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Won’t negotiate with any current board members – SACA



The South African Cricketers’ Association (SACA) will not engage with Cricket South Africa’s negotiating panel if it includes any members of the current board. In a statement released on Monday, three days after CSA CEO Thabang Moroe was suspended and an interim administration headed by Jacques Faul was appointed, SACA again called for the entire board to step down, although they have agreed to dealings with Faul. CSA confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that Faul would be meeting SACA on Wednesday.

“SACA has noted the appointment of Jacques Faul, as the acting chief executive, and is prepared to deal with him in good faith in order to attempt to resolve as many as possible of the current crises affecting the players. SACA will not, however, lend credibility to the Board of CSA by dealing with a ‘negotiating panel’ if this comprises any Board members,” Tony Irish, the SACA CEO, said.

“Cricket has been severely damaged by its own leadership and the game desperately needs the right people in whom the cricket stakeholders, including the players, can trust in attempting to fix as much of the damage as possible.”

SACA has two ongoing disputes with CSA: a court-case relating to the proposed restructure of the domestic system and a commercial rights issue in which players’ have been used in a fantasy cricket game, allegedly without the proper permissions. When Faul was appointed in an acting capacity on Saturday, CSA President Chris Nenzani identified fixing the organisation’s relationship with SACA as a “matter of urgency”.

“It is very important for us to normalise relations at that level and talk to the players so that we have a common approach and a common understanding on the way of doing things going forward. That matter is going to be attended to. This is part of engagement which CSA will be having with SACA as a matter of urgency. It is important that these two organisations, CSA and SACA, get to a point where all the issues that seem to be vexatious between us and them are handled and are dealt with in a manner that is very professional and conclusive,” Nenzani said.

The Members’ Council – made up of the 14 provincial presidents some of whom also sit on the CSA board – mandated the board to “fix this relationship with SACA,” through a negotiating panel. The members of this panel have yet to be decided but SACA has made it clear they will not have any dialogue if CSA board members are included. SACA has demanded the board be held equally responsible as Moroe for the myriad crises enveloping CSA at the moment which range from financial issues to staff suspensions.

“We are astounded that the Board of CSA which has led the organisation during a tumultuous period when all this has happened now refuses to take responsibility for the deep, deep crisis in which cricket finds itself. No one disagrees with the removal of the chief executive, but to suggest that the buck stopped with him alone, and for the Board to cling so desperately to power, is a matter for serious concern,” Irish said.

SACA claims the board were complicit in ignoring the player body’s concerns, especially as they relate to the domestic restructure. CSA’s members’ forum are advocating for the dismantling of the current six-team franchise and 14-team provincial structure and reverting to a 12-team provincial set-up thus operating with only one tier in domestic cricket. SACA argue that around 70 cricketers will lose their jobs as a result. SACA launched a court application in May this year to ask CSA to show cause for its plans to restructure the set-up, and believe it then “became incumbent on the Board to, at very least, take a good look at the risk that this presented to the organisation, and to the game, and to deal with it expeditiously. Instead, however CSA delayed the proceedings for months and its answering papers were only filed at court in November 2019.”

CSA’s court documents were submitted after SACA and CSA agreed a roadmap in August which SACA accuses CSA of not honouring. “There was a refusal to follow up on the agreement, despite several requests to do so by SACA. The president himself eventually replied to SACA some seven weeks later stating that CSA would not enter into such agreement with the players’ association, effectively scuppering any chance of resolving these issues for the players,” Irish said.

While responding to SACA, CSA reiterated that they had made a “renewed commitment” to work with all stakeholders, but indicated that the Wednesday meeting with SACA would have Faul alone. “CSA has noted the statement released by SACA earlier today. We would like to emphasise that CSA is currently undergoing a process of renewal and revival and in the best interest of the sport of cricket, we have made a renewed commitment to work with all key stakeholders in the cricket fraternity, including and especially SACA. Dr Faul is scheduled to meet with SACA this Wednesday, 11 December and we will advise any important details after that meeting. We reiterate that Dr Faul has been fully mandated in his role as Acting CEO to take a lead in addressing issues raised by SACA towards a healthy relationship between the two parties.”

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No CAC, but BCCI advertises for new selectors



Despite having not yet appointed a Cricket Advisory Committee (CAC), the BCCI has put out an advertisement to fill positions in the national selection panels including the men’s committee where two members were on extension. On Sunday, the BCCI advertised to fill up the following positions: two slots on the senior men’s selection committee, all five in the senior women’s selection committee, and two on the junior men’s selection panel. Applicants need to apply by January 24.

