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Cricket South Africa has caused a ‘crisis’ by mandating taking a knee

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SACA would like the team to adopt a uniform approach for the Black Lives Matter movement, but doesn’t want it to be forced

The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) would like the national men’s team to take a uniform approach to taking a knee but has criticised Cricket South Africa (CSA) for mandating it, and for doing so during a global tournament.

Speaking at the Social Justice and Nation-Building (SJN) hearings, SACA CEO Andrew Breetzke said CSA has caused a “crisis” in the national team after Quinton de Kock sat out of the match against West Indies when he refused to follow the mandate to take a knee. Breetzke is currently “managing” the situation with de Kock.

“My preference would be that there was a uniform approach to taking a knee,” Breetzke said. “From a SACA perspective, I would like to see the team take a unified approach to taking a knee, but at the same time I am not going to force anyone to take a knee.”

Breetzke said that despite a CSA statement that said the team’s different postures in showing anti-racism gestures created “unintended perception of disparity or lack of support for the initiative”, the national side has had extensive discussions around the Black Lives Matter movement.

“This team has had more culture and diversity engagement than any other team has had,” Breetzke said. “They have had the hard conversations, around diversity, players’ understanding of Black Lives Matter, players’ understanding of taking a knee and what it means to be in a team with people of different backgrounds.”

He was of the opinion that CSA should have held more conversations with the team before the players left for the T20 World Cup and not informed them of the instruction to take a knee five hours before their second group-stage fixture.

“This issue should have been dealt with a while ago and not at an ICC event, where it is a crisis,” he said.

While CSA has noted de Kock’s decision not to take a knee, they await a report from team management before deciding on future steps. The news from the South African camp is that de Kock remains “very much a part of the Proteas team and has not been sent home as some reports have incorrectly stated”, according to a statement sent out on Tuesday morning. de Kock is yet to release a statement but it is “being finalised and will be shared as soon as possible”.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo’s South Africa correspondent



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Ind vs NZ, 2nd Test, Mumbai

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India’s bowling coach says: “He hasn’t played the IPL and the World Cup as well. That does make a difference”

At 97 Tests, Ishant Sharma was arguably the most improved bowler in the history of Test cricket. In the first half of his career at that point, Ishant averaged 38.44. In the second half he took wickets at 27.21 each. In the last third – which was 33 Tests – he averaged 22.90. In his last 18 Tests at that point, he conceded only 19.14 runs per wicket. Since the injury in New Zealand, though, he has averaged 32.71 over eight Tests, which is back to being consistent with his career numbers. Commentators have said during the England tour and the Kanpur Test that he has lacked rhythm, which affects the pace and the movement you generate.
India’s new bowling coach Paras Mhambrey feels it is a matter of getting overs in his legs before he regains the rhythm. “Ishant hasn’t played much Test cricket for a long time,” Mhambrey said after the team landed in Mumbai. “He hasn’t played the IPL and the World Cup as well. That does make a difference. Yes we are working on it. He has got enough experience under his belt.”
Ishant went wicketless in his 22 overs in Kanpur but Mhambrey said it was not a big concern because he still brings with him the experience of 105 Tests. “Obviously it makes a huge difference having him in the dressing room with the experience that he has,” Mhambrey said. “An opportunity for other bowlers to spend some time with him and understand the nuances of fast bowling. He is a great help around. Something which we will work on is his rhythm. We are aware of it. He needs a couple of games under his belt to get that rhythm going. He will be back for sure.”

Does that mean Ishant gets to play in Mumbai to get back into rhythm or does Mohammed Siraj replace him? Or do both of them play?

“We will have a look at the wicket, then we will see what combination is right: three spinners and two seamers or two spinners and three seamers,” Mhmabrey said. “Depending on that we will decide the playing XI. But everybody in the group believes whoever is part of the team is good enough to represent the country. And we know that the potential they have in winning the games for us. We will decide the combination on the surface, but whomever plays, we believe, has the ability to win the game for India.”

