During the World Cup earlier this year, Quinton de Kock created a mild furore by saying the atmosphere during his IPL 2019 win with Mumbai Indians was more emotionally intense than the one during South Africa’s semi-final defeat in the World Cup in 2015. Blasphemy, cried those who support international cricket over leagues, national flags over similar-looking jerseys. Blown out of proportion, said those who had heard the question, which related to emotional atmosphere at a ground and not the value of a tournament or a match.
A couple of months later, on the eve of South Africa’s T20I against India in Mohali, de Kock was given an opportunity to clarify what he meant.
“What must I say?” It is the biggest thing I have won so far. I haven’t won a World Cup,” de Kock said as a matter of fact. “So obviously once I win a World Cup, if I do, that will be the biggest ever thing I have done in my career. So far it is an IPL. I had played for a couple of teams but had never made the play-offs before. I played for Mumbai, we made the final and we won. So obviously it is a big achievement for any cricketer. There are so many things that cricketers these days want to be part of. They want to win IPL finals. They want to be part of World Cup finals and win them. Personally it’s different for everyone. Everyone has their opinions. My opinion is mine. Their opinion is theirs. For me that’s the biggest thing I have achieved so far.”
The IPL final could not be accused of being dull. Played in front of a raucous crowd, the match involved a successful defence of eight runs in the final over. De Kock was in the thick of him: taking a catch, effecting a run-out, but also conceding four byes off a Jasprit Bumrah hand grenade. The World Cup semi-final was a similarly close affair, but New Zealand beat South Africa in that heart-breaking finish. As a wicketkeeper, de Kock was in the thick of it again, taking a superlative catch to send back Ross Taylor but missing the run-out of Grant Elliott, who eventually took New Zealand home.
Mo Bobat named as ECB’s new Performance Director
Mo Bobat, the man whose analytical approach helped to change the way that England’s squads are selected, has been named as the ECB’s new Performance Director for men’s cricket.
Bobat, who is currently the board’s Player Identification Lead, will take charge from David Parsons, who left the post in July. He will work closely alongside Chris Silverwood, the newly appointed head coach, and Ed Smith, the national selector, to support the delivery of performance plans and selection strategy.
A 36-year-old former PE teacher from Leicester, Bobat studied sports science and management and is also in the process of completing a Masters in sporting directorship. Prior to joining the ECB in 2011, he worked as a lecturer and teacher in Leicester, augmenting his experience as a Level 4 certified cricket coach.
“I am delighted and honoured to be appointed Performance Director, at what is an exciting time for English cricket,” said Bobat.
“I am looking forward to working closely with both Chris Silverwood and Ed Smith, and in doing so, supporting the performance needs of our England teams and moving us closer to achieving our aim of being the most respected team in the world.
“Developing strong relationships with our counties to enhance the size and quality of our talent pool will be paramount. I aim to ensure that our highest potential players receive individualised support and international-specific experiences.
“It is a hugely exciting role and the vision is that the strength of our counties and our high-performance system delivers deliberate and sustained success across all formats.”
Commenting on the appointment, Ashley Giles, the managing director of England’s Men’s Cricket, added: “The position of Performance Director is a critical post in the development of our long-term strategy for elite performance. Mo demonstrated through his knowledge and experience that he has the attributes to take us forward in this area.
“He will be responsible for identifying our highest potential players and leading programmes that will bridge the gap between county and international cricket helping us to deliver successful, respected and inspiring England players and teams.
“The Performance Director will work closely with our network of counties to enhance the size and quality of our talent pool and ensuring that we’re jointly making decisions in each player’s best long-term interests.
“We have to develop a long-term strategy that identifies the best players in the country that can step up and excel in the international cricket arena. We will expose them to learn and perform in all conditions around the world.”
Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Maharashtra barred from BCCI elections
In what is likely to have a bearing on the BCCI elections, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) has disqualified three key state associations – Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Maharashtra – for failing to comply with the board’s new constitution. These three states have been declared non-compliant and are barred from participating in the BCCI elections scheduled for October 23 in Mumbai.
In response, the TNCA has said they will ask the Supreme Court to intervene should the board’s electoral officer N Gopalswami, who is likely to announce the final electoral roll on Thursday, rules against their representative attending the elections. This CoA directive has been sent to both Gopalswami and P Narasimha, the amicus curiae appointed by the Supreme Court.
Vinod Rai, the CoA chairman, confirmed to ESPNcricinfo that all three associations were informed of their non-compliance on Tuesday. “We found their explanations to be unsatisfactory,” he said.
