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IPL 2021 – Robin Uthappa

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Batter says he had previously felt more secure only under Gambhir’s leadership at Kolkata Knight Riders

Batter Robin Uthappa said Chennai Super Kings’ culture of “making sure all players within the group felt secure” helped him retain his belief after not playing for the majority of the 2021 IPL season. Uthappa contributed with 63 off 44 balls in the first qualifier against Delhi Capitals on Sunday to set a strong foundation for Super Kings’ chase of 173.

“The culture in the group is that everyone will get an opportunity,” Uthappa told Star Sports Tamil after the game. “I started the first game well, but didn’t kick on from there. After that I got out playing shots that I’d have backed myself to play positively. I knew I had to be positive and express myself.

“I was sitting out for 10 matches and was wondering how to help. It was eating away at me and I had self-doubts. I was trying to help by doing whatever I can, like bringing them water, but to get an opportunity to actually go out to the middle and add value, it’s something I’m grateful for.”

Apart from Super Kings, Uthappa said he had previously felt more secure in an IPL team only under Gautam Gambhir‘s leadership at Kolkata Knight Riders.

“At KKR I had a similar experience under Gautam,” he said. “He’d make sure all players within the group felt secure. So the players always felt like giving back to the franchise. After that, this is the first time I’m experiencing that kind of security. You’re thinking of helping and giving back to the team.”

After losing Faf du Plessis in the first over, Uthappa and Ruturaj Gaikwad, who passed 600 runs this season on Sunday, put on a 110-run partnership for the second wicket in just 77 balls. Uthappa also celebrated his fifty with a unique sign, a gesture that indicated “the love within the group”.

“We just wanted to rotate the strike and build the partnership,” Uthappa said. “First six overs, we didn’t want to lose a wicket. Seventh onwards we decided it didn’t matter even if we were getting only 6-7 an over, let’s take the game deep.

“I’ve always had the energy, despite my size. I run well between the wickets. We’d always decided that one side in this ground is bigger than the other, so we targeted the boundaries against the spinners accordingly. When we’re batting to the bigger side, we targeted the boundaries straight. We just didn’t want to lose wickets.”

Uthappa also said that though “many had written Dhoni off”, he is the best at what he does. “It’s very heartening to see from the outside,” he said. “Many had written him off, but when the situation arises, he met the challenge. He’s the best at this. All of us in the dressing room wanted him to go out and do it.

“Mahi had said we have the best fans, and I agree. When I joined, I said I don’t know how to whistle, but will make you all whistle. Hopefully we can do that after winning the final.”



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T20 World Cup – Scotland eager to create history as Super 12s spot beckons

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Scotland are on the cusp of the Super 12s, but qualification is by no means guaranteed despite two wins in as many matches. A final game, that could potentially be a knockout, could make a few sides nervous, but Scotland are quietly confident of progressing. A win over hosts Oman on Thursday will take them there.

“The magnitude of the game is massive in terms of bigger picture, not just of Scottish cricket but Associate cricket,” Scotland coach Shane Burger said. “There have been many Associates that have shown in this World Cup that they’re closing the gap. The brand of cricket they’ve played is an exciting one for the world to see. In terms of us, we know what’s on the line, all players know what’s on the line. We’ve prepared for it, spoken about it.

“If there’s any team that understands this is a must win game, it’s probably Scotland, who often go into competitions knowing every game is must-win game. We spoke of topping the group, that was a certainly a goal, something we wanted to achieve before we arrived here. We spoke about it, planned for it, it won’t surprise me if we do that.

“The mindset and the belief is there among the group. So it’s huge for Scottish cricket. Also, it has the ability to inspire the nation and to be the first Scottish team to create history, and do something we’ve never done before. It’s on the back of every player and the support staff’s mind. So to leave the legacy of being the first Scottish team to do that is certainly a motivation of ours, and to inspire all those young cricketers, not only in Scotland but around the world, to take up the game and play a brand of cricket that Scotland plays is ultimate the goal we want to be achieving.”

The pandemic break affected preparations, like it did for most teams and players around the world. But Scotland, Burger said, have been conscious of not allowing that to be used as an excuse for not turning up. Instead, they’ve tried to make the best use of every available opportunity to train and play, like arriving in Oman in the first week of September to acclimatise themselves before the WCL games and friendlies, in the build-up to this tournament. All this has contributed to the belief in the camp that they can beat any team on their day.