India’s training two days before the Test was cancelled because of rain in Mumbai so they perhaps don’t know yet what the pitch has to offer. India will be hoping there is more on offer than there was in Kanpur. “I think we are happy, honestly,” Mhambrey said when asked about the bowling effort in Kanpur where India fell one wicket short of a win. “If you look at the outcome of the game – yes we want to win the Test match, we were so close – but looking at the wicket it was not that kind of surface.

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Jaffer: Siraj might replace Ishant in Mumbai

Jaffer: Siraj might replace Ishant in Mumbai

“We knew in the morning that this is not the kind of surface where you turn up and run through a side. We knew it was going to be hard work. Especially there was no bounce, the ball was keeping low. Unfortunately, a couple of edges didn’t carry. Had that happened it would have been a different result. A lot of positive we can take, especially in the effort that we put in. Honestly, I feel we made a game out of it. Picking 19 wickets on that surface wasn’t easy. But we really took it to the end.”

“Very happy with the way Umesh bowled, especially in the second innings,” Mhmabrey said. “There was one spell where he troubled Kane and that’s so positive and happy to see it on that kind of surface. He created opportunities for us. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get the wicket. [But] That created opportunities for others to rally around. Very happy to see that on that pitch. A really, really special spell. We wanted someone to put his hand up and say, ‘I will give it my best’. He tried his best even though he didn’t pick the wicket.”

While Mhambrey will be involved in the selection of the bowlers, he is glad he is not part of the group that will decide who makes way for the returning captain, Virat Kohli. There is also likely to be a debate around Wriddhiman Saha, who didn’t keep for long in the last Test because of a stiff neck, and KS Bharat. That decision, Mhambrey said, was going to be made based on the physios’ assessment of Saha’s injury. As of now he has neither been cleared nor ruled out.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Islamabad United name Azhar Mahmood as head coach

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Former Pakistan allrounder will take over from Johan Botha for PSL 7

Islamabad United have signed former Pakistan allrounder Azhar Mahmood as their head coach for the seventh edition of the Pakistan Super League (PSL). Mahmood will take over from Johan Botha, marking a fourth change in their management since the first season of the league in 2016; Deans Jones, Misbah-ul-Haq and Botha were the previous coaches, while Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis had stints as directors of the franchise.

Mahmood, 46, previously had two stints with Multan Sultans and one with Karachi Kings as bowling coach. He was also the bowling coach of the Pakistan men’s national team between 2016 and 2019. In his most recent coaching assignment, Mahmood had worked with England briefly as an assistant bowling coach during their series against Pakistan in August last year.

Mahmood had represented Pakistan for 10 years, between 1997 and 2007. He had his domestic career extended until 2016, playing as a T20 specialist across various leagues in England, India, Bangladesh, New Zealand and the West Indies. Overall, he picked up 258 wickets in 230 T20 games.

“I was part of Islamabad United’s title winning team in PSL 1,” Mahmood said. “The franchise and the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi are quite close to my heart as my hometowns. United have always paved the way and provided a platform for emerging players, from Shadab to Asif to most recently Wasim, all started their careers here. It is not only a great platform for grooming local players but coaches too.

“Saeed Ajmal is such an example and I look forward to working with him this year now that I take a new path in my career. I am obviously familiar with most of the guys there. It was an absolute pleasure to be the bowling coach of Hassan, Shadab, Faheem and co in my stint as Pakistan’s bowling coach. Together, we became the No. 1 T20 team in the world for an extended period of time. I have played franchise cricket all over the world and I look forward to sharing my experience with the guys at Islamabad United.”

Islamabad United are one of the most successful teams in the PSL, winning two titles, in 2016 and 2018. They also have the highest win percentage in the tournament’s history so far.

