Jess Jonassen‘s blitzy 63 not out off 29 balls extended the Brisbane Heat‘s lead at the top of the WBBL table with a six-run win against the Melbourne Renegades at the Junction Oval. The Renegades gave the visitors a scare as they needed 21 from 12 balls, and later 15 off the last over, but they lost three wickets in the last four balls, including two run-outs, and fell short to remain on ten points. The Heat got a stable start from opener Maddy Green’s 32 off 31 before Jonassen walked out at the halfway mark at 57 for 2. Wickets fell around her but Jonassen propelled the run rate from under six to over 7.5 per over by smashing six fours and three sixes. The Heat collected 42 off the last three overs, with five fours and two sixes from Jonassen alone to post a strong 5 for 153. The Renegades got a promising start with Danni Wyatt‘s 40 off 18 but once she holed out to deep midwicket off Amelia Kerr in the eighth over, the hosts found it tough to stay on top of the chase, with only two more batters able to score at more than run a ball. Jonassen finished with 1 for 27 from her four overs to be named the Player of the Match.
India one of the top-two teams across formats – Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli‘s India have blown away oppositions at home – just ask South Africa and Bangladesh who were at the receiving end recently. And armed with an incredible bowling attack, they’ve also established their dominance overseas, including winning a historic Test series in Australia in January earlier this year. So, are India the best team in the world now?
India have been perched at No. 1 on the ICC’s Test ranking for a few years now, and Kohli also believed that they’re one of best teams overall. “If you look at teams across formats now, I would say we’re in the top-two teams in the world,” Kohli told India Today. “And we’re very proud of that because we started off with a young bunch and transition is never easy but the guys have slowly understood the importance of belief and understanding their role in taking Indian cricket forward. So, insecurity about their own game has vanished. If you see we enjoy each other’s success and company and everyone is just wanting to help one way or the other for the betterment of Indian cricket team and in return the betterment of Indian cricket as a whole.”
India have chalked up some consistent performances across formats, but Kohli is yet to lift a global trophy as captain. India have not won an ICC global tournament since 2013, when MS Dhoni’s men clinched the Champions Trophy. Incidentally, that was Kohli’s second global title after being part of Dhoni’s 2011 World Cup-winning team.
The missing global title was something that the newly-appointed BCCI president Sourav Ganguly also pinpointed in October.
Kohli conceded that winning an ICC title was “like an obsession”, but prioritised process over results and numbers. He also said that his side relished being under pressure and finding a way past it.
“You could say winning an ICC tournament is like an obsession or like a wish that people have, which is a beautiful thing to wish for becaus it’s seen at a global level and every cricketer would want to win that,” he said. “But if you ask me, honestly I didn’t ever think I would be part of the winning World Cup team in my first World Cup or two years down the line we will win the Champions Trophy as well. I never thought of these things but it happened. So, it was meant to happen for us.
“But, in hindsight you can look at a lot of things. We obviously have the desire to win big tournaments and big series and we want to give our best effort possible. But, if you focus on things which are only based on success and numbers and results, you don’t enjoy the process. We play well as a team because we enjoy the process.”
Kohli himself has been the central figure behind India’s bumper run ever since he took charge as captain in all formats in 2016. In his quest to make India the best team ever, he has been very particular about not compromising on his fitness. Working on his diet and monitoring his sleeping habits, Kohli said, helped him be more energetic on the field. But, how does he maintain peak intensity at all times?
“Basically, I hate losing in anything,” he said. “That’s how a sportsman is made up. That’s the make-up of any sportsman competing at the highest level. So, that’s a given. No one is fine with losing or failing. You accept it, you process it – that’s different. But, the most important thing for me to do anything on the field is I don’t want’ any maybes or what-ifs.”
One of the key ingredients behind India’s unprecedented success in recent years is the depth in their attack, especially the well-rounded fast bowling contingent. In the recently-concluded home Test season, both Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were unavailable, but Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, and Umesh Yadav fired collectively, helping the team notch up four successive innings victories.
Kohli said that while there is “healthy competition” among the pack of pacers it is the camaraderie they share with each other that makes the attack special.
“No one is wanting to outdo someone else,” he said. “They’re like a bunch of friends wanting to help each other. [There’s] healthy competition but the trust they’ve on each other, I’ve never seen them have an argument… a serious one. No jealously. Zero. That’s their biggest strength. They don’t care whether a Shami is at No. 7 now, Jassi [Jasprit Bumrah] is at whatever ranking he’s or Ishant is not. Ishant is happy , he has played 90 Tests and he understands he’s a very important part of team India – of inspiring the next lot of fast bowlers. That to him is more special than a ranking of ten players in the world and so on and so forth. So, full credit to these guys for being able to create this aura around them because of that friendship, belief and the intent being in the right place.”
Earlier this week, Rahul Dravid, the head of cricket at the National Cricket Academy (NCA), reckoned that India’s fast-bowling renaissance at the international level has inspired the next-gen quicks too.
