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Amicus curiae in favour of five-member selection panel, vote for Railways

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The Supreme Court of India is moving towards a final verdict over the BCCI’s delays in implementing the Lodha Committee recommendations and adopting a fresh constitution as drafted by its Committee of Administrators (CoA).

At its last hearing on May 11, the court had asked amicus curiae Gopal Subramanium to study and respond to the objections and suggestions from the BCCI’s member units, the state associations, regarding the draft BCCI constitution drawn up by the CoA. The states have also been asked to submit their responses to Subramanium’s observations before the court convenes for the next hearing, scheduled on July 5.

Following is the summary of the submissions made by Subramanium concerning the various recommendations the BCCI members had objections to or said they could not implement.

One state one vote

The issue: As per the Lodha Committee, and seconded by the CoA, each Indian state could have only one Full Member association that would have a vote at the BCCI table. In the case of Maharashtra and Gujarat, which have multiple state associations due to their cricket history, the vote would be rotated annually. These associations – the Mumbai Cricket Association, the Maharashtra Cricket Association and the Vidarbha Cricket Association in Maharashtra, and the Gujarat Cricket Association, the Saurashtra Cricket Association and the Baroda Cricket Association in Gujarat – have opposed such a move.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus curiae said he approved the Lodha Committee’s reasoning to allocate a vote to each state on a “territorial” basis. He also said the court had “mandated” that each of the three associations within the state would get a vote on annual basis, which “brings parity and fairness”.

Subramanium said the one-state-one-vote reform provided “democratic equality” which was essential. “Unless sufficient prejudice is shown that a member by annual rotation is not able to effectively participate in the affairs of the BCCI, the Amicus is unable to recommend deviation from the position adopted by the Hon’ble Justice Lodha Committee, and as modified by the Principal Judgment.”

Railways can have a vote

The issue: The Lodha Committee and the CoA had also determined that the member associations that were either run by the government or had limited participation in BCCI events – such as the Association of Indian Universities (AIU), the Railway Sports Promotion Board (“Railways”) and the Services Sports Control Board (“Services”) along with the National Cricket Club (NCC), Kolkata, and the Cricket Club of India (CCI), Mumbai – would lose the vote they had enjoyed under the old BCCI constitution.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus said Railways ought to be treated as an “exception” based on the fact that the institution provides “at least 90%” of the players who play for India women. “In view of the security of employment of the players from Railways as well as the ability to demonstrate playing skills and having regard to women’s cricket as an integral part of Indian Cricket, it appears necessary to consider this as an exception.”

Subrmanium, though, said that the person from Railways casting the vote at the BCCI table would need to be a former player and not someone “nominated” by the government. “Such a decision must be undertaken by an association of former players who belong to the Railways.”

The rest of the associations in this group – the AIU, Services, NCC and CCI – did not qualify for full membership criteria, Subramaniam said.

Selection Committee strength

The issue: The BCCI has argued that the vast volume of cricket it conducts and the number of teams and tournaments under its jurisdiction justify a five-member selection panel for all three categories: men’s, women’s and junior. The Lodha Committee and the CoA had instead felt three-member panels were good enough.

Subramanium’s response: The amicus has recommended that the selection panel strength could be “increased” to five. He has also set a fresh set of criteria for to be a national selector: the candidate should have played a minimum of: a) seven Test Matches; or b) 30 first-class matches; or c) 10 ODIs and a minimum of 20 first-class matches.

The amicus felt an enhanced selection committee was “imminent” to “relieve” the burden of the existing three-member panel. This enhanced committed, Subrmanium said, should be finalised by the CoA in consultation with the cricket advisory committee.

Cooling-off period

The issue: The office bearers and administrators in both the BCCI and the state associations do not want a cooling-off period of three years after every three-year term as recommended by the Lodha Committee. The break, the administrators say, does not allow them enough time to advocate and execute plans and could hamper continuity.

