Category: _author:Baidurjo Bhose

CoA-approved BCCI Domestic Schedule Gets Red F…

New Delhi: The formatting of the 2018-19 domestic season of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has not gone down well with certain quarters in the board. The plan, chalked out by GM Cricket Operations Saba Karim and approved by the Supreme Court appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) has been shown the red flag by both the technical committee as well as the tours and fixtures committee.

The problem as far as technical committee chief Sourav Ganguly is concerned is in the structuring of the coveted Ranji Trophy that shall see a total of 153 games to be played in the league stages and seven games in the knock-out stages.

While Ganguly is happy with the new teams coming in, he has made it clear that he wasn’t consulted before releasing the schedule and that there were some other decisions taken in the technical committee meeting. He also clarified that he doesn’t see the national selectors giving too much importance to the plate division performances.

Throwing further light on the issue, treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry told CricketNext that the idea of promotions and relegations as laid out in the current model wasn’t how it was discussed in the technical committee meet in Kolkata.

“I have always advocated for the North East states to field their full teams when they participate, this is obviously subject to availability of facilities, logistics etc. However, in the context of these fixtures that you are asking me, all I will say at this stage is that these fixtures do not reflect the decisions taken in the technical committee chaired by Sourav Ganguly and personally, I am somewhat skeptical of the effect that this format would have, especially from the point of view of promotions and relegations in this form,” he said.

With 9 new teams being introduced into the system — Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim and Uttarakhand — through the plate division, 5 teams from Group A and B, 2 teams from Group C and 1 team from plate will qualify for the quarter-finals.

The top team that qualifies from the plate will be promoted to Group C in the next season. Top two teams qualifying from Group C for the quarters will be elevated to Group A or B. The bottom two teams from Group A and B will be relegated to Group C. Bottom team from Group C will be relegated to plate for the next season.

Speaking to CricketNext, a member of the tours and fixtures committee also showed surprise in the roadmap that has been chalked out for this season and approved by the CoA.

“This came as a surprise because you have to realise that if you don’t give the plate teams enough time to get ready for the level of competition that is witnessed in the Ranji Trophy and just draft the top team into the knockout stage, you might see their confidence taking a beating because the big boys of the league have been playing for years.

“Also, if the suggestions of the committees don’t mean anything, then why are you wasting time and energy of a legend like Ganguly? You have to understand that overlooking the point of the former India skipper is disrespecting not just the man, but also the committee which has other players with valuable cricketing knowledge,” he said.

BCCI Schedules More Than 2000 Matches For 2018…

New Delhi: The 2018-19 domestic season of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) will see a total of 2017 matches being played and it kicks off with the senior women’s T20 challenger trophy from August 13. The senior men’s competition starts with the Duleep Trophy which will be played from August 17 till September 8.

It will be followed by the Vijay Hazare Trophy (September 19 to October 10) in which there will be a total of 160 games. After that comes the Deodhar Trophy (4 one-day games from October 23 to 27).

Then starts the coveted Ranji Trophy from November 1 and will finish only on February 6 with a total of 153 games to be played in the league stages and seven games in the knock-out stages. The action then moves to Irani Trophy and the domestic T20 league — Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy. The T20 tournament will see another 140 games being played with the senior men’s season finally ending on March 14.

Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim and Uttarakhand are the 9 new teams added in the plate group of the Ranji Trophy this season. That makes it 37 teams competing in the tournament this year. They will also be a part of the one-day and domestic T20 leagues.

The Ranji Trophy has been structured with 9 teams in Group A and B, 10 teams in Group C and 9 teams in the plate division. 5 teams from Group A and B, 2 teams from Group C and 1 team from plate will qualify for the quarter-finals. The top team that qualifies from the plate will be promoted to Group C in the next season. Top two teams qualifying from Group C for the quarters will be elevated to Group A or B. The bottom two teams from Group A and B will be relegated to Group C. Bottom team from Group C will be relegated to plate for the next season.

