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Younis Khan backs ‘future star’ Haider Ali to come good after disappointing South Africa tour | Cricket



Haider Ali didn’t enjoy too much success in his new role at No. 5 during the South Africa tour © Getty Images

While the top-order trio of Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman shone brightly during Pakistan’s 3-1 T20I series win in South Africa, the performances of the middle and lower order weren’t quite as convincing. The final match of the tour was a case in point: Pakistan slipped from 92 for 1 to 129 for 7 before Mohammad Nawaz steered them home in a chase of 145.

One middle-order batter who came under the spotlight in particular was Haider Ali, who made scores of 14, 12 and 3 in his three visits to the crease during the T20Is. Pakistan’s batting coach Younis Khan has termed the 20-year-old Haider a “future star”, and has backed him to succeed, given enough chances to settle into his role in the side.

“Haider is a future star and very much capable,” Younis said in a virtual conference. “His natural game is attacking, and I still remember he smacked a six off his very second ball on debut. I understand he has played a lot of games since then, and missed a few opportunities to grow, but we have to give him time [to grow into his role]. He was opening in the previous series, and then, when he was playing in the PSL for his franchise, he put up some amazing performances lower down the order. Here too we tried to use him in that [middle-order] role.

“I struggled for four years when I came into international cricket. I was lucky that my performances didn’t get highlighted. But at the same time when you come into international cricket there is a big responsibility on the player himself. You represent a 220 million population and it’s up to you in the end, regardless of anything. You have to prepare yourself for this big opportunity and you have to give everything to make it count. We have a responsibility as a coach but the players are growing into their roles, and they will make mistakes, otherwise you can’t learn.”

Haider made his T20I debut during the tour of England last year, scoring a half-century on debut batting at No. 3. After batting in that position in his first five T20Is, he has moved up and down the order, opening on three occasions and batting at No. 5 during the tour of South Africa.

All that shuffling has coincided with a lean patch. After starting his career with two fifties in his first three innings, he’s only crossed 20 once in his last nine innings, causing his overall average to drop to 20.91. Asif, meanwhile, has struggled to replicate the hitting ability he’s shown in domestic T20s in international cricket. While he averages 25.06 and boasts a strike rate of 146.98 in all T20 games, his corresponding T20I numbers are a modest 17.14 and 124.72 respectively.

Mohammad Nawaz sealed a tense chase in the final T20I after a middle-order collapse © AFP/Getty Images

Reflecting on the overall performance of the middle order, Younis said the batters are still learning their roles, and will learn from their mistakes in time.

“It’s a young team, players are settling, and they aren’t clear about their [batting positions] yet, but they will be going forward,” Younis said. “We have the Zimbabwe series now, and it’s a good chance for the youngsters to go out and play the role that is being worked out for them, and in which we want to see them grow, because we have some very tough cricket coming up, with the T20 World Cup in India. The top order is vital, but the lower order is equally important, which is where we are lagging behind, and we have to address this to get to the top.”

At the same time, Younis urged the batters to take ownership of their own performances in order to raise their game.

“We are playing constant cricket day and night and we can’t really push players all the time. They should themselves understand. There is not much time to do technique work, [we focus] mainly on the tactical aspect. I speak with players and always tell them not to come back without finishing their job, but then in the last T20 for example we saw Fakhar and Babar left it unfinished and suddenly the situation turned out that we couldn’t even score a run a ball.

“Players need to understand their game and take ownership of their performance. It’s not club-level cricket where us coaches can discipline a player using a stick. We do have a role but the players need to themselves realise how they can bring success to their game.”

Younis joined the Pakistan set-up in England last year and has taken on the role full-time since the 2020-21 tour of New Zealand. Over the last one year, Pakistan have picked a number of players without too much experience in domestic cricket, often turning to youngsters who have shown flashes of brilliance in the T20 format, particularly in the PSL.

Younis Khan took over as Pakistan’s batting coach during last year’s tour of England © Getty Images

Younis believes a player must have a certain amount of experience in domestic cricket before being picked for Pakistan, in order to be ready for all the situations that international cricket may throw their way.

“If you are picking anyone for Test cricket then he should have sufficient first-class experience behind him,” Younis said. “If it’s for T20 or one day he should have played adequate List A games. But then these days, whether it’s the media, or the commentators, or YouTube channels, they build pressure on teams, coaches, and selectors to pick certain players. They say, ‘pick this player,’ because they think he is ready, but then he has played only two T20 matches. So this pressure is created by the media prompting selectors to pick players.

“We speak about young blood a lot, and yes, T20 and one-day cricket are about young blood. But it’s also important to pick players who are mature, who have the fitness and the commitment, and who have enough cricket under their belt. It’s important to pick the best players who have the experience, and who won’t score five runs an over when you need 10 an over, and won’t aim for 15 runs an over when you need five an over.”

When asked how much time a player should be given before the selectors make a final decision, he said: “I am a batting coach and very much part of the support staff, but the final decision about the selection of any player isn’t mine. It’s not my decision on how many opportunities a player should be given – for all this, we have chief selectors, head coach and captain, and it’s their prerogative. But in my personal opinion if any player plays two to three series, he will perform if he has the caliber. So I can only give my recommendation but the final decision lies with the captain and head coach. We are trying to figure out a right combination with players who are suitable for different situations and who can perform.”

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Steven Smith was given captaincy too young but I’d support him getting the job again




“Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent,” Paine said of Smith

Australia captain Tim Paine has argued that Steven Smith was too immature for the demands of captaincy when the national role was first handed to him in 2014 and 2015. But Paine has fewer qualms about Smith returning to the job whenever the incumbent chooses to retire.

