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Need our seamers to attack NZ batsmen – Chandimal



Sri Lanka’s best hope in New Zealand is for their seamers to attack the opposition batsmen. So said captain Dinesh Chandimal on the eve of the first Test, in Wellington.

He didn’t quite say that Sri Lanka’s batting was fragile (even though it is). He didn’t make mention of the fact that his young quicks aren’t really the bowl-dry-and-wait-for-the-mistake sort (even though they aren’t). But he did acknowledge that going aggressively at New Zealand with the ball gave Sri Lanka their best chance. It is possible that two of Lahiru Kumara, Kasun Rajitha and Dushmantha Chameera will play. And if they do, there could be a little pace and venom in this Sri Lanka attack. The last time Kumara and Rajitha had played together, they took 12 wickets between them, and set Sri Lanka on track for victory against West Indies, in Barbados.

“On the tour to the West Indies we got a lot of grass on the pitches and we always want to attack the batsmen – that’s what we did as a bowling unit.” Chandimal said ahead of the Wellington Test. “The seamers have played some outstanding cricket. Now they’ve got some experience playing on the grassy wickets, and I’m sure they will learn. What they did in West Indies they will do here.”

ALSO READ – Fast bowlers give SL hope against upbeat NZ

Also in the squad are older and wiser quicks Suranga Lakmal and Nuwan Pradeep, who have both toured New Zealand before, though without any great success. Sri Lanka might be tempted to field all three of their young quicks at the expense of the seniors, but will likely veer toward caution and play Lakmal, who offers a measure of control to his captain. On a pitch as green as the Basin Reserve’s, almost any fast bowler is in contention for wickets in the first couple of days, however.

“Definitely the seamers will be the happiest in both sides after seeing the pitch,” Chandimal said. “We’ve got Suranga and in the last couple of years he’s done so much for the Test side. We’ve also got Pradeep, who’s got a lot of experience playing international cricket. With the young fast bowlers also there. They’ve got really good pace and bounce. I’m sure they will enjoy playing in New Zealand.”

On the batting front, Sri Lanka are likely to rely heavily on three senior batsmen: Dimuth Karunaratne, Angelo Mathews and Chandimal himself. Of those batsmen, Karunaratne perhaps carries the most hopes, as the only batsman in the squad to have made a hundred in the country. He also averages 53.91 in the year, following good home series against South Africa and England.

“Dimuth has got a 150-odd playing in New Zealand, and he’s got so much experience playing in New Zealand,” Chandimal said. “At the same time Angelo Mathews and Lahiru Thirimanne are back in the side. We’ve got a few experienced players and at the same time, a few youngsters. Now they’ve almost played 20 Tests, so they’ve got experience as well. Everyone’s in good shape.”

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Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul likely to be suspended



Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, the two players issued show-cause notices over their comments on a talk show, are likely to be suspended by the BCCI, ESPNcricinfo understands. The BCCI leadership is believed to have decided on the action, with the quantum of punishment yet to be fixed.

Pandya and Rahul appeared on the talk show on Sunday where their comments – Pandya’s in particular – came in for widespread criticism and raised concerns over the team culture. The BCCI issued the players a show-cause notice to which Pandya responded with an apology to the board.

ALSO READ – Hardik Pandya apologises for ‘regretful’ behaviour on talk show

Correspondence on the issue accessed by ESPNcricinfo suggests that while Vinod Rai, one of the members of the Committee of Administrators, is in favour of a two-match ban, BCCI treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry has pushed for a stronger penalty should the players be found guilty – under their contracts – of bringing cricket and Indian cricket into disrepute. There is even a view that the punishments for the two differ according to what each of them said on the show.

“I have seen the remarks made by these two players on the show in print today,” Rai wrote on Thursday. “Very crass. No apology can cover it. I had asked Diana to suggest penalty because I had not seen the clip. I think we need to give both of them a two-match suspension.”

Chaudhry has also suggested immediate suspension pending enquiry, but if found guilty the CoA should follow the precedent it set in the cases of Steven Smith and David Warner, who were banned from the IPL for a whole season for their involvement in ball-tampering in South Africa.

