Friday, September 12, 2008

Pakistan invite West Indies for Tests in November

West Indies last toured Pakistan in November 2006

Pakistan have "formally invited" West Indies to play two Tests in November in another attempt to fill the gap created by the postponement of the Champions Trophy.

"We have formally invited the West Indies board to send their team to play two Tests in Pakistan immediately after the three-match one-day series ends in Abu Dhabi," Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told PTI. "We are hopeful West Indies will respond positively or else this year we just have the one-day series in Abu Dhabi and a Twenty20 four-nation event in Toronto in October."

The Pakistan board had initially proposed a tri-series in South Africa but the plan fell through after Cricket South Africa said their players were fatigued following a long tour of England. They then tried to set up an ODI series against Sri Lanka but had received "ridiculously low figures" for the television rights.

Pakistan have been deprived of Test cricket in 2008 after Australia postponed their tour of the country for Test and ODI series, scheduled for March, because of security concerns. They hosted the Asia Cup in June-July, but the Champions Trophy, which was supposed to begin on September 12, was also postponed after five countries said they wouldn't participate in the tournament due to security fears.

Pakistan's last Test was in India in December 2007 and their next Test series is in January 2009 when they host India. "Unfortunately, we don't have much cricket in coming months," Naghmi said, "but 2009 is going to be a packed season for us and our team will not have enough breathing space."

Their next international assignment is a four-day Twenty20 quadrangular in Toronto next month with Sri Lanka, West Indies and hosts Canada.

ICC Awards 2008 Dubai

ICC Awards 2008 Dubai ~*~Exclusively on Cricketone~*~

ICC Awards 2008 Part 1

ICC Awards 2008 Part 2

ICC Awards 2008 Part 3

ICC Awards 2008 Part 4

ICC Awards 2008 Part 5

Symonds out, McGain in for India

Bryce McGain, the 36-year-old legspinner, is in line for a possible Test debut.

Andrew Symonds will not play Australia's Tests in India while the incumbent slow bowler Beau Casson has also been overlooked in favour of the uncapped 36-year-old legspinner Bryce McGain. Shane Watson returns to the Test frame and the bowlers Jason Krejza and Peter Siddle are hoping for debuts after joining a 15-man squad with several changes to the group that visited the West Indies this year.

Australia are pleased with Ricky Ponting's recovery from wrist surgery and Matthew Hayden, while chosen subject to completely overcoming his ongoing heel injury, is expected to play. One of the biggest question marks was over Symonds, who has averaged 77.70 in Tests in the past 12 months. He was also one of the central figures in the heated home series against India earlier this year, when he was involved in a racism row with Harbhajan Singh.

It was widely expected that Symonds would struggle to be in contention having been sent home from Darwin only a fortnight ago due to the team's frustration with his attitude. Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, said Symonds was now going through a process managed by Cricket Australia to give him the chance to decide on his future.

"Cricket Australia has told us that selectors will be advised once Andrew can be considered again for selection and we hope we can look forward to that advice in due course because as we all know, a fit and fully-committed Andrew Symonds can be a world beater," Hilditch said. "In the meantime, our advice was that he was not available to be considered for selection this time."

His exclusion leaves Australia without one of their best players of spin and a part-time bowler on a trip where Harbhajan and Anil Kumble could be a handful. Of equal concern to Australia is that their own slow-bowling stocks are thin, with two untested players the preferred options. Casson, McGain and Krejza were expecting a bowl-off of sorts on their Australia A trip to India this month but rain and injuries meant only McGain had a decent opportunity.

Casson, who made his Test debut in Barbados in June and is the only frontline spinner with a Cricket Australia contract, sent down just one over against India A in Bangalore before hurting his hamstring. Krejza had no chance to bowl when the second match in Hyderabad was washed out. McGain picked up three wickets in the opening game but missed out on a second-innings spell due to a minor strain to his right shoulder and has been selected subject to fitness.

McGain's relative success and strong Pura Cup season for Victoria makes him the likely first-choice spinner just a year after he was working full-time in the IT section of a bank. Having been kept out of state cricket for most of his career by a succession of Victoria slow men including Shane Warne, Colin Miller and Cameron White, McGain now has a good chance of becoming Australia's oldest Test debutant since the 38-year-old Bob Holland in 1984.

He will be competing with Krejza, 25, an aggressive offspinner who likes to flight the ball but does not have an especially strong first-class record with 43 wickets at 45.46. He has not managed a five-wicket haul at state level and collected 18 first-class victims at 47.11 in 2007-08, which was his second season with Tasmania having switched from New South Wales.

"Bryce McGain was the standout leg-spinner at interstate level last year and we think he is really well suited to the Indian conditions and bowling plans," Hilditch said. "His story is a great example of how those who perform at interstate level will be rewarded. Jason Krejza had a good season for Tasmania last year but is a selection very much for Indian conditions. The selectors felt right-arm finger spinners would perform well in India and Jason now has a chance to prove himself at the international level."

Siddle, 23, also comes into the squad fresh from the Australia A trip. A right-arm fast bowler with genuine speed and the ability to swing the ball, Siddle has had three stints at the Academy while establishing himself with Victoria. He has had ongoing shoulder problems and missed more than half the Pura Cup season due to injury in 2007-08, but his 33 wickets at 15.75 from five games highlighted his value as a strike weapon.

Siddle is likely to be second in line outside the starting pace attack with Doug Bollinger set for a long-awaited Test debut should the opportunity arise. Ashley Noffke was not included in the squad despite being part of the group that visited the West Indies.

Australia must also weigh up how to use Watson, who has replaced Symonds as the seventh batsman. Simon Katich's two Test centuries in the Caribbean make him the likely candidate to fill Symonds' position in the starting 11, although Watson's all-round skills and new-found fitness make him a tempting prospect.

Despite being on the international scene for six years Watson has played only three Tests, all of which came in 2005. A terrible run with injuries, particularly hamstring problems, has limited him to on-and-off ODI appearances, although he has now established himself as a quality one-day opener and is hoping to transfer the success to the Test arena.

The changing nature of Australia's line-up has left the squad with only four men - Ponting, Hayden, Katich and Michael Clarke - who have played a Test in India. The players depart on September 21 and they will have two warm-up games and nearly a fortnight in India before the first Test in Bangalore, which starts on October 9.

Squad: Matthew Hayden, Phil Jaques, Ricky Ponting (capt), Michael Hussey, Michael Clarke, Simon Katich, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin (wk), Brett Lee, Jason Krejza, Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle, Bryce McGain, Stuart Clark, Doug Bollinger

Where's Yousuf?

Mohammad Yousuf was in contention for the ICC ODI Player of the Year, but wasn't picked in the ODI Team of the Year.

Mohammad Yousuf, the Pakistan batsman, was one of the players nominated for ICC's ODI Player-of-the-Year Award. Yousuf didn't win; Mahendra Singh Dhoni did. And Dhoni and fellow nominees, Sachin Tendulkar and Nathan Bracken, were named in the ODI Team of the Year, Yousuf wasn't. Yousuf's omission was puzzling not only because he was one of the nominees for the top award, but also one of the prolific run-scorers in the period considered by the ICC.

