Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Arendse quits as Cricket South Africa president

Norman Arendse: "It is important that the person who presides over cricket in our country enjoys the full trust and confidence of his chief executive officer, and all 11 affiliates. Currently, I enjoy neither.".

Cricket South Africa's president Norman Arendse has resigned from his post, even though he has two years of his term left to serve, because he never at "any stage enjoyed the full trust and confidence of the CEO [Gerald Majola], and all 11 affiliates". Gerald Majola, the CSA chief executive, has received Arendse's resignation with "surprise and regret" and has said that the president had given no prior indication of his intention to resign.

"It is important that the person who presides over cricket in our country enjoys the full trust and confidence of his chief executive officer, and all 11 affiliates who are the custodians of the game," Arendse said in a statement in Cape Town. "Currently, I enjoy neither - and it does not assist me that I may enjoy constitutional protection against my removal at this stage until my three-year term ends in August 2010.

"The truth of the matter is that although I was returned unopposed as president of Cricket South Africa [CSA] in August 2007 for a three-year term, I never at any stage enjoyed the full trust and confidence of the CEO, and all 11 affiliates. The CEO is of the view that the president is merely a ceremonial head there to preside over meetings, and to attend matches, and functions.

"By contrast, I hold the view that the CEO is employed by the board, and is accountable to it. The president, in between meetings, stands in the shoes of the employer [the board], and the CEO is accountable to him. As a consequence of these sharply contrasting positions, the relationship between the CEO and I, has broken down irretrievably. Should we continue in this way, there is a real danger that cricket may be plunged into a crisis, and the game be brought into disrepute.

"The office of the president of CSA must be respected, and be supported by all, including the CEO and all 11 affiliates - at all times. This is currently not the case: historically, the 6:5 split in South African cricket has bedevilled the administration of the game in South Africa, and has reared its ugly head again."

Majola, however, said that he was surprised that Arendse cited "irretrievable differences" between them as one of the reasons for his resignation. "The differences between us were of management style, and hardly irretrievable in my view," Majola said. "I also question Mr Arendse's statement that I do not respect the office of the president. My office operates totally under the corporate governance regulations outlined in the King 2 code of business conduct and this includes the relationship between policy and operations."

Arendse also said that Western Province, Boland, Eastern Province, Border, and KwaZulu-Natal were traditionally the affiliates that were supportive of transformation in cricket and that the other affiliates had battled to come to terms with transformation, and in some instances, transformation was completely lacking, and remained a foreign concept.

"The CEO, and others, have done well to exploit these differences, and as a result, six of these affiliates have apparently indicated that they no longer have confidence in me. The charges against me appear to be my transformation agenda, and my demand of the CEO that he be accountable to me in my representative capacity as the president of the board. I plead guilty to both charges, and have nothing to say in mitigation of sentence!"

The rift between Arendse and a powerful section of the board was exposed before the national team's tour to Bangladesh early this year, when the president reportedly refused to approve the squad chosen by the six-man selection committee because it contained fewer than seven coloured players. Arendse was forced to backtrack but drew flak from within during the ICC's annual conference in Dubai in June where he spoke out strongly against national politics affecting cricket in Zimbabwe, a traditional ally.

The divide deepened as CSA initiated moves to transform into a non-profit body, which would require a restructuring of its administration. Ray Mali, the former ICC president who was once an ally of Arendse, has been linked with the group that moved against the president and is said to be backing Gauteng's president Mtutuzeli Nyoka, who is widely tipped to be the new CSA chief.

Arendse said that he had been involved in the administration of the sport in order to ensure that the disadvantaged, underprivileged, and poor were given equal opportunities and he hoped that his successor would continue the policy.

Despite the revenue stream from the Champions League, and the recent Test victory in England, Arendse said that challenges remained in terms of grass-root development.

"Our schools, rural, and club cricket is in a mess; and funding for grassroots amateur cricket needs to be increased exponentially," Arendse said. "This requires the budget of CSA to be totally transformed to address the real and tangible needs of the previously disadvantaged, the less privileged, needy and poor cricketers."

Bangladesh bans ICL recruits for 10 years

Habibul Bashar, who was named captain of the ICL's Dhaka Warriors, has been banned for ten years by the Bangladesh board.

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) on Wednesday have announced a ten-year ban for 13 of its top cricketers for joining the unauthorised Indian Cricket League (ICL), and is now hoping that the BCCI's Indian Premier League (IPL) and the Champions Twenty20 League will help them revive and boost the game in the country.

An emergency meeting of the board this afternoon decided to ban "players, officials and technical staff of the BCB who participate in events not authorised by the ICC and BCB". A press release said the board was examining legal technicalities "for taking appropriate proceedings" against the ICL players and has also decided to "review the existing format of the contracts with players to discourage such abrupt action by cricketers in the future".

Ahmed Sajjadul Alam, a BCB executive board member who was part of the meeting, told Cricinfo that the ICL ban would act as a "deterrent" and set an example "in the interests of Bangladesh cricket". He also termed suggestions that the country's Test status would be affected by the exodus as "terribly unfair", and claimed it had adequate replacements to ensure that New Zealand, who are visiting this month, is "in for a surprise".

Admitting that Bangladesh will have to "accept the reality and move on", Alam said: "We now hope that one of our teams will be able to participate in the Champions League in another year or so, and that will be a huge boost for the country and its players. In fact we have received some kind of an assurance from IPL officials that they would look at recruiting more of our players so that they don't feel left out financially. We are also in touch with other cricketing boards on how they can help us."