Paine, who initially had been unsure of whether he would continue as captain beyond the end of the 2019 Ashes, has hung on for another two years since, and the national team coach Justin Langer has attempted to end any speculation on the future by claiming that the selectors aren’t even discussing the issue.

But this summer’s Ashes series looms as the most logical conclusion to Paine’s unexpected run in the job, which came about directly through the Newlands scandal that saw Smith banned from playing for a year and banned from leadership for two years.

“At least another six Tests,” Paine told the Chappell Foundation dinner when asked how long he had left. “If I feel like the time is right and we’ve beaten the Poms 5-0, what a way to go out. But it might be a tight series and we might be chasing 300 on the last day and I’m 100 not out and hit the winning runs — and then I might go again.”

Smith’s entourage, including his leadership mentor Maurice Duffy, are adamant that he should get the chance for a second go at a role that was snatched away from him after events in South Africa.

“It would be a tragedy right now if he didn’t get the opportunity to be captain again,” Duffy told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2019. “He owns himself much more now. He has an inner calmness. He owns his own feelings a lot better now, he’s much more in control of himself. I think he’s got a better outlook on life right now and I think he appreciates hugely what has been given to him.”

Other senior figures in Australian cricket are not so sure, and New South Wales broadened the race to replace Paine by handing domestic limited-overs captaincy duties to Pat Cummins instead of Smith earlier this year. Paine, who has never argued against Smith getting the job again, maintained his stance on Wednesday night.

“I think so. Obviously I don’t make that decision but the time I played with Steve as captain he was excellent. Certainly tactically he is as good as you get,” Paine said. “He’s probably a bit like me when I was at the start of my captaincy journey in Tasmania — he was thrown into a very big role at a very, very young age and he probably wasn’t quite ready for it.

“But by the time I came in he was growing into that role and getting better and better. Then obviously South Africa events happened and he’s not doing it anymore. But yeah I would support him getting that job again.”

On captaincy in general, Paine said that in his experience that ambition for leadership was often a dangerous thing. “In my experience the guy who wants it too much is probably not the best option,” Paine said. “So if [his son] Charlie does come up and says he wants to be captain of Australia, I’d say just lower your expectations and worry about being a good player and a good team man and whatever happens from that would happen.”

Reflecting on the series defeat to India, Paine said that the hosts had been distracted by the tourists’ psychological tactics. “Part of the challenge of playing against India is they’re very good at niggling you and trying to distract you with stuff that doesn’t really matter,” Paine said, “and there were times in that series where we fell for that.

“The classic example was when they said they weren’t going to the Gabba so we didn’t know where we were going. They’re very good at creating these sideshows and we took our eye off the ball.”

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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WBBL 2021 – Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav set for maiden WBBL deals




Verma has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers

India batter Shafali Verma and left-arm spinner Radha Yadav are set to make their Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) debuts later this year in Australia.

ESPNcricinfo understands that Verma, 17, has already signed a contract with two-time champions Sydney Sixers while Yadav, 21, is on the verge of finalising her deal with one of the two Sydney-based clubs. Aside from Verma and Yadav, at least one more India player is likely to make her maiden appearance in the competition this season.

“Yes, Shafali has signed the contract with Sydney Sixers, and given she is a minor, I have had to give my consent, too,” Verma’s father, Sanjeev, told ESPNcricinfo. “I would like to thank the BCCI and Haryana Cricket Association [HCA] for giving my daughter the permission and support to play in the WBBL. Without the guidance of the HCA, whatever Shafali is doing in her career wouldn’t have been possible.”

A senior BCCI official told ESPNcricinfo that the WBBL could see the largest ever Indian contingent this season. “All players who have been or will be approached by Big Bash teams will be given all necessary permissions to participate in the WBBL this season,” he said on the condition of anonymity.

Verma, as reported by ESPNcricinfo last week, is also set to make her debut in the inaugural edition of the Hundred, the 100-ball domestic competition of the ECB. She will be joined by her India team-mates Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Deepti Sharma and Jemimah Rodrigues.

Only three India players have played in the WBBL previously. India T20I captain Kaur and vice-captain Mandhana debuted in the 2016-17 edition for the Sydney Thunder and the Brisbane Heat respectively. While Kaur played three straight seasons for the Thunder, Mandhana’s second bow in the competition was for the Hobart Hurricanes, in 2018-19. Veda Krishnamurthy played a solitary season, in 2017-18, also for the Hurricanes.

The WBBL didn’t have any Indian representation in 2019-20 as they focussed on preparing for the 2020 T20 World Cup instead, with assignments against South Africa and West Indies during the same time as the WBBL. A clash in scheduling with the 2020 Women’s T20 Challenge, the domestic three-team, four-match competition run by the BCCI, ruled at least three top-drawer India players out of the WBBL.

The seventh season of the WBBL is likely to run in its usual October-November window, and overseas players will be expected to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival in Australia.

Additional reporting by Daniel Brettig

Annesha Ghosh is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ghosh_annesha

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Charter flight may return Maldives-bound Australia players this week




The group of 38 would be able to take a charter flight out of the Maldives via Malaysia to Sydney on May 16

Australian cricketers, coaches and media currently stranded in the Maldives may be able to return to home shores as soon as Sunday.

Cricket Australia, the Australian Cricketers Association and the BCCI are still awaiting confirmation from the Australian government that citizens who have recently been to India will be allowed to return to home shores after May 15 as previously flagged.

However, under plans currently being thrashed out on that condition, the group of 38 would be able to take a charter flight out of the Maldives via Malaysia to Sydney on May 16, where they would then serve their mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

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