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BBL 2020-21 – Pakistan allrounder Imad Wasim signs with Melbourne Renegades

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Melbourne Renegades have signed experienced Pakistan bowling allrounder Imad Wasim for the second half of the upcoming BBL season.

Imad will join the Renegades from December 26 after the completion of the three-match T20I series between Pakistan and New Zealand in New Zealand. The 31-year-old will be able to play immediately upon arriving in Australia without quarantining due to the Covid travel-bubble agreement between New Zealand and Australia.

“Imad is one of the best T20 players in the world with his ability to impact games with the ball and to finish the innings with the bat,” Renegades coach Michael Klinger said.

“He’s an experienced player with recent title success, he’s capable of bowling in the powerplay and he’ll strengthen our middle-order batting.”

Imad joins South Africans Rilee Rossouw and Imran Tahir, and Afghanistan spin duo Mohammad Nabi and Noor Ahmad on the Renegades roster. The BBL has allowed three overseas to play per game this season and the various international commitments and travel restrictions have meant the Renegades have added five to their roster to give them flexibility.

“Given the current landscape we’ve had to be flexible with our international players,” Klinger said. “We’ll have Rilee Rossouw available for the whole season while our other international players will feature at different points throughout the tournament.

“It’s a really talented group of international players and they’ll provide us with some great flexibility throughout the season.”



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India vs England – Chennai Tests set to be played behind closed doors

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The TNCA and the BCCI took the decision in unison, as a “preventive measure”

The prospect of the first two Tests of the India-England series being played behind closed doors has grown stronger after the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association informed its members that no crowds would be allowed at the MA Chidambaram stadium. The TNCA took the decision despite the Indian government recently ruling that outdoor sport could be conducted with spectators at 50% capacity.

Chennai will host the first two matches of the four-Test series with the first Test scheduled to be held from February 5 to 9 and the second from February 13 to 17. Both teams will then travel to Ahmedabad for the last two Tests, to be played at Motera stadium. The third Test, to be played under lights, is scheduled from February 24 to 28 and final Test from March 4 to 8.

England’s tour of India, which also includes five T20Is (to be played in Ahmedabad) and three ODIs (in Pune), is the first international cricket that India will host since the sport went on a global hiatus last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. India ranks second globally in terms of total Covid-19 infections reported, with its count inching towards the 11-million mark.

On January 20 the TNCA secretary R Ramaswamy sent a circular to the association’s members saying the decision to bar crowds was taken in unison with the BCCI as a “preventive measure”. “In view of the prevailing Covid pandemic, BCCI has decided not to take any kind of risk with the safety of the players during the forthcoming India-England Test series,” Ramaswamy said. “As per BCCI directive, the first two Test matches will take place behind closed doors (No Spectators/Guests/Sub-Committee Members) as a preventive measure.”

Incidentally the Indian government had said outdoor sports could have crowds of up to 50% capacity. “For outdoor events, spectators will be allowed upto a maximum of 50% of the total capacity of the stadium,” the Indian Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports had said while putting out a note on December 26. The note was part of the “standard operating procedures and guidelines for conducting sporting competition in India in the Covid-19 environment.”

Despite the TNCA decision, a senior official at the Gujarat Cricket Association, which runs the Motera ground, remained optimistic of having some section of the ground open to crowds. In 2020 the refurbished Motera was inaugurated by former US president Donald Trump. With a capacity of 110,000 Motera is the biggest-capacity ground in world cricket. The GCA official said that subject to the permission of both the Indian and Gujarat state governments, if not half, at least tickets could be sold to fill the stadium to at least 20-30% capacity.

Both squads are scheduled to land in Chennai by January 27 and will straightaway enter a biosecure bubble, which has become the norm in all cricket. After an initial three-day quarantine, teams would start their training while undergoing regular testing.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Quarantine restrictions to force South Africa to use separate T20I and Test squads

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The red-ball players will leave Pakistan early to quarantine before the home series against Australia

Both the South African and Australian Test squads will quarantine ahead of their yet-to-be-confirmed three-Test series in March, in what will be the strictest biosecure bubble yet in South Africa. Unlike for the England and Sri Lanka series, where training could begin after the squads had taken their first Covid-19 tests – though social interaction was not allowed until after the third test – for the Australia series, players on both sides will be confined to their rooms for a longer period of time.

For that reason, South Africa’s Test squad will leave Pakistan on February 9 to begin their quarantine period at home. A separate squad will play the three T20Is in Pakistan on February 11, 13, and 14 in what CSA director of cricket Graeme Smith sees as an inevitable consequence of the times and something member boards will have to work together to ensure the cricket calendar is as unaffected as possible.



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Australia vs India – Bharat Arun says ‘Ravi called me and said let’s eliminate the off side for Australia’

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The secret to the Indian bowlers’ success in the Border Gavaskar trophy is finally revealed

R Ashwin coming on inside the first hour at MCG and bowling a middle-and-leg line. India attacking Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne with a leg gully. Jasprit Bumrah’s plan of bowling short and into the body to Joe Burns and Will Pucovski – all these were part of India’s comprehensive bowling plan for Australia, one that was formulated long before the details of the tour were worked out.

This was revealed when B Arun, India’s bowling coach, threw light on the preparation done by the backroom staff, which was then put across to the captains – Virat Kohli and later Ajinkya Rahane – to implement during the Test series. In addition, they also took cue from New Zealand’s plans, particularly Neil Wagner’s short-ball strategy, against Smith during their 2019-20 series.

“Ravi Shastri (head coach) called me sometime in July,” Arun said. “When we were discussing the Australia tour, he said that we need to take the off-side out of the Australians. So, we had our own analysis and felt that most of the runs that Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschange had scored was off the cut, pull and on the offside. We also took a cue out of the New Zealand attack when they bowled to Steven Smith, where they had attacked his body and he had felt very uncomfortable at that point in time.”

Between India’s previous tour in 2018-19 to the start of the series that just finished, 36% of deliveries faced by Australia’s right-handers were played to the leg side. In this series, however, that number jumped to 45%, a consequence of India’s steadfast middle-and-leg lines to complement their strong leg-side fields. But the true effect of it can be seen in another far more stat: 36 out of Australia’s 68 dismissals were either bowled, lbw or caught on the leg-side.

It’s a tactic India tried to execute from as far back as January last year, during a three-ODI series in India. In the series-decider in Bengaluru, Mohammed Shami and Navdeep Saini were tasked with the challenge of attacking Smith’s body with a leg slip in place. For a batter part of that contest, Smith looked ungainly.

He was beaten for pace while trying to get inside the line, and when he did eventually manage to take them on, the timing was elusive. While Smith went on to make a century there, it wasn’t high on the fluency charts. By the end of it, India’s think tank may have seen enough of the plan to believe they had something to work with going forward.

“Ravi called and said, ‘I want you to make a plan where we eliminate the offside for the Australians.’ Then we sat and planned the whole thing,” Arun said. “We said we’re going to attack them with straighter lines and have on-side fields for batsmen. The thought process started in July and when we had discussion with Virat [Kohli], he bought into the theory. We employed it in Adelaide and Ajinkya [Rahane] was magnificent [in his use of the plan] in Melbourne onwards and the bowlers responded beautifully.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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