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Corruption case – Suspended UAE batter Ashfaq Ahmed

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UAE batsman Ashfaq Ahmed has denied the allegations of wrongdoing that had resulted in the ICC on Sunday formally charging him and medium pacer Amir Hayat with five counts of breaching the game’s anti-corruption rules. Ahmed was also provisionally suspended for the alleged offences, which all relate to the 2019 men’s T20 World Cup qualifier.

“I have done absolutely nothing wrong,” Ahmed, who has represented the UAE 28 times in white-ball cricket, told the National. “The UAE was my second home [Ahmed is originally from Pakistan]. I’m forever grateful to the country that gave me so much – an opportunity to play at the highest level, the means to earn a living and, most importantly, respect. And that is why I cannot imagine compromising everything I have earned to do something like this.

“I cannot do this to the UAE, which has given me so much, including transforming an ordinary cricketer to an international one. Maybe I made a mistake. Maybe I should have reported those people who spoke to me in Ajman to the ICC. But for such a small mistake I don’t deserve this kind of punishment.”

The charges levelled against the duo include include attempting to fix or improperly influence the result of an international match and failing to disclose to the ICC anti-corruption unit details of corrupt approaches.

Ashfaq, 35, also said he met a woman at a domestic match in Ajman who told him “they were planning to acquire a franchise in the T10 League and were looking to hire players”.

“I didn’t know what to say, because I didn’t make anything of it and walked away,” Ashfaq said. “One day I received a message from someone, just saying ‘hi’. I saved the number on my phone to check the profile of the person. The profile photo was of the woman who had come up and spoken to me in Ajman. But that was the end of that.”

As per the ICC’s Article 2.4.4, Ahmed and Hayat were also charged for failing to disclose to the governing body’s Anti-Corruption Unit “full details of any approaches or invitations received by the Participant to engage in Corrupt Conduct under the Anti-Corruption Code.”

“I have no inkling of who these people are,” Ahmed said. “As an international cricketer, you meet lots of people all the time. Even at a small cricket match, there will be hangers-on. People come up and say hi. But it’s not like you know for sure that that person is corrupt.

“There is no way of knowing. People don’t walk around with ‘I’m corrupt’ written on their foreheads. So I really don’t see why I’m being punished. I have done nothing wrong. And I have said all that I know to the ICC.”

Ahmed had earlier been suspended by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB), but “no formal charges had been laid so far” according to the statement at the time. As such, that penalty was imposed by the ECB, while the latest sanctions were courtesy the ICC.

Not long before Ahmed had been suspended, the ICC had provisionally suspended UAE captain Mohammad Naveed and senior batsman Shaiman Anwar, charging the two players with attempts to “fix” or “improperly influence” matches in the same qualifiers. Allrounder Qadeer Ahmed was also issued the same penalty for allegedly disclosing inside information to people who were betting on the game.



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Match Preview – Kings XI Punjab vs Sunrisers Hyderabad, Indian Premier League 2020 2020, 43rd Match

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Big picture

The first half of IPL 2020 might not have been as closely fought as in some of the previous editions, but with no team completely out of the playoffs race yet, it has become competitive in the last few days. The Kings XI Punjab, who were languishing at the bottom of the points table much of the way, have beaten the top three teams in their last three outings. They will look to improve their playoff chances further on Sunday evening in Dubai, as will their opponents, the Sunrisers Hyderabad, who are coming off a confidence-boosting win over the Rajasthan Royals.

Both sides would have been pleased at cantering to victories in their last games despite their big guns not performing. Nicholas Pooran helped the Kings XI chase down the Delhi Capitals’ 164 after they had lost KL Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Chris Gayle inside the powerplay. Then, on Thursday, Manish Pandey’s counter-attacking 83 not out took the Sunrisers home against the Royals after Jofra Archer had removed David Warner and Jonny Bairstow cheaply.

The two sides are currently on eight points each after four wins from ten matches, but the winner of Saturday’s match can break into the top four, provided the Capitals beat the Kolkata Knight Riders in the earlier game on the same day.

In the news

An adductor (thigh) injury kept Kane Williamson out against the Royals. There has been no official word on his fitness, but even if he is fit, the Sunrisers might be tempted to stick with Jason Holder, who not only guarantees four overs with the ball but also strengthens their lower-middle order batting.

