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Iain O’Brien launches fundraising appeal in bid to be reunited with family

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Iain O’Brien, the former New Zealand fast bowler, has launched a funding page in a bid to return to his family.

O’Brien, who now lives with his wife and two daughters near Matlock in England, was visiting his parents in New Zealand when the COVID-19 (novel coronavirus) pandemic struck.

While he has already booked three flights home – some of them eye-wateringly expensive – the airlines subsequently cancelled. The delay in refunding the cost of such bookings has eaten deep into O’Brien’s resources.

ALSO READ: Winfield, Jones stuck in Australia due to pandemic

With infection control also limiting his options for work – he had hoped to raise the funds by picking fruit or as a delivery driver – he has turned to the funding page as a possible solution. With flights now scarce, he is aiming for one costing £2,250 and leaving New Zealand on April 5.

His desperation to return home has been exacerbated by concern for his family’s health. His wife suffers from a lung condition which places her in the category of people especially vulnerable to COVID-19. “This virus could kill her,” he has written on his PayPal page. “I need to get back ASAP to help her out and keep her safe.”

O’Brien knows he will need to undergo a period of isolation when he arrives home – he is intending to stay in a camper van outside his home – but hopes he will then be able to take care of his family’s need for shopping and save his wife any unnecessary exposure. His wife is British and he has residency status.

He is offering, where practical, to repay donors by offering coaching tips or some of his experiences in the game. “If anyone would love a 20 min Skype/vid call,” he wrote, “one on one, talk about all things cricket, politics, sausages, mental health, Sachin, etc… If you’d like that & can spare a couple of $£, message me and we can work out a time.

“Please, only if you can, and allow me to give you something in return.”



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Travis Head’s Sussex contract deferred until 2021

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Sussex have announced that Travis Head‘s contract with the club has been deferred to 2021.

Head, who was due to play across all three formats in the 2020 season, has worked under Sussex’s head coach Jason Gillespie at the Adelaide Strikers, and was set to become the latest in a line of players to represent both teams, after Alex Carey, Chris Jordan, Rashid Khan and Phil Salt.

He had initially been recruited to play for the county last summer, but the move fell through after he was named in Australia’s Ashes squad, meaning Carey was signed instead.

The ECB announced last week that no professional domestic cricket would be played until August 1 at the earliest, and while plans are being drawn up to stage a reduced County Championship and T20 Blast competition, the majority of counties have cancelled or pushed back contracts for their overseas signings due to uncertainty over international travel and as a cost-cutting measure.

Gillespie said that Sussex were “delighted” that Head had committed to playing for the club next year. “It is clear that this season is going to be difficult and we are keen to develop a longer-term relationship between Travis and the club, so this suits both parties,” he said.

“Whilst it is very disappointing, it is clear that there are many difficulties surrounding the 2020 English domestic cricket season and we all agree this is in the best interests of all concerned,” Head said.



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Daren Sammy, Chris Gayle raise voice against racism in wake of George Floyd killing

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Former West Indies captain Daren Sammy and senior batsman Chris Gayle have become the first active cricketers to join a growing number of sports personalities worldwide in publicly raising their voice against the scourge of racism following the custodial killing of George Floyd at the hands of a policeman in Minneapolis.

Sammy, in a series of tweets on Monday, urged both the ICC and cricket boards to stand up against the “injustice” of racism against “people of color”, an issue that his former team-mate Gayle said was prevalent in cricket.

On Tuesday, former Sri Lanka captain Kumar Sangakkara also put out a thread of eight tweets on the issue, saying that the events in the USA were a “powerful lesson to us all”.

Floyd, 46, a black man, died in Minneapolis on May 25 – a death now officially classified as homicide after a white police officer had held him down with his knee on his neck for over eight minutes while he was handcuffed. The incident, captured on video, has sparked widespread, angry protests across the USA.

Several sportspersons have spoken out since then, with basketball great LeBron James putting out a social media post referencing Colin Kaepernick, the NFL quarterback who famously kneeled during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice. On Monday, English Premier League football side Liverpool also “took a knee” while prominent players in the German Bundesliga wore t-shirts in solidarity with the protests.

“Right now if the cricket world not standing against the injustice against people of color after seeing that last video of that foot down the next of my brother you are also part of the problem,” Sammy tweeted.

Sammy said he was “frustrated” that black people continued to suffer on a daily basis and cricket needed to voice its protest. “Can you be part of the change by showing support? @ICC and all the other boards are you guys not seeing what’s happening to ppl like me? Are you not gonna speak against the social injustice against my kind. This is not only about America. This happens everyday.”

