Sri Lanka Cricket will go ahead with plans for a 13-man squad of players to begin training on Monday, despite a sharp rise in the number of Covid-19 infections in the country over the past few weeks.
The players will essentially put themselves and four support staff in a bubble, over the course of the 12-day “residential training camp” at the Colombo Cricket Club. The squad, which largely comprises of bowlers, will stay at a nearby hotel, and “will not be allowed to leave the hotel premises or the practice venue to attend personal matters” according to an SLC release.
Although 531 new Covid-19 patients had been identified in Sri Lanka since May 24, those new cases are believed to be almost entirely from quarantine centres from around the country, with recent returnees from the Middle East comprising the majority of patients. In general, the Sri Lanka government has indicated that the spread of the virus is under control, and has so far avoided reimposing the strict, extended curfews seen through April and the early part of May.
The government is also understood to be supporting this resumption of training.
“Health officials already visited the hotel and the practice venue, and provided health guidelines to the staff members of the respective venues to follow,” the board release said.
Among those who will start training are quicks Suranga Lakmal, Nuwan Pradeep, Isuru Udana, Kasun Rajitha and Lahiru Kumara, as well as spinners Wanindu Hasaranga and Lasith Embuldeniya. Kusal Perera and Danushka Gunathilaka have also been included in this squad. Head coach Mickey Arthur and batting coach Grant Flower – both of whom have been in Sri Lanka through the duration of the viral outbreak – are among the support staff.
SLC had hoped international cricket could begin on the island in late June or early July, but India – the team that is due to visit next – has not confirmed the tour.
Phil Simmons: ‘It doesn’t take Black Lives Matter to bring us together as a team’
Phil Simmons, West Indies’ head coach, has said that his players will decide by Monday night whether to take a knee in support of Black Lives Matter before the start of the first Test against England, but stressed that the issues that have been brought to prominence by the global movement were ones that “motivate us all the time”.
Simmons, who last month revealed that he had been the target of racist abuse during his days in English league cricket in the late 1980s, said that the decision to incorporate the BLM logo on the collar of the West Indies Test shirts – a move since followed by the England squad – was just a “start”. He also insisted that the recent political interference that followed his attendance of a family funeral would not detract from the team’s focus on defending the Wisden Trophy, and bidding for a first series win in England since 1988.
“We’ve spoken about it a bit,” Simmons said of BLM. “It means a hell of a lot to all the players and all the staff on the tour. But it’s not just about now, it’s about life on the whole, and I think we as a group don’t need to say this is going to motivate us. It motivates us all the time, it’s been a natural part of life.”
While West Indies’ expanded squad has put on a united front during their bio-secure build-up to the series at Emirates Old Trafford, that sense of regional unity was dented last week when Conde Riley, the president of Barbados Cricket Association, called for the sacking of Simmons, a Trinidadian, after he had been given permission to leave the team environment to attend his father-in-law’s funeral.
And while Simmons described Riley’s criticisms of his actions as “sad”, adding that “not much surprises me in life anymore”, he denied that the controversy had had any impact on the wider squad’s preparations, or that the overarching message of BLM was required to help keep his players focused on what is at stake in the coming weeks.
“I think there’s rivalry between the islands all the time,” Simmons said. “But as far as I am concerned, 97% of the time that I’ve been with a West Indies team, whether playing or coaching, we’ve been together as a unit, as a team.
“So it doesn’t take the Black Lives situation to bring us together as a team. All the teams that have been with, we’ve been fairly united in the struggle that we have, to go out there and win Test matches. It doesn’t matter what we’ve been against, we have to go out and win Test matches, and that’s what we’ve got into these guys here.”
Wednesday’s Test at the Ageas Bowl will be the first to have taken place since the global lockdown in March, and Simmons said that the ECB deserved huge credit for devising a “blueprint for how cricket can move forward” in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, adding that several aspects of the team’s preparations in recent weeks would be worth retaining when “life gets back to what we consider normal”.
In particular, Simmons said he was “extremely happy” with the use of an extended squad for West Indies’ two warm-ups at Old Trafford. The matches left a few issues unresolved, not least the form of West Indies’ batsmen in general and their captain Jason Holder in particular, who has been short of both runs and overs since arriving in England.
But with Shannon Gabriel proving his fitness following an ankle injury, West Indies will go into the Tests with a full complement of fast bowlers, all of whom are gunning to repeat their feats in the Caribbean 18 months ago, when England were outgunned in the first two Tests of the series in Barbados and Antigua.
“It’s an exciting group of fast bowlers and the reserve group has made for an exciting four weeks for us as coaches,” Simmons said. “We know that Kemar [Roach], Shannon and Jason are our top bowlers but [Alzarri] Joseph has been bowling so well that I think that he will have a lot to do with the outcome of this series.
“I’m not concerned about the batting,” Simmons added. “The batsmen have worked very hard on getting to where they are now, and all that it takes now is for their mindset to be right for the Test match.
“The key thing for us is that we play proper cricket in all three facets of the game. We keep talking about the batting, and the bowling has been strong, but we must field well and catch well also to give ourselves that chance. Our frame of mind is that we have to play well in all three facets of the game in order to beat England.”
