In what is likely to have a bearing on the BCCI elections, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) has disqualified three key state associations – Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Maharashtra – for failing to comply with the board’s new constitution. These three states have been declared non-compliant and are barred from participating in the BCCI elections scheduled for October 23 in Mumbai.
In response, the TNCA has said they will ask the Supreme Court to intervene should the board’s electoral officer N Gopalswami, who is likely to announce the final electoral roll on Thursday, rules against their representative attending the elections. This CoA directive has been sent to both Gopalswami and P Narasimha, the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court.
Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that all three associations were informed of their non-compliance on Tuesday. “We found their explanations to be unsatisfactory,” he said.
In an e-mail directive sent to all three states associations on Tuesday, the CoA said they were being “disqualified from participating in cricket administration and governance at the BCCI in any way whatsoever, including by participating and voting in the BCCI general body meeting.”
In the directive, the CoA also said all three state associations had lost the right to cast a vote at the BCCI elections “because it has not complied with the (court) judgment and it is necessary for the purpose of proper implementation as mandated by the Supreme Court.”
ESPNcricinfo understands the three-member CoA was split on the decision to bar the three state associations. While Rai and Ravindra Thodge were in favour of disqualification, Diana Edulji, the former Indian woman’s captain, objected. Rai and Thodge were of the opinion that the TNCA, HCA and MCA couldn’t have been exempted from complying with the new orders if a majority of the associations, around 30, did so.
Edulji is believed to have said compliance was just one thing and presented examples of several state associations, including Delhi & Districts Cricket Association and Baroda Cricket Association, that had violated various eligibility criterion while electing their office bearers.
The CoA had earlier issued a show cause notice and sought an explanation for non-compliance from the TNCA, HCA and MCA, while also asking them to comply with the new regulations. In Maharashtra’s case, it was pointed out that the MCA hadn’t even registered its constitution, which is mandatory.
While notifying all state associations about the elections in September, Gopalswami made it clear no association could send a representative or vote at the election if the CoA felt they were non-compliant with the new BCCI constitution drawn up on the basis of the Lodha Committee recommendations.
Among the three associations, the TNCA has been most vocal about its opposition to CoA’s stance on compliance. In their response to the show cause notice, the TNCA stated the CoA didn’t have the authority to decide if a state association was compliant or not.
“The job of the CoA is only to file a status report with reference to the compliance undertaken by the state associations,” RS Ramasamy, the newly elected TNCA secretary, wrote in an email to Gopalswami on September 30.
Ramasamy, who has also been chosen by the TNCA to attend the BCCI elections, also pointed out that only the Supreme Court had the right to suspend any state association from attending the BCCI election. In the email to Gopalswami, he said the TNCA “shall not be restrained” from attending the board elections on the “ground of having not being found to be compliant” by the CoA.
“Any such act on your part of restraining the TNCA from participating in the BCCI elections would amount to contempt of the 9th August Judgment and 20th September order.”
‘Double the points for away wins’ – Virat Kohli’s tip for World Test Championship
Left to him, Virat Kohli would give teams extra points for away wins in the World Test Championship. On the eve of India’s second Test against South Africa in Pune, Kohli said that the arrival of the championship had encouraged teams to play positive cricket, and given them the incentive to go for wins when they might have earlier settled for draws. But he did hope there would be one change in the points system, perhaps when the next edition of the championship rolls around.
“The importance of every game has become that much more,” Kohli said in a press conference. “In situations that, in a three-match series, you probably would have played out a draw, teams are going to go for wins and get those extra points, so I think it’s great for Test cricket. The matches are going to be that much more exciting, is what we feel, and we can already experience that.
“We have to be absolutely professional in every session that we play, so yeah, I think it’s much more demanding on the players now, which is a good thing because it will keep the standard of Test cricket high. Yeah, these are the only things we have experienced so far and noticed in terms of changes.
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“If you’d have asked me to make the points table, I would give double the points for an away Test win. That is something that I would have definitely liked to see. Maybe after the first edition.”
Visiting teams in India would certainly appreciate that extra incentive. India have been an incredibly difficult team to beat in their own backyard during Kohli’s time as captain, India winning 16 of their 22 Tests and losing just one. For all that, though, Kohli said conditions in India are often difficult to negotiate even for his team.
