December 3: Galle Gladiators vs Jaffna Stallions, Hambantota
Pro Tip: In the last four games, only two openers managed to score 30-plus runs. So, pick more middle-order batsmen and allrounders in your XI.
Our XI: Avishka Fernando, Danushka Gunathilaka, Azam Khan, Dhananjaya de Silva, Shoaib Malik, Thisara Perera, Milinda Siriwardana*, Wanindu Hasaranga, Usman Shinwari, Lakshan Sandakan, Mohammad Amir
*(The XI was updated after Shahid Afridi said he’ll return to Pakistan for a “personal emergency”)
Substitutes: Akila Dananjaya, Hazratullah Zazai, Chaturanga de Silva, Minod Bhanuka
Player availability: All players are available for selection. We might not always be able to tip you off about late injury (or other relevant) updates, so please finalise your team after the toss.
Captain: Thisara Perera
Perera has been the best batter of the tournament so far, with 165 runs in two innings. Despite arriving at scores of 64 for 5 and 49 for 4, he has smashed 97 not out from just 44 balls and 68 from 28 deliveries, respectively. He has also taken five wickets so far, which makes him an automatic pick as captain.
Vice-captain: Danushka Gunathilaka
One of the in-form players of the tournament, Gunathilaka has scored 150 runs in three innings at a strike rate of 153.06, which makes him the third-highest run-scorer so far. In the Gladiators’ previous match, he hit a 53-ball 82 when the next highest score from his team was 17.
Usman Shinwari: The 26-year old left-arm Pakistan pacer has been the most impressive bowler in LPL 2020 so far. In two games, he has picked up six wickets at an astonishing average of just 5.50, economy of 4.71 and a strike rate of merely 7.00. Since the start of the year, Shinwari has picked up 17 wickets in 14 T20s.
Avishka Fernando: After scoring a match-winning 92 not out in his first game, Fernando missed out in the next few matches. But since December 2019, he averages 35.73 with the bat at a strike rate of 143.81, and is due a big score.
Azam Khan: Khan is our pick out of the three wicketkeeping options for this game. He has played important cameos so far with knocks of 20, 10 not out and 13, which showed his big-hitting abilities. And in 24 T20s so far, Khan’s strike rate is 148.27 with 28 sixes.
Lakshan Sandakan: Spinners have been slowly making an impact in recent games, and left-arm wristspinner Sandakan had dismissed Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis in the previous game. He is a genuine wicket-taker, having picked up 52 wickets in 46 T20 innings at an average of 23.36.
Akila Dananjaya can replace Mohammad Amir, who had an indifferent start to the tournament.
Minod Bhanuka or Tom Moores can be swapped for Azam Khan as wicket-keeping options.
Umar Gul appointed Quetta Gladiators bowling coach
The former Pakistan fast bowler replaces Abdul Razzaq
Former Pakistan fast bowler Umar Gul has been named bowling coach of Quetta Gladiators ahead of the sixth edition of the Pakistan Super League. He will replace Abdul Razzaq, who had been with the franchise for last four seasons, but had to step down after the PCB’s Conflict of Interest policy which barred associations’ coaches from being involved in the league. This will be Gul’s first ever coaching role after retiring from all forms of cricket last year.
Gul, 36, represented Pakistan in 47 Tests, 130 ODIs and 60 T20Is from 2003-16. He decided to quit cricket following after National T20 Cup last year, where he played for Balochistan. He retired as a modern great of Pakistan fast bowling, being a leading wicket-taker during Pakistan’s run to the 2007 World T20 final, and also the leading wicket-taker in the 2009 edition, when Pakistan won the trophy. He spent much of this time heading the world T20 rankings, with a reputation as one of the best yorker bowlers in the format. His career best, five for 6 against New Zealand at the World T20 in 2009 were, at the time, the best ever T20 bowling figures.
“Gul will bring in a wealth of experience to our franchise,” franchise owner Nadeem Omar said in a statement. “He has had a tremendous T20 career and clearly a standout successor for us to replace Abdul Razzaq, who had an exceptional time with us over the years. His[Gul] knowledge of modern day cricket will surely help and support our young fast bowlers like Naseem Shah and Mohammad Husnain. I am very excited to have him on board and I have no doubt that he can offer a great deal to our bowling unit for the upcoming PSL season.”
Razzaq joined Gladiators in the second edition and has since then been a part time coach at the franchise. But the stint ends with the PCB’s new policy that was bought last year in which coaches who are involved with the domestic circuit cannot sign in any capacity with the PSL franchise to avoid any conflict of interest. Razzaq is presently a head coach of one of the sixth associations – Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and is an active member of the national selection committee.
ESPNcricinfo had reported last year that the PCB had introduced a clear-cut code of ethics which was set to have a far-reaching effects on various employees. Its ramifications are meant to clamp down on coaches or selectors working in the system with dual jobs that could cause a potential conflict.
The policy could have effected Gul’s appointment as he is also a member of the PCB’s cricket committee, but the PCB confirmed that this appointment didn’t fall foul of their code of ethics.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
Courtney Walsh says ‘time running out’ for West Indies ahead of Women’s World Cup qualifier
Courtney Walsh knows that time is running out ahead of West Indies Women’s World Cup qualifying campaign, but he is hoping to squeeze in a subcontinental tour beforehand to help his team prepare.