Chaudhry raised concerns about the permissions taken by the players before appearing on the show, the disrepute it brought to other Indian cricketers and about how these comments leave them open to honeytraps that players are trained to avoid in ICC ACSU briefings.

“As far as the quantum of the punishment is concerned if the players are found guilty as per the procedures laid down in the Rules and Regulations, keeping in view the above factors and discussions, a two-match suspension seems to be merely a stop-gap arrangement especially considering that the CoA had banned Mr. Smith and Mr. Warner for a season,” Chauhdry wrote. “The players must be immediately suspended pending a proper inquiry and must be allowed to join the team (if selected) only once they have gone through a proper sensitisation in addition to serving a ban, if imposed upon them.

“In any case the entire team and support staff must go through a sensitisation process. The CEO may join them in the sensitisation as well as recommended by Ms. Veena Gowda, Advocate.”

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PCB accepts UAE players’ apologies



Three UAE cricketers – Rohan Mustafa, Ahmed Raza and Rameez Shahzad – who were suspended last month, were asked by the Emirates Cricket Board to issue formal apologies to the Pakistan Cricket Board for criticising ground facilities in Karachi during the Emerging Teams Cup. In a statement, the Emirates board confirmed that the apologies had been “received and accepted” by the PCB.

The players had each been handed eight-week suspensions from international cricket for violating the ‘Player’s Code of Conduct’ and requirements for the use of social media. The players had tweeted criticising the ground facilities in Karachi after rain wiped out their hopes of a semi-final spot in the Emerging Teams Cup. They had also been fined and the Emirates Cricket Board has said the collected fines will be donated to a Karachi-based charity. The three players, although unavailable for selection, have been training alongside the national squad, which is preparing for the upcoming series against Nepal.

“Following the recent disciplinary sanctions imposed on three of its professional players, Emirates Cricket Board (ECB) has today confirmed that the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has received and accepted formal apologies made to them by the players,” a statement by ECB said. “As a gesture of good will, ECB will donate the fines imposed on the players to a Karachi-based charity. All three players continue their training and, although ineligible for selection, are currently involved in an intense training programme alongside players that will represent the UAE in the upcoming UAE v Nepal series.”

In December, the UAE captain Mustafa, left-arm spinner Raza and middle-order batsman Rameez had taken to Twitter to express their frustration after their match against Hong Kong was abandoned due to rain, wiping out their hopes of a semi-final spot.

In a match played at the Southend Stadium in Karachi, UAE had restricted Hong Kong to 87 for 4 in 31 overs before a spell of rain lasting about half an hour interrupted play. However, the venue had inadequate tarpaulin covers to protect the pitch, and water leaked onto the square. Despite several hours of using sponges, the ground staff failed to dry the pitch. As a result, the match was abandoned, with the teams sharing points. A win would have boosted UAE’s prospects of playing the semi-final.

The PCB, however, has not made a statement and on the fitness of the venue for future games. ESPNcricinfo understands the Pakistan board is aiming to host women’s international games at the venue in the near future.

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How Ottis Gibson set up South Africa’s ‘elite fast-bowling group’



Forget elite honesty, all South Africa have needed to make home a fortress is elite fast bowling. Under Ottis Gibson, South Africa have now won five home Test series in a row, and key to that success has been a reinvigorated pace culture: a coach rooted in Barbadian pace traditions has been at the forefront of a South African fast-bowling renaissance.

South Africa has always produced great quicks, and the fast men have been their greatest – and sometimes, it seemed, only – asset. Outdoor childhoods, grassy pitches that spur bowlers on, and a natural proclivity for the hard work that bowling quick requires probably have something to do with it. Whatever the case, this is a fast-bowling country with a proud history.

Gibson played with and against some of South Africa’s finest as an overseas pro for no less than three South African provincial sides in the 1990s, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Peter Rawson, Allan Donald, Brett Schultz, Fanie de Villiers, Meyrick Pringle and Shaun Pollock. Now he is nurturing the next generation. The success of the current crop, and South Africa’s renewed focus on pace, is no accident.

