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

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“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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SL vs IND 3rd ODI – Suryakumar Yadav

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He has made use of all chances at international level and wants to improve at getting deep in the innings

Suryakumar Yadav is only five-innings-old in international cricket. You wouldn’t know that, looking at him bat in any of those games. He’s looked nerve-less, decisive and crisp in his stroke-play, calm and confident in his batting.
Having made his debut when already past 30 has meant, perhaps, that Yadav might not have the same length of international cricket to look forward to that the Prithvi Shaws and Ishan Kishans have, but it’s also meant he’s come into international cricket with a greater understanding of his game. He made an immediate impact in the T20Is against England in March, and given a go in the ODI side, he’s returned a Player-of-the-Series performance against Sri Lanka.

India lost the third one-dayer, but took the series 2-1, and Yadav played a key hand in each of the three games. Starting out in his career, Yadav has got the fine balance of soaking it all in after years of waiting for it, versus the hunger because of a wait that lasted as long as it did.

“Obviously, everyone dreams of playing for India. It has been a lot of effort, lot of grind, lot of patience behind this,” Yadav said after the third ODI against Sri Lanka. “It has been worth the wait, and I’m really happy about it. From here on, how I build it is all in my hands. I’m really excited for the journey ahead.”

Yadav had always been a batter with plenty of sparkle. But he pinpointed returning to Mumbai Indians in 2018 as the turning point, after which his game has gone to a new level. It’s borne out by the numbers too. Since the 2018-19 season, Yadav has averaged 55.56 in List A cricket, at a strike rate of 131.88. In T20 cricket, his average has been 37.60 at a strike rate of 147.30.

“I’ve always been batting the same way as I am now,” Yadav said. “But yes, after I came to Mumbai Indians in 2018, things started changing a bit. I got to know what my responsibility is, how do I go about my game, how can I take it one step ahead. That’s when I started practicing even more. Talked to all the players who knew me really well from the last five-six years.”

Yadav’s scores in the ODIs, 31*, 53, and 40 – all scored at better than a run-a-ball – point to how quickly he got into the groove, although he did express disappointment at not carrying on in the second and third games. He was looking in command during the second game, steering India’s chase after half the side had been out, when one moment of indecision meant he was trapped in front. While India won that match on the back of Deepak Chahar’s heroics with the bat, Yadav’s fall in the third ODI – he was once again the key wicket – meant there was no similar recovery.

“I’m disappointed about that,” Yadav said. “The way I started in the first game, I got good confidence. In the second game, it was the perfect situation to win a game of the team. But that time too, it was not the way I play and I got out. Really disappointed with that. In the third game too, there was a good opportunity today to hold one end and try and play till the end, but couldn’t do it. That’s two things I’m really keeping in mind, how do I build from here? But that’s how you learn and move forward.”

It’s perhaps a sign of the new-found consistency that Yadav has found in his game. He’s in a patch of form where he’s not had a ‘bad’ season, but cutting down on failures has not come at the expense of any inventiveness. Yadav still executes the ramps, the paddle-scoops, the drives, the flicks through the on-side while seemingly off balance.

“I’ve been a Mumbai boy,” he said. “Growing up in Mumbai, the types of pitches you get in club games and in domestic cricket are very challenging. So there you automatically think what strokes you have to play on those kinds of wickets, and the same thing I’ve been carrying to the international stage. I’ll be doing the same thing. Just trying to keep things simple, following my routines.

“The game remains the same. There’s no change in the game, you play against any team, any level, you just have to go out and do the same things. What I do in domestic cricket, what I do in the nets, I try and do the same thing be it IPL, be it an international game. I just like to be myself. I like to go out there and enjoy. You must have seen, I just like to run when I get an opportunity to bat. I really enjoy that moment.”

For now, Yadav is doing the running, and ensuring that even when India field a full-strength team, he’s in serious contention to be part of it, whether in ODIs or T20Is. Like he said, how he builds his career is in his hands. So far, those hands have done a pretty good job.

Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Sophisticated approach helps Avishka Fernando finish top scorer in series

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Fernando had begun aggressively, as he often does, but then toned his batting down in the middle overs



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ZIM vs BAN – 2nd T20I

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He reserved praise for debutant Shamim Hossain though, who made 29 in 13 balls

Bangladesh’s stand-in captain Mahmudullah said that his side didn’t lose focus but were simply outdone by Zimbabwe’s effort in the second T20I in Harare. The visitors went down by 23 runs, their first defeat in this Zimbabwe tour, to set up a series finale on Sunday at the same venue.

“I don’t think we were complacent,” Mahmudullah said. “We were focused for this game and wanted to do well. We probably lost the game because we couldn’t execute our plans. We haven’t become a bad side after this defeat. They played well. We didn’t take the chances in the field. We have to avoid making these mistakes in the next game.”

Bangladesh’s fielding again came into focus when they dropped two chances and made a mess of a third. Mahmudullah dropped Wessley Madhevere on 44, and he eventually went on to make a career-high 73, while Soumya Sarkar dropped Ryan Burl although it didn’t cost much. Shoriful Islam and Mahedi Hasan had calling mix-up, to give Regis Chakabva a life in the third over.

When chasing the 167-run target, Bangladesh recovered from two early wickets before Wellington Masakadza pounced on over-eager batters, picking up three wickets in ten balls. Shakib Al Hasan was caught in the covers before Mahmudullah and Hasan holed out in the deep.

Mahmudullah however said his method was right, that the big shot was on in such a chase. “I am not disappointed with my batting approach. We needed to take risk up front. We were under pressure after losing early wickets up front.

“We needed a 30 or 50-run partnership to lay the foundation, and that would have got us closer to the target,” he said.

Hasan’s dismissal however would rankle as he saw Mahmudullah and Shakib get out in a short span, and should have stuck around as the set batter. Mahmudullah said that they sent Hasan to take advantage of a right-hander in a lefty-heavy top-order.

“We wanted to maintain right-and-left hand combination at the top-order since Liton Das didn’t play this game. We felt that Mahedi, who bats in the top-order in domestic cricket, should express himself in that position.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t click as a batting group. There weren’t any partnerships up front, particularly chasing 160-plus,” he said.

There was however a blitz from young debutant Shamim Hossain who slammed two sixes and two fours in his 13-ball 29. Mahmudullah said that he would have loved to see him get Bangladesh closer to the target.

“Shamim is a wonderful talent for Bangladesh cricket. He made a good debut although we couldn’t win today. He batted well but maybe he would have liked to finish the game, which would have helped the team. I gave him an over. He is a handy allrounder,” he said.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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