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AB de Villiers to discuss T20 World Cup comeback with South Africa coach Mark Boucher

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Discussions have already begun, and the two are set to catch up again during the IPL

AB de Villiers is keen to play the T20 World Cup in India later this year, and is scheduled to discuss the subject with Mark Boucher, the national-team coach, during the course of the IPL. However, he understands that there’s a possibility there will be no space for him in the squad.

“We are lined up to have a chat sometime during the IPL. But yes, we’ve been talking about it already,” de Villiers, who retired from international cricket in May 2018, said after leading the Royal Challengers Bangalore to victory over the Kolkata Knight Riders on Sunday. “Last year, he asked me if I would be interested. And I said, ‘absolutely’. And come the end of the IPL, we will have a look at where we are at with regards to my form and my fitness.

“Also, the situation with his team – he’s got to look at his guys who have been performing well over the last while. If there’s no space for me, so be it. If I can slot in there, it will be fantastic if all those things fall in place. Waiting for [the chat with] Bouchy towards the end of the IPL, and we will then plan accordingly.”

In February last year – back when the T20 World Cup was scheduled for 2020 before being postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic – Boucher had said there would be no place for egos to get in the way when it came to the de Villiers question. He had said that if de Villiers was “ready and willing“, and if his presence made the South Africa team stronger, he would be selected.

More recently, after South Africa’s 3-1 T20I series defeat to Pakistan, Boucher said he had spoken to de Villiers before the IPL and that the “conversation is still very much open”.

After retiring from all international cricket, de Villiers tried to make a comeback for the 2019 ODI World Cup, but was ignored by the national selectors after the team management refused the superstar’s offer. South Africa finished seventh in the ten-team tournament with three wins in eight completed games.

Since the 2019 ODI World Cup, de Villiers has played 41 T20s, averaging 46.60 at a strike rate of 162.55 with 15 half-centuries. In IPL 2020, he scored 454 runs, including five fifties, in 14 innings, and after three games in IPL 2021, he has an average of 62.50 and a strike rate of 189.39.

Sreshth Shah is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @sreshthx



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England’s challenge in 2021 is to peak for Australia ‘pinnacle’, says Joe Root

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Joe Root says that the challenge of taking on New Zealand, the world’s No.1-ranked Test team, followed by five home Tests against India and an away Ashes campaign, makes 2021 the sort of year that “you play the game for”.

However, Root also admitted that England’s new-look selection panel – now led by the head coach Chris Silverwood – faces a tricky balancing act to ensure the entire squad is fit and firing ahead of the Australia tour, which he conceded was the year’s “pinnacle”.

The squad for England’s first Test of the summer, against New Zealand at Lord’s, is expected to be announced on Tuesday, and may provide an opportunity for some of England’s uncapped squad members – notably Gloucestershire’s James Bracey and Sussex’s Ollie Robinson – to test their mettle on the big stage after long periods on the sidelines during the team’s recent bio-secure campaigns.

However, Root admitted the importance of striking the right balance between opportunities for fringe candidates and sufficient game-time for the first-choice players, especially given the continued uncertainty about how long the Covid-safe environments will have to be kept in place.

“It’s very difficult at the minute, the circumstances make it very tricky,” Root told Sky Sports during Yorkshire’s ongoing County Championship clash with Glamorgan in Cardiff. “You’ve got to factor in so many different things and the welfare of the players is obviously paramount.

“But this is what you play for, years like this one. You want to pit yourself against the best, you want to be successful against the best, and this is the opportunity to do it.”

The New Zealand series will be an early test of the ECB’s new selection arrangements. Ed Smith’s removal as national selector last month means that Silverwood holds an unprecedented influence within the England camp, but Root believes his new role will add clarity to the process, given the bond that already exists between captain and coach.

“More than anything, it just means that that relationship between the two of us has to be as strong as ever,” he said. “We get on very well and we’ve got a good understanding of each other. We know what we want, and so hopefully, that process becomes a little bit easier.

“It’s always a tricky balance,” he said of the prospect of blooding some new faces against New Zealand. “What you’re trying to do is create that environment where you’ve got a strong squad of players that have been together for a good period of time, but no-one going in cold.

“You can’t plan everything perfectly, especially at the minute with Covid. There might be natural opportunities where things arise, there might not be, but the most important thing is that we remain very open-minded about how we want to move going forward.

