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ICC confirms Afghanistan to be part of T20 World Cup despite political upheavals

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Acting chief executive Geoff Allardice says ICC will likely discuss how to approach bilateral cancellations, and how they affected the WTC

ICC’s acting chief executive Geoff Allardice has confirmed Afghanistan’s participation at the T20 World Cup will continue as normal despite the political regime change that has put the country’s cricketing future into uncertainty. Speaking at a virtual press conference, Allardice also addressed Cricket Australia’s decision to cancel a one-off Test against Afghanistan next month, citing the decision by the Taliban to suspend women’s cricket activities. He said the ICC will likely sit and discuss how to approach bilateral cancellations, and how they affected the World Test Championship.

“Since the change of regime took place in Afghanistan in August, we have been in regular contact with the Afghanistan Cricket Board,” Allardice said. “Our primary function is to support the development of cricket in that country through the member board [ACB]. We have said all along we are waiting to see how things unfold under a different regime in that country. The ICC Board will consider it when they next meet, which is looking like at the end of the T20 World Cup. They are a Full Member of the ICC and their team is preparing for the T20 World Cup. In terms of their participation in the event, it is proceeding as per normal.

Allardice also confirmed the number of DRS challenges would be kept to two per side per innings, a measure brought in last year because of the practical difficulty of arranging neutral umpires for every series. Despite the tournament operating with neutral umpires from the ICC elite panel, Allardice said the same playing conditions as per DRS challenges will be followed.

“It’s very much a country-by-country situation,” he said. “We were able to get all our elite umpires and referees here to officiate this tournament. The UAE is really straightforward to move in and out of. In a number of countries there are still restrictions which make that difficult. Moving umpires in, as individuals, is different to team movements.

“The issue is in other countries which have different levels of restriction. We’ve tried to use neutral officials where the circumstances allow. The umpires from home countries have performed extremely well over the last 18 months and supported by DRS. The aim is to get neutral umpires back once the restrictions are lifted but for now it’s very much a country-by-country basis. We’ve continued with the playing conditions that have been in place for T20Is that have been in place for the past 12 months which is two reviews per team. Rather than treat this tournament differently, we’ve continued with what’s been in place for the last 12-18 months.”

Allardice also dismissed concerns hosting the tournament in the UAE would lead to too many low-scoring games. The tournament was originally scheduled to be played in India, but a rise in Covid cases in the country led to it, as well as part of the IPL, being shifted to the UAE. Since that shift, average innings scores have dropped significantly, leading to speculation about the nature of the pitches that the T20 World Cup will be played on.

“I don’t think it is a worry. The conditions will vary from venue to venue as you would have seen from the recent cricket played there. It is going to be one of the challenges of the event, to adapt to the different conditions which have been presented: some of the recent matches have been high scoring, some have been low scoring across the venues. It is just going to add a different layer of complexity for the teams, but conditions are going to be the same on each match day.”

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



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English cricket must ‘clean up its act’ on racism, concludes DCMS report

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The parliamentary committee investigating the issue of racism in English cricket says that the sport must commit to “cleaning up its act” in order to qualify for future government funding, following the publication of its report in the wake of Azeem Rafiq‘s allegations at Yorkshire.
Rafiq, the former Yorkshire allrounder, told ESPNcricinfo in an interview in 2020 that he had been driven to “the brink of suicide” by his experiences of racial discrimination during two spells at Yorkshire between 2008 and 2018. And though a subsequent internal investigation by the club upheld his claims, it also concluded there was “no conduct or action taken by any of its employees, players or executives that warrants disciplinary action”.
However, subsequent revelations from Yorkshire’s then-undisclosed report – most notably the claim that the use of the racial slur “P**i” was “banter” – attracted the condemnation of MPs, including the health secretary Sajid Javid, and led to an inquiry by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

During two days of DCMS hearings in November and December, testimony was heard from various parties involved with Yorkshire and English cricket, including Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, and Roger Hutton, who resigned as Yorkshire’s chairman at the height of the controversy, with Lord Kamlesh Patel appointed as his replacement.

But it was Rafiq’s appearance on November 16 that sent shockwaves through the sport, as he related tales of having red wine poured down his throat in club cricket, and being told to change “by the toilets” during his early days at Yorkshire.

“All I wanted to do was play cricket and play cricket for England and live my dream and live my family’s dream,” Rafiq told the hearing. “Do I believe I lost my career to racism? Yes I do.”

In a summary of its findings, the DCMS committee urged the UK government to limit public funding for the game unless there is “demonstrable progress on ridding racist behaviour from clubs and among spectators”. It also called on the ECB to develop a set of “key indicators” to measure their progress in combatting institutional racism, and to report back to the committee every quarter.

