Fakhar Zaman jumps 17 slots, Mohammad Rizwan reaches 15th position
Pakistan captain Babar Azam has moved up by a place to second spot in the ICC men’s rankings for T20I batters. Azam’s record-breaking 122 off 59 balls against South Africa in the third T20I saw him gain 47 points to displace Australia’s Aaron Finch from the second position.
Azam was the highest run-scorer in the four-match series, having accumulated a total of 210 runs, including a half-century and a maiden hundred. Azam, who is still 48 points adrift of top-ranked Dawid Malan, has the opportunity to overtake him with the three-match series against Zimbabwe that got underway in Harare on Wednesday.
Earlier last week, Azam became the No. 1 ODI batter, ending India captain Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the charts. Azam is just the fourth Pakistan batter to attain the top ranking.
Fakhar Zaman gained 17 spots to reach 33rd rank after scoring an unbeaten 8 and 60 in the last two games, and Mohammad Rizwan jumped eight places to reach a career-best 15th position. Left-arm fast bowler Shaheen Shah Afridi also made a jump to reach his career best-equaling 11th spot in the bowlers’ list after picking up two wickets in two matches.
For South Africa, Rassie van der Dussen moved up from ninth to sixth spot, just one shy of his career-best, after scores of 34 not out and 52. Aiden Markram gained 31 places to reach 34th position.
England’s challenge in 2021 is to peak for Australia ‘pinnacle’, says Joe Root
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.
“We’ve made good strides over the last couple of years as a Test team,” he said. “It’s not been plain sailing, we’ve not had it all our own way, but we still improved.
“I truly believe we are making good strides in the right direction, and now we’ve got an opportunity to keep improving, keep getting better and peak for Australia, which is the pinnacle for us.”
SInce returning from India, Root has been a fixture in Yorkshire’s County Championship line-up. Although he’s made just the one hundred in four completed fixtures, against Kent at Canterbury last month, he is comfortable with where his game is at, not least after surviving a torrid examination from Glamorgan’s seamers in Cardiff, to reach 34 not out overnight in the ongoing fixture.
“I felt pretty good yesterday,” he said. “I was moving quite nicely. I’ve been working on trying to play the ball a little bit later and felt I was lining it up quite straight.
“Rhythm has been a big part of my batting for a few years now,” he added. “More than anything that’s what you’re trying to find when you practice, to make sure that I feel in control of all the shots I want to play, and playing the ball nice and close to me. It’s a nice place to be, but it doesn’t guarantee you anything when you start again this morning.”
On a personal note, Root was privy to a moment of family pride on Friday, when his brother Billy was presented with his county cap by Glamorgan before the start of play.
“It was a brilliant moment,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to walk past that special moment for him and for the club. I’m really proud of what he’s achieved here at Glamorgan and hopefully he can continue moving forward.”
Billy Root enjoyed a moment of one-upmanship at Headingley in their last encounter, when he brought up his hundred off his brother’s bowling. But asked if there was any sledging between the brothers, Root senior replied: “He tries, but he’s not brave enough to properly go hard at me. Let’s see what today brings.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Former India Women’s coach WV Raman alleges ‘smear campaign’ against him in email to Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid
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.
“What is important is that the smear campaign seems to have gained some unwarranted traction with some BCCI officials which needs to be halted permanently. I am prepared to give an explanation should you or any of the office bearers require it.”
He said he was not used to “moaning and whining”, but was bringing up the issues in case the BCCI president wishes to do a course correction.
“If I were to be rejected due to my incompetency as a coach, there is no argument on a judgment call at all,” he wrote. “But what will be extremely disconcerting is if my candidature was rejected due to any other reasons. Especially if it was due to allegations from people who were more focused on achieving their personal objectives at the expense of the overall hygiene and welfare of the Indian women’s team and the pride of the country.”
While Raman’s letter did not name anyone, it is understood that he was writing about the star culture that prevails in the team, which he said is probably doing more harm than good.
“If some people in the system have been highly accommodative to the extent of being seemingly obsequious to an accomplished performer for years on end – and if that performer feels constrained to adhere to the culture – then I would leave it to you to decide if the coach was asking for too much.
“In a coaching career spanning 20 years, I have always created a culture in which the team always comes first and insisted on no individual overriding either the game or the team.”
He said “paying heed to only one individual’s views while disregarding everyone else’s over a long period of time has resulted in gaping holes in the process and the system”.
“The time has come for you two accomplished former legends to salvage women’s cricket, falling which things could gather momentum in the wrong direction. I have some suggestions that might help in the improvement of women’s cricket. I will be delighted to share those if you are interested.”
Cameron Bancroft – ‘Self-explanatory’ that bowlers were aware of ball-tampering tactics in Newlands Test
“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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