“Look, it’s not easy for us as a home side as well,” Kohli said. “When conditions are challenging, when the ball’s spinning, we’ve also found it difficult in the past. But we’re a team that looks for answers, not excuses, so maybe that’s the reason we keep improving, and we’ve been able to win so many Test matches.
“Come on, give the guy a break now. He’s done well, let him enjoy his batting at the top of the order, let him just have fun, like he does in white-ball cricket, and stop focusing on what’s Rohit going to do in Tests”
“We don’t take anything for granted for sure, we can very well be losing four-five wickets a session, so we know that well, as a team. We work pretty hard on our game also, even though we play in our own conditions and we’ve grown up playing in these conditions. So I think the mindset is key for us, and that’s to win every game that we play and not focus on what the conditions are on display, we look to find answers rather than excuses.”
Over the first three days of the first Test in Visakhapatnam, South Africa pushed India hard to find these answers, particularly with their aggressive batting approach against spin, which helped them claw back from 39 for 3 to finish just 71 short of India’s first-innings total of 502.
Kohli wasn’t surprised by the fight South Africa put up.
“How they played in the first innings was very good,” he said. “You have to be positive when the wicket’s nice and easy to bat on, you have to try and get as many runs as possible, and that’s exactly what they did.
“I would say the first three, maybe even four days of the game, the wicket was hardly doing anything. After three-and-a-half days, it started to turn a little bit, and then on day five we really got into our own. We expected that. We expected teams to come out and try and be positive against us, and we held our own. We held our own in the second innings, and put up 400 runs for them to gun down again.
“Look, we are going to be put under pressure, even though we’re playing at home. Its about how we come back into the game and then put double the pressure on the opposition again and then tell them, let’s see if that can be executed again. So that’s basically what Test cricket is. You have to come back in the second innings and do the job again, it doesn’t end in one innings, but the approach was quite expected.”
On the final day, India’s match-winner was Mohammed Shami, who came into his own on a wearing fifth-day pitch to run through South Africa in their second innings. What sets Shami apart, according to Kohli, is how much help he can coax out of even the flattest surfaces.
“I think on the pitches that we play, I haven’t seen anyone get so much seam movement apart from him,” Kohli said. “Yes, internationally, many bowlers do, but I think on flat pitches he has the ability to pick you wickets in situations that feel absolutely dead. And that’s why he’s such an important bowler for us, that’s why we’ve wanted to manage his workload very precisely – all the fast bowlers.
“But he’s someone who can change the complexion of the game totally when you don’t see it coming. That’s the kind of skill he possesses, and now he’s taking the responsibility. We don’t need to push Shami anymore. We don’t need to tell him, come on, you’ve got to get up and bowl this spell for us. He wants the ball. He understands the situation. When he’s given the ball, especially in the second innings when situations are difficult, he comes in and does the job every time.
“It’s great. People are taking responsibility in different situations in the game, which is amazing to see and his skill is obviously there for everyone to see, it’s not a surprise anymore to all of us that he gets the ball to do that much more than others in conditions that don’t really offer you much. He’s blessed with that skill naturally, but it’s the mindset that’s changed now. According to me he’s in the best space right now.”
India’s other hero in Visakhapatnam was Rohit Sharma, who scored centuries in both innings while opening the batting for the first time in Test cricket. That performance, Kohli felt, should end the debate over Rohit’s place in the team.
“It’s overflowing. It’s not been filled,” Kohli said, when asked if the opening slots were taken for the foreseeable future. “Come on, give the guy a break now. He’s done well, let him enjoy his batting at the top of the order, let him just have fun, like he does in white-ball cricket, and stop focusing on what’s Rohit going to do in Tests.
“He’s in a great space, he’s playing really well, and he looked relaxed in the first game, which is great to see, all the experience he’s accumulated over the years came to the fore, so he’s feeling absolutely at home at the top of the order, and for us as a team it’s a huge bonus, because if you saw the second innings, the way he’s able to take the tempo of the game forward, that allows the bowlers an extra hour and a half or two hours to bowl the opposition out.
“So look, if a guy like him at the top of the order plays the way he did in the last game, we’re going to be in situations to go for victories in most of the Test matches. We’re all very happy for him, and I think it’s time to just move ahead from [debating about] his spot at the top of the order and just let him enjoy his batting.”