The awards were based on performances from August 9, 2007 to August 12, 2008. In that period, Yousuf scored 1161 runs at 68.29; among batsmen with at least 500 runs, only Shivnarine Chanderpaul had a better average and he wasn't in the ODI team either. Pakistan did play back-to-back series against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh but even if you considered performances only against the top eight ODI teams, Yousuf's average is 59.09. (Click here for the top batsmen with at least 10 ODI innings.)

In the ICC's XI, only Yousuf's team-mate Younis Khan averaged as much. Ricky Ponting and Andrew Symonds were the other middle-order batsmen in the team but Ponting, the captain, averaged only 42.23 in 20 innings, while Symonds fared marginally better with an average of 45.

Another surprise pick was allrounder Farveez Maharoof, who played only seven matches in the period. Granted that he took 14 wickets at 17.42, but he scored only 45 runs in four innings. (Click here to see the best bowlers against the top eight teams.)

In the ICC's Test Team of the Year, Kumar Sangakkara was chosen as the wicketkeeper but he kept wickets in only one Test out of Sri Lanka's ten during the period under consideration. He's played as a specialist batsman while Prasanna Jayawardene has impressed one and all with his sharp glove work while keeping to Muttiah Muralitharan and Ajantha Mendis. However, the other Test keepers fared poorly with the bat, a factor that could have swung the vote Sangakkara's way. England may have seen a turnaround under Kevin Pietersen's leadership, but his position in the middle order denies a place to either of AB De Villiers, Andrew Symonds or Michael Clarke - all three averaged over 55, while Pietersen managed only 47.25. (Click here for the top batsmen during the selection period.)

Ryder in New Zealand Test squad

Jesse Ryder (left) made a strong start to his ODI career this year and now he could add a Test debut in Bangladesh.

Jesse Ryder is in line for a possible Test debut after earning a call-up into the 15-man New Zealand squad for their two-Test tour of Bangladesh. However, there was no place for James Marshall, Peter Fulton or Michael Mason, all of whom were in the group that toured England this year.

Aaron Redmond retained his place in the Test squad despite the disappointment of making only 54 from his six innings in England, where he made his debut. But the removal of Marshall and Fulton from the list of top-order options means Ryder has every chance to add a Test cap to his five ODI appearances.

It is a major vote of confidence in Ryder, who badly hurt his hand after punching a window in a local bar in a late-night incident in February. Ryder has also been starved of first-class cricket recently and played only three State Championship games for Wellington last season, but the selectors were impressed when he captained New Zealand to the Emerging Players title in Australia in July.

The Bangladesh tour starts with three one-day internationals and Mark Gillespie and Scott Styris have been named only for the limited-overs portion. In the lead-up to the first Test, which begins on October 17, that pair will fly home and the squad will be joined by the Test specialists Redmond and Iain O'Brien.

Chris Martin has been included in the 15-man ODI squad after being largely pigeon-holed as a Test player in recent times. The squad will leave a few days earlier than planned, on September 30, and Dion Nash, one of the selectors, stressed it would not be an easy trip.

"The team will have the challenge of competitive cricket in sub-continent conditions after the break enforced by the postponement of the Champions Trophy," Nash said. "Bangladesh will provide a stern test going into another international season, which offers the Black Caps the chance to build on this year's home and away series against England."

Test squad Jamie How, Aaron Redmond, Ross Taylor, Daniel Flynn, Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram, Brendon McCullum (wk), Gareth Hopkins (wk), Grant Elliott, Daniel Vettori (capt), Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Iain O'Brien, Jeetan Patel, Chris Martin.

ODI squad Jamie How, Brendon McCullum (wk), Scott Styris, Ross Taylor, Daniel Flynn, Jesse Ryder, Jacob Oram, Gareth Hopkins (wk), Grant Elliott, Daniel Vettori (capt), Kyle Mills, Tim Southee, Mark Gillespie, Jeetan Patel, Chris Martin.

Digicel proposes compromise to contract row

The row between the West Indies Cricket Board and its sponsors, Digicel, took another twist on Thursday with a proposal from the company to settle its dispute with the board.

In August, Digicel filed an injunction in the High Court in London seeking to have the WICB withdraw all approval for the Stanford Super Series which, it claimed, encroached its "exclusive sponsorship rights". The move came in the light of rumours that Stanford was close to signing Cable and Wireless (Digicel's competitor and a former sponsor of the West Indies team) as a sponsor for the series.

The court put the matter to arbitration, and the results of this are due in October. However, in a statement sent to Cricinfo, Digicel said it proposed a "compromise solution will involve the waiver of a considerable number of legal and commercial rights owned by Digicel by virtue of its sole and exclusive sponsorship agreement with the WICB".

The conditions of the offer are that the Stanford side in the 20/20 for 20 match against England on November 1 wear official West Indies kit with Digicel branding; that no telecommunications company be involved in the event; and that Digicel's costs be paid for by the board.

While this might appear one-sided, Digicel claims that in return it will be "foregoing a large number of valuable legal rights and entitlements including broadcast rights, exclusively branded pitch mats, sight screens, perimeter boards, promotional opportunities, advertising, content rights and various other avenues for commercial use that it currently owns by virtue of its sole and exclusive sponsorship agreement with the WICB".

The statement concludes: "Digicel would call upon both the WICB and Stanford to engage constructively on this matter and to put cricket in the West Indies first. Digicel's compromise solution is a very credible alternative and provides something for every party concerned."

Insiders believe that the WICB might have little option but to agree to the bulk of the demands, because without the board's backing, the series could be deemed unofficial which, given the precedent set with the ICL in India, would create numerous issues for the players involved.

As far as the ECB are concerned, however, the matches were approved by the ICC back in June, and so they have no doubts about their status. An ECB spokesman told Cricinfo that the other details were solely an issue for the WICB.

ICC revives notion of Test Championship

The International Cricket Council is exploring ways to ensure that Test cricket remains the pinnacle of the world game, and plans to push for an enhanced Test Championship when the current Future Tours Programme expires in 2012.

Under the current provisions of the FTP, all Test nations must play each other home and away within a six-year cycle, although the haphazard nature of some of the less fashionable contests have left them vulnerable, especially at a time when Twenty20 cricket is taking over the world game.

The key considerations for both the ICC Board and the CEC were and are:

  • All three formats of international cricket should be protected and promoted with Test cricket identified as the pinnacle of the sport
  • The "icon" Test series must be protected
  • ICC should look at ways of taking greater central ownership of international cricket outside its events or at least providing for more consistency in marketing/promotion

  • The concept of a Test Championship should be explored further

  • The proposal was raised at the quarterly ICC Chief Executives' Committee (CEC) meeting, which took place in Dubai on Wednesday. Other issues on the agenda included the postponement of the ICC Champions Trophy, and further discussion about the Umpire Decision Review System, which was trialled during India's recent Test tour of Sri Lanka.

    The trial received largely positive feedback, and a report was presented by the ICC umpires' and referees' manager, Vince van der Bijl, and the ICC umpires' manager Doug Cowie. It was agreed that an extension of the trial should be considered for upcoming series, and that, ideally, as many umpires and teams as possible should be exposed to the system to allow proper assessment of the merits and drawbacks. A final report on the trial to cover all series in which it has been employed would be presented to the Cricket Committee in May 2009 and then considered by the CEC in June 2009.

