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Atul Bedade suspended as Baroda women coach

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Baroda has indefinitely suspended Atul Bedade, the head coach of the state’s women’s team, pending an inquiry into allegations including those of sexual harassment.

A letter from the Baroda Cricket Association (BCA) to Bedade, which has been viewed by ESPNcricinfo, didn’t list specific allegations against him, but noted their nature: “Personal comments on physicality”, “Comments that discourage the morale of team members”, “Angry outbursts unbecoming of a women’s team coach and using unparliamentary language that is not accepted of a person in-charge”, and “Behaviour oblivious of gender sensitivity”.

Ajit Lele, the BCA secretary, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that the association’s apex committee would form a probe committee to look into the allegations against Bedade. With the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic putting cricket operations on hold globally, it is not yet certain when the probe committee will be formed.

The 53-year-old Bedade, who played 13 ODIs for India in the 1990s, took over as the Baroda women coach in April 2019.

ESPNcricinfo has reached out to Bedade for comment, and will update this story should he provide one. Meanwhile, Sportstar has quoted him as saying he is “not in a position to comment on the matter. I have just received the suspension letter this evening and it’s surprising.”



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‘I think we will have some form of IPL this year’ – Rajasthan Royals owner

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With number of infected cases due to the COVID-19 pandemic on the rise in India, Manoj Badale, majority owner at Rajasthan Royals, feels the prospect of a “shortened” tournament is increasing, but even that would be subject to collaboration between the BCCI and other cricket boards.

Badale also said that he would prefer some form of IPL this year, including a version that is played just between the Indian players in case their overseas counterparts cannot join in.

Responding to the directives from the Indian government recently, the BCCI postponed the IPL until April 15. A prompt start, though, looks highly unlikely with the world’s second-most populous country under lockdown till April 14 to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 800,000 people worldwide.

The BCCI had met the IPL owners earlier this month to update them on the plans to keep the tournament alive. The owners were also told they would be on a weekly call to review the situation as it develops, but the lockdown has complicated matters.

Talking to BBC Worldservice last weekend, Badale admitted that the IPL “pales into insignificance in terms of things we should be really be thinking about right now,” but pointed out the owners had been in touch with BCCI to find a solution.

“We have a number of calls as owners with the BCCI to talk about what those plans might be, but it is clearly going to be postponed and it is unclear at this stage whether or not it takes place later this year,” he said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in India is currently over 1200, including 32 deaths, but the country is bracing for a surge in those numbers. Badale, who lives in the UK, which is one of the pandemic’s hot spots with over 1000 deaths, said India would not be able to escape the “profound” impact of this disease.

Asked about the possibility of the BCCI deferring the IPL and carving out another window later this year, Badale said: “The cricket calendar is so packed. There are very few gaps especially for a seven-week tournament, so I suspect even if a gap can be found, it would have to be a shorter tournament.

“And the uniqueness of the IPL is it gets the very, very best around the world so it is not just a collaboration between the BCCI, the owners and the Indian government, you need the collaboration of the other cricket boards as well. Because what makes the IPL special is the presence of not just the Kohlis and the Dhonis, but also the Stokeses and the Warners and the Butlers.”

With every cricket board being forced to postpone their bilateral and domestic events, it is unlikely they would grant permission for their key players to participate even in a shortened IPL if it were to be played later this year. Would the Royals be happy to feature in an event comprising just Indian players?

“If it was a choice of no IPL or a domestic player-only IPL I would choose the latter,” Badale said. He also insisted it would be possible to make up some “very compelling teams” with just the Indian players although his preference was for a combination of the “very best in the world” with the “very best in India.”

“I think we will have some form of tournament this year. It will probably be a shortened tournament,” Badale added. “As long as people are prepared to be creative and as long as boards are prepared to work together collaboratively, it [IPL] is hugely important to the game of cricket. It is not just of importance to the Indians that the IPL takes place.