Walsh, who took over as head coach immediately after West Indies’ 5-0 T20I series defeat in England last September, has revealed talks are underway to try and organise a series in Bangladesh or India before the qualifying tournament in Sri Lanka in July, where the top three teams will go through to next year’s World Cup in New Zealand.
“We haven’t got a lot of time on our hands,” Walsh said via Zoom. “The qualifiers are, right now, the main item on the agenda. We have to go to the qualifiers ready and we need to do whatever we can. We are hoping to go and play a tour. Possibility could be Bangladesh, possibility could be India. Nothing is confirmed as yet but there’s talks and Bangladesh has indicated that they’re interested.
“We are very, very hopeful that we can get a tour, preferably on the subcontinent as the qualifiers are going to be in Sri Lanka, which will be ideal for us. Once we get confirmation of that, then we can fix our camp and everything to suit because obviously going out to play competitive cricket, I view that as priority. Before the qualifiers I’m hoping that we can get that done. If you don’t get a tour then we’re going to have to have a camp.”
A squad of 24 players entered a three-week training camp in Antigua on Sunday. It was one of the first things Walsh said he wanted to do when he was appointed and it has been a logistical feat to create a biosecure bubble involving participants from around the Caribbean amid strict Covid-19 prevention protocols.
A key focus has been fitness, along with bringing a number of uncapped youngsters into the system to press for places in the first team.
Since being crowned T20 World Cup champions in 2016, West Indies have slipped to sixth in the ICC world rankings in both white-ball formats, a fact Walsh is acutely aware of and determined to turn around.
“A lot of work is going to be required to get us back to where we can be,” he said. “In terms of ability and talent, we have it. But our work ethic has to step up, our fitness level has to step up, so we have to look all around. Our entire approach to the game has to be changed because everybody has gone a leap above us so we have got to now play catch up.
“This camp is setting the tone, not just for the World Cup qualifiers, but for the next two to three years of West Indies cricket. We will be very honest with each other, we’ll be open, we’ll look at the facts and the figures, the stats and data don’t lie. Then we’ll have a look at that and discuss it and decide how we’re going to tackle it.
“We have actually started one aspect of it already, and that is the fitness. Everybody knows that the team’s fitness levels are a little bit questionable. We’re putting measures in place to ensure that there’s a certain level of consistency as far as the fitness is concerned, so once you’re fit and ready to play then we can work on the skills after.”
Walsh said the senior players within the squad had welcomed the younger ones into the camp and he was hoping to draft a few more into the West Indies set-up, some as young as 14 and 16 years old, if not during the current camp, in the near future.
A key feature of West Indies’ most recent international performance in England was their over-reliance on just a couple of experienced stars, namely captain Stafanie Taylor and allrounder Deandra Dottin, who is still making her way back from a serious shoulder injury that required surgery 18 months ago. Walsh was pleased with Dottin’s progress since managing to bowl just eight overs in the entire series against England, taking two wickets.
“Deandra is getting there, she is back to close to regular fitness,” he said. “I would like to have her fully fit for the qualifiers, bowling back to normal. So that’s one of the things we’re looking at but in terms of her batting and fielding she’s a lot better.
“She’s ready and she’s eager to play, which is very, very good, so once we tailor her workload from this camp I want to give her a three-month plan to get ready to bowl. She’s in a good space, she’s working, she’s always a hard worker. I said to her, if we have her bowling the way she can for the qualifiers that, will give us a big boost, so we’re working at that.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
BCCI Apex Council to discuss Ranji Trophy fate
A decision on the matter will be taken during a meeting on January 17
The Indian cricket board is set to organise a curtailed Ranji Trophy tournament from next month, and in all likelihood, in the same six bio-bubbles created for the ongoing Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. A decision with regards to this will be taken during the BCCI Apex Council meeting on January 17, scheduled to be held virtually.
There are seven items on the agenda, and at the top of the list is domestic cricket, which also includes junior and women’s categories. “As of now, there is 90 per cent chance that Ranji Trophy will start in February and we will have the same six bio-bubbles created for the Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The groupings will also be same — five groups of six teams each and one group of eight teams,” a senior BCCI source privy to the development told PTI on conditions of anonymity.
The logic behind having the same bio-bubbles is that it’s already set and will be more convenient for operational purposes. “It could well happen that the league stage of the Ranji Trophy will be held before the IPL and then the knockouts, quarters, semi-finals and final held after the T20 league so that best teams don’t lose out on best players. It’s up for discussion. The women’s national tournament will be on and all age-group tournament will be held,” the source said.
Other items on the agenda include the 2023-2031 ICC FTP cycle, for which the BCCI might ask for a bigger IPL window to host the ten-team tournament that is set to start from next year. The IPL will require a minimum of two months’ window and the other boards need to agree to have their players released for the better part of the tournament. It is expected that India will be playing a lot more bilateral series with more emphasis on T20 and Test cricket and lesser number of ODIs. There has been a constant debate on whether bilateral ODIs are fast losing their context.
The ICC tax exemption issue is also slated to come up for discussion in the meeting. It is already decided that India will ask the global body to deduct from its annual revenue of USD 490 million in case they don’t get exemption from the central government on existing tax laws. The council will be intimated as to what the government’s stance is on the matter.
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