“It is evident to us that there is a deep-seated issue of racism in cricket,” the report stated. “More pertinent, it is evident to Yorkshire Country Cricket Club and the England and Wales Cricket Board that there is an issue of racism in cricket.”

The report added that Nigel Huddlestone, the sports minister, had reiterated the government’s preparedness to take action, after warning the ECB during his own appearance before the committee that they retained the “nuclear option” of appointing an independent regulator if the board didn’t “get its house in order”.

“We, like the minister, are watching closely and fully intend to ensure that cricket cleans up its act,” the report stated. “We recommend that the government ensures that any future public funds for cricket are dependent on continuous, demonstrable progress in getting rid of racism in both the dressing rooms and on the stands.”

Writing in the Yorkshire Post earlier this week, Lord Patel insisted that Yorkshire was working “hell-for-leather” to prove itself worthy of hosting this summer’s scheduled against New Zealand and South Africa, after being suspended from Major Match status at the height of the crisis, and Rafiq himself subsequently added that the club had made “a step in the right direction”.

However, according to the DCMS report, ECB and Yorkshire officials will be called before the committee again “early in 2022” to update on the sport’s progress.

“The powerful evidence given to this committee by Azeem Rafiq convinced us that his story was typical of an endemic problem across the whole of cricket,” Julian Knight, the DCMS chair, said. “We commend him for having the courage to blow the whistle on unacceptable and discriminatory behaviour.

“We have been shocked by language people used in correspondence with us after the hearing. That, together with stories run in the media to discredit him, demonstrate that eradicating racism from the game will be a long and difficult road. However, this is a watershed for cricket in this country. Those who love and support the game are part of the solution and must play their part.

“Changes introduced by Lord Patel at Yorkshire County Cricket Club give room for optimism, but alone cannot eradicate racism in the game. Public funding for cricket must depend on real leadership and progress by the ECB to tackle abhorrent behaviour, not just in the dressing rooms, but also in the stands.

“The government must make future funding conditional on the game cleaning up its act. We put the ECB on notice that we expect regular updates delivered to this committee on progress being made.”

Responding on behalf of the ECB, Barry O’Brien, Interim chair, said: “We welcome the committee’s recommendations and the focus of Julian Knight and committee members on achieving real change.

“We also embrace the ongoing scrutiny of the committee and all those that love the game of cricket who will be watching closely as we undertake the continuous, demonstrable, progress in eradicating racism from the dressing room and from the stands. We are determined to root out racism – and other forms of discrimination – from our sport.

“We look forward to updating the committee on the progress the whole game is making in delivering the 12-point Action Plan agreed in November to bring about the meaningful change we all want to see. We agree that sharing regular, public updates on our progress is important to rebuilding trust in our sport.

“We had already taken important steps to make cricket more inclusive in recent years – including our 2018 South Asian Action Plan, our 2019 Inspiring Generations strategy to make cricket a game for everyone, and launching the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket in early 2021 – however, we recognise that more needs to be done.

“We are deeply sorry for the pain people have suffered and recognise the courage it has taken to speak out. By working with the game to deliver the Action Plan, and continuing to listen and learn from people’s experiences, we are determined to make cricket a stronger, more welcoming sport.”



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Ottis Gibson quits as Bangladesh fast-bowling coach, takes up role with Multan Sultans

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Local coaches to look after Bangladesh’s pace department temporarily

Ottis Gibson has decided not to renew his contract as Bangladesh’s fast-bowling coach. The 52-year-old, who completed his two-year contract with the BCB this month, is set to join the Pakistan Super League (PSL) side Multan Sultans from the start of their campaign on January 27.

“Ottis Gibson didn’t want to renew his contract which we accepted,” Jalal Yunus, BCB’s cricket operations committee chairman, told ESPNcricinfo. “Local coaches will look after the fast-bowling department temporarily. We hope to replace Gibson with another foreign coach shortly.”

Gibson, a former West Indies quick, joined the Bangladesh team in January 2020, replacing Charl Langeveldt. After initially working with some of the bowlers in Dhaka, he had to stay in touch with them only virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Gibson’s time coincided with the Bangladesh team management wanting more involvement of fast bowlers in home conditions. He was also the only voice from the establishment to urge senior player Mashrafe Mortaza to retire from international cricket.
His best time with the side came during the New Zealand tour this month when the fast bowlers took 13 wickets in the Mount Maunganui Test to fashion a famous victory over the home side. Ebadot Hossain, who took 6 for 46 in the second innings, is one of the quicks who has benefited from Gibson’s time as the bowling coach.