Abdur Razzak, the left-arm spinner, is the only Bangladesh player currently in the IPL and was signed up by Bangalore Royal Challengers for US$50,000. Although national boards don't get a share of IPL revenues, they will receive a significant sum for participating in the Champions Twenty20 along with a separate participation fee for their domestic Twenty20 champion teams that are invited. The Champions League is hoping to expand from eight teams this year to 12 in 2009.

Alam, who also heads the BCB's media committee, said an example had been set in the interests of Bangladesh cricket. "We want this ban, which is in line with the ICC's policy on unauthorised cricket, to act as a firm deterrent for others."

Alam said that allegations from some of the ICL recruits that they were mistreated by the BCB were "ridiculous" and added, "These players should be honest and admit openly they did this just for the money. That's the main reason. Why can't they be forthright about it? These players have let down their country and its people and opted to join a commercial venture which will benefit a group of individuals and nobody else.

"There have been demonstrations and meetings here by fans who feel cheated by these players," Alam said. "We have received so many phone calls from fans expressing disgust at what these players have done. These are cricket lovers who have sacrificed a lot for the game; people who have thronged the stadiums to watch these players play; who have paid money to do that - money that has gone into the development and upbringing of these players."

The 13 Bangladesh players who signed up for the ICL will be part of the Dhaka Warriors team that was unveiled in New Delhi on Tuesday. The team, which will compete in the second season from October 10, will be led by Habibul Bashar, the former national captain, and included recent internationals Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain.

Bashar leads Bangladesh exodus

Dhaka Warriors: Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Dhiman Ghosh and Habibul Bashar.

The exodus of 13 players from Bangladesh to the Indian Cricket League - and into virtual exile from all official cricket - has been formalised with the unveiling in New Delhi of the Dhaka Warriors. The team, which will compete in the second season of (ICL) from October 10, will be led by Habibul Bashar, the former national captain, and includes recent internationals Aftab Ahmed, Alok Kapali, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain.

The ICL's latest signings, who will be coached by Balwinder Sandhu, the former India player, include four players who have represented Bangladesh in the past - retired left-arm spinner Mohammad Rafique, Tapash Baisya, Manjural Islam and Mohammad Sharif. The others are Golam Mabud, a reserve wicketkeeper after Ghosh, and Mahbubul Karim, part of the Bangladesh Academy team currently touring Sri Lanka.

The move is likely to have a significant impact on Bangladesh cricket, and the recruits have drawn the anger of their fans, some of whom have even labelled them 'traitors'. Bashar reiterated the ICL stance - players contracted are free to turn out for their country . "ICL never asked us to stop playing for our country," he said as the ICL launched their second season. "That is the main reason we joined the ICL. Perhaps people back home haven't understood properly."

Bashar was the first to be introduced as one by one each 'warrior' came on to the stage, dressed in green tee-shirts and dark slacks, with a sword in hand and a smile on the face. While a personal statement for each, it was also a show of strength for the league, which has faced many a hurdle since its inception. Kapil Dev, India's World Cup-winning captain and now chairman of the ICL's executive board, said he wanted to see these players represent Bangladesh, and be part of the league when away from national duty.

"They have come here to make their life," he said. "How can you stop anybody not to play cricket? How can you stop people from not getting educated as cricket was education for me. If somebody says you only play with one set of people then that is wrong. We are not in apartheid era."

ICC acting in a 'tardy manner'

  • "We had first applied for recognition in April. But till now nothing concrete has come out," Himanshu Mody, the ICL's business head, said. "I feel the ICC is trying to delay the matter. They had last sent a letter asking why did we start the league.
  • "They are acting in a tardy manner. We had recently sent a reply and if we don't hear anything in 14 days we will pursue the matter again."

Nafees, who at one point was seen as a potential successor to Bashar as Bangladesh captain, said he had the freedom to make his choice. "The player has all the right to choose what he has to do," he said. "I still believe I can play for my country. ICL is a new and unique concept to promote players, to train young guys and make them better cricketers. So I would like to take this opportunity and show what I can do."

He downplayed the monetary significance of joining the league. "As a cricketer my first and love is to play cricket," he said. "When I was growing up money was always secondary. I've sacrificed ten years of my life to play at the highest level."

The departure of Nafees, Aftab and Kapali will severely dent Bangladesh's batting, while Dhiman Ghosh was their first-choice wicketkeeper during the ODI series in Australia. Farhad Reza had played 32 one-dayers since his debut in July 2006 and left-arm spinner Mosharraf Hossain featured in the home ODIs against South Africa earlier in the year.

The ICL have also signed two of Bangladesh's most experienced players in Bashar and Rafique. Bashar is Bangladesh's most-capped Test player with 50 matches. He led the team in 18 of those, including the country's only Test win over Zimbabwe in 2005 and in the 2007 World Cup, where they scored upset wins over India and South Africa. For long the mainstay of Bangladesh's batting, Bashar had fallen out of favour in the past year, and was disappointed with the lack of support he got, especially from current coach Jamie Siddons.

Rafique, Bangladesh's leading wicket-taker in Tests and ODIs, had announced his retirement ahead of the South Africa's visit, but later said he had done it as a "mark of protest". He said in an interview: "It's better to leave before getting humiliated at the hands of some people who prevented me from playing Test cricket for two years."