    The CEC comprises the chief executives of the 10 Test-playing members and three representatives from ICC Associate Members. It is chaired by the ICC's chief executive, with the president and the chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee also in attendance.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Chanderpaul named Player of the Year

    Yuvraj Singh and Simon Taufel pose with their trophies at the ICC Awards in Dubai.

    West Indies' Shivnarine Chanderpaul has become the fifth player to be named as the ICC Cricketer of the Year at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai. Chanderpaul, who also made the shortlist last year, fought off competition from other nominees Mahela Jayawardene from Sri Lanka, as well as South Africa's Graeme Smith and Dale Steyn to take the top award.

    Steyn had the consolation of taking the Test Player of the Year award, while India's one-day captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni won the ODI Player of the Year award.

    Yuvraj Singh became the inaugural winner of the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year Award in recognition of his amazing six sixes in one over off Stuart Broad during the ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa last September.

    Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka's 23-year-old spin star, won the Emerging Player of the Year award. With his mesmerising brand of spin bowling, Mendis has exploded on to the international scene in recent months. In just three Tests against India in July and August, he claimed an amazing 26 wickets at an average of 18.38.

    Six countries were represented in the 12-man ICC Test Team of the Year and three players - England captain, Kevin Pietersen and the Sri Lanka pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Muttiah Muralitharan - also appeared in the World Test Team of the Year in 2007. Sangakkara and Muralitharan also appeared in the 2006 side as well. Smith was named as captain of the team.

    There were also six countries represented in the ICC ODI Team of the Year of which only two - Ricky Ponting and Sachin Tendulkar - also appeared in the 2007 side and only one - Brett Lee - made both XIs. Ponting was included in 2006 as well while Andrew Symonds was previously been named in the 2005 team. Ponting is named as captain of the team for the second year running.

    Australian umpire, Simon Taufel, was named as Umpire of the Year for the fifth successive time. Taufel, 37, received his votes from the captains of the ten Full Member nations, as well as the eight-man elite panel of ICC match referees. "I'm delighted to win this award but I don't set this as a goal at the start of a season," he said.

    England captain Charlotte Edwards, who last night steered her side to a 4-0 one-day win over India, won the Women's Cricketer of the Year award.

    Netherlands allrounder, Ryan ten Doeschate, was named as the Associate Player of the Year.

    The Sri Lanka team were the recipients of the Spirit of Cricket Award for the second year running. The prize is presented to the team which, in the opinion of the elite panel of ICC umpires and match referees, has best conducted itself on the field within the spirit of the game.

    "The past year has been another exciting one for cricket fans around the world in a time that included the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 and plenty of competitive Test and ODI cricket," David Morgan, the ICC president, said. "These players have contributed hugely to our enjoyment. This is the fifth annual ICC Awards night and each year it is gaining in prestige."

    ICC Test Team of the Year Graeme Smith (SA, capt), Virender Sehwag (Ind), Mahela Jayawardena (SL), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (WI), Kevin Pietersen (Eng), Jacques Kallis (SA), Kumar Sangakkara (SL, wk), Brett Lee (Aus), Ryan Sidebottom (Eng), Dale Steyn (SA), Muttiah Muralitharan (SL). 12th man: Stuart Clark (Aus).

    ICC ODI Team of the Year Hershelle Gibbs (SA), Sachin Tendulkar (Ind), Ricky Ponting (Aus, capt), Younis Khan (Pak), Andrew Symonds (Aus), Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Ind, wk), Farveez Maharoof (SL), Daniel Vettori (NZ), Brett Lee (Aus), Mitchell Johnson (Aus), Nathan Bracken (Aus). 12th man: Salman Butt (Pak)

    Chanderpaul is ICC Cricketer of Year

    Shivnarine Chanderpaul: top of the pile for 2008.

    The West Indies batsman, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, has become the fifth player to win the coveted Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy after being named as the 2008 Cricketer of the Year at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai.

    Chanderpaul, who also made the short-list last year, fought off competition from other nominees, Mahela Jayawardene from Sri Lanka, as well as South Africa's Graeme Smith and Dale Steyn to take the top award.

    Upon collecting the award, Chanderpaul said: "I am honoured to be given this prestigious award tonight and I am very thankful to God for blessing me with the talent that I have. I would like to thank my family - in particular my wife Amy - for their constant support over the years.

    "A special thank you goes out to my manager, my agent and all my supporters in the Caribbean and throughout the world. It's also important that I thank my team-mates without whom this wouldn't have been possible.

    "My congratulations go out to all the other winners tonight - these awards are great for the players and it is an honour even to be nominated. I am thrilled to have won."

    Chanderpaul follows in the footsteps of India's Rahul Dravid (2004), Andrew Flintoff of England and South Africa's Jacques Kallis (joint winners in 2005) and Ricky Ponting of Australia (2006 and 2007), all of whom have claimed the top award.

    Leading the tributes to the 2008 Cricketer of the Year was the ICC president, David Morgan. "Shivnarine has been a rock in the West Indies batting line-up for many years and he thoroughly deserves this award," said Mr Morgan. "His contribution to the game has been immense and he epitomises the sort of dedication, bravery and skill required to excel at the highest level.

    "I would like to extend my very best congratulations to Shivnarine for winning the Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy. He had some tough competition to overcome in the form of Mahela, Graeme and Dale but no one can deny that he has been one of the shining lights in the world game over the past 12 months or so."

    During the voting period, Chanderpaul played eight Test matches, scoring 819 runs at an average of 91.00, including three centuries and six fifties, all of which were against the top seven teams in the world.

    He also played 13 ODIs during that time, finishing top of the averages with 74.75 having scored 598 runs, a haul that included a century and five fifties. He is currently ranked No. 1 in the ICC Player Rankings for Test batsmen and is sixth in the rankings for ODI batsmen.

    The Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy for the ICC Cricketer of the Year was one of eight individual prizes given at this year's awards. Chanderpaul also featured on the ICC Test Team of the Year as picked by the ICC selection panel.

    The panel was chaired by the former West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd, and included the former Australia captain, Greg Chappell, the recently retired South Africa allrounder Shaun Pollock, the former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny and the former Bangladesh batsman, Athar Ali Khan.

    Dhoni is ODI Player of Year

    Mahendra Singh Dhoni: ODI Player of Year.

    India's one-day captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, has won the ODI Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai.

    Dhoni beat off tough competition from his India team-mate, Sachin Tendulkar, Australia's fast bowler Nathan Bracken and Pakistan stalwart, Mohammad Yousuf, to take the award.

    During the voting period, Dhoni played 39 ODIs and scored 1,298 runs at an average of 49.92 and at a rate of 82.46 runs per 100 balls faced. In that time he hit a century and nine fifties, making sure he led his team from the front.

    Also in that time, in his capacity as a wicketkeeper, Dhoni claimed 62 dismissals (46 catches and 16 stumpings), which is almost twice as many as the next best, albeit having played more matches than any other keeper.

    He is currently ranked No. 1 in the ICC Player Rankings for ODI batsmen. Dhoni said: "I would like to thank the voting academy for considering me to be deserving of this award. I am really happy to get this - it's a great privilege.

    "Also, it feels great to know that I am the first Indian player to get this particular award and it's very special because now I am in the company of a lot of other good cricketers. Some fantastic players have won this award in the past and to be mentioned in their company is truly a humbling experience for me.

    "I would like to thank the ICC, my home cricket board, my family, my team-mates and friends."