The ICC said that it has always condemned racism and had “zero tolerance” towards it. “As part of the Code [of Conduct], the players not only get punished, but also have to go through an education programme to promote a better understanding and awareness of issues directly relevant to the offence that he has committed. There is also a conciliation element to the proceedings,” the ICC told ESPNcricinfo, when approached for a comment. “We have a zero-tolerance policy towards this sort of conduct and it can be punished with a lifetime ban. We provide guidelines to our members and we also make it clear that no discriminatory behaviour of any kind will be tolerated by anyone at the event – staff, media, fans etc.”

The England & Wales Cricket Board (ECB) tweeted a picture of Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid hugging, captioned: “We stand for diversity. We stand against racism.”

Gayle said he had received “racial remarks” during his travels across the globe and that was only because “I’m Black.”

“Racism is not only in football, it’s in cricket, too,” he said. “Even within teams, as a Black man, I get the end of the stick.”

Sangakkara, in turn, called for a “world culture that has no place for ignorance and prejudice”.

Last November, England pace bowler and World-Cup winner Jofra Archer was at the receiving end of a racist comment from a spectator during the Test series in New Zealand. Archer later said that the person contacted him on Instagram. “I will never understand how people feel so freely to say these things to another human being. It baffles me,” Archer said. This January New Zealand Cricket (NZC) confirmed that it had banned a 28-year-old man for two years from attending any cricket in the country following a police investigation into the matter.

Several players have been sanctioned under the ICC’s anti-racism code with former Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed being a prominent recent example. Sarfaraz received a four-match ban last January after he admitted to making a racist comment to South Africa allrounder Andile Phehlukwayo during an ODI in Durban. Nambia allrounder Christi Viljoen was penalised by the ICC in June last year, for “inappropriate” sledges directed towards Uganda players at the T20 World Cup Africa Qualifiers.

Ian Bishop, the former West Indies fast bowler who is now a prominent television commentator, also spoke out on Twitter, saying that the world, in its current state, was in pain and needed help healing.





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Melbourne Renegades chief to report to Melbourne Stars’ chief

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A restructure of Cricket Victoria’s (CV) Big Bash League teams for next season will see the Melbourne Renegades’ general manager reporting to the equivalent figure for the Melbourne Stars. This is a consequence of the clubs having to deal with major downsizing at the state association that has cost 60 jobs.

Both the Stars and Renegades have seen enormous upheaval since featuring in the BBL final in 2018 at Docklands in Melbourne. Both clubs had their boards dissolved and chief executives – Clint Cooper and Stuart Coventry respectively – moved on ahead of the previous season.

In their place, Nick Cummins, the former Cricket Tasmania chief executive, was initially assigned to a BBL head of commercial role that oversaw both clubs. Despite Cummins’ best efforts, it was an inherent conflict that is understood to have caused more than a few furrowed brows over the course of a season in which the Stars reached the BBL grand final once again but the Renegades’ men’s and women’s team results dropped off alarmingly.

Now, the clubs have been restructured once again in line with a raft of staffing cuts at CV, this time placing Cummins in charge of the Stars and the state association’s head of commercial, David Lever, in nominal command of the Renegades.

However, Lever will still report to Cummins, who retains overall control of BBL commercial activities. Commercial returns are another area of considerable concern for CV, as the departures of Cooper and Coventry in particular hastened the exits of the Stars’ major sponsor Optus, hot on the heels of the Renegades’ major sponsor Mars.

The Stars remain coached by David Hussey and the Renegades by Michael Klinger, but there has been a significant reshuffle too in the coaching ranks, as the Stars farewelled their women’s team coach Tim Coyle and the Renegades their women’s coach David Hemp, who had also been the head coach of the Victoria women’s team.

Lachlan Stevens has subsequently moved from a role as Victoria’s men’s assistant coach to head coach of both the Renegades women and the Victorian women’s state side, while Trent Woodhill, who has acted in numerous roles at the Stars, will now combine his post as the club’s list manager with coaching the women’s team.

“It’s a great opportunity and one I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to. I’ve been involved with the Stars for many years now and know the environment and the ethos well,” Woodhill said. “We’re backing ourselves to bounce back from some of the results in recent WBBL seasons. The competition is only getting stronger and we need to be stronger too. I’d certainly like to see a maiden finals appearance this season and win the title but there is plenty of work to do first.”

Andrew Lynch remains list manager of the Renegades and CV head of selectors. Lynch and Woodhill also report into the CV general cricket manager Shaun Graf. “Trent is well known to everyone at the Stars and in the Big Bash more broadly. I’m pleased he’s accepted this opportunity to move into a Head Coach position with the WBBL squad,” Graf said.

“Trent brings a deep understanding of the game and has demonstrated an ability to think differently and outside the box in the way we prepare elite teams to deliver on the field. I know Trent will be working hard with the current squad and any future new signings to deliver a highly competitive squad ahead of this season.”



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