Sunil Narine produced one of the IPL’s best-ever individual performances in Monday’s eliminator but West Indies will resist the temptation to parachute him into their squad for the upcoming men’s T20 World Cup ahead of the ICC’s deadline on Friday.
Narine took 4 for 21 – including the wickets of Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Glenn Maxwell – to restrict Royal Challengers Bangalore to 138 for 7 in Sharjah, before hitting the first three legal balls he faced for six as a pinch-hitting No. 5 to ensure Kolkata Knight Riders’ progress to the second Qualifier against Delhi Capitals on Wednesday. Since the IPL’s resumption in the UAE, he has taken 11 wickets in eight matches, conceding 6.12 runs per over.
But Narine has not played international cricket since August 2019 for a variety of reasons and missed the cut for West Indies’ T20 World Cup squad when it was announced last month after failing to meet the board’s minimum fitness criteria. Roger Harper, the lead selector, said at the time: “Sunil Narine is a great miss for a team like this in a tournament like this. Any team would miss having a bowler of that quality in the team but… [he] did not make our fitness standards.”
Speaking from the team’s base in Dubai on Tuesday, Kieron Pollard, West Indies’ captain and a close friend of Narine’s, refused to be drawn further on Narine’s non-inclusion but indicated that there would not be any changes to the 15-man squad, barring injury or illness. “That has been explained,” Pollard said. “If I add my two cents or my words on how his non-inclusion came about, then it could be spun – just like how he’s bowling on these Sharjah wickets – in all different directions. Let’s deal with the fifteen guys that we have here at this moment in time, which is more important, and see if we can rally around these guys and see if we can defend our title.
“I have no comments on that. Enough has been said on that. I think persons have explained the reason of his non-inclusion at this point in time. For me personally, I know Sunil Narine as a friend first, before an international cricketer. We grew up playing cricket together. He is a world-class cricketer.”
‘Looking forward to having a fit Russell’
Narine’s KKR team-mate Andre Russell, has not played a game in the IPL since September 26 due to injury. Eoin Morgan, the franchise’s captain, said last week that Russell was “pushing hard” to be fit for the playoffs and he has resumed training, but was not fit enough to play a part in the win against Royal Challengers. Pollard said he hoped to have “a fit Andre Russell” for the World Cup, but said clarity was unlikely until he joined up with the West Indies camp.
“Before I make any assumptions as to what he can or he can’t do, we need to do our assessment first as a team,” Pollard said. “We haven’t had the opportunity to see him. We’ve gotten reports as to what he has done. I wouldn’t want to get into trying to say what he can or can’t do at this point in time.
“He’s a critical person for our team and we’d love for him to be 100%, but we have to deal with what’s in front of us. Let’s see what happens over the next couple of days. KKR have another game tomorrow and then, if they get through to the final, on Friday. When we see him as a management staff, we’ll be able to assess and ascertain what he can or can’t do, but we’re looking forward to having a fit Andre Russell if possible.”
Pollard will be taking part in his first World Cup – in either 50-overs or T20 cricket – since the 2014 World T20, having missed the 2015 and 2019 tournaments due to non-selection and the 2016 edition with an injury. He admitted that he has struggled at times this year while travelling from one bubble to another and called for more “attention” to be paid to cricketers’ mental health, while voicing his support for Chris Gayle‘s recent decision to take a short break between the IPL and the start of the World Cup.
“[Gayle’s] recharge was just like those iPhones,” Pollard said. “When the battery is low and struggling, you want to get some energy into you. In all seriousness, this bubble life is very, very difficult at times. Guys have moved straight from playing the home series, into CPL, then into IPL and into a World Cup. Sometimes you need a break as a cricketer and as an individual and I don’t think enough attention is being placed on mental health for sportsmen and us cricketers at this time with all this bubble [life].
“I’m fighting. I’m trying to look beyond certain things. As an individual, sometimes it tends to get to you, not being able to be free, leaving one tournament and going straight into the next. It’s a bit difficult at times [but] we have a job at hand. We have something very, very important coming up in the next couple of weeks and it’s something that we as a team are looking forward to.
“As the leader of the team, I try to gear myself and get myself in the best shape and the best order mentally, physically and emotionally, so I can lead to the best of my ability. I look forward to this World Cup. Obviously I haven’t played a World Cup in a long time, so I think that’s my motivating factor. To be able to come and represent the West Indies in a major tournament is something that I’m looking forward to, and hopefully we can put everything aside and turn out some very, very good performances.”
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Ind vs NZ, 2nd Test
Left-arm spinner will “miss going home” but is happy to welcome friends and family to watch him play at the Wankhede
“I was thinking about it when we landed in Mumbai yesterday,” Ajaz said. “It was nice coming out – we have come here with family for holidays [in the past]. It’s a little bit different now, obviously. This time I am with cricket.