The Pune pitch had a fair grass cover on the eve of the Test match, and a certain amount of early moisture is expected too, given the volume of rain the city has experienced over the past week or so. Despite this, Kohli seemed to suggest that India would probably stick with an attack containing two seamers and two spinners, and not play the extra fast bowler.
“Well, I think more or less our team is settled,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to play that big a factor because when the pitch is damp it turns as well, so it’s not like only seamers are predominantly going to be effective on this pitch, all five days. Everyone will have to play their roles.
“Unless you have a pitch which has total grass coverage, only then you think of changes in combination for the match. Because you do know that it’s going to dry out at some stage, and you can’t go predominantly one-sided in your attack and then not have the balance. “We are pretty balanced in our team composition, and if any changes need to be made looking at how the pitch might behave on the first three days, then we’ll do so, but we don’t see any major things to think about, looking at the pitch.”
Match Preview – India vs South Africa, ICC World Test Championship 2019, 2nd Test
It’s not easy to beat India in India. But what the Visakhapatnam Test showed was, it’s not easy to avoid defeat against India in India either. South Africa made a substantial 431 in their first innings, after losing the toss. Their first innings stretched to the fourth day. And they still lost by 203 runs.
Playing India in India has never been easy, but in an era when India have possibly the most rounded bowling attack they’ve ever had, it takes an exceptional performance, a la Steven Smith and Steve O’Keefe in 2017 in Pune, to overcome exceptional odds. That defeat in February 2017 remains the only loss for India at home since the start of 2013, across 30 Tests. Twenty-four of those have resulted in wins.
Virat Kohli’s Test side have not won every session of all their home Tests – indeed sometimes they have looked behind the match for a couple of days like they did in Bangalore 2017 right after the Pune Test – but they’ve found a way resist a collapse, stall a partnership, or pinch a breakthrough when needed. And visiting teams haven’t been able to put together sufficiently dominant passages of play to snatch a victory.
This is the first Test in Pune since that Australian win, though that will have little practical value for South Africa. To repeat what Australia did, the South Africans will have to figure out the bowling attack that gives them the best chance of 20 wickets, while drawing on their first-innings showing in Visakhapatnam to put in not just one but two solid batting performances.
South Africa will feel like their captain’s luck at the toss too is due a change. Faf du Plessis has lost eight consecutive tosses in the subcontinent, and when he called wrong again last week, his wry smile was more eloquent than words could be.
India WWWDW (last five Tests, most recent first)
South Africa LLLWW
In the spotlight
There’s never a time when Virat Kohli is not under the spotlight but he’s had a minor bump in his accumulation of batting Test wealth since the Boxing Day 2018. He’s averaged 36.50 and gone five Tests without a century – two in Australia, two in the West Indies and the first Test against South Africa – which is a fairly rare occurrence. The last time it happened was in 2015, and encompassed South Africa’s last tour of India, where the pitches made run-scoring very challenging. He broke out of that by hitting his first Test double century, against West Indies in North Sound.
When Keshav Maharaj burst on the scene for South Africa, it seemed like the team would finally have a rounded bowling attack with a world-class spinner to complement what has been almost an assembly line of skilful pacers. Maharaj has taken wickets and kept the runs down in supposedly spin-unfriendly countries, but wasn’t consistently threatening in Visakhapatnam, where South Africa might have looked to him to be the lead bowler. He has come back from a performance like this in the past, memorably taking 9 for 129 against Sri Lanka after going wicket-less in the first Test of that series. For South Africa to compete on a more equal footing with India, he needs to rediscover himself again.
India brought back Rohit Sharma and R Ashwin for the first Test, and both performed spectacularly, giving Kohli and the team management the luxury of a settled XI after the very first game. The Indian captain indicated that they were unlikely to tinker with a winning combination.
India (probable XI): 1 Rohit Sharma, 2 Mayank Agarwal, 3 Cheteshwar Pujara, 4 Virat Kohli (capt), Ajinkya Rahane, 6 Hanuma Vihari, 7 Wriddhiman Saha (wk), 8 R Ashwin, 9 Ravindra Jadeja, 10 Ishant Sharma, 11 Mohammed Shami
South Africa might consider beefing up their pace bowling by bringing in Lungi Ngidi, or even going with the express Anrich Nortje, in place of Dane Piedt. While Piedt showed great heart with the bat, his bowling posed no problem for the Indian batsmen, and he struggled for consistency too. With a nice green cover on the surface, an extra fast bowler might come in handy for first half of the match.
