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South Africa needed a ‘hardened, experienced international guy’ – Graeme Smith on Mark Boucher

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Graeme Smith, South Africa’s acting director of cricket, has chosen “hardened, experienced” former team-mate Mark Boucher as coach of the men’s national side until the 2023 World Cup. Enoch Nkwe, the interim team director (a term that has now been scrapped), has been appointed Boucher’s assistant for the same period while former convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has been brought back until April 2020 and Ashwell Prince will coach the South African A side.

Boucher, Zondi, Nkwe and Test captain Faf du Plessis make up the selection panel for now, whose first task is to choose the squad that will face England in a home series starting on Boxing Day. The squad for the first two Tests will be announced on Monday, before the Mzansi Super League final. A batting and bowling consultant will also be finalised in the coming week.

The radical changes to the South African national structure were made in the last four days after Smith accepted the director of cricket position in a temporary capacity on Wednesday. Smith has signed a three-month contract after which he has a commentary stint at the Indian Premier League and confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that he would then consider a more permanent deal with CSA.

Smith’s appointment comes after more than three months of negotiation, during which time he withdrew his interest before being re-engaged following the suspension of CSA CEO Thabang Moroe. While Smith confirmed he still has “no relationship,” with the under-pressure CSA Board, he explained that the changes in the CSA executive administration played a major part in his accepting the role.

“I didn’t have a lot of confidence in the leadership of CSA,” Smith said. “With such an extensive job description, I didn’t feel I could achieve in the role with the leadership that was there at the time. You need a robust CSA to be able to challenge each other, you need trust and you need to have an environment that was ready for that, and I didn’t feel the environment was ready before I took this job.

“If I am going to come in, I want to be able to do the best that I can do. I feel that is slightly better now. The opportunity is there. I have got a lot of confidence in Jacques [Faul] as the CEO.”

“I am very aware of transformation. I led my the country for 11 years and I had to be very much a part of managing those processes.”

Graeme Smith

Faul has also been appointed in an interim capacity for the next six months while Moroe undergoes a disciplinary process. With Smith making clear his allegiance, it would appear his future involvement with CSA is tied to Faul’s and will be decided as the summer ends. Similarly, the position of Zondi, whose short-term contract was a result of what Smith called “a budget thing”, will also be up for discussion when the 2019-20 season is over.

However, the positions of Boucher and Nkwe are confirmed until after the 2023 World Cup, a decision that aims to provide both expertise and continuity for the national side. “I felt at this stage, the Proteas needed a really hardened, experienced international guy,” Smith said. “I feel that Mark, from a cricket perspective, is very knowledgeable. He is tactically very knowledgeable. We all know what qualities he has as a man as well. I felt those were the decisions best needed for the current Proteas set up.”

Smith indicated the long-term plan would be to prepare Nkwe to take over from Boucher in the future. “We have had a couple of chats with Enoch in terms of his pathway going forward and developing him as a high-standing international coach. We feel he has got a lot of qualities that will be very useful to Mark and that will help him progress in international cricket.”

Asked whether the demotion of Nkwe, South Africa’s first black African coach, and the appointment of Boucher above him could be seen as a whitewash, Smith disagreed. “My job is to create cricket excellence. I feel I have made the right decision for the Proteas. I think for Enoch’s future as well it is the right appointment. We need to think about managing people sometimes and not just a number,” Smith said. “I am very aware of transformation. I led my the country for 11 years and I had to be very much a part of managing those processes. A number of discussions need to happen behind the scenes but I disagree with the statement [that it’s a whitewash].”

Smith is also still in discussions with CSA around the transformation targets and the policy going forward but for now wants to focus on getting the South Africa team back on stable ground following a rocky 2019. South Africa lost five successive Tests, including a home series in Sri Lanka and a 0-3 defeat in India, where Smith indicated off-field problems appeared to bleed onto the field. “The disappointing thing has been how South African cricket has been run of late. That has been the most challenging aspect. That’s filtered into the environment and made life difficult for the guys that have been in that position. Hopefully in the short term we can turn it around.”