In the domestic T20 tournament, there will be 5 groups with Group A and B having 8 teams and the remaining 3 having 7 teams. The top 2 teams from each group will qualify for the Super League and after that the top teams from there will play the final.

Certain sections in the BCCI though feel that the scheduling lacks application and needs to be looked into further.

Domestic Umpire Cries Foul, Says Exam Papers R…

New Delhi: After question marks were raised on the process of selecting umpires for domestic duty in India, an umpire has now written to the Committee of Administrators (CoA) and the BCCI office-bearers claiming that the exams conducted in June 2018 were rigged. He went on to allege that this had happened in 2017 as well and claimed to have complete information on the “racket”.

The mail, in possession with CricketNext, reads: “Sir, umpiring exam questions and answers are known to candidates beforehand. Happened for June 2018 exam. Had happened in 2017 exam. Please give appointment. I can tell names of people involved and people benefiting or have criminal investigation done by police or CBI. I will be first to tell names of people involved. Those who are around people setting the paper.

“Candidates also know answers beforehand. For them, the preparation before exam is by-hearting answers of 30 to 35 questions which will come in the exam. Lots of malicious activities going on. Please step in soon else this racket will destroy umpiring.”

While the CoA is yet to take heed, a member of the umpires’ sub-committee said that this was a result of keeping the committee away from the whole process.

“This is a direct fall out of keeping the umpires’ sub-committee out of the loop. The committee used to take calls on all matters pertaining to umpiring. The structure was such that the professionals taking these decisions were unable to influence the committee and the things were fair and equitable. Right now, those running the show are not even aware of the mechanics, the coteries etc that the umpires’ sub-committee would earlier deal with,” he told CricketNext.

He went on to explain of how there were instances in the past when there were efforts made to rig reports, but the committee wouldn’t let such things happen.

“There were instances of a professional earlier calling up match referees to give positive reports for certain umpires and the committee had insulated all those things. Now the circumstances are once again conducive to such things taking place. It is a sad state of affairs and these allegations must be investigated fairly before any umpire is inducted into the system. In fact, exams must be held afresh after the process is scrutinised by the umpires committee,” he said.

Another official said that under the supervision of the late MV Sridhar and former general manager Ratnakar Shetty, there was little chance of such activities taking place. However, he alleges, standards have dropped under the CoA’s watch and in some cases, reviews are being conducted by umpires who are over 70 years of age, when ironically members who are above 70 are debarred from attending board meetings.

Confusion Within BCCI Administration as Domest…

New Delhi: The Indian domestic season is set to start on August 13 and there is still no official announcement on the same. The Supreme Court-appointed Committee of Administrators (CoA) have written to BCCI CEO Rahul Johri to send out a release on the same at the earliest. With less than a month to go for the start of the 2018-19 season, this is one of the many problems facing the board.

With BCCI GM (Cricket Operations) Saba Karim not in the country, things have become all the more difficult as there is a clear case of confusion and lack of clarity as far as logistical and other issues are concerned. The board has decided to introduce the likes of Bihar and teams from the North East into the Ranji Trophy, but then, there is complete confusion on how to go about scheduling their matches as there aren’t too many options available to host the age-group and the senior team games in the North East.

Speaking to CricketNext, a BCCI official said: “The basic problem is that these are decisions that even as per the Lodha reforms are to be taken by the board members. But they have been totally ignored in these decisions and the final decision is being attempted to be taken by a committee with no skin in the game. These issues need to be looked into at the earliest.”

As per the Lodha recommendations, extension of the game to the remote areas was a priority and that is how the states from North East where introduced in this year’s Ranji Trophy as participants in the plate division.

Another issue is the CoA’s wish to include teams from Uttarakhand and Puducherry without checking into the technical and logistical problems. Commenting on the practical problems that need to be addressed, an official said: “There is no member who is a representative in case of Uttarakhand. A committee has been formed by the CoA which, it is reported, includes one person from one of the three associations vying for affiliation. In case of Puducherry, CoA has decided on someone to represent the association. But the general body is yet to take a call which can be taken only in an AGM.

