court approved Constitution.”

Bharadwaj was responding to an email from Shah on July 3, where he had listed the agenda for the July 17 meeting, which would be held over video conference. There is expected to be a discussion on finalising India’s domestic and international calendars for the 2020-21 season and another on the tax exemption issue for the 2021 men’s T20 World Cup. The ICC had threatened to take the 2021 T20 World Cup away from India if the BCCI does not secure a tax exemption from the Indian government.

Along with Shah, Ganguly and George are due to finish six years as an office bearer soon. In April, the BCCI filed a second request with the Supreme Court, following the first one last December, asking it to consider a few radical amendments to the board’s constitution. Among them is a proposal to allow office bearers to continue for six years at one place (BCCI or state) which would ensure Ganguly, Shah and George remain in their posts until 2025, effectively bypassing the mandated cooling-off period.

The court, which is currently in recess, has not yet heard the matter.

Bharadwaj said that with five out of the nine members being office bearers, the Apex Council needed to be “reconstituted”. In fact, the Apex Council has been reduced to eight after Mahim Verma stepped down as BCCI vice-president recently. “In view of pending Honourable Supreme Court hearing on cooling-off period clause, the reconstitution of Apex council warranted due to ending/ coming to end of tenure of Vice President/Secretary/President BCCI needs to be kept as an Agenda item.”

The Apex Council is the second-most powerful wing of the BCCI after the general body and governs all cricket-related activity in India. The Lodha Committee had recommended the Apex Council replace the working committee, which comprised representatives from state associations who could be vulnerable to the power politics in the board. The presence of the CAG official in the Apex Council, the Lodha Committee had said, would provide transparency and accountability in the world’s richest cricket board.

Ganguly entered cricket administration at the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) in 2014 as a joint secretary under the late Jagmohan Dalmiya. In 2015, he became the CAB president after Dalmiya’s death and was re-elected for a second term last September before taking charge at BCCI. At the time, Ganguly had said he had 10 months as BCCI president until July.

As far as Shah is concerned, it is not yet clear when his cooling-off period should begin. He was elected as joint secretary at Gujarat Cricket Association in September 2013. ESPNcricinfo has written to Shah twice in the last two months to check on when he would finish six years as an office bearer, but has got no response.

As for George, who was the secretary at Kerala Cricket Association, his six-year term as an office bearer is due to end in August.



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Kusal Mendis released on bail day after arrest for role in fatal road accident

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Kusal Mendis has been released on bail a day after he was arrested for his role in a fatal motor accident in Panadura, just south of Colombo. Mendis, who was driving the SUV that hit and killed a 64-year-old cyclist at around 5am on Sunday, has also been cleared of driving under the influence by preliminary police investigations and a judicial medical officer.

Mendis, 25, is understood to have been returning from the wedding of a Sri Lanka Cricket employee when the accident took place. Fellow Sri Lanka cricketer Avishka Fernando is also understood to have been on board the car, with Mendis acting as designated driver for the group.

CCTV footage suggests the vehicle had veered off the road and into a garden wall, hitting the victim – a local resident – in the process. The victim had sustained substantial injuries and died in the process of being admitted to Panadura hospital.

After being detained at the Panadura police station overnight near where the accident occurred, Mendis was produced before the Panadura Magistrate’s Court and released on two personal bails of Sri Lankan rupees 1 million ($5400 approx.) each. He is due to appear in court again on September 9.

As Sri Lanka’s lockdowns and curfew have now ceased, Mendis was allowed to be on the road at the time. He had been part of Sri Lanka’s residential training camp in Pallekele, which ended on Wednesday.



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ECB confirms schedule for Pakistan, Ireland visits

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England have confirmed Emirates Old Trafford and the Ageas Bowl as the venues for fixtures against Ireland and Pakistan this summer. Ireland will visit later this month for three ODIs, while Pakistan have already arrived in the country ahead of Test and T20I series.

The ECB has been working to salvage as much of its home international programme as possible after the Covid-19 shutdown, and said that discussions remained ongoing about the possibility of Australia touring, and a proposed women’s tri-series featuring England, India and South Africa.

Ireland had been due to play their series, part of the World Cup Super League, in September but agreed to move the games forward, with all three ODIs to be held behind closed doors in Southampton from July 30 to August 4.

The first Test against Pakistan will begin a day later in Manchester, with the teams then moving down to Southampton for the second and third matches at the Ageas Bowl, starting on August 13 and 21. They will return to Manchester for T20Is at Emirates Old Trafford on August 28, 30 and September 1.

“Confirmation of these matches against Ireland and Pakistan is another important step for our game as we begin to safely stage international cricket again, but also to minimise the impact the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, on cricket at all levels,” ECB chief executive Tom Harrison said.

“It has taken significant effort and expertise to allow us to reach a position where cricket is now ready and able to return to the field of play from the elite level to recreational cricket.

“We owe a significant debt of gratitude to the players, staff and administrators of the Cricket West Indies, Cricket Ireland, and the Pakistan Cricket Board for their willingness and co-operation to get international cricket back up and running and allow these matches to be staged.

“Sports fans across the world will benefit as international cricket returns to our screens while it will also provide much-needed financial aid at all levels of cricket in England and Wales as we aim to withstand the challenges in front of us.

“It must be reiterated that there is still much work for the ECB and the cricket network to do as we try to plot a path through this pandemic. Chief amongst our priorities is to build on our commitment to support and grow women’s cricket and at the elite level discussions continue to progress to determine the best and safest way to host a tri-series against India and South Africa.

“We also continue to explore options for our England men to play white-ball series against Australia this summer and hope to have news on those series soon.”

The majority of Pakistan’s 29-man squad flew to the UK in late June, despite disruption caused by a number of positive Covid-19 tests. Ten players did not take the initial flight, but all but one have now returned the two negative tests required to participate in the tour.

Like West Indies and Pakistan, Ireland’s players are expected to given an ‘opt out’ by the selectors in case any have concerns about Covid-19 in the UK.



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