The Dhaka Warriors will be the ICL's second city-based team to feature players from a single country, after the Lahore Badshahs, consisting of only Pakistan players, performed splendidly on the field and more importantly gained a following among viewers, especially in Pakistan. The two teams will play alongside seven other sides in the ICL 20s Championship. The tournament will be held across four venues - Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Gurgaon and Panchkula - and will be followed by the ICL World Series, during which the players from the Lahore Badshahs and Dhaka Warriors will take part as the Pakistan and Bangladesh XIs respectively.

Dhaka Warriors: Habibul Bashar (capt), Aftab Ahmed, Shahriar Nafees, Alok Kapali, Dhiman Ghosh (wk), Farhad Reza, Manjural Islam, Golam Mabud (wk), Mahbubul Karim, Mohammad Rafique, Mohammad Sharif, Mosharraf Hossain, Tapash Baisya .

Ponting happy with contrite Symonds

Ricky Ponting wants Andrew Symonds back in the Test side sooner rather than later.

Ricky Ponting believes Andrew Symonds has taken some major steps towards returning to the Australia team by admitting his behaviour over the past year has been sub-standard. Symonds was at Queensland training on Tuesday, where he signalled his intentions to work his way back to international cricket, and Ponting was pleased with the development.

"I actually think there were some really positive signs over the last couple of days with Andrew," Ponting told AAP. "He's actually fronted the media and admitted that there's some room for improvement in certain parts of his life."

Ponting was not in Darwin when the team leadership group ejected Symonds from the recent ODI series but he was involved in the decision by phone. Ponting will be leading a Test squad in India next month without Symonds, who was not considered for selection as he continues his Cricket Australia-organised programme to get him back on track.

"He's a terrific player and his Test record and one-day record over the last couple of years for Australia has been outstanding," Ponting said. "Hopefully for him as a person, if he can get those things sorted out, then we'll have him back in the team."

The next opportunity for Symonds to come back to international cricket would be during the home Tests against New Zealand in late November. Ponting said he would love to have Symonds in the squad "sooner rather than later".

Inexperienced Australia will be competitive - Gilchrist

Adam Gilchrist says the Australia-India contest has grown its own iconic status.

Adam Gilchrist expects Australia's new-look team to remain a competitive force, starting with next month's Test series against India. Since Australia conquered their final frontier by winning the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in 2004, their losses have included Gilchrist, Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath, Damien Martyn, Justin Langer and Jason Gillespie.

Andrew Symonds will also miss the four Tests and Matthew Hayden is under an injury cloud, but Gilchrist remains confident of Australia's prospects. "There's no doubt the Australian team is inexperienced in regards to what we have had for the last ten years," Gilchrist said in Mumbai. "We've always had a very experienced team.

"But that doesn't mean that these guys haven't played in these conditions before. Australia has been sending A teams and youth teams over here for a number of years to educate our players on the conditions and the facilities. The team will definitely draw on that experience and will be very, very competitive."

Australia A played two first-class games against India A over the past two weeks, with Simon Katich, Peter Siddle, Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza taking part in the tour. They are in the 15-man squad for the Tests, which start in Bangalore on October 9.

Gilchrist said the contest was shaping up as a "fantastic series". "It seems like every time the two nations have locked horns in the last ten to 12 years, it's lived up to what I think has become an iconic series," Gilchrist said. "In Australia, everyone knows the focus historically has been the Ashes, but this has grown its own iconic status."

PCB tells Shoaib to pay fine

Shoaib Akhtar has been issued an ultimatum.

Shoaib Akhtar will not be allowed to play in and for Pakistan until he pays an outstanding fine of Rs 7 million (approx US$105,000), the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has said.

The PCB slapped Shoaib, 33, with the fine last month after he criticised the PCB over its failure to award him a central contract. He was initially banned by the PCB for five years, but the sentence had been reduced to 18 months by an appellate tribunal in June.

"Legally speaking the Lahore High Court upheld the fine and suspended the ban so if he wants to play for Pakistan and in Pakistan, Akhtar will have to pay the fine," PCB legal adviser Taffazul Hussain Rizvi told AFP.

The hearing for Shoaib's appeal against his ban was postponed because the judge was not available. Rizvi said Shoaib had yet to reply to letters demanding he pay the fine and has not tried to fix a date for the hearing of his High Court petition against the fine.

"We have whole heartedly accepted the court's suspension of the ban and we want Shoaib to pay the fine as per the court directives," said Rizvi.

Shoaib was left out of Islamabad's squad for the upcoming National Twenty20 tournament and will not be considered for next month's four-nation Twenty20 tournament in Canada if he does not participate in the tournament, to be played from October 4-8.

Yesterday the Karachi-based Dawn quoted Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, as saying that the board may include Shoaib's name before the start of the tournament.

Shoaib is currently playing for Surrey in a bid to regain his match fitness.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Unsupportive structure led to decision to quit - Bashar

Shahriar Nafees: "I made it to the national team after working for ten years and I know, there's a lot of pride of playing for Bangladesh but at this moment, I don't feel good to play cricket".

The Bangladesh players linked to the Indian Cricket League have stated dissatisfaction with the system as their reason to retire from international and domestic cricket. However, they stopped short of confirming they had signed with the ICL.

Habibul Bashar, the former Bangladesh captain, said he felt let down by the team management, coach Jamie Siddons in particular. "The situation was getting difficult for me," Bashar, who was dropped from the side for the Asia Cup, told the Dhaka-based Daily Star. "I wasn't receiving support from anyone. Even the coach's attitude was discouraging and I was in the middle of a lot of uncertainty and I was out of cricket for seven months." He said this prompted him to take up the ICL offer, adding none of the players were happy with the existing structure.

