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Bowlers are much fitter than the last time we came here – Kohli



For the first time, perhaps, India have come to Australia with their bowlers in collective good form. Cricviz data says only four sides have travelled to Australia with better collective bowling averages in the two years leading up to an Australia tour. No Indian side has done better in the lead-up period. Add to it the fact that Australia are missing Steven Smith and David Warner, and it is hard to not see why India are relaxed and positive about their chances.

Then again, less recent history is not kind to these Indian bowlers. Two of the bowlers to play in Adelaide are among the three worst specialist bowlers to have sent down 2000 balls in Australia. Other bowlers have unflattering records, too. Asked how he felt about his bowlers a day before the first Test, Virat Kohli exuded optimism, saying the bowlers felt at the peak of their game and didn’t really need a certain set of conditions to be able to perform well.

“I think it’s pretty different from what we had when we came here last time,” Kohli said. “They are more experienced, and the guys are way fitter than they were when they came here last time. I think the key in Australia is to keep bowling in the right areas for longer periods of time. The conditions also become hard because it can get really hot and the pitches can be flat purely because of the Kookaburra not doing much after 20-odd overs till it reverses around 45-50 (overs). That middle phase is very crucial.

“We have identified those things and the guys themselves feel that they are at the peak of their skill level at the moment. They are looking forward to this challenge, they don’t want to be in a situation where we are looking for ideal bowling conditions or ideal batting conditions. So the bowlers are in a mindset that whatever the situation might be, or however hard it might be, they are looking forward to performing in those conditions and doing what the team wants at the end of the day.

“No one is going out there gunning for a six-wicket haul for himself. If it means bowling eight good overs in a spot and getting a wicket for the team, they are ready to that. So I think that mindset is very crucial and that feedback is coming from the bowlers themselves. It’s not been told to them; they only are talking about it, which I think is a very positive sign.”

There is one missing link, though. This is the one tour where India needed Hardik Pandya to help the specialist bowlers out. The heat, the flat pitches, the Kookaburra, the soft outfields, all take a toll on the bowlers. This is only the second time since Kohli took over captaincy full time, and first time away from home, that India are starting a series with just four bowlers in their XI. It is not a change of minds, but a decision forced on them.

“It obviously has an impact,” Kohli said of the absence of the allrounder. “I mean every side would like to have a fast-bowling allrounder, which we don’t have right now with Hardik injured. That obviously is a great luxury to have for any side. We don’t, so we have to go with the best possible combination. Again, the workload on guys who will play in the absence of an allrounder will be high, but that’s something that has already been discussed. They should look forward to that and not think of it as a burden, or something which is going to be tough. Because at the international level, things are tough.

“So, we will just have to embrace that and make something out of the resources that we have at present and try to put in the performances that the team expects from the players. Losing Hardik is obviously a bit of an issue, (but) I don’t see it as a major one because in Australia you still have to bowl really well even if you are an allrounder. To contain the batsmen is always a challenge.”

Another issue for India away has been that they have been slow starters. That is something Kohli has taken note of, and wants his side to play fearlessly. “We are not looking to start tentatively,” Kohli said. “We all want to express ourselves, go out there and be positive. Not meaning that we are going to play rash shots and we are going to be all over the place with the ball, but it’s just in our heads wanting to bring our A game in the first match itself, and then try and lay a good foundation for us and capitalise on that as the series goes on.

“We don’t want to wait to figure out what the condition of the pitch is going to be, we have got to read it really early and alter our games accordingly, which I think we failed to do in the last tours. When we have done it, we have won games but we will have to do it for longer periods to be able to win series, which is our goal. We don’t want to be a side that plays exciting cricket for one Test match. We want to be a consistent side and for that, we need to adapt quicker than we have in the past.”

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Three UAE players suspended for eight weeks from international cricket



Three UAE players have been handed an eight-week suspension from international cricket by the Emirates Cricket Board for violating the ‘Player’s Code of Conduct’ and requirements for the use of social media, a board release said. Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad, participating in the Emerging Teams Cup in Pakistan earlier this month, had tweeted criticising the ground facilities in Karachi, after rain wiped out their hopes of a semi-final spot.

“Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has today confirmed it has completed a disciplinary investigation relating to an alleged violation of its Player’s Code of Conduct, and use of Social Media following a recent incident during the Asian Cricket Council (ACC) Emerging Teams Asia Cup,” the ECB statement said.

“ECB concluded that 3 players; Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad, had violated its Code of Conduct and requirements for the use of Social Media. As a result, each of the players have been suspended from International Cricket for a period of 8 weeks, fined and warned about their future conduct.”

UAE had restricted Hong Kong to 87 for 4 in 31 overs at the Southend Stadium in Karachi in the Group B match, before a spell of rain that lasted for about half an hour interrupted play. However, inadequate measures to cover the pitch and failed attempts to get the ground ready in time meant the match was abandoned, with the two teams sharing points. A win would have boosted UAE’s chances of a semi-final spot.

The players took to Twitter to express their frustration after the match, but the tweets were later deleted.

