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Back the big-hitters, bank on Shane Watson and Colin Munro



February 11: Quetta Gladiators v Islamabad United in Karachi

NOTE: We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates

Our XI: Shane Watson, Colin Ingram, Luke Ronchi, Colin Munro, Ahsan Ali, Asif Ali, Mohammad Nawaz, Shadab Khan, Naseem Shah, Mohammad Hasnain, Rumman Raees

Captain: Shane Watson

Watson has been among the top run-getters in the last two seasons of PSL. He topped the list last year and was the fifth-highest run-scorer in 2018. He has scored 96 runs at a strike rate of 145.45 in his last two innings against Islamabad.

Vice-captain: Colin Ingram

Ingram recorded the highest individual score (127*) in PSL history last season. The century came against the Gladiators under tremendous pressure. Even as a middle-order batsman, he was never dismissed by spin in PSL 2019. In fact, he scored 139 runs of 75 balls without getting dismissed by spinners.

Hot picks

Colin Munro

Munro has been in red-hot form, scoring 188 runs at a strike rate of 131 in the recently-concluded five-match T20I series against India. Munro is a good pick against the Gladiators pace attack.

Mohammad Hasnain

Hasnain was the third-highest wicket-taker for the Gladiators last season, picking up 12 wickets in seven games. He is also in great form, having picked up 15 wickets in his last six domestic limited-overs games.

Value picks

Ahsan Ali

Ali scored 178 runs in eight matches for the Gladiators at a strike rate of 130 last season. He also made his T20I debut against Bangladesh a few weeks back on the back of some good form in domestic cricket.

Naseem Shah

The 16-year old quick recently has been impressive for Pakistan since his debut, and he recently became the youngest bowler to bag a Test hat-trick. He is a must-pick in the T20 format as well.

Point to note

In PSL 2019, the average first-innings score in Karachi was 184 and teams batting first won five out of eight games.

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Forced break a ‘welcome rest’ for India players – Ravi Shastri



The cricket world has come to a standstill with all international and domestic fixtures being called off due to the outbreak of COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) across the globe, but according to India coach Ravi Shastri this break is a “welcome rest” as far as India players are concerned.

Talking to Michael Atherton, Nasser Hussain and Rob Key on a Sky Sports podcast, Shastri said it was a good time for the players to re-energise themselves, especially after a long New Zealand tour where India played five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests.

“[This rest] cannot be a bad thing because towards the end of the New Zealand tour, you could see some cracks coming up when it came to mental fatigue, physical fitness and injuries,” Shastri said. “The amount of cricket we have played over the last ten months, that was beginning to take its toll. Guys like me, and some other guys from the support staff, we left India on May 23 for the World Cup in England. Since then we have been at home for 10 or 11 days.

“There are certain players who played all three formats, so you can imagine the toll it has taken on them, especially being on the field, adjusting from T20s to Test match cricket and all the travel that goes with that because we travelled quite a lot. After England, we went to the West Indies, then played South Africa here [in India]. We had a season of two and a half months here and then again went off to New Zealand. So it has been tough but a welcome rest for players.”

India is currently in a 21-day lockdown which started on March 25. As per Shastri, the team anticipated such measures would be taken to enforce social-distancing when South Africa’s tour of India was called off just before the second ODI in Lucknow.

“It came as a shock but to be honest, having been on the road during the South Africa series, we guys anticipated it,” he said. “We knew something was on the cards as the disease had just started spreading. When the second ODI was called off, we knew something was gonna happen and a lockdown was imminent.

“I think the players knew it was coming, they sensed it in New Zealand. There were apprehensions towards the end of that tour, when flights were coming through Singapore, out of Singapore. By the time we landed [in India], I thought we got out at just the right time. There were only two cases in New Zealand at that time, that has rocketed now to 300. The day we landed, that was the first day they were screening and testing people at the airport. So [we came back] just in the nick of the time.”

Shastri agreed that in such a situation, players could play a great role by spreading awareness about this pandemic. “As players, you have a lot of responsibility,” he said. “That’s why the message is very clear that cricket should be last on everyone’s mind now,” he said. “I think the most important thing is safety and not ensuring just your safety but ensuring safety others as well, by creating a kind of awareness that tells people there is something serious around.

“Virat has done it, a lot of other players have done it by posting certain messages on social media. So it’s imperative but all the players were very, very calm. They knew that it’s something very serious and there could be a hold up in cricket for some time.”