In his interview with Cricinfo, Siddons said Bashar was not on the top of his game and had been omitted after many opportunities. "A non-performing senior can't really influence the game of his team-mates," Siddons said. "We would not leave a senior player out of our young team if they had the potential to be a match-winner or be in our team come the next World Cup."

Left-arm spinner Mosharraf Hossain, one of those linked with the ICL, could earn up to US$200,000 from a three-year contract, and he admitted he hadn't been enjoying his time playing cricket in the last year. "They don't think of us, so why should we think of them," he said.

Opener Shahriar Nafees echoed Mosharraf's views, adding that there was a lot of anger and frustration behind his decision. "I made it to the national team after working for ten years, and I know there's a lot of pride of playing for Bangladesh but, at this moment, I don't feel good to play cricket." Nafees said though he had an offer from the ICL he was yet to confirm his position. "My main focus is education and I want to complete my MBA in the next one-and-a-half years." Nafees had opted out of the tour of Australia to concentrate on his studies.

Dhiman Ghosh wanted to know why he had been dropped from the side if he was the country's No. 1 wicketkeeper. He also said there were a lot of players vying for his spot in the team.

Among the others reported to have received offers from the ICL are Alok Kapali, Nazimuddin, Tapash Baisya, Manjarul Islam, Mohammad Sharif, Golam Mabud and Mahbubul Karim. The latter two are currently touring Sri Lanka with the Bangladesh Academy team. Mohammad Rafique, who has retired, is also believed to have been approached.

Though ICL officials admitted talks are on with 14 Bangladesh players, nothing has been finalised.

Bangladesh 'rebels' fail to meet with board

The Bangladesh Cricket Board was boosted after receiving pledges of support from several cricketers linked with the rebel Indian Cricket League, but the six players who retired on Sunday failed to appear at the its headquarters as requested to discuss the situation.

The BCB had asked the six to meet with officials on Monday, but the Daily Star reported that none of them turned up. Former captain Habibul Bashar and wicketkeeper Dhiman Ghosh were believed to have left the country for India, while the exact whereabouts of the other four were not known.

The board claimed to have tried to contact them, but it emerged that they had only sent them text messages. "SMS is not a proper way to communicate with somebody," Shahriar Nafees, another of the six, told the newspaper. "Any board official is yet to give me a call and only a board employee rang me yesterday [Sunday]. I will only think about attending the meeting if the invitation comes in a proper way."

Inside sources suggested the board had privately conceded that the six could not be dissuaded from signing with the ICL and had decided to concentrate its efforts in preventing more joining them. To that end officials met with the remaining contracted players are and made clear the consequences of joining the ICL, as well as highlighting the benefits of remaining in the fold.

"I think it's a personal choice," Shakib Al Hasan said. "But I am very much clear in my position. I want to play for my country and I believe everything will come in my way if I keep my position on the national side."

For a time there were also rumours that the six - Bashar, Ghosh, Nafees, Aftab Ahmed, Farhad Reza and Mosharraf Hossain - could be joined by Tamim Iqbal after it emerged that he had not attended the meeting. However, BCB officials were quick to point out that he was on an agreed break. There were also suggestions that Nazimuddin was also about to sign for the ICL and these grew after board officials admitted that he was "a suspect".

It is believed the BCB has been in contact with the ICC to discuss the legal ramifications of the breakaway, although nothing can be done until the rumours turn out to be fact.

Australia on track for India tour

Pakistan unhappy over 'double standards'

  • "I think if Australia tour India it will only highlight their double standards on security issues," Shafqat Naghmi, the PCB's chief operating officer, told reporters in Lahore. "Pakistan is as safe a country as India and we had even promised state-level security for the Australians and other teams.
  • "We have said constantly terrorists attacks can take place anywhere. No country is safer than the other and this point was highlighted after the unfortunate and sad incident in Delhi.
  • "We find it hard to comprehend that when Australian cricketers can tour a country which has had a succession of bomb attacks what is so different about coming to Pakistan."

Australia's Test squad still plans to depart for India on Sunday despite increased fears over security following deadly bomb attacks in New Delhi on Saturday. Cricket Australia officials met with representatives from the Australian government's department of foreign affairs on Monday to receive an update on the safety situation in India.

Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket, will also be given a report on Tuesday from Reg Dickason, the team's security advisor, but a spokesman said there had been no change to the schedule for the four-Test series. "Our position is that the tour is going ahead unless we are otherwise persuaded," Peter Young, Cricket Australia's general manager of public affairs, told Cricinfo. "Our advice is there are some concerns and to exercise caution, but currently they do not compromise the tour. Our plan is to depart on September 21 subject to our advice."

Stephen Smith, Australia's foreign minister, said the final decision on the tour would, as usual, be taken by Cricket Australia. "We'll provide them with all of our up-to-date travel and assessment advisories," he said. "They are also, as I understand it, getting their own independent security advice which is what they do on a regular basis."

Australia have scheduled warm-up games in Jaipur and Hyderabad, where bombs have gone off over the past year, before heading to Bangalore, where one person was killed in attacks in July, for the opening Test on October 9. While Cricket Australia will continue to discuss the issue with their security advisers, the government and the Indian board, more information on the situation in the country is available from members of the Australia A squad.

The outfit is currently in Hyderabad, 1500km south of New Delhi, for a one-day tri-series and the first match was against New Zealand A on Monday. Young said the team wanted to stay and play.

