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Trevor Hohns wants to see more of captain Alex Carey

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Australia’s selection chairman Trevor Hohns feels Alex Carey should be given more leadership exposure so that he may be a legitimate captaincy contender whenever Tim Paine’s time is up, even if he is doubtful whether there would be room for both to play in the Test team this summer.

Having successfully retained the Ashes in England, Paine’s immediate future is secure, leaving him with a good deal of autonomy about how long he decides to continue playing. Carey, though, is held in extremely high regard by Hohns and the national team coach Justin Langer, while he has also assembled a first-class batting record that is trending impressively upwards after two difficult Sheffield Shield campaigns to begin with.

Hohns admitted that Paine’s position as captain of the Test side in England had made it virtually impossible to fit Carey into the squad, and also suggested that like Adam Gilchrist 20 years ago, he might have to wait until the incumbent gloveman exits the scene before gaining a debut. Hohns was selection chairman in 1999 when Ian Healy’s decorated Test career was summarily ended after the panel had decided against first trialling Gilchrist as a batsman only before making him the No. 1 wicketkeeper.

“Alex Carey is very highly thought of and desperately unlucky, but it just didn’t quite fit him when Tim’s the captain and there’s a couple of other blokes that wicket-keep as the fill-in, but Alex understands all of that,” Hohns told ESPNcricinfo. “He is held in such high regard that I’d seriously like to see him captaining his state, but that’s not for me to say. He’s the type of person that potentially is a very, very good leader.

“I keep going back to Adam Gilchrist as a prime example. He possibly could have played as a batsman but we don’t know. I put him in the allrounder category and Alex can be the same.”

Undoubtedly, there is a sense among Australian cricket’s decision-makers that Carey is the team’s future wicketkeeper in all forms, and also potentially the captain. Paine, by his selection as a leader while keeping wickets, has opened up the possibility for someone other than the best batsman getting the job as had been customary.

“Along the way we’ve been trying to develop leaders. Not necessarily anointing who the next captain is, and that’s all been to give some of the younger guys, who deserve it by the way, the opportunity to show some leadership around.”

Trevor Hohns

In doing so, he has opened a door for Carey who, was inaugural captain of the Greater Western Sydney Giants in the AFL before returning to cricket, is yet to play a Test. In South Australia he has played under the leadership of Travis Head, who has this year served as Test vice-captain but was dropped for the fifth Test at The Oval.

“It’s nice to hear that and to have the support of the playing group and the coaches,” Carey told ESPNcricinfo about Hohns’ comments. “It means I’m doing something right. I would love to captain firstly South Australia if that opportunity came up. Once I’m in the green and gold it’s [a case of] keep learning as much as I can from guys that have led the country.

“I guess learning from experiences through footy, through cricket, through life, I see my best leadership qualities is how I try to handle myself, and how do I try to train, and how do I try to be the best player and person I can be. If I can help Finchy [Aaron Finch] at all behind the stumps, obviously that’s my job as vice-captain, so to keep learning and keep growing in that role. Hopefully one day if there’s an opportunity I’d be comfortable enough to do that.”

The other man in leadership considerations will naturally be Steven Smith, having stamped himself as one of the world’s finest batsman during the Ashes and also demonstrated a growing measure of maturity and life balance that was arguably missing before Newlands and his year out of the national team. “That’ll be one for the future to be answered about Steven in general,” Hohns said.

“Along the way we’ve been trying to develop leaders. Not necessarily anointing who the next captain is, and that’s all been to give some of the younger guys, who deserve it by the way, the opportunity to show some leadership around. There’s more to being the captain than just making the calls out on the field. It’s more about off the field etc. We’re trying to make sure some of these guys get experience at state level, and while we can’t tell the states who we want as their leaders, we can make suggestions.”

Carey’s first two summers in the Shield reaped a mere 200 runs in seven matches for South Australia, but since then he has compiled 1338 first-class runs in 24 matches at an average of 37.16, including two centuries. It’s a record that compares favourably with most batsmen in the country save for the very top of the pile, meaning that a rapid start to the Shield this season would pose serious questions for Hohns and Langer, particularly after Carey showed himself more than comfortable in international company during the World Cup.

Paine’s batting was the subject of plenty of scrutiny during the Ashes, as he struggled for runs until a vital half-century in the decisive fourth Test at Old Trafford, after had been counselled by none other than Healy to “bat like a wicketkeeper” and be more intent on scoring than occupation of the crease.

“Tim’s done a very good job as captain, that goes without saying. We do obviously need him to continue to contribute,” Hohns said. “He’s still probably the best wicketkeeper in the world in my mind, I might be a bit biased, but in the area he operates in it’s important to contribute with the bat. That’s all we’ll be asking him, and he’ll know when the right time is I would say. Then if his performance or his contribution wanes then they’re the conversations we have to have at the appropriate time.”