On signing Mahmood, franchise owner Ali Naqvi said: “Azhar was with us back in 2016 and his subsequent success as a bowling coach is not a surprise to anyone who interacted with him then. Seeing the development of so many of the young bowlers in the national team over the last five years is a testament to his work ethic. Islamabad United believes in grooming our players and coaches from within, and we are pleased to have Azhar back as part of the family.

“The development of our players has been a source of pride for us, with three former Emerging Category players being part of Pakistan’s T20 World Cup squad this year, but the same is true of our coaching staff. We began this journey with only one local as part of our coaching staff back in 2016, and we are pleased that our staff this year will be overwhelmingly local, led by Azhar. Furthermore, Azhar provides the progressive understanding of T20 cricket that we pride ourselves on, and we are confident that he will do his utmost in achieving our shared goals.”



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Ind vs NZ, 2nd Test

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Left-arm spinner will “miss going home” but is happy to welcome friends and family to watch him play at the Wankhede

For Ajaz Patel, life has come full circle. The left-arm spinner was just a month-old baby when New Zealand last played a Test in Mumbai. And when Ajaz left Mumbai, the ‘City of Dreams’, as an eight-year-old, returning to play a Test here may have not even been in his dreams. But here he is, 25 years later, gearing up to play a Test in the city for his country, which he now calls his home.
Coming back to Mumbai makes him “nostalgic” and “emotional” with New Zealand set to fight for the series in the second Test from Friday, after eking out a draw in the Kanpur Test – a result Ajaz helped orchestrate in the final session of the fifth day along with debutant Rachin Ravindra in the fading light. For Ajaz, playing a Test in Mumbai is “something that I’m sure I will look back on very fondly in future”.

“I was thinking about it when we landed in Mumbai yesterday,” Ajaz said. “It was nice coming out – we have come here with family for holidays [in the past]. It’s a little bit different now, obviously. This time I am with cricket.

“I have come to the Wankhede for a lot of IPL games, thanks to Mitch McClenaghan. He has been very kind every time I have come here. I have also bowled here a few times, training and stuff like that. It is kind of nostalgic being here. I just have to cope with not being able to see the family. I’m sure I will be making a quick trip back home very frequently whenever that’s possible.”

For someone whose parents have never “seen me play in person even back in New Zealand”, Ajaz said it would be “really special” for his family to come and watch him play from the stands at the Wankhede.

“I have got various members of the family coming in on different days of the game,” he said. “I guess it’s the beauty of Test cricket. Everyone can come in on days that they are free.

“I don’t think about it [playing in front of the family] as pressure, it’s more of excitement. I know we didn’t get off at the airport. I have got a lot of flashbacks – leaving Mumbai for the first time and coming back to Mumbai for the first time, coming to Mumbai for a wedding and stuff like that. For me, it’s going to be a very, very special moment.”

The past week has been one of a roller coaster for Ajaz. It all started with him starring on a tense final day in Kanpur alongside Ravindra. The pair played eight overs together – with Ajaz facing 23 deliveries – with one wicket in hand to save the match. Ajaz said it was “a very cool moment” for the two Indian-origin players to be fighting for a draw against a strong home side and that in itself is “an amazing story”.

“He [Ravindra] was calm out there. He has got a great head on his shoulders,” Ajaz said. “We spoke about playing the ball as straight as possible. If it goes past the outside edge, it goes past the outside edge but as long as we keep the stumps out of play and not get out in front of pads – that’s the most important part. I don’t think at any point I thought about the outcome, and I am not really sure if Rachin did. It makes things a lot easier.

“Against the irony of us at home – towards the back end of the game and after the game was over – the two boys of Indian heritage, being brought up in New Zealand, playing against one of the biggest cricketing nations, trying to fight for a draw and that I suppose, [is] quite an amazing story in itself. It was special for us to be out there, and I thought that was quite fitting.”

Srinidhi Ramanujam Is a sub-editor with ESPNCricinfo



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