"In consultation with the BCCI, we have upgraded security in and around the dressing rooms and they will have an escort to the ground," Young said. "They have also been told not to leave the hotel without good reason. It's just a matter of prudence." The squad is travelling with a security advisor who is part of Dickason's team.

The Australian Cricketers' Association does not believe the danger in India is as bad as in neighbouring Pakistan, but Paul Marsh, the chief executive, said he expected "heat" if Australia toured. "If the team stays in India, there might be some who criticise us for double standards," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "But people need to understand our starting point is that we always want to tour.

"We go to extreme lengths to obtain the best advice on the situation of each country we visit. In Pakistan's case this year, people we rely on told us not to tour. If they say not to tour again, we'll listen. Bombs going off anywhere are a concern."

More than 20 people were killed in the explosions in New Delhi, which will host the third Test from October 29. "The threat assessment for India has been considerably lower than that of Pakistan," Marsh said in the Australian. "We want to find out if the latest bombings will change that in any way and what our independent experts think about our Australia A players being over there at the moment. As always we'll rely on the advice of the experts."

Dropped Casson ready to fight back

So close: Beau Casson was squeezed out of Australia's squad.

A disappointed Beau Casson has vowed to continue refining his technique and promised to work harder to regain a spot in Australia's Test squad. Three months after taking three wickets on debut against West Indies, Casson has been dropped from the India tour squad, which is due to leave on Sunday, and will start his season with New South Wales.

The relatively unknown pair of Bryce McGain and Jason Krejza will battle for the slow-bowling spots while Casson wonders what he did wrong. He was told by Andrew Hilditch, the chairman of selectors, that McGain, a legspinner, and Krejza, an offspinner, were "the best combination".

"No one has got a right to say they're going to play for Australia, I've played one game, I'm very, very lucky to do that," he said in the Sydney Morning Herald. "I'm going to be working very hard to get back in.

"I'm 25. Hopefully I've got a hell of a long time in the game still to come. I'm pretty happy with the way I went ... I got a taste of it and I loved every second of it. I want to keep doing it. I want to play for Australia as often as possible."

Casson, a left-arm wrist-spinner, said Hilditch was "upbeat" about his results, but did not offer a detailed explanation of the decision. "I don't think there was an X factor," he said. "Finger spinners have had some success over there and that's what they've decided to do."

He has been working on changing his action to improve his consistency, which will be helped by a slower build-up to the home summer visits of New Zealand and South Africa. "I was a little bit like a frog in a blender, arms and legs everywhere," he said in the Australian. "You see it with a lot of cricketers when they first started playing. I'm trying to refine my action and making sure that has no hindrance on my control."

Gillespie and Patel bowl New Zealand A to victory

Police officers stand guard during the game between New Zealand A and Australia A.

A polished 75 from Peter Fulton and accurate bowling by Mark Gillespie and Jeetan Patel helped New Zealand A to a 129-run win over Australia A in game one of the Triangular Series in Hyderabad. A target of 236 seemed very achievable at the beginning of Australia's chase, given how they had curbed New Zealand's middle order after Fulton's dismissal, but the bowling and some reckless hitting led to their downfall.

Having opted to bat first, New Zealand's first ten overs yielded just 34 for the loss of Aaron Redmond, but Fulton and Mark Guptill accelerated thereafter. Fulton hit Peter Siddle for three consecutive boundaries in the 11th over. Guptill collected two sixes as well - New Zealand scored 43 runs in the second Powerplay - and took a liking to Shaun Tait. This was Tait's first competitive outing since his Ford Ranger Cup match against Victoria eight months ago but he was erratic and served up eight wides. Guptill fell to Xavier Doherty for 33 and, by this time, Fulton had eased to 60 from 68 balls, repeatedly piercing the gaps in the field.

It took a spectacular catch on the long-on boundary by Phil Hughes - catching the ball, then flipping it back in to the field as he lost balance over the rope and finally diving forward to hold on again - to cut short the dangerous James Marshall, and that cued a collapse. Doug Bollinger returned to dismiss Fulton for 75 and the runs dried up. Doherty struck twice in two overs to chip away at the lower order to finish with 4 for 34, and New Zealand had thrown away the platform provided by Fulton and Guptill.

However, a total of 235 for 9 proved way out of a poor Australia's reach. Mark Gillespie, the medium-pacer, removed Hughes in the opening over and added David Hussey - caught behind for 0 - in his second, though replays proved inconclusive. Luke Ronchi looked to have the measure of the new-ball attack, playing some confident shots, but fell lbw to Gillespie for 27.

Australia never recovered from those three strikes. Grant Elliott's spell from the 11th over yielded the crucial wickets of Marcus North and Adam Voges and thereon it was all downhill. Jeetan Patel, another bowler with international experience, didn't have do to much against the lower order and finished with 4 for 16.

Imran Ali hat-trick gives SNGPL the edge

What they said

  • Imran Ali, on bowling to Virender Sehwag: "I was confused when I first came to bowl but then I thought he (Sehwag) was just a normal player.
  • Imran, on seamer Asad Ali: "Together we won the domestic championships for our team in Pakistan. It is not possible (to perform well) if you don't have a good partner."
  • Virat Kohli, on Imran: "Imran was really very good today. He was getting right movements by hitting the right areas and maintaining the right length. He maintained that throughout."

