For the first time in months, cricket is in the news, and it’s good news
It has been an exciting week in the world of cricket with action heating up in the Indian Premier League, being played in the United Arab Emirates across three venues in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah, but with developments in different parts of the world suggesting that the short-term future is ripe with possibility.
From Down Under in Australia, where India is set to play a comprehensive series later in the year, to Pakistan, who are just overjoyed to be hosting international cricket once more, to players explaining what the bio-secure bubble life is about, there have been so many positive developments that will help cricket get back on its feet in these challenging times.
Chennai Super Kings and their continuing woes
There is a serious chance that the 13th edition of the Indian Premier League will be the first one which the Chennai Super Kings failed to make it to the final four, or the play-offs, whenever they have been available.
The CSK team, led by Mahendra Singh Dhoni, have been by far the most consistent of any franchise, never failing to get to the business end of the tournament. However, a combination of factors have left them in deep strife.
To start with, the loss of Suresh Raina, the former India left-hand batsman, left Chennai in the lurch. Batting at the crucial No. 3 position, chipping in with a few overs of off-spin and fielding brilliantly in the circle, Raina was a major contributor to the team’s success. When he withdrew from the 2020 IPL citing personal issues and had to return home from the UAE, the team had no time to find a like for like replacement.
Added to this that Dhoni, the captain, had given up international cricket not long before and that the squad included ageing players such as Shane Watson, almost 40 years old, and Faf du Plessis, more than 36 years old, and it was always going to be touch and go for the team.
As it turned out, all the experience in the world could not shore them up against stronger, fitter, younger and more hungry opposition and the best team of the IPL was trouble.
The injury to allrounder Dwayne Bravo, Chennai’s death overs specialist, could not have come at a worse time. Bravo suffered a grade one tear to his groin and was forced to plan an immediate return to his native Trinidad and Tobago. Doctors estimated that it would take Bravo, the medium-pace bowling allrounder, two to three weeks to recover and this meant that Chennai could not hope to benefit from his services in this tournament.
Bravo recently became the first bowler in T20 franchise cricket history to take 500 wickets.
Zimbabwe arrive in Pakistan without their head coach
The Zimbabwe cricket team will be without the services of their head coach for their tour of Pakistan. The Zimbabwe team will play three One-Day Internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals on this tour, between Rawalpindi and Lahore.
Teams have not toured Pakistan since the 2009 shooting of the Sri Lankan team’s bus in Lahore. Over the years Pakistan has tried to restore a sense of normalcy and assure security to visiting teams, and the Zimbabwe team’s undertaking is part of this effort.
The issue, in this case, is that Lalchand Rajput, the head coach of the Zimbabwe team since August 2018, is an Indian national and relations between India and Pakistan have been politically fractious. Rajput, who is now 58 years old, played for India six times between 1985 and 1987.
Despite political tensions between the two countries, Rajput was issued a visa to travel to Pakistan. However, the Embassy of India in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, wrote to the cricket board asking that Rajput be exempted from travelling to Pakistan, and this was accepted. The bowling coach of the team, Douglas Hondo, will now coach the team on this tour.
Umar Gul calls its quits
Umar Gul, the former Pakistan fast bowler, has announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. Gul, who is 36 years old, represented Pakistan in 47 Test matches, 130 One Day Internationals and 60 Twenty20 Internationals.
Gul, who is from the North-West Frontier Province city of Peshawar, has done wonders for Pakistan in recent years. He was especially valuable in the Twenty20 format, being the team’s leading wicket-taker in their run to the final of the International Cricket Council World Twenty20 in 2007. Then he repeated his success in the 2009 event which Pakistan won.
He was renowned for his fast and accurate yorker. This delivery was lethal in the Twenty20 format and also had considerable success in the ICC rankings for bowlers, leading the tables over an extended period.
In 2009 when he took 6 for 26 against New Zealand in the ICC World Twenty20, these were the best bowling figures in the format. He now serves Pakistan cricket in his capacity as a member of the cricket committee.
Australia gears up for jumbo India tour
It has emerged that the New South Wales government is on the verge of paving the way for a series of white-ball matches between India and Australia to take place in their jurisdiction ahead of the four-Test series between the two countries later in the year.
With the Covid-19 pandemic posing serious challenges to travel, hosting and the conduct of cricket series, not least because of stringent quarantine protocols in place, the much anticipated Indian tour of Australia has taken many twists and turns.
It was initially proposed that the series would begin with a clutch of matches in Adelaide in South Australia, later moved to Queensland and Brisbane as a base, but when push comes to shove it seems that Sydney and Canberra could be the first hosts of the visiting team.
It is expected that an Indian party of between 50 and 70 players and support staff, across formats, will travel to Australia directly from the United Arab Emirates, where the Indian Premier League is currently being played, for a tour that could last two months or more.
The New South Wales government has confirmed it has received a proposal from Cricket Australia. That relevant police and health agencies were looking into the possibility of One-Day Internationals and Twenty20 matches being played in the region in the lead up to the Test series.
The crux of the issue is allowing the Indian team to have practice and training sessions in the course of their 14-day quarantine period. While Queensland authorities have ruled this out, the powers that be in New South Wales are working to ensure that this is permitted.
Should this be approved, this would unlock a way for the Indian tour of Australia — a lucrative one for both countries involved — to be finalised sooner rather than later, as the quarantine period in Queensland was a sticking point for the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Sourav Ganguly, the president of the BCCI, has been in touch with his counterparts in Cricket Australia, who have sought relaxations of prevailing norms from government agencies, without success.