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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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Australia scheduled to return to action with ODIs against Zimbabwe | Cricket

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Australia could return to international action in August with a three-match ODI series against Zimbabwe penciled into the schedule in the northern parts of the country.

The series, which like all Australia’s fixtures for the 2020-21 season which have been announced is subject to change dependent on the Covid-19 situation, is also set to see them play their first international in the northern Queensland city of Townsville.

The first two matches of the series – which begins on August 9 – are still to have venues confirmed but Darwin is the favoured location.

Townsville has previously hosted ODI and T20I cricket between 2014 and 2016 involving Papua New Guinea, Hong Kong and Ireland. Outside of the 2015 World Cup, the last time Zimbabwe played in Australia was the 2004 tri-series.

Details of the main part of the Australia season, the visit of India, emerged yesterday with four Tests slated for Brisbane, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney following a one-off Test against Afghanistan in Perth.

Australia’s women’s team is set to begin their season in late September with a visit by New Zealand for T20I and ODI series. They are then due to play India in an ODI series in mid-January that would provide preparation for the World Cup in New Zealand.

The men’s side has two T20I series scheduled against West Indies and India in early October but they are due to act as a warm-up for the T20 World Cup and could yet be moved if that tournament is postponed as expected. The West Indies matches are down for Townsville, Cairns and the Gold Coast.

The home international season will conclude with a visit by New Zealand’s men’s team for three ODIs and a T20I.

“While acknowledging the difficulty in navigating a global pandemic, we are nonetheless encouraged by the progress Australia is making in combatting the coronavirus and the positive impact that is having on our ability to host an exciting summer of cricket in 2020-21,” Cricket Australia chief executive Kevin Roberts said.  

“We know that circumstances or events beyond our control could mean that the final schedule potentially may look different to the one released today, but we’ll be doing everything we can to get as much international cricket in as possible this summer. We will communicate any changes to the schedule if or when they are required.

“We are engaged in ongoing discussions with federal and state governments, our venues and the touring nations to continually understand and monitor the situation in front of us, which is evolving every day. We’ll continue to act in accordance with public health advice and government protocols to ensure the safety of the public, players and support staff.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo


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India Test snub a broken promise, says WACA chief executive Christina Matthews

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Cricket Australia’s decision to bypass Perth for India’s four-match Test series this summer left the WACA chief executive Christina Matthews and chairman Terry Waldron fuming on Thursday.

According to the West Australia cricket chiefs, they were promised a guaranteed top-line Test every year once Perth Stadium replaced the WACA Ground as the state’s prime international venue. The new stadium has hosted India and New Zealand successfully for Test matches over the past two seasons, but this time Perth is left with the inaugural Test match between Australia and Afghanistan. The match is contracted to be hosted by Perth Stadium, though the WACA Ground has been refurbished to host “non-marquee” international fixtures. CA is set to formally announce the international fixture on Friday but Matthews and Waldron made their irritation plain.

“This is the second time we haven’t had India scheduled, the last time we were told it was because our venue wasn’t good enough and if we supported a new stadium, this would never happen again, and here we are again,” Matthews said in Perth. “I want to make it clear, hosting a Test is a privilege, not a right and we understand that, and we’re as privileged to host Afghanistan as anyone else and we’ll certainly put on a really good show and welcome Afghanistan to the Test arena in Australia.

“But suffice to say, not having India tour here for the second time in six years is very disappointing for us, for our members, for our fans, and I daresay for the government who has put in a lot of time and effort into creating a stadium that has been recognised around the world as the most beautiful stadium in the world and in fact, was rated as the second-best cricket ground in Australia in a survey. So we’ve been a little bit bemused and disappointed how we haven’t been scheduled for one of the prime series in the cricket calendar.

“The government invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to make Perth Stadium cricket friendly from the start, so all the facilities for cricket were built into that, and at the time Cricket Australia gave a guarantee to the government that they would absolutely be utilising that stadium to its fullest. Also, we have over 10,000 members, who year after year invest in cricket. Rusted on fans are here, the crowds are better, the facilities are better, the corporate hospitality has more flexibility and more potential. So to us, it doesn’t quite pass the pub test.”

