Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s Test captain, says he has resorted to waving to his team-mates from the balcony of his hotel-room at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, after going into quarantine in the UK following his post-IPL stop-over in the Maldives.
Williamson, who had been captaining Sunrisers Hyderabad in India prior to the tournament’s postponement earlier this month, arrived at the team’s training camp some 24 hours after the bulk of the squad flew in from New Zealand on Sunday, alongside his fellow IPL travellers Kyle Jamieson, Mitchell Santner, team physio Tommy Simsek and trainer Chris Donaldson. The group will spend the next three days in isolation before they can enter “mini training groups” of six, pending negative tests for Covid-19.
And while the circumstances of the squad’s reunion haven’t been ideal, Williamson admitted that the challenge awaiting his team – three Tests in five weeks, two against England, followed by the World Test Championship final, at the Ageas Bowl against India – was more than enough to make the current strictures worthwhile.
“Most of the team is here now,” Williamson said. “We are all pretty much on the same side [of the hotel] so we’re able to catch up a little bit with one another on our different balconies. For a number of guys, it’s their first time in the bubble, while others have done it a few times, so that can be quite helpful.
“But there’s a lot of excitement. Just being over here to play Test cricket is always a fantastic opportunity, but to play that third one, which is the World Test Championship final, is pretty special.
“The first step is getting out of the bubble, and after that we’re looking forward to starting our preparation, in terms of adjustment to conditions and catching up with the guys. It’s always exciting when there has been a period of time away from the team, and I look forward to that.”
Williamson described the events of the preceding fortnight as “a bit of a whirlwind”, adding that the situation developing in India was “heartbreaking”. But from a New Zealand perspective, one of the few countries where Covid-19 is under near total control, he admitted that the image posted on Instagram by his Sunrisers team-mate David Warner, showing the players in full personal protection gear while boarding an internal flight, had revealed to his fellow countrymen quite how serious the situation had got.
“I had some messages from friends and family,” he said. “It’s been pretty well documented that Covid, certainly at the moment but even beforehand, was in a far different place compared to back home. That’s the reality of it, when you are in countries where it’s so much more serious. You just try to go about what you’re doing as safely as possible.”
Williamson sustained a small tear to the tendon of his left elbow earlier this year, an injury that caused him to miss Sunrisers’ first three IPL fixtures, but with Simsek as one of his travelling partners, he has been getting regular treatment on the injury and is confident of full fitness ahead of the Lord’s Test in just over a fortnight’s time.
“It’s improving, which is the main thing,” he said. “The people that know more about it than I do say that it is a slow process, and certainly slow to go away entirely, but just managing it will be the focus.
“My last hit was maybe about 12 days ago, a wee while before our last match,” he added. “And then everything changed really quickly, and hitting balls became secondary, obviously. In an ideal world you’re wanting to train a little bit more, but we’ve got about 12 days of preparation before our first Test so there’ll be a lot of excitement when we start adjusting to the conditions and the ball, etc.”
England named their squad for the two Tests on Tuesday, and while it will be missing some big names, including all of those who had been due to be playing in the IPL this season, Williamson said he had no qualms about England’s selectors choosing to rotate their options.
“They’ve got a lot of Test cricket coming up, starting with us, then India and Australia for a five-Test series,” he said. “We try to do the same when we know there’s a huge volume of cricket, you need to manage as best you can.
“They have a huge amount of depth, there are a lot of world-class players in that squad,” he added. “That’s a credit to the cricket that is being played here in the UK, and the amount of talented players that are getting opportunities and putting their hands up. We know we’re going to be up against a really tough challenge come the first Test.”
And in English conditions, few challenges are tougher than withstanding England’s veteran pairing of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, who first played a Test together at Wellington in 2007-08, and are still going strong with more than 1100 wickets between them.
“They are legends of the game, still playing and doing as well as they ever have done,” Williamson said. “They know these conditions better than anyone. They’ve had incredible careers that are still going and they are still at the heights of their games.”
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
‘When you are competing with white players and you are black, you have no chance’
Former South Africa opener puts team’s inability to win World Cups down to poor culture
Bosman detailed instances of foul language and private conversations which he felt belittled him. “The environment was bad. Most of the time, the guys don’t greet you. They will just look at you. You could see they don’t care that you are greeting. They literally look the other way. They made you feel as though you don’t belong there.
“Most of the time, we [players of colour] were carrying drinks. You could see when you go and take something, for instance if someone is batting and someone needs gloves, you have to rush to the dressing room and grab someone’s gloves, and you walk in while they are talking and when you hear things they are talking about. It was sad.
“There was an occasion where I was 12th man and you literally can’t look away. There was a time when I didn’t see someone wanted something. These guys would shout and say, “f****** wake up, stop sleeping.” That language was a normal thing. The management could hear that too.”
Asked by the ombudsman Advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza whether instances such as that made him lose his confidence, Bosman said, “it breaks you. Inside. You cry inside. You put on a brave face but inside you are so broken.”
Like Telemachus, Bosman did not mention the names of the clique but hinted that they were specialists in the same discipline as him – batting. “There has always been this thing that there are no black batters. There are black batters but they are not being used. I was there,” he said. “When you are competing with white players and you are black, you have no chance. When you are black, you are going to struggle.”
Bosman concluded by saying he spoke for many former players of colour, some of whom have not been able to express themselves for fear of compromising their career possibilities. He is currently not involved in cricket in South Africa, after last coaching in the Northern Cape, but is trying to find a way in. “I don’t just speak for myself. I spoke for the retired black players. We are all in this. There are a lot of current players who are scared to say something. We are all suppressed and neglected. We lost a lot and we are hurting inside.”
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent
SL vs IND 3rd ODI – Suryakumar Yadav
He has made use of all chances at international level and wants to improve at getting deep in the innings
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.”
“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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