Subramanium’s response: Subramaniam noted that the thrust of the Lodha Committee – which was “distressed” by the continued presence of office bearers, some for decades – was to “militate against self-perpetuation.” Subrmanium said the court has allowed office bearers to serve nine years each at state and BCCI separately, which he found to be a “substantial “period. “A period of 18 years by any stretch of imagination is indeed a substantial period,” the amicus said. “It is necessary that the expression ‘cooling off’ must necessarily mean that after a period of 3 years, the person is not able to migrate to the other Association and occupy the position as an office bearer or occupy any other position in the same Association.”

Division of powers between general body and professional management

The issue: Under the existing system, the BCCI secretary informally carries out the role of the CEO and shares power with the board president. Under the Lodha Committee’s recommendations, and as part of the new constitution, the role of the office bearers would be diminished while the CEO would be granted significant independent decision-making powers. Many of the BCCI members are against ceding control.

Subramanium’s response: According to the amicus the general body, which comprises the state associations, needs to be separate from the nine-person Apex Council through which the board’s chief executive officer directs the professional management of the BCCI. “It is necessary that this recommendation of the Hon’ble Justice Lodha Committee, as reflected in the Constitution, must be maintained and the professional management must be undertaken by the Apex Council through the CEO (who is also the custodian of the interests of players and fans), CFO and such other instrumentalities who are recruited on a totally transparent and professional basis.”

Subramaniam also stated that it would be “appropriate’ for the Court to consider whether the current BCCI office bearers – acting president CK Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry – be asked to demit office as they had completed their “legally valid tenures of office”.



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Samarawickrama pleads for patience as Sri Lanka seeks form resurgence

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Sri Lanka’s fans have been unhappy with the ODI side for almost two years – that much is abundantly clear. Through that period, fans have expressed their dismay with a minor protest in Dambulla, a pelting of empty plastic bottles on to the field in Pallekele, and with this decade’s most popular insult medium: the social media meme.

Disenchantment with the team and the nation’s cricket establishment was perhaps higher last year, when Thilanga Sumathipala and Sanath Jayasuriya had forged a wildly unpopular partnership as board president and chief selector. But the ODI team hasn’t exactly turned its form around since both those made their exits. With 32 losses from the last 42 completed ODIs now, even junior players making their way into the side, such as 23-year-old batsman Sadeera Samarawickrama, are having to contend with public displeasure.

“I know the spectators must be very disappointed about the way we have played,” Samarawickrama said ahead of the fourth ODI. “But we also want to turn it around. We want to see the fans happy. We want to go from a losing mentality to a winning one.”

That the World Cup is on the horizon is, of course, of particular worry for Sri Lanka fans, with hope diminishing that the team will be able to hit form by the time the big tournament comes around in June. For Samarawickrama, though, the World Cup is too far away to worry about just yet.

“If we think too much about the World Cup right now, we’ll be under even more pressure when we get to the next match,” he said. “So what we have to do is to take it series by series and match by match as a team.We’ve still got three series before the World Cup.”

On a personal note, Samarawickrama was pleased to be offered the opening position, having scored most of his domestic runs as an opener, and he appears to have been given assurances that he will stay in that position, for now. He is the fifth batsman who has played in that position this year for Sri Lanka, with Kusal Mendis, Upul Tharanga, Danushka Gunathilaka, and Niroshan Dickwella being the others.

Samarawickrama’s first run in the role produced a middling performance – he hit 35 off 34 balls in a 21-over game.

“I really like to open the innings. When they told me I’d be opening, I got a lot of confidence. It’s not that I don’t like batting in the middle order, but that I like to play at the top. I was able to handle the pressure because in the recent past it’s while I’ve been opening that I’ve scored a lot of runs. I took that confidence forward. I didn’t put it in my head that I was playing England, or think too seriously about it. I just did the basics.”



