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Virat Kohli – Mental health management will become ‘a norm of the future’

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“You’re literally going to the ground and coming back to the room, and you don’t have a space where you can just disconnect from the game”

Virat Kohli believes that mental health management will become “a norm of the future” alongside the physical workload management that is already prevalent in cricket. The India captain said he doesn’t want a situation where his players fall away for a lack of space to express their issues.

The resumption of cricket, after the Covid-19 pandemic hit, starting with the English summer last year, has come with additional mental stress, especially for touring players. As the team that – alongside England – has played the most amount of cricket during this period, while also having the additional load of the IPL, India’s top cricketers have had to deal with the challenge of going from one biosecure bubble to another with little break in between. Now they are scheduled to play the World Test Championship final and a five-match Test series in England, followed by the remainder of IPL 2021 and the T20 World Cup in the next four months. All that apart from the second-string team that will be playing in Sri Lanka through July.

“The kind of structure we’re competing inside, for a long period of time it’s difficult for players to stay motivated and find the right kind of mental space in one area and just do this stuff day in and day out, and [then] dealing with high-pressure situations,” Kohli said. “So this will definitely become a norm of the future, where apart from the workloads, the mental health side of things will also come into the picture big time.

“You don’t have an outlet at all in today’s day and age. You’re literally going to the ground and coming back to the room, and you don’t have a space where you can just disconnect from the game and go out for a walk or a meal and a coffee and say, ‘Let me refresh myself. Let me just get away from the game a little bit.’ I think this is a huge factor, which should not be neglected. Because as much hard work as we’ve done to create this team, you don’t want players falling out because of mental pressures and not having the capacity or space to express themselves.”

Kohli has often endorsed this view on mental health. Using his own mental troubles on the 2014 England tour as an example, he has spoken of a “strong need” for professional help in Indian cricket. As things stand, there has been no official move in that regard on the part of the BCCI but seated alongside India coach Ravi Shastri, Kohli said he believed it could become a priority.

“And you’ll see it during the Test series,” Shastri said. “I’m not talking of the WTC, but if you add that as well – when you have to play five Test matches in this environment, in six weeks, it’s no joke. Even the fittest will need a break. More than the physical part, it’s the mental part. You can be destroyed mentally, being asked to do the same things day in, day out, and then go out and perform. And it’s not easy to recover, especially if you’ve had a bad day. So it’s important that you shuffle the guys around, and keep them mentally fresh. It’s not the physical part. You keep them mentally fresh – because of the circumstances.”

Coincidentally, the structure of this tour will allow India players time off and perhaps a lot more freedom of movement than the confines of the recently suspended IPL. While India was in the middle of an aggressive second wave when the tournament was called off, England recently recorded its first day without a Covid-related death in over a year, and vaccination has hit a steady pace. The WTC final ends on June 22, and the England series won’t begin until August 4.

Kohli welcomed this break and said it wouldn’t affect any momentum they could pick up from the WTC final. The lack of cricket in the interim is not something they’re fazed by, he said, adding that preparation is “all in the head” if you’ve played in the conditions before, like most of the Indian team has – either at senior level or for India A.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to refresh, restructure,” Kohli said. “Hopefully, if things are okay out in England, we would have finished our quarantine periods – [would be nice] just for the guys to be normal for a few days and just disconnect again, understanding the pressure of a five-match series. Like in Australia, if we had to compete inside a [biosecure] bubble for that long a period of time, the whole tour would have been very tough.

“The fact that we had a little bit of freedom to go out and access the kind of things that the locals were, gave us a bit of space and time to reset and refresh. So I think it’s absolutely fine. It’ll give us time to regroup as a side and prepare again for a long series. That kind of setup is very important before you go into a lengthy series. We know that playing five Tests in England can be very challenging and daunting. So we want to have the most time before that series to set up for that series and be in the zone.”

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Eng vs NZ 2021 – Kane Williamson ruled out of second Test and Tom Latham to captain New Zealand

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Will Young to bat at No. 3 after showing strong County Championship form for Durham

Kane Williamson, the New Zealand captain, has been ruled out of the second Test against England at Edgbaston because of a persistent elbow injury.
Williamson had to miss an ODI series against Bangladesh earlier this year because of the same problem, which also caused him to miss the start of the 2021 IPL for the Sunrisers Hyderabad. Tom Latham, the regular vice-captain, will lead the team in Williamson’s absence, as he did against Australia at the SCG in January 2020 and West Indies in Wellington in December.



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Recent Match Report – United vs Qalandars 15th Match 2020/21-2021

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Faulkner took three wickets for Qalandars in the powerplay while their captain Sohail top scored with 40

Lahore Qalandars 144 for 5 (Sohail 40, Hasan 2-27) beat Islamabad United 143 for 9 (Faheem 27, Faulkner 3-32) by five wickets

Few games are worth waiting three months for, but on the resumption, the PSL served up a UAE-style thriller. In a game that Lahore Qalandars dominated but somehow found a way to lose control of in the final few overs, Rashid Khan smashed three fours off the final over, when they needed 16, to rescue a game that had slipped away for his side, condemning Islamabad United to a stunning last-ball defeat. With one needed off the final delivery, Tim David’s top edge cleared the keeper, and Islamabad’s fate was sealed.
Lahore had got off to a brilliant start thanks to three wickets up top from James Faulkner in the first innings. Islamabad struggled for fluency throughout the innings as wickets fell regularly, with only a cameo from Faheem Ashraf, who top scored with a 24-ball 27, taking them past 120. That late surge dragged Shadab Khan’s team back into the game, with the 143 they posted looking like the sort of total that was just about defensible in the UAE; the very notion would have been unthinkable in Karachi.
Fakhar Zaman and Sohail Akhtar got Lahore off to a fluent start, but accurate, disciplined bowling from Islamabad derailed the chase fairly soon. Fakhar lost fluency and was cleaned up by Faheem , and as the asking rate began to climb, captain Sohail became increasingly key for his side. When he smashed Shadab Khan for 15 in the 12th over, Lahore were back in the game, but the true consequences of that over were yet to emerge.

