LONDON: England stars such as Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler have been told their international commitments will have to take precedence in the event of a fresh fixture clash with a delayed finish to this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL).
The ill-fated 2021 edition of the Twenty20 event was suspended last week due to the devastating coronavirus outbreak in India.
There is speculation the IPL may resume midway through September, which could lead to a clash with England white-ball tours of Pakistan and Bangladesh that are meant to take place between the end of the home season and a T20 World Cup in India.
Halting he IPL has left England with a potentially larger player pool than they envisaged for next month’s two-Test series at home to New Zealand.
Previously, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had been prepared to let players miss those matches in order to honour previously agreed IPL deals.
A position that angered some England fans was justified by the ECB on the grounds that the New Zealand series had been a late addition to an already crowded fixture list.
But Ashley Giles, England managing director, has made it clear he expects national service to be the priority from now on in a year culminating with Joe Root’s men heading to Australia in a bid to regain the Ashes.
“We’ve got a full future tours programme and if those tours are going ahead I’d expect them [IPL players] to be there,” Giles said late on Monday. “The New Zealand scenario was very different.”
Giles added: “But we’ve got a lot of important high profile cricket including a T20 World Cup and Ashes, so we’re planning on the involvement of England players in England matches.”
Following the postponement of the IPL, England internationals — Buttler, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali — all currently serving their 10-day isolation period in government-approved hotels — could now be available for selection.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021
TOKYO: The Tokyo Olympic torch relay is being pulled off the streets in Hiroshima prefecture as coronavirus (Covid-19) cases rise in Japan barely 10 weeks before the opening ceremony.
Hiroshima Governor Hidehiko Yuzaki said that a ceremony next week without the relay is likely to still take place. This is at least the sixth change to the relay from rerouting to cancellation in the last several weeks.
Organisers warned before the relay began that changes and delays were expected in the face of the pandemic.
“It is certain there will be no relay on public streets since we are all trying to reduce going out, and how to do the ceremony without the relay on the streets is still being discussed with the organisers,” Yuzaki said on Tuesday.
The relay began on March 25 in northeastern Japan and is to end on July 23 at the opening ceremony of the Olympics. Tokyo and other areas are under a state of emergency until May 31.
Japan has attributed about 11,000 deaths to Covid-19, but new cases of the virus and its variants are now increasing in Tokyo and the second largest metropolitan area of Osaka.
The relay is heavily sponsored by Toyota and Coca-Cola and has proceeded despite some calls a year ago to cancel it to save money. It involves 10,000 runners crisscrossing Japan with organizers trying to keep crowds off the streets and urging them to maintain social distancing.
International Olympic President Thomas Bach was forced this week to call off a trip to Hiroshima to greet the torch, an embarrassing move with the IOC and local organisers saying the Olympics will be safe and secure” for fans and athletes.
Yuzaki said the cases were rising at such a rapid pace that it could become an emergency situation unless people curbed their activities.
On Monday, Japan’s Kyodo news agency reported that Hyogo and Okayama prefectures will also take the torch relay off public streets.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021
LONDON: Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) said late on Monday it would discuss research that suggests cricket bats made from bamboo could provide a cheaper alternative to the traditional willow.
The Cambridge University study said its prototype bamboo bat was cheaper to produce, more sustainable and stronger than willow blades and could grow the game worldwide.
The article, published in the Journal of Sports Engineering and Technology on Sunday, also found the laminated bamboo bat possessed a larger sweet spot, making it ‘a batsman’s dream’.
However, the London-based MCC — the conservative custodian of cricket’s laws — must approve any change to the material used to make bats from wood, with bamboo a type of grass.
Even if the rules were altered to allow bamboo to be classed as a wood, the laws would still need to be altered as they currently ban lamination of the blade, except in junior bats.
Willow trees take 15 years to mature enough to produce cricket bats, whereas bamboo only requires five to six years and abounds in China, South America and Southeast Asia as well as cricket-obsessed India.
Bamboo bats could increase participation in lower-income countries thanks to lower production costs and make cricket much more sustainable without compromising quality, the study claimed.
MCC responded sympathetically to that point, saying in a statement that ‘sustainability is a relevant topic’, with the study providing a ‘pertinent angle for further research’.