    The ODI Player of the Year Award was one of eight individual prizes given at this year's ICC Awards. Dhoni also featured on the ICC ODI Team of the Year as picked by the ICC selection panel. The award was announced by Australia captain and two-time ICC Cricketer of the Year, Ricky Ponting.

    The panel was chaired by the former West Indies captain, Clive Lloyd, and included the former Australia captain, Greg Chappell, the recently retired South Africa allrounder Shaun Pollock, the former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny and the former Bangladesh batsman, Athar Ali Khan.

    Mendis named as ICC's Emerging Player

    Ajantha Mendis and Mahela Jayawardene pose for a picture with their trophies at the ICC Awards in Dubai. Jayawardene collected Sri Lanka's Spirit of Cricket award.

    Ajantha Mendis, Sri Lanka's 23-year-old spinner, has won the Emerging Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai.

    With his mesmerising brand of spin bowling, Mendis has exploded on to the international scene in recent months. In just three Tests against India in July and August, he claimed 26 wickets at an average of 18.38, leaving batsmen trying to work out a new way to play, with his unique array of deliveries, including the so-called Carrom ball.

    And it wasn't just in Tests. During the voting period, Mendis played eight ODIs for Sri Lanka including a victorious Asia Cup campaign, and in the process bagged 20 wickets at an average of just 10.25, making him the stand-out newcomer to top-flight cricket.

    Mendis was the top choice of the 25-person voting academy, coming in ahead of England's allrounder Stuart Broad, South Africa's fast bowler Morne Morkel and Ishant Sharma of India.

    Accepting his award in Dubai from his Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardena, Mendis said: "I am delighted to win the award. It is an honour to play for Sri Lanka and I hope to continue playing for my country for a long time to come."

    The Emerging Player of the Year Award was one of eight individual prizes given at this year's ICC Awards. Players eligible for this award must be under 26 years of age at the start of the voting period (August 9, 2007) and have played no more than five Test matches and/or 10 ODIs before the start of the voting period.

    Yuvraj wins Twenty20 award

    Yuvraj Singh poses with his trophy for the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year.

    India's flamboyant batsman, Yuvraj Singh, became the inaugural winner of the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year Award, in recognition of his amazing six sixes in one over during last September's ICC World Twenty20 in South Africa.

    This new award highlights the most impressive performances by players in Twenty20 Internationals during the 12-month voting period and it marks the advent of this exciting new format of the game at international level.

    On September 19, 2007, during a match against England in Durban, Yuvraj smashed every delivery of the 19th over - bowled by Stuart Broad - beyond the boundary rope, in the process registering a 12-ball half-century and putting his team on course for victory.

    It was the first time a player had hit six sixes in a single Twenty20 International over. Herschelle Gibbs did it in an ODI during the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, while Garry Sobers became the first batsman to achieve the feat during a first-class match back in 1968.

    According to the voting academy, Yuvraj's effort was the most impressive performance of the past 12 months. It beat off competition from his team-mate, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who led his team to victory in the same tournament; Chris Gayle of West Indies, who scored 117 off just 57 balls against the hosts, South Africa, in the opening match in Johannesburg; and Australia's Brett Lee, who became the first bowler to take a hat-trick in the event, against Bangladesh in Cape Town.

    After collecting his award from Sri Lanka's former World Cup-winning captain, Arjuna Ranatunga, Yuvraj said: "For me it was very important just to get nominated. There were other great performances during the past year. For example Chris Gayle's innings in the World Twenty20 was fantastic. I am very happy to collect this award and I would like to congratulate the other players who were nominated alongside me.

    "It's very important for any player to get his performance recognised. You play hard and you like to think people see that and get something out of it. I would like to thank the ICC for recognising the performances of the players - it's an important aspect of the year for us.

    "After the fifth six in that over I remember having butterflies in my stomach and I knew that if I managed to hit it for six it would be very special. It was a great feeling when I saw the ball go over the boundary."

    The Twenty20 International Performance of the Year Award was one of eight individual prizes given at this year's ICC Awards - presented in association with FICA - which are based on the 12 months between August 9, 2007 and August 12, 2008.

    The ceremony is now in its fifth year and this is the first time it has been staged in Dubai, the home of the International Cricket Council. Previous ceremonies were held in London (2004), Sydney (2005), Mumbai (2006) and Johannesburg (2007).

    Steyn is Test Player of Year

    Dale Steyn: a stellar year for South Africa.

    South Africa's strike bowler, Dale Steyn, has won the Test Player of the Year award at the ICC Awards ceremony in Dubai.

    Steyn beat off short-list competition from Shivnarine Chanderpaul of West Indies and Sri Lanka's captain Mahela Jayawardene, as well as his South Africa team-mate, Jacques Kallis, to win the first ICC Award of his career.

    During the 12-month voting period, Steyn put in some remarkable performances, taking 86 wickets at an average of just 18.10 in the 14 Test matches he played. No other bowler took more than 58 wickets in the same period and he was the only bowler to earn an average less than 21.50 (of those who played more than three matches).

    Steyn, 25, who comes from Phalaborwa in the northern province of Limpopo, also had the best strike-rate with a wicket every 31.9 deliveries and he boasted two 10-wicket matches and six five-wicket innings.

    After collecting his award from the former West Indies captain and current chairman of the ICC Cricket Committee, Clive Lloyd, Steyn said: "I have had a pretty decent year I suppose but I didn't think about winning this award until the past few days. I don't really know how I feel. Perhaps tomorrow morning it will have sunk in for me because obviously this is a huge award and it's massive for me.

    "What I would like to do is maybe turn it into a goal for the future. I would like to win this award again and maybe other awards too so it would be something to aim for.

    "I am really enjoying my cricket at the moment - we have been involved in a few great series recently so I count myself as lucky to be a part of this South Africa team.

    "It's a good time for South African cricket even though we lost four one-day matches in England. Winning this award makes up a little for that but I am still going home knowing we were beaten in the one-dayers. But we have some new faces coming into the one-day side and we are still very positive for the future."

    The Test Player of the Year Award was one of eight individual prizes given at this year's LG ICC Awards. Steyn also featured on the ICC Test Team of the Year as picked by the ICC selection panel.

    The panel was chaired by Lloyd and included former Australia captain Greg Chappell, recently retired South Africa all-rounder Shaun Pollock, former Sri Lanka opener Sidath Wettimuny and former Bangladesh batsman Athar Ali Khan.

    The ceremony is now in its fifth year and this is the first time it has been staged in Dubai, the home of the International Cricket Council. Previous ceremonies were held in London (2004), Sydney (2005), Mumbai (2006) and Johannesburg (2007).

    India reject Champions Trophy in October 2009

    Australia are scheduled to play a one-day series in India in October 2009.

    The Indian board has rejected suggestions made during the ICC's chief executives' committee meeting in Dubai on Wednesday to conduct the Champions Trophy in October 2009 because it will clash with the "very important" one-day series at home against Australia. The issue now passes to the ICC Board, which meets on Thursday.

    "We have said that the Champions Trophy in October will not be possible for us since we are hosting Australia at that time," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told Cricinfo. "The one-day series against Australia is a very important fixture for us. It has been scheduled and we can't do anything about it. All the boards will have to find another solution or window for the Champions Trophy."

