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T20 World Cup – ‘We can afford to field different teams for different formats’

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India’s outgoing bowling coach looks back at his stint

Bharat Arun is set to bow out as India’s bowling coach when the team’s T20 World Cup campaign ends on Monday, and he reckons India’s success in overseas Tests over the last two years has been the highlight of his work with the team. The end of Arun’s tenure marks the end of one of Indian cricket’s most successful projects – beginning during Ravi Shastri‘s second stint as India’s head coach in August 2017 – which helped elevate India’s fast-bowling talent to a consistently world-class level in Tests.
Through a diligent workload-management system and through innovative bowling plans, among them the “leg trap” employed against Australia earlier this year, India’s fast bowlers became the bedrock of famous victories overseas apart from having a significant impact even at home.

“There have been ups and downs but I think the team is in a much better position than when we started. Pretty happy about it,” Arun said before India’s last match at the T20 World Cup. “The highest point of the career would be the kind of bowling that we have – we set about winning a lot of Tests overseas. That is what we strived hard to achieve as a team and we went about achieving that.

“I think the highest point would be the two back-to-back wins in Australia and also us, more or less, winning the series in England. Of course, there’s one more Test to go, but I think the performance of the team during this English series was outstanding.”

Arun’s playing career ended when he was 29, and his foray into coaching came with a determination to understand the science and biomechanics of bowling, and to not propagate the “myths we were handed down through generations”. The increased fitness of India’s fast bowlers during his time, and the presence of a solid second string in the main bowlers’ absence speak to that.

“All of us came together and said we have enough fast bowlers, but we need to create a lot more discipline in their attack and also to make sure they remain fresh throughout,” he explained. “That is the only chance of us winning. And also the team management and captain took a very bold step of always playing five bowlers at any given point of time.

“We can afford to field different teams for different formats. That way it’s not only we understanding the different talent that is available, but it also keeps our bowlers mentally and physically very fresh”

Bharat Arun

“Earlier we went in with only four bowlers and somebody who can also bowl. But right now we are going with five regular bowlers in any team that we have. So I think that is a first fearless step. Because we said that the batting group needs to step up, we need to take added responsibility if we need to win matches abroad, and we need to take 20 wickets all the time. So that went into us playing this combination of at least five bowlers in every match. The wicketkeeper being a very good batter also helps the cause.”

India have pushed a number of bowlers up to the senior team, particularly over the last ten months or so. The likes of Mohammed Siraj, Shardul Thakur, Axar Patel and Washington Sundar have all stepped in with varying degrees of success as backups for the core of Jasprit Bumrah, Ishant Sharma, Mohammed Shami, Umesh Yadav and the two frontline spinners, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja. Arun mentioned Prasidh Krishna as one that sparks confidence as well, and said India’s next generation was in good shape.

With the volume of cricket ever increasing, however, he hinted that it was time for India to use their reserves to make sure everyone continued to stay “fresh”, even if it meant playing different bowlers across formats.

“Not only the volume of cricket that our country is playing but also remaining in the bubble and playing – I can guarantee that it’s not easy to be in the bubble and keep playing throughout the year,” he said. “They do need some breaks because I think even the mental health is going to be very important going forward. This is going to be the norm for us, at least for the next one year or two years. So it is important.

“In our country we have a very good pool of fast bowlers, there is enough talent in our country. So we can afford to field different teams for different formats. That way it’s not only we understanding the different talent that is available, but it also keeps our bowlers mentally and physically very fresh.”

Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo



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‘I feel like I have nothing to lose’

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Preparation is being disrupted by the weather and there are concerns around Covid-19, but the focus is on the Gabba

He’s never played a first-class match, let alone a Test, in Australia and the final week of preparation leading into the opening game of the Ashes in Brisbane looks set to be disrupted by the weather, but Jos Buttler is determined to go into the series unburdened by things he can’t control.

Buttler is part of the second group of England players who have now joined the full squad following their quarantine after the T20 World Cup but on leaving their Gold Coast camp for Brisbane they encountered torrential rain which wiped out the opening day of their final warm-up match.

With the forecast poor, there is a real chance England may not get any proper middle time in the days ahead. The first intrasquad match last week had just 29 overs on the first day. Australia are in the same position with their three-game likely to be canned – and have also had to deal with the off-field drama around Tim Paine’s resignation – although some of their players have been playing in the Sheffield Shield over the last two months.

Buttler did not play England’s most recent Test, against India at The Oval, due to paternity leave but had been due to regain his place for the Old Trafford match that was called off due to Covid-19 concerns. Overall it was a disjointed home season with no great Test reward for Buttler, who missed the New Zealand series due to the IPL and then made 72 runs in five innings against India, but he is ready to embrace the challenge in Australia.

“I feel like I have nothing to lose, to be honest,” he said. “It’s sort of been disjointed, that [year] just gone. Some good form and some bad form and in the year before as well. It’s the first time I’m experiencing an Ashes series [in Australia] so I’m fully determined to enjoy all the challenges that throws up. I’m excited to experience it, the good the bad, and I’m sure the highs and lows along the way.

“As a player at the minute I’m trying to bring a fearless approach and to truly try and embrace the opportunity. I know when I get to somewhere near my best that’s going to be pretty good.”