“People in the board are sceptical whether the correct decision has been taken with regards to Puducherry or whether it was a decision taken because the association is being led by someone who is against certain board officials. The issue of equity and fairness needs to be addressed.”

With nine more teams coming into the Ranji structure, the number of matches to be played in the coveted domestic tournament alone will increase by almost 30-40 games. But board officials are concerned that the need for more manpower hasn’t been considered by the CoA.

“While the shortage of grounds is something that is one of the biggest concerns, what about the backend staff required to get games organised? When new teams come in, it won’t be just the senior teams. You will have the age group teams as well. This apart, are there enough match officials? Who is looking into these things? Where is the clarity? The season starts with the Duleep Trophy in less than 30 days,” he explained.

Indian Selectors to Pick Squad for First Three…

New Delhi: With a couple of injury issues to deal with, the national selectors are expected to name the squad only for the first three Tests of the five-match series when they meet in Leeds for the selection committee meeting. While Wriddhiman Saha is set to miss the bus, it will be interesting to see if the selectors pick Jasprit Bumrah in the initial squad or wait to draft him in later.

Speaking to CricketNext, sources in the know or developments said that there was no point in naming a squad for all the five Tests since there were a few players who have injury issues, but are recovering well.

“See, this is not a three-game series. In such a case, you ideally pick the squad and then you proceed. But in a long five-match series, you don’t wish to pick the squad at one go. Some of the players who might be sore or have an injury and are progressing well will come into the picture as and when they are fit. Like Bumrah is certain to need time to be fit till the second Test,” he explained.

Asked if some surprises were planned, as suggested by skipper Virat Kohli after the win in the opening ODI, he said: “Some of the young names are surely to be discussed, but it is too early to say who will get the nod and who will not. But performances are bound to be taken into account when the wise men sit down.”

Dinesh Karthik though looks set to replace the injured Wriddhiman Saha in the playing XI when Team India takes the field against England in the first Test of the five-match series on August 1. Saha had injured his thumb during the IPL and while it was initially believed that he would be fit in four to five weeks, the recovery hasn’t gone as per plan and the wicket-keeper was seen sporting a soft plaster even last week.

Saha lost the battle to get fit in time for either the four-day ‘unofficial’ Test against England Lions from Monday at Worcester or the four-day warm-up match against Essex, which starts on July 25 in Chelmsford. And the team management has been very vocal about players acclimatising to conditions before taking the field for the senior team.

Another interesting selection dilemma will be whether to go ahead and bring back fit-again pacer Mohammed Shami, especially with Bumrah set to miss the first Test and Bhuvaneshwar Kumar suffering from a bad back. Shami passed the Yo-Yo test a couple of weeks back after failing to clear it before the Afghanistan Test.

Injury Plagued Wriddhiman Saha Finds Himself a…

New Delhi: An old cliché goes that injuries are a part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life. But what does one do when injuries become an everyday affair? Not many would know this better than India’s first choice Test wicket-keeper Wriddhiman Saha. Even as the national selectors gear up to pick the India squad for the upcoming 5-match Test series against England, Saha is almost certain to miss the flight due to a thumb injury he sustained during the Indian Premier League back in May.

Incidentally, injuries and Saha have had a long history. It was a freak injury to Rohit Sharma while warming up ahead of the Test against South Africa in February 2010 that saw Saha make his debut. But since then, it has been all about ill-timed injuries and missed opportunities for a player who was the heir-in-waiting for the wicket-keeper’s role in the Test team ever since breaking into the scene through age-group cricket in Bengal.

With MS Dhoni still playing Test cricket, Saha had to wait for his opportunities. But it finally came in Australia in 2014 when Dhoni announced his Test retirement after the third match of the series in Melbourne. However, four years down the line, Saha has played 29 of the 36 Test matches that the team has played since Dhoni’s retirement — missing the other 7 due to injury — and is yet to adapt to the aggressive style of approach that skipper Virat Kohli likes in the middle.