All applicants need to have retired from the game at least five years ago. Candidates applying for the senior men’s positions should have played a minimum of seven Test matches, or 30 first-class matches, or 10 ODIs and 20 first-class matches. Applicants for the senior women’s positions should have played for the India women team, while the junior men’s candidates should have played a minimum of 25 first-class matches.

Out of the five members on the current men’s selection committee, former India and Andhra wicketkeeper MSK Prasad and former India and Rajasthan batsman Gagan Khoda have been on an extension, having finished their original four-year tenures in November 2019. Both Prasad and Khoda were originally appointed in 2015, as part of the previous selection panel led by former India batsman Sandeep Patil.

Prasad’s panel picked its final squad on January 12 for India’s tour of New Zealand. The selectors were originally scheduled to announce three squads for the tour, which comprises five T20Is, three ODIs and two Tests. However, the BCCI released only the T20I squad, without providing any information on when the ODI and Test squads would be announced.

It remains unclear whether Prasad’s panel will convene one last time to pick those two squads. The ODI series starts on February 5 while the Tests will commence on February 21.

In 2016, the BCCI for the first time picked selectors based on interviews, discarding the long-standing process of picking members from each of the five zones. Joining Prasad and Khoda were three new members – former India offspinner Sarandeep Singh, former India and Bengal batsman Devang Gandhi and former Mumbai captain Jatin Paranjpe. Prasad, being the most experienced, was appointed chairman of selectors.

A productive tenure

If this is the end of the journey for Prasad’s panel, they have plenty to feel proud of. The biggest thing Prasad has stressed in his interactions with the media has been the desire of his panel to solidify India’s bench strength. About three dozen debuts have been taken place across the three formats, with the selectors focused on creating back-ups for every position.

During this panel’s tenure, India reached the final of the 2017 Champions Trophy, won a historic Test series in Australia, solidified their position as the world’s No. 1 Test team, and made the semi-finals of the 2019 World Cup. The most contentious call Prasad’s panel had to make concerned the former India captain MS Dhoni, whose wavering batting form raised questions over his place in the limited-overs teams. The selectors kept faith in Dhoni until the 2019 World Cup, but he hasn’t played since the end of the tournament, with Prasad remarking that the selectors had “moved on”. Dhoni’s name was missing from the list of BCCI-contracted players released on Thursday, but the questions over his future haven’t yet been decisively answered, even as Prasad moves on himself.

Uncertainty hangs over CAC situation

Even though the BCCI has issued a call for applicants, it is not clear who exactly will conduct the interviews to pick the new selectors. Even as it has retained the eligibility criteria as mentioned in the constitution that were formed as per the RM Lodha Committee’s recommendations, the board still needs to appoint the CAC, which has been tasked specifically with picking the men’s selection panel. Since last November there has been no CAC, after all three members of the previous panel stepped down in the wake of conflict-of-interest charges filed against them.

The BCCI, which elected a new administration last October led by former India captain Sourav Ganguly, has found itself in a spot trying to find new members for the CAC. Ganguly said appointing a new CAC would be one of the first tasks of his administration, but he has admitted that the existing conflict-of-interest rules have proved to be an obstacle, with former players not keen to serve on the committeee. Nonetheless, three former India players – Madan Lal, Gautam Gambhir and Sulakshana Naik – had recently given the BCCI their nod for joining the CAC.

The BCCI, however, has not yet made the news public, mainly because it is still waiting for the Supreme Court to respond to its plea concerning various amendments to the board’s constitution including relaxing the conflict norms. The court has not yet fixed a hearing date, leaving the BCCI restless.

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Angelo Mathews and Sean Williams in focus as Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka resume a strange rivalry | Cricket



Angelo Mathews lays into a pull © Getty Images

Big Picture

The last time these two teams met, Zimbabwe gave Sri Lanka an almighty scare. Craig Ervine and Sikandar Raza struck hundreds, captain Graeme Cremer took nine wickets, and Sri Lanka were made to chase 388 for victory at Khettarama. Had a very tight stumping decision gone Zimbabwe’s way in the back end of that chase, the visitors would have been headed towards an upset. Earlier on that tour, Zimbabwe had won the ODI series.

It’s been only a little over two years since those series, but how much has changed. The optimism that Zimbabwe ended that tour with has not just dissipated in the time since, it has been replaced by gloom. Having been suspended from full-member rights for a large chunk of 2019, Zimbabwe Cricket has had to put a domestic tournament on hold, pending further funding from the ICC.

