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The Wellington wind: ‘It’s a challenge to control the backlift’ – Ajinkya Rahane

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In the lead-up to the Wellington Test, a lot has been made of how much the city’s famous wind could affect the cricket. Ajinkya Rahane scored his maiden Test hundred here, six years ago, and he remembers having to tussle quite a bit with the wind whipping his bat this way and that in his backlift.

“That was a really special moment for me, getting that hundred,” Rahane said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday. “I remember that my backlift was changing because of the wind and that was a challenge to control my backlift. Sometimes you’ve got to play with low backlift and you have got to change your guard maybe, and play accordingly.

“I keep watching my maiden hundred. This is a new challenge, playing after four-five years. That [India] team was a comparatively young team. My record in New Zealand is good but I need to stay in the present to do well for my team.”

Rahane went on to elaborate on the effect of the wind on batsmen. “If the wind is coming from behind you, it pushes your bat on the outward plane, while if it comes from in front it pushes it inside,” he said. “So you have to think about how to adjust for that, or even reduce the backlift. If the wind is stronger from in front, it pushes the backlift really [further] back than you want it to go. So I have to think about the stance and also the backlift, especially in Wellington.

“In Wellington, when you are batting at the non-striker’s end, you look around this scenic ground and it makes you relax”

Ajinkya Rahane

“Technically, you need to play close to the body, play the ball later, and play the ball in the middle of the body, especially in the initial period.”

Chats with Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid, Rahane revealed, had helped him prepare for the wind.

“(The) breeze factor in so important in Wellington,” he said. “I remember talking to Tendulkar and Dravid and they said the same thing – batting in Wellington is different, even if you try to ignore it, if you don’t give it importance, it might be just 1% but it is very important.

“You cannot simulate the wind in the nets. As a batsman, it is instinctive in the middle, and you need to trust yourself and not be scared of altering it (backlift). You need back yourself and also need to communicate with your partner and trust what he says to you as well.”

Basin Reserve is one of the prettier grounds in Test cricket, with Mount Victoria in the background. Rahane says the picturesque surrounds help him switch off when he’s at the non-striker’s end.

“When you are batting, there are so many thoughts in your mind,” he said. “In Wellington, when you are batting at the non-striker’s end, you look around this scenic ground and it makes you relax. The pressure is reduced and I like that because it distracts me from constantly thinking about cricket. If my focus is diverted to the surroundings when I’m at the non-striker’s end, then when I get on strike I can use all my focus, energy and remain fresh while facing the ball.”



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Coronavirus: Adelaide Strikers chief among 23 SACA job losses

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Steve Baldas, the Adelaide Strikers general manager, is among 16 members of staff and seven contractors made redundant by the South Australian Cricket Association (SACA) as it became the first state cricket association to reduce the size of its operation amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The SACA’s cost-cutting, announced to its members on Thursday night, is linked to the vast downturn in projected revenue for the Adelaide Oval after the AFL season was suspended due to health risks, with the association a joint partner in the management of the multi-purpose stadium with the SANFL.

SACA and SANFL finances are further complicated by the need to help repay a A$42 million state government-guaranteed loan to the Stadium Management Authority for the construction of a new hotel at Adelaide Oval, in time for the 2020 men’s Twenty20 World Cup later this year.

Other measures confirmed by the SACA president Andrew Sinclair included the reduction of salaries by 20% among remaining staff across the board, including on the executive team led by the CEO Keith Bradshaw. The association has also frozen the search for a new coach of the Redbacks men’s state team, after Jamie Siddons departed his post by mutual agreement.

Two experienced coaches remain in the SACA system, with Jason Gillespie contracted as coach of the Strikers and the former Australia coach Tim Nielsen still on board as high performance manager.

ALSO READ: ‘Have to keep an eye’ on players and staff living alone – Justin Langer

The departure of Baldas, formerly the chief executive of Tennis SA, after one season, has taken place at the same time Cricket Australia looks closely into the declining fortunes of the Big Bash League entering its 10th season, including the presentation of a competition review by the highly regarded broadcasting director and executive Dave Barham.

The Strikers finished third at the end of the 14-game BBL regular season behind the Melbourne Stars and Sydney Sixers, before being eliminated in a knockout final at Adelaide Oval by the fifth-placed Sydney Thunder.

“These decisions have not been made lightly – people are our number one priority,” Sinclair said in a message to members. “However, we need to act in the best interests of SACA as we face one of the toughest times in our 149-year history. We will continue to plan for next year’s cricket season, with the hope that we can all return to normality as soon as possible.

“It is now apparent that SACA’s financial operating position has been, and will continue to be, severely affected as this situation continues. While we are now in the cricket ‘off-season’, the shutdown of Adelaide Oval (and all associated match/event revenues) impacts us significantly as a fifty per cent joint-venture partner in the Adelaide Oval Stadium Management Authority.

“As a response, SACA has been forced to implement significant cost-saving measures. The focus of these measures is to ensure that we can continue to operate and that we can get back to our role of providing cricket programs and matches across South Australia when conditions improve.”

