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SJN hearings – South Africa cricket

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Johan van Heerden on concerns raised by Eddie Leie over living conditions of younger academy players, all of whom were black

The Free State Cricket Union has admitted to providing sub-standard accommodation for academy players, all of whom were black, as recently as 2019, but denied any racial discrimination in the province’s cricketing structures. Speaking at the resumption of Cricket South Africa’s Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings, Free State CEO Johan van Heerden expressed regret with the provisions his union made for up-and-coming players in their system but said the facilities in Bloemfontein remain exemplary for anyone hoping to further their cricketing career.

van Heerden was the first responder after a ten-week recess, and will be followed by several others, of all whom will be answering to allegations of discrimination made in the first phase of the hearings between July 5 and August 6. van Heerden specifically addressed issues raised by two-time T20I cap Eddie Leie, who expressed concerns over the living conditions of younger academy players among other things.

Leie’s affidavit, submitted to the SJN earlier in the year, contained images of the Mangaung Oval’s old gymnasium, which had been converted into a residence for academy players, at the request of the academy coach. Although not displayed on the SJN’s YouTube channel, the pictures showed basic accommodation which Sandile July – one of ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza’s assistants – described as “not even a star, never mind five”, and which van Heerden conceded the union was embarrassed about. “If you look at the photos and if you ask me if I would advertise accommodation like that, absolutely I wouldn’t,” van Heerden said.

He explained that the accommodation was developed under former academy coach Dillon du Preez, who currently works with the South Africa women’s team, to assist young players who missed out on financial support via a bursary scheme. “He requested us to assist on a short-term basis players who could not get into the university. They were coming not from Bloemfontein, but most probably from Bethlehem and Kroonstad and places from where they would have travel in for the day and back,” van Heerden said.

“When Dillon requested that, we used the old gym at the downstairs western pavilion and revamped it into accommodation. We developed it into three bedrooms with partitioning walls. It was fairly private but not five-star accommodation. It was not as permanent accommodation but solely for a short term.

“Obviously the accommodation was not five-star, but they had TVs, they had brand-new beds, it was very neat at the time, when they moved in. Part of the arrangement was that they would have to upkeep it themselves, not upkeep but clean it, as it wouldn’t have been a serviced area. It’s not something I would pride ourselves on. After the kids moved out, we have never used that accommodation any further. Did we ever think it was the best solution? Most probably not. It was made into living accommodation – not that we want to pride ourselves on it.”



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Australia news – Justin Langer ‘not edgy’ about his future as calls grow louder for CA to re-sign him

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Australia coach is prepared to wait for discussions with CA on his contract after winning the T20 World Cup and the Ashes in a four-month stretch

Australia coach Justin Langer says he is not nervous about his upcoming contract discussions with Cricket Australia despite the ongoing speculation about his future as coach of Australia’s men’s team.

Langer’s current contract runs out mid-year and there has been no move to renew it as yet with both CA and Langer committing to holding off discussions until after the completion of the Ashes. He is yet to formally speak to CA despite Australia wrapping up the Ashes 4-0 on Sunday night.

Australia won both the T20 World Cup and the Ashes in a stellar four months of cricket after doubts were raised about Langer’s position following rumblings of player discontent at the end of two poor limited-overs tours of the Caribbean and Bangladesh in August 2021.

Langer was asked to change his coaching style following individual meetings with up to 30 players who had been involved in the men’s program across all three forms. He heeded the advice during the World Cup and the Ashes and the results have been self-evident.

Speaking on SEN on Wednesday Langer said he was content with the team’s performance over the last four months and was not worried about the upcoming discussions on his future.

“No never edgy, whatever happens,” Langer said. “Before the World Cup and before these Ashes, we’ve never ever been better prepared. It’s not a coincidence we’ve had the success we’ve had.

“Whatever happens from now we can all be incredibly proud of this little period. We had two missions to win the World Cup and to win the Ashes, to do that in such a short period is a monumental effort and we’re all really satisfied with that, we’re all really happy with that, we’re all really proud of that. I sit here at the moment feeling really content with the last two series.”

Australia captain Pat Cummins said during the fifth Test in Hobart that the team was eager for clarity on Langer’s future, while former Australia greats Ricky Ponting, Steve Waugh and Shane Warne have questioned the delay in contract discussions in various media outlets and have all urged CA to resign him immediately.

