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T20 World Cup 2021 – Early exit prompts ‘serious questions’ of Ireland’s operations

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Review will focus on the quality of preparation, selection policies, coaching structures and the quality of the facilities available in Ireland

Ireland’s early exit from the men’s T20 World Cup has prompted their board to ask “serious questions of our operations” at the launch of a post-mortem into their struggles in the tournament.

Andy Balbirnie, their captain, insisted after the Namibia defeat that Ireland were “moving in the right direction” and highlighted the youth of their squad but, as the only full-member nation eliminated at the first-round of the World Cup, questions have been asked about the roles of several key figures in their set-up.

Cricket Ireland’s board held a meeting on Wednesday and has launched a review into the team’s performance, which will focus on the quality of preparation before the tournament, selection policies, coaching structures and the quality of the facilities available in Ireland.

The training facilities will come under particular scrutiny. Ireland’s players have been unable to use the turf pitches at the national high performance centre in 2019 due to their poor quality, and while they are due to be in use by mid-summer, players have been left to rely on club facilities around the country in order to train.

“The board of Cricket Ireland – in line with what could be reasonably described as the general mood of the Irish cricket community – expressed our disappointment at the timing and nature of the World Cup exit last Friday,” Ross McCollum, the board’s chair said.

“Whilst there were no doubts expressed about the attitude, commitment and hard work of players, coaching staff and administrators, the board has directed that the normal planned post-event review should happen as quickly as possible and include all elements pertaining to tournament preparation and performance – such as event performance and cricket operations supporting the international set-up – and, where appropriate, take any remedial action.

“What happened last week… has given us the pretext to step back at this point in time to ask serious questions of our operations ahead of a very busy few years. With the next round of World Cup Super League matches coming up in January, and the qualifying tournament for the next Men’s T20 World Cup scheduled for February, we believe that the review should be conducted swiftly without compromising rigour.

“The board has always been very supportive of the men’s senior international squad, and has often prioritised their resources to support their progression. However, the review will look into how effectively and efficiently those resources are being used, as well as ensuring Cricket Ireland has in place – or will put into place – the appropriate structural and support programmes to enable our international teams to succeed on the world stage over coming years.”

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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Aus vs Eng 1st Ashes Test Brisbane

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Warm up or go for the toss? “Maybe I’ll just get here a bit earlier,” says the premier quick

Less than three weeks ago, Pat Cummins being the Test captain of Australia was still a concept for the future. But on Wednesday morning – weather permitting – he will walk to the middle of the Gabba alongside Joe Root to mark the start of the Ashes.
After Cummins was unveiled in a virtual press conference alongside new vice-captain Steven Smith while still in quarantine, the last week has been a succession of new responsibilities for the quick, who put the blazer on for the first time at the series launch on Sunday.

“It’s all starting to feel a bit real,” Cummins said. “Think it will really hit home tomorrow when we walk out do the toss and friends and family are watching on TV. It’s been a really great lead-in. I know it’s been a lot of publicity and noise, but inside the camp we’ve been really relaxed and excited.”

He will have to concern himself with plenty of things that he hasn’t had to in the past and he is no longer just Cummins the bowler. So match-day morning will be a little different.

“Think the main one is warming up bowling, we are normally marking the run-ups and start bowling about half an hour before [the start of the game], which is when the toss is,” he said. “So don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow, maybe I’ll just get here a bit earlier.”

He has been in touch with former captain Tim Paine in recent days, and was likely to give him another call on Tuesday for any last-minute bits of advice.

“It’s been good to chat, still wish he was here and part of it all, but he needs to be home,” Cummins said. “He’s going all right, will probably… keep leaning on him for different ideas. He’s got great experience, [he is] a great guy and [I will] keep learning off him.”

Cummins is still coming to terms with the names he joins as Test captain. He picked out Steve Waugh’s input on the 2019 Ashes tour and how Michael Clarke, his captain on debut in Johannesburg in 2011, made him feel “ten feet tall”.

“It’s almost crazy being the 47th men’s Test captain, the linage (lineage) of Painey, Smithy, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Steve Waugh – they are legends of the game that I grew up watching,” he said. “It probably hasn’t hit me yet.”

With his only professional captaincy experience being four one-day games for New South Wales last season, Cummins will have to continue learning on the job, though the natural rhythm of Test cricket may help him to settle in well. He has, however, had some specific conversations with Nathan Lyon.

“Mainly around fields,” Cummins said. “I haven’t thought too much about spin-bowling fields in the past, so we’ve had a couple of really good chats. He’s played 100 Tests, so he knows far more about spin bowling than I do. I’ll be there to help him. I’ll have a few different ideas I’ll throw his way at times but he’s a seasoned pro, so makes my job pretty easy.”

On a broader view of the team, he pinpointed a more ruthless streak from the batters after they did not pass 400 last season against India. Smith, Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner will shoulder a lot of the expectations, with Marcus Harris and Travis Head working to re-establish themselves in the side, and debutant Alex Carey slotting in at No. 7.

“If you look back to the 2017-18 Ashes, our batters were incredibly ruthless… incredibly relentless with the bat, so that’s something we’ve spoken about,” Cummins said. “At times, we’ve just let the other team into the game, so that’s a big focus of the batting group this summer.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Aus vs Eng, Men’s Ashes, 2021-22

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CA have confirmed that the relocated fifth Test will be under lights to fill the favourable timeslot

There has been a flurry of public lobbying from state leaders regarding the fifth men’s Ashes Test, with Tasmania facing stiff competition in its bid for hosting rights.

Cricket Australia confirmed on Monday the showpiece series finale, slated to start January 14, would not take place in Perth because of border restrictions.

