Greg Barclay, the new ICC chairman, has conceded that the ambitious World Test Championship (WTC) hasn’t quite achieved what it intended to, and the disruption caused by Covid-19 has only highlighted its “shortcomings”. Barclay suggested going “back to the drawing board” after getting the latest – maiden – edition of the competition out of the way.
“In short, I don’t think so. Covid has probably highlighted its shortcomings of the championship,” Barclay said during a virtual media conference for wire services on Monday, when asked if the WTC has served its purpose.
The WTC schedule was affected in a big way by the pandemic, forcing the ICC to come up with a percentage allocation of points since it wasn’t going to be possible to finish all the scheduled series before the 2021 final at the Lord’s.
“… the issues that we have already got, I wonder whether some of it was because of an attempt to develop a Test Championship, clearly designed to drive interest back into Test cricket, provide a bit of context and relevance around the Test matches,” Barclay said.
“From an idealist’s point of view, probably it had a lot of merit but practically, I do disagree, I am not sure whether it has achieved what it intended to do.
“My personal view is let’s get through with the little bit that we can in this Covid-19, with reallocation of points and all that […] but once we have done that, let’s go back to the drawing board as I am not quite sure whether it entirely fits the purpose and has achieved what it intended to after being conceptualised four to five years back.
“I think we need to look at it in context of calendar and not put cricketers in a situation where it’s a lot worse and not going to help us.”
Barclay said that he had the support of some full-member nations on the matter too. “Yeah, I think there would be some countries (who agree with the rethink). It is difficult for some of the full members as they simply can’t afford to play Test cricket,” he said. “Test cricket has got its legacy and I am a purist but I do accept that as much as I want to keep it as it is, less and less countries are able to afford that arrangement and are able to play it.
“Clearly, there is a demand (for T20 leagues) from the playing point of view and commercial partnering perspective. So let’s accept that domestic leagues are here to stay and they have been tremendously contributing to the growth of the really exciting product like the IPL, BBL and CPL”
“Very few countries can make it work from a financial point of view.”
While Barclay said he believed that T20 leagues would stay, and continue to assist the financial health of the member boards, he wanted bilateral series with context as players’ safety as well as physical and mental health would be paramount in coming days.
“My view is that, I think all forms of cricket need to be taken into account,” he said. “You are right, the calendar is increasingly becoming congested and something has to give somewhere.
“… but I do respect that each country has the right to develop its own domestic league given it meets the ICC requirements and is properly sanctioned.
“Clearly there is a demand from the playing point of view and commercial partnering perspective. So let’s accept that domestic leagues are here to stay and they have been tremendously contributing to the growth of the really exciting product like the IPL, BBL and CPL.”
Context, he reiterated, would be key in keeping bilateral cricket in good health.
“It’s an incredibly difficult juggling act to get in there and also, we need to have enough conversations regarding players’ health safety. I don’t think we have had enough conversations,” he said. “Some of the focus needs to be on the integrity aspect of the game and we need to have competitions which are relevant and have context.”
When asked about having more global events, which the world body had informally proposed before being rejected by members, Barclay said, “Bilateral cricket is fundamentally important to member countries. ICC runs very, very good events; all countries must have an opportunity to take part in these events.
“I am a fan of maintaining ICC events which are world-class, but at the same time, giving an opportunity to members to have bilateral cricket.”
On (the lack of) cricket between India and Pakistan, Barclay chose not to get involved, saying it was “not his mandate” and that he understood there were “geo-political” considerations in play, but he did acknowledge the importance of the BCCI to the global game, despite the many ICC vs BCCI incidents over the years: “India is a massively important part of world cricket. Like all families, we have general squabbles but India recognises that ICC needs Indian cricket. We have been able to navigate through differences, if any.”
Todd Greenberg named new Australian Cricketers’ Association chief executive
Greenberg was chief executive of the NRL before resigning last year
Todd Greenberg, the former chief executive of National Rugby League, has been named the new chief executive of the Australian Cricketers’ Association.
The ACA has been without a permanent CEO since Alistair Nicholson resigned late last year and has been led by interim Joe Connellan while the game has navigated a summer impacted by Covid-19.
Greenberg had been tipped for either the ACA position or the same role at Cricket Australia which is currently being led by Nick Hockley who replaced Kevin Roberts last June.
He resigned from the NRL last April amid the fallout from the pandemic.
“I would like to thank the ACA board and the players for the opportunity to advocate for them. I have a long history with cricket – it’s the game I first fell in love with – and am looking forward to the opportunity to work closely on their behalf in partnership with Cricket Australia and the state associations for the good of the game,” Greenberg said.
“This is a role that comes with great responsibility and I am very much looking forward to meeting and speaking to as many players and members as I can over the coming months.”
Hockley, who has steered CA through the pandemic with a full men’s and women’s international season taking place as well as two Big Bash tournaments, welcomed the appointment.
“The role of CEO at the Australian Cricketers’ Association CEO is an incredibly important one, and on behalf of Cricket Australia, I’d like to congratulate Todd Greenberg on his appointment,” he said.
