Allrounder feared he had cancer until tests came back negative, but his recovery is still expected to take several weeks
Sikandar Raza will be out of action for an indefinite period after suffering an infection on his bone marrow, which was suspected to be cancerous at one stage. Following surgery on April 2 to remove the tumour, he has been cleared of serious illness but the recovery period is expected to take several weeks.
Raza, who is at home going through cycles of medication and injections, said that he first felt a lot of pain in his right arm during the Zimbabwe-Afghanistan series in Abu Dhabi last month. He played both Tests and the three T20Is, which ended on March 20.
Returning to Harare, he saw a specialist and tests revealed something more serious than just regular muscle pain.
“I had pain in my right arm during the Abu Dhabi Tests,” Raza told ESPNcricinfo. “We treated like it was muscular pain initially but the pain kept getting worse. I remember staying up all night, unable to sleep despite having sleeping pills. That’s how I played the Test matches.
“After coming home, the ultrasound showed that the muscles are all fine. The MRI showed that I had a foreign or alien substance on my bone marrow. Seeing this the surgeon told me that this substance could make my shoulder bone so weak that I could fracture it by just throwing a ball. He suggested that I do a biopsy right away. I wanted to wait till the Pakistan series but he insisted otherwise. He said that due to the deformity seen in my bicep bone, they were suspecting cancer.”
Raza opted for surgery almost immediately, and only on Tuesday evening found out that it was an infection. “I went under the knife within the next 48 hours. They opened up my bicep by drilling the bone. They created a hole to take out some puss and red substance.
“All of this was sent it for a biopsy, and it came back as negative. There was a type of infection but only last night the bone biopsy report ruled out the cancer,” he said.
Raza said that his recovery would take a long time. He will definitely miss the ongoing Pakistan series. “I have been ruled out indefinitely. There’s no set date for my return. Of course this not being cancerous has suddenly fast-tracked some of it.
“After the lab professor studies my MRI, I will apparently be on medication and jab for the next six months. We want to treat it aggressively so that I don’t get the infection again. I am very sure that I have three to five more weeks of doing nothing, if everything goes smoothly.
Raza was thankful to the Zimbabwe Cricket officials including chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani and managing director Givemore Makoni, as well as the team physio Trevor Wambe who took special care of him. Raza also spoke to Dr Sohail Saleem from the PCB and Afghanistan physio Azeem Malik.
“Allah was very kind. He gave me a lot of strength but people like our physio Trevor Wambe helped me through this. He was by my side in Abu Dhabi, giving me a lot of time. When we got back to Zimbabwe, he ran around with me with the scans and tests.
“When ZC found out what the doctors suggesting seeing my MRI, Givemore Makoni, the MD, and chairman Tavengwa Mukuhlani got very worried. They were very supportive, even contacting other boards and telling me that they would send me anywhere else for better treatment.
“My family, friends and team-mates were also very supportive. Alhamdullilah when the report came last night, it put me and my family at ease. There were tears of joy in my family,” he said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84
BAN vs SL 2021 – New ODI captain Kusal Perera wants young Sri Lanka to play ‘fearlessly’ against Bangladesh | Cricket
Fearlessness. If there’s one change Sri Lanka’s new ODI captain Kusal Perera would like to usher in, it is for his team to play as he says he does: completely unafraid.
Perera has been appointed leader of a young squad, which is without several big names, including Angelo Mathews, and now has the opportunity to turn around Sri Lanka’s poor form in the format – the side having slipped to ninth on the ICC rankings. Perera has long been one of the most aggressive batsmen in Sri Lanka’s ranks, and early indications are that he would like the team to embrace that ethos.
“We have to fearless cricket to win matches,” he said, a day after his appointment as captain was made official. “You can’t be fearful about losing. If you’re worried about your place, you aren’t going to give 100%. What I’m going to tell the players is to go and give it everything. If we play fearlessly even when we are practicing, then you will be able to play the same way in a match. That’s what I’ve told the team. If we are fearful, we will fall even further. I’m trying to build a culture where the players have a lot of confidence.”
Perera’s own most notable innings have been aggressive ones. In Tests, his 153 not out off 200 in Durban is now counted among the format’s greatest knocks. In ODIs, he has hit the second-equal fastest half-century – off 17 balls, against Pakistan, in 2015.
