Apr 162014

Watson’s optimism stems from the fact that the team composition and environment is different to the one that suffered a humiliating loss in India

Aussies would be hard to beat at home: Watson (© Getty Images)

Mumbai: Australia were blanked 0-4 by India in their away tour last year, but their all-rounder Shane Watson today said that his side would be hard to beat when the same opponents tour Down Under for a four-match Test series later this year.

Watson’s optimism stems from the fact that the team composition and environment is different to the one that suffered a humiliating loss in India as indicated by the fact that they defeated ICC top-ranked South Africa 2-1 in the latter’s backyard recently.

“We’re playing some very good tough Test cricket. We beat South Africa on their home soil which was a huge achievement for us as well. So under all these conditions, we’re certainly going to be hard to beat,” Watson, the captain of IPL team Rajasthan Royals, told PTI in an e-mail interview.

“It’s certainly a totally different unit to what we were in the Test series we played in India. We had a lot of issues that were going on in and around our team. So it’s certainly a very different environment now that we’ve got,” he explained.

Watson was referring to the suspension of himself and three other players by the team management from the third Test at Mohali for failing to complete homework assignment after the heavy losses suffered by the visitors in the first and second Tests and Chennai and Hyderabad respectively.

Also dropped for the Mohali Test for the same reason were batsman Usman Khawaja and pace bowlers James Pattison and Mitchell Johnson. Watson had a poor series, accumulating only 99 runs in three Tests with a highest score of 28.

He feels India’s plight in Australia in adapting to wicket conditions would be similar to theirs in this country.

“Certainly the conditions that we played here in India during the Test series were very extreme to what we would ever face in Australia.

“So, the Indians would have to come over and adjust to the pace and bounce and wickets, with how we are as a team. We are a much better and tighter unit and playing much smarter cricket, specially Test cricket,” said the all-rounder who has played 52 Tests.

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Apr 072014
The rise and rise of Meg Lanning

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SHE’S 22, captain of Australia, quite possibly the best batter in the world — and if she plays her cards right, Meg Lanning might just earn four per cent of Michael Clarke’s salary.

Lanning confirmed her place atop the female cricketing tree with a sensational ICC World T20 tournament in which she led her country to an unprecedented third-straight title.

The trophy was sealed with victory in the final against England, with Lanning once again starring for Australia with a brutal yet effortless 44 off 30 balls.

That capped a sensational couple of weeks for the right-hander in which she was the top run-scorer in the tournament with 257 runs at a strike rate of 158.64 — easily the best strike rate for any player that scored over 60 runs.

Lanning with Lasith Malinga, captain of Sri Lanka’s victorious men’s team.

Lanning with Lasith Malinga, captain of Sri Lanka’s victorious men’s team. Source: Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, Lanning is now a clear leader in the ICC player rankings for Twenty20 cricket, moving well ahead of English veterans Charlotte Edwards and Sarah Taylor.

She also sits fourth in the batting rankings for one-day internationals. There are no official rankings for women’s Test cricket given the dearth of games in that format — Lanning has played just two Tests, but 41 T20 internationals and 28 ODIs.

The cherry on top for Lanning was the century she hit against Ireland in Bangladesh — the first time an Australian woman reached triple figures in a T20 international. Her 126 off just 65 balls was also the highest ever score in women’s Twenty20 cricket.

Couple that with her ascension to the T20 captaincy and her Test debut last year and it’s fair to say it’s been a quite remarkable 12 months for the Victorian.

Australia coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick (L), Meg Lanning (C), ICC hall of famer Belinda Clark

Australia coach Cathryn Fitzpatrick (L), Meg Lanning (C), ICC hall of famer Belinda Clark (R). Source: Getty Images

And yet, Lanning is likely to receive a salary approximately one-twenty-fifth the size of Australia’s best batsman and the men’s Test and one-day skipper, Michael Clarke.

Clarke was believed to be top of the pile in Cricket Australia’s full contract list that was released last week, commanding a salary approaching $2 million.

Lanning was also likely to be near the top of the tree in the women’s contract list. However, that payment structure sees the top players receiving a salary of $52,000, plus a daily tour payment of $250 per day. That means players such as Lanning will earn about $75,000-$80,000 per year.