On the player front, Cremer is not even in the team, having put his career on hold to move to Dubai with his family, while Hamilton Masakadza has retired and swiftly become Zimbabwe’s director of cricket. PJ Moor – one of the best players from that Khettarama game – has been overlooked for the squad as well. In fact, where that old Zimbabwe squad had a little experience about it, the one that has been named for this series features five players who are uncapped in Tests.

It’s a strange series in which Sri Lanka actually appear to have the more stable outfit. Yes, it is Dimuth Karunaratne leading the Test team now, when it had been Dinesh Chandimal at these teams’ last meeting. But at least Chandimal still finds a place in the XI. Having named their strongest squad, Sri Lanka have serious experience on their side, particularly in Angelo Mathews and Suranga Lakmal, who returns after having missed the entire Pakistan series.

The visitors go in as favourites, but they are far from unbeatable. There are huge questions over Dilruwan Perera‘s ability to lead the spin attack after he went wicketless in Pakistan. The top order has shown flashes of brilliance, but is in no way a consistent or cohesive unit. There are plenty of cricketers playing for their spot, which of course opens up opportunities for Zimbabwe.

Form guide

Zimbabwe LWLDL (completed matches, most recent first)
Sri Lanka LDLWW

In the spotlight

The last time Zimbabwe won a Test, in late 2018, Sean Williams first-innings 88 had led them to 282 in Sylhet – a total that proved decisive on that surface, where each of the three other innings fell short of 200. His left-arm spin has also been helpful, such as against West Indies in Bulawayo, the previous year. Now, as he prepares to captain his first Test, he has the likes of Brendan Taylor, Raza and Ervine to call upon for support, but if he can make his own individual mark on the series, it may help a side playing their first Test in over a year rally behind him, and spark a little of that hope they found in their last encounters with Sri Lanka.

Sean Williams crunches one through the off side © AFP

In September 2015, Angelo Mathews batting average was a touch above 52, and he was easily one of the best players in the world. At the start of 2020, his average is 43.87, the lowest it’s been in at least six years. Injuries have plagued him, yes, but even those can’t quite account for how he is now merely a good player, when once he was headed toward “great” status. Although it seems as if he’s been around forever, Mathews is only 32 – the kind of age at which many batsmen come into their most prolific years. In the last few months, he has also dropped a lot of the weight he carried through the last few years and suddenly seems as fit as he’s ever been. Can Mathews recapture the form of old? With a challenging year ahead, Sri Lanka are desperate for someone to lead the middle order as he once did.

Team news

Opener Kevin Kasuza, who has been in decent domestic form for Mountaineers, could be in line for a Test debut. He could be partnered by Rhinos opener Prince Masvaure. Seam bowler Victor Nyauchi is one of several bowlers who could debut, with Tendai Chatara out of the series with a bicep injury. Left-arm spinner Ainsley Ndlovu is uncapped in Tests as well, and could get a run, if Zimbabwe feel they need a specialist spinner in addition to Raza and Williams.

Zimbabwe(possible): 1 Kevin Kasuza, 2 Prince Masvaure, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Craig Ervine, 5 Sean Williams (capt.), 6 Sikandar Raza, 7 Regis Chakabva (wk), 8 Donald Tiripano, 9 Victor Nyauchi, 10 Kyle Jarvis, 11 Ainsley Ndlovu

Sri Lanka’s top order should be fairly settled – Lahiru Thirimanne the likeliest to sit out. Lahiru Kumara and Lakmal will most likely share the new ball, while Dilruwan and Lasith Embuldeniya will probably be the frontline spin options.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Dimuth Karunaratne (capt.), 2 Oshada Fernando, 3 Kusal Mendis, 4 Angelo Mathews, 5 Dinesh Chandimal, 6 Dhananjaya de Silva, 7 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 8 Dilruwan Perera, 9 Suranga Lakmal, 10 Lasith Embuldeniya, 11 Lahiru Kumara

Pitch and conditions

There’s rain scheduled for the first half of Saturday, with showers predicted for Monday and Tuesday as well. The Harare Sports Club surface is generally good for batting in the first innings.

Stats and trivia

  • Zimbabwe have lost five matches and drawn five at home against Sri Lanka. The most recent of those draws, though, was all the way back in 1999. Their last two matches at the Harare Sports Club against Sri Lanka have ended in 225-run and 257-run defeats.
  • Ervine needs 59 more runs to complete 1000 in Tests. His highest score was the 160 at Khettarama in 2017.
  • Mathews has averaged less than 30 with the bat in three of the last four calendar years.

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

ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Bowlers star as Sydney Thunder win rain-affected encounter



Thunder exacted revenge against crosstown rivals Sixers with a dominant performance at the Sydney Showground Stadium

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