India batsman initially set to be available for three games but it could be extended
Vihari, an India Test regular, does not have an IPL deal and is expected to be available for at least three LV= Insurance County Championship games. The BCCI is understood to have agreed the deal in the hope that his experience in the county game will prove beneficial ahead of the World Test Championship final, which is scheduled to be played in Southampton in June, and India’s five-Test tour of England that follows.
Warwickshire had originally signed Malan, the South Africa top-order player, for the entire season. But with South Africa currently categorised as a “red list” country by the UK government, he has been unable to obtain a visa at this stage. Even if he does, he will be obliged to spend time in quarantine before becoming available, meaning it is unlikely he will play before May. With that in mind, there seems every chance Vihari’s stay could be extended.
While Warwickshire have not confirmed the approach to Vihari, an official at the BCCI did appear to do so.
“Yes, Vihari will be playing for Warwickshire this season,” Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed BCCI official as saying. “He would play a few games. He is already in England now. He will play a minimum of three games. We are trying to figure out if there is a chance to play a few more. With a curtailed domestic season this time [in India] and Vihari being a part of the Test side, he needs match practice.
“All his other Test colleagues are part of the IPL teams. Even if it’s white ball games, they will be fit and match-ready. But we need to ensure that Vihari also gets game time before the England tour. It’s not just one World Test Championship final but it’s followed by a full-fledged five-Test series. We need him ready.”
While ESPNcricinfo understands Vihari is not yet in the UK – and will not, therefore, be available for Warwickshire’s opening game of the season against Derbyshire – it is understood the process between obtaining a visa and being available to play could be as little as six days. The process for Malan is understood to take around 17 days from the moment a visa is granted. Neither man has a visa at this stage.
Other India players such as Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay and Axar Patel have all had spells in the county game in recent times, while Virat Kohli signed for Surrey in 2018 but was obliged to pull out due to injury. Shreyas Iyer has also signed to play for Lancashire in the 50-over competition, although his fitness is uncertain after requiring shoulder surgery.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Struggling South Australia poach Brendan Doggett among host of changes
Head coach Jason Gillespie says the new-look side will “focus on results” after four consecutive seasons at the bottom of the first-class standings
South Australia have poached the dual Sheffield Shield-winning fast bowler Brendan Doggett from Queensland among a raft of interstate additions to their squad. According to head coach Jason Gillespie, the new-look side will have a “focus on results” after four consecutive seasons at the bottom of the first-class standings and no victories at all in any competitions last season.
The recruitment of Doggett, alongside the additions of Nathan McSweeney (also from Queensland), Jake Carder (Western Australia), the Sydney Thunder’s Nathan McAndrew (New South Wales) and contract upgrades for Ryan Gibson (NSW), Samuel Kerber (Victoria) and rookie Jordan Buckingham (Victoria), marks a major departure from recent seasons in which the Redbacks tried unsuccessfully to build a home-grown team.
The failing fortunes of South Australia have been a talking point across the national system and were last year the subject of an independent review by Michael Hussey that panned a culture of mediocrity and conflicts of interest within the state’s high-performance wing.
Hussey’s review had included the following recommendations: “Identify and try to recruit the best young talent around the country (former Australia U-19 players not contracted) and engage them through Premier Cricket making them earn opportunities at the next level. Identify quality players from interstate with first-class experience to fill holes in the current list or holes that will develop in the near future. Target the best 10th to 15th players from other states.”
South Australia had already parted ways with Will Bosisto, Tom Cooper, Brad Davis, Conor McInerney, Luke Robins and Cameron Valente – all delisted – while Callum Ferguson and Chadd Sayers retired during the season after long careers with the Redbacks.
“We are extremely delighted with the additions we’ve been able to make to freshen up our squad, and we’re optimistic for an improved 2021-22 season,” Gillespie said.
“We have added considerable depth and increased our pace stocks, namely with Brendan who is a two-time Sheffield Shield champion, and we welcome each new player and look forward to the beginning of pre-season. We’ve shaped this new-look team with a focus on results, and we are confident that this rejuvenated list can take this proud state forward.”