While Saha has had a consistent run, he has somehow never felt settled in India’s scheme of things. While the likes of Dinesh Karthik and Parthiv Patel would assiduously work for hours on their batting skills to try and break into the team as a pure batsman, this thought either eluded Saha or he didn’t think he was good enough to be the sixth batsman in the team. The second view though would be unfair considering he averages a decent 30.63 in 32 Tests with three hundreds. But then, Saha isn’t known for the flamboyance that a Kohli revels in.

Speaking to CricketNext just before the tour of South Africa, considered one of the toughest tours in recent times, Saha had openly spoken about the confidence both Kohli and chief coach Ravi Shastri had shown in him. In fact, even chief selector MSK Prasad spoke about how Saha was a better keeper than Patel when the latter replaced him in the home series against England and scored runs to stake a claim in the playing XI.

But then, as has been the case with Saha throughout his start-stop career, an injury was waiting to happen. With the Indian team looking to fight fire with fire in the Rainbow Nation, after an evenly contested opening Test in Cape Town, Saha managed to sustain an upper left hamstring tendon injury before the second Test in Centurion. And that was the end of the South Africa tour for the wicket-keeper.

With no Tests lined-up after the South Africa series, Saha was expected to use the IPL to get fit for the one-off Test against Afghanistan and the England series that would follow. But Saha managed to almost buy an injury as he hurt his thumb in the IPL. The end result was a soft plaster on his thumb as Karthik wore the keeper’s gloves in the Afghanistan game.

Luck too hasn’t been Saha’s best friend at times. An injury that was expected to take four to five weeks to heal has now gone on overtime mode and the keeper doesn’t look good to get into match fitness till the second half of the five-game series against England. With no practice games lined-up in the middle of the series, it will be a miracle if he manages to make his way into the team even after attaining full fitness.

Those who have seen him from close quarters feel that it is a combination of three factors — injuries, lack of confidence at the crease and a nature quite contrary to the one Kohli demands from his men — that has seen Saha fail to cement his place even four years after the team management handed him the keeper’s slot in the Test format.

But time and tide waits for none. At 33, Saha isn’t getting any younger and the Bengal player is at a crossroad where he must buckle up quickly as the likes of Karthik, youngster Rishabh Pant and Patel are breathing down his neck. Yes, he doesn’t have control over injuries, but then, more importantly what he does need to answer is whether he has the mental aptitude to rise to the demands of being a wicket-keeper who can be a handy bat on foreign soil.

Because, as he well knows, at the international level, the battle is more in the head than it is on the field.

If India Play Only One Spinner in England Test…

New Delhi: An old saying goes that a player is only as good as his captain thinks he is. And former India spinner Maninder Singh believes that Kuldeep Yadav’s brilliant show in the ongoing series against England is the result of this very confidence that skipper Virat Kohli has started to show in him.

Speaking to CricketNext after Yadav once again ran through the England batting order in the opening ODI at Trent Bridge on Thursday, Singh said that it is the spinner’s consistency and confidence that has made him a world-class bowler.

“I really like this boy’s attitude and his desire to learn,” Singh said. “He is keen to ask the seniors of areas he can improve and is always looking to work on his game. There is no end to learning and the moment you realise that, there is no scope of complacency.“

“Also, I think Kohli’s increasing trust on him has helped. We all know the scenario wherein former coach Anil Kumble and Kohli had a difference in opinion on playing the spinner in the Dharamsala Test against Australia. But things have changed and that has helped Yadav also gain confidence.”

So, does Singh see the youngster breaking into the Test XI in the upcoming series against England?

“If you ask me, very much. If you play only one spinner, it should be Kuldeep Yadav and there is no two ways about it,” he said. “The guy is in great form and deserves his opportunity.”