Waldron, who became the WACA chairman last year, described the decision as a “kick in the guts”. “I just want to say as chair of the WACA and on behalf of the WACA and all cricket lovers in WA, I’m really disappointed in this decision,” he said. “I actually think it’s the wrong decision, we made a really compelling case, along with the government to CA, I looked at that again this morning, and when I went through it, I just can’t understand why they’d make that decision.

“I do understand it’s difficult for CA, they have to make the call and we will now pick up the cudgels and we’ll get on with it. Afghanistan are an exciting, emerging team. But I am disappointed and I actually think it is a kick in the guts to WA, to all our cricket-loving people in WA and to our WACA members. When you’ve got one of the best stadiums in the world and when you’ve got the second-best cricket venue, the time slot back to India for TV etc, to me it’s a no brainer.

“I understand it’s a tough decision for CA, good luck to Queensland and we wish them all the best. We’ll keep putting the pressure on because I, as chairman of the WACA, and Christine and our team, we’ve got a responsibility to cricket in WA, to cricket supporters, to fans and to our members.”

It has long been the strong preference of the Australian Test team to begin major series at the Gabba, something pointed out more than once by the captain Tim Paine in reference to India, who played the 2018-19 Test series in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. Brisbane’s facilities are nowhere near those of the new Perth Stadium, but CA have also made a strong commercial case for choosing the Gabba as the venue for the series opener.

“We’ve been told commercially Brisbane is more viable for Australian cricket and that over an eight-year touring period from 2015 to 2023, WA has a better schedule than anyone else. I’m not really privy to what’s going to happen in the next three years, but they were the key reasons,” Matthews said. “This is not about Brisbane or the Gabba. They, like us, have to fight for their fans and their cricket community, however, all the metrics associated with cricket over the last two years see us surpass Brisbane in every area.

“Whether that’s crowds, broadcast ratings, even better rainfall at that time of year, more corporate seats. Just so many indicators and a brand new stadium and when Australian cricket’s primary objective is fans first, it is astounding the 10,000 members who pay money to support cricket year after year in this state, are not rewarded the No. 1 Test team to tour next year. It seems to me anything west of Melbourne doesn’t get the same consideration as anything around the east coast.”

Asked about the financial cost of hosting Afghanistan rather than India, Matthews said that WACA memberships alone may slip down to the tune of up to A$4 million on the state association’s balance sheet. “We hope our members will continue to support us, but we have to factor in, that could be a A$3-4 million hit on memberships alone,” she said. “Those things are not considered when these decisions are made. They’re not necessarily looking at the hardcore cricket fans when they’re making those decisions. You have a couple of days to digest and then you move on… [but] I think when we see India fly across the top of us to the other side of the country, we might shed a little tear.”



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Australians who could have IPL-state cricket clash

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With the prospect of the T20 World Cup taking place this year becoming increasingly unlikely, there is the growing talk of the postponed IPL taking its slot in some capacity. If that is the case, it would present a significant clash with the early stages of Australia’s domestic season. Here is a look at the players who would probably miss state duties to take up their IPL deals.

+ donates Cricket Australia contracted player

Alex Carey (South Australia/Delhi Capitals) +

Australia’s limited-overs wicketkeeper has previously spoken about the challenge of building his red-ball game with ODI and T20 duty often keeping him out of the Sheffield Shield. Depending on the length of any IPL overlap with the Australian season, he could again miss a significant chunk of games, especially if the Shield season is also reduced due to Covid-19-related cuts. From South Australia’s point of view, they would lose a senior figure at a time when they are looking to rebuild under a new head coach who is yet to be named.

Nathan Coulter-Nile (TBC/Mumbai Indians)

Less than a year after being in the World Cup squad, Coulter-Nile dropped off the CA contract list and that is likely to signal the end of his international career. It has also been reported that he is set to miss the Western Australia list but may sign up for another state. Else he could well see his future as being in T20 leagues.