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Confident England seek to close out rain-impacted ODI series

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A fortnight into England’s tour of Sri Lanka, and a pattern has settled over the cricket that has so far been possible. Invitingly clear skies in the mornings have invariably given way to torrential afternoon downpours and if, in between whiles, there’s been enough opportunity to get a contest underway, then the players have slotted into whatever windows present themselves.

It’s not exactly ideal, but for England – 2-0 up after three truncated contests and with a share of the series secured – they are at least passing their first significant test in this, the final approach to their 2019 World Cup campaign. For Sri Lanka, ill-balanced in the absence of Angelo Mathews and over-reliant on rare moments of individual brilliance, their only realistic target is respectability.

Plenty has been said about the timing of this tour, not least by the ECB themselves, who felt obliged to defend its scheduling in a post on social media during Wednesday’s six-hour rain delay.

But somehow, in spite of everything, we’ve been treated to a pair of entertaining contests so far – with England having to withstand a renaissance performance from Lasith Malinga in the opening contest in Dambulla, before outsmarting their opponents in a 21-over thrash at Pallekele on Wednesday.

Who knows what bearing any of this will have on England’s sterner tests to come in the new year, but they’ve given off the sense of a side with more gears to power through if required. Neither Jos Buttler nor Moeen Ali needed to bat during the run-chase in the third ODI, while Eoin Morgan, the captain, referred to the “good frustrations” in the England dressing-room after that same game, given that players of the calibre of Alex Hales, Sam Curran and Mark Wood can’t even get into the team at present. That said, there is a concern that Jonny Bairstow may have damaged his ankle playing football, which may present Hales with a chance to reclaim his opening berth.

Sri Lanka, for their part, need a measure of consistency above all else. Their implosion in the third match was a case in point – 55 for 0 after five overs, 95 for 9 in their remaining 15, with Niroshan Dickwella’s blazing intro proving insufficient to ignite a competitive total. Then there’s the hot and cold performance of Malinga to consider. He was stunning in adversity in Dambulla, his five wickets showcasing all the old tricks that many feared he could no longer deliver. And yet four days later, his powder-puff display in Pallekele later seemed to deflate the entire attack.

Anything can happen in the course of a one-day international, particularly when Messrs Duckworth, Lewis and Stern get involved in the permutations. But it is hard to see how the narrative of this leg of the tour can be changed in a hurry. England look to have too much in reserve, Sri Lanka already seem to be stretched beyond their limits. A rare win in Asian conditions is very much on the cards, but it’s as much a reflection on Sri Lanka’s struggles as England’s excellence that, should it come to pass, it is unlikely to feel like a seismic triumph.

Form guide

Sri Lanka LLLLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)

England WWWWL

In the spotlight

He spent much of the summer in the shadow of his younger brother, as Sam Curran cut a dash during the India Test series. But after taking advantage of Liam Dawson’s misfortune, Tom Curran stepped into the vacancy to serve a reminder of the uncanny confidence he exudes whenever he’s armed with a white ball. His four overs in Wednesday’s 21-over thrash were masterfully delivered – his full repertoire of variations helped to check Sri Lanka’s rampant early progress before he returned at the death to pick off the lower order for figures of 3 for 17. It was a reminder of how valuable it can be to have a bowler in your ranks who wants to be the hero, and if he’s not yet inked into England’s first-choice World Cup XI, he’s rapidly making a case for the final 15.

There wasn’t a lot for Amila Aponso to write home about after his solitary outing during the Asia Cup – it was his first ODI in more than a year, and only his seventh all told, and his figures of 1 for 55 in nine overs proved incapable of slowing Bangladesh’s progress towards a 137-run win. But at Pallekele on Wednesday, no-one did more than him to give Sri Lanka a grain of hope in their defence of a sub-par 150. After opening the bowling, ostensibly to target the frailty of Jason Roy against left-arm spin, he bagged Jonny Bairstow straightaway, then bowled Joe Root through the gate one over later. He was powerless to prevent England surging past their target when he returned for his final over, but there was a confidence to his bowling which may manifest itself better over 10 overs rather than four – if the weather gives him a chance to settle into a longer spell.