“There was a belief that we could beat Full Members nations,” he said. “It’s happened previously; the team has beaten the likes of England, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. You obviously need opportunities to do that, platform to deliver those performances which we have on this stage. In terms of preparation, it wasn’t just the last six months but probably the last 18-24 months that we’ve been speaking about and planning.

“What the pandemic gave us as a unit was the opportunity to go away and work on various skills, tactics that we knew was required in this World Cup. Previously it was in India, so you start thinking about what the conditions might be in India, and then when it shifts over to the UAE, you have an opportunity to be confident because these are conditions we’ve faced in recent times and been very successful, so that did add to the motivation and thinking.

“In terms of preparation, the lads have worked non-stop, whether it’s sitting at home and waiting for the pandemic to go pass or focusing on things they can control, working on the mentality of getting into big tournaments and having to win every single game – we’ve had great preparation. Probably there was frustration that there was no cricket for a long period of time, so when cricket does come, you must respect it, appreciate it, and go out and once again send a message to the rest of the world that we’ve got some really good players within this group, a unit that can do special things. It’s something we truly believe we can achieve in this tournament.”

Burger hopes one of the things they can achieve as a group at the World Cup apart from winning is develop a stronger culture of cricket in the country, especially at the grassroots, so that it has a ripple effect on the domestic structure, opening up pathways for players, like a few have experienced currently. Brad Wheal, for example, has a county contract with Hampshire. Josh Davey has a contact at Somerset.

“We have a few players that play in the county set up,” he said. “We have a few of our younger players who are also involved. We value the time the players get to spend with their counties, and it does mean they get to play a lot of cricket which is important. One of the things we are striving for in Scotland is to be able to give players more quality cricket, keep building our domestic structures and youth pathways, and make sure that they are as competitive and challenging as they can be so that the next crop of Scottish cricketers can not only compete on the world stage but also perform at their best. That’s the ultimate plan. Would we like more? Absolutely. Would we like to develop our own domestic structure so that we don’t have to rely on the counties? Absolutely. But I think there’s a fine balance when it comes to that.”

Along with winning, Scotland are also championing the cause of fellow Associate teams, who Burger believes put in as much effort and time to get better and are equally passionate about growing the game in their countries. The underlying message from his side is: if we can achieve this goal, it could inspire all the other Associates to do so.

“I get quite a few messages from coaches from Associate nations, and we’re a very tight knit unit, the Associates,” he said. “It doesn’t mean it’s us versus them, it’s very much a network of teams that are looking to progress the game within their own countries. We’re very supportive of all those teams. But when we come up against one another, they’re huge battles and often, they go down to the last over, last ball, that’s just the nature of the battle and the competitiveness.

“Is it a level-playing field? It certainly isn’t. You have to work on shoe-string budgets, resources are limited, facilities are challenging at times, but my job as coach is to make sure we go over and beyond, reach targets we may have never been able to reach previously, targets players thought they wouldn’t reach. We’re fortunate to be in a position to be in a competition like this, experience the pressure and the rugged nature of competition sport.”

The biggest surprise for Burger and the rest of the Scotland team has been the kind of support they’ve received from back home. And this, he hopes, will inspire the team to go out win on Thursday. He also insists they’d rather be in this position than not looking forward to being in a high-pressure environment in competition sport.

“We’d rather be where we are now than in any other place,” he said. “If we’re not looking forward to competition sport as we are right now, sitting in the position we’re in, I think we’re in the wrong position or wrong game. There is high pressure, expectation, there’s a nation’s hopes resting on the game, and we know what that all represents. We’ve already created history in this tournament by winning two games, that’s one more than any Scottish team has done previously, but we want to go one step further.

“All the goals that we’ve set have been over and beyond this group stage. Spoken a lot about getting into round two, and what we want to achieve within round two, but we know we’ve to take it one step at a time. Proud of the calm the unit has shown, ability to win big moments has been key. Actually, we’ve done that not really getting out of third gear yet. The players are aware, there’s real confidence that has brewed over the last month, been here for long, the sunshine is bringing confidence, looking forward to what tomorrow represents.”

Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Dhaka Division and Chattogram Division start with wins, left-arm spinners dominate

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Yasir Ali and Jahid Javed were the only centurions in the round

Dhaka Division started the 2021-22 National Cricket League with a resounding seven-wicket win over Sylhet Division inside three days. Rangpur Division and Khulna Division played out a draw in the other Tier 1 match.
In Tier 2, Chattogram Division won by four wickets against Rajshahi Division, while the match between Dhaka Metropolis and Barisal Division was a rain-dominated draw.
Best batters
Yasir Ali continued to impress in the domestic first-class circuit by getting his ninth century. He made 129 off 198 balls, with 15 fours and three sixes, in Chattogram’s first innings against Rajshahi. He added 134 runs for the third wicket with Mominul Haque, as Chattogram took a 183-run first-innings lead. Yasir laid the foundation for Chattogram’s eventual win over Rajshahi.
Rangpur’s left-hand opener Jahid Javed scored his second first-class century, when he made 101 with ten fours and two sixes. He had earlier scored 40 in the first innings in the drawn encounter with Khulna.
Best bowlers
Dhaka’s left-arm spinner Nazmul Islam took career-best figures of 10 for 64 in their big win over Sylhet. He took 6 for 23 in the first innings as Sylhet were shot out for 67, their second-lowest total in the competition. It is now the second cheapest ten-for in first-class cricket in Bangladesh.
Offspinner Mehidy Hasan Miraz took a nine-wicket haul, which included 6 for 90 in the first innings, in Khulna’s drawn encounter against Rangpur. Veteran left-arm spinner Sohrawordi Shuvo also had figures of 6 for 87 in the same game.
Rajshahi’s left-arm spinner Sunzamul Islam took a five-wicket haul against Chattogram. But it was offspinner Nayeem Hasan‘s eight wickets in the match that made the biggest impact as it helped Chattogram with the win. Another left-arm spinner, Tanvir Islam, took a five-for against Dhaka Metro, for whom while Sharifullah also took a five-wicket haul.

Best match
Chattogram were bossing most of their game against Rajshahi but on the fourth morning, they were reduced to 38 for 6 in their chase of 77. Yasir then struck an unbeaten 38 to guide them to a tense win.

Players to watch
Yasir continued to perform in the first-class scene, but he awaits a Test debut for a long time. He has taken several catches as a substitute fielder but the team management hasn’t entrusted him with a Test cap.

The good showing by the spinners is also an encouraging sign, as Bangladesh have at times felt that they are light in this department, once considered to be their strength.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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James Pattinson retires – He’s been through so much…played through pain a lot of the time

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The fast bowler will continue to play state, BBL and perhaps county cricket

James Pattinson‘s decision to retire from international cricket did not come as a huge surprise to his Victoria coach, and former Australia team-mate, Chris Rogers who had sensed the fast bowler was struggling for motivation during the longer winter months.

Pattinson was expected to be in the frame for the Ashes but had been battling a knee injury during pre-season and made the call to bring an end to a Test career during which, when his body allowed, he often showed his destructive ability with 81 wickets at 26.33. At home his numbers were even more impressive with 49 wickets from 11 matches at 21.87

His career has been hampered by numerous injuries but he recovered from major back surgery to make the 2019 Ashes then played twice during the following home summer against New Zealand. He was part of Australia’s Test squad last season until an accident at home left him with fractured ribs.

“He’s been through so much in his career,” Rogers said. “He has played through pain a lot of the time and that wears you down. You get a little bit older and your motivation starts to change. He’ll be thinking about his family and life after cricket.

“We’ve known for a little while. We’ve observed him closely over this pre-season. When you have a caged lion in the depths of winter in the indoor center trying to get motivated you can sense something is a little bit amiss. We probably felt there were a few questions marks about what he would do and he’s made the decision.”

Rogers played three Tests alongside Pattinson. “[He had] so much energy. Sometimes he found it hard to control [the ball] but other times when he did it was epic to watch,” he said.

Pattinson will continue playing state and BBL cricket and also hinted he would look to return to county cricket next season. Victoria also have a crop of young pace bowlers with Pattinson keen to help mentor them.

“Every time he plays for us we improve dramatically as a side. The way he lifts people around him is fantastic,” Rogers said of his impact for Victoria.

Nick Cummins, the Cricket Victoria CEO, said: “Throughout his career, he has consistently challenged the very best batters in the world. James’ journey has included injury hurdles and setbacks, which he has shown the determination to fight his way back from. He always took great pride in representing his country and was the ultimate competitor every time he stepped on the field for Australia.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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