“Todd’s experience in administering the National Rugby League will bring valuable insights that will undoubtedly benefit cricket. We welcome Todd back to cricket, where he both played first grade cricket for Randwick and worked at Cricket NSW, and I look forward to working with him as we complete this summer of cricket and look ahead to 2021-22, which will feature men’s and women’s Ashes series.”
Aus vs Ind 2020-21 – How Ajinkya Rahane and his trusted lieutenants masterminded India’s triumph
Ajinkya Rahane has credited the collective leadership that he shared with vice-captain Rohit Sharma and senior players Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin for India being able to come back from behind in the absence of regular captain Virat Kohli and take the Border-Gavaskar Trophy with a 2-1 series win in Australia. All four players, Rahane says, took greater responsibility upon themselves to instill belief and confidence in an inexperienced India team.
Rahane took over the captaincy when Kohli went home on paternity leave following India’s defeat in the first Test in Adelaide, where they were bowled out for 36 in the second innings. Rahane’s first message to the dressing room was clear: the Adelaide defeat was a closed chapter.
“I told them that topic should not be discussed at all,” Rahane told Sakal, a leading Marathi daily. “The fact that we got all out for 36 is not any mistake. We should just accept it and move on. No point going in depth and thinking about it because the [next Test] match was immediately starting in three days. My only message was: it happened in one hour. They [Australia] played good cricket. Such things happen once in a century. The faster we accept this happened and move on, that is good for us.”
Rahane also told his players that it made no difference to him if people outside were writing India off, and that it shouldn’t bother the other players either, going into the second Test in Melbourne. “It is a good opportunity for us to stay and play as one. Whatever the result, especially after the Melbourne Test or at the end of the Test series, does not matter. Outcome is the last thing. What I wanted was we should come together and play as one, that was my priority.”
Sharma, who played the last two Tests, Pujara and Ashwin were Rahane’s three key sounding boards. All four players are close friends on and off the field having begun their international careers at roughly the same time. Their closeness allowed them to talk openly and help each other.
How Rahane gave confidence to Ashwin and Pujara
While Kohli brings the team together with his intensity and energy, Rahane prefers doing it with a quiet word shared with his team-mates. In the Indians’ first warm-up match against Australia A, Ashwin made 8 and 5. According to Rahane, the bowling allrounder was worried about his batting – he had come into the tour with just two 30-plus scores in his last 19 Test innings.
“Our discussion started from the [first] practice match itself,” Rahane said. “Ashwin got out early and was sitting alone. I told Ashwin, please do not take tension about your batting. There are times when you think too much about your batting. His record as a batsman is pretty good. When things are not going well, obviously you start brooding about your batting not going well. I told him, you just focus on your bowling.
“With your bowling you can win us matches. He bowled well and I feel that reflected in his batting [later in the series]. My responsibility was to get his focus on his bowling. He bowled well and that confidence showed in his batting.”
Rahane said he explained to Ashwin that the more “desperate” he was to do well with the bat, the more disappointed he would get if he failed. “Desperation does not work. I told him to play 40-50 balls while batting without thinking about it. And that is what happened. I did not say much to him. All credit should go to Ashwin. I told him, too: your bowling is going so good and consequently, mentally, you are very relaxed and that is why you are batting well [now]. And where we wanted him, he did perform [with the bat] in Sydney.”
Batting with a bad back, Ashwin helped India save the Sydney Test with an unbeaten 39 off 128 balls.
Pujara was another key match-winner who received a quiet word of support from Rahane when voices in the media including former players and captains were questioning his scoring rate. Pujara faced 928 balls across the series, wearing Australia’s bowlers down cumulatively, and his final-day half-centuries proved crucial to India saving the Sydney Test and winning in Brisbane.
“I told Pujara, you play your game,” Rahane said. “You don’t change your game bilkul (at all). Others will play around you.”
‘Take responsibility but enjoy it without pressure’
As a captain Rahane is yet to lose a Test match. He is a calm character at most times, and during the Australia series he made sure to remind himself to continue enjoying the game when he took over the captaincy, and not let himself get bogged down by the pressure of the responsibility. “I told them we are two or three seniors in the team. That does not mean we have to take the pressure. Let’s enjoy our cricket, enjoy our batting. And then we will take the others along with us. Many times what happens is when you say there is responsibility then you put pressure on yourself. In my mind I knew we had to take the responsibility: but enjoy it while you take it, not with pressure.”
That joy and freedom is what Rahane said enabled him to bat himself into a “zone” during his 112 in India’s first innings in the Boxing Day Test at the MCG, which allowed the visitors to take vital lead and eventually win the Test. “That innings in Melbourne I was enjoying as a batsman. I was enjoying the pressure situation. I have walked in to bat many times in the past when India were 20 for 3 or 40 for 3, but the situation in Melbourne was totally different. I told myself while batting: “chal (go on), you enjoy every ball. Enjoy each situation. Enjoy every run. What has to happen will happen.” Because of that I went into the zone while batting.”