For someone whose parents have never “seen me play in person even back in New Zealand”, Ajaz said it would be “really special” for his family to come and watch him play from the stands at the Wankhede.
“I have got various members of the family coming in on different days of the game,” he said. “I guess it’s the beauty of Test cricket. Everyone can come in on days that they are free.
“I don’t think about it [playing in front of the family] as pressure, it’s more of excitement. I know we didn’t get off at the airport. I have got a lot of flashbacks – leaving Mumbai for the first time and coming back to Mumbai for the first time, coming to Mumbai for a wedding and stuff like that. For me, it’s going to be a very, very special moment.”
The past week has been one of a roller coaster for Ajaz. It all started with him starring on a tense final day in Kanpur alongside Ravindra. The pair played eight overs together – with Ajaz facing 23 deliveries – with one wicket in hand to save the match. Ajaz said it was “a very cool moment” for the two Indian-origin players to be fighting for a draw against a strong home side and that in itself is “an amazing story”.
“He [Ravindra] was calm out there. He has got a great head on his shoulders,” Ajaz said. “We spoke about playing the ball as straight as possible. If it goes past the outside edge, it goes past the outside edge but as long as we keep the stumps out of play and not get out in front of pads – that’s the most important part. I don’t think at any point I thought about the outcome, and I am not really sure if Rachin did. It makes things a lot easier.
“Against the irony of us at home – towards the back end of the game and after the game was over – the two boys of Indian heritage, being brought up in New Zealand, playing against one of the biggest cricketing nations, trying to fight for a draw and that I suppose, [is] quite an amazing story in itself. It was special for us to be out there, and I thought that was quite fitting.”
Srinidhi Ramanujam Is a sub-editor with ESPNCricinfo
Match Preview – India vs New Zealand, New Zealand in India 2021/22, 2nd Test
The hosts will have to make tough selection calls for the second Test in Mumbai
Unseasonal rains have hampered much of the lead-up to this Test. While India trained at the Mumbai Cricket Association’s indoor facility at the Bandra Kurla Complex, New Zealand opted for some much-needed rest for the two days they’ve been in the city.
One thriller in, you can’t help but think why this India-New Zealand series, a contest between the top two Test sides, is a two-match series. But in these Covid times, short tours are perhaps a blessing for the players as most of them have been on the road for the better part of the last five months. One final bout then for these two sides, whose rivalry is fast becoming an intriguing one.
What should teams do after winning the toss in Mumbai?
India DWLWD (last five Tests, most recent first)
New Zealand DWWDW
In the spotlight
India (probable): 1 Shubman Gill, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), 5 Shreyas Iyer, 6 Ravindra Jadeja, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Axar Patel, 10 Mohammed Siraj, 11 Umesh Yadav
New Zealand may consider playing an extra seamer on a red-soil surface that aids bounce and carry. If so, it could potentially come down to Neil Wagner, the workhorse, replacing offspinner William Somerville.
New Zealand (probable): 1 Will Young, 2 Tom Latham, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Henry Nicholls, 6 Tom Blundell (wk), 7 Rachin Ravindra, 8 Kyle Jamieson, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Neil Wagner, 11 Ajaz Patel
Pitch and conditions
Kohli believes it’s a typical “Wankhede wicket” that will have bounce and carry thanks to a red-soil base. Rain in the build-up could mean it may not be as dry as you’d expect an Indian pitch to be.
Stats and trivia
“We have explained it to the individuals, and they have understood the mindset behind going in with a certain combination. It is not a difficult thing to do when there is collective trust and belief in the group that we are working towards the same vision.”
Virat Kohli on India’s tough selection calls
“I have got a lot of flashbacks – leaving Mumbai for the first time and coming back to Mumbai for the first time, coming to Mumbai for a wedding and stuff like that. For me, it’s going to be a very, very special moment.”
Ajaz Patel is excited to be back to the city of his birth
Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
England add South Africa and New Zealand tours to packed 2022-23 winter
Changes to FTP mean England will play bilateral men’s series in five different countries
England will tour South Africa and New Zealand in early 2023, ESPNcricinfo can reveal.
England are now due to play men’s bilateral series in five different countries in the 2022-23 winter, as well as the T20 World Cup in Australia. Their winter is scheduled to start with seven T20Is in Pakistan from late September, then three T20Is and three ODIs in Australia either side of the World Cup. They then tour Pakistan again for three Tests in December 2022 before the tours of South Africa, New Zealand and Bangladesh in early 2023.
Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98
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