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CA redundancies looming even as forecasts improve

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A major round of redundancies at Cricket Australia appears only days away as its chief executive Kevin Roberts maintained his insistence on cutbacks even as he outlined details of a home summer schedule that will feature more international fixtures than originally planned amid vastly improving financial forecasts.

Roberts said on Friday that CA was looking at a revenue shortfall of about A$80 million for the home season, an estimation that back in April was believed to be as high as A$230 million in discussions with state associations. Such a rapidly shifting set of forecasts has maintained a strong sense of scepticism among the states and the Australian Cricketers Association about the true state of the game’s finances and the cost-cutting prescribed as a result.

While Roberts made it clear that CA did not wish to follow Victoria or Queensland in taking the axe to community cricket programs around the country in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, he was blunt in stating that staff reductions at the central governing body were inevitable. A total of 146 employees have so far been made redundant across every state association apart from New South Wales. CA stood down some 200 staff on 20% of their usual salaries until June 30, while executives and remaining staff remained on 80% of their usual pay.

ALSO READ: Queensland cuts take cricket job losses to 135

Those cuts followed CA’s initial advice to the states that their annual distributions would have to be reduced by as much as 40% over two years, a figure subsequently argued down to 25% with in-built flexibility should revenue shortfall not be as significant as previously forecast. Even so, NSW and Queensland are still to agree to new funding deals, while Western Australia’s agreement with CA will not take effect unless they do.

“We are focused on delivering the best season possible noting that the likelihood of significant crowds is very slim,” Roberts said. “Ordinarily that’ll deliver well over A$50 million revenue to CA. The T20 World Cup is a big question and that’s a factor of A$20 million. And you mentioned biosecurity plans, it’s likely that our biosecurity measures that we need to put into place to deliver our season will cost in the order of A$10 million.

“We’ve made a commitment to significantly reduce the cost base of Cricket Australia. Unfortunately, that means that no area of the organisation will be untouched. It’s premature to talk about the details of those plans. That will come in the not too distant future. We are really focused on the activities that will drive positive cash flow for Australian cricket given the importance of CA generating revenue to support states and territories.

“Once we’ve generated that revenue from the commercial activities, our highest priority in terms of where that revenue is invested in community cricket. So we are looking to minimising the reductions in community cricket. It’s fair to say there will be reductions right across Cricket Australia and that’s unavoidable given the need to reduce to the extent that we are.”

Both the states and the ACA have complained that CA has been tardy or incomplete in providing financial information, something Roberts tried to justify while still talking about the governing body’s state association owners and player partners as though they were outsiders to the game’s decision-making.

“What’s been reported is there’s unanswered questions. I guess what hasn’t been reported thus far is there’s been many workshops, exchanges of information packs, documents, emails, discussions, video meetings that have occurred,” Roberts said. “Many, many, questions answered. It is true there’s a couple of unanswered questions and it’s also true there’s a couple of questions that can’t be answered out of respect for the organisations involved.

“So as an example we’ve still got over A$10 million in overdue debtors right now, but it wouldn’t be appropriate out of respect for those organisations that owe CA money for us to be talking about that publicly in reference to those organisations. We’ve certainly answered just about every question that’s come out way, there’s a couple that remain to be answered and we’re in the process of doing so, and there’s some that are of a more confidential nature.”

Australia’s international schedule for next summer is actually going to provide more content for broadcasters than initially scheduled, with a limited overs tour by New Zealand in late January and early February replacing the equivalent matches that were cancelled this March due to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. These matches would appear to now clash with the likely climax of the Big Bash League, which has been a source of much discussion around the desire of the broadcasters Fox Sports and Seven to give it greater prominence and better players.

“We’ve got some exciting innovation that we’ll be announcing in due course around the BBL for next season. That runs from the start of the tournament to the finals series,” Roberts said. “Certainly, we’re focused on elevating the BBL series. We’ve also got a really fortunate situation, as do New Zealand, in that if things continue as they are the prospect of cricket being played in our nations is stronger than many other countries.