South Africa (probable XI): 1 Aiden Markram, 2 Dean Elgar, 3 Theunis de Bruyn, 4 Temba Bavuma, 5 Faf du Plessis (capt), 6 Quinton de Kock (wk), 7 Senuran Muthusamy, 8 Vernon Philander, 9 Keshav Maharaj, 10 Kagiso Rabada, 11 Lungi Ngidi
Pitch and conditions
There’s a decent covering of grass on the pitch, though it’s not expected to be a seam-friendly surface on all five days. Kohli felt that the grass wasn’t enough to indicate that “only seamers are predominantly going to be effective on this pitch, all five days”.
The weather has typically been hot in the daytime with rain in the evenings, though the rain doesn’t appear to leave the outfield any worse for wear the next morning.
Stats and trivia
Dean Elgar has more runs (299) and more wickets (6) in India than any of the other South African players on tour.
“You do know that it’s going to dry out at some stage, and you can’t go predominantly one-sided in your attack and then not have the balance. We are pretty balanced in our team composition, and if any changes need to be made looking at how the pitch might behave on the first three days, then we’ll do so, but we don’t see any major things to think about, looking at the pitch.” – Virat Kohli indicates the danger of going all-pace in India
“The difference with us from 2015, where you try and survive in Indian spinning conditions and with that sometimes you can become too defensive and you allow the opposition to be on top of you the whole time, now it needs to be a good combination of positive play, an element of taking risks at some stages of the game to try and counter that pressure from the bowling” – South Africa will focus on changing their approach to playing spin bowling, says Faf du Plessis.
Stuart Poynter calls time on Ireland as he commits to Durham
Stuart Poynter has effectively called time on his international career with Ireland after committing to Durham in a new two-year deal.
Poynter, Durham’s wicketkeeper and captain during this season’s Vitality Blast campaign, was forced to choose between club and country following a change to the ECB’s eligibility rules in September, in the wake of Ireland’s promotion to a Full Test Nation in 2017.
Prior to that change, all Ireland players – along with other passport-holders from EU member countries – had been permitted to play as homegrown players in county cricket. Now they have to register as overseas players, which Poynter has chosen to do.
Born in Hammersmith, London, Poynter has previously spoken out about his disappointment at the change of ruling, telling The Telegraph “it is a strange scenario when you are born British and have entitlement to work as a local in your own country.”
Poynter’s decision was perhaps made easier by the disappointment he suffered earlier this year when he was dropped by Ireland following a run of poor form. He made 15 runs in four ODI innings in their series against Afghanistan in Dehradun and followed that with scores of 0 and 1 in the one-off Test that followed against the same opponents.
He was omitted in favour of Gary Wilson for the subsequent tri-series against West Indies and Bangladesh on home soil, and Wilson – who left Derbyshire last year to play full time in Ireland’s domestic competition – then kept his place for their maiden Test against England at Lord’s in July.
Poynter’s decision comes a month after his Ireland team-mate, Paul Stirling, chose the alternative route, and ended his 10-year association with Middlesex to further his international aspirations.
Stirling’s Middlesex team-mate, Tim Murtagh, is the other county-based Ireland player who has yet to confirm his decision. At the age of 38, Murtagh is nearing the end of his career either way, but remains a formidable performer, as shown by his haul of 5 for 13 on the first morning of the Lord’s Test, when England were bowled out for 85.
With a highest score of 36 in 21 ODI appearances, Poynter never quite showed his best form in his Ireland career, although he did enjoy one notable moment in a T20 against the Netherlands in February, when he struck a last-ball six to seal a one-wicket win.
However, at the age of 28, he could also have anticipated plenty more opportunities in international cricket, given that Wilson turns 34 in the new year, and that Ireland’s long-term keeper, Niall O’Brien, retired last year.
The announcement of his two-year deal with Durham comes as the club offered the same extension to two other players: Liam Trevaskis, who has cemented his status as the club’s first-choice spinner across formats, and Jack Burnham, who served a year-long suspension for recreational drug use in 2018, but recorded four Championship half-centuries on his return to the team this summer.
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