Previous meeting

Bairstow smashed a 55-ball 97 at this very venue to take the Sunrisers to 201 for 6. In response, Pooran fought a lone battle, scoring 77 off 37 balls, with the next highest score being just 11. Rashid Khan picked up 3 for 12 as the Kings XI – bowled out for 132 in 16.5 overs – went on to lose by 69 runs.

Likely XIs

Kings XI Punjab: 1 KL Rahul (capt, wk), 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Chris Gayle, 4 Nicholas Pooran, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Deepak Hooda, 7 James Neesham, 8 M Ashwin, 9 Ravi Bishnoi, 10 Mohammed Shami, 11 Arshdeep Singh

Sunrisers Hyderabad: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 3 Manish Pandey, 4 Vijay Shankar, 5 Priyam Garg, 6 Abdul Samad, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Rashid Khan, 9 Shahbaz Nadeem, 10 Sandeep Sharma, 11 T Natarajan

Strategy punts

  • Khan has been the most successful bowler for the Sunrisers but the Kings XI have a counter for him in Gayle. Since 2018, Gayle averages 57.7 at a strike rate of 201 against legspin in the IPL. Against Khan, he has scored 79 runs in 45 balls in all T20s while being dismissed thrice. The only time Khan conceded over 50 in an IPL match was against the Kings XI in Mohali in 2018 when Gayle took him apart en route an unbeaten 104 off 63 balls. Meanwhile, Sandeep Sharma has got Gayle out four times in nine innings while conceding only 64 off 59 balls. It may be worth bringing on Sharma for an over when Gayle comes to the crease.

  • Rahul has scored lots of runs this IPL but has managed only 115 from 117 balls against spinners while getting out thrice. The Sunrisers can employ Khan against him as the legspinner has got him out twice in four T20 innings while giving away only 16 runs off 24 balls.

Stats that matter

  • The Sunrisers dominate the head-to-head numbers with 11 wins from 15 matches.

  • Teams batting first have won 12 out of the 18 games in Dubai this IPL.

  • Khan’s best numbers are against the Kings XI: 14 wickets in seven innings at a strike rate of 12.

  • Pooran’s 22 sixes are the most by a batsman so far in IPL 2020. In fact, he has more sixes to his name than fours (21). Overall also he has 198 fours and as many sixes in T20 cricket.



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PCB tweaks Quaid-e-Azam trophy points system to encourage attacking cricket

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In an apparent bid to encourage more positive cricket during the 2020-21 Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, the PCB has made changes to the way points are awarded during a game. Unlike the last edition, points will not be awarded to batting sides in the first innings simply by dint of crossing certain thresholds (like 300 runs in an innings) but will be contingent on the rate at which those runs are achieved. At the same time, the bowlers will be incentivised to prioritise wicket-taking strategies by awarding points that are conditional on how many wickets fall during a set number of overs. Both batting and bowling points will only be awarded in the first innings.

A batting side that scores 200 in less than 100 overs will attain one point, rising to two if they surpass 250, three upon crossing 300, four for 350 and the maximum five if they manage 400 inside the 100 overs. For bowlers, meanwhile, points will depend on the number of wickets taken, the time it takes to get them, as well as the economy rate of the bowling side. For instance, bowling sides will pick up one point for three wickets inside 100 overs, rising to three points for eight wickets in that period, and if they bowl a side out for under 200 in less than 100 overs, they will get additional three points. Teams continue to get 16 points for a win and five for draws, as was the case in 2019-20.

Under last season’s system, scoring and economy rates did not determine the allocation of points. Batting and bowling sides were awarded points simply for hitting certain milestones, like crossing 200 or taking three wickets in the first innings. The PCB determined that did not necessarily cultivate a culture that actively encouraged engaging, positive cricket, which led to the recent tweaks.

Apart from that, there’s virtually no other change in the playing conditions. That is notable in itself, with the tournament continuously affected by radical changes almost every season, from the time of year it’s held to the number of participating teams. Despite fierce opposition, the PCB forced through changes last year that got rid of departmental teams in the first-class competition, skimming the number of teams down to six. It will remain that way this year, with just the regions taking part once more.

The first round of games begins on Sunday, with the tournament scheduled to run till the end of December. The final, a five-day affair as opposed to the four days allocated to each group game, will begin on December 26. Central Punjab are the defending champions, having defeated Northern by an innings last season.