ALSO READ: Life lessons from Donald and Pollock

“Since I’ve been here, over the last 12 months, we’ve set up what we call an elite fast-bowling group,” Gibson explained after South Africa’s four-pronged demolition of Pakistan in the second Test at Newlands. “Coming from the Caribbean, I believe that fast bowling is the bedrock. Most of the teams that dominated world cricket have always had strong fast-bowling stocks.”

The fast-bowling programme was launched ahead of the 2017-18 season after Gibson held a series of meetings with the leading franchise and high-performance coaches on his arrival in South Africa. The aim was to widen the pool of elite fast bowlers in the country, and it has worked.

“We’ve looked at how we can find out what we have with regards to fast bowling, nurture it, and then get it all together under one umbrella so we know what guys are doing,” he said. “We manage workloads. We look at actions, if any actions need tweaking. We have a group of people looking after that, from sports scientists all the way down to trainers and stuff like that. That’s only going to grow and get better. Cricket in South Africa, even in the 90s when I came, has always been built on fast bowling.

“That’s what I was raised up on. If you have four fast bowlers of the quality we have here, then it would be silly not to use them. The skill, the fitness levels. The way they kept coming in. And they’re all very different. Duanne [Olivier] is fast and aggressive, Dale Steyn is highly skilled, Vernon Philander is very accurate, and [Kagiso] Rabada does a bit of everything. So there’s a lot of variety in it as well.”

Rabada has blossomed under Gibson, taking 68 wickets at 16.95 and a strike rate of 33.1 in 12 home Tests during his tenure. While he, Steyn, Philander and Olivier are as fearsome a foursome as you will find in current international cricket – and right up there with many that have come before – the list doesn’t end there.

Gibson name-checked Anrich Nortje and Lutho Sipamla, two young fast bowlers who made a splash at the Mzansi Super League, and there are more waiting in the wings. Lungi Ngidi will be back in the frame come February, when it is expected that he will be fully recovered from a knee injury, while Dane Paterson and Beuran Hendricks have both enjoyed fruitful first-class seasons, and Junior Dala has no trouble making his presence felt with the white ball. Down the line, Corbin Bosch may follow in his father Tertius’ foot-steps to become a South Africa quick.

But before the baton is passed to any of the above, South Africa will enjoy a couple more years with Rabada, Steyn et al tearing in off their runs. With new talent coming through the ranks, Steyn’s role in the side has inevitably changed, particularly as South Africa have often had to make do without him as he battled his way back to full fitness. Neither his captain nor his coach see the fire dimming in his eyes and fittingly Steyn could be the first fast bowler from South Africa, a country that champions cricket’s fastest art, to take 500 Test wickets.

“Certainly he’s enjoying his cricket, and he’s back to his absolute best,” said Gibson. “At 35 he’s steaming in and bowling 90mph with a smile on his face. The Dale Steyn angry eyes are back again, and he’s enjoying cricket.

“When he broke the record last year, I went to him and said ‘I think your next hundred wickets will come much quicker than your last hundred’. The last hundred, with all the injuries that he’s had, took a long time. I think his next hundred wickets will come a lot quicker, as you can see from how he’s performing on the field.”

ALSO READ: When Babar met Steyn

The continued presence of the greatest of all South African fast bowlers will breed confidence in rest of the attack, as will home tracks weighted in favour of seam and swing. South Africa will keep winning Tests, and home will remain a fortress. For captain Faf du Plessis, that is enough.

“For me, confidence, for any sportsman around the world, is probably the biggest factor,” he said. “Mentally, if you’re doing well, that is the biggest asset to have. Our confidence in our bowling unit is very high, purely because they’re doing well, they’re getting wickets and they’re winning Test matches. A confident bowling attack for me trumps everything.”

“I think we’re right up there,” added du Plessis. “What we need to do to win Test matches, we’re doing that. For me that’s enough.”

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