Pat Cummins (New South Wales/Kolkata Knight Riders) +

One of four New South Wales players with IPL contracts who the state is used to not seeing due to their international commitments. Cummins, who set a record as the most expensive overseas player with a US$2.2 million deal, played one Shield match before the Test season last year and it could be something similar in 2020-21 if the IPL does find a home in October.

Aaron Finch (Victoria/Royal Challengers Bangalore) +

As ODI and T20I captain, Finch is another whose international duties can limit appearances for Victoria but although his brief Test career is behind him, he would no doubt be an asset to their top order when available.

Josh Hazlewood (New South Wales/Chennai Super Kings)

Unlike Cummins, he is not part of Australia’s T20I set-up so he would potentially be available a little more for New South Wales outside of Test duty but is now back in the ODI team. Last season he played two Shield matches before the series against Pakistan and New Zealand

Mitchell Marsh (Western Australia/Sunrisers Hyderabad) +

Marsh is eager to restate his credentials to be Australia’s Test allrounder after missing the first half of last season having broken his hand punching the dressing room wall and then earning a recall to the limited-overs side, which meant he only made one Shield appearance. Having regained his CA contract last month, Marsh is one of four Western Australia players with an IPL deal.

Glenn Maxwell (Victoria/Kings XI Punjab) +

One of the gun T20 players in the world, Maxwell’s chances of forcing his way back into Test contention are probably gone but he remains a player who can add plenty of value to Victoria’s four-day side when available and would be a lock for the Marsh Cup.

Josh Philippe (Western Australia/Royal Challengers Bangalore)

One of the rising stars in Australian cricket, it is T20s where Philippe has really caught the attention and had a superb 2019-2020 Big Bash as he helped the Sydney Sixers to the title. He also played five Shield matches last season and was settling into a middle-order role in the second half of the campaign.

Kane Richardson (South Australia/Royal Challengers Bangalore) +

Not a regular in South Australia’s Shield team – he has played taken just two first-class wickets in three games over the last two seasons – amid selection, injury and Australia limited-overs duty but he would be part of the Marsh Cup side.

Steven Smith (New South Wales/Rajasthan Royals) +

New South Wales enjoyed having Smith around for the early part of last season as he scored two hundreds in three matches to help put them on course for their eventual title. But they also have a batting order that knows how to manage without big names.

Billy Stanlake (Queensland/Sunrisers Hyderabad)

Stanlake’s chances of being part of the T20 World Cup squad appeared to have drifted away after he dropped out of the side following the early-season matches against Sri Lanka and Pakistan last year then endured a poor Big Bash for the Adelaide Strikers. The four Shield matches he played last year represent half his career total although eight wickets at 38.62 showed he remained a work in progress.

Marcus Stoinis (Western Australia/Delhi Captials)

Stoinis lost his CA contract last month despite a record-breaking Big Bash for the Melbourne Stars and faces a challenge to resurrect his international career. He has spoken of the desire to push for a Test slot – he was briefly part of the squad in the 2018-19 season – but a batting average of 30.61 and bowling return of 34.50 in eight matches last season did not hammer down the door. If he and Marsh are both at the IPL, there could be a lot on Cameron Green’s plate in the allrounder role for Western Australia if he is allowed to bowl again.

Andrew Tye (Western Australia/Rajasthan Royals)

Very much a white-ball specialist having not played a first-class game since 2018, Tye had a truncated 2019-2020 season after suffering an elbow injury which meant he did not play after October and missed the entire BBL. Was part of Western Australia’s Marsh Cup side before injury struck.

David Warner (New South Wales/Sunrisers Hyderabad) +

Like Smith, Warner had an impact for New South Wales during his brief Shield appearances last season with a crucial century at the Gabba to set up an opening victory. But once again, New South Wales may not see much of him.

Other Australians at the IPL

Chris Green (Kolkata Knight Riders), Chris Lynn (Mumbai Indians) and Shane Watson (Chennai Super Kings) were also due to be involved in the Shield tournament but they do not have state contracts. Green and Lynn have BBL deals – with Sydney Thunder and Brisbane Heat respectively – while Watson no longer players in Australian domestic cricket.



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