Yunus said the BCB has a couple of potential candidates in mind to replace Gibson but didn’t reveal the names. Bangladesh have opted for foreign fast-bowling coaches since Champaka Ramanayake in 2009, with the likes of Ian Pont, Shane Jurgensen, Heath Streak, Courtney Walsh and Langeveldt working with the senior team before Gibson.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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New-look Sri Lanka name eight changes for Zimbabwe ODIs

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Kusal Mendis and Jeffrey Vandersay return; Kusal Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Avishka Fernando among big names to miss out

After much chopping and changing, Sri Lanka have finally announced their 17-man squad for the upcoming home ODI series against Zimbabwe, with eight changes from their last outing against South Africa – though even more had originally been slated.

Kusal Perera, Wanindu Hasaranga, Avishka Fernando, Dhananjaya de Silva are the biggest names to miss out – the first two are nursing injuries, the third tested positive for Covid-19, and Dhananjaya is on paternity leave following the birth of his first child. Bhanuka Rajapaksa, meanwhile, ruled himself out of contention following his decision to retire – a decision he has now rescinded. Lahiru Kumara was named in the squad but failed Sri Lanka’s newly beefed-up fitness tests. Pace bowler Binura Fernando and spinner Akila Dananjaya are the other two to miss the cut.

Indeed, Sri Lanka’s selectors had originally planned to go with an even more fresh-faced unit with the uncapped trio of Kalana Perera, Kamil Mishara and Janith Liyanage also included, but the latter two tested positive for Covid-19 while the former fell short of fitness requirements. Of the three, Liyanage will likely be the most disappointed, following a breakout LPL campaign with the Dambulla Giants.

The dropouts meant room opened up for some familiar faces to return with the biggest beneficiaries from the rejigged squad undoubtedly Chandimal and Mendis, both of whom had outstanding LPL campaigns and would have been forgiven for feeling a little hard done to have been omitted in the first place.

While his LPL season brought just the sole half century – an unbeaten 65 in a narrow defeat – only twice in nine LPL innings did Chandimal fail to score less than 25, making him undoubtedly the most consistent force in the tournament. Mendis, meanwhile, ended as the tournament’s highest run-scorer, including a match-winning 53-ball 85 against eventual champions Jaffna Kings in the first Qualifier.
The pair supplement a batting line-up that boasts quite a bit of potential if not international experience, led by the promising young duo of Pathum Nissanka and Charith Asalanka. Lower down, allrounders Chamika Karunaratne, Dasun Shanaka and Ramesh Mendis offer big-hitting prowess, while Minod Bhanuka will likely vie with Chandimal for wicketkeeping duties.
On the bowling front, the pace contingent will be led by the ever-improving Dushmantha Chameera, who finished 2021 as the year’s leading ODI wicket-taker, albeit with the necessary caveat of having played the most matches and the lack of ODI involvement by other Test-playing nations. The veteran Pradeep and uncapped trio of Thushara, Shiran Fernando and Chamika Gunasekera are the other seamers in the squad – though the likes of Shanaka and Karunaratne also offer alternatives.

Pradeep had a decent LPL picking up 10 wickets in largely unfavourable conditions, while Thushara, whose slingy action has unsurprisingly drawn comparisons to Lasith Malinga, showcased his potential in the shortest format, going wicketless just twice in eight games, including a career-best 5 for 13 in the crucial first Qualifier against the Jaffna Kings – he will be keen to test his skills in the 50-over game. Both Fernando and Gunasekera meanwhile have had modest domestic returns but seem to have been picked largely on potential.

It’s in the spin bowling department though that Sri Lanka will feel most light, with the still green Maheesh Theekshana likely to lead the line alongside left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama and the returning Vandersay. Legspinner Vandersay though is in the midst of a career renaissance, set for his first ODI since 2019 following an impressive LPL; having had to wait till halfway through to tournament to get any game time for the Colombo Stars he ended it with 11 wickets in four games, including a career-best haul of 6 for 25. There are also the part-time options afforded by Ramesh and Kamindu Mendis, with the former having showed signs of taking his game up a notch in the recently concluded Test series against the West Indies.

Ashen Bandara, Pulina Tharanga, Nimesh Vimukthi, Ashian Daniel, Asitha Fernando and Vishwa Fernando have been named as standby players.

Full squad: Dasun Shanaka (capt.), Kusal Mendis, Pathum Nissanka, Dinesh Chandimal, Minod Bhanuka, Charith Asalanka, Chamika Karunaratne, Kamindu Mendis, Maheesh Theekshana, Ramesh Mendis, Praveen Jayawickrama, Dushmantha Chameera, Nuwan Pradeep, Jeffrey Vandersay, Nuwan Thushara, Chamika Gunasekera, Shiran Fernando



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