On a day when 16 wickets tumbled, the honours rested with Imran Ali, Sui Northern Gas Pipeline Limited's (SNGPL) right-arm seamer, who took a hat-trick to sink a star-studded Delhi to 134 under overcast conditions at the Feroz Shah Kotla. Imran finished with 6 for 52 , claiming the wickets of Puneet Bisht, Chetanya Nanda and Pradeep Sangwan to attain his feat, spread over two overs. However, SNGPL were in for a rude shock of their own as their top order too crumbled and ended with a slender advantage of nine runs with four wickets in hand.

The newly-laid surface at the Kotla was expected to assist the seamers on the opening day, but curiously enough, the Delhi captain Virender Sehwag opted to bat. It was a decision he would regret straightaway as he chopped one onto his stumps off Imran in the second over of the morning. His opening partner Aakash Chopra, the leading run-scorer in the previous Ranji season, started off the new campaign inauspiciously, fetching an away swinger off Asad Ali.

Virat Kohli and Mithun Manhas began the rescue act and did do in positive fashion. The pair weren't intimidated by the early swing as they counter-attacked for around 40 minutes. Manhas was the more aggressive of the two, slamming nine fours in his 49. However, the introduction of spin got SNGPL the breakthrough as Manhas offered a return catch to Imran Khalid, the left-arm spinner.

Rain forced the players off the field, and the overcast conditions played into SNGPL's hands as Imran ran through the middle order. Asad started the slide after the interruption, dismissing Rajat Bhatia for 1, before handing over to Imran. Four wickets fell for the addition of no runs as the middle order looked clueless against Imran's swing and accuracy.

Imran struck in the first ball of the 31st over, getting Mayank Tehlan to edge to Adnan Akmal, before breaking through again in the last ball of that over. Bisht was trapped lbw to one that pitched on a length and cut back in sharply and in the following over, Nanda and Sangwan followed suit. Nanda was bowled by one that went straight through and Sangwan was trapped in front off a slower delivery. Imran had incidentally taken a hat-trick in SNGPL's victory in the ABN AMRO Cup limited-overs tournament in April, making it two in a row for his side.

Another interruption - this time due to bad light - curtailed play and the innings was wrapped up soon after the resumption. The Delhi batting card had a sorry look to it, littered with five ducks and only two double-digit scores.

The Delhi seamers couldn't extract the same bounce as their opponents, with the exception of Ashish Nehra. He struck early with the wicket of Yasir Arafat, but was another when Ishant Sharma dropped Umar Akmal early in his innings. He capitalised with a half-century and with Mohammad Hafeez for company, took control with a stand of 49.

However, a steady fall of wickets helped Delhi claw back, much like the opponents did to them earlier. Both Umar and Misbah-ul-Haq were bowled by Nanda in similar fashion, playing back to deliveries that straightened. Adnan was trapped leg before by Nehra just before stumps to leave the game more evenly-poised.

Symonds' fishy behaviour upsets Warne

Shane Warne wants Andrew Symonds to come back as a "better person".

Shane Warne says Andrew Symonds showed a lack of respect to the Australian team in Darwin last month, but he has urged the allrounder not to take the easy option by exiting the international game. Symonds was cut from the one-day series against Bangladesh for going fishing instead of attending a team meeting and was not included in the squad to face India next month.

Warne was upset Symonds, who has been around the team for a decade, did not act like a senior player while the injured pair of Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden were missing from the squad. It was left to Michael Clarke, the acting captain, and team management to make the decision to send Symonds home.

"I would have thought that if Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke were good friends, then Symo would have more respect for Michael Clarke than that," Warne said in the Herald Sun. "I think it's disappointing that he put a young captain like Michael Clarke in that position.

"It was disappointing from Symo, especially with the Australian team not having senior players like Ricky Ponting and Matthew Hayden there. It's not a one-off thing, and I just think Symo has showed a lack of respect."

However, Warne said he did not want Symonds to walk away and focus instead on the Indian Premier League. Symonds trained with Matthew Hayden in Brisbane last week and is waiting to make a decision on whether to be part of Queensland's start to the domestic season next month.

"I would be disappointed if he took the easy option and just threw it away," Warne said. "He could do that and just take his cash from the IPL, but to me that would be the easy option. The hard option and the option that will satisfy him and earn him some respect is to come back a better person and show how important playing for Australia is to him."

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Australia wary after New Delhi terrorist attacks

Australia A tour to go ahead

  • The bombings will not affect Australia A's stay in India. The team face New Zealand A in the tri-series opener in Hyderabad tomorrow, and a top official with the team revealed that the players are raring to play.
  • "As of now the tour is going ahead," Justin Sternes, the team manager, told Cricinfo. "The players are pretty keen to go out there and play. I spoke to Cricket Australia (CA) to let them know what security measures we have in place, and our security advisor has been in touch with the board. So until we hear anything otherwise from CA, the tour will continue."

Cricket Australia will commission an urgent report from its long-term security adviser outlining the safety situation in India following a series of bomb blasts in New Delhi on Saturday that killed more than 20 people. The city is the venue for Australia's third Test, starting on October 29, and the terrorist attacks raise more safety issues after they decided not to tour Pakistan this month for the Champions Trophy, a stance which led to the postponement of the tournament.

Reg Dickason, the team's security manager, will work on the report with the Australian Cricketers' Association and Peter Young, Cricket Australia's public affairs manager, said he expected a decision would be made "in the next week or so". Michael Brown, Cricket Australia's general manager of cricket, will also speak with the Indian board, the Australian High Commission, which is based in New Delhi, and security agencies to gain information on travelling in the country.