Singh feels that the similarity in wrist position even when Yadav is varying his deliveries is what makes him special.

“While you have to realise that the English batsmen aren’t really reading him off the wrist and have relied on reading him off the pitch, the close-in shots of his wrist positions while bowling the leg-spinner, googly or straighter one shows that there is minimal change in the position of the wrist or the arm speed,” he explained. “That makes it all the more difficult as video analysis helps when there is a visible difference in wrist positioning at the time of release.”

The former left-arm spinner also feels that Yadav has reached a zone where his accuracy is his strength and that gives him added confidence.

“If you keep a close watch, you will see that he will keep bowling in the right areas and not give you too many bad balls,” he said. “This is his strength as it is very difficult to be pin-point accurate when it comes to bowling left-arm wrist spin. There have been similar bowlers before as well, but lack of accuracy has seen them leak runs and not make an impact.”

“In Yadav’s case, another good thing is that he looks to work on his strength and bowl to his field rather than pre-empting too much on what the batsman might try to do. It is always good to believe in your own abilities.”

Former Kolkata Knight Riders assistant coach Vijat Dahiya also worked closely with the spinner in his formative years and feels that working in tandem with former Australia and KKR bowler Brad Hogg helped him understand his game further.

“When you have an experienced campaigner like Hogg around, you learn a lot,” Dahiya told CricketNext. “One of the major areas of concern for Kuldeep was that he was a bit slow off the wicket. If the batsmen can read you off the pitch, that reduces the threat. You can’t give the batsmen time to read you off the wicket at the international level. And I feel that is the area where he has worked on.“

“He would keep talking to Hogg about the nuances of chinaman bowling and what we see today is the result of a lot of hardwork behind the scenes. Being young also helps because then you are much more open to ideas and look at learning from the senior pros.”

BCCI Treasurer Questions Saba Karim’s England …

New Delhi: In yet another instance of the constant back and forth between BCCI officials and the Committee of Administrators (CoA), BCCI Treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry has asked the CoA to approve the release of foreign exchange for General Manager (Cricket Operations) Syed Saba Karim’s upcoming nine-day tour of England.

In a mail, accessed by CricketNext, Chaudhry has requested the Committee of Administrators (CoA) to explain the details of the travel adding that while he was apologetic for “bothering the committee”, he had been directed by them to not ask any other official/staff for any bill or details. That, Chaudhry argued, left him with no option but to check with the CoA.

Karim has applied for travel allowance of an amount equal to USD 4,050.

“I have received an email for signing a letter to be sent for the release of foreign exchange to Mr. Syed Saba Karim. I would like to request for the following information,” the mail reads.

“A. The supporting documents that show the purpose of his visit to the United Kingdom and the decision-making process thereof and any invitation from ECB or any communication to the ECB regarding the same.

“B. The supporting documents showing that the approvals are in place.

“C. Information as to whether any other staff has visited the United Kingdom recently.

“D. The possibility that if there was any such travel recently, could such staff person travelling not have done the work that Mr. Karim may be travelling for?”

Chaudhry clarified that he didn’t wish to be misunderstood and was simply following the protocol that was used to ask Acting Secretary Amitabh Choudhary to bear his own expenses when he wanted to stay back and watch the T20Is between India and England after the ICC conference in Dublin. The CoA had clearly said that it didn’t see the secretary’s stay in England in any way benefitting the BCCI.

“I do not wish to be misunderstood here and therefore I refer to the email from the Committee of Administrators dated 18.06.2018 to Amitabh Choudhary wherein the CoA, while forbidding the acting secretary to travel to England, had stated, ‘From the contents of your email, the Committee of Administrators does not see any value addition to the BCCI in your merely watching the three T20 India-England games to be played in England.’ Therefore, though I am not aware of the reasons for the 9-day tour of Mr. Karim.

“I also wanted to be cautious to ensure that no one was attempting to circumvent the letter and spirit of the decision of the CoA for which I may be questioned by the committee or any other forum/authority since my signatures are required to be affixed on the said letter and the same requires us to abide by the rules framed under the Foreign Exchange Management Act and the provisions thereof.”