MCC added the topic of bamboo bats would be discussed at its next laws sub-committee meeting.
The MCC has ensured bats are not too powerful, taking steps in 2008 and 2017 to limit the materials and size of the bats.
“Sustainability is a relevant topic for MCC and cricket, and this angle of willow alternatives should also be considered,” the MCC said.
Earlier, study co-author Ben Tinkler-Davies said: “Whether you’re playing or spectating, you wouldn’t notice much of a difference. Because laminated bamboo is so strong, we’re very confident we can make a bamboo bat light enough, even for today’s fast-scoring, short forms of the game.”
The study found that bamboo is 22 percent stiffer than willow and that its sweet spot performed 19 percent better.
The prototype bat’s sweet spot — the point where the ball is hit most effectively — is larger than a traditional bat’s and located closer to the toe.
That allows it to transfer more energy to the ball, the researchers said.
Bamboo bats would be ‘a batsman’s dream’, according to co-author Darshil Shah, who played cricket for Thailand at youth level.
“The sweet spot on a bamboo bat makes it much easier to hit a four off a yorker for starters, but it’s exciting for all kinds of strokes,” he added.
Bamboo’s higher density means that the bat’s shape would have to be redesigned to make a lighter product before batsmen can blast bowlers with their new weapon.
Cricketers have long experimented with different types of bat, from the length of the handle to thickness of the blade and weight, to try to gain a competitive edge.
In 1979, Australia’s Dennis Lillee caused controversy by using an aluminum bat — which was then banned — during a Test match at the WACA Ground in Perth
Cricket’s current laws — brought in after the Lillee incident — state bats must be made of wood.
Shah, however, said: “Playing with a bamboo bat would be within the spirit of the game because it’s a plant-based material. Cane, a type of grass, is already used in the handle. Tradition is important but think about how much cricket bats, pads, gloves and helmets have already evolved.
“If we can go back to having thinner blades but made from bamboo, while improving performance, outreach and sustainability, then why not?”
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021
KARACHI: Head coach Misbah-ul-Haq paid glowing tribute to his charges following Pakistan’s victorious tour of southern Africa, while claiming that the critics are boiling their own blood by being critical of his stature.
Addressing the tour-ending virtual media conference in Harare on eve of the Pakistan’s departure for Lahore on Tuesday, the 46-year-old Misbah admitted winning six series on the trot across all formats — having defeated South Africa at home in Test and Twenty20 series in January/February — were important steps as the team prepares for tougher challenges in the Twenty20 World Cup year.
“My philosophy always has been to make Pakistan among the top sides in world cricket. I think after the tours of South Africa [winning ODI series 2-1 and T20 series 3-1] and Zimbabwe (winning T20 rubber 2-1 before trouncing hosts by innings in both Tests] provided glimpses that we are heading in the right direction because winning obviously gives team confidence for the bigger challenges in the months ahead,” Misbah told reporters. “As a unit we can only work hard. On the way the results are not in our hands but as a coach, I am mighty proud of what we have achieved in recent weeks.
“Winning all [four] series in South Africa and Zimbabwe have given team to aim for the top. At the same time, whatever the critics say about me have not thought about my future and will not start doing that now either. The people who have been criticising me are simply boiling their own blood because I don’t care about them.”
Pakistan’s most successful Test captain remarked the overall results in alien conditions of South Africa and Zimbabwe were extremely encouraging.
“It is never easy playing South Africa in South Africa and to go there and win both One-day International and T20 series gave us great satisfaction with a young side. And despite winning, we have identified certain grey areas which need to be rectified if we aspire to take on top sides in white-ball cricket,” Misbah emphasized. “It was important for Pakistan to win in tough conditions we encountered in both these countries [South Africa and Zimbabwe]. Our middle-order batting in white-ball cricket was glaringly exposed. We will now go back to the drawing board and do a rethink over some of the selections on that front.
“Overall speaking, there is nothing more satisfying to play consistently good cricket throughout the period during a time when the entire world is battling with the Covid-19 pandemic. It is obvious to all that these are not normal times because of the restrictions of bio-secure bubble. Life in the bubble is a harrowing experience because in normal situation you are able to mingle with people day in and day out without worrying about your life in general.