“We’ve got some really important cricket coming up. And we’ve got to prioritise that. So when we sit down, we’ll factor in everything as best we can, and make sure that we’ve got a real clear idea of how we want to go, how we want the year to look, and how we’re going to peak for that tour of Australia.”

England overtook Australia as the No.3-ranked Test team this week, behind New Zealand and India, who face off in next month’s World Test Championship final at the Ageas Bowl, and after impressing for the first half of their recent tour of Sri Lanka and India, Root is confident their Test plans are on track.



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Former India Women’s coach WV Raman alleges ‘smear campaign’ against him in email to Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid

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He says it will be “extremely disconcerting” if his candidature was rejected due to reasons other than “my incompetency as a coach”

India Women’s outgoing head coach WV Raman has alleged that a “smear campaign” against him has gained unwarranted traction and he has urged the BCCI president Sourav Ganguly to stop it. In an email that Raman also sent to the National Cricket Academy head Rahul Dravid, he wrote it will be “extremely disconcerting” if his candidature was rejected due to reasons other than “my incompetency as a coach”.

Raman was not retained as the head coach of the senior women’s team by the Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC) which picked Ramesh Powar for the job.

“I presume you might have been told different views about my style of functioning and work ethic,” Raman wrote. “Whether those views conveyed to the officials of the BCCI had any impact on my candidature is of no consequence now.



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Cameron Bancroft – ‘Self-explanatory’ that bowlers were aware of ball-tampering tactics in Newlands Test

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“All I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part”

Cameron Bancroft has conceded there had to be wider knowledge of Australia’s ball-tampering tactics against South Africa in the Newlands Test than the punished trio of himself, David Warner and Steven Smith.

Speaking to the Guardian interviewer Donald McRae in Durham where he is playing county cricket, Bancroft admitted under questioning that it was “self-explanatory” that bowlers in the Test team had to be aware the ball was being tampered with.

“Yeah, look, all I wanted to do was to be responsible and accountable for my own actions and part. Yeah, obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” Bancroft said. “I guess one thing I learnt through the journey and being responsible is that’s where the buck stops [with Bancroft himself]. Had I had better awareness I would have made a much better decision.”

When pressed further, he replied: “Uh… yeah, look, I think, yeah, I think it’s pretty probably self-explanatory.”

While levying extremely heavy penalties on Bancroft, Warner and Smith for their roles in the ball-tampering, Cricket Australia ring-fenced the matter away from the rest of the team, although head coach Darren Lehmann resigned a few days later after seeing the tearful press conferences of the players upon their early returns to Australia.

The lengthy bans placed on Bancroft (nine months), Warner and Smith (one year each, with Warner banned from holding any leadership positions for life) have left plenty of questions unanswered, even though CA has in the past called for anyone with further evidence about the affair to come forward. Former chief executive Kevin Roberts had this to say in March 2019 about that prospect, while defending the initial investigation conducted by the former CA head of integrity, Iain Roy, between the Cape Town and Johannesburg Tests.

“If they’ve got any concerns about ball-tampering or any concerns about any integrity issue in the game, we’ve invited them to report that through our anonymous integrity hotline or through other means that are available to them,” Roberts had said. “We haven’t had any such reports, so we won’t jump at shadows, but if anyone does report concerns about any integrity matter prior to ball-tampering or whatever it may be, we’re serious about addressing that, and we have a process to address it.

“We’re really serious about addressing any unresolved issues and we’re sincere in the way we’re going about that. So if there are any reports or allegations as opposed to innuendo, then we will investigate that thoroughly.

“Certainly the investigation needed to be conducted swiftly, we needed to fulfil our commitment to field a team against South Africa the following week, and we didn’t know whether we’d need to fly 11 new players in to fill that team or no new players. The ultimate answer was somewhere in between. So the investigation was absolutely fit for purpose, but we haven’t rested on those laurels. We’ve made repeated and extensive invitations to anyone to report any integrity matters or concerns about ball-tampering ever since.”

Though Smith and Warner have returned to the team, Bancroft is now a long way from international consideration, having played the first two Test of the 2019 Ashes series before being discarded and then struggling to recreate his best days in the Sheffield Shield in 2019-20. He performed better last summer but is not considered to be in the front rank of contenders for a place in the national side.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig



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