“Speaking with David White, as recently as this week, we’ve expressed our commitment to work on various plans with NZ for the season ahead. We need to be flexible in that regard too because we can’t know exactly how this will play out. We’re very confident if the schedule does play out as announced we’ll see a great NZ series and a fantastic BBL finals series as well.”

Less promising are the prospects for scheduled matches in the north of Australia in August and October, including a series against Zimbabwe that looks almost certain to be postponed. “We take seriously our responsibility to get the game to the people all around Australia and we’re really excited about the possibility of going north to Townsville and up to the [Northern] Territory as well,” Roberts said.

“Obviously there’s a high degree of uncertainty around the prospect of that happening, and there’s an even higher degree of uncertainty around the prospect of having fans at the matches, but regardless no doubt the local communities up north will be excited to welcome the teams to battle each other on the field up north, regardless of whether there can be fans at the match. We really hope those series can occur as planned. If they can’t then there’s the opportunity to postpone them and still ensure that we can take cricket to the likes of Townsville and Darwin.”



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Nabi, Lamichhane, Dunk earn big in CPL 2020 draft

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Afghanistan allrounder Mohammad Nabi, Nepal legspinner Sandeep Lamichhane, and Australian batsman Ben Dunk headlined the CPL 2020 draft that was held virtually on June 24. All three players fetched deals worth USD 130,000 each, with Nabi being the first pick in the draft. The CPL is scheduled to be played in Trinidad & Tobago between August 18 and September 10 behind closed doors, subject to the permission from the local government.

Nabi had been part of St Kitts & Nevis Patriots in 2017 and was snapped up by St Lucia Zouks, who finished second from bottom last season in the six-team league.

A total of 537 players had registered for the draft, but a few names including New Zealand fast bowler Tim Southee and England batsman Ravi Bopara pulled out. No player in the drafted attracted the top price of USD 160,000. That was mainly because the CPL allowed the six franchises to sign overseas players outside of the draft for the first time.

Accordingly, Australian batsman Chris Lynn was signed by St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, while Afghanistan leggie Rashid Khan was snapped by defending champions Barbados Tridents. Both players are understood to have fetched USD 160,000. Rashid’s Afghanistan team-mate Qais Ahmad was signed by Guyana Amazon Warriors while South African batsman Rilee Rossouw was hired by the Zouks.

Nabi will help fill the void created by the absence of Chris Gayle, who pulled out of CPL 2020, citing personal reasons. Lamichhane, who had played for the champions Barbados Tridents last season before leaving midway through the tournament for international duty, will turn out for Jamaica Tallawahs in the upcoming season. He is set to team up with former West Indies and Patriots captain Carlos Brathwaite at Tallawahs. It is understood that the 31-year old big-hitting allrounder was bought for USD 110,000.

As for Alex Hales, he was the only Englishman to be picked up in the draft, with reigning champions Tridents retaining him for USD 70,000. Hales, who was the first pick in the 2019 CPL draft, had an underwhelming stint that year, managing 197 runs in 12 innings at an average of 16.41 and strike rate of 124.68. Hales hasn’t been involved with England since being dropped from the World Cup last year following a positive drug test.

Dunk was rewarded for his hot form in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) and Mzansi Super League (MSL), getting a gig with Patriots. He had been part of the CPL back in 2014, when he represented the now-defunct Antigua Hawksbills. Dunk was the top-scorer in the last MSL, with 415 runs in 10 innings at a strike rate touching 150. He then tallied 266 runs in seven innings, striking at an incredible 186.01 in PSL 2020, which was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic.

England’s batting sensation Tom Banton, and his captain Eoin Morgan went unsold, as did former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi. Quite a few high-profile Pakistan players, including Shoaib Malik and Wahab Riaz, were set to play CPL 2020, but the tour to England meant they were all unavailable for the league. T20 specialists Asif Ali and Sohail Tanvir, though, were selected by Tallawahs and Patriots respectively.