That is nothing to sniff at, and is certainly something Cricket Australia should be given credit for rather than criticised.

The new salary structure, announced a little less than a year ago, is a vast improvement on previous payment plans and compares favourably with many other female sports in the country.

Meg Lanning starred for Australia in the World T20 final against England.

Meg Lanning starred for Australia in the World T20 final against England. Source: Getty Images

But the fact remains Lanning and her youthful teammates such as Jess Cameron, Alyssa Healy and of course multi-sport star Ellyse Perry are likely to be the first generation of female cricketers to be able to play the sport they love full-time.

Given how well Lanning has done so far in a part-time capacity, other nations are likely to be quaking in their boots at the prospect of facing the Southern Stars batter without the distraction of work or study.

The player herself believes she still has plenty of improvement in her.

“There’s no doubt I still have a lot to learn, but it’s been a fantastic experience to be exposed to pressure situations and I’m really happy to come out on top.”

Meg Lanning with parents Wayne and Sue after the final in Dhaka.

Meg Lanning with parents Wayne and Sue after the final in Dhaka. Source: Getty Images

Her performance as captain at the first major tournament she’d been at the helm was mightily impressive, rotating her bowlers with creativity and showing her bold side by electing to send England in to bat in the final.

“It’s something I’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” Lanning said of the captaincy.

“I’ve had to step up pretty quickly; it happened a lot quicker than I thought.”

That’s a phrase Lanning has become accustomed to saying. After all, this is the same player that made her international debut at just 18, and now finds herself at the top of the women’s game at the tender age of 22.

That’s right, 22 — a year younger than Clarke was when he made his Test debut.

Apr 012014
Spider-Man tries his hand at cricket

Andrew Garfield bowls to Spiderman co-star Jamie Foxx, while celebrity host Samir Kochhar

Andrew Garfield bowls to Spiderman co-star Jamie Foxx, while celebrity host Samir Kochhar plays wicketkeeper. Source: Christopher Polk / Getty Images

THE argument over who would win a fight between Batman, Superman and Spiderman might never be settled, but at least we now know which superhero would win a game of cricket.

Spiderman stars Andrew Garfield and Jamie Foxx tried their hand at cricket during a promotional tour stop in Singapore.

Foxx could probably get a gig in England’s cricket team.

Foxx could probably get a gig in England’s cricket team. Source: Getty Images

They got tips from Bollywood actor Sameer Kochhar, who also hosts a TV show on the Indian Premier League.

Foxx in particular took a real liking to the sport, showing off the skills he picked up to his 3.68 million Twitter followers.

That prompted a swift reply from the world’s No.1 batsman and possibly South Africa’s next captain, AB de Villiers, who called for Foxx to try out a net session with fast bowling teammates Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel.

And we all know how well it went last time someone who knew nothing about cricket tried facing up to a professional fast bowler.

Piers Morgan took on Brett Lee and barely survived to tell the tale.

Piers Morgan took on Brett Lee and barely survived to tell the tale. Source: Getty Images

Mar 202014
Amjad Khan released by Sussex
Amjad Khan took the wicket of Hamish Marshall, Sussex v Gloucestershire, Friends Life T20, Hove, July, 24, 2012

Amjad Khan’s final year at Sussex was severely hampered by injury © Getty Images

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Pace bowler Amjad Khan has been released by Sussex as part of cost-cutting measures by the club after his 2013 season, his final year of a three-year contract, was severely disrupted by injury.

Khan, 33, who was capped once by England at Test level, against West Indies in Trinidad in 2009, joined Sussex in 2010 after starting his career with Kent. He took 61 wickets at 29.88 for Sussex, taking his first-class tally to 347 wickets 31.62.

He suffered a broken wrist last season which required surgery and he was limited to a handful of Second XI appearances.

“My departure is an amicable one and I look forward to seeing my friends and former colleagues be successful in the future,” he said. “I’d like to thank all the players and the staff at Sussex, who have helped make the last three years so enjoyable.”

Mark Robinson, the Sussex cricket manager, said, “Amjad will be sorely missed by everyone at the club. He’s been a matchwinner for us in all formats and set great examples to our younger bowlers. He has been unlucky with his wrist injury sustained in the final year of his contract and we wish him all the best for the future.”