Every rival state has since thrown its hat in the ring for what will be a pink-ball Test, ensuring broadcasters aren’t denied the prime-time fodder they would otherwise have access to. ACT chief minister Andrew Barr has also put forward a case for Manuka Oval.

CA, weighing up several factors, is expected to land on its replacement venue within a week. The obvious temptation is to bank the biggest cheque on offer, believed to be the MCG unless Tasmania premier Peter Gutwein or a rival leader tips in millions of dollars to bridge the gap.

Yet the decision will be more complex than just money, coming two months after CA’s state-association shareholders forced the resignation of chair Earl Eddings.

The governing body will be desperate to be as collaborative as possible, while also pleasing broadcasters and players, but finding the middle of that Venn diagram will be incredibly tricky.

Logistics will form a major part of the decision, with accommodation for the series’ travelling circus to be a key challenge in Melbourne given the Test overlaps with the Australian Open.

Tasmania premier Peter Gutwein urged CA to do the “right thing by the game” and lock in Hobart for its first ever Ashes Test, rather than staging two legs of the series at another ground.

“We are currently finalising our proposal to Cricket Australia, which we will submit within the next 24 hours,” Gutwein said. “We are very confident we can more than meet all of their requirements to host the fifth Test in Hobart.

“Hobart has only been allocated 13 Tests in the 32 years since hosting our first Test. CA should not be seduced by the larger states, they should act in the best interests of the country, make history.”

Similar sound bites came from around the country on Tuesday.

“Why not have it at the best cricket oval in the world?” South Australia premier Steven Marshall spruiked.

Marshall may have some support in the Australian dressing room. Captain Pat Cummins didn’t offer an opinion on where the final Test should be, but noted Adelaide Oval has “really nailed” what constitutes the best possible pitch for day-night Tests.

“At times in Sheffield Shield cricket [at other grounds], if the wicket is not quite right then you can see some long, slow pink-ball matches,” Cummins told reporters in Brisbane. “If it’s a pink-ball match and they get the wicket right, no stress from us [wherever it is played]. If it’s Sydney great, I can stay home, but I’m not too bothered.”



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Gary Stead on Kane Williamson’s elbow injury

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New Zealand’s coach also said he would speak to Ross Taylor about his future once the team returns home

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson is unlikely to undergo surgery for his troublesome elbow, but could be out of action for around two months, according to head coach Gary Stead.

New Zealand next assignment after the just-concluded India tour is a two-Test series at home against Bangladesh, which begins on New Year’s Day, followed by a white-ball tour of Australia. If Williamson’s rehab goes according to plan, he might be available for the subsequent tour of South Africa in February although Stead insisted that no timeframe has been set for his comeback.

The elbow injury has been a long-standing issue for Williamson. It had flared up in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup in the UAE, where Williamson cut short his stints at the nets to manage the injury, and troubled him in India as well. He sat out the second Test in Mumbai, with Tom Latham taking over as captain in his place.

“I think surgery is unlikely,” Stead said before returning to New Zealand with the rest of the squad. “With the tendon injuries around the elbow, my understanding of the situation from talking to our physio [Tommy Simsek] is all surgery would do is ensure rehab is done. If we don’t have to cut a tendon, our choice is not to do that as well.

“So Kane is going along okay. I expect it to be a sustained period of time. Last time, if you look after the World Test Championship [final] and before the IPL and T20 World Cup, was about eight or nine weeks. So, I expect it’s somewhere in that timeframe again… We’re trying not to put timeframes on it at this stage.”

‘Got to go home and speak with selectors and Ross’
Ross Taylor had a particularly dismal tour of India, managing a mere 20 runs in four innings. He hit his nadir in New Zealand’s second innings at the Wankhede Stadium where he threw his bat at each of the eight balls he faced before he skied a slog-sweep off R Ashwin and was dismissed for 6.

Stead pointed out that Taylor’s lack of game-time – he had not played a single competitive game between the World Test Championship final in June and the Test leg of the India tour in November-December – contributed to his struggles.

“Ross has had a disappointing tour by his standards, but he’s been an exceptional player for New Zealand for a long, long period of time,” Stead said. “So he’s not the only guy that has come to India or Asian conditions and struggled over here. I think there’s some factors behind it, with the lack of match-time beforehand. We had a number of trainings or a couple of trainings before the second Test that was washed out as well.

“I think Ross will look back and be disappointed at that himself. It’s a fine balance here, though, between trying to play aggressively and put the spinners under some pressure and also trusting your defence to bat for long periods.

“If you look throughout the whole Test, I think Mayank Agarwal was one of the few players that actually managed to do that and we still went past his outside edge on a regular basis as well. I think there were only two-three players in the whole Test match that reached 50 and Agarwal was obviously the exception in getting to a 150.”

Williamson’s injury-enforced absence means Taylor could still start the home Test series against Bangladesh at Bay Oval in the new year. Taylor is also three Tests away from becoming New Zealand’s most capped player in the format, but considering the progress of fringe players like Will Young, Daryl Mitchell and Rachin Ravindra, Taylor’s No.4 spot isn’t as certain as it once was.

“I think the thing that’s encouraging for our team is we have more options now than what we did have a year or two years ago,” Stead said. “You’ve seen the emergence of Will Young and Daryl Mitchell, in particular, who have come onto the Test scene and done really well.

“But let’s not also forget that Ross Taylor has an amazing record behind him as well. He’s been one of New Zealand’s premier batsmen for a long, long period of time, and you don’t lose that class just over one tour.

“I’ve got to get home and speak with the selectors and have a conversation with Ross as well, around where he sees his game going forward.”

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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