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At the MCG announcement of more than AUD30 million in grassroots funding from the players’ slice of the Australian cricket revenue pie, the chief executives of Cricket Australia, Kevin Roberts, and the Australian Cricketers Association, Alistair Nicholson, appeared less as warm friends than cordial partners.

Given their respective roles at the height of the 2016-17 pay dispute, this was understandable: Nicholson and the ACA ultimately refused to deal with Roberts as lead negotiator, preferring to wait until his pragmatic predecessor James Sutherland entered the fray. Roberts and Nicholson still have some way to go to be as close as Sutherland and Nicholson’s predecessor Paul Marsh once were.

For Belinda Clark, the executive in charge of CA’s game development and community tiers before she was called in as the interim replacement for Pat Howard in team performance, the MCG announcement led by Josh Hazlewood and Holly Ferling was an apt demonstration of two organisations learning how to effectively co-exist after some years in open conflict with one another.

“Strictly speaking it wasn’t meant to be released until the end of the MoU process [in 2022] so what we’ve been working on for quite a number of months is what is our mechanism to allow us to invest now, rather than wait,” Clark told ESPNcricinfo. “So if you think about how much effort and the number of conversations that need to happen in order to set that up, it is quite a big achievement from both CA and the ACA to get ourselves on the same page in order to drag money forward and let it start going to the community well before the end of the MoU.

“If we’d played it as it should have been played out we’d have been waiting another four years to invest, and we’ve got on the same page and we’re investing it early, which is a great result for the community, it’s great that the players have made that decision and great that CA’s been able to facilitate that.”

During the pay war, the blue sky money afforded to the players at the end of an MoU period – the “adjustment ledger” above the projected revenue percentage paid out as a lump sum to all players contracted during the period of the agreement – was a key battleground.

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Josh Hazlewood reflects on $30 million funding for grassroots cricket set up Cricket Australia and the players

CA, led by Roberts, were adamant that this money should not just go straight into the pockets of players already well paid when the game had other urgent needs. On the other side, Nicholson and the ACA argued fervently that the players were happy to pitch in more money to help the game’s other levels provided they had some oversight as to how.

The compromise, landed upon well before the Newlands scandal that ultimately cost another key MoU protagonist, CA chairman David Peever, his job, was to have the players commit at least AUD30 million from the end of the new MoU to grassroots.

In terms of urgency, CA had already identified major infrastructure and facility shortfalls through an audit of cricket venues, but through the players’ share will now be able to provide significant assistance to clubs in terms of equipment and playing kit – costs more traditionally taken on by parents and clubs themselves and thus presenting an entry barrier for many families and prospective junior players.

“What this money’s allowed us to do is really address how sometimes those small clubs [say] I just need another kit, I’ve got an extra team and I need another kit of gear, or I need some more stumps or those operational things that traditionally sports don’t fund, clubs are responsible for those costs,” Clark said. “This burst allows people to get their head above water and make sure they’ve got those things ready for people to be playing.”

For Hazlewood, a regional product from Bendemeer in country New South Wales, childhood memories of tatty old shared bats, pads, gloves and protectors until well into his teen years made this a particularly relevant investment for those who will follow him. “We had a team kit for as long as I can remember growing up and everyone just grabbed a bat and pads and no-one really had their own gear until maybe 15 or 16 even,” he said. “If we can add to that team kit, get a few more bats in there and help guys out, that’ll be great.”

More broadly, the value of the players not only investing but being seen to do so funneled neatly into the goals set for CA and the ACA by the cultural reviews that flowed out of Newlands. Hazlewood agreed that a greater sense of connection to the clubs and communities a long way from the highly funded and often hermetically sealed elite level served to remind him and others of how fortunate they were.

“When you’re playing for Australia and you’re in and out every day, you’re on tour all the time, it does become a job and it feels like that sometimes,” he said. “It takes sometimes to go back to the country and to see where you started and seeing the kids playing now and even men at 45, 50 years of age playing every weekend, purely for the love it of it, it reignites that spark why you started and it’s good to see.”

The other thing of note about Nicholson and Roberts at the MCG on Thursday was the fact that both men stayed at a safe distance from the television cameras and recorders. The players, then, took centre stage – an arrangement the two chief executives looked more than happy about.