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Pakistan players free to take part in four T20 leagues a year



The PCB has confirmed a massive change to their policy, allowing both international and domestically contracted players to take part in a maximum of four T20 leagues a year, including the PSL.

The earlier policy, which was introduced in 2018, had restricted player participation in several leagues, but as ESPNcricinfo reported last month, the PCB decided to put it up for review for the very first time.

Pakistan’s players are already among the lowest-paid professionals in world cricket, and aren’t allowed to take part in the IPL. The old policy had added to the uncertainty, with players often given NOCs for an entire tournament, only to be pulled out by the PCB midway to return home and either join national camps or undergo fitness tests. That sparked frustration and discontent among the leading white-ball cricketers and emboldened them to revolt against PCB’s restrictive participation policy on foreign leagues.

“I think this is a flexible, balanced and comprehensive NOC policy which addresses as many of the likely scenarios that we will face,” Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive officer said on Friday. “We have given primacy and importance to player workload, international and domestic commitments, but at the same time it was important that players are given the opportunities to make additional earnings and develop their skills around the world.”

The 19 Pakistan national players with central contracts will now go to the International Cricket Operations department to get their NOCs going forward. They will also need permission from the head coach or the team management, who are well placed to assess a player’s workload and international commitments. “As per NOC policies around the world, the Chief Executive of the Board will then be the final approving authority at the final stage of the process,” the PCB’s policy says.

Domestic players will have to go through one extra layer of red tape. They will have to reach out to their provincial associations for the initial consent and approval and only then will their cases be taken up by Cricket Operations department. In addition, the PCB policy says, “domestic players, who don’t feature in red-ball cricket but are white-ball regulars, it is has been made mandatory for them to commit to domestic 50-over and 20-over competitions in order to be eligible for NOCs.”

One major bone of contention between the players and the board about the earlier policy was about how even retired players had to seek an NOC to play in an overseas league. But now the board has decided it will automatically issues NOCs to everyone who has been “retired for 24 months or more, unless there are compelling reasons which the PCB will provide in writing”.

“I am optimistic that moving forward, all the relevant stakeholders will have clarity and a better understanding of the process,” Khan said about the change. “To ensure that we maintain our relationships with cricket boards around the world, once granted, NOC’s will only be revoked if there are any injury concerns, or there are international or domestic playing obligations that need to be fulfilled.”

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New Leicestershire chief executive Sean Jarvis joins from Huddersfield Town



Leicestershire have announced that board director Sean Jarvis will become their new chief executive in June following the departure of Karen Rothery after only 12 months in the role.

Jarvis will take up his new position on June 24 after completing a 14-year stint at Huddersfield Town FC, where he was commercial director.

“The county is in my DNA and I am honoured to be becoming the chief executive officer of Leicestershire County Cricket Club,” Jarvis said. “I look forward to working with the new board and all of the staff on developing a new and exciting chapter for our cricket club.

“The challenge ahead is not going to be easy but with hard work, commitment and the continued support of our stakeholders, members, supporters and local businesses, I am sure that our future will be much brighter.”

ALSO READ: Ackermann named Leicestershire captain

Rothery described 2018-19 as “another challenging year” for the club soon before her departure, having reported an operating loss of £132,000, but the club expects a return to profitability for the 2019-20 financial year, and recently secured a £1.75m loan from Leicester City Council.

On the pitch, they struggled in all formats last season, winning the County Championship’s wooden spoon and propping up the north group in both the One-Day Cup and the T20 Blast. Tellingly, the club was unable to field an overseas player throughout the T20 campaign due to financial constraints.

Jarvis was described as a “key commercial strategist” on the club’s board of directors over the past year in a press release. Huddersfield’s chairman Phil Hodgkinson thanked him for his “big contribution” at the club.

During his time at Huddersfield, Jarvis was responsible for a commercial partnership with bookmakers Paddy Power in 2019, which attracted national attention after the club wore shirts with the brand’s name in huge font in a sash design in a pre-season friendly. The stunt earned the club a £50,000 fine.

Leicestershire chair Mehmooda Duke said: “We are delighted to welcome Sean to the club as our new chief executive officer.

“Sean has a wide skillset which he has evidenced as a board director over the last 12 months; he comes with a wealth of experience in sport which I am sure will help drive Leicestershire County Cricket Club to a promising future. Sean will be an asset to us and we look forward to him starting in June.”

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