USA’s Ali Khan (TKR), his national team-mate Jessy Singh (Amazon Warriors), and Canada’s Saad Bin Zafar were among those who secured ICC Americas contracts in the CPL.

Afghanistan players in demand

Nabi wasn’t the only Afghanistan player to make a splash at the draft. Fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq will join legspinner Qais Ahmad at Guyana Amazon Warriors while exciting wicketkeeper-batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz will play for defending champions Barbados Tridents. Gurbaz has a variety of unorthodox strikes in his repertoire like his idol AB de Villiers. After leading Afghanistan to a 2-1 T20I series win over a full-strength West Indies side, led by Kieron Pollard, in India, the teenager cracked an 18-ball half-century on his Bangladesh Premier League debut for Khulna Tigers in Dhaka.

Noor Ahmad, all of 15 years old, got a gig with Stars. The left-arm wristspinner has a big-turning wrong’un in his repertoire, and was particularly threatening against right-handers in the 20-over Shpageeza league. Against right-handers, he took six wickets in 130 balls while conceding 131 runs. All up, he claimed eight wickets in the league and was named the Emerging Player of the tournament. He then went onto play for Afghanistan in the Under-19 World Cup earlier this year in South Africa.

Tambe signs with TKR

Forty-eight-year old Pravin Tambe, the former Mumbai and Rajasthan Royals legspinner, was picked up by Trinbago Knight Riders for USD 7,500. Earlier in 2019, Tambe was snapped up by Kolkata Knight Riders in the IPL auction, but was forced to withdraw later after the BCCI pulled him up for playing in unsanctioned cricket leagues like the T10 League. Tambe was one of the two Indians in the CPL draft along with former Royal Challengers Bangalore batsman Asad Pathan, who found no takers.

Zimbabwe allrounder Sikandar Raza also went to TKR for USD 7,500, as did fast bowler Anderson Phillip. Australian legspinner Fawad Ahmed was back at TKR after playing for Stars last season. In 2018, Ahmed had spun TKR to back-to-back title wins, taking 22 wickets in 13 games at an impressive economy rate of 6.18.

Locals rewarded for Super 50 form
Chemar Holder, who broke into West Indies’ Test squad for the England tour, will join Kesrick Williams at Zouks. Mystery-spin bowling allrounder Mark Deyal, who can turn the ball both ways with his knuckles, switched from TKR to Zouks.

The standout performers in the Super50 Cup – West Indies’ domestic 50-over tournament – were rewarded with CPL contracts. Wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua Da Silva, who is currently on tour with the national Test side in the UK, was drafted by Patriots. Da Silva hit 310 runs in nine innings in West Indies Emerging team’s run to the title. Nkrumah Bonner, who has been among the runs in both the Super 50 and the four-day format, was picked up by Tallawahs.

Batsman Tion Webster was retained by TKR while 33-year old left-arm fingerspinner Dennis Bulli went to Patriots. Bulli took 12 wickets in six games at an economy rate of 5.28 for Jamaica in the Super 50.

The CPL has told all franchises to assemble their squads from August 1, with the players and support staff having to undergo a two-week period in quarantine before the tournament gets underway on August 18.

Squads:

Trinbago Knight Riders: Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, Fawad Ahmed, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Khary Pierre, Tim Seifert, Sikandar Raza, Anderson Phillip, Pravin Tambe, Jayden Searles, Amir Jangoo, Tion Webster, Akeal Hosein, Ali Khan.

Guyana Amazon Warriors: Imran Tahir, Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Ross Taylor, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Green, Qais Ahmad, Keemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Naveen-ul-Haq, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kevin Sinclair, Ashmead Nedd, Odean Smith, Anthony Bramble, Jessy Singh.

St Lucia Zouks: Rilee Rossouw, Mohammad Nabi, Daren Sammy, Colin Ingram, Andre Fletcher, Kesrick Williams, Anrich Nortje, Chemar Holder, Obed McCoy, Rahkeem Cornwall, Mark Deyal, Noor Ahmad, Kimani Melius, Leniko Boucher, Kavem Hodge, Javelle Glen, Saad Bin Zafar.