    The BCCI is planning to hold the first of the seven one-day matches against Australia on October 13, three days after the conclusion of the Champions Twenty20 League, which it is organising along with Cricket Australia and Cricket South Africa (CSA).

    The ICC board had, on August 24, decided to postpone the Champions Trophy that was originally scheduled to be held in Pakistan from September 12 after five of the eight participating nations expressed security concerns about the host country. David Morgan, the ICC president, said "it was considered prudent to postpone the event to October 2009, a time when we all hope conditions may be more acceptable for all the competing teams".

    The concept of an alternative structure to bilateral tours, including an enhanced Test championship, with the ICC taking a greater central "ownership" of the programme, was also discussed at Wednesday's meeting. However, sources said it did not appear to make much headway during the CEC meeting with a number of boards unconvinced about the idea, especially about the extent of their ownership and role under such an arrangement.

    The concept was kicked off during the ICC annual conference in Dubai in July, and Cricket Australia was entrusted with the job of coming up with a plan. The key considerations were: all three formats of international cricket should be protected and promoted with Test cricket identified as the pinnacle of the sport; "icon" Test series must be protected; ICC should look at ways of taking greater central "ownership" of international cricket outside its events or at least providing for more consistency in marketing/promotion; and the concept of a Test Championship and/or play-off should be explored further.

    Hayden and Ponting show improvements

    Ricky Ponting has returned to batting after wrist surgery.

    Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden, Australia's two key injury worries for India, are on track to take part in the four-Test series starting next month. Ponting left the West Indies tour early to have surgery on his wrist while Hayden has been struggling with a lingering Achilles tendon problem.

    "Everything has been progressing exactly as we liked with Haydos," Australia's coach Tim Nielsen told the Herald Sun. Hayden did not appear in a game in the West Indies and the team will be hoping he recovers in time, especially if Andrew Symonds does not make the tour due to his rehabilitation after being sent home from the one-day series in Darwin.

    Ponting had a short bat at the pre-series camp in Brisbane last month and has continued to increase his workload. He visited Alex Kountouris, Australia's physiotherapist, in Sydney this week.

    "The feedback was pretty solid, all good," Nielsen said. "He has just started batting again as well."

    Nielsen said they would wait to make a decision on Symonds' availability for the India trip. "Until we have finalised everything with Roy (Symonds) and made those decisions, we're probably not really willing to talk about it, to be honest," Nielsen said. The squad will be named following Australia's current match against India A in Hyderabad and the first Test is in Bangalore on October 9.

    I should have left England earlier - Smith

    I should have left England earlier - Smith.

    Graeme Smith, the South Africa captain, has said he should have withdrawn from the England tour a month earlier after suffering a tennis elbow ahead of the one-day series against the hosts. The England tour, which marked the end of a tiring year for most South African players, ended on a poor note for the visitors with a 4-0 defeat in the ODIs, but it also brought them their first Test series win on English soil since 1965.

    "My injury first surfaced in the IPL and gradually worsened throughout the England tour. I played with painkillers from the time we landed [in England] and it was about biting the bullet and getting out on the field. Sometimes I hardly trained and just did enough to prepare myself mentally for matches," Smith wrote in his diary for

    He said the pain became terrible during the third Test at Edgbaston, where he scored a match-winning hundred to clinch the series. "I should probably have called it a day then, but when you are captain it can be difficult to let go - you feel responsible for the team. It got so bad I had to change my grip on the bat handle just to find a way of relieving the pain."

    Smith hoped the injury wouldn't come back after the rest and rehabilitation in South Africa. "I had a cortisone injection in the tendon and I'm trying to stay away from surgery at this time. With the amount of international cricket as well, schedules are becoming tighter but ultimately I am doing what I love doing so I am certainly not complaining."

    He credited Kevin Pietersen with doing a good job for England in the one-day series but believed South Africa had put a lot of emphasis on one goal - winning the Test series. "We had been like a hot air balloon where we reached such great heights of winning the Test series and after that we just popped. We were so determined at the start of the tour to become the first side since readmission to win a Test series in England that we sort of relaxed once that was achieved."

    'Pakistan should surrender Champions Trophy rights' - Mani

    Ehsan Mani: "I am of the view that even now, during the meetings underway in Dubai, the PCB should surrender the hosting rights of the Champions Trophy ".

    Ehsan Mani, the former ICC president, has advised the Pakistan Cricket Board to surrender its right to host the Champions Trophy, scheduled for October 2009, and ask the ICC for an event in the future as compensation.

    Pakistan was supposed to host the Champions Trophy in September 2008 but the tournament was postponed after five countries said they would not send their teams because of security concerns in the country. Sri Lanka was the designated back-up option but the ICC chose to postpone the tournament, rather than shift it to another location, after the Pakistan board and the BCCI stood firm against a change in venue.

    "Since it was known earlier that some teams were not comfortable about touring Pakistan for the Champions Trophy, the PCB should have taken the initiative by asking the ICC to shift it to an alternate venue, instead of postponing it, to avoid the financial loses," Mani told IANS. "If the tournament was shifted, the ICC could have earned approximately $50 million and every participating team would have had their share of $3.75 million each.

    "In my view, the PCB should have withdrawn from hosting the Champions Trophy and should have demanded any future ICC event like the 2012 Champions Trophy or the Twenty20 World Cup in 2013 as compensation since ICC hasn't allocated those events."

    The staging of the Champions Trophy in 2009 will be discussed during meetings between the Chief Executives Committee and the ICC board on September 10 and 11. Mani was of the view that Pakistan could still give up the hosting rights during the meeting in Dubai.

    "I am of the view that even now, during the meetings underway in Dubai, the PCB should surrender the hosting rights of the Champions Trophy and ask the ICC to hold it next year in Dubai, or anywhere else they want to, in lieu of any future ICC event when things become normal in Pakistan."

    Malik fears Pakistan will become 'isolated'

    Pakistan haven't played Test cricket since the series in India in November-December 2007.

    Shoaib Malik, the Pakistan captain, fears that Pakistan will become an "isolated cricket nation" and wants the ICC to ensure that teams tour the country.

    Pakistan were deprived of international cricket in 2008 after Australia postponed their tour, scheduled for March, because of security concerns. The Champions Trophy, which was supposed to begin on September 12, was also postponed after five countries said that they wouldn't participate in the tournament due to security fears.

    Pakistan's last Test was in India in December 2007 and their next Test series is in January 2009 when they host India. They haven't played a Test in 2008 and Malik wanted the ICC to play a larger role in ensuring that teams visited Pakistan.

    "The ICC needs to step in and play a more decisive role," Malik told Reuters. "If teams keep on refusing to tour Pakistan despite assurances even from our government we will become an isolated cricket nation.

    "It is very frustrating for the players the way two important events have been postponed this year. It is so depressing that despite being a major cricket-playing nation we do not play a Test match this year."

    Pakistan sought to fill the gap created by the Champions Trophy but faced hurdles in setting up one-day tournaments. India were concentrating on their preparation for the upcoming series against Australia, South Africa rejected a tri-series proposal because their players were fatigued after the tour of England, while a proposed one-day series against Sri Lanka faced problems finding sponsors.

    Pakistan's next international assignment is a four-nation Twenty20 tournament involving Canada, West Indies, and Sri Lanka in Toronto from October 10.