Team news

Kusal Mendis stepped into the vacancy created by Kusal Perera’s quad strain, but his first-ball duck made it three blobs in a row since his Asia Cup meltdown, and suggested that his place in the team is once again in peril. Upul Tharanga, who made way for the 21-over match, is likely to slot back into the side, though possibly at No.3, with Sadeera Samarawickrama expected to be given the chance to build on his 34-ball 35. Dinesh Chandimal, who missed the post-match presentations on Wednesday after suffering a bout of dizziness, is expected to be fit to lead the side once more.

Sri Lanka (possible): 1 Sadeera Samarawickrama, 2 Niroshan Dickwella (wk), 3 Upul Tharanga, 4 Dinesh Chandimal (capt), 5 Dhananjaya de Silva, 6 Dasun Shanaka, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Akila Dananjaya, 9 Amila Aponso, 10 Lasith Malinga, 11 Nuwan Pradeep

Bairstow did not appear for the rest of training after appearing to turn his ankle during a warm-up game of football. Hales is on standby to take over at the top of the order. Liam Plunkett has arrived in Sri Lanka and is ready to resume his deck-hitting mid-innings role after emerging unscathed from his wedding last week. But with Olly Stone impressing in his first outing of the tour, there’s no guarantee that he’ll be reclaiming his place straightaway.

England (probable): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow/Alex Hales, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Tom Curran, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Olly Stone

Pitch and conditions

Shockingly, it didn’t rain in Kandy on Thursday, and Friday has dawned rather pleasant as well. Which, inevitably, means that the weather on match-day is forecast to be torrential. Nevertheless, after some heroic work from the Pallekele groundstaff, mostly involving the judicious positioning of several acres of blue tarpaulins, the actual pitch for the third ODI proved to be dry and true, with good carry for the seamers and a bit of purchase for the spinners – as Adil Rashid demonstrated with a pinpoint googly.

Stats and trivia

  • Sri Lanka have won just one of their last six ODIs at Pallekele. That came against South Africa, by 3 runs, in August.

  • To find an innings in which Dinesh Chandimal has hit a half-century at or better than a run a ball, you have to go back to June 2016. He has played 26 innings since then.

  • After making headlines earlier in the tour by admitting he would consider dropping himself for the World Cup if his form didn’t merit selection, Eoin Morgan has racked up four fifties in his last five ODI innings, scoring 305 runs at 152.50 in that period.

Quotes

“Hopefully we’ll be able to capitalise on good starts through our middle order in the coming games. We’ve talked about that and formulated a plan about batting in the middle now.”
Sadeera Samarawickrama hopes to bring an end ot Sri Lanka’s batting woes

“We have to keep winning as a unit. People have come in and it’s about confidence that you can beat anyone in any condition. People say you never win away from home in the past, you struggle when you travel and when it’s spinning, but we’ve shown now we can win in any conditions..”
Liam Plunkett is pleased for his team-mates after rejoining the squad in the wake of his wedding



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Crestfallen Paine confronts batting woes

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A week after rejoicing in the saving of a Test match they had never been in, Tim Paine’s Australians were flattened by the fact they had been beaten out of sight in a game that, at lunch on day one, was theirs for the taking.

Through Nathan Lyon’s burst of four wickets in six balls, Pakistan had been 5 for 57 in Abu Dhabi, their plight summed up by the coach Mickey Arthur holding his head in his hands. Yet somehow the captain Sarfraz Ahmed and the debutant Fakhar Zaman wriggled free to help the hosts to a defensible 282, and Australia then collapsed obligingly in both innings.

It meant that two of Australia’s four heaviest defeats had taken place in their past three Tests, with Paine at the helm for both. Though this team had made numerous strides since the humiliation of Johannesburg in the wake of the ball tampering scandal, the sense of an opportunity lost hung heavy in Paine’s thoughts. He has clearly run the day one lunch break through his mind many times already.