“It is important for the whole game. It is [important] economically for some of the best players in the world. It is economically meaningful for the event organisers and for the broadcasters that participate. So the trickle down effect of a tournament as big as the IPL not taking place in terms of its impact on more than just the players but (also) all the people whose livelihoods depend on it is pretty significant. So we have a responsibility to try and a find a way of playing it if we possibly can.”

The IPL has previously been able to adjust to difficult circumstances like in 2009 when the entire tournament had to take place in South Africa because it coincided with India’s general elections. For the same reason, part of the 2014 edition was shifted to the UAE at short notice.



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“India’s domestic structure five years behind Australia, England” – Harmanpreet Kaur

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Fitness, fielding and finding two or three good fast bowlers are India’s focus areas looking ahead to next year’s 50-over Women’s World Cup in New Zealand. This is the assessment of Harmanpreet Kaur, who also insists T20I captaincy isn’t a burden despite her lean returns with the bat recently.

“Now the players are getting more aware about being fit and following the right daily routines,” Kaur told Mumbai Mirror. “The things we have grasped in last two-three years, England and Australia have been doing from long before.”

Kaur believes India’s domestic structure is “five-six years behind” Australia and England, but adds that increasing awareness and popularity of women’s cricket, central contracts and better facilities are starting to make a difference.

“Definitely we are five-six years behind them in these aspects,” she said. “But now girls have understood their responsibility towards being fit. Earlier there used to be huge difference between a domestic player and what is expected at international level. But now some 30 girls are given individual programme by the BCCI.

“The captaincy keeps me alert all the time. Earlier, I used to think about my performance alone. Captaincy has made me a better person”

“So when one of them is picked for India, she is not clueless of what is expected of her. As we keep improving our domestic level, the performances at international level will improve. That is why I said we are five-six years behind these teams because our domestic set-up is not as good as it should be.”

Kaur says India are at par with the top sides in terms of skills, and the increased focus on fitness has helped them beat sides like England and Australia, like at the T20 World Cup and the tri-series prior to that.

“Just the fitness. In these two countries fitness is part of their culture. Unfortunately, in India we start these things late,” Kaur told The Week. “For the last three years the girls have been working hard on fitness. It does not improve overnight, we need to work on it for longer durations. Earlier, we would come close to these teams and lose, but now we are winning matches against them. Skill-wise we are better batters and bowlers than these two countries.”

Fitness and fielding aside, Kaur underlined the need to become less dependent on their spinners. She feels this can happen only if they find “two medium pacers, especially when there are two set batters.” At the T20 World Cup in a February-March, India banked on Shikha Pandey‘s swing, along with their plethora of spin options right through their run that ended in the final, even though conditions did not always favour slow bowlers.

“Cricket-wise definitely not,” she said when asked if that tactic made sense. “But we need to look at our strengths and weaknesses. At present, spin is our strength. Had we focused on grooming medium pacers a year or two back, we would not have had to depend so much on spin.

“We definitely need three medium pacers in the side. But we also need to see if they are good enough. We need to look more on the existing talent in the medium pace department. Hopefully in the next one or two years we will have them ready.”

Kaur’s improving captaincy graph has coincided with a lean patch with the bat. At the T20 World Cup, she finished with scores of 2, 8, 1, 15 and 4. Her previous fifty-plus score in T20Is came over 16 months ago. Her previous ODI half-century came over two years ago, in February 2018 against South Africa.

These have elicited murmurs of whether India will be better off with a change in captaincy in T20Is (the 50-over side is still captained by Mithali Raj). Kaur, however, remains confident and unfazed by the drop in batting numbers.

“From outside it may look like that, but personally I have never felt so,” she said, when asked about the pressures of captaincy. “I really enjoy this part. I feel more involved. The captaincy keeps me alert all the time. Earlier, I used to think about my performance alone. Captaincy has made me a better person. [ Now,] I cannot think only about myself, but [have to think] of other things, too.”



