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T20 World Cup 2021 – Craig Williams savouring decision to return for Namibia

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Cricketer by day, quality surveyor by night – Williams enjoying life after overturning 2018 retirement

Craig Williams bats in the top order for Namibia in the afternoon or evening. At night, the 37-year-old returns to his hotel room to write reports for insurance companies back home in Namibia.

He wasn’t even supposed to be part of this Namibia team that is featuring in its first ever T20 World Cup. Williams had retired from the game in 2018 to shift his focus on his business and family, but head coach Pierre de Bryun valued his experience so much that he talked Williams out of retirement. Williams, ultimately, made a U-turn on his decision and is now relishing being part of Namibia’s incredible run in the UAE.

“See, I retired for personal reasons. Basically, just business, work, family, kids and there was a lot more responsibility,” Wiliams recalled. “So, it was personal reasons to retire. I’ve said it in previous interviews that when you retire it’s like a dark place and you always have a feeling in your heart that there’s more to offer and when Pierre de Bryun became head coach, we had a meeting in January 2019 and he asked me: ‘Craig, is there a possibility of coming back, returning to assist a very young squad?’ So, I was more than happy to come back.

“I just felt that there was more I could offer. At that stage, I wasn’t sure how much I could play. I really wanted to try and help the youngsters. But I obviously haven’t had injuries and my form has been okay, so it has allowed me to contribute on the field as well. So, reflecting… [it’s] probably the best decision I’ve ever made. It was a tough decision at the time; I had to leave my work, unfortunately the guys…there was no space to play cricket at that level and give that much commitment to cricket and work, so it was very difficult decision to come back. It wasn’t easy. But, in hindsight I’m really glad that myself and my family made that decision to commit again and play.”

Williams was particularly thrilled at the global exposure that Namibia’s players have got at this World Cup. He cited the example of how allrounder David Wiese is now nurturing Namibia youngsters by sharing his experiences of featuring in various T20 tournaments around the world.

“Playing a tournament like this, especially playing in the last 12…the exposure for our guys has been fantastic,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, we want to see our youngsters and our best players playing around the world because then they will bring that exposure and experience that they’ve gained back into our squad and teach our youngsters. So, for example, just having David Wiese – he’s played around the world. The amount of experience he’s brought back into our change room and the lessons that he’s teaching us about how to handle pressure and how to handle playing against the best – it has been fantastic.

“So, we’re hoping that with the last few games some of our guys can show themselves in the world stage and hopefully pick up some deals around the world and then it will be fantastic if we can get the likes of Gerhard Erasmus and JJ and Ruben Trumpelmanns, Bernard Scholtzs – all these guys playing around the world. Still looking for the first Namibian to play in the IPL (laughs). So, hopefully after this tournament, we can get one of those deals on the table.”

Afghanistan vs Nambia will make for a clash of contrasts, especially on the bowling front. Namibia have packed their attack with left-arm seam (because they don’t have as many right-armers ) while Afghanistan’s strength is right-arm spin. Rashid Khan and Mujeeb ur Rahman, in particular, have been lethal at different points during Afghanistan’s three matches in the Super 12s. Williams reckoned that Namibia’s familiarity with Afghanistan, however, would help his side in countering the opposition spinners.

“Our conditions back home in Windhoek aren’t flat, quick wickets; they are quite low and slow,” Williams said. “So, we’ve done really well in the five series back home before coming to the World Cup against good spin attacks on low, slow wickets. So, we’ve put in really good preparation and we’ve put in extreme amount of analysis into the opposition and we’ve worked on individual game-plans for each batsman, so I think sitting where we are tonight, we’re in a very good place. Anything can happen in T20 cricket and we’ve played Afghanistan many, many times in the past. We know what they can do – so it’s just about on the day being able to handle the nerves and execute plans put in place.

“So, in terms of playing spin, we’re extremely confident against spin. It’s just a matter of being able to execute your plan on that day against the best in the world because you know that’s who we are playing against.”

Cricketer by day. Quality surveyor by night. Williams says that juggling between the two jobs can be challenging, but he’s prepared for greater responsibility as Namibia plan to go deep in the tournament.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Mithali Raj – We have had ‘good preparation’ for 2022 World Cup by playing SA, England, Australia this year

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“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good,” she says

India Women are scheduled to play only one ODI series – against New Zealand – before the World Cup early next year but captain Mithali Raj feels the team has had “good preparation” so far in 2021.
This year, India hosted South Africa for five ODIs before playing a three-match series in England and Australia each. They lost all three series but made Australia, the No. 1 team, work really hard for their 2-1 win and also ended their 26-match winning streak in the third ODI there.

India will play World Cup hosts New Zealand for five ODIs before the World Cup in March-April.

“We have played three best teams since March and it has given us good preparation,” Raj said after a partnership between KFC and Indian Deaf Cricket Association in Delhi on Wednesday. “Players have played domestic cricket and also in the Women’s Big Bash so they are getting game time which is the most important thing.

“We are getting to play in New Zealand before World Cup which is also good.”

India, who were unable to post 250-plus scores regularly earlier, did that twice in the Australia series and chased down 265 in the final ODI.

“When you play against a strong team in its backyard you try to give your best,” Raj said. “Though we lost the series, the matches were very close. We scored 270 (274) and chased 270-odd, if we can do that consistently we will be among the best sides in world cricket.”

India’s middle-order batting needs improvement but Raj said all departments must fire as a unit if they are to win the World Cup.

“We bat as a unit so you can’t pinpoint one area,” she said. “There are times when the top order failed and the others performed. As a unit if we look to post a good total then it will help. If we focus on one area like middle order then it becomes too much of a burden for that particular slot.”