The board arrived upon the decision following a disciplinary investigation, and also handed out fines and warnings regarding their future conduct apart from the suspension.

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High on Hope and IPL riches, West Indies eye series win



Big Picture

Two days ago, West Indies crushed Bangladesh by eight wickets after chasing down their 130-run target in 10.5 overs. The next day, six of their players walked away with deals worth a total of USD 2.4 million (INR 17 crores) in the coveted IPL auction. It should put a smile on the face of the visitors who have had it rough in the last four weeks in Bangladesh.

And it is not just the IPL boys who will happy. Sheldon Cottrell, the left-arm quick, got career-best figures in Sylhet before Shai Hope struck six sixes in his 23-ball 55. Keemo Paul then struck three sixes in his unbeaten 14-ball 28 to take West Indies home. The Sylhet crowd, like Bangladesh’s bowlers and fielders, were stunned into silence.

The home side’s road to recovery will have to be through a more disciplined showing. The bowlers will be aided by the Dhaka pitch offering less bounce and pace.

Bangladesh’s batsmen must also use the pace on the ball from the West Indies fast bowlers. Neil McKenzie, the batting coach, said after the first game that there are better ways to go toe-to-toe with a pace attack. Tamim Iqbal, Soumya Sarkar, Liton Das and Shakib Al Hasan all got caught trying to pull the ball. Shakib, however, looked more comfortable, and that was because he was patient.

Bangladesh’s bowlers would hope that they get a larger total to defend and if they are bowling first, they must find ways to stop West Indies’ big hitters from getting away to a rampant start again.

Form guide

Bangladesh LWWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)

West Indies WLLLL

In the spotlight

While batting, Shakib Al Hasan had great judgment of deliveries that were beyond his control, and then off the bad balls, he cashed in. His pragmatism during his 43-ball 61 should have been copied by many of his team-mates in the first game.

Sheldon Cottrell created an awkward angle with his pace and bounce to get 4 for 28. It will be a bit of a challenge to do so in Dhaka, so Cottrell may have to dip his hands into his bag of tricks to do something different.

Team news

Shakib Al Hasan has a bit of fever but he is unlikely to miss out. Bangladesh are likely to give their eight batsmen another opportunity but it might not be so for left-arm paceman Abu Hider. Rubel Hossain could replace him. Mohammad Mithun and Nazmul Islam are the other options in the squad.

Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Liton Das, 3 Soumya Sarkar, 4 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 5 Mushfiqur Rahim (wk), 6 Mahmudullah, 7 Ariful Haque, 8 Mohammad Saifuddin 9 Mehidy Hasan, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Mustafizur Rahman

West Indies will be tempted to not change their XI after their overwhelming win in the first T20I. They also have Kesrick Williams, Khary Pierre, Denesh Ramdin and Sherfane Rutherford in reserve.

West Indies (probable): 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Shai Hope (wk), 3 Nicholas Pooran, 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Carlos Brathwaite (capt), 8 Keemo Paul, 9 Fabian Allen, 10 Oshane Thomas, 11 Sheldon Cottrell

Pitch and conditions

Weather is likely to clear up by Thursday but dew will be a factor for both sides as it is a 5pm start in Dhaka. It might just end up being a high-scoring game because of the dew.

Stats and trivia

  • Mehidy Hasan has been struck for three sixes in an over twice this year, first against Sri Lanka in the January ODI tri-nation series final, and the second time against West Indies in the first T20I.

  • The Shere Bangla National Stadium has hosted 37 T20Is, the second-most behind Dubai International Cricket Stadium’s 47

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PCB to pay nearly USD 2 million to BCCI after losing legal dispute



Having suffered the injury of a lost claim for damages from the BCCI, the PCB now has to face up to the added insult of paying the India board nearly USD 2 million in legal costs.

Last month, the PCB’s attempt to claim USD 63 million from the BCCI for two bilateral series that did not take place in 2014 and 2015 was rejected by the ICC’s Dispute Resolution Committee (DRC).

As is the norm in arbitration cases such as this, the winning party claims legal costs from the losing side, which the BCCI had done. Those claims were submitted a week after the decision.

As with the final decision, there was a morsel of consolation for the PCB in that the panel decided they would not have to pay full costs.

“The Dispute Panel,” an ICC statement said, “has determined that the PCB should pay 60 percent of: “(a) the [BCCI’s] Claimed Costs; and (b) the administrative costs and expenses of the Panel… (including, without limitation, the fees of the Tribunal members, and the costs and expenses they incurred in relation to this matter), the figure whereof is to be supplied to the PCB by the ICC.”

Though neither party has made the total amount public, 60% is understood to come out to roughly USD 2 million. For a board that already does without playing India at bilateral cricket, or at home in Pakistan, that will be an especially unwelcome blow.

“The PCB notes the ICC Dispute Panel’s decision on BCCI’s claims for their legal expense incurred on the PCB-BCCI dispute,” the board said. “The award of significantly lesser costs than claimed by BCCI reflects that PCB’s case had merits. The PCB, however, reiterates its disappointment in the original decision/award given against it.”

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