St Kitts & Nevis Patriots: Chris Lynn, Ben Dunk, Evin Lewis, Fabian Allen, Rassie van der Dussen, Sohail Tanvir, Ish Sodhi, Sheldon Cottrell, Denesh Ramdin, Rayad Emrit, Dennis Bulli, Alzarri Joseph, Joshua Da Silva, Dominic Drakes, Colin Archilbald, Jon-Russ Jaggesar, Sunny Sohal.

Barbados Tridents: Rashid Khan, Jason Holder, Marcus Stoinis, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Johnson Charles, Shai Hope, Hayden Walsh Jr, Ashley Nurse, Jonathan Carter, Raymon Reifer, Kyle Mayers, Joshua Bishop, Nyeem Young, Justin Greaves, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Shayan Jayangir.

Jamaica Tallawahs: Andre Russell, Sandeep Lamichhane, Carlos Brathwaite, Rovman Powell, Tabraiz Shamsi, Glenn Phillips, Chadwick Walton, Oshane Thomas, Asif Ali, Fidel Edwards, Preston McSween, Andre McCarthy, Nicholas Kirton, Jeavor Royal, Nkrumah Bonner, Veerasammy Permaul, Ryan Persaud.



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Ngidi says South Africa must take BLM stand like the rest of the world | Cricket

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© AFP via Getty Images


South Africa’s cricketers will discuss how they will join the Black Lives Matter movement when they have the opportunity to meet as a group according to Lungi Ngidi. The fast bowler, who was named Cricketer South Africa’s T20 cricketer of the year on Saturday, indicated he would be in favour of supporting the anti-racism cause, especially given South Africa’s history of segregation.

“As a nation, we have a past that is very difficult, with racial discrimination, so it’s definitely something we will be addressing as a team and if we are not, it’s something I will bring up,” Ngidi said, at a virtual press engagement on Monday afternoon. “It’s something that we need to take very seriously and like the rest of the world is doing, make the stand.”

Issues of race are ever-present in South Africa, a country with a history of colonialism and Apartheid, and have been hot-button topics in sport since readmission in 1991. Prior to South Africa’s isolation in 1970, national sports teams were made up of white players only, effectively excluding people of colour from participating at the highest level. In the last 29 years, that has changed, but questions of representation remain. To date, only nine black Africans have played Test cricket for South Africa and Ngidi is the most recent. There remain concerns over the pace of transformation and especially the continued occupation of senior positions by white men.

The national team has been largely silent on race, apart from Temba Bavuma, who found himself at the centre of a storm mid-season, when he was dropped from the Test squad. South Africa’s then-Test captain Faf du Plessis said the team does not “see colour,” and that Bavuma, who had been through a lean patch, needed to force his way back into the team through “weight of runs”. Du Plessis suffered from poor form himself, which earned the wrath of Bavuma supporters, and then stood down as captain. Bavuma was back in the team by the end of the summer and spoke openly about the pressures that came with his skin colour.

For that reason, Ngidi asserted that the team is “well aware” of race dynamics but he explained that they have not had the opportunity to discuss recent events as a group. “I feel we are not together so it’s hard to discuss but once we get back to playing that is definitely something we have to address as a team,” he said.

That may not be for a while with South Africa’s calendar shrouded in uncertainty as they await the ICC’s decision on the T20 World Cup and the rescheduling of their two-Test, five-T20 trip to the Caribbean, which was due to get underway this month. West Indies are currently in England for three Tests ending on July 29 (and both teams will wear the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts) so the earliest South Africa could hope to play against them could be in August. However, with the Covid-19 pandemic expected to peak in South Africa around the same time, and the players having only just returned to training, it is likely the visit will be delayed further.