However, the treasurer signed off by saying that he would authorise the release of the DA within 3 days of getting the required information as requested for in his mail.

“I assure you that I shall sign the letter within three working days of the receipt thereof in terms of the various directions issued to me by the CoA. The other letters that were part of the email to me have been signed and sent.”

Not Skill, But Mental Demons Stand in Way of S…

New Delhi: With Jasprit Bumrah nursing a thumb injury and out of contention for the start of the Test series, there is some good news for the Indian team management as fast bowler Mohammed Shami has cleared his Yo-Yo test at the National Cricket Academy. But Shami’s frame of mind will still be a deciding factor when the selectors name the squad for the first couple of Test matches against England.

The fast bowler who failed the test ahead of the Afghanistan game has been working hard on his fitness and bowling at the NCA and is looking to get back into the team for the much-awaited 5-match series against England. The first Test starts at Edgbaston on August 1. Shami has been distracted ever since his wife Hasin Jahan alleged that the bowler had an affair with a Pakistani girl named Alisbah and also indulged in domestic violence against Jahan.

Speaking to CricketNext, a BCCI official who didn’t wish to be named said that Shami’s mental state will be a deciding factor when the selectors sit down to name the Test squad.

“It is not about his bowling ability. The selectors will have to decide if Shami has got his focus back after the issues at home had distracted him. The mental demons are the issue, not his game. If he is not mentally 100 per cent, he cannot fire on the field,” the official told CricketNext.

Childhood coach Badruddin affirmed that the fast bowler is feeling good and wants to go out and perform. The two will start training at the latter’s club in a day or two.

“We have been talking regularly and passing the fitness test has come as a big relief. These things can keep playing on your mind. Also, the issues on the home front is now not distracting him and he is at ease with himself. Shami was bowling at the NCA and now that he is back home we will start preparing for the England series in a couple of days,” he told CricketNext.

Shami had himself spoken about the issue with his wife playing on his mind just before the news of his failed Yo-Yo test came to light. “I couldn’t perform well in last few months due to my family problems, but I am confident that things will change in England,” he had said.

But on Friday, Shami posted the news on Twitter that he was done with his Yo-Yo test and was looking to come back soon.

Jasprit Bumrah in Race Against Time to be Fit …

New Delhi: Already ruled out of the ODI series in England with a thumb injury, Jasprit Bumrah is in a fight against time to be fit for the second Test against England starting on August 9 at Lord’s. CricketNext has reliably learnt from those in the know that rehabilitation in case of such a surgery takes from five to six weeks and if the bowler reacts well and makes swift progress, he could well be back on the flight to England just in time for the second Test.

While Deepak Chahar was picked as Bumrah’s replacement for the ongoing T20I series, Shardul Thakur will replace him for the ODI series that follows the shortest format. The Test series starts on August 1 at Edgbaston.

Starting off as a pure white-ball specialist, his control with the Kookaburra ball led to pundits and former cricketers calling for his inclusion in the Test side. The call-up came for the tour of South Africa on the back of 103 wickets from 29 first-class games. And the fast bowler didn’t disappoint as he was the wrecker-in-chief as India beat hosts South Africa by 63 runs in the third Test at the Wanderers Stadium in Johannesburg.

Bumrah picked 7 wickets in the game with figures of 5/54 in the first essay and 2/57 including the all-important wicket of AB de Villiers for 6 in the second innings. He finished the series with 14 wickets from the 3 games at a strike-rate of 48.0.

Bumrah suffered the finger injury against Ireland in the first T20 international in Dublin while attempting to take a catch in the 20th over of the Ireland innings off his own bowling. The Indian Test squad is expected to be named during the ODI series later this month and captain Virat Kohli will be hoping the world’s top ranked ODI bowler can play a part in his team’s quest to come back with the series trophy.