    Monday, September 8, 2008

    ICC Awards nominations unveiled

    Nominations for the LG ICC Awards 2008

    • Cricketer of the Year: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dale Steyn, Mahela Jayawardene, Graeme Smith
    • Test Player of the Year: Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Dale Steyn, Mahela Jayawardene, Jacques Kallis
    • ODI Player of the Year: Nathan Bracken, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, Mohammad Yousuf
    • Emerging Player of the Year: Stuart Broad, Ajantha Mendis, Ishant Sharma, Morne Morkel
    • Associate Player of the Year: Ryan ten Doeschate, Alex Obanda, Niall O'Brien, Thomas Odoyo
    • Twenty20 International Performance of the Year: Chris Gayle, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Brett Lee, Yuvraj Singh
    • Women's Player of the Year: Lisa Sthalekar, Charlotte Edwards, Claire Taylor, Nicola Browne
    • Spirit of Cricket: Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, West Indies
    • Umpire of the Year: Simon Taufel, Mark Benson, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis, Rudi Koertzen

    Shivnarine Chanderpaul of the West Indies, Sri Lankan captain Mahela Jayawardene and South Africa's Dale Steyn have been nominated for both the Cricketer of the Year and Test Player of the Year categories for the ICC Awards 2008. While South Africa captain Graeme Smith is the fourth nominee for the Cricketer of the Year, Jacques Kallis completes the list for the Test Player of the Year.

    India's one-day and Twenty20 International captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni has also picked up nominations in two categories. Apart from being shortlisted for The ODI Player of the Year, his captaincy while leading India to victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa last September has earned him a nomination for the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year.

    The fifth edition of the awards to be held in Dubai on Wednesday, will be presented in association with FICA and will take into account performances by players and officials in the period between August 9, 2007 and August 12, 2008.

    Apart from Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, nominated for the ODI Player of the Year, Ishant Sharma (Emerging Player of the Year) and Yuvraj Singh (Twenty20 International Performance of the Year) will be making up the Indian representation at this year's awards.

    While Ishant will be up against Sri Lankan spinner Ajantha Mendis, England all-rounder Stuart Broad and South African fast bowler Morne Morkel in the Emerging Player of The Year category, Dhoni and Yuvraj will face competition from Chris Gayle of the West Indies and Australia's Brett Lee for the Twenty20 International Performance of the Year.

    Lee is one of the three Australian players who have picked up nominations this year along with Nathan Bracken (ODI Player of the Year) and Lisa Sthalekar (Women's Cricketer of the Year).

    Sthalekar will be competing alongside Claire Taylor of England, New Zealand's Nicola Browne and England captain Charlotte Edwards for the Women's Cricketer of the Year award.

    Meanwhile, Thomas Odoyo of Kenya will be looking to win the Associate Player of the Year award for the second time, but will have to thwart challenges from team-mate Alex Obanda, Ryan ten Doeschate of the Netherlands and Ireland's Niall O'Brien.

    Simon Taufel will be also be eyeing his fifth successive Umpire of the Year award after being nominated alongside Mark Benson, Aleem Dar, Steve Davis and Rudi Koertzen.

    The nominations for six of the awards were made by a five-man ICC selection panel chaired by former West Indies captain Clive Lloyd and comprising Greg Chappell, Shaun Pollock, Sidath Wettimuny and Athar Ali Khan. The panel will also select the ICC Test and ODI teams of the year.

    The winners of the six individual awards will be voted upon by a 25-person panel from around the world, made up of renowned former players, respected members of the media, an umpire and match referee from the Elite panel.

    Meanwhile, the nominations for the Women's Cricketer of the Year Award were decided after each of the world's top 10 teams was given the opportunity to nominate two players. The award will be voted on by a separate 16-person voting academy featuring former players and other experts on the women's game.

    While the Spirit of Cricket Award will be voted on by all the international captains as well as all members of the Elite Panel of ICC Umpires and Elite Panel of ICC Match Referees, the Umpire of the Year Award will be voted on by the captains and the match referees.

    Watson hopes for Symonds Test role

    Shane Watson's skills make him the most convenient replacement if Andrew Symonds is ruled out.

    The expected withdrawal of Andrew Symonds for next month's tour of India has the allrounder Shane Watson thinking about what would be his greatest challenge. Symonds, who was sent home from the one-day series against Bangladesh for going fishing, is waiting to start formal counselling sessions as part of his Cricket Australia rehabilitation and it is highly unlikely he will be picked in the Test squad towards the end of this week.

    Watson has won support from James Sutherland, Cricket Australia's chief executive, who admitted Symonds could be lost to the game. "I don't think that's impossible," Sutherland said on ABC radio when asked if Symonds might never play for Australia again.

    "I think the message the Australian players have sent is that we want Andrew Symonds in our team, but we want Andrew Symonds absolutely committed and wanting to be there. They're really asking him that question. If he can't answer that question, it may well be that he's lost to the team."

    Sutherland said being without Symonds would be a "great loss", but there were other young talents who could fill his place. "People like Shane Watson may well get the opportunity they've yearned for for so long in his absence," he said.

    Watson is the most convenient contender for the No. 6 spot and his all-round skills would give Australia options, including playing another spinner. However, Simon Katich and David Hussey, the batsmen who are part-time bowlers, may also come into contention, especially if fitness concerns remain over Matthew Hayden (heel) and Ricky Ponting (wrist).

    "There is absolutely no doubt that, if I get the call-up, this would be the biggest challenge I could face as a cricketer," Watson told the Sydney Morning Herald. "We've only won once there in 30-odd years as it is, and there are obviously other considerations as well this time around. I would love to go, but I am not going to spend too much time worrying about selection, like I used to. If it happens, it happens."

    Watson said the team was "wishing the best" for Symonds, "but if there is an opportunity there, hopefully I can take it with both hands". "The leadership group have made a difficult decision [to send Symonds home from Darwin], but the message they were trying to convey was that they needed everyone at 100% to set a good example to the young guys."

    After missing the first game in Darwin with a leg problem, Watson picked up 29 and 27 as an opener as well as 2 for 8 in the final encounter. The last of his three Tests came against West Indies in 2005-06, when he partially dislocated his shoulder and was replaced by Symonds.

    Players sweat on Stanford place

    Reason to celebrate: Steve Harmison is in line for a place in England's Stanford squad.

    It's the $20million question. Who are England going to take to Antigua for the Stanford Super Series and thereby hand a chance of the biggest payday of their careers? On Tuesday those lucky few will be announced, along with the one-day squad to tour India and the next batch of central contracts. Players will be hanging by the phone more than usual.

    Given the cohesive unit Kevin Pietersen has formed in the first few weeks of his captaincy, the Stanford game throws up a few potential difficulties. There are going to be some very disappointed players who miss out on the trip and it will be one of Pietersen's challenges to make sure any feelings of resentment don't linger. It's possible that a couple of players who don't go to Antigua will still be named for India. Four weeks travelling between the likes of Guwahati and Jamshedpur doesn't sound quite as appealing as a week by the beach.

    However, if the selectors want to give England the best chance of claiming the bounty they will have to banish all thoughts of keeping people happy. England haven't yet found a Twenty20 formula that works consistently; from a financial point of view November 1 would be a good time to start.

    As with most squads, the majority of places are decided fairly easily. The core of the side remains the same from 50-over to 20-over cricket. It's those few variables that will provide the tricky decisions. An extra batsman? How many spinners? Quick bowlers versus allrounders?