For Smith, it is key to “bring leadership back into the game”, which can be provided by former internationals. Smith singled out Prince’s involvement with the A side as particularly important. “I am very happy that we have Ashwell involved. He has got a lot of international experience, he is a hardened international cricketer. He is full of opinions which we love,” Smith said. “The A side needs to be the second-best men’s team in the country.”

If Smith takes on the role post the IPL next year, his job will include developing a strategy that will include the A side, looking at the domestic structures, the Under-19 side, the women’s game, and even cricket at grassroots level. For now, Smith’s sole focus is the national men’s team and the England series and creating the blueprint that will put South Africa on a path to success.

“We want the Proteas to play well and start winning again. Faf is happy that there is a bit of leadership around. Both him and Enoch have had very frustrating times over the last period. There has been almost no communication with them [from CSA] for a lengthy period of time. I’m glad we were able to come in and provide some direction for them,” Smith said. “Hopefully we can take away some of the drama from them and Faf and the team that is selected can focus on playing cricket and doing the job well. That’s what’s expected of them. It’s going to be our responsibility to clean up the rest.”



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Costly batting lapses hurt Perth Scorchers

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Season in nutshell

Better than last year when they had the shock of finishing with the wooden spoon but still some way short of the powerhouse side that dominated for many seasons. The schedule was very tough for them without back-to-back home games until the end of the regular season which led to a lot of long return journeys to the east coast. They managed a mid-season run of three consecutive wins which put things on track for a finals place, but two awful batting performances against the Stars were costly although the rain did them no favours in the final game against the Sydney Thunder

What went right?

The good was very good. The opening partnership between Josh Inglis and Liam Livingstone was dynamic and the most prolific pairing of the season with 554 runs. Inglis was likened to Brendon McCullum (with even the man himself seeing the similarities) while Livingstone showed tremendous power. Fawad Ahmed and Jhye Richardson, who each took 15 wickets along with Chris Jordan, were also impressive while Jordan’s stunning catch to remove Dan Christian provided one of the highlights of the tournament.

What went wrong?

There was too much of a gap between the leading performers and the rest with bat and ball. Mitchell Marsh supported the openers well, but while Cameron Bancroft made nearly 300 runs he sometimes struggled for tempo in the middle order and Ashton Turner had a season to forget with 86 runs in seven innings. The bowling depth was always going to be tested without Jason Behrendorff (long-term back injury) and AJ Tye (elbow) which meant it was a bad time for Matt Kelly (eight wickets, economy 9.38) to struggle to match his 2018-19 performances

Performance of the season

Marsh’s 93 off 41 balls against the Brisbane Heat was as clean a display of ball-striking as you could see – and that does some doing behind Livingstone and Inglis. It was important for Marsh to have a good BBL after missing the first part of the season after breaking his hand and this was a show of the power that will keep him in international contention.

Player of the season

Tough to split Livingstone and Inglis, but coming in as an overseas player brings additional expectation to perform and Livingstone lived up to it. Perhaps, occasionally, he went for one big shot too many and his timing eluded him at a vital moment on a tricky pitch against the Thunder but this was an eye-catching season and could put him back in the England frame.

Key Stat (Gaurav Sundararaman)

From a statistical point of view the Scorchers did not do too badly. Three bowlers took 15 wickets and three batsmen are present in the top 15 run-scorers. The Scorchers lost their finals spot due to their inability to close out matches which they should have won. Against the Strikers they were 0 for 124 in 8.3 overs chasing 198 and against the Stars they lost chasing a paltry 141. They will reflect on these two losses as one of the main reasons they were squeezed out of the finals.



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All-star match, no-ball umpires – IPL returns with upgrades

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For the first time a one-off all-star match will precede the IPL, comprising players from all the eight franchises. The match will be played three days before the IPL’s opening match which, as reported in December, is scheduled to begin on March 29. Both the opening match and the IPL final will be played in Mumbai, the home base of defending champions Mumbai Indians.