South Australia contract list: Wes Agar, Alex Carey, Jake Carder, Brendan Doggett, Daniel Drew, Ryan Gibson, David Grant, Travis Head, Henry Hunt, Samuel Kerber, Jake Lehmann, Nathan McAndrew, Nathan McSweeney, Joe Mennie, Harry Nielsen, Tim Oakley, Lloyd Pope, Kane Richardson, Liam Scott, Jake Weatherald, Nick Winter, Daniel Worrall
Rookie contracts: Jordan Buckingham, Bailey Capel, Kyle Brazell, Corey Kelly, Thomas Kelly
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
Cricketers around the world express solidarity with Palestine after civilian casualties rise
As the death toll in Gaza following Israeli air strikes escalated, cricketers around the world made their voices heard
Cricketers from around the world have expressed support and solidarity with the people of Palestine, with the death toll from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza rising sharply over the past few days. Several of the dead are civilians, including at least 13 children.
The violence began on Monday when the Israeli military entered the Al Aqsa mosque, one of the holiest sites in Islam, in the final days of Ramadan, the holy month for Muslims.
Several members of the Pakistan cricket team, led by captain Babar Azam posted messages on Twitter, with a running theme of prayers for the Palestinian people, imploring the world to “stand up for humanity”. Shan Masood, Azhar Ali and Shadab Khan were among the other Pakistanis who expressed solidarity.
— Babar Azam (@babarazam258) May 11, 2021
The messages of goodwill weren’t limited to Pakistani cricketers. Afghanistan legspinner Rashid Khan called it “no crime more heinous than the killing of a child”. Hashim Amla, in a lengthy Instagram post, drew comparisons to Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid, reminding people of Mandela’s unstinting support for the people of Palestine throughout his life. Mandela had said South Africa’s struggle was “incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians”.
Tabraiz Shamsi, Daren Sammy and Kagiso Rabada also posted messages on Twitter praying for Palestine, while former India all-rounder Irfan Pathan said one “only needed to be human” to support their cause. George Linde condemned the “terrible scenes” while England bowler Saqib Mahmood asked people not to turn a blind eye, using the hashtag #FreePalestine.
This isn’t the first time cricket has found itself caught up in the issue. In 2014, at the height of an Israeli military operation in Gaza, England allrounder Moeen Ali wore wristbands with slogans reading #FreePalestine and #SaveGaza during a Test match between England and India. The ICC match referee David Boon decided it was a breach of the ICC regulation forbidding cricketers from sending out political messages and asked Moeen to remove the wristbands.
Qais Ahmad signs Kent deal for T20 Blast, two County Championship games
Last season’s beaten quarter-finalists lean towards spin-heavy strategy for Blast
Qais Ahmad, the Afghanistan legspinner, has signed for Kent for the whole of T20 Blast and two County Championship fixtures, adding to the burgeoning list of teams he has represented around the world in short-form cricket.
Ahmad, 20, was due to join Gloucestershire as an overseas player last summer but had his contract cancelled on account of the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, this will be his first stint in county cricket.
He is also due to play for Welsh Fire in the inaugural season of the Hundred, after he was retained ahead of February’s re-draft. As a result, he will stay in the UK after the conclusion of the Blast’s group stage, and is likely to be available for the knockout stages.
The club also signed Mohammad Amir for the second half of the competition last month, while Heino Kuhn is registered as an overseas player after the expiration of Kolpak status. Counties are allowed to register three overseas players simultaneously, but can field a maximum of two in a match.
Ahmad is the fifth Afghanistan player to sign a deal for this year’s Blast, after Rashid Khan (Sussex), Mujeeb Ur Rahman (Middlesex), Mohammad Nabi (Northamptonshire) and Naveen-ul-Haq (Leicestershire). He would not have qualified for a governing body endorsement for his visa but for a change in the ECB’s requirements two years ago.
Kent were beaten quarter-finalists in last year’s Blast, and the signing of Ahmad hints at a change in strategy for the 2021 season. They generally fielded a solitary frontline spinner in Imran Qayyum last summer, alongside Joe Denly’s part-time legbreaks, but may now opt for a spin-heavy side this season.
Ahmad is also due to be available for Kent’s final two games of the initial group stage of the Championship, against Lancashire at Old Trafford and Sussex at Beckenham. If selected, they would be his first first-class games since he made his Test debut against Bangladesh in September 2019, and he would become the first Afghanistan player to appear in the Championship.
“I’m excited to play in the Vitality Blast and I’m really looking forward to being a Kent Spitfire,” he said. “Having played alongside Daniel Bell-Drummond at Colombo Kings, I have heard good things about Kent and I will give it my all.”
Paul Downton, the club’s director of cricket, said: “Qais Ahmad is an exciting talent who has shown his ability in top quality leagues all over the world. I am confident that his enthusiasm for the game will make him a firm favourite with our members and supporters as we look to welcome crowds back to watching live cricket again.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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