Mar 152014
Not used to throwing my hat anywhere, says Ganguly on coaching Team India

With Dravid declining Gavaskar’s suggestion of being India’s coach, Ganguly also ruled out the possibility of him trying for the job in the near future

Not used to throwing my hat anywhere, says Ganguly on coaching Team India (© Getty Images)

Getty Images

Kolkata: Ex-India captain Sourav Ganguly asserted Saturday that the expertise of former greats can be utilised for developing the current cricket team even as he refused to “throw in his hat for the job”.

“When you have players like Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar and Anil Kumble, their services can always be sought. But it depends upon how much time they can devote. It’s an individual decision for every cricketer what he wants do in life. I think it should be left to them,” Ganguly said while reacting to Sunil Gavaskar’s call that Dravid should replace current India coach Duncan Fletcher.

With Dravid declining Gavaskar’s suggestions citing time constraints, Ganguly, when asked if he will try for the job, replied: “I’m not used to throwing my hat anywhere. Dravid has just retired from international cricket and it would be difficult for him to be on the road for 11 months.”

Feb 272014
Dark shadow of Allen Stanford grips Antigua

The long building to one side is piled high with chairs and tables which are falling apart. Boxes are stuffed with paraphernalia from the past – menus, posters, painting sets. Around the perimeter of this place and on the walls of this structure there remains other chilling evidence of what it once was. The fading plastic banners forming the fence are still intact after more than five years.

They trumpet one of the most inglorious episodes in English cricket history. “Twenty20 for 20,” they say. This place, as the nearby marble plinth still proclaims, is the Stanford Cricket Ground, a key symbol of the duplicitous life and nefarious times of Allen Stanford, once Sir Allen Stanford, entrepreneur and philanthropist, and now Prisoner Stanford, a common fraudster serving 110 years in a US federal jail.

To call him a common fraudster may be disrespectful to the enormity of his crime. Stanford swindled a total of $7.2 billion out of investors, largely by selling bogus certificates of credit through his International Bank, based in Antigua.

For reasons never fully explained, like much else in his story, this moustachioed Texan charmer fell in love with cricket. First, he launched a domestic Twenty20 series at his state-of-the-art ground, which is now this patch of scrubland lacking only tumbleweed drifting across it to give the full measure of its sorrowful state.

Stanford with England in Antigua in 2008Stanford with England in Antigua in 2008 (Getty Images) Then he negotiated a deal with the England and Wales Cricket Board, the main plank of which was an annual Twenty20 match to be played for $20million for the winning side. The first, and as it turned out the last of these matches, was played in November 2008. A little more than three months later, when England were playing West Indies in a Test match on the island Stanford was arrested in the US. There was a run on the bank. Eventually he was convicted and sentenced.

The ground ,which is as good a monument as any to his hubris and to the unfortunate ECB contract, never staged another match. It has been left to decay, though security staff are occupying the pavilion these days and the Sticky Wicket restaurant and bar which it also housed.

Stanford’s effect on English cricket was a fleeting, if huge embarrassment. Why the England cricket team was effectively sold to play in an exhibition match that had no proper sporting context was not properly resolved. They lost abjectly by the way after being bowled out for 99 to climax a surreal week in the sun.Stanford’s effect on Antigua was dramatic. His arrest and subsequent conviction brought the country to its knees. Its repercussions are still being felt. They may never completely be erased.

“There has been a tremendous impact as a result of the demise of Allen Stanford,” said Harold Lovell, the Antiguan Minister of Finance. “The estimated impact on the economy is approximately 434 million Eastern Caribbean dollars. That is quite a significant lump. The total GDP is just under three billion EC dollars so it was taking out more than 10 per cent of GDP. Overnight we lost more than 10 per cent of our GDP.”

Stanford also employed 2,500 Antiguans directly and another 1,500 indirectly. He paid US-style wages. All those jobs, more than 10 per cent of the small country’s workforce in which he was easily the biggest private sector employer, were lost overnight.

“It was staggering because it was compounded by the crash of British American Insurance and it took place in the eye of the worst economic crisis that we have ever experienced,” said Lovell. “Antigua is very tourism dependent and the US and the UK are our two major sources of markets and they were very badly hit. The Stanford debacle unfolded in extremely difficult circumstances. The result was that we saw our revenues plunge by almost 25 per cent.”