Adam Gilchrist joined the chorus on Twitter on Wednesday following Langer’s interview with SEN.

Former Australian coach Darren Lehmann has been the only dissenting voice telling Fox Sports that he has told Langer privately to go out on a high as four years in the job is long enough.

Langer, who has made it clear he wants to continue, said he is committed to CA’s timeline and will wait for discussions to begin over the coming weeks.

“The absolute truth and people don’t seem to believe this, but the absolute truth is before the World Cup and the Ashes we all committed to, at the end of the Ashes, sit down and have some conversations,” he said. “It’s been four really big years. It’s an all-encompassing job, and it’s a tough gig. That’s just the truth. We all just said we’d sit down after the Ashes. In the next little bit, I’m sure those conversations will start to be had. There’s plenty to be spoken about.”

Meanwhile, Australia’s three-match ODI series with New Zealand has been officially postponed due to uncertainty over quarantine. That means Australia’s next assignment is five home T20Is against Sri Lanka. Australia’s Test team will then head to Pakistan in late February for three Tests while a T20 squad is scheduled to head to New Zealand for a three-match T20I series at the same time, however that series is also in doubt due to New Zealand’s quarantine rules. Australia’s limited-overs specialists will then head to Pakistan for three ODIs and one T20I in late March-early April.

Langer is intent on taking the Test side to Pakistan as he believes Australia’s next frontier is winning away from home.

“It’s the next challenge,” Langer said. “We’ve done some extraordinary things the last few months. But we haven’t played much Test cricket over the last couple of years because of the Covid situation. Our next big challenge is to start winning overseas now. We’re all aware of that, we’ve got a really good team. So many guys have stepped up this summer and it’s so exciting to watch, it’s been an incredible brand of cricket. We’re excited about our next big challenge of winning Test matches overseas.”

Complicating matters further for Langer is he can’t get back home to Perth for a rest to see his family. The entire Australian squad has left Hobart with six Test players set to play in the BBL while others have headed home for a rest.
Western Australia’s hard border due to Covid means that Langer can’t get back home until February 5. He has instead remained in Hobart on his own and will catch up with former Australia captain Tim Paine on Thursday.

“The hardest thing is I just can’t get back to Perth,” Langer said. “All the boys have gone home. I can’t get home until at least the fifth of February. Having not seen my family since September, I’m counting the days to get home.”

Alex Malcolm is an Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo



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ECB investigates after Joe Root and James Anderson are seen among ‘intoxicated people’ in Hobart team hotel

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“Time for bed, thank you” – police had to be called in to send the merrymakers, which included Australians Lyon, Head and Carey, to their hotel rooms as the noise continued till just after 6am

The ECB has launched an investigation after an early-morning drinking session at England’s team hotel in Hobart ended with the police being called in to send the players to bed.

The gathering was taking place in a public area in Hobart’s Crowne Plaza Hotel, and had extended to 6am when the police were brought in following a noise complaint from fellow guests. The players all left the area immediately.

“Tasmania Police attended the Crowne Plaza Hobart on Monday morning after reports were made of intoxicated people in a function area,” a police statement read. “The guests were spoken to by police, just after 6:00am, and left the area when asked. No further action will be taken by police.”

In the footage of the incident, which appears to have been filmed by England’s assistant coach, Graham Thorpe, a female police officer can be heard saying to the group: “Too loud. You have obviously been asked to pack up, so we’ve been asked to come. Time for bed, thank you. They just want to pack up.”

In his voiceover from behind the camera, Thorpe can be heard saying, “We’ve got Nathan Lyon, Root, there’s Carey and Anderson. I’ll just video this for the lawyers. See you in the morning, everyone.”

A spokesperson for the ECB said it would be investigating the incident, with the focus likely to be on how the footage made it into the public domain.

“During the early hours of Monday morning, members of the England and Australia men’s teams shared a drink in the team areas of the hotel in Hobart,” the ECB’s statement read. “The hotel management received a noise complaint by a hotel guest, and as is commonplace in Australia, the local police attended the scene. When asked to leave by hotel management and the Tasmanian police, the players and management in question left and returned to their respective hotel rooms. The England party have apologised for any inconvenience caused.