ESPNcricinfo understands the two teams for the all-star match are likely to be formed by combining players from the four franchises located in the north and east of India – Kings XI Punjab, Delhi Capitals, Rajasthan Royals and Kolkata Knight Riders – and the four teams in the south and west – Chennai Super Kings, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Sunrisers Hyderabad and Mumbai Indians. No venue has been finalised for the match yet.

It is understood that the idea to host the all-star match came from the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and IPL governing council chairman Brijesh Patel, the former India batsman. Both were present at the IPL meeting on Monday in New Delhi where the decision was finalised.

Evening matches timings unchanged

One of the key points discussed at the meeting concerned the start timings for the evening matches, an issue both the IPL and the host broadcaster Star India have been discussing over the past few years. It is understood Star wanted an earlier start than 8pm IST, because many matches were stretching past midnight. However, several teams pointed out that starting early could hand the advantage to one team because of dew.

Consequently, the IPL decided to leave the timing for the evening matches unchanged. According to Ganguly the evening matches would commence at the regular time. Ganguly also said that there would just four double-headers [days with both a late afternoon and an evening match] in the 2020 IPL, continuing with the trend established over the past few years to reduce the number of day matches with the tournament being played in summer.

The IPL did not announce the main tournament schedule even though the tournament is starting in two months’ time. BCCI officials did not reveal the reason, but it is learnt that the schedule is likely to be out later this week.

One plausible reason causing the delay could be related to the arrival of the Australian, England and New Zealand players. As per the availability periods listed pre-IPL auction, players from these three countries will arrive after March 31 as they would be busy with various bilateral series as well as the Sheffield Shield final.

Four teams for women’s T20 exhibition matches

Taking another step forward towards a women’s IPL, the BCCI has decided to add another team to the women’s T20 exhibition matches it has been conducting over the last two IPL seasons. In 2018 two teams – Supernovas and Trailblazers – contested a one-off exhibition match, which finished in a last-ball thriller. Last year a third team – Velocity – was added with four matches hosted in Jaipur, which ran parallel to the main IPL play-offs.

For the 2020 season, the BCCI has decided to add a fourth team, not named yet, to the mix. It is understood there will be seven matches, including the final, that are likely to be scheduled once again around the IPL play-offs.

No-ball umpire gets the nod

The IPL has also decided to let an off-field match official to supervise no-balls. The move is bound to be welcomed by the players considering the errors by on-field umpires over the years that have left many captains fuming.

Last IPL, Virat Kohli, leading the Royal Challenges in a crucial match against Mumbai, called the umpiring standards “ridiculous” and club standard. Incidentally, the no-ball delivered by Sri Lankan fast bowler Lasith Malinga went undetected by S Ravi, one of the on-field umpires, who was later removed from the ICC’s Elite Panel last year.

Taking cognizance of the players’ complaints the IPL had discussed the issue last year, Patel had said that an exclusive match official, separate to the TV and fourth umpire, would be in charge of supervising the no balls. Late last year, the ICC opted to reintroduce the no-ball umpire on a trial basis. The ICC, however, had entrusted the job to the regular TV umpire.

Concussion substitutes to be introduced

The IPL governing council also approved the move to allow concussion substitutes from the 2020 edition. The match referee is the final authority on who could come in as concussion substitute with the option of disallowing replacements if they are deemed not to be like-for-like replacements.



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Marnus Stoinis still wants all-round role for Australia

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Marcus Stoinis believes he can still break into Australia’s T20 World Cup team as an allrounder despite being recast as a non-bowling opening batsman for the Melbourne Stars in the Big Bash League, a role in which he is all but assured of finishing as the tournament’s top scorer this season.

In a telling departure from the positions he has occupied for Australia, Stoinis has been used at the top of the order by the Stars, where he gets the advantage of extra time to start his innings, while also not bowling at all.