With wickets falling regularly and Ben Dunk nowhere near his best, the game looked dead and buried for Lahore when Hasan Ali removed the Australian in a superb penultimate over. Singaporean international David’s six off the final ball meant Islamabad needed to defend 15, and Shadab threw Hussain Talat the ball instead of taking it himself. Rashid smashed him for three successive boundaries, and a rollercoaster of a contest was suddenly done and dusted.

The decision

Shadab’s confidence with the ball isn’t what it might have been, but even so, backing Talat, who didn’t otherwise bowl all day, to line up for that final over seemed an unnecessary risk. Shadab would later say he didn’t fancy bowling at the left-handers, and with Dunk there till the 19th over, he kept himself away from the bowling crease. But Dunk was gone, and with Rashid and David batting, there were two right-handers out in the middle for the Qalandars. Shadab, nevertheless, didn’t quite trust himself at the moment. Talat’s over was fairly ordinary, in truth, but given it was his first, laying the blame at his feet would be excessively harsh.

Faulkner’s military medium

Faulkner was a surprising pick in the replacement draft for Lahore anyway, but when he was thrown the ball to open alongside Shaheen Afridi, the faith Qalandars had placed in him seemed excessive. Even more so when he shuffled to deliver what could most generously be termed medium-fast deliveries and Colin Munro took him apart with a four and a six off successive deliveries.

But it was that lack of pace that would prove especially destructive on a slow wicket, particularly when the Australian mixed it up by deliberately taking the pace off some. Munro was undone when he played down the wrong line, but Faulkner was only getting started. While Shaheen was unfortunate not to pick up wickets, his less celebrated new-ball partner was more than making up for it. Rohail Nazir was undone by an off-cutter that slowed off the surface, while Shadab found no timing on another slower delivery as Islamabad reeled. Akhtar was so impressed that Faulkner went on to bowl his full allotment of four on the trot, and by the time he was done taking three wickets, his side was in charge.

Rashid Khan masterclass

It’s difficult to overstate the enormity of the impact Rashid’s availability had on Lahore’s chances. While it seemed initially he would be lost to Sussex for the T20 Blast at this time of year, he chose to stick with the PSL, and with the opportunity to bowl in these conditions, why wouldn’t he? Rashid in the PSL is just about as close to a cheat code as T20 cricket has these days, and with Islamabad already under pressure when he was introduced, the Afghan asphyxiated them through the middle overs.

His four overs conceded just nine runs, along with the wicket of Talat, as the wheels came off entirely for the batting side. The combination of the quicker, flatter delivery, the conventional legspinner, and a devilish googly ran Islamabad ragged, and by the time he was done, Islamabad had only managed to hobble on to 101 for 7 in 16 overs. And all that without mentioning his later exploits with the bat.

Where they stand

Islamabad slip to fourth, with three wins in five, while Lahore go top with eight points and four wins in five matches.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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Match Preview – England vs New Zealand, New Zealand in England 2021, 2nd Test

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Shall we talk about the cricket for a bit, then? Let’s park the timeline mining and the urge to be outraged by every less-than-savoury comment ever committed to the Twittersphere, and focus on the reason why such remarks from England’s senior sports stars are held to a higher standard than the rest of the poisonous soup that swills around that fetid site.

England’s cricketers are public figures – a fact that might have been easy to overlook in the past 12 months of bio-secure bubbling, but at Edgbaston this week, they can expect to feel once again the full roar (or at least, a 70% roar) of the Hollies Stand, as the sport continues its tiptoe back to normality with cricket’s largest crowd since the T20 Blast final in September 2019, when Edgbaston was once again the host with the most.

This year in the UK, only Leicester City’s FA Cup final win over Chelsea last month has been witnessed by more spectators than the 17,000 a day that will be permitted in Birmingham, and the euphoria of that occasion was palpable, even while the gaps in the stands remained gaping. All things being equal, this Test promises to be a celebration of cricket’s resilience and rebirth. But as we have been reminded over the course of the last few days, all things are far from equal right now.

Nevertheless, the occasion could also be a celebration of a different ilk for the indomitable James Anderson, who now seems to be ticking off a milestone a match as he revels in the “sexy phase” of his career, the phrase recently coined by Peter Moores to describe Stuart Broad’s similarly zen-like confidence in his methods and mien.
Given the eight-week gap until the first Test against India, there seems little reason to defer Anderson’s record-breaking 162nd Test appearance on the grounds of workload management, although it was also England’s stated aim before the series to use these games, which fall outside the World Test Championship remit, to expand their pool of potential Ashes performers. Either way, he’ll get there soon enough, and will do so with a seasoned assurance far removed from the raw rookie who tore in on debut at Lord’s 18 years ago, even as his internal monologue was insisting he “wasn’t good enough”.
New Zealand, too, are embracing the rest-and-rotation vibe. Some of their changes are enforced – most troublingly, the absence of their captain, the world’s No.1-ranked batter, Kane Williamson due to a long-standing elbow injury – but the rest are anticipated with the bigger picture in mind.
For all that Tom Latham, their stand-in skipper, recognises that victory in England would be a memorable achievement in its own right, the three-day gap to the World Test Championship final against India requires a pragmatic approach, particularly to their fast-bowling resources. After six years as one of the premier teams in world cricket, encompassing the heartache of two World Cup finals, this is a glorious opportunity to obtain a tangible reward for their ceaselessly high standards.



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