“The ECB will investigate further. Until such times, we will make no further comment.”

The incident is a further embarrassment for the England team in the wake of their 4-0 Ashes loss, amid reports that a drinking culture within the squad was a significant factor in the players’ disappointing performances across the five Tests.

Ashley Giles, the ECB director of men’s cricket, is due to compile a report into the circumstances of the tour, including recommendations for the future direction of the Test team. Root has already stated he wants to stay on as England captain, despite overseeing his second Ashes tour defeat in four years.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket



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WI vs Eng T20Is 2022 – West Indies ‘batting quality not there’

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Head coach worried about ability of players coming into side from domestic ranks

Phil Simmons has echoed his limited-overs captain Kieron Pollard‘s analysis that West Indies “have a batting problem” but insists he is not worrying about his job as head coach after a shock 2-1 ODI series defeat at home to Ireland.

Speaking from Barbados ahead of West Indies’ five-match T20I series against England, which starts on Saturday, Simmons said that his batters were failing to translate their progress in training into results on the pitch, but stressed that scapegoating players already in the squad would only serve to mask the systemic failings to develop them at a domestic level.

“It’s there to see: our batting quality is not there,” Simmons said. “Everything comes from lower down: if you’re coming into our squad and you’re averaging 30s when you come to the top level, you’re not going to average 40 or 50.

“The holistic approach means that all through the ranks, all the way from the Under-19s, we have to be looking at preparing people to play at the international level. Averaging 20s and 30s at the domestic level doesn’t prepare you for the international level.

“How much the players are assessing the situation and playing the situation… it’s not really happening. Yes, [Sabina Park] was a difficult pitch to bat on for all three days at the start [of the innings], but we got through most of the difficult period and then things went astray. It’s about bad shot selection … that’s a huge part of the batting failure.”

Simmons, who was re-appointed as head coach in October 2019 and oversaw West Indies’ failed defence of the T20 World Cup he won with them in 2016, insisted that he was only focused on improving the players at his disposal, not his future in the role.

“If I start worrying about my job then I have problems,” he said. “I am worrying about the success of the team and I am worrying about how we get players to be playing their roles. That’s all I’m concerned about. You’re always under pressure as coaches when the team’s not doing well, in any sport you play, and when the team is doing well, the coaches are forgotten. That’s the nature of the job.

“I enjoy it everyday. My role is seeing the players and working with them, trying to bring out different things in them. To be honest, when we practise, there’s a lot coming out, there’s a lot being shown. It’s just how they adjust and assess the situation when they cross the rope … because that’s where it’s falling down.

“Every ball is a situation in the game and we’ve got to be able to assess that situation and know how to play. If you’re 20 for 3, you play differently to if you’re 40 for 0. These are the situations that we need to highlight and need to assess properly.”

West Indies’ squad for the England T20Is contains only six players who made appearances during their Super 12s exit at the T20 World Cup, with a handful of young players including Dominic Drakes, Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith included. The trio all featured in December’s 3-0 series defeat in Pakistan – where the squad was depleted due to a Covid-19 outbreak – and Simmons said that he hoped they would continue to bring “energy” to the group.

“There’s a lot of difference from the World Cup, as you saw in Pakistan,” he said. “Yes, we lost the three games, but there was a lot more energy, a lot more enthusiasm and that’s the same with this group for this series against England. There’s an influx of maybe six or seven guys who were not there against Ireland and there’s a lot of energy coming in.

“It [would be] a difficult situation if we had the same team from the World Cup but we have a lot of new faces and a lot of guys who want to make an impression and be a part of the team going forward. From that point of view, it’s not as difficult as it might seem.

“We as a cricketing nation always have players who have the ability to hit the ball over the fence and it’s something I don’t want to take away from my players, but I also want my players to be clinical. In situations where you don’t need to do that, well, we must be able to get ones, to get twos.

“[I want them] to bowl yorkers at the end instead of missing them, and hitting them more consistently than we are right now. There’s a few things that we haven’t been doing properly and we’re working very hard on them. The important thing now is for the youngsters to come in and hone their skills and be able to execute them in the middle, not just in practice.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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