"The fundamental principle that always comes first is the safety of the team and the team officials," Young said. "There's a standard process for every tour. Such is the way of the world these days that this process is completed before we go anywhere." A pre-tour assessment has already been done but if the concerns remain Cricket Australia will consider another inspection.

Police investigate the wreckage in the aftermath of one of the bomb blasts in New Delhi.

While the first Test is not until October 9 in Bangalore, the 15-man squad is due to leave next Sunday and play two warm-up matches in Jaipur and Hyderabad. Australia A are currently in Hyderabad, in southern India, preparing for a tri-series with teams from India and New Zealand.

Niranjan Shah, the secretary of the Indian board, said the BCCI was concerned by the explosions. "But I don't think it will have any impact on the coming Australia series," he told the Hindustan Times.

One of Cricket Australia's main reasons for its stance on Pakistan for the Champions Trophy and the earlier Test and one-day series, which were also postponed, was the terrorist threats to westerners. "The specific answer we were given on Pakistan was that it was not safe to go," Young said. "We will take advice on this situation and will make a decision. We expect that to be in the next week or so."

The Australian government's updated travel advice for India is "to exercise a high degree of caution because of the high risk of terrorist activity by militant groups". The latest attacks were reportedly planned by the Indian Mujahideen group, but there have been other deadly explosions since May in Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Bangalore.

India are happy Symonds is missing Test series

Virender Sehwag: "Andrew Symonds can change the course of a match any time".

Virender Sehwag says India are relieved Andrew Symonds will not be involved in next month's Test series due to his explosive batting power. Symonds was not included in the squad after being sent home before the one-day series against Bangladesh, and his absence has been welcomed by Sehwag.

"We are happy he is not coming because he can change the course of a match any time," Sehwag told Reuters. "He bats at No. 5 and can bowl too, so it will be to our advantage.

"He is a very good player and you need such players to lift the competition. It is a loss for cricket, but we're happy."

Symonds was a central figure in the race row that surrounded Harbhajan Singh when the teams met in Australia in January and he was also a victim of crowd abuse during the previous one-day tour of India. Sehwag did not believe there would be lingering tensions because of the history between the sides.

"Whatever happened last time ended there," Sehwag said. "We will try to play tough cricket, not through words but with the ball." The opening match of the four-Test series starts in Bangalore on October 9.

BCB receives retirement letters from six players

Cash bash: Players like Habibul Bashar, the former Bangladesh captain, are likely to receive $200,000 each on signing the three-year ICL contracts.

Six leading Bangladesh players - Habibul Bashar, Aftab Ahmed, Shahriar Nafees, Farhad Reza, Dhiman Ghosh and Mosharraf Hossain - have informed the Bangladesh Cricket Board they intend to retire from international and domestic cricket. The news, announced by the BCB, follows a report in the Bangladesh daily Prothom Alo which said 14 players, including the six mentioned above, were set to join the Indian Cricket League. ICL officials contacted by Cricinfo said nothing had been finalised as yet.

The report said the players will represent the Dhaka Warriors in the ICL. Besides the six, those named include current internationals Alok Kapali and Nazimuddin, four players who represented Bangladesh previously - Mohammad Rafique (now retired), Tapash Baisya, Manjarul Islam and Mohammad Sharif, and Golam Mabud and Mahbubul Karim, currently touring Sri Lanka with the Bangladesh Academy team.

If such an exodus does take place the effect on Bangladesh's cricket could be disastrous; the ICL is not recognised by the ICC and players appearing in its tournaments are liable to be banned from all top-class cricket. In effect, Bangladesh would have to create a national side almost from scratch. The report quotes some of the cricketers as claiming their contracts would have a clause releasing them for national duty.

The BCB said the players hadn't stated a reason for their retirement announcement and expressed "concern at the abrupt decision by so many players to retire from the game". Aftab, Nafees, Reza, Ghosh and Mosharraf have been part of Bangladesh's recent teams while Bashar, Bangladesh's most successful captain, last played in February. The six have been summoned by the board on Tuesday to explain their decision.

The report suggests the main reason for the players risking their international careers is money. Those playing for the national team are expected to pocket around $200,000 each after signing the three-year contracts, several times what they can ever expect to earn while playing for Bangladesh; the academy players will receive $30,000 each.

That kind of money is a rarity in Bangladeshi cricket but is more common in the IPL; however, only one Bangladesh player is currently in the IPL - Abdur Razzak, who signed up with the Bangalore Royal Challengers.

The plan for a Bangladesh team in the ICL had first been floated last year, soon after formation of a similar team in Pakistan called Lahore Badshahs, captained by Inzamam ul-Haq. The Bangladesh captain, Mohammad Ashraful, told Prothom Alo he had been approached by the ICL to form a team but had turned down the offer.

When contacted by Cricinfo, Kiran More, a member of the ICL's executive board, said no formal agreement had been reached. "We are currently in the state of discussion with a few Bangladeshi players but nothing has been finalised yet." He, however, declined to reveal the names of the players with whom the ICL was in touch.

The new ICL season will begin on October 10, featuring 34 matches across four venues in India.

Efforts on to salvage Champions Trophy

Current international calendar for September-October 2009

  • England v Australia ODIs - ends September 20
  • Champions Twenty20 League - September 25-October 10
  • India-Australia ODIs - Seven-match series starting October 13
  • New Zealand in Sri Lanka - Three Tests and five ODIs in August-September

Chances of the Champions Trophy being held in 2009 appear to be brightening with intense discussions on the issue between ICC officials and those of its member boards over the last few days opening up "2-3 options". One of those options will be finalised when the governing body's executive board meets next month, Cricinfo has learnt.