Other states have not yet announced similar cuts, and all have somewhat different financial arrangements either directly tied to memberships, as is the case with the SACA and the WACA, or different models in New South Wales and Victoria where the SCG Trust and the Melbourne Cricket Club hold the memberships to watch matches at each state’s principal venue.

CA, which under its financial model provides an annual grant to each of the state associations for the running of their businesses and the development of cricket in each state, has indicated that its intent is to absorb the shock of the coronavirus pandemic into the business without resorting to staff cuts.



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Lauren Winfield, Amy Jones stuck in Australia due to coronavirus pandemic

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England women cricketers Lauren Winfield and Amy Jones are both stuck in Australia with worldwide travel restrictions in force due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Winfield was in Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef, celebrating her honeymoon after her marriage to long-term partner Courtney Hill. Jones was in Perth. Both have found themselves stranded in Australia, and are currently unable to return home with borders closing.

“I was supposed to fly home on Friday,” Winfield told The Independent. “But my flight has been cancelled. Everything through Dubai, Emirates, has been cancelled for the next two weeks. They are reassessing in two weeks’ time. But rumours are it could be up to two to three months. At the minute I have a flight on the 8th (April), but I feel like that’s just going to come around and it’ll get pushed back and back.”

Winfield said, meanwhile, that she and Jones had made a pact not to leave the other behind when they finally get to travel back home.

The report also said the ECB had sent in a ‘care package’ with dumbbells, kettlebells and protein bars along with a program to follow. But Winfield was still uncertain about the impact of having no cricket for an extended time, pointing out that while The Hundred was the obvious focus given it’s money-spinning potential, the England team needed to play ODI cricket too.

“It’s really nerve-wracking times. Essentially you could be wasting a year of your career,” Winfield said. “The talks are obviously about The Hundred which is the money-maker, but from an England point of view, we need to play 50-over cricket. And for me I’ve been in and out of teams and not faced too many balls over the last few competitive months. We’re kind of all just floating along and it’s certainly not easy.”



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Ollie Rayner confirms retirement after Middlesex release

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Ollie Rayner, the offspinner who won the County Championship with Middlesex in 2016, has confirmed his retirement from cricket at the age of 34 after his release at the end of last season.

Rayner, a tall spinner with an orthodox action, took 51 wickets at 23.56 in Middlesex’s title-winning team in 2016, but was consigned to a holding role in the following three seasons and was twice sent out on loan after falling down the pecking order behind Ravi Patel and Nathan Sowter.

Intriguingly, both those loan spells were to Division One counties (Hampshire in 2018 and Kent in 2019) while Middlesex were in the second tier, demonstrating the high regard in which he was held elsewhere but also a breakdown in his relationship with the club.

Confirming his retirement in an interview with wisden.com, Rayner revealed that he only found out he had been put on the loan list last season when he was called by Kent “telling me they were looking forward to having me on loan”.

“I was like: ‘Hold on a sec, I’ve got to talk to my family.’ There were things that definitely could have been done better.”

Rayner also said that playing under Dawid Malan‘s captaincy from 2018 onwards was “very hard work”, suggesting that he never felt as though he had been given enough opportunity to impress. Malan left Middlesex at the end of last season, and since his departure several players have indicated that the dressing room had been a difficult place under his leadership.

“I didn’t always see eye to eye with Dawid,” Rayner said. “We had a chat at the end of last season and I said that if he goes to Yorkshire he should just stay out of the politics and get on with his batting because he’s a fine player. If he can do that he’ll go far.

“I haven’t necessarily got any animosity there, but that relationship didn’t really help me personally in my progression.”

Rayner previously detailed his frustrations about the plight of the English spin bowler in a 2015 article for ESPNcricinfo, in which he said “it is not easy being an English spin bowler at this moment in time”, and his case was backed up by his use in 2018, when he went unused in five of the nine Championship games he played.

ALSO READ: The plight of the English spin bowler

“Over the last few years I’ve been renowned as steady Ollie; I’ve offered a lot of control in what have been seamer-friendly conditions – I don’t think I thrived under that.

“It just clicked in 2016. I just felt so backed. In my career when I’ve had my best years it’s when I’ve been used as an attacking option.

“That year they were dependent on me for breaking partnerships. Adam Voges was brilliant in that he’d bowl me before lunch, and when you bowl well you stay on and earn the right.”

Rayner ended his career with 313 first-class wickets to his name at 33.26 apiece, plus a further 53 in List A cricket and 41 in T20s.

He started his career at Sussex, making a handful of first-team appearances in the side that won the Pro40 (2008, 2009), the Twenty20 Cup (2009) and Division Two of the Championship (2010) before joining Middlesex, initially on loan, in 2011.

He spent the 2013-14 and 2016-17 winters on England Lions tours, and was perhaps unfortunate to miss out on the Test tours to Bangladesh and India in 2016-17 having been overlooked for Zafar Ansari and Gareth Batty. Aside from the Championship win, his finest hour came at The Oval in 2013, when his 15-wicket haul sealed a memorable win against Surrey.



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