    He has come to the party very late, but Steve Harmison is back in favour with everyone that matters. It will be a gamble to play him, but such is Twenty20 that any bowler can suddenly be taken for 10 an over. Wickets are important, too, and four good overs from Harmison can win a game. If England take just 13 players it will be difficult to squeeze in four quicks, so Ryan Sidebottom could be left to rue his brittle second half to the season. For 18 months he has carried England's attack, but sentiment isn't going to win anyone any money.

    The key also lies in having players who can slot in and play a number of roles, so Ravi Bopara should travel as he can be a spare batsman, fill-in bowler and is lively in the field. No place, however, for Alastair Cook whose game is not suited to Twenty20. The matches will all be played on Allen Stanford's postage-stamp ground near the airport, but that doesn't mean spin should be discounted. The slow bowlers have been matchwinners in all conditions in Twenty20, so Graeme Swann should catch the plane, alongside Samit Patel, and keep his dream of a pink Ferrari alive. Again, he is also a multi-dimensional cricketer.

    With the uniqueness of the prize on offer there will be a clamour for the selectors to be bold. Graham Napier is the name that comes out on top after his unbeaten 152 against Sussex in June. He followed it with a couple of other eye-catching displays, but there has certainly been a case of bandwagon-jumping with all the talk of him being an England player. Twenty20 specialists were tried in South Africa last year - remember Chris Schofield, Darren Maddy, Jeremy Snape and James Kirtley? - with little success.

    After Stanford's 20-20 for 20 it's back to the day job. Seven ODIs around some of the less-trodden paths of India. This will be the true guide of Pietersen's captaincy, Harmison's drive and the new-found team spirit.

    After a 4-0 series win against South Africa there won't be many changes. The one major question mark is the spare batsman. According to Peter Moores, Cook has been "working hard" on his one-day batting, but is he really the man to take on the Powerplays in India if Ian Bell goes down sick on the morning of a game? Joe Denly, the Kent opener, has been consistently impressive in one-day cricket this season and, unlike Cook, can confidently go over the infield and isn't afraid to use his feet. Cook will probably tour - team bonding and all that - but a Denly debut would be a bold selection.

    The final major announcement on Tuesday will be the 12-month central contracts. Expect them to confirm the end of Matthew Hoggard's career and the fact that the only way back for Michael Vaughan will be a mountain of runs. For the second year running there is unlikely to be a wicketkeeper in the contracted list, although Matt Prior is now set for a long run in all forms of the game. That means a return to the Test squad when it is named at the end of the month, but for now he'll be more than happy with his Twenty20 place.

    Squad for Stanford (probable) Kevin Pietersen (capt), Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Harmison

    India ODI tour (probable) Kevin Pietersen (capt), Ian Bell, Alastair Cook/Joe Denly, Matt Prior (wk), Owais Shah, Andrew Flintoff, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Samit Patel, Graeme Swann, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Ryan Sidebottom

    Central contracts (probable) Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar

    Ashes are inspiring England - Trescothick

    Marcus Trescothick: quietly confident about England's Ashes.

    Marcus Trescothick, a key component of the England side that won the Ashes in 2005, believes that the prospect of next summer's rematch with the Aussies is a major factor in the recent upsurge in England's fortunes.

    Since losing the Test series against South Africa at the beginning of August, England have since won a dead-rubber contest at The Oval followed by four completed ODIs in a row. Vital players such as Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison have returned to form at just the right time, and with Kevin Pietersen's captaincy exceeding all expectations, Trescothick believes that England's Ashes prospects are looking rosier than anyone could have predicted at the start of the year.

    "It's inevitable [that they are thinking about the Ashes]," said Trescothick, who was speaking at the launch of his autobiography in Central London. "You can see it, can't you? The way that KP's taken it on, the way the one-day side has played over the last few weeks. I think you can see the momentum building, but there are still a lot of challenges between now and then."

    The first of those challenges is Allen Stanford's US$20 million winner-takes-all contest in Antigua, then it's off to India for two Tests and seven one-dayers before a Caribbean campaign in the spring, but Trescothick senses a togetherness in the England camp that has not been present since the team that Michael Vaughan and Duncan Fletcher built began to unravel in 2005-06.

    With that in mind, Trescothick is pretty confident that Stanford's riches will not cause divisions and resentment among England's squad members. "I hope not, "he said. "We're all professional enough to know that if you're selected for a side then it's fantastic, but even if you've played all the ten games leading up to it, it's just bad luck if you're not.

    "Professional sport works like that," he said. "You'd be disappointed if you lost one of your guys from saying: 'I'm not happy with the selection here'. You could play the next week or you could get left out, and it wouldn't make any difference, so why should it make a difference for this game?"

    The money is one thing, but as far as the glory goes, there's no question where England's priorities should lie. "Looking back to 2005, we planned for 12 months before the Ashes even started," said Trescothick. "If they are doing that now, and getting things in place at the moment, they've got a real good chance next summer if they can keep the same team together. They are looking energised and the key influence is KP - he seems to have inspired a few of the guys - but with Fred playing like he is, it's inevitable they are going to do well. He's a massive part of it."

    Falling out with people doesn't mean you're going to make a bad captain. You might ruffle a few [feathers] along the way, but if it gets people playing well, or gets them out of the team for others to come in, then that's perfect- Marcus Trescothick on Kevin Pietersen's captaincy

    Had Pietersen's success as captain been limited to extracting the best from Harmison and Flintoff, his first month would still have been considered a success, but Trescothick admitted he had been completely taken by surprise by the extent to which he had taken to the role. "I never thought he had any aspirations to be a captain," he said. "He always struck me as a guy who was really happy going about his own business, and trying to become the best player he could, and the best player in the world.

    "He is very driven, but I didn't think he could expand that much to become the team person he needed to be as captain. But we've all been proven wrong a little bit. He's showing that to people at the moment, and the reports coming out of the team are they really like him as a captain."

    Pietersen's professional career has not been without its confrontations - his relationship with Graeme Smith came under particular scrutiny during the summer series against South Africa - but Trescothick believed that his singlemindedness was an asset as a leader. "Falling out with people doesn't mean you're going to make a bad captain," he said. "You might ruffle a few [feathers] along the way, but if it gets people playing well, or gets them out of the team for others to come in, then that's perfect."

    Trescothick speaks from experience, because his first England captain, Nasser Hussain, was not afraid to rub people up the wrong way for the greater good of his team. "I don't think KP will be as loud as Nasser," he said. "Nasser was quite vocal, a heart-on-sleeve sort of guy who told it as it was. KP will be a cross between Michael [Vaughan] and Nasser. Sometimes he'll tell you it straight, but at the same time he's always been calm about his own cricket. All the reports say he's doing a good job."

    With the excitement mounting ahead of the 2009 Ashes, the question remains: could Trescothick, who is currently the third highest run-scorer in county cricket this season, be persuaded out of retirement to take part next summer in a one-off capacity? "Let's see how I'm playing at the time. We'll see how many sausages I've eaten over the winter," he said, half-jokingly.

