Another hurdle overcome as the PSL strives to get underway next month
As many as 11 players and officials who were denied permission to board commercial flights headed to Abu Dhabi via Doha will now be routed through Bahrain to the UAE capital later tonight. An official update from the PCB announced the players and staff had boarded, and all formalities had been taken care of. It sees another hurdle overcome as the PSL strives to get underway next month and complete what remains of the tournament postponed in March this year.
Five persons from this PSL contingent were cleared to fly, while the others had to return to their hotels where they have been in quarantine since May 24.
As the PCB prepares to hold the remainder of PSL 2021 in the UAE, a batch of more than 25 individuals from both cities was supposed to travel to the UAE on a chartered plane. But the PCB, in a late decision, instead opted to put them on commercial flights, which nullified the quarantine protocols already in place. ESPNcricinfo could not establish what prompted the sudden change in travel plans.
In all, 202 players, support staff and tournament officials from Pakistan – that is, 57 persons from Karachi and 145 from Lahore – are already in Abu Dhabi for the tournament, flown over on a special chartered flight on May 27. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that there remain multiple individuals, including the franchise support staff, who are yet to get UAE visas though.
Overall, over 270 personnel – both Pakistani and overseas – are in Abu Dhabi and have already started quarantine, a basic requirement before entering the tournament’s bio-secure bubble. The quarantine periods vary based on the country from which the persons have travelled: the batches from Pakistan are meant to spend seven days in quarantine from the day of check-in, while those from South Africa and India – the latter as part of the production crew – have to undergo ten days isolation.
Had things gone to plan, the PCB intended to restart the league no later than June 5. But with several pending issues, there is still no certainty over the the schedule of fixtures. With every passing day, the available window continues shrinking – the Pakistan team is set to fly to England on June 22, meaning the PSL needs to wind up before then. ESPNcricinfo has learnt that the remainder of the tournament – as things stand, 20 matches out of 34 remain to be played in the season – might be truncated to fit it within the available window.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo’s Pakistan correspondent
Eng vs Ind women’s Test
Surface for clash between England and India previously used for Gloucestershire T20 fixture
Knight revealed on the eve of the match at Bristol’s County Ground that the pitch had been used for Gloucestershire’s T20 Blast fixture against Sussex last Friday and described the situation as “not ideal”.
“We’d much prefer to be on a fresh one but it is what it is,” Knight said. “We found out last week, which obviously we tried to get changed, but it was a little bit too late for that to happen.
“It’s unfortunate, it’s not ideal, we’d much rather be on a fresh one, but we don’t know how it’s going to play yet. It still could play very well. Generally, at Bristol you look at the deck, sometimes it looks not great but actually plays brilliantly. So yeah, look, it’s not ideal but it is what it is and we’re obviously going to have to perform as best we can on the wicket we’re given.”
The provision of a used pitch at Taunton for the 2019 Women’s Ashes Test sparked controversy. On that occasion the same surface had been used during the men’s World Cup nearly six weeks prior. As it turned out, the pitch offered little assistance to anyone and the match ended in a draw allowing Australia to retain the Ashes.
“We don’t know how it’s going to play necessarily,” Knight said. “Obviously slightly different with it being used but we’re confident we’ve got the squad and the XI that we’re going to pick to win this Test match.
“At Taunton there was a lot of talk about the pitch and it didn’t actually do too much so I guess we’re going to have to wait and see and see how it plays.
“It’s not something that we can change now. There’s no point looking too much into how it will play, we’ll obviously try to adapt as much as we can to the situation and how the wicket plays. We’ve got to go out there now and get our heads round playing on the pitch we’ve been given.”
Unlike the Ashes, where the Test is the middle game in a multi-format series, this match kicks off India’s tour which also includes three ODIs and two T20Is. Each white-ball game is worth two points for a win while four points are up for grabs for victory in the Test with two each for a draw and one each for no result.
Women’s Tests are a rarity and, as much as the players say they enjoy them, they are almost universal in stating their understanding that the shorter formats are the way forward for growing the game.