“I really like to play fearless cricket personally, and that’s where my success has been. Whenever I’ve played with fear, it hasn’t worked for me. I want everyone else to play like that. You can’t guarantee that you will go right playing this way, but the chances of things going well are greater.”
“But you have to practice well to instill that fearlessness. Because if you are 100% certain about the shot you’re playing, you can play without fear. You need to understand your strengths and weaknesses. Where does the ball need to be for me to hit it? Will I get myself in trouble by hitting there? You need to have that understanding. If you’re a bowler, you need to know which ball can get you a wicket, and which will help you bowl a dot. These things help you play fearlessly. As a fielding unit, you have to carry that same ethos as well, and I have big hopes for the upcoming Bangladesh series about our fielding.”
Although Perera has sparkled briefly, however, his overall record as a batsman is modest. After 96 ODI innings, he averages 31.04, with a strike rate of 92.04. The responsibility of leadership, he hoped, would bring bigger personal scores as well.
“What the selectors told me when they appointed me was that I often get a 50 or a 60 and get out without getting to a 100. I accept that. If I score a hundred, the chances of winning the match go up. You can’t get a 100 every game, but when you get a start, you need to make sure you convert. They expect me to take that responsibility.”
Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf
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Ramesh Powar returns as India Women coach, no extension for WV Raman
He replaces WV Raman, coming back after his last stint had ended in an acrimonious fallout with Mithali Raj
Powar was replaced by WV Raman, and will now take over from the incumbent. While Raman’s coaching tenure began in December 2018, the Indian team has been largely inactive for almost two years, including the time period after which the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
— RAMESH POWAR (@imrameshpowar) May 13, 2021
Under Raman, India reached the final of the T20 World Cup in 2020, losing to Australia on March 8. With the pandemic striking worldwide almost immediately after, the team didn’t play another international match until their home series against South Africa Women that began on March 7 earlier this year. South Africa won the ODIs 4-1, and the T20Is 2-1.
Raman’s position had come in for scrutiny following the losses to South Africa, and those reversals, ESPNcricinfo understands, prompted the selection panel led by Neetu David to ask the BCCI for a rethink on the support staff. BCCI secretary Jay Shah is believed to have spoken to at least one member of the selection committee before the Indian board put out an advertisement, on April 13, inviting applications for the head coach’s job – for a term of two years, with the job including overseeing the senior team as well as the India A and Under-19 teams.
Powar was then selected by the Cricket Advisory Committee, comprising Madan Lal, RP Singh and Sulakshana Naik, who interviewed a number of candidates for the post which saw 35 applications. Besides Powar and Raman – who re-applied – the others in the fray were Hrishikesh Kanitkar, Ajay Ratra, Mamtha Maben, Devika Palshikar, former chair of selectors Hemlatha Kala, and former assistant coach Suman Sharma.
Powar had first been appointed as coach in July 2018 in an interim capacity, and his contract was then extended to cover the 2018 T20 World Cup in the Caribbean. While India reached the semi-finals of the event, its aftermath had Raj and Powar trading accusations, with Raj saying she felt “deflated, depressed and let down” by the actions of Powar during the tournament, and Powar countering that Raj had “threatened to retire” mid-tournament if she wasn’t given the opener’s slot.
The controversy meant Powar’s contract was not renewed, even though senior players Harmanpreet Kaur and Smriti Mandhana had both written to the BCCI urging them to continue with him.
Powar then worked at the National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru and with the India A sides, before taking over as the coach of Mumbai men’s team in February 2021. Under his charge, Mumbai turned their fortunes around to romp to the Vijay Hazare Trophy (50-overs domestic competition) title after a forgettable Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy campaign in which they won only one of their five games.
In his playing career, Powar played two Tests and 31 ODIs for India from 2004 to 2007, taking a total of 40 international wickets. His domestic career spanned from 1999-00 to 2015, as an offspinning allrounder of considerable skill. He took 470 first-class wickets (average 31.31) while also scoring 4245 first-class runs (average 26.53) in 148 games. He played 113 List A matches, taking 142 wickets and hitting 1082 runs. Powar played 28 T20 games, including in the IPL for Kings XI Punjab and Kochi Tuskers Kerala.
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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