    Realistically, however, after aborted tours to India and Australia, and a withdrawal from Somerset's pre-season tournament in Dubai, there's no way that Trescothick will go back on his international retirement. "I'm 32, and in a few years' time I won't be up to the standard," he said. "I've got no aspirations to make it back. I've had my time and I'm enjoying my moment where I am now. I just want to continue to move on and do different things."

    All the same, Pietersen hasn't quite given up on persuading his old team-mate out of retirement. "We keep in contact by text," said Trescothick, "and he dropped into conversation, 'what's the situation about coming back to play?' I told him as it was. Much as I'd love to do it, it would be too much of a hard job to make it back. It's good for the ego, but realistically it's not going to happen."

    Ganguly out in 'signal to the team'

    Mohammad Kaif is the likely candidate to replace Sourav Ganguly in the Rest of the India middle order.

    Sourav Ganguly has been left out of the Rest of India squad for the Irani Trophy match in what Cricinfo has learnt is a signal from the national selectors that it is time to start phasing out India's veteran middle-order. Other notable exclusions for the season-opener are Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma and S Badrinath - but Mohammad Kaif has returned to the reckoning after his 94 for India A against Australia A.

    The Rest team for the match against Delhi, which starts in Vadodara on September 24, is meant to feature probables for the Australia Test series in October. Ganguly's exclusion raises once again a question mark over his international future - he is already out of the ODI picture.

    A national selector and a senior BCCI official whom Cricinfo spoke to said the selectors consulted Anil Kumble, the India Test captain, and Gary Kirsten, the national coach, before dropping Ganguly. Both Kumble and Kirsten were completely on board with the decision, they said.

    One of the selectors also spoke to Ganguly about the decision and the former India captain has "accepted it", the selector said.

    "The decision to drop Ganguly is a signal to the team," the selector said. "He's 36-37 and we felt it was getting increasingly tough for him to cope with the fielding and fitness levels expected at the international level. We spoke to Kumble and Kirsten too, and they were with us on this. We felt we should put in place the process of bringing in the next set of players."

    While the decision to drop Ganguly was based on a dip in form and his diminishing fielding skills, they said, the selectors were not convinced that Yuvraj was completely fit.

    However, both insisted that Ganguly's Test future could still be revived by the new national selection committee, which will pick the Test team for the four-Test series against Australia starting on October 9.

    Apparently, the selectors are hoping that Mohammad Kaif, who impressed them with a well-made 94 in the India A vs Australia A match in Bangalore last week, will fill Ganguly's slot in the middle. "There is also a good chance for Badrinath (the India A skipper)," the selector said. "Badrinath came up with a convincing display in Sri Lanka last month and he is a fantastic fielder too. But again, it is up to the new selection panel."

    He said that Yuvraj's fitness was the main reason why he was dropped - the left-hander has been dogged by a knee injury, and is also believed to be nursing a shoulder injury.

    Meanwhile, Ashok Dinda, the Bengal medium-pacer, got a surprise call-up to the squad while Sachin Tendulkar, who declared himself fit for the match has made it along with Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Parthiv Patel, the other promotion from the India A side, is likely to open the batting with Wasim Jaffer.

    Badrinath, meanwhile, will continue leading India A side, in the limited-overs tri-series, involving Australia A and New Zealand A, starting on September 15. His deputy will be Suresh Raina, fresh from impressive showings in the Asia Cup and in Sri Lanka. Dinesh Karthik, who lost out on the Irani Trophy slot to Parthiv, will be India A's keeper in the tri-series.

    There were rewards for those who did well in the inaugural IPL: Swapnil Asnodkar, Abhishek Nayar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Yusuf Pathan and Wriddhiman Saha found themselves in the 15-member squad. Hyderabad opener DB Ravi Teja was included, as was Saurashtra's Jaydev Shah. Irfan Pathan and Praveen Kumar, India's ODI regulars, will also play in the series, while Piyush Chawla and Robin Uthappa, dropped recently, get another chance to impress the selectors.

    Rest of India squad: Anil Kumble (capt), Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni (wk), VVS Laxman, Rahul Dravid, Wasim Jaffer, Mohammad Kaif, Pragyan Ojha, Zaheer Khan, Munaf Patel, Parthiv Patel, RP Singh, Ashok Dinda, Harbhajan Singh
    India A squad for tri-series: S Badrinath(capt), Suresh Raina, Robin Uthappa, Swapnil Asnodkar, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik (wk), Abhishek Nayar, Irfan Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Dhawal Kulkarni, Piyush Chawla, Ravi Teja, Yusuf Pathan, Jaydev Shah, Wriddhiman Saha

    Champions Trophy faces scheduling crunch

    Australia, the holders of the Champions Trophy, are scheduled to play an ODI series in India during the period when the tournament is to be held.

    The ICC may find it extremely tough to hold the Champions Trophy in October 2009 after it emerged that India and Australia are planning to proceed with a seven-ODI series scheduled to start on October 13 next year.

    With the dates for the Champions Twenty20 League in 2009 - September 25 to October 10 - also decided, a BCCI official told Cricinfo they hoped to work out a schedule for the Champions Trophy at a meeting in Dubai this week.

    "The first game of the ODI series against Australia will start on October 13, but we will also help in working out a solution for the Champions Trophy," Niranjan Shah, the BCCI secretary, told Cricinfo. He said the dates haven't yet been formalised by both the boards but that will be done after the chief executives' committee meets in Dubai later this week.

    However, the ICC remains confident the Champions Trophy, which was postponed from September this year to October 2009 after a few participating countries expressed security fears about Pakistan, can be held within the framework of the ICC Future Tours Programme (FTP).

    "We have a chief executives' committee meeting in Dubai this week where we will discuss the calendar," Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, told reporters in New Delhi on Monday. "There is an existing framework for the FTP and we will work under that."

    The ICC had earlier stated that while Pakistan would be given "first preference" to host the Champions Trophy, a decision on the venue may be taken only after a security assessment of the country is done around February next year following the visit of the Indian team.

    Lorgat justifies Champions Trophy postponement

    Haroon Lorgat: "I guess most people respected our decision because the last thing we wanted was a Champions Trophy which was just not world-class".

    Haroon Lorgat, the ICC chief executive, has justified postponing the Champions Trophy to 2009, stating the absence of four teams would have robbed the event of its world-class nature.

    Lorgat, who was in New Delhi to announce the nominations for this year's ICC Awards, said the decision was unanimous after the ICC saw no point going ahead. The tournament, involving the top eight teams in the world, was originally scheduled for September 2008 but was put off after some of the teams were reluctant to travel to Pakistan.

    "As many as four teams were apprehensive about the security there. After all, we cannot force players if they don't want to go and play there," he told PTI. "Then we had documents from some people who did some research on the issue and finally we had to postpone the event.

    "I guess most people respected our decision because the last thing we wanted was a Champions Trophy that was just not world-class." Lorgat was quick to dismiss the notion that the ICC was divided with the Asian bloc on one side and the rest on the other. "Prior to working with the ICC, even I had read about the issues," he said. "But now, I can say that there is nothing even close to what is being claimed."

    He also brushed aside doubts over the revised Champions Trophy schedule coinciding with the second edition of the Champions League, to be held September-October, as well as the India-Australia ODI series from mid-October.

    "I don't think the FTP [Future Tours Programme] is running out of control," Lorgat said. "We have a chief executive committee meeting in Dubai this week where we'll discuss the calendar. There is an existing framework for the FTP and we will work under that."