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Recent Match Report – Islamabad United vs Peshawar Zalmi, Pakistan Super League, 11th Match

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Islamabad United 158 for 9 (Bell 54, Delport 29, Sameen Gul 3-29) beat Peshawar Zalmi 146 all out (Pollard 51, Sami 3-22, Musa 3-25) by 12 runs

How the game played out

As has been the case every year, Islamabad United started this season slowly, winning just one of three games. However, this season has begun to emulate the others just as closely as the tournament progresses, with the defending champions putting in a vastly improved performance, holding their nerve to seal a 12-run win. The game ended with their captain Mohammad Sami knocking off the final three Peshawar batsmen off successive balls, claiming his maiden PSL hat-trick and ensuring his side finished with a flourish.

All of their best efforts looked like they might be derailed during a brief four-over spell of monstrous hitting by Kieron Pollard. With 92 required off 39 balls and the match meandering to its inevitable conclusion, Pollard roused the dispirited ranks of Peshawar fans in Sharjah with a blistering 22-ball 51. But crucially, support from the other end was lacking, and once he holed out to deep cover, the valiant efforts of Darren Sammy and Wahab Riaz couldn’t quite make up for a first ten overs where their side had fallen well behind the pace.

They had been chasing 159, a total Islamabad were only able to put up thanks to Ian Bell, playing his first PSL match of the season. As much of the rest of the order fell away, he remained at the crease until the penultimate delivery, his 54 playing a large part in knitting the innings together, and ensuring Islamabad had just enough runs in the end.

Turning point

By 13 overs, Islamabad were shuffling along at 88 for three, not quite able to get in the big hits in the face of tight Peshawar bowling. But a loose over from Umaid Asif saw Cameron Delport smite a six back over the bowler and Bell a boundary, fetching 16. From there, Peshawar lost their discipline somewhat; it was the start of a spell in which Islamabad plundered 56 off five overs. It was ground ceded they wouldn’t be able to make up.

Star of the day

Mohammad Sami may have come away with a hat-trick, but his wickets had been set up by the efforts earlier on of Islamabad’s emerging player Mohammad Musa. Less than half Sami’s age at 18, the fresh faced Musa was entrusted with the third over, with Imam-ul-Haq and Kamran Akmal batting in the Powerplay. Pace, accuracy, composure and lethality combined, culminating in the wicket of Kamran Akmal – another man twice his age. He would add the wickets of Dawid Malan and Darren Sammy to a collection that may very soon begin to burgeon.

The big miss

At some point, you may risk blasphemy and begin to wonder about Darren Sammy’s role in the Peshawar line-up. He doesn’t bowl anymore, and for some reason, comes in to bat at number seven. He still strikes at over 150, so he might as well bat higher up, but today, the bigger issue was he failed to give his Caribbean teammate much support in terms of run rate reduction. He never could find the middle of the bat as Pollard, and later even Wahab Riaz, took on the senior role in the partnership. When Sammy did hole out, it was to a waist-high full shot he has buttered his bread with by smashing for six. It cost his side today, but as the tournament progresses, the specific role Sammy takes on may begin to come under wider scrutiny; there is no hiding place in this format.

Where the teams stand

The narrow defeat means Peshawar have split their four games, winning and losing two apiece. The same applies to Islamabad United, with the two sides placed third and fourth on the table respectively.



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‘Would personally hate to give them two points’ – Tendulkar

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What players, coaches and other voices from the cricket world have said about India potentially boycotting their World Cup meeting with Pakistan

Ravi Shastri, India head coach (to Times Now)

“It’s entirely left to the BCCI and the government. They know exactly what is happening and they will take a call. We will go by what they decide. If the government says it’s that sensitive you do not need to play the World Cup, I will go by my government.

Sarfaraz Ahmed, Pakistan captain (to cricketpakistan.com.pk)

“The India and Pakistan match should be played as per schedule as there are millions of people who want to watch this game. I just don’t think cricket should be targeted for political gains. It is disappointing to see cricket being targeted after the Pulwama incident. I don’t recall Pakistan ever mixing sports with politics.”

Sunil Gavaskar, former India captain (to India Today)

“Who wins in that case if India decide not to play against Pakistan in the World Cup? And I am not even looking ahead to semifinals and finals. Who wins? Pakistan wins. They get two points.