Senior officials who were part of these discussions told Cricinfo they were positive the event would be held though many of the boards may have to adjust their FTP dates to ensure that. One official said a "possible solution" is to have the event in late September if major countries like England, Australia and India agree to be flexible with their dates by "a few days".

When contacted, Niranjan Shah, the secretary of BCCI - which had objected to the event being held in October as it clashes with the India-Australia ODI series - said "minor adjustments" from the Indian side were possible if all members involved and the ICC were flexible as well.

"There is no question that all the boards would like the Champions Trophy to happen," Shah told Cricinfo. "But you can't expect only India to adjust its dates for that. We are willing to look at an adjustment by a few days if everyone else involved is equally flexible."

The Indian board may be open to facilitating a window from around September 20-30 by pushing back the dates of the Champions Twenty20 League and the Australia one-day series by a few days. For that to happen, England and Australia will have to tweak the dates of their one-day series, the New Zealand-Sri Lanka engagement has to be looked at and, crucially, the ICC may have to compress the span of its tournament. But while Shah said that "even the ICC has to be flexible", there are no signs of an update from England, where the line of thought within the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) at the moment seems to be that it is a question for the ICC to answer and that "the ball appears to be with others".

What has helped ease the situation though, officials said, is that ESPN-Star Sports, the official broadcasters of the ICC event, now also hold the commercial rights for the Champions Twenty20 League (for US$ 975 million for 10 years).

According to the governing body, the "primacy of ICC events was restated" during its board meeting in Dubai on September 11 to discuss the dates, but sources said that an interesting sidelight of the discussions was that no board appeared keen to see the Champions Twenty20 League affected to accommodate the Champions Trophy. "No one came up with that suggestion at the board meeting simply because some of them hope to get 10-15 times more money from the league than from the ICC event," the sources said. From the next year, the Champions League will have 12 teams and will involve all the eight countries that will also take part in the Champions Trophy.

While the officials expect the ICC to raise US$ 60-65 million from the Champions Trophy, sources said Australia could get around US$ 15 million from the Champions League every year, and South Africa around US$ 12 million. However, a Champions League official denied these figures saying the organisers were "still to work on distribution, post expenses". India holds a 50% share in the league, and is hoping to raise a further US$ 100-120 million from the Australia one-day series that follows.

"Other boards participating in the Champions League hope to get significant sums too, besides another chunk of money for the domestic participants and the prize money of US$ 6 million," the sources. "Nobody wants to jeopardize these sums."

The ICC, meanwhile, is positive that Haroon Lorgat, its chief executive, will be able to present a solution before its board next month after he visits various member boards in a bid to try and get to them to adjust their bilateral events to accommodate the tournament.

"It's a tough task for Lorgat, but he has emerged as someone who has the ability to build a consensus. He has 2-3 options to work on and if the boards relent on the dates, as some of them promised in Dubai last week, the dates of the tournament will be finalised next month," sources said.

Pakistan remains the host for the Champions Trophy, pending a security review in February-March after the India tour, though the ICC decided to postpone the tournament from September 12-28 this year after at least five participating countries expressed security concerns about the country.

Lucky to get a central contract - Vaughan

Michael Vaughan, the former England captain, has said he was lucky to receive a central contract from the ECB despite not scoring the runs to justify his place. Vaughan was among the 12 players to receive a contract.

"I think it has shown a hell of a lot of faith," Vaughan told the BBC. "I think they [ECB] have just repaid the fact that if I get back into form I think I can still play a huge part in the England cricket team."

Vaughan stepped down as captain last month following the Test defeat at Edgbaston - which handed South Africa the series - and opted out of the final Test at The Oval.

Since May 2007, Vaughan has averaged 36.25 from 18 Tests, with three hundreds. "But over the last year and a half I have had some excellent innings," he said. "I have had some good times with the bat not too long ago.

"I want to play for England - that is my goal over the next 12 months, to make sure I get that one last crack. I know it will be the last crack because you don't get a second crack when you get to the age of 33-34. It will be one last chance to hopefully go out there and try to score some Test hundreds.

"I need some runs. That's not something I am desperate to do, I'm just going to try to let it happen. Sometimes if you are too desperate to do something it goes further and further away from you."

West Indies wait for players' word on tour

West Indies might land in Pakistan only after assessing the security situation in the country.

Donald Peters, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief executive, has said the board will agree to Pakistan's request for a two-Test series in November only after receiving the approval of the players' association.

"The Pakistan Cricket Board made a formal request for West Indies to play two Test matches in November," Peters told PA Sport in London. "We now have to wait for approval from the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) and it has to be confirmed by the WICB before we can confirm the matches will take place."

Peters indicated he was in favour of going ahead with the tour, but said the WIPA might make a decision only after appraising the security situation in the country. "I am currently trying to fast-track that process so that we can get that done as quickly as possible and hopefully agree on the tour," he said. "Whether we can get that approval from the Players' Association, however, will depend on their analysis of the security situation in Pakistan."

West Indies were invited last week for a Test series in Pakistan as the PCB desperately looked for alternatives following the postponement of the Champions Trophy due to security concerns. Pakistan had earlier, albeit unsuccessfully, tried to arrange a tri-series in South Africa and an ODI series against Sri Lanka.