There is some irony to the level of discussion to be had about the future of the Australian captaincy, given the extremely rushed and far from glorious circumstances in which Paine was handed the role by Hohns and the former coach Darren Lehmann at the height of the Newlands scandal last year. Hohns has revealed his account of the snap decision to make Paine the Test captain in Cape Town, within minutes of being informed by Smith that he was to stand down.

“We didn’t have time to go into anything in too much detail because we had to make a decision just like that,” Hohns said. “But it was clear he was the type of person who could do the job, personality-wise as well. As it’s turned out he’s done a wonderful job. In a very, very difficult period of time he’s been outstanding for us and for Australian cricket.”

A full interview with Trevor Hohns will appear on ESPNcricinfo later this week



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Bangladesh’s planning under scanner after Mehidy Hasan replaces concussed Liton Das

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Bangladesh’s decision not to add more batsmen into their Test squad even after two of them became unavailable for the pink-ball game in Kolkata came into sharp focus when they were forced to use a spinner – Mehidy Hasan – as a concussion substitute for wicketkeeper batsman Liton Das.

Mehidy cannot bowl because he came into the XI for a batsman and as per the ICC Playing Conditions, a concussion substitute has to be a like-for-like replacement and perform the same role as that of the concussed player.

Liton was hit on the helmet by a Mohammed Shami bouncer in the 20th over of Bangladesh’s innings. He decided to bat on, struck two fours but walked off seven balls after being hit.

It is unclear why the BCB didn’t call in replacements considering both Saif Hassan and Mosaddek Hossain were ruled out long before day one of the Eden Gardens Test.

Saif’s injury was confirmed on November 20, two days before the game, and although there are 30-minute flights between Dhaka and Kolkata, no one was was flown in. Mosaddek meanwhile, had left the Test squad on November 11, even before the first Test, to be with his ailing family member, but the BCB didn’t name a replacement.



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‘We know each other’s roles when we’re out there’ – David Warner on partnership with Joe Burns

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David Warner and Joe Burns believe their commanding 222 opening stand against Pakistan at the Gabba will be the resumption of a beautiful friendship, after a previously promising union was effectively broken up by the wiles of Sri Lanka’s spinners as far back as 2016.

Always comfortable in each other’s batting company, Warner and Burns were strong partners in 2015-16, including another major stand against New Zealand in Brisbane, before they were split up and left with plenty of challenges, culminating in Burns’ extended time out of the team and Warner’s ban in 2018. They were almost reunited for this year’s Ashes series, but the belated union at the Gabba instantly showed why they had so enjoyed providing starts for Australia in the past.

Warner was hopeful that this time around he and Burns would be given an extended run as partners, both for this home summer and the challenges beyond it.

“Yes is the answer. I reckon I threw the toys out of the cot a lot there as well, that was a challenging series for a lot of us,” Warner said of Sri Lanka in 2016 when Burns was dropped. “But look the success we’ve had together, especially here at home has been fantastic, and as Joe said before, we just have this energy about us when we’re out there, we communicate a lot, we’re always talking about cricket, even though we probably wouldn’t want to talk about it but we do.

ALSO READ: Warner thrives on home comforts and positive thinking

“But the most important thing is rotating strike. When we do that well, it’s hard for bowlers to put it on the spot all the time when you’re doing that. I know I try to achieve that when we’re out there, if I can’t get the ball away or it’s got to be respected, I try and tuck it in on the leg side or we drop and run. A lot of the fielders hang [back] a little bit, especially when I’m on strike, so I’m always looking around for that drop and run, and I know he looks to get off strike as well. Knowing each other’s roles when we’re out there, we do that very well. We did it the other day in the nets, we had a good half-hour session where we said we’re going to run if we think there’s a run and rotate it six balls.”

For his part, Burns stated that the combination of a left-hand batsman and a right-hand batsman was always useful, in addition to a good feel for each other’s batting tendencies. “I think the left-hand, right-hand certainly helps, and I’ve always said batting with Dave is really easy,” Burns said. “You get down the non-striker’s end, you look up and the scoreboards’ ticking along, there’s no pressure to score. I think the biggest thing for me is just the engagement we have, we’re always talking about how the bowlers are trying to bowl, where we can score, where the threats are.

“When you have a combination like that with your partner, you lean on your partner during the tough times, and as the innings develops there’ll be scoring opportunities for each of us. I think we saw that today, the Gabba can be a great place to bat once you get in, and if the bowlers are missing their areas, and left-hand, right-hand certainly helps with that.

“The way we prepare as well, having someone who’s been there and done it, someone to talk to about how they’re going to go about their preparation and walking out into battle with them makes it a lot easier. You’d be silly not to lean on guys in our team who have the experience and success that guys like Davey has had.”

Reflecting on his time out of the team, Warner noted how it had given the likes of Burns, Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne the start to gain a foothold in the team, while also granting him a physical and mental break from the treadmill of international cricket.