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CSK vs MI, IPL 2020

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MS Dhoni, the Chennai Super Kings captain, has said his side is “hurting” after they suffered their eighth defeat in 11 games to be rooted to the bottom of the points table. After the Super Kings laboured to 30 for 6 and then 114 for 9 in their 20 overs, the defending champions Mumbai Indians mowed down the target within 13 overs, handing the Super Kings their first ten-wicket defeat in the IPL, in Sharjah.

“Well, it does hurt and what you need to see is what are the things that are going wrong,” Dhoni told host broadcaster Star Sports at the post-match presentation. “And especially this year hasn’t really been our year and everything apart from one or two games where we have batted and bowled well together and fielded well together…So, at the end of the day, whether you lose by eight wickets or ten wickets it hardly matters. Where we are in the state of the tournament, it will definitely hurt and I think all the players are hurting and they’re trying their best. It doesn’t always go your way, but hopefully in the next three games, we will try to maybe put our last stand.”

Since their five-wicket win against Mumbai in the season opener in Abu Dhabi, the Super Kings haven’t clicked in unison, lurching from one loss to another. Injuries haven’t helped them either. Their key middle-order batsman Ambati Rayudu sustained a hamstring strain in that Mumbai match in which he scored a 48-ball 71, and although he returned to action after missing two games, he hasn’t been as fluent as he was in the opener. Then, in a crucial clash against the Delhi Capitals, their designated death bowler Dwayne Bravo wasn’t available to bowl the final over because of a groin injury.

After Bravo was subsequently sidelined from the rest of the IPL, the Super Kings rejigged their side in the return fixture against Mumbai on Friday, giving Imran Tahir his first game of the tournament and also including rookies Ruturaj Gaikwad and N Jagadeesan. While both batsmen bagged ducks in a top-order collapse induced by Trent Boult and Jasprit Bumrah, Tahir went wicketless, as did the rest of the Super Kings bowlers. Dhoni put down the Super Kings’ sharp decline to a combination of such factors.

“Again, what you need to see is where you again went wrong,” Dhoni said. “I felt the second game [against the Rajasthan Royals] was more about the bowling; batting wasn’t turning up, and Rayudu got injured. Some of the other players got a chance and maybe they were not there 200% or maybe they were not able to perform. It just kept on putting pressure on the batting order and whenever we never got off to a good start, it became more and more difficult for the middle order.

“In cricket, when you’re going through a tough phase, there are a few things that need to go your way – a bit of luck is always good and I felt in this tournament it hasn’t really gone our way. The games where we wanted to bat first ,we haven’t really won the toss and in games batting second, the wicket has slowed down or there may be dew. All of [a] sudden, then we decide to bat first and there’s a lot of dew on the field. If things have not gone your way, those are the things that you study and see what you can provide the players for them to perform.”

When asked if not playing at their home ground at the MA Chidambaram Stadium, where Dhoni usually controls the game with his spinners on turning tracks, had crippled them, Dhoni reiterated that there could be a “hundred reasons” for their struggles in the UAE.

“Whenever you’re not doing well, there can be hundred reasons, especially if you sit and pick up the reasons as to why we’re not doing well. But, the main thing you ask yourself or as a team is whether you’re playing to the potential that you’ve got. Like, say, whatever the conditions may be, when you put up a playing XI that looks good on paper, have they done enough to translating that good stats that they’ve got onto the field? I think this year, we’ve not done that and cumulatively when three or four of your batsmen aren’t doing well in the batting order, it becomes more and more difficult.”

The Super Kings can still mathematically sneak into the playoffs, but Dhoni was pragmatic, shifting his focus towards identifying players for IPL 2021, which might be played from next April.

“It is important for us have a clear picture about next year,” he said. “There are a lot of ifs and buts: the kind of auction we are looking into next year, where the venues will be. It is always good to give guys who have not so far got enough chances to form a settled playing XI. You give them enough chances to really give them a platform where they can perform and show their talent.”

New Zealand spin-bowling allrounder Mitchell Santner and local bowlers KM Asif and R Sai Kishore who haven’t got a game so far this season are likely to be tested out in the Super Kings’ last three fixtures this season.

“So the coming three games will be an ideal opportunity,” Dhoni said. “We have to make the most of it because you don’t really want to be in a situation like that, but once you are what’s the most that you can get? And it is preparation for the next year.”



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