India finished runners-up in the 2017 World Cup in England when not many expected them to but expectations will be higher this time.

“There were not enough expectations back then,” Raj said. “Now in 2021, players have got experience and got a lot of exposure with the T20 leagues. Overall we have young players but they have got enough exposure. It is just of matter of gelling well as a team.

“Every match will be different there. The quicker we read our opponents the better it will be for us.”



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The Ashes 2021-22 – Michael Vaughan stood down from BT Sport Ashes coverage after Azeem Rafiq allegations

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Channel to adopt a “hybrid” approach with Vaughan’s stints on Fox Sports to be overlaid

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, will not be heard by UK audiences during this winter’s Ashes in Australia, after BT Sport followed the BBC’s decision to remove him from their TV coverage of the series.

Vaughan, 47, was last week stood down from BBC Test Match Special’s coverage for “editorial” reasons, following allegations from Azeem Rafiq, the former Yorkshire cricketer, that he had said “there are too many of you lot” following the selection of four players of Asian heritage in a county fixture in 2009.

Vaughan, who denies the allegations, apologised last week in an interview on BBC Breakfast for the “hurt” caused to Rafiq during his time as a player at Yorkshire, and will still be involved in this winter’s Ashes coverage through his commentary role with Fox Sports, the Australian host broadcaster.

However, BT Sport – who are due to take the Fox Sports feed after choosing not to send a bespoke commentary team to Australia – announced on Tuesday that they will be taking a “hybrid” approach to their coverage, with Vaughan’s on-air stints to be overlaid with studio analysis.

“As a result of Covid and travel restrictions BT Sport had made the decision to take our commentary feed from the Australian host broadcaster,” the channel said in a statement. “The recent report presented to UK Parliament uncovering institutional racism within cricket and specifically Yorkshire County Cricket Club is extremely disappointing and a concern for all.

“Given these recent events and the controversy with the situation we have taken the decision that including Michael Vaughan within our Ashes coverage would not be editorially appropriate or fit with BT Sport’s values. We are still finalising plans but we are assessing the option of taking a hybrid approach, using Fox commentary where possible with the aim of putting our own commentary team in place if necessary.”

Vaughan’s troubled build-up to the series continued on Tuesday, when he announced on Twitter that his arrival in Australia had been delayed by a week due to a positive Covid test. “[It] is frustrating,” he wrote. “But at least I’ll avoid the rain in Brisbane for a few days!”

However, his hopes of being retained by the BBC after the Ashes have received a boost, after the corporation confirmed that they had been in “regular contact” with Vaughan since his suspension, and had held “positive conversations with him in recent days”.

“Our contributors are required to talk about relevant issues, so Michael’s involvement in a story of such significance means it’s not possible for him to be part of our Ashes coverage or wider cricket coverage at the moment,” the statement added. “We’re pleased with how our conversations are going and expect to work with Michael again in the future. He remains on contract to the BBC.”

The BBC’s stance was criticised this week by his former England team-mate Monty Panesar, who wrote in a column in the Daily Telegraph: “This feels deeply unethical — a classic case of someone being tried and convicted without any form of due process being undertaken.”



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The Hundred 2022 – ECB doubles Women’s Hundred salaries for 2022 edition

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Payment bands for female players next season will range from £7500 to £31,250

The ECB has more than doubled salaries for female players in the second season of the Hundred after the inaugural women’s competition broke records for attendances and TV viewing figures.

Women’s salaries ranged from £3600 (US$4800) to £15,000 (US$20,000) – with a captaincy bonus of £1200 (US$1600) – in the 2021 edition of the Hundred and while prize money for the men’s and women’s tournaments was equal, there was a stark disparity in wages with the lowest-paid male players earning 60% more than the highest-paid female players.

Tom Harrison, the ECB’s chief executive, had pledged after the tournament’s final was watched by a record-breaking 17,116 crowd that salaries would rise as a result of the success of the women’s competition, while confirming that the double-header model would continue to be used in 2022.

ESPNcricinfo can reveal that women’s salaries will increase by 108% across the board for 2022, ranging from £7500 (US$10,000) to £31,250 (US$41,500), with a £2500 (US$3300) captaincy bonus. Teams will have a £250,000 (US$330,000) purse to split across their 15-player squads, up from £120,000 (US$160,000), with the ECB’s total outlay on women’s salaries jumping from £960,000 (US$1.28m) to £2 million (US$2.66m).

“Salaries in the Hundred women’s competition have more than doubled ahead of the second year of the competition,” a spokesperson for the Hundred said. “We’re proud to be significantly increasing our investment in women’s salaries, we believe this is a step in the right direction as we grow the women’s game and are committed to our ongoing support of the Hundred women’s competition.”

The salary hike further increases the chances of the world’s best women’s cricketers appearing in the 2022 edition of the Hundred, after a raft of Australia internationals withdrew shortly before its first season due to quarantine requirements and restrictions on international travel. With the Commonwealth Games due to be staged at Edgbaston from July 29 to August 7, many leading internationals are likely to remain in the country for the Hundred.

The increase is particularly significant for the lowest-paid players in the tournament, several of whom had to take annual leave or ask for time off from their employers during the inaugural season. Kate Cross, the England seamer, told the Telegraph last year that “until those lower brackets are topped up, you could have some girls dropping out because ultimately it’s not worth their while with work”, but an increase in the bottom salary band to £7500 for a month’s work will make playing in the Hundred more financially viable.

The ECB has also confirmed that men’s salaries will increase by 25% and return to their pre-Covid levels, as ESPNcricinfo revealed on Wednesday.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98



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