Holder appeared to be nursing an ankle injury in the early weeks of the tour, but Simmons insisted there was “no concern” about his captain – a player who is currently ranked as the No. 1 allrounder in Test cricket, ahead of Ben Stokes at No. 2, the man who will also be his opposite number as he stands in for Joe Root in the first Test.
“Jason has played enough Test cricket now to know what he’s working on and, mentally, he’s where he wants to be,” Simmons said. “He might not have scored runs up in Manchester, but he’s been hitting the ball well.”
Of Stokes’ lack of experience as captain – he has never before led a team in his professional career – Simmons warned that it might not be an issue that his side would be able to exploit.
“I think that it’s going to be a toss-up between these two allrounders and hopefully Jason can do what’s necessary to get on top of Ben in this first Test,” he said. “Ben is one of them who leads from the front. That’s been shown by all his exploits before in cricket, [so] we will have to make sure that we get on to him very early, because he likes to do what is necessary for his team.
“You have to be careful how you use an advantage because, with Root not being there, you have some youngster who wants to make a name for himself. And sometimes that’s even harder than the players you know, so you have to be very careful about saying that it’s an advantage.
“Ben has not had that time [as captain] but they’ve had a successful team for a while, and that helps,” he added. “With the experience that he has behind him – Jimmy [Anderson] and Broad and people like that, there’s a lot of experience to help him on the field if he comes a cropper. But it’s hard to really say if that’s a big advantage.”
Courtney Walsh: Kemar Roach is a ‘genuine great’ for West Indies
Courtney Walsh, the former West Indies captain, thinks Kemar Roach is a “genuine great” as the Barbados quick eyes his 200th Test wicket going into the Test series in England. According to Walsh, Roach could leap to 300 wickets “quickly” if he manages his workload well in sync with Cricket West Indies.
Roach is seven short of becoming the ninth West Indies fast bowler to reach 200 Test wickets. No bowler has achieved this since Walsh’s new-ball partner Curtly Ambrose got to the mark in 1994 when he castled Michael Atherton in Guyana. Walsh, who served as the interim coach with West Indies women’s team recently, hopes Roach can get to the landmark in the first Test that starts on July 8 in Southampton.
“Tremendous milestone, to have another West Indian up in that bracket (200 Test wickets) is awesome,” Walsh told ESPNcricinfo. “Kemar has been a friend of mine forever and I’m just happy for him. I can’t wait for this to happen. I hope that he doesn’t take long to get there. Hopefully, if he can get it [the milestone] out of the way in the first Test match, it’ll be perfect as he could then relax and enjoy the rest of the series.”
Roach has been a thorn for England since 2017, where he picked up a five-for at Lord’s. He was instrumental in West Indies winning the Wisden Trophy 2-1 at home last year. Walsh said as much Roach needed to focus on the job and not the record, it was also the responsibility of the other West Indies fast bowler to take that pressure off him.
“He has to have someone like I had Curtly [Ambrose],” Walsh said. “He needs to have someone in this team who can probably give him a smile or something different to take your mind away from it. And that in itself will help him to relax. It’s an achievement that not many West Indians have got there and he will be in an elite group of people who’ve done it. Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.”
Walsh also felt Roach is more focused now than when he arrived as raw, young Barbadian who wanted to bowl with extreme pace. This Walsh put down to Roach’s improved understanding of his own body, his game, his art, his skills, the conditions and how to adapt.
“He’s got to a stage where he knows his game, knows what he wants to do, and how to go about doing it,” Walsh said. “On days that it works for him, that’s beneficial. He has got a stage where he knew his own personal game, knew what he wanted, knew how to go about it setting batsmen up and trying to get wickets and his patience level is very, very good.
“Sometimes as a fast bowler you’re not patient and trying to get a wicket every delivery and it just doesn’t work at all like that. Those days do come, but his patience shows he will stick around, and he knows what to do and how to go about achieving that. To me that is what has got him to be as consistent as he is now. His work ethic has gone up as well and he’s doing all he can do to be one of the greats. He’ s a genuine great. His achievement shows that. What I like about him is his mannerism: he’s always cool and collected and he’s prepared to work.”
Walsh said for Roach to become even better and reach the next milestone of 300 Test wickets “workload management” would be the key factor. “Workload management is something that they can look at it,” he said. “I don’t think he has played a lot of shorter versions of the game. He has played a couple of ODIs and he’s still good enough to do that. But it’s up to him as an individual as well to set the standards, set the goals he wants to achieve. He will get 300 quite easily once the workload management is good and he is playing consistent cricket What you don’t want to happen to him is that every time he comes back he starts all over again.
“So he has got to find a way and the groove of keeping that momentum going. Maintaining his body fitness and his skill-set. He’ll get better with age and then just knowing his body and be consistent with that. Because one of the things, I remember saying to Glenn McGrath, when you get to a certain age, if you start to feel the muscles don’t want to move the next morning and stuff like that, that’s [a] problem. Once he knows how to manage his body and maintain that level of fitness and performance level match-wise and get match fitness going, then he’s in a good place.”
Nabi, Lamichhane, Dunk earn big in CPL 2020 draft
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.
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.
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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