“Every year now in Under-19 cricket, we’ve had some very good fast bowlers. Last time, we had three of them in Kamlesh, Shivam and Ishan [Porel]. This year also you will see some good fast bowlers in the team,” Dravid had said.”When you have role models and you have heroes like the senior team… I think what Ishant [Sharma], [Mohammed] Shami, Umesh [Yadav], Bhuvneshwar Kumar and [Jasprit] Bumrah are doing, is they are actually in a way becoming role models for a lot of younger generation of boys who believe now they can be fast bowlers. They can bowl fast and be successful in India. It’s great to see that. Obviously we had people like Kapil [Dev], Sri [Javagal Srinath], Zaheer [Khan] and all in the past. But as a group, this is probably one of the best fast-bowling attacks we have ever had. I think that’s a great inspiration for a lot of these young boys.”
Expectations changing on sports betting – Eddings
Earl Eddings, the Cricket Australia chairman, has indicated that the broad issues of anti-corruption processes and sports betting are up for discussion with the Australian Cricketers Association, though he has stopped short of meeting with its president Shane Watson to specifically address the Emily Smith WBBL case.
In a week where CA has faced criticism for banning Smith for the rest of the season after she posted the Hobart Hurricanes’ batting line-up on her Instagram account an hour before the scheduled start of play, and also for its commercial relationship with sports betting, Eddings told ESPNcricinfo that the governing body needed to strike a balance between the issues of the moment and wider considerations. He spoke by phone with Watson on Thursday, and has also corresponded with the ACA’s chairman Greg Dyer.
The integrity unit at CA, headed by Sean Carroll, is effectively ring-fenced from the rest of the governing body on the basis that it must have the authority to investigate any individual at CA, from the chairman down. It is also linked to the ICC’s rigorous anti-corruption code and unit, making any intervention by CA’s board or management more problematic than it might be for other issues in the game.
“I spoke to Shane Watson yesterday, Greg and I have exchanged emails. We always talk to the ACA, but our hands are tied,” Eddings said. “We can’t change the decision under the code of conduct. As I have said to Shane, we don’t need to meet. There’s other forums where we can meet, and we can’t change the decision and won’t change the decision. So getting the two boards together I thought was superfluous.
“While this week with the Emily Smith situation there are some disagreements about the outcome, I think it’s been done respectfully and with mutual respect. Like anything it is a work in progress. We established the ACC [Australian Cricket Council] together, that’s been a great initiative. [The ACC] is an advisory body to bring in leaders of Australian cricket to talk about significant strategic issues. Would the Emily Smith situation be one of those, probably not, maybe the process might be. It’s about delivering the future of Australian cricket, getting all the stakeholders feeling like they’ve got an important say in issues that affect Australian cricket.”
Dyer and Eddings have enjoyed a far more constructive relationship than previous CA/ACA chairmen, with the previous CA chairman David Peever particularly unpopular during the pay dispute in 2016-17. “I think our relationship is really strong, probably not my words but the ACA would say it is the strongest it’s been since my time on the board,” Eddings said. “Like anything, it’s a matter of working for the good of the game and showing mutual respect.
“It doesn’t mean we’ll always agree, and I would expect the ACA, that’s their job to come out and protect their players – if they don’t do that, why are they there. So I’ve got no problem with them flying the flag for the players.”
The parallel lines of CA’s harsh integrity stance and commercial relationship with with Bet365 have also been criticised this week by the noted anti-gambling advocate Tim Costello, who addressed CA’s chief executive Kevin Roberts and state and territory CEOs in Perth last December. “What Emily Smith did in simply posting a team make-up has zero consequences on the game of cricket itself, and was clearly not corrupt,” Costello told News Corp. “If [CA] was serious about distancing itself from betting scandals, it would not take a single dollar from the gambling industry.”
Eddings acknowledged that while community expectations around sports betting advertising are changing, any review of CA’s relationship with betting would need to guard against social justice overreach.
“As a board we always consider what are the issues coming up, how does that affect our brand, is it the right thing to do,” he said. “At the moment we’re focused on how Australian cricket is travelling. Certainly there is a mood out there in the public, we’ve seen the social activism about it. At the moment we’re happy to have Bet365 as a corporate partner, and we’ll review that going forward.
“I think as any sport, particularly as Australia’s truly national sport, we need to be really cognisant of our role in society, without being over the top and without overreaching. I think we’ve done that well in the last 12 months with pay equity for female players, parental leave, our transgender policy. Those are examples of where there’s a broader community reach you have and a responsibility you have. We’re very conscious as a board of our role, without overreaching into some of those areas.”
Jack Leach hospitalised by bout of gastroenteritis
Jack Leach‘s tour of New Zealand has reached an unhappy ending after he was admitted to hospital suffering from gastroenteritis.
Leach, who was left out of the side for the second Test after England decided to field an extra seamer, reported feeling unwell after the first session of play on the second day in Hamilton. After initial observation from the medical team, it was decided to take him to hospital. He was admitted and is expected to stay there on Saturday night.
Leach’s condition may be complicated a little by the fact he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease – an inflammatory bowel disorder – as a teenager. He admitted “it’s something I’m always battling a bit” in an interview with the BBC a few months ago.
“If I was having a bad day with the ball, it would be nice to be able to blame it on the Crohn’s,” he said, “but I’ve never done that. If there’s a day when I’m struggling, I know how to fight through.
“If I was in the middle of a big flare-up, I would feel at a physical disadvantage compared to other players, but I haven’t had one of those since I was about 16.
“It’s something I’m always battling with a little bit, even if I am very lucky to not be affected as badly as some people can be.”
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