“Here it was a sort of chastening experience since we have been touring from last year [starting with the England tour]. Hats off to everyone for sticking together through difficult times, be they the players or the backroom staff because the pressure of international cricket itself is very, very tough to handle in an abnormal environment.
“In fact, the pandemic gave us time to know each other more than we could have imagined because we have been working together while confined to virtually one spot. Over past four weeks, we have been spending time together meeting everyone at Sehri and Iftar times. The players deserve more of the credit because they were giving their best out there on the field. The commitment of everyone involved had been exemplary because cricket is our passion and to ensure we keep that passion alive we have to perform as one team.”
Commenting on Zimbabwe Test series the head coach singled out Hasan Ali as a rising star, while lauding the batting of Abid Ali, Azhar Ali and Fawad Alam. “I thought Hasan Ali has been magnificent since his comeback during the home series against South Africa. He performed extraordinarily throughout these months. We would like him to continue this momentum when Pakistan head to England for the white-ball series in July,” Misbah said. “And then the openers did a decent job during the first Test and Abid carrying on the excellent form in the next Test with a double century [unbeaten 215]. Fawad and Azhar also made centuries. With the ball, Nauman Ali did consistently well but the one area which pleased me most was the catching and overall fielding. In New Zealand, we were extremely poor but in Zimbabwe the catching was outstanding and we performed better in the field as well.”
Misbah also backed induction of Tabish Khan into the Test side despite the pacer being 36-year-old on his international debut. “We gave him a chance without compromising on team’s strengths without putting [all-rounder] Faheem Ashraf’s place in jeopardy. Faheem had been performing very well in recent series.
“Actually I have no issues with guys coming into international cricket whatever their ages are. I can give you my example. When the [Pakistan] captaincy was given to me, I was already past 36 and yet I played for seven years from then on. Age doesn’t mean much from my point of view because you can never be sure of what the players are capable of. How can one be sure that a 20-year-old cricketer would have a long [international] career or someone in the age bracket of 35-37 will fizzle out quickly?
“Therefore, as long as one is performing at the top of his game, he deserves recognition at the top level,” Misbah stressed.
Misbah also praised Babar Azam’s captaincy which he termed as a learning curve for Pakistan’s batting ace. “You gain more experience and go through different situations as captain and your tactical acumen improve accordingly. You keep learning about these strategies as you play more matches and I think the same applies to Babar.”
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021
KARACHI: Renowned sports patrons Omar Saeed and Dr Farhan Essa were elected as patron and president of Karachi Softball Association, respectively in the recently held elections for the next four-year term.
All the other office-bearers including Murad Hussain (senior vice-president), Ali Ratada and Mohammad Abbas Merchant, (vice-presidents), Faraz Aijaz (general secretary), Shiraz Asif (joint secretary), Usama bin Shujah (secretary finance), Abdul Subhan (Associate secretary), Shahzad Ahmed (chairman umpiring), Shahid Aftab (chairman coaching) and Kamran Munir (chairman technical committee) have been elected unopposed.
The announcement of the elected body was made by Chief Election Commissioner and Sectetary General of Sindh Softball Association Mohammad Zeeshan Merchant in a meeting of the general body pertaining to elections held at the Union Club.
Secretary Sindh Olympic (SOA) Ahmed Ali Rajput and President Sindh Softball Association Syed Waseem Hashmi were also present on the occasion.
The meeting also approved previous minutes and calendar for the next year’s events.
Omar Saeed, the newly-elected KSA patron, said that Karachi is the nursery of softball and the strengthening of infrastructure of softball here and the promotion of the game at schools, colleges and district level will help us groom star players for the future.
“Our youth’s softball skills and techniques can be further enhanced with grooming efforts and they can raise Pakistan’s flag by being part of the national team in future international events,” said Omar.
KSA president Dr Farhan Essa said that talented players from Karachi would be sent abroad for training and in case of improvement in the situation of covid, after Eid-ul-Fitr, Essa Lab will organise the Inter-school Softball Championship.
He further said that qualified coaches will be given monthly stipend so that they are able to fulfill their responsibilities with hardwork and complete integrity.
Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2021