The result has been a tally of 607 runs from 14 regular season games at an average of 60.70 and a strike rate of 134.29, underlining the wisdom of placing Stoinis at the top, even though he is unlikely to contend for a similar spot for Australia where Aaron Finch and David Warner are locked in as openers.

ALSO READ: Melbourne Stars dealt finals blow with Sandeep Lamichhane unavailable

Asked whether he could command an allrounder’s place in the national T20 squad despite the change in role for the Stars, Stoinis noted that the likes of Jon Wells had been adept at the middle order job, but argued he still had the IPL with the Delhi Capitals in which to show his allround abilities.

“I do understand that definitely they’re very different and you’ve had guys like Jon Wells – how well’s he done – I mean, he’s been a good player for a long time, I’ve known him from Western Australia. So I’m really happy for him,” Stoinis said. “But then also, for me I’m not too worried because I’ve batted everywhere my whole career.

“I’ll go to the IPL in two months and most likely I’ll be batting five or six. So to me, I see it as I’m adaptable, I’m trying to do everything I can in the game and if the selectors see it as ‘you’re an opening batsman’ or whatever, that’s up to them.

“You’ve got to be careful with what you feel you deserve and I think I’ve probably been guilty of having expectations that you think other people should reward you for certain things. So I’m very aware, I’m just enjoying what I’m doing. I understand that the national selectors wanted me to go back to domestic cricket, or Big Bash cricket and dominate, so hopefully I’ve sent that message.”

Numerous opening batsman have occupied the other spot opposite Stoinis for the Stars, and the club still looks to be trying to find their best combination despite qualifying at the top of the table and earning a home final against the Sydney Sixers at the MCG on Friday night.

“We’ve been adaptable and that’s what happens in this competition – whether it’s Australian selection or injuries, that sort of stuff,” Stoinis said. “But the main thing I’m after, I just want the person at the non-striker’s end to feel no pressure and just have fun and we’re there to express ourselves, we’re playing at the MCG, we’ve got great opportunities.

“I was talking to Seb [Gotch] before the last game and I was messaging him asking him if there’s anything he needs from me and he said ‘no, just clap at the other end when I hit a boundary’.”

As for the Stars’ trailing off in performance after securing top spot – they lost their last three games, including a heavy defeat to the lowly Brisbane Heat in the final fixture – Stoinis said the club had enjoyed the chance to end the treadmill of matches and refocus for the finals. A team outing to the Australian Open tennis on Sunday had afforded the chance to let off some steam.

“I’ve heard a few people say maybe we got complacent and that sort of stuff but also there’s been a few opportunities to, with injury and that sort of stuff, to give people a chance and we’re trying to find this opening partnership as well,” Stoinis said. “We’ve had an overseas player left, so there’s moving parts. I don’t think it was complacency, it’s more just the fact you’ve got to be adaptable and we’re heading now to the pointy end and we’ve got pretty much our full team available.

“I think there’s still some positives. Petey Handscomb’s played well the last couple of games, we’ve had a few injuries, Hilton Cartwright’s been really good for us but then he’s got a crack in his finger…it’s just going to give opportunities to other people.

“I guess in big games you either get a bit nervous and you try and stay away from failure or you go for it and you look for success – so that’s what we’ll be looking for. I’ll be charging towards success, hopefully.”

One key addition for the Stars will be the return of the Pakistan paceman Haris Rauf from international duty, which will provide something of a counterbalance to the loss off Sandeep Lamichhane’s artful wrist spin.

“We’ve been bowling about 18 overs of spin a game, so we’ll still hopefully have enough spinners to cover all those sort of bases,” Stoinis said. “We’ve had Hinchy [Clint Hinchliffe] who’s come into his own and done really well for us, we’ve obviously got Zamps [Adam Zampa] coming back, Maxy’s been bowling unbelievably well and then the Mad dog, [Nic Maddinson] has been chipping in with a few wickets and some catches. So I think we’ve got a lot of spin covered and now we’ve got big Raufy to come back in and maybe I’ll bowl an over.”



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