“India has every time so far beaten them in the World Cup, so we are actually conceding two points when we could, by beating Pakistan (in the group stage), actually make sure that they don’t qualify for the knockout. I know emotions are running high, but that needs to be looked at with a little more depth.

“They can try but it will not happen (ICC boycott of Pakistan). It will not happen because the other member countries have to accept that. I can’t see other member countries accepting that. So while India can certainly go ahead and try to do that, I don’t think it is likely to happen because the other countries might say “look, it is an internal issue between two countries so please don’t involve us.””

Sachin Tendulkar, former India captain (on Twitter)

“India has always come up trumps against Pakistan in the World Cup. Time to beat them once again. Would personally hate to give them two points and help them in the tournament. Having said that, for me India always comes first, so whatever my country decides, I will back that decision with all my heart.”

Yuzvendra Chahal, India legspinner (to ANI)

“It’s not in our hands. If BCCI says, we will play, if they say no then we won’t. I think it is high time we need to take firm action. I am not saying all people there (Pakistan) are at fault but those who are responsible should be acted against.”

Sourav Ganguly, former India captain (on India TV)

“This is a 10-team World Cup and every team plays every team and I feel if India doesn’t play a match in the World Cup, it won’t be an issue. ICC can’t go on with a World Cup without India and I feel it will be really difficult for ICC to go on with a World Cup without India. But, you also have to see if India have the power to stop ICC from doing such a thing.”

Harbhajan Singh, former India offspinner (to India Today)

“India should not play Pakistan in the World Cup. India are powerful enough to win the World Cup without having to play Pakistan. One mistake will not correct the other one. Since we played in 1999 does not mean we should go ahead and do it again. We need to stand with our government and our soldiers. This is the time to talk and have a discussion which is far, far bigger than the World Cup. World Cup is not everything. Our country comes first, our soldiers come first and our government comes first. Cricket is not our first priority, our priority is our nation.”

Javed Miandad, former Pakistan captain (to Dawn

“I felt bad after hearing about our pictures being removed from their (Indian) stadiums. Now this talk of boycotting the World Cup. I think India need to understand they can face consequences of such an action. I don’t understand the mindset. Do they really think they (India) can get away without playing the World Cup match?”





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Benkenstein unhappy with South Africa’s complacency

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South Africa were “complacent” heading into this Sri Lanka series. This is not the opinion of reporters, fans, or commentators, but that of the team’s own batting coach Dale Benkenstein, after he watched his team collapse to 128 all out on the second day in Port Elizabeth.

Right through the series, South Africa have been modest with the bat, recording a highest-score of 259 across four completed innings. No South Africa batsman has hit a hundred, and only Faf du Plessis, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock have managed half-centuries.

“We came in a little bit complacent,” Benkenstain said. “We addressed that, but it’s still very important to have the right attitude coming into a series. We say all the right things, but when you go in thinking we’ll probably have enough to beat the Sri Lankan side, I think it’s a dangerous place to be. We had two days in between series. It’s a full-on summer so you don’t have time to prepare. You can’t change what is really inside you.”

Benkenstein praised the Sri Lanka attack, whom he said had bowled with skill, and whom South Africa have repeatedly said they have been surprised by. But although Benkenstein thought some of South Africa’s dismissals were the result of good opposition bowling, there were plenty that weren’t he said.

“We have not been at our best – after a pretty disappointing first game as well – against a side that we did not know a lot about. There wasn’t a lot of footage with which to analyse them. You have to give credit to the Sri Lankan bowlers. They’ve shown good skill, but we’ve given them soft wickets at crucial times. I keep thinking that it will be sorted out in the next innings.

“We’ve been pretty strong mentally, we came up against some very good bowling attacks and we scored enough runs to win those series. So I can’t really put my finger on what’s gone wrong now, but it’s been a long, full-on summer and the guys are only human, there may be a slight lack of energy.”

On what will almost certainly be the final day of the series, on Saturday, South Africa are now in a position where they must take eight wickets (possibly only seven, if the injured Lasith Embuldeniya does not bat). They haver 137 runs to defend.

“The game is still on the line and if we can have a good hour first thing tomorrow morning (Saturday) then we could make it hard for them to get the runs. There’s a little bit still there in the pitch and we have good bowlers. Sri Lanka have fought hard and put us under pressure, but overall the cricket has not been good, especially the batting – from both teams.”



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