According to Rahane, by the time India entered 2021 with the series level, he felt more confident also because he found support from his deputy, Sharma, who had missed the first two Tests while completing rehab on a hamstring injury picked up during the IPL. Having been team-mates since the age-group days in Mumbai cricket, Rahane and Sharma had complete trust in each other. Rahane admitted that Sharma played a big hand in sharing leadership duties. “The big advantage is Rohit’s experience. My job became easier, since if I could not pay attention to every player, I would ask Rohit to deal with that.
“Having played together so much cricket, if we felt any of the players in the Indian dressing room was down, we thought how we could make that person stand up and perform. Hence we could easily discuss such things.”
‘We talk about cricketing gods – it is there somewhere’
Over the course of the series, India lost a number of key players to injury. By the time India landed in Brisbane, their options had dwindled to nearly zero, and they eventually picked a five-man bowling attack whose most experienced member was playing his third Test match. After the series victory, Ravi Shastri, India’s had coach, had praised Rahane for remaining calm while handling such an inexperienced line-up. How did he do it?
“I felt that there is an opportunity somewhere in all this,” Rahane said. “As a player we always aspire to play for the country. So I told them that you cannot get any bigger opportunity than this. If we do good here as a team, what will happen in the future we cannot even imagine. All those who got the opportunity, all of them did well. And, importantly, they did well because there was no pressure on them. They could play freely.
“As a captain I was feeling bad that some players had missed out [due to injury], but I also thought whoever comes in, it was a big opportunity for them. Whatever the resources were available, how we could give them confidence and make them help the team do well was my main aim. Again, the result was not the motive: win or loss was not in my mind. The only thing in my mind was play good cricket and give them [Australia] a fight on the ground. Because of that only the result has come. There is some supreme power somewhere. We gave respect to cricket. We talk about cricketing gods – it is there somewhere. It was surreal and a fairytale ending.”
Recent Match Report – Ireland vs Afghanistan 2nd ODI 2020/21
Naveen-ul-Haq and Mujeeb Ur Rahman played key roles to restrict Ireland to 259
Afghanistan 260 for 3 (Rahmat 103*, Shahidi 82) beat Ireland 259 for 9 (Stirling 128, Campher 47, Naveen 4-42, Mujeeb 3-46) by seven wickets
Better support with bat and ball ensured Rahmat Shah‘s unbeaten 103 trumped Paul Stirling‘s 128 as Afghanistan took an unassailable 2-0 lead in the three-match ODI series. A third-wicket partnership of 184 between Rahmat and Hashmatullah Shahidi carried Afghanistan to a seven-wicket win with 28 balls remaining, after Ireland had set them a target of 260.
The only comparable partnership for Ireland was a fourth-wicket stand of 106 between Stirling and Curtis Campher, which came up in just 100 balls and featured excellent use of the sweep from both batsmen, particularly off Mohammad Nabi and Rashid Khan. The partnership left Ireland in good shape to mount a slog-overs charge, but they lost steam following the dismissal of Campher, caught at short extra-cover off Rashid. They only made 49 off the last 51 balls of their innings, and lost five wickets while doing so.
Three of those wickets, including that of Stirling in the 45th over, went to the fast bowler Naveen-ul-Haq, who finished with figures of 4 for 42 from his ten overs. Afghanistan’s other bowling star was Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who picked up three wickets including the key dismissals of Kevin O’Brien and Andy Balbirnie with the new ball, which left Ireland 20 for 2 at one stage. Stirling began rebuilding the innings in the company of Harry Tector, who made a watchful 24, before Campher joined him in the 25th over of the innings.
Stirling celebrated his hundred – his 11th in ODIs, equalling William Porterfield’s Ireland record – by paying tribute to Roy Torrens, the former Ireland player and team manager who died yesterday, pointing to the sky after removing his helmet. Stirling had tweeted that Torrens’ passing was “crushing news”, describing him as “Irish cricket to the very core but an even better man”
Afghanistan’s chase began brightly, with Rahmanullah Gurbaz following up his debut hundred in the first ODI by clattering 31 off 26 balls, including two sixes off Simi Singh’s offspin. Barry McCarthy and Campher struck in successive overs thereafter, though, to leave Afghanistan in a bit of bother at 48 for 2 in the ninth over.
Rahmat and Shahidi counterattacked, hitting four fours and a six between them in their first four full overs together. Shahidi then slipped into a lower gear even as Rahmat kept finding the boundary with pristine drives to keep the required rate well under control. He brought up his half-century off 49 balls, at the start of the 23rd over.
It took Shahidi another ten overs to get to that milestone, off 68 balls, but having done so he opened out significantly, hitting Craig Young for back-to-back fours in the 38th over to bring up Afghanistan’s 200, and repeating the dose off Simi in the 42nd over before holing out to long-off to fall 18 short of a century.
There was no such trouble for Rahmat, who brought up the landmark for the fifth time in his ODI career, before giving a chance, put down at point by a diving Tector off McCarthy. By then Afghanistan only needed 21, and their captain Asghar Afghan ensured they’d finish in a hurry, hitting McCarthy for 6, 6, 4 in the 45th over and ending up unbeaten on 21 off 13 balls.
While Afghanistan have now wrapped up the series with a game to spare, the final fixture on Tuesday will not be treated as a dead-rubber, with 10 World Cup Super League points still on offer.
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