In an e-mail directive sent to all three states associations on Tuesday, the CoA said they were being “disqualified from participating in cricket administration and governance at the BCCI in any way whatsoever, including by participating and voting in the BCCI general body meeting.”
In the directive, the CoA also said all three state associations had lost the right to cast a vote at the BCCI elections “because it has not complied with the (court) judgment and it is necessary for the purpose of proper implementation as mandated by the Supreme Court.”
ESPNcricinfo understands the three-member CoA was split on the decision to bar the three state associations. While Rai and Ravindra Thodge were in favour of disqualification, Diana Edulji, the former Indian woman’s captain, objected. Rai and Thodge were of the opinion that the TNCA, HCA and MCA couldn’t have been exempted from complying with the new orders if a majority of the associations, around 30, did so.
Edulji is believed to have said compliance was just one thing and presented examples of several state associations, including Delhi & Districts Cricket Association and Baroda Cricket Association, that had violated various eligibility criterion while electing their office bearers.
The CoA had earlier issued a show cause notice and sought an explanation for non-compliance from the TNCA, HCA and MCA, while also asking them to comply with the new regulations. In Maharashtra’s case, it was pointed out that the MCA hadn’t even registered its constitution, which is mandatory.
While notifying all state associations about the elections in September, Gopalswami made it clear no association could send a representative or vote at the election if the CoA felt they were non-compliant with the new BCCI constitution drawn up on the basis of the Lodha Committee recommendations.
Among the three associations, the TNCA has been most vocal about its opposition to CoA’s stance on compliance. In their response to the show cause notice, the TNCA stated the CoA didn’t have the authority to decide if a state association was compliant or not.
“The job of the CoA is only to file a status report with reference to the compliance undertaken by the state associations,” RS Ramasamy, the newly elected TNCA secretary, wrote in an email to Gopalswami on September 30.
Ramasamy, who has also been chosen by the TNCA to attend the BCCI elections, also pointed out that only the Supreme Court had the right to suspend any state association from attending the BCCI election. In the email to Gopalswami, he said the TNCA “shall not be restrained” from attending the board elections on the “ground of having not being found to be compliant” by the CoA.
“Any such act on your part of restraining the TNCA from participating in the BCCI elections would amount to contempt of the 9th August Judgment and 20th September order.”
‘Double the points for away wins’ – Virat Kohli’s tip for World Test Championship
Left to him, Virat Kohli would give teams extra points for away wins in the World Test Championship. On the eve of India’s second Test against South Africa in Pune, Kohli said that the arrival of the championship had encouraged teams to play positive cricket, and given them the incentive to go for wins when they might have earlier settled for draws. But he did hope there would be one change in the points system, perhaps when the next edition of the championship rolls around.
“The importance of every game has become that much more,” Kohli said in a press conference. “In situations that, in a three-match series, you probably would have played out a draw, teams are going to go for wins and get those extra points, so I think it’s great for Test cricket. The matches are going to be that much more exciting, is what we feel, and we can already experience that.
“We have to be absolutely professional in every session that we play, so yeah, I think it’s much more demanding on the players now, which is a good thing because it will keep the standard of Test cricket high. Yeah, these are the only things we have experienced so far and noticed in terms of changes.
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“If you’d have asked me to make the points table, I would give double the points for an away Test win. That is something that I would have definitely liked to see. Maybe after the first edition.”
Visiting teams in India would certainly appreciate that extra incentive. India have been an incredibly difficult team to beat in their own backyard during Kohli’s time as captain, India winning 16 of their 22 Tests and losing just one. For all that, though, Kohli said conditions in India are often difficult to negotiate even for his team.
“Look, it’s not easy for us as a home side as well,” Kohli said. “When conditions are challenging, when the ball’s spinning, we’ve also found it difficult in the past. But we’re a team that looks for answers, not excuses, so maybe that’s the reason we keep improving, and we’ve been able to win so many Test matches.
“Come on, give the guy a break now. He’s done well, let him enjoy his batting at the top of the order, let him just have fun, like he does in white-ball cricket, and stop focusing on what’s Rohit going to do in Tests”
“We don’t take anything for granted for sure, we can very well be losing four-five wickets a session, so we know that well, as a team. We work pretty hard on our game also, even though we play in our own conditions and we’ve grown up playing in these conditions. So I think the mindset is key for us, and that’s to win every game that we play and not focus on what the conditions are on display, we look to find answers rather than excuses.”
