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Pakistan target growth and maybe an upset

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Overview

Over the years Pakistan have not quite managed to reach a level that would see them rank among the favourites. However, several individual players have forged their reputations, and each World Cup, Pakistan have gone in aiming to be a better side than they were last time. It hasn’t always worked out that way, and there remains plenty of distance to travel before they can legitimately call themselves a world-class side.

This year, for the first time since 2009, Pakistan will play a World Cup without Sana Mir. She was left out on the basis of her form over the past two years with the ball. In the recent domestic T20 Women’s Championship, Anam Amin was the leading wicket-taker with seven strikes at 13.71, while Mir managed four wickets at 30.25.

Mir’s omission means Bismah Maroof will take charge of this side for the first time at a global event. Experience as captain should be no problem at this level for the veteran, who has already led her country in 36 T20Is. The core of the side is much the same as it was at the last World Cup for Pakistan, with the recall of Muneeba Ali’s and Aiman Anwer after absences of longer than a year a couple of the more notable changes.

It’s tough to make predictions about where Pakistan might end up this time around, but there is no doubt they have individual players coming into form at the right time. The side still relies heavily on the experienced hands of campaigners who have been on this journey a number of years, with familiar names such as Javeria Khan, Nida Dar, and Maroof herself among the key players for the side. Youngsters like leg-spinner Syeda Aroob Shah and left-arm orthodox Sadia Iqbal are exciting additions, while Dar, Aliya Riaz and Diana Baig combine to form a formidable bowling line up.

Squad

Bismah Maroof (capt), Aiman Anwer, Aliya Riaz, Anam Amin, Ayesha Naseem, Diana Baig, Fatima Sana, Iram Javed, Javeria Khan, Muneeba Ali, Nida Dar, Omaima Sohail, Sadia Iqbal, Sidra Nawaz (wk), Syeda Aroob Shah

Group fixtures

February 26: West Indies, Canberra

February 28: England, Canberra

March 1: South Africa, Sydney Showground

March 3: Thailand, Sydney Showground

T20 World Cup history

Since the first T20 World Cup in 2009, Pakistan have played 24 games, winning only six. It took until the third edition for them to notch up their first win, although some might argue the opposition it came against may have been worth the wait; it was a one-run win against India in Galle in 2012 that snapped an eight-match World Cup losing streak. Since then, they’ve picked up a few wins in the competition without ever really threatening the stronger teams, with the five wins that came over the last three editions not proving enough to take them beyond the group stages.

Form guide

It’s been a somewhat mixed time for Pakistan, and, in truth a rather predictable one. The highlight came when they beat South Africa in the first two games of a five-match series, only for much of that good feeling to evaporate when South Africa came back to win 3-2. A 3-0 defeat against England in Malaysia was disappointing, if not unsurprising, while when Bangladesh came to visit Lahore for a three-match series, Pakistan did register a clean sweep at the tail-end of last year.

Key players

Nida Dar had a productive season with Sydney Thunder in Women Big Bash League, picking up 13 wickets at 16.92. She became the first Pakistan woman to have played in a foreign league, and her experience at the WBBL should stand her in good stead for this tournament. She is already the leading wicket taker for the country with 92 wickets, and just two games away from joining a select group to have made 100 T20I appearances for Pakistan. Bismah Maroof is the only Pakistan batter to score more than 2000 runs, while her 11 half-centuries are more than any player from Pakistan has managed in the format

What would be a success at the tournament?

Pakistan continue to develop, but as with developing sides, consistency proves elusive. Successes against weaker opponents have been aplenty, and they have run stronger teams close; wins against South Africa and West Indies in the past twelve months is testament to that. Progress beyond the group stages would count as a very successful tournament for Pakistan, while should they win against any side in addition to Thailand, they’d be well within their rights to term it a very respectable campaign.



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Alastair Cook would prefer no County Championship to a less ‘meaningful’ shortened season

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Former England captain Alastair Cook has said that he would prefer a season without the County Championship to playing a greatly reduced version of the competition.

The first seven rounds of Championship cricket have already fallen victim to the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic, with the ECB announcing last week that no professional cricket will be played before May 28.

When it is possible to resume playing, chief executive Tom Harrison has made clear that the more lucrative domestic competitions will be prioritised, meaning the T20 Blast and the Hundred would take precedence over the Championship.

ALSO READ: Coronavirus outbreak: County cricket latest

That means there could be limited time in which to play the Championship, and Cook – who won the competition in 2017 and 2019 with Essex – said that he would rather wait a year to defend the title than have to do so in an abbreviated season.

“In this year, over the next six months, the bigger picture is the most important,” Cook told BBC Radio 5 Live.

“Whatever happens, if we do play any sort of cricket which hopefully we will, what I hope is that they don’t try and have a six-game County Championship or something like that. I would rather have one or two full tournaments, because if you do then play that tournament or two tournaments it is so much more rewarding to win it.

“If there is not time for a meaningful County Championship, say [you can only play] three or four games, there is probably not much sense us having it.

“I would rather concentrate on two full tournaments than saying: ‘We have four tournaments that we need to play, let’s get them all in even if we have to shorten them.’ I think you would rather have two tournaments played full length so there is meaningful cricket at the end of it.”

Previously, Essex’s chief executive Derek Bowden had suggested that “there is an opportunity to be creative with the schedule”, raising the possibility of playing a regional four-day competition instead of attempting a Championship season.

“Let’s look at regional four-day cricket, maybe four or five regional competitions with round-robin four-day cricket,” he told Sky Sports.