“It was obviously fantastic [to be back] – on the other hand it was a great opportunity for other guys to step up and show what depth Australian cricket has and I was chuffed for this guy next to me to get some runs and play the way he did,” Warner said of Burns. “He was unlucky not to get selected in the Ashes touring group, but to come out here and put that on the board and have that time off to reflect, and just get away from the game.

“There’s a lot more to life than just cricket and I really loved the time I spent at home with my family. You don’t get that when we’re travelling all the time. You come home, sometimes you’re not in form and you can throw the toys out of the cot and that can hinder your relationships. But for me it was a level grounding and I really enjoyed that time off. Obviously I’m back now and I’ve got to keep working hard and keep being respectable of the game, because it can bite you in the backside very fast.”

Burns, too, had faced time away from the national team, and had won respect from several key observers by responding to his omission from the Ashes squad by taking a European holiday and returning fresh and ready for the home season. His northern summer and a contract with Lancashire had been broken up by a case of post-viral fatigue.

“I don’t think you really have much choice,” he said of not sulking over his non-selection. “Selections come and go in this game, there’s so many games you play these days that you’ve just got to make sure you’re making runs. There’s always a training session around the corner, always a game to play around the corner. I came home, got stuck into pre-season with the Queensland boys and wanted to hit the ground running with three Shield games at the Gabba, which I knew was going to be tough work and just wanted to be batting well.

“I knew if I was batting well there’d be opportunities there. It was great to watch the boys on TV playing in the Ashes, obviously you get left out and of course you want to be there trying to help out in any way you can, but I knew my job was to make sure if I was called upon in the home summer that I was ready to go. Tried to use that as my motivation and get stuck into it.

“It’s a very bitter feeling getting bowled around your legs on 97 by a legspinner at the Gabba. But I was really satisfied with how I batted, felt like I did a lot of things right and I know if I bat more often than not, hopefully it equates to plenty more runs. I’ll just try to be better in the 90s next time and go and bat all day and come out tomorrow and do it all again. Look at Davey, he finished 150 not out, those are the sorts of innings that win Test matches.”



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Warner likens Naseem to a young Mohammad Amir

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Naseem Shah was denied a first Test wicket by the calling of a no ball after the fact, but he had consolation in a generous assessment by David Warner, who made the most of the second chance to bat through day two of the Gabba Test for Australia.

“He’s quite skiddy, got a nice fluent action, but he won’t get a harder Test debut than out there and bowl at the Gabba,” Warner said of 16-year-old Naseem. “To keep coming back in, having to back up the overs, that heat. You ask any Test fast bowler who’s played here and had to keep coming back, it’s very challenging out there, and our job as batsmen is to try and keep them coming back. I think he kept his speed up quite a lot throughout the whole day. The back end he cramped up a little bit, but that’s obviously going to happen.

“He charged in, and there’s a superstar there. Like when Mohammad Amir came on the scene, the first time, he was rapid and had us all in a pickle. He was a world class bowler, and if you add him to the Test lineup as well, their depth is ridiculous, and having these other young guys like Musa and Hasnain as well, who I faced in the T20s. If Waqar Younis can get a hold of them and get their lines and lengths and their engines going, they’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.”

Those words of encouragement were as good as it got for Pakistan on an otherwise barren day, as Warner, Joe Burns and Marnus Labuschagne were so supreme as to prevent the Ashes dominating Steven Smith from even getting a bat. Yasir Shah, who continued his own personal battle to try to find the right way to bowl in Australia, was blunt in assessing how the pace bowlers had used the new ball in the absence of Mohammad Abbas.

“The wicket played very differently to the way it did on day one. The kind of moisture we saw wasn’t there,” he said. “We bowled badly with the new-ball. We didn’t use it well. That allowed them to get set and they played well.

“We’ll have to see how tomorrow goes. There was a little bit of help later on. I didn’t get too many breakthroughs but there was quite a bit of bounce on offer. Our bowlers have used the second new-ball well. So I hope that we come back tomorrow and bowl well.”

Yasir, who may have been close to losing his place for the match, explained how he had tried to experiment with pace and line to find a way past Warner. “I changed and mixed my pace around quite a bit today,” he said. “I bowled slow and also at times a bit fast. You have to do that on these pitches. Your ball can skid with the faster one and bring you a wicket. I tried my best to bowl at one spot, which I’ve done in the past and they played me well.

“Today I did the same, but also with some variations and they played me well again. There wasn’t much support from the wicket. It’s just the second day of the Test. You just need to find the right spot from where you can get the ball to jump and get you wickets at short-leg and at close-in positions. And if the ball breaks even a bit off the pitch, there’s a chance of getting an edge to slip.

“That’s what I tried but without much success since there wasn’t much turn off the wicket. But I’ll try to do the same tomorrow morning and hopefully it’ll work out.”



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