Even so, there is a sense of pressure to make each Test entertaining, something that Knight feels differs from the expectation on her male counterparts.
“You obviously want to be entertaining and want to put on a show and show off the best of your skills and the best of women’s cricket,” she said. “But our job first and foremost is to try and win and be successful. That’s at the forefront of our mind, and if we can do both at the same time, even better.
“I think often in women’s cricket, when we’re playing Test matches, we’re judged slightly to a different standard than the men’s game is. I think there’s games that you look at in isolation, a Test matches in the men’s game, that if it was a women’s game it would get looked at differently and judged on a different pedestal and saying it was attritional cricket or whatever, which I hope doesn’t happen this week.
“As a group of players we want to be successful, we want to win, and obviously if we can entertain whilst that goes on, that’s even better. We certainly don’t want to be known as a boring side and have a draw but our first port of call is to win games of cricket and that’s what we’ll be looking to do this week.”
Knight will be playing 100th match as England captain and her eighth Test match, with a proud record in the format including a highest score of 157 in the 2013 Ashes draw at Wormsley, her second Test appearance. More recently she scored 62 and 79 not out against Australia in 2017, which also ended in a draw.
“I’m desperate to be successful in Test match cricket because it doesn’t come around very often,” Knight said. “I’ve had a little bit of success and will be desperate to have more.
“For me personally, it’d be about my mental approach, being able to deal with the things that red-ball cricket throws at you, being able to concentrate for longer and being really tight, and also taking those opportunities to score that you get given.”
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo
WTC final – Ind vs NZ
Shardul Thakur, Washington Sundar, Axar Patel, Mayank Agarwal and KL Rahul left out
Meanwhile, India preferring Gill over Agarwal is perhaps a sign of continuity. Gill had a memorable start to his Test career in Australia, but his form somewhat tapered off during the home series against England, where he managed just 119 runs in seven innings at 19.83.
Agarwal, the man he pipped, lost his opening spot as soon as Rohit rejoined the Test squad in Australia, and didn’t feature in each of the four home Tests against England. He is India’s fourth-highest run-getter in the current WTC cycle, having made 857 runs in 20 innings at an average of 42.85, with three centuries and two half-centuries.
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Ind vs NZ – WTC final
“Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important”
“It is (a disadvantage), but this is something we can’t control,” Pujara said in a media interaction on Tuesday. “These are challenging times in the world because of the pandemic, and you can’t have the luxury for extra preparation time. But the most important part is the game is still going on and that we’re playing a final.
“Yes, preparation time is a bit of a disadvantage maybe, but if you’re ready for the challenge, even if circumstances aren’t favourable, you’d do well. We’re confident as a team. Maybe a few extra days of preparation would’ve helped, but we can’t complain. We’re ready.”
“Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important. If we win, then many youngsters would want to play the Test format and be part of the final when the next cycle comes around”
India spent two weeks in quarantine in Mumbai before arriving in the UK on June 3. Over the past three days, the team has taken part in match-simulation exercises, apart from their regular fitness sessions in batches. Pujara said that the first few sessions upon arrival in the UK were simply about “getting back into rhythm” to shed the quarantine hangover, but they have since amped up their intensity.
“We’ve utilised the time really well,” he said. “Even during the centre-wicket simulation, we had some practice wickets available. When in the middle, you want to ensure things you’re working on in the nets to come along.
“For bowlers, it was important to get used to the workload again. They would have bowled 14-15 overs in the entire game, which is very important for their workload. For the batsmen, it was about spending time in the middle, having the discipline of leaving balls, playing shots you would in a game. So being in the middle and having match scenario is very important.”
As a one-format player, for Pujara, the WTC final is as big as it gets, like any other global tournament final. “Personally, it means a lot to me,” he said. “This is the first time we are in a WTC final. We have worked hard over a period of time. It’s just like playing in a 50-over or T20 World Cup final.
“Test cricket needs to survive, and a WTC format helps where every Test, every series is important. If we win, then many youngsters would want to play the Test format and be part of the final when the next cycle comes around.”
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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