Buttler has reasonably extensive experience playing in Australia although it has all been in the white-ball formats. He averages 38.71 from 18 ODIs, has played five T20Is and has had Big Bash stints with Melbourne Renegades and most recently Sydney Thunder.

“Familiarity with some conditions is something I can dip into and hopefully not be surprised by,” he said. “But I think the challenge always as a player is to adapt to any conditions that are in front of you and adapt quickly. The practice, when you can practice, is incredibly important for that and your first five, 10 balls are vital as a player to understanding the conditions and playing accordingly. But certainly I will try to dip into that experience and I’m in my early 30s now so played quite a bit of cricket and hopefully know what to expect.”

As ever in the current world there could be further complications thrown the way of the series. It remains to be seen whether Covid-19 protocols will need to be tightened following the emergence of the Omicron variant – with cases detected in arriving passengers in New South Wales – and the impact any potential changes to international border restrictions could have on families.

Buttler was among the players to raise concerns about families not being able to join the tour but he said it was too early to be worrying about a scenario where they were unable to fly out.

“It’s a hypothetical situation at the minute. Until we get told that something’s changed there’s no decision to make and it just adds to the unknown. So it’s things I don’t really need to worry about at the moment. If something like that happens I have to get the information and we can work through it and see how that looks.”

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo



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Ban vs Pak 1st Test

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Nurul Hasan was named as Yasir’s concussion substitute, although he won’t be allowed to keep wicket

Debutant Yasir Ali was taken for scans at a local hospital in Chattogram after being stuck on the back of his helmet during Bangladesh’s second innings on the fourth morning. Wicketkeeper-batter Nurul Hasan was named as Yasir’s concussion substitute, although he won’t be allowed to keep wicket as Yasir isn’t a keeper.

The incident occurred at the end of the 30th over when Yasir ducked into a Shaheen Shah Afridi bouncer. Yasir briefly took his eye away from the delivery while getting under the ball, and was hit on the helmet.

Bangladesh’s physio Bayejidul Islam checked Yasir immediately, and he went back to batting. But an over later, Bayejid came back to check on Yasir during the drinks break, after which he walked off.

The team director Khaled Mahmud confirmed a few minutes later that Yasir was out of the Test match, with Nurul as his replacement. Yasir has been taken to Imperial Hospital for a CT scan. A BCB statement said later that “he is medically stable. However, as a precaution, he will be observed for 24 hours at the hospital.”

This is the third time Bangladesh have needed concussion substitutes. The first instance was during the Kolkata Test in 2019 when Liton Das and Nayeem Hasan were struck on the head. Mohammad Saifuddin was also substituted during an ODI against Sri Lanka in May this year.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo’s Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84



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Recent Match Report – Sri Lanka vs West Indies 2nd Test 2021/22

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Roston Chase dismissed Dimuth Karunaratne late in the day, but not before another century opening stand

Sri Lanka 113 for 1 (Nissanka 61*, Karunaratne 42, Chase 1-33) vs West Indies

Pathum Nissanka breezed his way to a half-century, Dimuth Karunaratne fell eight short of a fifty that would have seen him equal a world record, and on a day in which rain washed out the first two sessions, Sri Lanka gained a significant advantage, moving to 113 for 1 in the 33.4 overs that were possible.
Before Roston Chase caught-and-bowled Karunaratne late in the day, Sri Lanka’s openers had put on 106 runs in 31 overs – their second century stand in the series. Kemar Roach, returning for this game after having been left out in favour of Shannon Gabriel, was perhaps the best of West Indies’ bowlers, delivering six overs and conceding just 12. Sri Lanka’s batters were largely untroubled by the others.

Nissanka was positive almost from the outset. He drilled a full Jason Holder ball down the ground for four to begin the second over, carved Roach past the slip cordon soon after, and although occasionally beaten by deliveries that jagged past his outside edge, was on a constant hunt for runs, moving to 20 off his first 30 balls. Karunaratne was typically conservative by comparison – defending and leaving the majority of deliveries he faced from the seamers, making just 4 from his first 30 deliveries.

Eventually though, Holder and Roach wrapped up their spells, and batting seemed to get easier. Kyle Mayers was hit for three fours – twice through the leg side by Karunaratne – in his first two overs, the only two he bowled on the first day. Nissanka attempted to dominate the left-arm spin of Veerasammy Permaul, who was playing his first Test since 2015, coming down the track in Permaul’s second over to launch him into the sightscreen.

Soon, Captain Kraigg Brathwaite had spinners bowling from both ends, and although they prompted the occasional mistake, the batters largely settled into a rhythm against them, with Nissanka scoring primarily through the off side, and Karunaratne favouring the leg side, as he often does. Nissanka got to fifty – his third in Tests, and second in the series – off the 74th ball he faced.

Karunaratne’s dismissal came against the run of play. Earlier in that Chase over, he had played a late cut and a flick through midwicket, both of which went for four. But Chase found some rip off the last delivery of that over, and turned a ball more than the batter expected, which produced a return catch off the inside half of the bat as Karunaratne attempted to drive him down the ground.

If he had got to fifty, Karunaratne would have made seven Test half-centuries in as many innings, a feat only six batters had accomplished. In any case, his last seven scores read 42, 83, 147, 66, 118, 244 and 75.

Oshada Fernando survived ten balls before the players went off for bad light. Nissanka was 61 not out off 109 balls, his scoring rate having slowed as the light faded.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo’s Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf



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