A high-performance squad of 45 players was given the greenlight to resume training last week and are currently practicing in groups of no more than five players at their domestic franchise grounds. Next Saturday, 24 of them will play in an exhibition match featuring three teams in the same game, but Ngidi explained they have not had much time to connect, given the restrictions in place.

“We have to book sessions now so there are certain groups of guys that come in at a certain time and when they are done, another group comes in,” Ngidi said. “As the bowlers, we each have our net. We each have our balls. There is no touching and hardly any communication as well. Before going to gym, you have to let them know so they can sanitise the area before you come in and sanitise once you leave for the next group. There’s temperature checks at the gate, there’s hand sanitisers, we fill out forms, it’s a whole process before you can actually bowl a cricket ball. It’s very frustrating but also very necessary at this point.”

Much like England’s Mark Wood, who likened training to a “sci-fi movie,” Ngidi said the situation is taking some time to get used to, not least because he feels like he is playing a group sport, on his own. “It feels like some bio-hazard kind of event has happened. There’s no touching, you barely ever take your masks off other than when you are within a certain distance of people. We no longer go into the change rooms. You get changed in your car and you go straight to the field or straight to the indoor nets. We don’t gather in groups anymore and it feels weird since it’s a team sport. You’re playing by yourself but everyone is still there. It is very different.”

And for bowlers, it will stay different as they are no longer allowed to use saliva to shine the ball. Ngidi and the rest of the pack have yet to strategise how they will counter that, but he has a few ideas. “Once they said there’s no saliva, a few of the batsmen posted on the group that now they are going to be driving on the up so already we can see what type of mentality the batsmen are coming with so now we have to find a game plan to get the ball to swing. Probably a damp towel is the best thing but you’ve got to find something somehow, to shine it.”

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent


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ESPN Sports Media Ltd.






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Umar Akmal ban appeal to be heard on July 13 after coronavirus delay

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Umar Akmal‘s appeal against his three-year ban will be heard next Monday on July 13 by an independent adjudicator at the National High Performance Centre in Lahore. The adjudicator is a former Supreme Court judge, Justice (retired) Faqir Mohammad Khokhar, and notices have been issued to both Akmal and the PCB with regards to the timing of the hearing.

The appeal was set to be heard on June 11 but became yet another victim of the coronavirus pandemic, coming at a time when cases were increasing rapidly across Pakistan and lockdowns were imposed across Lahore. As a result, it was postponed; and now that the date of the new hearing has been confirmed, Akmal is set to learn his fate in a week’s time.

Akmal was banned for three years by the PCB on April 27 for failing to report corrupt approaches and was found guilty of two breaches of the board’s anti-corruption code. The charges come under Article 2.4.4, which deals with “failing to disclose to the PCB Vigilance and Security Department (without unnecessary delay) full details of any approaches or invitations received by the Participant to engage in Corrupt Conduct under this Anti-Corruption Code”. While each charge carries a three-year ban, they are being run concurrently.

The severity of the punishment was at the time considered surprising, but it emerged he had been handed the stiffer-than-expected penalty for failing to show sufficient remorse. Players who had fallen foul in a similar manner to Akmal previously were handed far lighter sanctions, with Mohammad Irfan banned in 2017 for six months, while Mohammad Nawaz was given a two-month ban.

Three weeks later, Akmal announced he would contest the decision on grounds that the length of the ban was unprecedented for a breach of the nature he had been found guilty of committing. According to the PCB’s code, the appeal does not mean a fresh hearing will have to be conducted, with the appeals process limiting itself to “a consideration of whether the decision being appealed was erroneous”.

The ban has come as the most significant setback to 29-year-old Akmal, whose career has been littered with controversy. Repeated incidents of indiscipline since his debut in 2009 have meant that he has been fined and suspended on several occasions; and an inability to stay fit has led to penalties as well. In September 2017, he copped a three-month ban for publicly criticising then Pakistan head coach Mickey Arthur, and earlier this year, was reprimanded by the PCB for misbehaving after failing a fitness test, reportedly exposing himself to a trainer in frustration at one point.



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