Over the first three days of the first Test in Visakhapatnam, South Africa pushed India hard to find these answers, particularly with their aggressive batting approach against spin, which helped them claw back from 39 for 3 to finish just 71 short of India’s first-innings total of 502.
Kohli wasn’t surprised by the fight South Africa put up.
“How they played in the first innings was very good,” he said. “You have to be positive when the wicket’s nice and easy to bat on, you have to try and get as many runs as possible, and that’s exactly what they did.
“I would say the first three, maybe even four days of the game, the wicket was hardly doing anything. After three-and-a-half days, it started to turn a little bit, and then on day five we really got into our own. We expected that. We expected teams to come out and try and be positive against us, and we held our own. We held our own in the second innings, and put up 400 runs for them to gun down again.
“Look, we are going to be put under pressure, even though we’re playing at home. Its about how we come back into the game and then put double the pressure on the opposition again and then tell them, let’s see if that can be executed again. So that’s basically what Test cricket is. You have to come back in the second innings and do the job again, it doesn’t end in one innings, but the approach was quite expected.”
On the final day, India’s match-winner was Mohammed Shami, who came into his own on a wearing fifth-day pitch to run through South Africa in their second innings. What sets Shami apart, according to Kohli, is how much help he can coax out of even the flattest surfaces.
“I think on the pitches that we play, I haven’t seen anyone get so much seam movement apart from him,” Kohli said. “Yes, internationally, many bowlers do, but I think on flat pitches he has the ability to pick you wickets in situations that feel absolutely dead. And that’s why he’s such an important bowler for us, that’s why we’ve wanted to manage his workload very precisely – all the fast bowlers.
“But he’s someone who can change the complexion of the game totally when you don’t see it coming. That’s the kind of skill he possesses, and now he’s taking the responsibility. We don’t need to push Shami anymore. We don’t need to tell him, come on, you’ve got to get up and bowl this spell for us. He wants the ball. He understands the situation. When he’s given the ball, especially in the second innings when situations are difficult, he comes in and does the job every time.
“It’s great. People are taking responsibility in different situations in the game, which is amazing to see and his skill is obviously there for everyone to see, it’s not a surprise anymore to all of us that he gets the ball to do that much more than others in conditions that don’t really offer you much. He’s blessed with that skill naturally, but it’s the mindset that’s changed now. According to me he’s in the best space right now.”
India’s other hero in Visakhapatnam was Rohit Sharma, who scored centuries in both innings while opening the batting for the first time in Test cricket. That performance, Kohli felt, should end the debate over Rohit’s place in the team.
“It’s overflowing. It’s not been filled,” Kohli said, when asked if the opening slots were taken for the foreseeable future. “Come on, give the guy a break now. He’s done well, let him enjoy his batting at the top of the order, let him just have fun, like he does in white-ball cricket, and stop focusing on what’s Rohit going to do in Tests.
“He’s in a great space, he’s playing really well, and he looked relaxed in the first game, which is great to see, all the experience he’s accumulated over the years came to the fore, so he’s feeling absolutely at home at the top of the order, and for us as a team it’s a huge bonus, because if you saw the second innings, the way he’s able to take the tempo of the game forward, that allows the bowlers an extra hour and a half or two hours to bowl the opposition out.
“So look, if a guy like him at the top of the order plays the way he did in the last game, we’re going to be in situations to go for victories in most of the Test matches. We’re all very happy for him, and I think it’s time to just move ahead from [debating about] his spot at the top of the order and just let him enjoy his batting.”
The Pune pitch had a fair grass cover on the eve of the Test match, and a certain amount of early moisture is expected too, given the volume of rain the city has experienced over the past week or so. Despite this, Kohli seemed to suggest that India would probably stick with an attack containing two seamers and two spinners, and not play the extra fast bowler.
“Well, I think more or less our team is settled,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to play that big a factor because when the pitch is damp it turns as well, so it’s not like only seamers are predominantly going to be effective on this pitch, all five days. Everyone will have to play their roles.
“Unless you have a pitch which has total grass coverage, only then you think of changes in combination for the match. Because you do know that it’s going to dry out at some stage, and you can’t go predominantly one-sided in your attack and then not have the balance. “We are pretty balanced in our team composition, and if any changes need to be made looking at how the pitch might behave on the first three days, then we’ll do so, but we don’t see any major things to think about, looking at the pitch.”
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