“It’s bitterly disappointing no doubt,” he said. “We had some momentum from the first Test, started really well here and then from 5 for 57 it went a bit pear-shaped to be honest, all over the field. It’s hard to swallow, I’d love to go back to that lunch break and come back out and start again but we just weren’t up to it, weren’t able to sustain it for long enough.

“It’s disappointing. We came here to win this series and we did ok in the first Test and showed at least some fight and the style and brand of cricket we wanted to play in that second innings and then to come out and do that this Test, it’s kind of like we’ve taken one step forward and then two steps back. So it’s really frustrating.”

Adding to Paine’s sense of irritation was the fact that the low quality of Australia’s batting, particularly in the first innings of both Tests, reflected a wider pattern, not only for the national team but also the domestic system beneath. Sheffield Shield hundreds have been in dwindling supply for some time, leaving it unsurprising that in their past six Tests, the Australians have averaged a dismal 236 in their first innings, comfortably more than 100 short of the average tally for winning Test matches teams over the history of the long-form.

“There’s no doubt this has been happening for too long for the Australian cricket team, not just our Test team but probably domestically, there’s a lot of collapses throughout our batting group,” Paine said. “A lot of it can be technical, some guys will be mental and other guys will be tactical or your plans not being right for certain bowlers. There’s no shying away from the fact we’ve got a hell of a lot of work to do with our batting, and that’s not just this team, it’s throughout the whole country.

“Guys that are testing our defence for long enough, whether that’s spin or medium pace or quick bowlers are getting rewards, and I think teams around the world are probably recognising that and knowing if they can just keep at us, keep at us, keep at us, these collapses are happening.

“When you give them a bit of a sniff of that, they’re always in the game and they always feel like they’re not far away. So great Australian teams of the past have been completely the opposite of that, it’s hard to get players out, then the next guy comes in and it starts all over again. We know as a batting group and as a team we’re certainly a long way off the finished product, and we’ve got some work to do.”

Asked to identify where improvement must be found ahead of the home Test series against India, Paine homed in once more on Australia’s batting. “We keep having these collapses and we keep talking about it,” he said. “I thought the fight we showed in the second innings of the first Test was outstanding and I thought the guys applied themselves really well and actually showed themselves and people around the world that when we do play our best we are up to it. But it’s just at the moment there’s a really big gap between our best and our worst and we need to become more consistent.

“I don’t know what the stats are but they don’t lie. It’d be interesting to have a look at. Certainly within our Test team we’re not scoring the 100s that Test teams should be scoring, and past Australian teams have. It’s something that the guys are working so hard at doing, and we’re seeing small glimpses of it at times, but it’s just being able to repeat that and bat for a long time, and put bowling attacks back under pressure, and we haven’t been able to do it.

“Some guys will have different issues to other guys, but it’s about finding what works for you and being able to be strong mentally to stick to it when we’re under pressure in test cricket. Everyone that’s played out in this Test team we know is a very good player when they’re playing well, we’ve just got to be able to take it out onto the Test arena when guys like Yasir [Shah] and Mohammad [Abbas] are coming at us and have belief in your plans. If you get through them for an hour or so then they get tired, you get bad balls. At the moment we have not been able to get through those challenging periods.”

For Paine and the rest of the touring team some more challenging periods lie ahead before the next Test in Adelaide in December. The Twenty20 squad remains in the UAE, the as yet unannounced ODI squad warms up for a series against South Africa, and the rest have numerous rounds of the Sheffield Shield before reconvening – provided they are selected.

“Clearly it’d be a pretty exciting time to be a batsman around Shield cricket at the moment if you’re scoring hundreds,” Paine said. “There’s no doubt about that. There’s opportunity for everyone and the batting group that are here are also a part of that.”



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