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Misbah hopes to leverage Shadab’s batting ability

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Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan’s head coach and chief selector, has high expectations from Shadab Khan the batsman while saying his bowling still needed “improvement and consistency”.

In addition to legspin, his primary skill, Shadab was in excellent form for Islamabad United in the Pakistan Super League, scoring three-half-centuries in his 263 runs at a strike rate of 159.

“Shadab as an allrounder was a plus for us, especially in white ball cricket,” Misbah told ESPNcricinfo from Lahore. “I think we need a floater in the middle somewhere to join a link between the top order and late middle order.

“His bowling obviously needs improvement and consistency, but he still had couple of good games with the ball. There were some differences in pitches in Pakistan and he played most of our games in Pindi [Rawalpindi], where boundaries are short and the ball doesn’t turn much, so it is difficult for a spinner.

“Against Karachi (Kings) and Lahore (Qalandars), Shadab was good. But overall, wristspinners in T20 cricket with the ability to bat at any number is a leverage. He can field, bowl, bat and can be used anywhere according the situation of the game.”

“In terms of my team performance (Islamabad were languishing at the bottom after 10 games), they didn’t perform as per expectation, but it is part of the game. It does happen and there is a disappointing factor for me but overall it was a good experience.”

While the results weren’t encouraging, Islamabad played out a few close games that they could’ve pulled off at other times with better smarts. They lost to Quetta Gladiators in the final over while defending 188, had a game washed out against Peshawar Zalmi and then lost agains to Zalmi on DLS method. Then they nearly defended 137 against Karachi.

“As far as results go, there were very close margins,” Misbah pointed out. “One game here and there, you are top and losing one crucial game can throw you down at the bottom. Had we won our last game against Karachi we could have finished second. We also had a few rain-affected games. Other than one team, until the last moment, no team was sure about their position of qualification and there was a great sense of competition.”

Team disappointments aside, Misbah was excited by the overall talent pool and the quality of cricket on show. “It showed that Pakistan T20 cricket is going up, the quality is going top notch and have improved from the years which is good for the country and T20 cricket in the country.”

Haider Ali, Khushdil Shah earn Misbah’s praise

In addition to his dual responsibilities for Pakistan, and being head coach of Islamabad, the franchise he captained until his retirement in 2019, Misbah has also had a ringside view of emerging talent from other corners, by simply being engaged in the league.

“It is always good to be involved directly in the circuit,” he said. You get to work with them. Obviously I was with Islamabad, but then there is a bigger pool out there you playing against. Those players who are playing for Pakistan or will be playing in future so it was good learning curve for me.

“There were a lot of players like Haider Ali, who performed very well and he is coming through a proper way – played under-19 and then first-class cricket, scored runs with the ‘A’ team and then proved his worth in T20 cricket as well.

Otherwise, before this stint it appeared as if he wasn’t a T20 player. He’s proved everyone wrong and is an outstanding future prospect. Akif Javed, who hasn’t played much, came in the emerging category and the way he bowled in pressure situations was great.

Azam Khan showed a glimpse that he can be a better player in the future if he works on his fitness. Khushdil Shah was superb. We are thinking about Nos. 5 and 6 (for Pakistan). We need a finisher and Khushdil’s performance in PSL reached a certain level, and he is seriously under consideration. It is a good sign that we have players who are proving the worth and we have readymade players at bench.

Then I saw Umer Khan, the left-arm spinner making waves again for the second season. He is again a good future project. Fakhar Zaman, at the later part of the tournament regained his form, Sharjeel Khan was good in patches but he needs to work very hard on his fitness and to play for Pakistan you need to be on the top of your fitness.

“Seniors like Shoaib Malik also played good innings. Shaheen Shah Afridi was great not only with new ball but in death bowling as well and [is] improving day by day; and with [Mohammad] Amir’s bowling, there were a lot of positives for me to work around a pool of players to make a team. There are future prospects but it’s a matter of time when they are to be lifted and taken with us.”



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