Stanford in court in Houston in 2009Stanford in court in Houston in 2009 (Getty Images)
Antigua was made a pariah by the international financial community and it was forced to adopt a series of stringent measures. Lovell, who was made finance minister in Baldwin Spencer’s second government in March 2009, can still barely credit what happened. In Antigua’s defence he pointed out that Stanford fooled plenty of others, including the ECB and for long enough the US financial regulators.

Perversely, the fraudster is still seen as a force for good in Caribbean cricket. His Twenty20 tournament was a vibrant competition which rewarded its participants well, albeit, as it was to transpire, with stolen money.

“He injected huge sums of money into West Indies cricket and he was able to retain the services of some of the best that West Indies has had to offer,” said Lovell.

“That was a good thing because they were able to train and coach cricketers all over the Caribbean. He pumped a lot of money into sports generally and charitable causes so the beneficiaries of those charitable causes and donations would be very happy and grateful.

“But looking at the larger picture we have paid a huge price. We’ve put the worst behind us but it’s an ongoing issue because reputations are not restored by some formal enactment, whether it be removal from a list, and a bad reputation sometimes lingers.”

The Stanford Cricket Ground – and opposite it the Stanford Trust Company – still lingers too. The flashy electronic scoreboards are lifeless, the balcony where he cavorted shamelessly with England players’ wives looks lonely. But there are still pictures of great West Indies players lining the walls, the unsold painting sets in the colours of the Stanford Superstars and England remain there in a box on the Sticky Wicket floor. Seeing it this week, it seems more bizarre than ever that it ever existed.

The Stanford Cricket GroundThe Stanford Cricket Ground (Getty Images)
‘Disrespectful’ Warner fined for ball claim

David Warner, the Australia batsman, has been fined 15 per cent of his match fee for “inappropriate” comments suggesting South Africa’s wicketkeeper A B de Villiers tampered with the ball in the second Test in Port Elizabeth.

Warner said that De Villiers regularly wiped the ball with his glove in Australia’s second innings. Australia were bowled out for 216 to lose by 231 runs, with fast bowler Dale Steyn getting the ball to reverse swing extensively for his four wickets.

Match referee Roshan Mahanama said it was “disrespectful” for Warner to “publicly denigrate an opponent”.

Feb 182014
Warner set to take all-rounder role

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SHANE Watson is still restricted by a calf injury and appears unlikely to feature in the second Test.



And his absence could mean a bigger role for David Warner with the ball.

Australia trained at St George’s Park on Tuesday (EDT), one of two sessions the squad has at the Port Elizabeth venue before the potentially series-deciding Test starts on Thursday.

Watson batted in the nets, but instead of taking part in the main fielding session he completed some short shuttle runs under the watchful eye of team doctor Peter Brukner.

David Warner could be busy with both bat and ball in Port Elizabeth.

David Warner could be busy with both bat and ball in Port Elizabeth. Source: Getty Images

“We don’t even know much about it. He’s batting well, moving well when he’s batting, but I don’t know when his next bowl is,” paceman Peter Siddle said.

“We’ll just have to wait and see.”

When news broke of Watson’s calf issue 10 days ago, team physio Alex Kontouris suggested the plan was for the all-rounder to “be able to train unrestricted by two or three days’ out (from a Test)”.

As such, it is unlikely national selectors will have to make a tough decision on how to fit Watson in their XI until at least March 1, when the third Test starts in Cape Town.

Shane Watson looks set to be on the sidelines again.

Shane Watson looks set to be on the sidelines again. Source: Getty Images

In the absence of Watson, Michael Clarke is likely to again throw the ball to part-time medium pacer David Warner.

Warner, who is now charging in off his long run-up instead of sending down leg-breaks at training, finished with figures of 0-3 from two overs in the first Test.

“It’s been good fun working with him, he’s actually a pretty good student,” Siddle said of the dynamic Australia opener.

“He’s been in the nets working on his little off-cutters and leg-cutters.

“He listens. He likes to joke around, but he’s switched on and he likes to work hard at anything he tries.

“They’re coming out alright.

“We’ll be looking forward to him taking that first wicket with medium pace – he’ll live off that for a very long time.”

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