“Spectators and members would love that and it would also give us some four-day cricket to support England’s Test series in a very tight schedule.

“Essex could play Kent, Middlesex and Surrey, while Yorkshire could play Lancashire, Durham and one other team, maybe Nottinghamshire.”



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Coronavirus outbreak: Heather Knight signs up for NHS volunteer scheme | Cricket

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Heather Knight looks on © Getty Images


England captain Heather Knight has signed up to be a National Health Service (NHS) volunteer during the coronavirus outbreak.

Knight only returned from Australia, where she led England to the semi-finals of the Women’s T20 World Cup, 10 days ago and is now living under the UK’s lockdown rules with her boyfriend in Bristol.

She revealed in her BBC column that she had volunteered for the scheme that will see people support the health service by delivering food and medicine, transporting patients to appointments and making calls to those in isolation.

“I signed up to the NHS’s volunteer scheme as I have a lot of free time on my hands and I want to help as much as I can,” Knight said. “My brother and his partner are doctors, and I have a few friends who work in the NHS, so I know how hard they are working and how difficult it is for everyone.”

More than half a million people signed up when the volunteer programme was announced on Wednesday. The following day, people from around the country took a moment during the evening to applaud the NHS from their residences.

“Standing on our doorstep, joining in the #ClapForCarers was incredible, and getting involved and volunteering will help even more,” Knight said.

“I’m going to get the car out as I’ve volunteered to transport medicine, and also speak to people who are self-isolating. If someone is home alone, you can ring them up and chat. They have had so many people sign up.”

The ECB, meanwhile, has indicated that it could consider installing coronavirus checkpoints and isolation units at grounds, as it examines the possibility of resuming cricket behind closed doors this summer.

Steve Elworthy, the ECB’s director of events, said games would need take place inside a “sterile” environment, likely with fewer than 500 people in the venue. “So it’s how you test them at the gate, the isolation units that you have to put in,” he told the Guardian. “These are considerations we are thinking about.”

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‘Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, our Brian Lara’ – Dwayne Bravo

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Andre Russell is one of the most valuable players in T20 cricket, and now his West Indies team-mate Dwayne Bravo has likened the Jamaican to “our Chris Gayle, our Brian Lara” in T20Is. Bravo’s praise came in the wake of Russell’s impactful return during the two-match T20I series in Sri Lanka, which was also the first series he played for West Indies since being ruled out of the 2019 World Cup due to an injury.

West Indies won the series 2-0 with Russell playing a big hand, scoring 35 off 14 balls in the first T20I and 40 off 14 in the second. The latter was, in particular, a whirlwind knock as Russell packed six sixes to add to the four he hit in the first match, enough to fetch the Player-of-the-Series award.

“He’s the best in the world,” Bravo, who was part of the West Indies side, said in praise of Russell in a chat with Trinidad-based radio station I955 FM on Friday. “It’s the same I used to say of Chris Gayle when Chris Gayle was in his prime – we are happy to have him representing us, we didn’t have to come up and bowl against him in an international match. It’s the same with Andre Russell. Andre Russell now is our Chris Gayle, is our Brian Lara, in the T20 format. He is the superstar.”

The Sri Lanka T20I series was Bravo’s second in the West Indies dressing room after he came out of retirement this January for the home T20I series against Ireland. That series was Bravo’s first international assignment after 2016, the last time he had played for West Indies.

ALSO READ: Who is the MVP across all T20 leagues over the last 12 months?

Despite being the defending T20 World Cup champions, West Indies have been inconsistent in a format where most of their players have become household names. Last November they lost 2-1 to Afghanistan the T20I series played in India. Another 2-1 defeat followed immediately in the T20I series against India. In January this year, they bounced back in the final game of the three-match T20I series against Ireland to level the series 1-1 with one game washed out. Then they started the Sri Lanka tour losing the ODI series 3-0 before winning the T20I series.

According to Bravo, the team management, led by captain Kieron Pollard and head coach Phil Simmons, had acknowledged that there was a lot of work to be done with West Indies preparing to defend their title in the T20 World Cup, scheduled for October-November in Australia this year. Bravo said the team had set itself the bigger goal of making West Indies once again the “dominant” team in world cricket.

“Prior to that [T20I series in Sri Lanka], we weren’t really consistent as a team over the years in T20 cricket,” Bravo said. “With the 3-0 loss in the ODI series, we T20 guys had a chat among ourselves along with the management and made a pledge that we want to start back winning series. We said we wanted to be back being the most dominant team in the T20 format.

“We have produced some of the best players in the world and when we are together in the same team, we have to stamp our authority, and to get the cricketing world to respect West Indies cricket again and especially West Indies’ T20 team. We said, ‘All hands on deck, let’s start with this Sri Lanka series and make sure we send the message.’ Yeah, that’s what we did.”

Bravo said the depth of talent in the West Indies T20 set-up could be gauged from the fact that he, despite being the most experienced player in the squad, had to bat at a position he had never batted at previously. “When the coach wrote the batting line-up, I was down to bat at number nine. I said to the guys, ‘This is the first time I’ve ever been in a T20 team and I’m down to bat at number nine.’

“Putting all egos aside, I’m happy with that because at the end of the day, I accept the fact guys like Rovman Powell and Fabian Allen and [Shimron] Hetmyer, the talent and the ability they have to hit the ball, I’m just happy to be like that – father-figure, mentor, guide, to allow these young boys to go out there and showcase their talent to the world. All of us are on the same page, no egos in the dressing room, one common goal to just win cricket games and dominate.”



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